HL Deb 27 March 1969 vol 300 cc1369-84

3.28 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a third time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a. —(Lord Chalfont.)

On Question, Bill read 3a, with the Amendments.

Clause 1 [Extension of power to deal with property of Baltic States and ceded territories]:

LORD CHALFONT moved Amendment No. 1:

Page 2, line 3, at end insert— ("(2) Any order made by the Board of Trade under that section may make the like provision in relation to former property of a Baltic State or ceded territory as might be made by such an order in relation to enemy property if a state of war existed: Provided that an order made by virtue of this subsection shall not provide for the payment to. or the vesting in, a custodian of enemy properly of any money or other property unless an order had been made under or by virtue of that section before the passing of this Act purporting to require it to be paid to a custodian or to vest it or the right to transfer it in a custodian.")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, your Lordships will recall our discussions at the Report stage on what was then subsection (2) of Clause 1 of the Bill. As I understood it, the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, accepted the assurance I then gave that the small amount of unvested assets should remain outside the purview of the Bill. These unvested assets, with an estimated value of about £30,000 to £40,000, were for the most part reported to the Custodians and then became subject to control under Article 4 of the Trading with the Enemy (Custodian) Order 1939, shortly after the territory to which they relate became enemy territory. They have not, however, been the subject of vesting orders. The noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, pressed his point to a Division and the subsection was left out of the Bill. But I think he and your Lordships would agree that there must be sonic provision in the Bill to enable the Custodian to perfect his title to property already vested in him. This Amendment has the purpose of restoring the sub- section but with the addition of a proviso to give statutory effect to the assurance which I earlier gave to the House.

We have taken the opportunity to consider whether to redraft the subsection so as simply validate the vesting orders already made. This looks at first sight attractive. But in view of the complex nature of these matters—with which the House will recall the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, dealt some detail at the Committee stage—we have reached the conclusion that it would be better to stick to the original wording, together with the addition of a proviso to implement my assurance that these unvested assets should remain outside the scope of the Bill. Of course it would still be possible, if new vestings were hastily made before the Bill becomes law, to defeat the purpose of the proviso, but I assure the House that we have no intention of doing any such thing.


My Lords, I am sure the House is grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, for the explanation he has given with regard to this Amendment. When I first moved the Amendment in Committee to leave out subsection (2) of Clause 1, the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, said that the object of the subsection was merely to perfect the title of the Custodian, and gave me an assurance that it would not be used for any wider purpose. That information, as we know—and I do not seek to criticise it as an error—was wrong, and I mention it now only because at that moment I took the stand that if that was all the subsection was intended to do I saw no objection to it. I see no objection now to inserting a provision, if required, whereby the title of the Custodian to what is in his possession will be perfected.

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, for discussing with me the terms of this Amendment. I should have preferred a much simpler form, but I dare-say there are difficulties that I have not appreciated. I do not think he can really say that this form of Amendment all that simple, but I think the proviso is entirely effective for the purpose he and I want to see achieved at the present time, for it provides, if I understand it correctly, that no order for payment to the Custodian of any money or for the vesting in him of any property can now be made, under the power given by this Bill when it becomes an Act, unless prior to the passage of the Act such an order has already been made. It strikes me as odd, in a way, that if such an order has already been made there should be need to make another one when this Act has been passed. Be that as it may, think the proviso is effective to achieve that end, and I am grateful to the noble Lord for taking so much trouble to meet what were the clear wishes of the House on the Report stage.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

3.33 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill do now pass.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(Lord Chalfont.)


My Lords, it would be churlish not to thank the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, for having dealt with this humiliating Bill in the sympathetic way he has done. He has gone out of his way to help us over certain grave difficulties that we felt, and I am grateful to him for this. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, was given a thankless task, and he stretched his powers to the very limit to meet us on this side of the House, and also, I suspect, if I may say so, some of the feelings of noble Lords and Ladies on the other side of the House.

Nevertheless, I feel that I cannot say goodbye to this Bill without reiterating what I said at the beginning; that is, that Her Majesty's Government have seen fit to dispose of property which by no conceivable stretch of the imagination could morally have belonged to them. These assets came within the control of Her Majesty's Government simply and solely because they were in the ownership—and I repeat "ownership", because eventually we did persuade the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, to say that he thought they were in the ownership; and I know that under British law that is so—of the Custodian of Enemy Property. But let us not forget that these assets came into the ownership of the Custodian of Enemy Property simply and solely because a country which had declared its neutrality before the war was overrun by the Ger- mans, and these assets, which had been placed for safe keeping in British banks, were then blocked. This is the first thing that happened to them, they were blocked. This is a perfectly normal procedure.

The next thing that happened to them—not to all of them—was that they were vested in the Custodian. I think I am right in saying that the gold about which we talked so much was not in fact vested in the Custodian until 1953, and, as my noble and learned friend Lord Dilhorne eventually discovered, there were other assets that had not been vested at all; and we have been able, thanks to the persuasive arguments of my noble and learned friend, to have these excluded. I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont for that. But I still believe —and nothing will persuade me otherwise—that we are in fact to-day being asked to legalise what is really an act of confiscation. Perhaps it may be helpful if I quote the words of certain legal gentlemen whose views reinforce my own. One of them is an American legal expert, and he says this: The enlightened policy of the nation is not to confiscate enemy private property but rather to preserve it.' That is a quotation from Edward D. Roe, Foreign Confiscation in Anglo-American Law, New York 1951, page 10 and following. Then I must invoke the observations of the noble and learned Lord, Lord McNair: The vesting of enemy property in the Custodian is primarily a matter of ensuring its conservation rather than its confiscation. This is my view. I think we are being asked to do a humiliating thing; we are being asked to give legality to a contemptible act by Her Majesty's Government.

3.36 p.m.


My Lords, perhaps I had better say straight away, in case the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, may show some anxiety, as he showed some concern recently at the length of Peers' speeches, that I do not intend to speak at any undue or great length on this Motion. I think that when this Bill came before the House one's first impression was that it was a pretty harmless run-of-the-mill Bill; and had it not been for the excellent work done by Sir Tufton Beamish and others in another place it may be that we in this House should not have appreciated the deep and serious implications of this measure. I believe that in fact we have greatly improved this Bill. My noble friend Lord Lansdowne has described it as an act of confiscation. I think that in this House we have done a great deal to mitigate that. As the Bill first appeared in this House I think that it entirely merited that description.

But here one has to distinguish between property which really became bona vacantia, and so the property of the Crown, and which the Crown has put in the hands of the Custodian for distribution among these various creditors, and property which had not become bona vacantia and had not got into the Crown's possession. So far as the distribution of bona vacantia property is concerned, it could not, I think, be regarded as confiscation to effect that distribution. But distribution of property which did not come within that class could amount to confiscation if the distribution took place straight away and automatically. But we have the concession, the statement made by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, which I think goes a long way to mitigate that effect; and that is that if there are claims by former owners of that property within, I think he said, two years, that property will be returned to them. That would mean, as I understand it, that after two years are up the distribution will be of property which within that period has had no claim by a former owner, or successor of a former owner, established in regard to it. I think that that is a considerable improvement; it was made as a result of debate in this House, and I welcome it.

This is, of course, a Bill designed to implement an Agreement with the Soviet Union, and the Government are indeed fortunate that they did not have to submit that Agreement for approval to either House of Parliament. For I am sure, although they may think that they have had a rough passage over this Bill, they would have had a very rough passage indeed in securing approval for a measure which provided for giving half-a-million pounds to the Soviet Union as the price of an Agreement, when all that we are now doing under this Bill could, and I think should, have been done without the necessity of paying any such price to the Soviet Union for it. Furthermore, it is not the only benefit that the Soviet Union has got out of that Agreement.

We have spent a good deal of time in this House on this Bill. I do not for one moment think that that time has been wasted. Three Divisions have been carried against the Government. One of them dealt with a purely legal matter, the right of appeal in certain circumstances from a decision of the Foreign Compensation Commission, a matter in which, as the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor pointed out, the Government really were not involved, and certainly not a matter on which there was any Party issue. Nevertheless, the proposal that there should be such recourse to the courts, supported as it was by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, the Law Society and the Bar Council, and many others, was strongly resisted and we had to go to a Division with regard to it, a Division which was carried.

That was followed on Report by the tabling by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor of an Amendment to meet that particular point. I should like to express my gratitude to him for doing that, but I cannot forbear to draw from this the lesson: if we had not been able to carry that Amendment, would any Government, not necessarily this Government, having fought on that issue and won, have then put down an Amendment at a later stage? I do not think they would. But, thanks to the Lord Chancellor, and thanks to our carrying that Amendment against the Government, we have succeeded in making that improvement in the Bill.

The second Division we had was in regard to the matter we have just been discussing. There again, the carrying of that Division paved the way for an Amendment which satisfied the Government and those who have criticised this particular measure on that particular point. I do not believe that would ever have happened had we not been able to carry the Amendment. I just want to point to the fact that, quite apart from sending Amendments back to another place, it is sometimes useful in this House to carry Amendments against the Government, thus giving the Government an opportunity of thinking again and, as here, thinking again on two issues in which there is no Party issue involved and no Party point or principle.

I think the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, has had a difficult time in getting this Bill to where it has now got. I should like to thank him for the care and attention that he has given to it and for the consideration he has given to the views expressed. I do not propose to say any more with regard to it, except to repeat that I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor for the part he played.

3.45 p.m.


My Lords, as both my noble friends have said, the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, has had a rough ride on this Bill, but he has been given a number of unbroken broncos by his colleagues. He has ridden this one with grace, tenacity and, almost the whole time, with his eyes shut, which is a considerable feat of rodeo, as anyone must agree.

This Bill has now reached almost its last stage in your Lordships' House, and I hope that to-day Ministers will not either show or simulate surprise that some of us consider it a deplorable, even a dishonourable Bill. It is theft from the innocent and defenceless by those in high places. It is a five-star felony. The Government have protested that their purpose is beneficent, in partly compensating certain people, most of them having no connection with the Baltic States, who have suffered through expropriations of one kind or another by the Soviet Government. I suppose I could easily have been one of them, though I am not. I should like to say, with emphasis and conviction, that neither in this case nor in any circumstances that I can imagine, would I wish to be compensated out of money stolen from other, equally unfortunate and innocent people. The money which the Foreign Compensation Commission will handle and distribute will be "filthy lucre" in an unusually explicit sense.

Both the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, here, and the hapless Mr. Whitlock in another place have spoken poignantly about the claimants and the legitimate preoccupations of those claimants. None of this poignancy or heartfelt sympathy embraces the original owners—and I would say the true owners, the moral owners—of these assets, or the claims that they may have. The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, was in fact somewhat impatient with them, because they had not come forward already to present their claims, and he implied that if they wanted to come forward in the next two weeks following the passage of this Bill there was nothing to stop them. That term for coming forward has now, as we know, been extended to two years.

When I pointed out that these people were not living in Bognor or Bishops Stortford but within the Soviet frontiers, and totally prevented from presenting their claims, lie brushed this aside as "colourful". Then when I pressed him he said that I was presenting "colourful facts". The noble Lord can only consider Bognor and Bishops Stortford as colourful if he leads as drab a life as the Labour Government have tried to impose upon the whole country, and this I know not to be the case. On the other hand, if he supposes that life within the Soviet Union and Soviet occupied territory is "colourful", then he has far less knowledge of the conditions there than is adequate for a Minister of State at the Foreign Office, and this I would also hope not to be the case.

I have recently read passages from a report from a Czechoslovak citizen after a visit to Latvia, in which he expresses his relief at the comparative freedom enjoyed in Czechoslovakia even since the Soviet invasion, and we all have to be conscious of the kind of conditions that have been imposed there. This Czechoslovak citizen described how freedom of the individual and national expression had been suppresed in Latvia by the Soviet masters; yet this is one of the three peoples receiving what I regard as punitive treatment from Her Majesty's Government. The Government may believe, indeed they have implied, that the fate of these people is so hopeless that they may be regarded as hardly to exist and any idea of future freedom can be utterly dismissed.

One of Lord Chalfont's favourite words, I have noticed, is "hypothetical". He has even spoken of "hypothetical flies" cast over the Government Front Bench. That is pretty colourful! It is far from clear, and I think he should clarify whether the Government believe it totally inconceivable that any of these countries can exist again. If so, then that seems to me pretty hypothetical in the noble Lord's pejorative interpretation. Simply to study the history of Poland, as one example, is to question that premise.

If the Government, while reluctant to express such a sweeping belief, still suppose that there is no practical chance of the true owners ever being in a position to claim, then I think they are also mistaken. Do they believe that the Central Banks of those countries can never be re-created? This sort of thing has happened. I do not know how many times it has happened, but one instance is the National Bank of Austria. The Oesteriechischer Nationalbank was founded in 1922, ceased to exist after the Anschluss in 1938, when it was absorbed by the Deutsche Reichsbank—an exact parallel to what has happened in the Baltic banks when absorbed by the Russian system—and re-created after the War by the Notenbank-Uberleitungsgesetz, a Bill passed through the Austrian Parliament. It now, of course, trades and is recognised by the world. What is to prevent any or all of the three Baltic countries, having recovered freedom, going through the same sort of parliamentary process with regard to the three Central Banks?

Thirdly, and lastly, do the Government assume that all the private depositors of those three countries who might have a claim through the banks must be dead, also their heirs? If so, let them say so. For my part, I say now, as I said at the Report stage, that they, the Government, are cruelly discriminating against innocent and helpless people. This Bill places a large number of people in the Baltic countries in an under-privileged category, in a state of statutory contempt. The greater part of these assets were vested in the Custodian of Enemy Property 28 years ago. At one moment they were recognised as the legitimate property of some customers of the Bank of England, the next moment they were vested in the Custodian of Enemy Property. There was nothing improper or unnecessary in this. It was done with the assets of many other countries over-run by Nazi Germany. But, as I pointed out on Report, of the £380 million transferred in this way from "technical" enemies to the Custodian, practically all has been returned to them except the £7 million which belonged to the Baltic countries. This cannot be described as anything but discrimination, and the reason for that discrimination is the ignoble one that the true owners are weak, unheard and at present unidentifiable. The Government may protest that only one of those qualifications is valid, the difficulty of identifying the original owners.

It is not accurate to say that, in matters of property ownership, an automatic assumption is made after 28 years that title cannot be re-established. When I was in the Ministry of Agriculture some years ago, I had to consider a somewhat perplexing problem originating from land ownership which, by coincidence, has now come back into the news. Before the First World War—that is, before 1914—small plots of land were sold, as part of a sizeable scheme, on Canvey Island in Essex. In the course of the First World War many or most of the deeds were scattered and lost. Basildon New Town bought up part of this area, and where the ownership was not known the purchase money from a compulsory purchase was paid into court, where it has awaited claimants ever since. Much of it still waits, protected, for the proper claimants should they come forward. Some of them have, and amounts of as much as £1,000 have been claimed and paid. There is new speculation it this area, as a result of a possible international airport at Foulness.

Some plots of land bought nearly 60 years ago may be of very considerable value, leading to successful claims being made 70, 80 or 90 years later for all I know. There was no question in my mind, when it was put to me, but that these claims had to be protected. It was not, as I recall, seriously challenged by anyone. If the Government choose to say that this is irrelevant, then they are admitting my charge that discrimination is being practised against the true owners of the Baltic assets. There is one law for them, and a far more favourable and civilised law for the original, also unidentified, owners of the plots on Canvey Island.

Why should these unhappy, presently enslaved, people not be protected, or enabled to bring their claims forward for compensation by a British Government, even after the assets have been distributed, as we now know they will be? On the 20th of this month I asked the Government what were the duties of the Custodian of Enemy Property. I was answered by the noble Lord, Lord Brown, who said: These Orders were made by the Board of Trade with a view to preventing the payment of moneys to enemies and of preserving enemy property in contemplation of arrangements to be made at the conclusion of peace." —[[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20/3/69, col. 1016.] My Lords, what has become of those purposes to-day? I wonder if the noble Lord is listening to my question. I am making a point which I shall ask him to answer. I ask him what has become of those purposes to-day? Since we are no longer at war, it can hardly be claimed that the Custodian is now preventing the payment of moneys to enemies. As for preserving enemy property in contemplation of arrangements to be made at the conclusion of peace, whatever may have been contemplated in 1939, it certainly was not a deal of this nature. So that the purpose of these Orders, as described from that Despatch Box a week ago to-day, has been misused and abused.

The noble Lord, Lord Brown, also said that: In 1954 the House of Lords decided that the Custodians were Crown Servants whose duties involved the holding of property and the receipt of income until further instructions were given to them."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20/3/69, col. 1017.] I understand that such further instruction would come from the President of the Board of Trade. Arising from that part of the noble Lord's answer, I wish to ask the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, who will reply if, in this context, the President of the Board of Trade is governed, directed or limited by anything in law or Statute, as to the directions he gives. I hope that the noble Lord will be armed with the reply to this question, as it is a very obvious one, consequent on the explanation by his noble friend. Moreover, he was, I recall, in his place on that occasion when I told his noble friend that I should study the reply between then and the Third Reading of this Bill. More specifically still, I told the noble Lord's private offices this morning that I should be asking him this question.

I hope the noble Lord will recognise that this question is an extension of one which I put to him in the Report stage debate. I asked him whether Parliamentary action was necessary to enable the Custodian to dispose of assets under his control, other than by returning them to their original owners, because, in my submission, that would have made this a confiscatory Bill. The noble Lord appeared, a minute or two later, to deny that this was a confiscatory Bill, although on reading his words in Hansard I see that he did not actually deny it in words—but nor did he answer my question. I put it to him again: is Parliamentary action necessary to obtain the result sought in this Bill? If so, can he declare in definite terms that this is not a confiscatory Bill? If Parliamentary action is not required, then I have to ask him what the blazes is Clause I doing in the Bill?

My Lords, I do not think there is anything now to be done by us to draw the poison from this piece of legislation. I should like to think that a future Government would feel themselves in honour bound to make an ex gratia payment to a claimant who could prove his or her case—but, as I understand it, the Bill precludes the presentation of such a claim. If the Government can say that I am mistaken in this, it will do something to lessen the stigma which will blemish this country's name for fair dealing and fair treatment in particular to those without protection. There is something humiliating, to my mind, in the possibility that a future claimant may have a valid, attested claim recognised by international law, being forced to that recourse because his rights in British law have been deliberately barred by the terms of this Bill. Saving certain humanising improvements, mentioned by my noble and learned friend, that we have been able to make to this Bill in this House, I am sorry to say that I dislike it now as much as I did when I was watching its controversial passage through another place. The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, may have observed that on this occasion I have been sparing to the point of solicitude, so far as quoting him to his own discomfort is concerned—no more than a light tease at the opening. But it would be wrong to spare the true author of this nasty piece of work.

I cannot close without reminding the House that immediately after the visit of Mr. Alexei Kosygin, in the course of which this Agreement was made, Mr. Harold Wilson declared that his guest had "in seven days almost become a part of the British way of life". I hope that the Prime Minister blushed at the recollection, privately at least, when the following year his quondam guest, as one of the rulers of Russia, ordered the invasion of Czechoslovakia and the crushing of the nascent urge to liberty in that country. I suggest that the Agreement reached and transcribed into this Bill is characteristic far more of the Russian way of life than of ours. When Mr. Wilson and Mr. Kosygin supped together in London, they were careful to use the same truncated spoon.

4.1 p.m.


My Lords, I am grateful for the thorough and courteous way in which this Bill has been treated in your Lordships' House. The noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, need express no solicitude for me. I have found the piloting of this Bill through your Lordships' House a stimulating and interesting experience. The Government believe the agreement with the Soviet Union to have been a good and wise one, but noble Lords will have their own opinions, to which they are entitled, about the matter, and I have no doubt that the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, will continue to give voice to them.

In dealing with what I hope will be the last stages of the passage of this Bill in your Lordships' House, I shall deal briefly with some of the points which have been raised in this short debate. It is partly because the Government agree with the sentiments expressed by the noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, in his quotations from certain learned legal authorities that we did two things. First of all, in the Agreement with the Soviet Union we secured the insertion of Article 3, which provides that the Soviet Government are responsible for settling claims by Soviet nationals. Secondly, as I have said in your Lordships' House before and I repeat to-day, if an individual comes forward to claim his property to-day, he will get it. If he comes forward after the Bill becomes law, he will still get it or its value. I do not believe that any Government could be more unequivocal about their intentions than that.

I shall not on this occasion allow myself the pleasure of a joust with the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, because time is short. I should like simply to reassure the House that I am acquainted in some detail with life in the Soviet Union and I need no instruction, although I will defer to the noble Lord in detailed knowledge of Brighton, Bognor Regis and Basildon. I can best answer his question by saying that the present statutory duties of the Custodian are to preserve enemy property in contemplation of arrangements to be made at the conclusion of peace. That is a broad definition of the Custodian's statutory duties. This Bill would add a new statutory power: to dispose of the Baltic and ceded territories' assets in order to enable the Custodian to pay money to the Foreign Compensation Commission.

The justification for this, in the eyes of Her Majesty's Government, is as follows. First, British property was nationalised by the Baltic States in Soviet legislation in 1940 or thereabouts, without compensation. Secondly, the British Government after years of effort have concluded this Agreement, to which I referred earlier, with the Soviet Government—the only Government now existing in the area in relation to British claims. Thirdly, the Soviet Government have undertaken not to pursue their claims to Baltic and ceded territories' assets now to be disposed of under the arrangements proposed in the Bill.


My Lords, has the noble Lord finished dealing with that point?


If the noble Lord will contain himself in patience for a moment longer, perhaps he will be satisfied. As my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor has explained, many of the assets in question—indeed the noble and learned Viscount referred to this in his welcome contribution to-day—which formerly belonged to Baltic or ceded territories companies are probably bona vacantia—that is, the property of the Crown—and no longer the property of former owners. As regards the property of individuals, if it was covered by the Anglo-Soviet Agreement then by Article 3 of that Agreement the Soviet Government is solely responsible for settling the claim of the Soviet nationals concerned. In other cases if the individual comes forward and establishes that some item of property is his, then he will get back the property itself or its value. Accordingly, there can be no doubt— and I hope that there is no doubt left in your Lordships' mind—that this Bill is not a confiscatory Bill. If the noble Lord wishes me to say that again in order that it is clearly on the record, I will do so: this Bill is not a confiscatory Bill. In the view of Her Majesty's Government, its proposals are fully justified.


My Lords, I think the noble Lord has already contradicted himself, in explaining that this Bill is required, in order to dispose of these assets, in the way they are being disposed of.


My Lords, I do not think it would be in the interests of your Lordships' House to go back over all these arguments. So far as I can see —and it seems that most of your Lordships are with me on this—the provisions of this Bill are fully justified and, as I have explained, in the cases which are bona vacantia and in the case of individuals' property there is no element of confiscation about the Bill at all. I am sure noble Lords will agree that the whole of the Bill and all the arguments which have been deployed have been given a most careful scrutiny. It is unlikely that the Amendment which was made during the Committee stage, the effect of which was to leave out subsection (5) of Clause I which concerned the payment of £500,000 to the Consolidated Fund from the assets, will commend itself to another place. I believe that the earlier part of the Bill, as it now stands, is an improvement on the Bill which was first received in your Lordships' House. That is the result of long, careful, courteous and comprehensive debate.

I should like to express gratitude to your Lordships, and especially to the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, for the courtesy and care with which he has studied the Bill and for the co-operation which he has extended to me in securing what I hope will soon be its passage through your Lordships' House. I hope noble Lords will agree that the Bill, which has been modified in several important respects in order to meet your Lordships' wishes, will now pass.

On Question, Bill passed, and returned to the Commons.