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Orders Of The Day

Volume 414: debated on Monday 15 October 1945

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Supplies And Services (Transitional Powers) Money

Resolution reported:

"That for the purposes of any Act of the present Session dealing with supplies and services and with the control of prices and charges, it is expedient—
  • (a) to authorise the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of any expenses incurred by any Minister of the Crown in consequence of the passing of the said Act, and any increase attributable to the passing of the said Act in any sums authorised or required by any other enactment to be paid out of moneys provided by Parliament; and
  • (b) to authorise the payment into the Exchequer of any sums which, in consequence of the passing of the said Act, are recovered under Section two of the Emergency Powers (Defence) Act, 1939."
  • Resolution agreed to.

    Supplies And Services (Transitional Powers) Bill

    Considered in Committee.

    [Major MILNER in the Chair]

    Clause 1—(Power To Extend Purposes Of Certain Defence Regulations)

    3.30 p.m.

    I beg to move, in page 1, line 9, leave out "at fair prices."

    This and the two following Amendments are drafting Amendments, the object of which is to make clear, what was in fact the original intention when the Bill was first introduced last May, that the three objectives set out in the paragraph, namely, to secure a sufficiency of essential supplies and services, to secure them at fair prices, and to distribute them equitably, are distinct. A particular Defence Regulation may be concerned with one of these matters, for example, the production of essential goods, but not with their production at fair prices, nor with their equitable distribution. This Amendment was foreshadowed by the Home Secretary in his speech on the Second Reading.

    Without seeking, at the moment, to dissent in any way from the object of this Amendment, I would like to ask the hon. Gentleman to look again at the draft, because it does seem to me that if the subsection is drafted as now proposed, it will be ambiguous in a very unfortunate way. It will now read, if this Amendment is passed:

    "To secure a sufficiency of those essential to the wellbeing of the community or their equitable distribution or their availability at fair prices."
    As a lawyer, it seems to me that the words "at fair prices" will then only qualify the last of the three alternatives, "availability," and that we are being asked to leave out of the Clause the safeguard that fair prices shall qualify the first two alternatives.

    Under the original draft, as framed by the Coalition Government, it was intended that fair prices should qualify the whole of this sub-section, and I can hardly believe that it is really the intention of the Government to open the door to securing any of these things at prices which are not fair. I cannot believe that that is the intention and, therefore, I think it ought to be made clear in the draft that "at fair prices" should qualify all three of the alternatives. Could we have an assurance that the drafting will be looked at again, before the Report stage, to avoid that implication?

    I have had a look at the Clause while my hon. and learned Friend has been speaking, and I do not attach the same significance to the words which he does, because I do not think they are applicable in the sense in which he applies them. To make sure, however, we will look at the matter and see if any alteration is necessary and, should there be any substance in what he says, we will correct the matter. The purpose of the Amendment was to make the three items divisible. As the Section was originally drawn, the items were not divisible, and had to go together.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Further Amendment made: In line n, after "distribution," insert: "or their availability at fair prices."—[Mr. Oliver.]

    I beg to move, in page 1, line 11, at end, to insert:

    (b) to facilitate the demobilisation and resettlement of persons and to secure the orderly disposal of surplus material; or."
    Since the Bill was first introduced by the Coalition Government, the Japanese war has come to a sudden end, and, as indicated in the Second Reading Debate on the Bill, the Government propose that the Emergency Powers Defence Act should expire in February next. When the present Bill was framed, it was expected that the immediate post-war problems of demobilisation, reinstatement, and the disposal of Government surplus would be largely dealt with before the expiry of the Emergency Powers (Defence) Acts. It is now necessary to bring these matters within the scope of the Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers) Bill.

    While appreciating the object for which the Amendment is put down, I would like to ask whether we can have some more elucidation on this matter. As far as I am aware, there are not in existence at the present moment any Defence Regulations made with the object of facilitating the demobilisation and resettlement of persons, or with securing the orderly disposal of surplus Government material; and I should like to ask the Parliamentary Under-Secretary if he can give any information as to the kind of Regulations which it is intended to continue under Clause 1 of this Bill for these particular purposes. Is it, for instance, intended to carry on with the power of direction of labour? What is intended with regard to the resettlement of persons? Is it intended to adapt any particular Defence Regulation for the purpose of implementing the White Paper with regard to the disposal of surplus material?

    On the point raised by my hon. Friend, it would be impossible at this stage to indicate the precise Regulations which the Government have in mind, because the Government would be entitled to employ for the particular purposes specified in the Amendment any Regulation which fell within the interpretation of this Section. What those would be, of course, it would be very difficult to say, because they are much too extensive and, therefore, it would be misleading if I were to make the slightest attempt at indication before I have had the opportunity of previously considering the matter.

    May I ask my hon. Friend whether he is really asking this Committee to give the Government power to carry on existing Defence Regulations without the Government having the least idea what kind of Regulations they want? May I ask him to deal with my specific point: Is it intended to carry on for this purpose with the Regulations? I think we ought to be told that, before we give the Government a blank cheque to carry on existing Regulations for this particular purpose.

    This will not be the last opportunity the Committee will have for discussing specific Regulations, and I cannot, at this stage, discuss specific Regulations because it would be necessary to give them consideration, and it would be impossible to answer categorically the question raised by the hon. Member.

    This seems to have raised a point of exceptional importance. I do not think the hon. Gentleman is being invited to specify any specific Regulation which he is proposing. He has been asked, in general terms, what powers the Government are seeking, and how they are proposing to use them. This is a matter of the greatest importance to all people returning from the Forces, and there is nothing which perturbs a man in the Forces so much as the doubt of his avail ability to take up his civilian employment. As I see it, under the powers which they are now proposing, the Government will be able to make a Regulation to alter the whole policy concerning labour which ex-Service men have been under the impression that they would be subjected to. I think we should press the Government for some better explanation about the use of such powers.

    I should like to point out to my hon. Friend that he is asking the Committee to introduce something which will qualify any Defence Regulation. I would ask him whether that refers to present, or future, Regulations. Surely it would not be too difficult for the Government, with all the powers at their disposal, to inform the Committee, either to-day, or on the Report stage, what actual Defence Regulation, or Regulations, they have in mind. As has been pointed out, the words which were intended to be added to-day undoubtedly refer mainly to those men and women who are now, or have been, in the Forces. We have already experienced a certain amount of trouble over demobilisation, and I think that before the Committee considers this Amendment it should be informed to which Regulation or Regulations it refers.

    I was rather startled when the hon. Gentleman said, in reply to the hon. Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham Buller), that he could not give particulars about this without further consideration. I am bound to say it is a most startling thing that a Minister should come down to answer a question of this kind and admit that he has not considered it. I think we are entitled to know which Regulations are referred to in the Section, and there would not be the slightest difficulty in specifying them in a Schedule if there were a genuine attempt to show the country which Regulations are involved. This method of wording leaves it open to the Government to make their own interpretation of any Regulation, whether it comes within the Section or not. I suggest to the Under-Secretary that the proper procedure is to set out in a Schedule precisely what Regulations are concerned.

    I have now had an opportunity of considering the point raised by my hon. and learned Friend, and I would say that the Regulations contemplated are those which will govern the control of premises for storage purposes, for training centres, for the storage of goods and uniforms, or for men who are to be demobilised—in effect, the premises which will be required for the purposes of demobilising soldiers, airmen and members of the Navy when they are released. That is the class of Regulation we have in mind.

    Might I ask my hon. Friend, if that really is the purpose of this Amendment, to consider, between now and the Report stage, words more appropriate for carrying out that purpose? He says now that this power is only limited to the securing of property for the purpose of storage and demobilisation.

    If I understand that this is only an illustration, would the hon. Gentleman give some further indication if more is intended than dealing with property?

    3.45 p.m.

    I do not think the hon. Gentleman is treating the Committee very fairly. My hon. and learned Friend asked him some specific questions, and he has only given one illustration of one part of one of his questions. What is asked for here is a very considerable extension for the purposes of the Bill, and any one reading it would presume that facilitating demobilisation would involve a good deal more than merely taking over premises for the storage of clothing, which is the illustration given. Those words are capable of a very much wider interpretation than that. The hon. Gentleman has not told us anything about what is envisaged there. What about the orderly disposal of surplus materials? Do the Government intend to adhere to the general policy of the White Paper concerning the disposal of surplus materials? If the hon. Gentleman is not in a position to tell us, perhaps the Minister of Supply, who is present, will do so. This is a very important Bill, and I must say that the hon. Gentleman has not expounded the proposals he is putting before us. What my hon. Friend asked more generally was whether the whole question of the direction of labour was or was not to come under Sub-section (1, b). We have heard nothing about that.

    We know that some of these powers are necessary, as was admitted from this side during the Second Reading Debate. The Coalition Government produced a Bill which envisaged the necessity of certain controls during the transitional period, but I think it is necessary, on such an important Measure as this and a Measure which has a greatly increased length of efficacy, that Ministers should tell us what is in their minds. I hope the hon. Gentleman will not think us discourteous in pressing him to go a little further and deal with the other points about resettle- ment and the disposal of surplus materials. Of course, we do not expect him to specify every Regulation. I dare say they have not been drafted, and perhaps they never will be; but up to now we have had no inkling of the sort of thing the Government want to deal with. I think that either the Under-Secretary, the Home Secretary, or the Minister of Supply should enlighten us further.

    I want to press the Minister strongly on this matter and to ask the Committee to consider how those who are serving in the Army will look at the matter. It is significant that this Amendment for the first time mentions "persons." Hitherto on this Bill we have been discussing materials. This Amendment is to facilitate the demobilisation and resettlement of persons. A person serving in the Eighth Army, and looking at the matter from the point of view of his coming back to civil life, will wonder what the Government mean when they talk about facilitating the demobilisation and settlement of persons. The simple soldier, having served for six years in the Army, wants to know what kind of treatment he is to get. This Amendment is alarming and significant, and will not allay anxieties about demobilisation in the minds of many hon. Members and many of those who are still serving. The phrase "resettlement of persons" is a significant one; the word "settlement" seems to indicate some finality, such as an interment. There is a sentence of doom in it which I am certain the Government do not want to impart, but if I were reading it round the camp fire, it would create that kind of impression in my mind. This phrase raises a great many anxieties. For example, would the Government desire under this power to deal with strikes, with working parties that will not work? I hope the Minister will answer these somewhat simple observations We are dealing with an intelligent electorate, and people want to know what is behind the devices and designs of the Government.

    It does not seem to me to be very important whether the Minister gives a definition or not, because if this Amendment is passed in its present form there can be no question that all Regulations affecting the direction of labour will be in order. I ask hon. Members opposite to realise what the Government are doing in this Amendment. Hon. Members should know what they are doing. The Amendment means that it will be possible to direct men where the State wants them to go and to direct them into the sorts of work they are to be permitted to do for a period of five years, and perhaps longer. I regard the Amendment as a very serious one. It does seem to me that the Minister has let the cat out of the bag. If this Amendment is passed there will be direction of labour for a period of five years, and perhaps longer.

    I advise the Minister not to make the least concession of any kind to hon. Members opposite. If he makes one concession, they will dive at him for another. I only want to say a word or two about the direction of labour. It is a bogy that is continually raised, and those who raise it forget that when we had a Tory Government in this country there were millions of men lining up day after day at the employment exchanges begging to be directed to a job. After the last war, what happened to the lads when they came out of the Army? They were left to wander around the streets begging and playing instruments. Any of the lads who came out after the last war would have been delighted if there had been a Government with powers, and prepared to use them, to direct men into a job. The important thing is to see that the Government have power to get the lads employed when they come out of the Army. If they do that, they will be doing a good job.

    I think the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher), as self-appointed adviser to the Government in this matter, may prove rather an embarrassment to them. As well as appearing in that role, the hon. Member said that the question of the direction of labour is a mere bogy. I do not think that very many of those who voted for hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite would agree with him, judging from the letters which I receive and similar letters which, I understand, reach hon. Members opposite. The writers of those letters regard this as a very real and live point. The Essential Work Order, which is also covered by the Bill, is another very distasteful matter not only to employers but to employees. I do not think the hon. Member for West Fife can gainsay that. The question of the direction of labour is a very important point. The Amendment also deals in general terms with demobilisation. Can the hon. Member for West Fife or any other hon. Member opposite say that the demobilisation scheme, which admittedly was brought in by the Coalition Government, is giving general satisfaction to the men and women concerned? In his speech over the wireless, the Minister of Labour—

    I will not pursue it further, then. I was emphasising that with regard to the direction of labour, the Essential Work Order and demobilisation there is very real dissatisfaction among the men and women in the Services. My right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank) put a question to the Minister of Supply which also raiseda very important point. It boils down to this, that we are asked to make not merely a change in the whole structure of the Bill, but to give the Government very far-reaching additional powers to those already in the Bill. We on this side object to control for control's sake. We regard controls as a wartime necessity to be retained in peacetime only for so long as they are absolutely necessary, but not to be retained simply out of pure love of control. Hon. and right hon. Gentleman opposite like controls. [Interruption.] The fact that my words are not meeting with approval shows that they are stinging. If I may say so without disrespect, the Under-Secretary rather slurred over this Amendment, rather indicating that it was merely a drafting Amendment, and in doing so I do not think he treated the Committee with the respect to which it is entitled. In any case, it did not escape the vigilance of my hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Buller). I eagerly await a reply from one or other of the three Ministers immediately concerned with the Bill.

    If I rose in my place almost before the hon. Member for Galloway (Mr. McKie) had concluded his oration, my anxiety to be on my feet was due to the desire I had of congratulating him on his successful return to Parliament as an Independent Member.

    I think the hon. Member misunderstands the position. If I may go into certain internal family troubles, some of those in the constituency which I represent in the House as a Conservative unfortunately ran against me.

    I understood that the hon. Member was formerly a Conservative and that he is now in the House as an Independent Member.

    I am sorry but the capacity in which the hon. Member for Galloway (Mr. McKie) sits here is quite irrelevant.

    On a point of Order. Having been challenged by the hon. Member, am I not entitled to reply to a personal attack?

    I am sorry I raised the matter at all. I merely wanted to say that I hoped that the hon. Member, having taken the step of going against the Conservative machine, would go one step further and throw off the obvious control which it has over his thinking. I have been interested in the way in which hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the Conservative benches have obstructed the Amendment. May I particularly congratulate the right hon. and gallant Gentleman for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank)? After nearly 20 years of responsible Government office, he has resumed in a matter of minutes his old position as chief obstructionist for the Conservative Party.

    4 p.m.

    On a point of Order, Mr. Chairman. Is it in Order for the hon. Member to make imputations against a right hon. Gentleman in this Committee?

    It must be clearly understood that there must not be any imputation of motives. I gathered that the hon. Member was speaking rather humorously than otherwise.

    It is not my intention to be unkind to Conservative Members and I will say no more than that I watched hon. Members with great interest. The first Member was surprised, the next was amazed, the third was astounded and the fourth had suffered very grave anxiety. Obviously, hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway are in a bad mental state. This is all over a very trifling matter. [Hon. Members: "No."] That is how I regard it, and I have been saying to myself, "I wonder what will happen to these fellows when they come up against something serious." All that is being demanded here is the right to make regulations about certain matters and the Conservatives are asking the Undersecretary, on the basis of the Amendment, to make declarations about demobilisation, requisitioning of property, direction of labour—all matters of high policy upon which hon. and right hon. Members rightly say there is considerable interest in the country. None of these things could be done by regulations smuggled through on the basis of an Amendment inserted in this Bill, and every hon. and right hon. Gentleman above the gangway who has taken part in this Debate is just as well aware of that as I am.

    I am not in grave anxiety, I am not alarmed and I am not anything else, but I would like to know one thing, and I hope that the Minister will make it clear. As I read the Amendment, it facilitates the demobilisation and resettlement of persons. It would seem to imply that the Government could advance the demobilisation of certain persons in the Forces for certain purposes. In other words, they put them at an advantage over the rest of the Armed Forces. That may be the object, I do not know, and I would like to know if that is the case. It would enable them to take persons whom they require from the Army, and Navy or the Royal Air Force, and in that way it would rather complicate matters for the rest of the Services. If that is the case, it is wrong and I would like, therefore, to be assured that that is not the intention. Does "resettlement of persons" mean that, if I live at Newcastle and there is a job of work in some other part of the country, the Government can say, "We will let you out of the Army, Navy or Air Force, whichever it might be, if you are prepared to leave your home and go somewhere else"? If that is the object in view, I do not think that it will be very popular in certain parts of England where the people are displaced. The resettlement of persons is a very large subject and such a provision ought not to be put into a Bill of this kind unless that is the intention.

    There seems to be some misapprehension in a number of quarters as to what this Sub-section does. I want the Home Secretary to deal with the point that I put before, namely, that there is no intention in this Sub-section of giving power to make new regulations but only to retain regulations in force. If hon. Members will look at Sub-section (4) of the Clause it will be seen that it only applies to regulations contained in Part III or Part IV of the Defence Regulations and certain other regulations. Why is it not possible for the Government to put their Bill in this form, namely, that they propose to retain, say, Regulations 1, 2, 3, 10 or 20 and then we would know precisely what regulation it was that they intended to maintain. What makes us suspicious is that they have chosen an infinitive way to choose what regulation they are going to retain. What objection is there to saying which regulation they wish to retain?

    We have had a very interesting and, at times, amusing discussion on this Amendment and I must congratulate right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite on the strength of their imagination this afternoon. They really have been able to discover a number of things in this simple Amendment which I should have thought it was obvious were not actually covered by it. Perhaps it would be helpful if I took the specific question put to me by the right hon. and gallant Member for North Newcastle (Sir C. Headlam) it would enable me to show the scope of this Amendment. We are in a process of demobilising a very large number of men and women from the Forces into a country, which, since they were enlisted, has suffered very considerable losses in the way of dwelling houses, factories and other things that are necessary to provide these demobilised people with homes and employment. It will be necessary in certain cases to make arrangements for these people's resettlement in the ordinary civilian life of the country, and that is the context in which we use this word. It is not taking them from one part of the country to another; but in respect of a man whose natural home is in Newcastle, who has a job in Newcastle to which he wishes to go but for whom there is no adequate accommodation, such accommodation could be acquired for him under the powers we propose to take under this Amendment.

    The same thing applies in regard to the orderly disposal of surplus material. The Act of the last Parliament—the Emergency Powers (Defence) Act—under which the storage of material is now being carried on comes to an end on 24th February next. Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen who were in the last Parliament will know that they dropped this Bill, and only extended the Act for six months. As my right hon. and learned Friend the President of the Board of Trade said, it was the first intimation we had that they knew that they were going to lose the General Election in order that they could place us in the difficulties that confront us to-day. We have, between now and 24th February next, to provide for the use after 24th February next of regulations that would otherwise expire on that date. There are various dumps about the country where material is being now stored. It may be necessary in order to dispose of some of that material to move it to certain sites not at present under the control of the Government, where it can be sold or otherwise dealt with. We would require to carry on with the powers we now have in order to do that. There is nothing in the proposed Amendment which deals with the direction of labour, that is, directing a man into a job in some part of the country other than that in which he lives or in which there is a job which he does not want to undertake. That is not in this Amendment.

    I am advised that it would not cover it, and it is not our intention to use the Amendment to deal with that.

    This is a very important point. May we have the right hon. Gentleman's assurance that this Amendment will not be used in any way with an element of compulsion in the resettlement outlined in the Bill? May we have a direct assurance that this Amendment will not be interpreted for that purpose?

    This Amendment will certainly be used for compulsion, but not for compulsion of the kind which has just been put to me. If we required a piece of land for the kind of purpose I have just indicated or a dwelling-house for a man in the circumstances that I suggested, to the right hon. and gallant Member for North Newcastle, we should use the compulsory powers that the Regulation gives us to take that piece of land.

    The hon. Gentleman might have allowed me to finish. I had already said that under this Amendment we do not propose to take any powers for the direction of labour in the way in which that is understood by saying to a man, "You are a plumber, you must go and do paper hanging," or "You have a job in Newcastle, but we want you to work in Salisbury." I am advised that that would not be considered to come under the provision which deals with the man who comes out of the Army and wants to go back to the place where his ordinary vocation is, but for whom, owing to the deplorable circumstances in the country which include the loss of houses due to enemy action, we want to have powers to provide the necessary accommodation.

    May I suggest that what the right hon. Gentleman is saying might be made a little more precise and so help the Committee to get on with business? He is saying that nothing in the Clause is going to apply to anything other than property and material. If that is the intention, could not the Clause be redrafted on the Report stage and could he not give us the assurance we want?

    I am not undertaking to re-draft the Amendment at all on any argument put to me so far. I have given the most explicit assurance that there is no intention of applying this in order to move persons against their will; but in order to secure that the work of the country should be carried on efficiently, it may be necessary to re-settle persons in the place where they want to be. Those of us who had some experience after the last war of the difficulty of getting houses when we were demobilised will appreciate the point. I imagine it will be some consolation to the men and women in the Forces to know that we are taking adequate steps to be able, as far as possible, to use the existing accommodation in the country to place them where their work is situated. There might be some service involved. I have done my best to indicate that all the sinister purposes that were thought might lurk in these words are not, in our opinion, to be found in them.

    These words have been very carefully drafted to secure the ends I have in view. We have had, I think, a very full discussion on this Amendment, and I hope that, with the assurances I have been able to give, the Committee will now agree to accept it.

    4.15 p.m.

    I am afraid the whole thing is entirely unsatisfactory. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, as we all expected, has given a most reasonable explanation of what, in the present mind of the Government, it is intended to do with this particular Amendment to the Clause. I do not think any hon. Member will object to the powers which exist under the Defence of the Realm Act being used in the kind of circumstances and for the kind of purpose which the right hon. Gentleman has indicated, but, for the rest, it has left the Committee in the position that we have no guarantee whatever that the Clause cannot be used in the kind of way which has been suggested by hon. Members on this side. The Home Secretary has merely told us that it is not the intention of the Government so to use the powers which they will be taking. Quite frankly, that is not good enough. Whatever party or Government sits on the Front Bench opposite, the Committee of this House, and the House itself, should not be prepared to give powers to that Government merely on a pious expression of opinion by a Minister that they will not be abused. The right hon. Gentleman said that these words were not susceptible of the interpretation which has been suggested. Can the right hon. Gentleman show any limitation whatever in the wording of the Clause as drafted at present? Surely, the powers are needed

    "to facilitate the demobilisation and resettlement…."
    but that covers almost anything, and I submit to the Committee that there is nothing in these words to prevent the powers which the Amendment will give to the Government being used, in fact, for the kind of direction of labour to which we, on this side of the Committee, are profoundly opposed and which, apparently, on the other side, is regarded as a great joke.

    There is another point which seems to me to arise. Can the Home Secretary give us an assurance that these resettlement powers to be given by the Amendment will not be used to turn people out of their own houses for the benefit of people to be resettled?

    I think the answer to that is that I do not think anyone can really foresee all that might have to be done during the coming winter. We take these powers, if the Committee will grant them to us, and we have to lay every one of the Regulations. If there is a single one which is regarded as oppressive, it goes in front of the Committee and has to come here, and, after all, though I do not

    Division No. 2.]

    AYES.

    [4.24 p.m.

    Adams, Capt. H. R. (Balham)Boardman, H.Cocks, F. S.
    Adams, W. T. (Hammersmith, South)Bottomley, A. G.Coldrick, W.
    Adamson, Mrs. J. L.Bowden, Flg.-Offr. H. W.Collindridge, F.
    Allen, A. C. (Bosworth)Bowen, Capt. R.Colman, Miss G. M.
    Allighan, GarryBowles, F. G.Comyns, Dr. L.
    Alpass, J. H.Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'p'l, Exch'ge)Cook, T. F.
    Anderson, A. (Motherwell)Braddock, T. (Mitcham)Corlett, Dr. J.
    Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)Brook, D. (Halifax)Corvedale, Maj. Viscount
    Attewell, H. G.Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell)Cove, W. G.
    Austin, H. L.Brown, George (Belper)Crawley, Flt.-Lieut. A.
    Awbery, S. S.Brown, T. J. (Ince)Crossman, R. H. S.
    Ayles, W. H.Brown, W. J. (Rugby)Daggar, G.
    Bacon, Miss A.Bruce, Maj. D. W. T.Daines, P.
    Balfour, A.Burden, T. W.Davies, A. E. (Burslem)
    Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J.Burke, W. A.Davies, Clement (Montgomery)
    Barstow, P. G.Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.)Davies, Ernest (Enfield)
    Barton, C.Byers, Lt.-Col. F.Davies Harold (Leek)
    Battley, J. R.Callaghan, JamesDavies, Haydn (St. Pancras, S.W.)
    Bechervaise, A. E.Chamberlain, R. A.Deer, G.
    Berry, H.Champion, A. J.de Freitas, Sqn.-Ldr. G.
    Bing, Capt. G. H. C.Chater, D.Diamond, J.
    Binns, J.Chetwynd, Capt. G. R.Dodds, N. N.
    Blackburn, A. R.Clitherow, R.Donovan, T.
    Blenkinsop, Capt. A.Cluse, W. S.Douglas, F. C. R.
    Blyton, W. R.Cobb, F. A.Dugdale J. (W. Bromwich)

    want to anticipate the discussion on a later stage of the Bill, all subsidiary Orders made under these Regulations now have to come before the scrutiny of the House. I think that, as far as one can have safeguards in the matter at all, the Committee is amply protected in that respect.

    Would the right hon. Gentleman answer my question about people being turned out of their homes for the benefit of people to be resettled?

    I can give no pledge on that. It may be necessary to use these powers for such things as billeting, and I am certainly not, in the present state of the country, going to use words which might be implied as limiting what it may be necessary to do.

    In view of the explanation given by the Home Secretary that this Amendment refers only to premises, which is not clear from the wording itself, would he consider withdrawing it and reconsidering it for the Report stage? The last thing that any court of law does in this country is to consider the pious observations of the Home Secretary on the meaning of phrases that go into a Bill. It is the words themselves that have to stand in a court of law, and, as these words stand now, they do not limit the operations to premises or buildings.

    Question put, "That those words be there inserted."

    The Committee divided: Ayes, 275; Noes, 143.

    Dumpleton, C. W.McKay, J. (Wallsend)Skinnard, F. W.
    Dye, S.Maclean, N. (Govan)Smith, Capt. C. (Colchester)
    Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.McLeavy, F.Smith, Ellis (Stoke)
    Evans, E. (Lowestoft)MacMillan, M. K.Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.)
    Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury)Mainwaring, W. H.Smith, T. (Normanton)
    Fairhurst, F.Mallalieu, J. P. W.Snow, Capt. J. W.
    Farthing, W. J.Manning, C. (Camberwell, N.)Sorensen, R. W.
    Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.)Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping)Soskice, Maj. Sir F.
    Follick, M.Marquand, H. A.Stamford, W.
    Foot, M. M.Marshall, F. (Brightside)Steele, T.
    Freeman, Maj. J. (Watford)Martin, J. H.Stewart, Maj. M. (Fulham, E.)
    Gaitskell, H. T. N.Maxton, J.Stubbs, A. E.
    Gallacher, W.Mayhew, Maj. C. P.Summerskill, Dr. Edith
    Gibbins, J.Medland, H. M.Swingler, Capt. S.
    Gibson, C. W.Messer, F.Symonds, Maj. A. L.
    Gilzean, A.Middleton, Mrs. L.Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)
    Glanville, J. E.Mitchison, Maj. G. R.Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
    Goodrich, H. E.Montague, F.Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet)
    Gould, Mrs. B. AyrtonMorris, Lt.-Col. H. (Sheffield, C.)Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)
    Grey, C. F.Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, E.)Thomas, J. R. (Dover)
    Grierson, E.Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham)Thomas, George (Cardiff)
    Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)Moyle, A.Thomson, Rt. Hon. G. R. (E'b'gh, E.)
    Griffiths, Capt. W. D. (Moss Side)Murray, J. D.Thorneycroft, H.
    Gunter, Capt. R. J.Nally, W.Thurtle, E.
    Guy, W. H.Neal, H. (Claycross)Tiffany, S.
    Haire, Flt.-Lieut. J.Nichol, Mrs. M. E. (Bradford, N.)Titterington, M. F.
    Hall, W. G. (Colne Valley)Noel-Buxton, LadyTolley, L.
    Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R.Oldfield, W. H.Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G.
    Hannan, W. (Maryhill)Oliver, G. H.Turner-Samuels, M.
    Hardy, E. A.Orbach, M.Ungoed-Thomas, Maj. L.
    Harrison, J.Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)Vernon, Maj. W. F.
    Hastings, Dr. SomervillePalmer, A. M. F.Viant, S. P.
    Henderson, J. (Ardwick)Parker, JWadsworth, G.
    Herbison, Miss M.Parkin, Flt.-Lieut. B. T.Walkden, E.
    Hicks, G.Paton, Mrs. F. (Rushcliffe)Walker, P. C. G. (Smethwick)
    Hobson, C. R.Paton, J. (Norwich)Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)
    Holman, P.Peart, Capt. T. F.Warbey, W. N.
    Horabin, T. L.Perrins, W.Watkins, T. E.
    House, G.Piratin, P.Weitzman, D.
    Hoy, J.Platts-Mills, J. F. F.Wells, P. L. (Faversham)
    Hubbard, T.Popplewell, E.Wells, Maj. W. T. (Walsall)
    Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.)Porter, G. (Leeds)White, C. F. (Derbyshire, W.)
    Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)Pritt, D. N.White, H. (Derbyshire, N.E.)
    Hughes, H. D. (Wolverhampton, W.)Proctor, W. T.Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
    Hutchinson, H. L. (Rusholme)Pryde, D. J.Whittaker, J. E.
    Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.)Pursey, Cmdr. H.Wilcock, Group-Capt. C. A. B.
    Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.Randall, H. E.Wilkes, Maj. L.
    Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S.E.)Ranger, J.Wilkins, W. A.
    Jones, D. T. (Hartlepools)Reid, T. (Swindon)Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)
    Jones, J. H. (Bolton)Rhodes, H.Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)
    Keenan, W.Richards, R.Williams, D. J. (Neath)
    Kenyon, C.Ridealgh, Mrs. M.Williams, Rt. Hon. E. J. (Ogmore)
    Key, C. W.Robens, A.Williams, W. R. (Heston)
    King, E. M.Roberts, Sqn.-Ldr. E. O. (Merioneth)Williamson, T.
    Kinley, J.Roberts, G. O. (Caernarvonshire)Willis, E.
    Kirby, B. V.Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)Wills, Mrs. E. A.
    Lee, F. (Hulme)Rogers, G. H. R.Wilmot, Rt. Hon. J.
    Leonard, W.Royle, C.Wilson, J. H.
    Lever, Fl. Off. N. H.Sargood, R.Wise, Major F. J.
    Levy, Lt. B. W.Scollan, T.Woods, G. S.
    Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton)Scott-Elliot, W.Yates, V. F.
    Lindsay, K. M. (Comb'd Eng. Univ.)Sharp, Lt.-Col. G. M.Young, Sir R. (Newton)
    Lipson, D. L.Shawcross, Cmdr. C. N. (Widnes)Younger, Maj. The Hon. K. G.
    Longden, F.Silkin, L.Zilliacus, K.
    Lyne, A. W.Silverman, J. (Erdington)
    McAllister, G.Silverman, S. S. (Nelson)TELLERS FOR THE AYES:—
    McEntee, V. La T.Simmons, C. J.Mr. Mathers and Mr. Pearson.
    Mack, J. D.Skeffington-Lodge, Lt. T. C.

    NOES.

    Aitken, Gp. Capt. The Hon. M.Bullock, Capt. M.Darling, Sir W. Y.
    Amory, Lt.-Col. D. H.Butcher, H. W.Digby, Maj. S. Wingfield
    Astor, Capt. Hon. M.Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A. (S'ffr'n W'ld'n)Dodds-Parker, Col. A. D.
    Baldwin, A. E.Carson, E.Donner, Sqn.-Ldr. P. W.
    Baxter, A. B.Challen, Flt.-Lieut. C.Dower, Lt.-Col. A. V. G. (Penrith)
    Beamish, Maj. T. V. H.Channon, H.Drayson, Capt. G. B.
    Beattie, F. (Cathcart)Clarke, Col. R. S.Duthie, W. S.
    Birch, Lt.-Col. N.Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. G.Eden, Rt. Hon. A.
    Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C.Conant, Maj. R. J. E.Erroll, Col. F. J.
    Bossom, A. C.Cooper-Key, Maj. E. M.Fleming, Sqn.-Ldr. E. L.
    Bower, N.Corbett, Lieut-Col. U. (Ludlow)Fletcher, W. (Bury)
    Boyd-Carpenter, Maj. J. A.Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.Fraser, Maj. H. C. P. (Stone)
    Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W.Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.Gage, Lt.-Col. C.
    Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.Cuthbert, W. N.Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D.

    Gammans, Capt. L. D.Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. O.Reed, Sir S. (Aylesbury)
    Glossop, C. W. H.MacAndrew, Col. Sir C.Reid, Rt. Hon. J. S. C. (Hillhead)
    Glyn, Sir R.McCallum, Maj. D.Roberts, H. (Handsworth)
    Gomme-Duncan, Col. A. G.Macdonald, Capt. Sir P. (I. of Wight)Ross, Sir R.
    Gridley, Sir A.Mackeson, Lt.-Col. H. R.Sanderson, Sir F.
    Grimston, R. V.M'Kie, J. H. (Galloway)Scott, Lord W.
    Hannon, Sir P. (Moseley)Maclay, Hon. J. S.Shephard, S. (Newark)
    Harvey, Air-Comdre. A. V.Maclean, Brig. F. H. R. (Lancaster)Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W.
    Head, Brig. A. H.Macpherson, Maj. N. (Dumfries)Smith, E. P. (Ashford)
    Headlam, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir C.Maitland, Comdr. J. W.Snadden, W. M.
    Hinchingbrooke, ViscountManningham-Buller, R. E.Spearman, A. C. M.
    Hogg, Hon. Q.Marlowe, Lt.-Col. A. A. H.Stanley, Col. Rt. Hon. O.
    Hollis, Sqn.-Ldr. M. C.Marples, Capt. A. E.Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)
    Holmes, Sir J. StanleyMarsden, Comdr. A.Stoddart-Scott, Lt.-Col. M.
    Holt, Lieut.-Comdr. J. L.Marshall, Comdr. D. (Bodmin)Studholme, Maj. H. G.
    Hope, Lt.-Col. Lord J.Marshall, S. H. (Sutton)Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)
    Howard, The Hon. A.Maude, J. C.Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (P'dd't'n, S.)
    Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)Mellor, Sir J.Teeling, Flt. Lieut. W.
    Hulbert, Wing-Comdr. N. J.Morrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury)Touche, G. C.
    Hurd, A.Morrison, Rt. Hn. W. S. (Cirencester)Turton, R. H.
    Hutchison, Lt.-Cm. Clark (E'b'gh, W.)Mott-Radclyffe, Maj. C. E.Vane, Lt.-Col. W. M. T.
    Hutchison, Lt.-Col. J. R. (G'gow, C.)Neven-Spence, Major Sir B.Wakefield, Sir W. W.
    Jarvis, Sir J.Nield, Maj. B.Walker-Smith, Lt.-Col. D.
    Jeffreys, General Sir G.Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.Ward, Group-Capt. The Hon. G. R.
    Joynson-Hicks, Lt.-Cdr. The Hn. L. W.Nutting, A.Watt, Sir G. S. Harvie
    Keeling, Sqn.-Ldr. E. H.Orr-Ewing, I. L.Webbe, Sir H. (Abbey)
    Kerr, Sir J. GrahamOsborne, C.Wheatley, Lt.-Col. M. J.
    Kingsmill, Lt.-Col. W. H.Peaks, Rt. Hon. O.White, Maj. J. B. (Canterbury)
    Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.Peto, Brig. C. H. M.Williams, Lt.-Cdr. G. W. (T'nbr'ge)
    Lennox-Boyd, A. T.Pitman, I. J.York, Maj. C.
    Linstead, H. N.Poole, Col. O. B. S. (Oswestry)Young, Maj. Sir A. S. L. (Partick)
    Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.).Prescott, Capt. W. R. S.
    Lloyd, Brig. J. S. B. (Wirral)Prior-Palmer, Brig. O.TELLERS FOR THE NOES:—
    Low, Brig. A. R. W.Raikes, H. V. Commander Agnew and
    Lucas-Tooth, Sir H.Ramsay, Maj. S.Mr. Drewe.

    4.37 p.m.

    I beg to move, in page 2, line 8, at end, insert:

    "Provided that any such Order in Council shall cease to have effect twelve months after the last date upon which it was laid or relaid before Parliament in accordance with section four of this Act."
    This Amendment has linked with it Amendments standing in the names of my hon. Friends and myself to Clauses 2 and 4. The one to Clause 2 is in identical terms with this Amendment. The Amendment to Clause 4 is more or less consequential upon this Amendment. I should also mention that I have given notice of a manuscript drafting Amendment to Clause 4, page 3, line 33, after "laid," to insert "or relaid."

    The same simple principle is involved in all these Amendments and I can see that it will be your wish, Major Milner, and for the convenience of the Committee that the principle should be discussed now upon this Amendment. The effect of this Amendment would be to provide that Orders in Council should cease to have effect 12 months after the last date upon which they were laid or relaid before Parliament. The purpose is to secure that the same control that Parliament is given over the making of Orders in Council shall be extended to their con- tinuance. There would be no interruption at all in the continuity of the effect of an Order in Council unless it was interrupted by a successful Prayer in Parliament.

    Clause 4, as all hon. Members appreciate, provides a fairly ample safeguard for Parliamentary review of an Order immediately after it has been made, but nowhere in existence, in this Bill or elsewhere, is there any provision for Parliament to supervise the continued existence of Orders once they have been made, laid, and allowed to pass without successful prayer. In order to give the Committee more clearly the idea which I have in mind, I will indicate the course of events which would normally take place. An Order in Council having been made, it would be laid, and let us assume that either it was not prayed against or the prayer was unsuccessful. It would then continue. If my Amendment were adopted, it would mean that it would have to be laid again before 12 months elapsed from the date on which it was first laid. It would then become capable, for a period of 40 days, of Parliamentary challenge. Supposing it survived, it would then continue untroubled for a further period of 12months, when it would again have to be laid and again become capable of Parliamentary challenge, and so on. I anticipate that during the transition period we shall all expect to find the system of controls being tapered off.

    We all hope—I think this hope will not be repudiated by the Home Secretary—that they will be tapered off rapidly, but it must happen that a number of Orders will be made which will be controversial when they are laid. It will also happen that a number of Orders will be made which are accepted as reasonably necessary at the time they are made but it is very probable that after they have been in existence for a year or more, there will be a considerable conflict of opinion as to whether or not they have outlived their necessity. Therefore my contention is that there should be a periodic opportunity for Parliamentary review.

    I would commend my Amendment to the Government from this point of view—and I hope they will see it in the same way. I know that they are very much concerned about the relation between the available Parliamentary time and the large amount of business which they will have to get through in the near future. At the start there must be a large number of these statutory Orders made. I think it will make for the economy of Parliamentary time if they can see their way to adopt the principle of my Amendment, for this reason: When their new Orders in Council have been made, hon. Members, not only on this side of the House but in every part of the House, will be very dubious about allowing them to pass without Prayer unless they contain a time limit within their terms. If they do not contain an internal time limit, then I think hon. Members will feel very dubious about passing them without Prayer, having regard to the fact that they would have a five year run without any opportunity of Parliamentary review. If my Amendment were adopted, that feeling would not arise. Hon. Members would say, perhaps, "We are not quite sure about this Order in Council. We do not altogether like the look of it. But at any rate we shall be able to look at it again. Let us give it a run and see how it works out in practice, let us see what experience we gain as a result of its operation."

    4.45 P.m.

    I think it would be more convenient from the point of view of administration that there should be this Parliamentary review, annually, of any Order provided under the terms of the Act rather than that it should be necessary to place a particular time limit on every Order. For this reason when an Order in Council reaches its time limit the Government have to make a further Order, whereas if Orders have no time limit, but are subject to an annual Parliamentary review, they will continue on their way, so long as they give satisfaction, without any disturbance from inside or outside Parliament.

    This is not a party issue; it is a House of Commons matter and one which should commend itself to all sides of the Committee, because we all have a duty to ensure that Parliamentary control over the Executive is effective. So, I hope very much that the Government will not lightly dismiss this proposal. I believe it will make not only for more effective Parliamentary control, but will also be very convenient from the point of view of Departmental administration. If the Home Secretary should be unable to accept the Amendment as it stands I hope he will furnish us with a rather fuller explanation than he thought fit to give in the preceding Debate. I attach the greatest importance to this proposal from the point of view of control by Parliament over the continuance in operation of these Orders during this transitional stage.

    I support the Amendment which has been so excellently moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir J. Mellor). The Home Secretary said in the recent Debate that it was hoped to dispense with a considerable number of Regulations and that they would decline until but a few were left in operation. A lot of us will be very worried if we see Orders made and laid on the Table. Even though they have explanatory memoranda this sometimes makes them more mystifying than ever. We ought to avoid any unnecessary Prayers, and I cannot see why, if these Orders are to be reduced in number, they should not come under annual revision by Parliament.

    I would not like the Minister to reply to the arguments which have been so admirably put by my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir J. Mellor), and seconded by by hon.

    and gallant Friend the Member for Penrith and Cockermouth (Lieut.-Colonel Dower), without some attempt being made to strengthen that case or, at least, to reinforce it. This seems to be one of the acid tests in this Bill. If the Government are sincere—and the Minister was at pains on the Second Reading to emphasise that they are, and that they have no ulterior motives in this Bill—what possible objection could they have to all these Regulations and Orders in Council, which no one has had adequate opportunity of studying and which no one Member can say he has read, being laid and re-laid every year so that the House may have an opportunity of looking at them? If that is not done we shall have an accumulation of Orders piling up, which most of us will not have the opportunity of reading. Some of us have no particular objection to some of these Orders provided they are for only a year but if some of them, which we cannot understand because their language makes them incomprehensible, or because they are too long, are to continue for five years we shall have an accumulation of Regulations which no one has properly examined. It is travesty of Parliamentary government that such a suggestion should be made. Here is the acid test of sincerity. Why should we not have an opportunity of looking at these matters every year?

    I would ask new Members of the House not to be led away by the arguments—if they can be called arguments—which we have just heard from the other side. It is quite obvious that they are trying to impede legislation. It is nonsense to suggest that all these Regulations and Orders should be laid before the House each year. May I remind the Committee that there was set up at the beginning of this Session, after some pressure on the last Government, a Select Committee to examine all these statutory Rules and Orders as and when they are laid before the House? It was obvious that Members have not the time to examine such Regulations and Orders, even if they could understand them, so we have this Select Committee, of which I happen to be a member. [An Hon. Member: "Honourable or honoured?"] I am honoured to be on the Committee. We have the benefit of the expert advice of Mr. Speaker's Counsel, Sir Cecil Carr, and the work is done very well. I think we have had only one meeting, but—

    For the benefit of the new Members whom the hon. Member is addressing will he say whether that Committee reports on matters of policy which are contained in these Orders?

    What the Committee does is to see whether they are in order, intelligible, whether they introduce matters of importance which we think should be submitted to the House so that Members as a whole should have their attention called to them. It is a scrutinising, a watchdog, Committee, doing on behalf of the House the kind of job which was recognised in the last Parliament as being invaluable.

    May I ask a question with the idea of assisting the hon. Member's argument? Once this honoured Committee has done its work and given its blessing to the regulation has it any further interest? Can it at any given time look at the Regulation again and say, "Things have happened, this is wrong"? That Committee has no authority over policy at all, and what the hon. Gentleman has just said in no way meets the point raised in the Amendment.

    As I have said, the House set up this Select Committee to examine on their behalf what was in these Regulations. The Committee report to the House, and if the Committee think the attention of the House should be called to anything special it is the Committee's duty to do this—

    —and I therefore cordially invite the Committee not to be led away by what has been said from the other side. The welfare of delegated legislation of this kind is in good hands indeed, and I think we ought to get on with the next Amendment.

    Surely the Committee of which the hon. Gentleman has been speaking has no control whatsoever over the continuance in operation of Orders in Council?

    We are now passing a Bill which, if it goes through unamended, will give the Minister power to make Regulations or Orders for the purpose of implementing the general policy of the Government. The policy of the Government is that these Regulations and Orders should be in force for five years, and not for one year. It is true that the Select Committee is not concerned with policy. All it is concerned with is to find out whether the Regulations are intra vires. There is nothing in the Amendment, and I suggest we should be very wary of the delaying tactics of hon. Members opposite and should say that we do not intend to be put off by Amendments of this kind.

    I do not think the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles) has helped very much by his intervention. While it is perfectly true that the Select Committee does excellent work in looking at the wording of these Regulations, all we are asking for is not that we shall challenge them once a year but that they shall lie on the Table for 40 days during which, if circumstances have altered completely, we can challenge them. We are asking that the rights of Parliament shall be asserted once every twelve months, and I am astonished that the hon. Member opposes that view. While there is no longer a Coalition Government in being Parliament itself is a Coalition. We are here to criticise and, if necessary, to support Government policy in trying to make Bills workable. There might come a moment in the life of the Government when they will be glad to have the support of Members on this side of the Committee, and I urge the Home Secretary to act as one of a Coalition in this discussion and grant the very wise and traditionally Parliamentary Amendment which has been moved.

    5.0 p.m.

    I regret the intervention of the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles) because he seems to be trying to introduce a party element into the discussion. The hon. Member who moved this Amendment made it abundantly clear, and I do not think there is any question about it, that this is not a party question. It is simply a question of machinery, and whether we can simplify what is liable to become a very big problem. The hon. Member for Nuneaton referred to the innumerable regulations that may be put out, but those who, like myself have worked in Gov- ernment Departments for some time know how difficult it is to withdraw any power which a Department may have. When the question comes up for consideration as to whether or not such and such a power is still necessary, it goes around the Department for comment and, sooner or later, someone says that it will be difficult for him to say that the power may not be required in the future. That is sufficient; quite obviously, the Department is not going to advise its Minister to discard a power which it may require to use in the future.

    There is nothing so dangerous to the public, the Department and the Government as to have dead legislation on hand. It is difficult enough, in all conscience, at present for the public to know what the law is. It is a terrible thing for them to know that there is a lot of dead law, which may be put into operation at any time against them. It is very wrong, as a matter of principle and quite apart from party politics, to build up a body of decaying law. The object of this Amendment is to ensure, what it is no longer possible for Members of Parliament to do—to continue to supervise all the regulations when they have once been passed. The Select Committee to which the hon. Member referred is not a policy Committee or a revision Committee: It simply deals with the regulation when it is first introduced. It cannot say to this House, "We advise that this Regulation should be reviewed in a couple of years." It is purely a fact-finding Committee within the limits of its terms of reference.

    I remember that last week, the very strong support which I would like to claim for this argument was on the other side of the House. I was very impressed, as I believe we all were, by the speech of the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Hale), and I referred to the Official Report of that speech, because I think it is very relevant indeed. He said, as many hon. Members will remember, with regard to the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Bill:
    "It is another example of delegated legislation—another example of a scheme the major details of which are going to be put forward in the form of Regulations."
    That is what we are dealing with now.
    "Let us say at once—By all means have your delegated legislation so long as you have control. Without that, the Minister is going off to his private suite downstairs to make his Regulations, and he will place his fledglings on the Table and say 'Kill them if you dare?'"—[Official Report, nth October, 1945; Vol. 414, c. 519.]

    The criticism there was that you were introducing a wide scheme of social insurance for permanent legislation, and the details of administration were not embodied in the Act. That is a wholly different matter. If you are legislating permanently for things, my point is that we ought to have more details. Please do not put into my mouth any disapproval of the proposals that are before the Committee at this moment.

    I welcome the disclaimer of the hon. Member for Oldham and I think the Committee will agree that I may be exonerated from any intention of wishing to misquote him or misconstrue his arguments, but what is said there confirms my opinion. We are here dealing with an unknown amount of delegated legislation which may be necessary for a limited time for the whole operation for which it is purported to be put into operation. But whatever the case may be, it cannot but be to the advantage of the Government, the public, in particular, and the Department if it must be subject to review annually and laid upon the Table, so that both we and the Department in question can really consider whether it is still necessary to have these statutory powers in existence.

    I think there are obviously some doubts in the minds of some hon. Members about the functions of the Scrutiny Committee, the Select Committee on Statutory Rules and Orders. Although this Committee vets statutory rules and orders it does not in any way absolve hon. Members from their own particular function of studying and understanding the policy contained in these statutory rules and orders. I can only say again, following the remarks of the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles) and giving some advice myself to new Members, that if statutory rules and orders come out of Government Departments in the same numbers as they have done in the past few years, then no man, with any ordinary working hours at his disposal, will ever be able to study the policy contained in those rules and orders. If the Committee accepts this recommendation, it gives hon. Members this oppor- tunity: We cannot examine all the statutory rules and orders that are being turned out like sausages. We cannot read them or study them all. We have not the time to do it. It may be that the first time an hon. Member hears of a statutory rule and order is when a constituent writes to him and says, "I am suffering under the provisions of this rule and order." The hon. Member then looks at the order, for the first time, and says, "My goodness, did I really allow that to get through the House without making some protest?"

    This Amendment gives the Member of Parliament a reasonable chance. At the end of a year, after a rule and order has been tried and tested, he will find out very clearly from his constituents and from its application whether that rule and order is working fairly and satisfactorily or not. When the hon. Member who moved this Amendment spoke about orders being "laid," it reminded me of the egg. At the time of laying it may be a good egg, but 12 months after it may be a thoroughly undesirable and bad egg which should be discarded. Therefore, I hope this Amendment will be accepted, because I believe it is thoroughly reasonable and non-party and is purely a House of Commons matter.

    The hon. Member tells us that these rules and orders are being turned out like sausages out of a sausage machine. Will he tell me how many we have had in the last few days or weeks?

    Can the hon. Member tell us how many since this Government came into office?

    No, the hon. Member, who is connected very closely with the present Government, can give the Committee those facts.

    It is ten years since I last had the opportunity of addressing a Committee of this House, and during that somewhat long interval, I have spent quite a few years as a civil servant—that group of people who badger their Ministers to make these Orders in Council. In that capacity I have had an opportunity of seeing the working or the non-satisfactory working of some of these Orders in Council that have been made. Parliament and the Government of the day may, with the best intention in the world, make an Order in Council which on paper appears to be very satisfactory; but when it has been in operation, it may be found to inflict considerable inconvenience and perhaps hardship on some of His Majesty's subjects. The public have put up with Orders in Council during war time, and, I am certain, they are prepared once again to put up with Orders in Council during the transitional period from war to peace. I would respectfully say, however, that we are not here to legislate for our own benefit; we are here to legislate for the people who send us to this House. I feel that it would be maintaining the good will of the country towards Parliament if the country felt that when an Order in Council had been made, there was an opportunity for it to be reconsidered at the end of 12 months, rather than to pass an Order in Council, with very little opportunity for Members to study it at the time it is laid on the Table, which may be a bad Order in Council and inflict hardship and injustice on the people for a matter of five years. As the Mover of this Amendment says, this is not a party Amendment; it is an Amendment not only to safeguard the privileges of Members of this House but one designed to safeguard and protect the subjects in the country and the people who send us to his House.

    The speech which was delivered by the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles) I think laid to rest the allegation that hon. Members had had no opportunity of considering Regulations. Of course they have an opportunity to consider Regulations by virtue of the Committee which is specifically set up for that purpose.

    They have an opportunity of considering the Regulations. There can be no doubt about that, and they can refer and bring back to this House anything in those Regulations, or draw the attention of hon. Members of this House to any matter to which they think the attention of the House should be drawn. [Hon. Members: "No."] Oh, yes, there is not much substance in the contention that hon. Members have no opportunity of considering these matters. No doubt—

    We must get this quite clear. I am sure the hon. Gentleman is not trying to mislead the Commit tee in any way, but the Scrutiny Committee does not draw attention to the merits or demerits of any particular Statutory Rule or Order. It merely draws the attention of the House to certain specific matters concerning which the terms of reference were laid down. It is not the function of the Committee to consider the merits of an Order.

    I think the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles) indicated quite clearly that it was not the function of the Committee to deal with policy. That was stated quite categorically and, there fore, the point, I think, which was made by the hon. Member for Wood Green (Mr. Baxter) does not seem to have a great deal of substance, and, may I say, that it has no substance whatever on the point that hon. Members have a kind of mental indigestion. In addition to what the Committee might do—

    5.15 p.m.

    In addition to that, if a Member of this House is interested in a specific Regulation, he is not precluded from raising a matter in which he is so vitally interested, and if a Member was vitally interested in a Regulation or some aspect of legislation affected by a Regulation, there can be no doubt he would be on his feet to draw attention to the hardship or anomaly of the matter of which he complained.

    The Committee should have its attention drawn to the Home Secretary's speech on the Second Reading of this Bill when he said:
    "I commend this Bill to the House, and I desire to give hon. Members, in no matter what part of the House they may sit, this assurance, that as the powers can and should be dispensed with, they will be given up. We have no desire for control for control's sake any more than has any other Member of this House."—[Official Report, 9th October, 1945; Vol. 414, c. 124.]
    I think that that is a reasonable assurance, because if the hon. Member's Amendment were accepted, it would have the effect of a periodic review, and it would have the purpose of defeating the intention of the Statute itself, because this Bill is drafted and designed for five years. Therefore, if there could be a periodic review of the many Regulations which will no doubt be embraced or incorporated or added or brought within the ambit of this Bill, there would be the possibility of defeating the purpose of the Bill, which is, to maintain the Regulations for five years. What would be the purpose of a discussion unless it were to annul the Regulation? The whole purpose of the Statute would or might be defeated

    Does the hon. Gentleman really persist in the astonishing argument that in his view it is desirable that the Government should be able to maintain in being an Order in Council when the majority of the House wished it to be annulled? That is the logical point of his argument.

    Of course, I mean what I say. There is nothing ambiguous about that. I am surprised at the hon. Gentleman, because he is not a new Member of this House. He knows full well that if any of these Regulations contain, in their operation, something objectionable, there are many Parliamentary opportunities, and one in particular which I know the hon. Member would not hesitate to use. That would be when the opportunity was presented to hon. Members to raise any point about the Minister's salary.

    Surely the hon. Gentleman does not mean to argue that avote can conveniently be taken on the continuance in operation of a specific Order in Council on the occasion when the Minister's salary is before us, when there is a fairly wide Debate upon the administration of that Minister's Department?

    As the hon. Member well knows, the conduct of the Minister or anything for which he responsible can always be raised then. There would not be a specific vote, but there would be raised in a very concrete form the aspect of the Regulation to which objection was taken.

    I think it will be observed that by the nature of some of the Regulations, they will require to be continued much longer than one year. It is impossible at this juncture to say that the important Regulations will have fulfilled their usefulness in the short period of 12 months. Is it to be suggested in the case of the building industry, for instance, that the regulations controlling materials and prices and the braiding of houses will be exhausted within 12 months of their being laid? Is it suggested, too, that in matters connected with clothing and footwear and textiles it will be possible to discontinue control in respect of prices within a year. It is obvious that the whole aim of this Amendment is designed to bring about a Parliamentary holiday every year for the purpose of having an annual discussion on the question of controls generally. From that aspect it would not be in the public interest to accept this Amendment, and I must inform the hon. Member, with regret, that the Government cannot accept the proposition he has laid before the Committee.

    My purpose in rising is to speak as one of the new Members who were admonished and instructed by the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles). The matter appears to me in this way. The Government have a Bill before the Committee which will, if carried as it is drafted, have a life of five years. The Government will have power under the Measure to make regulations from time to time. The Amendment proposed is that these regulations shall come under review annually, and that they can then, if it is desired on the merits, be continued. The hon. Member for Nuneaton was rather afraid that innocent people like myself might be led astray by this Amendment, and so he has put me right, first of all by pointing out that notice is taken of every regulation issued because there is a Select Committee, of which he is a member, which looks fully into the matter. In cross-examination it turns out that the Select Committee deals with ambit, competence, procedure, but not with merit. The real object of the Amendment we are considering arises from the fact that on merits it is very hard for a Member to scrutinise every proposed Order. I would only say that a regulation which appears to be quite good may in a year turn out to be very inconvenient, and therefore it is a good thing that the matter should be reviewed. Accordingly the instruction given to me by the hon. Member for Nuneaton fails to impress me in that regard.

    I am much impressed by a speech by the Home Secretary which I did not have the advantage of hearing, but which I have heard quoted from HANSARD. I understand that he tells us that the Government do not for one moment want to hang on to powers that have become obsolescent, and that they would desire that obsolescent matters should be reviewed from time to time. For reasons which have been mentioned it is asking too much of human nature to suppose that a Government Department will ever commit hara-kiri. It appears to me that if we are to have what is the design and intention of the Home Secretary, an Amendment of this kind is highly desirable, because it means that as the matters come up for review annually his intention of a scrutiny of superfluous powers would be carried out. If I may hark back to the hon. Member for Nuneaton, it was suggested by him that this Amendment is in direct conflict

    Division No. 3.]

    AYES.

    [5.28 p.m.

    Agnew, Cmdr. P. G.Head, Brig. A. H.Osborne, C.
    Aitken, Gp. Capt. The Hon. M.Headlam, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir C.Peake, Rt. Hon. O.
    Amory, Lt.-Col. D. H.Hinchingbrooke, ViscountPeto, Brig. C. H. M.
    Anderson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Scot. Univ.)Hogg, Hon. Q.Pitman, I. J.
    Astor, Hon. M.Hollis, Sqn.-Ldr. M. C.Ponsonby, Col. C. E.
    Baldwin, A. E.Holmes, Sir J. StanleyPoole, Col. O. B. S. (Oswestry)
    Baxter, A. B.Holt, Lieut.-Comdr. J. L.Prescott, Capt. W. R. S.
    Beamish, Maj. T. V. H.Hope, Lt.-Col. Lord J.Price-White, Lt.-Col. D.
    Beattie, F. (Cathcart)Howard, The Hon. A.Prior-Palmer, Brig. O.
    Birch, Lt.-Col. N.Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)Raikes, H. V.
    Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C.Hulbert, Wing-Comdr. N. J.Ramsay, Maj. S.
    Bower, N.Hurd, A.Reid, Rt. Hon. J. S. C. (Hillhead)
    Boyd-Carpenter, Maj. J. A.Hutchison, Lt.-Cm. Clark (E'b'gh W.).Roberts, H. (Handsworth)
    Braithwaite, Lt. Comdr. J. G.Hutchison, Lt.-Col. J. R. (G'gow, C.)Roberts, Maj. P. G. (Ecclesall)
    Bromley-Davonport, Lt.-Col. W.Jarvis, Sir J.Ropner, Col. L.
    Buchan Hepburn, P. G. T.Jeffreys, General Sir G.Ross, Sir R.
    Bullock, Capt. M.Joynson-Hicks, Lt.-Cdr. The Hn. L. W.Salter, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.
    Butcher, H. W.Kerr, Sir J. GrahamSanderson, Sir F.
    Carson, E.Kingsmill, Lt.-Col. W. H.Scott, Lord W.
    Challen, Flt.-Lieut. C.Lambert, G.Shephard, S. (Newark)
    Clarke, Col. R. S.Lancaster, Col. C. G.Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W.
    Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. G.Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.Smith, E. P. (Ashford)
    Conant, Maj. R. J. E.Lennox-Boyd, A. T.Smithers, Sir W.
    Cooper-Key, Maj. E. M.Linstead, H. N.Snadden, W. M.
    Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U. (Ludlow)Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.).Spearman, A. C. M.
    Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.Lloyd, Brig. J. S. B. (Wirral)Stanley, Col. Rt. Hon. O.
    Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.Low, Brig. A. R. W.Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)
    Crowder, Capt. J. F. E.Lucas-Tooth, Sir H.Stoddart-Scott, Lt.-Col. M.
    Cuthbert, W. N.Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. O.Studholme, Maj. H. G.
    Darling, Sir W. Y.MacAndrew, Col. Sir C.Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)
    De la Bère, R.McCallum, Maj. D.Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (P'dd't'n, S.)
    Digby, Maj. S. WingfieldMacdonald, Capt. Sir P. (I. of Wight)Teeling, Flt.-Lieut. W.
    Dodds-Parker, Col. A. D.Mackeson, Lt.-Col. H. R.Thorp, Lt.-Col. R. A. F.
    Donner, Sqn.-Ldr. P. W.M'Kie, J. H. (Galloway)Touche, G. C.
    Dower, Lt.-Col. A. V. G. (Penrith)Maclay, Hon. J. S.Turton, R. H.
    Drayson, Capt. G. B.Maclean, Brig. F. H. R. (Lancaster)Vane, Col. W. M. T.
    Eden, Rt. Hon. A.Maitland, Comdr. J. W.Wakefield, Sir W. W.
    Erroll, Col. F. J.Manningham-Buller, R. E.Walker-Smith, Lt.-Col. D.
    Fleming, Sqn.-Ldr. E. L.Marlowe, Lt.-Col. A. A. H.Ward, Group Capt. The Hon. G. R.
    Fletcher, W. (Bury)Marples, Capt. A. E.Watt, Sir G. S. Harvie
    Foster, Brig. J. G. (Northwich)Marsden, Capt. A.Webbe, Sir H. (Abbey)
    Fraser, Lt.-Col. Sir I. (Lonsdale)Marshall, Comdr. D. (Bodmin)Wheatley, Lt.-Col. M. J.
    Gage, Lt.-Col. C.Marshall, S. H. (Sutton)White, Sir D. (Fareham)
    Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D.Maude, J. C.White, Maj. J. B. (Canterbury)
    Gammans, Capt. L. D.Mellor, Sir J.Williams, Lt.-Cdr. G. W. (T'nbr'ge)
    Gates, Maj. E. E.Molson, A. H. E.Willink, Rt. Hon. H. U.
    Glossop, C. W. H.Morrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury)Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
    Glyn, Sir R.Morrison, Rt. Hn. W. S. (Cirencester)York, C.
    Gomme-Duncan, Col. A. G.Neven-Spence, Major Sir B.Young, Maj. Sir A. S. L. (Partick)
    Gridley, Sir A.Nicholson, G.
    Grimston, R. V.Nield, B.TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
    Hannon, Sir P. (Moseley)Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.Major Mott-Radclyffe and
    Hare, Lieut.-Col. Hon. J. H.Nutting, A.Mr. Drewe.
    Harvey, Air-Cmdre. A. V.Orr-Ewing, I. L.Mr. Drewe.

    with the Bill, because the intention of the Government is that it should last for five years and this Amendment is for one year. With great respect to a senior Member, I submit he is confusing two things which are not alike.

    It is the intention of the Government, if the House permits, to take powers for five years to do something, but that does not mean that everything it does must necessarily endure for five years. On the contrary many of the Orders, on the face of them, will be for a less period, and therefore that argument against the Amendment seems to me also to fail.

    Question put, "That those words be there inserted."

    The Committee divided: Ayes, 157; Noes, 311.

    NOES.

    Adams, Capt. H. R. (Balham)Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.Martin, J. H.
    Adams, W. T. (Hammersmith, South)Evans, E. (Lowestoft)Maxton, J.
    Adamson, Mrs. J. L.Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury)Mayhew, Maj. C. P.
    Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V.Fairhurst, F.Medland, H. M.
    Allen, A. C. (Bosworth)Farthing, W. J.Messer, F.
    Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)Follick, M.Middleton, Mrs. L.
    Alpass, J. H.Foot, M. M.Mitchison, Maj. G. R.
    Anderson, A. (Motherwell)Freeman, Maj. J. (Watford)Montague, F.
    Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)Gaitskell, H. T. N.Morgan, Dr. H. B.
    Attewell, H. C.Gallacher, W.Morley, R.
    Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.Gibbins, J.Morris, Lt.-Col. H. (Sheffield, C.)
    Austin, H. L.Gibson, C. W.Morris, R. H. (Carmarthen)
    Awbery, S. S.Gilzean, A.Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, E.)
    Ayles, W. H.Glanville, J. E.Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham)
    Bacon, Miss A.Goodrich, H. E.Moyle, A.
    Balfour, A.Gould, Mrs. B. AyrtonMurray, J. D.
    Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J.Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.Nally, W.
    Barstow, P. G.Grenfell, D. R.Naylor, T. E.
    Barton, C.Grey, C. F.Neal, H. (Claycross)
    Bechervaise, A. E.Grierson, E.Nichol, Mrs. M. E. (Bradford, N.)
    Bellenger, F. J.Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford)
    Benson, G.Griffiths, Capt. W. D. (Moss Side)Noel-Buxton, Lady
    Bevan, Rt. Hon. A.Gunter, Capt. R. J.Oldfield, W. H.
    Bing, Capt. G. H. C.Guy, W. H.Oliver, G. H.
    Binns, J.Hale, L.Orbach, M.
    Blackburn, A. R.Hall, Rt. Hon. G. H. (Aberdare)Paget, R. T.
    Blenkinsop, Capt. A.Hall, W. G. (Colne Valley)Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)
    Blyton, W. R.Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R.Parker, J.
    Boardman, H.Hannan, W. (Maryhill)Parkin, Flt-Lieut. B. T.
    Bottomley, A. G.Hardy, E. A.Paton, Mrs. F. (Rushcliffe)
    Bowden, Flg.-Offr. H. W.Harrison, J.Paton, J. (Norwich)
    Bowen, Capt. R.Hastings, Dr. SomervillePeart, Capt. T. F.
    Bowles, F. G.Henderson, J. (Ardwick)Perrins, W.
    Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'p'l, Exch'ge)Herbison, Miss M.Piratin, P.
    Braddock, T. (Mitcham)Hicks, G.Platts-Mills, J. F. F.
    Brook, D. (Halifax)Hobson, C. R.Popplewell, E.
    Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell)Holman, P.Porter, G. (Leeds)
    Brown, George (Belper)Horabin, T. L.Pritt, D. N.
    Brown, T. J. (Ince)House, G.Proctor, W. T.
    Brown, W. J. (Rugby)Hoy, J.Pryde, D. J.
    Bruce, Maj. D. W. T.Hubbard, T.Pursey, Cmdr. H.
    Buchanan, G.Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.)Randall, H. E.
    Burden, T. W.Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)Ranger, J.
    Burke, W. A.Hughes, H. D. (Wolverhampton, W.)Rees-Williams, Lt.-Col. D. R.
    Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.)Hutchinson, H. L. (Rusholme)Reeves, J.
    Byers, Lt.-Col. F.Hynd H. (Hackney, C.)Reid, T. (Swindon)
    Callaghan, James.Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.Rhodes, H.
    Castle, Mrs. B. A.Janner, B.Richards, R.
    Champion, A. J.Jeger, Capt. G. (Winchester)Ridealgh, Mrs. M.
    Chater D.Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S.E.)Robens, A.
    Chetwynd, Capt. G. R.Jones, D. T. (Hartlepools)Roberts, Sqn.-Ldr. E. O. (Merioneth)
    Clitherow, R.Jones, J. H. (Bolton)Roberts, G. O. (Caernarvonshire)
    Cluse, W. S.Keenan, W.Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)
    Cobb, F. A.Kenyon, C.Rogers, G. H. R.
    Cocks, F. S.Key, C. W.Royle, C.
    Coldrick, W.King, E. M.Sargood, R.
    Collick, P.Kinley, J.Scollan, T.
    Collindridg, F.Kirby, B. V.Scott-Elliot, W.
    Colman, Miss G. M.Lawson, Rt. Hon. J. J.Segal, Sq. Ldr. S.
    Comyns, Dr. L.Lee, F. (Hulme)Sharp, Lt.-Col. G. M.
    Cook, T. F.Lee, Miss J. (Cannock)Shawcross, Cmdr. C. N. (Widnes)
    Corlett, Dr. J.Leonard, W.Shawcross, Sir H. (St. Helens)
    Corvedale, Maj. ViscountLevy, Lt. B. W.Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.
    Cove, W. G.Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton)Shurmer, P.
    Crawley, Flt.-Lieul. A.Lewis, T. (Southampton)Silkin, L.
    Cripps, Rt. Hon. Sir S.Lindsay, K. M. (Comb'd Eng. Univ.)Silverman, J. (Erdington).
    Daggar, G.Lipson, D. L.Silverman, S. S. (Nelson)
    Daines, P.Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.Simmons, C. J.
    Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.Longden, F.Skeffington, A. M.
    Davies, A. E. (Burslem)Lyne, A. W.Skeffington-Lodge, Lt. T. C.
    Davies, Clement (Montgomery)McAllister, G.Skinnard, F. W.
    Davies, Ernest (Enfield)McEntee, V. La T.Smith, Capt. C. (Colchester)
    Davies, Haydn (St. Pancras, S.W.)Mack, J. D.Smith, Ellis (Stoke)
    Deer, G.McKay, J. (Wallsend)Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.)
    de Freitas, Sqn.-Ldr. G.Maclean, N. (Govan)Smith, T. (Normanton)
    Diamond, J.McLeavy, F.Snow, Capt. J. W.
    Dodds, N. N.MacMillan, M. K.Solley, L. J.
    Donovan, T.McNeil, H.Sorensen, R. W.
    Douglas, F. C. R.Macpherson, T. (Romford)Soskice, Maj. Sir F.
    Driberg, T. E. N.Mainwaring, W. H.Sparks, J. A.
    Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwich)Mallalieu, J. P. W.Stamford, W.
    Dumpleton, C. W.Manning, C. (Camberwell, N.)Steele, T.
    Durbin, E. F. M.Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping)Stewart, Maj. M. (Fulham, E.)
    Dye, S.Marshall, F. (Brightside)Stokes, R. R.

    Stubbs, A. E.Viant, S. P.Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)
    Summerskill, Dr. EdithWadsworth, G.Williams, D. J. (Neath)
    Swingler, Capt. S.Walkden, E.Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)
    Symonds, Maj. A. L.Walker, P. C. G. (Smethwick)Williams, W. R. (Heston)
    Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)Williamson, T.
    Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.)Willis, E.
    Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet)Warbey, W. N.Wills, Mrs. E. A.
    Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)Watkins, T. E.Wilmot, Rt. Hon. J.
    Thomas, Ivor (Keighley)Webb, M. (Bradford, C.)Wilson, J. H.
    Thomas, J. R. (Dover)Weitzman, D.Wise, Major F. J.
    Thomas, George (Cardiff)Wells, P. L. (Faversham)Woodburn, A.
    Thomson, Rt. Hon. G. R. (Ed'b'gh, E.)Wells, Maj. W. T. (Walsall)Woods, G. S.
    Thorneycroft, H.White, C. F. (Derbyshire, W.)Wyatt, Maj. W.
    Thurtle, E.White, H. (Derbyshire, N.E.)Yates, V. F.
    Tiffany, S.Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.Young, Sir R. (Newton)
    Titterington, M. F.Whittaker, J. E.Younger, Maj. The Hon. K. G.
    Tolley, L.Wilcock, Group-Capt. C. A. B.Zilliacus, K.
    Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G.Wilkes, Maj. L.
    Turner-Samuels, M.Wilkins, W. A.TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
    Ungoed-Thomas, Maj. L.Wilkinson, Rt. Hon. EllenMr. Mathers and Mr. Pearson.
    Vernon, Maj. W. F.Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)

    On apoint of Order, Mr. Deputy-Chairman. Might I ask if the Opposition Whips would exercise greater influence over their flock in preventing them from obstructing the Government side—

    5.45 P.m.

    I beg to move, in page 2, line 13, at end, insert:

    "Provided that such adaptations shall not include any new authority or extension of authority to take possession or control, on behalf of His Majesty of any property or undertaking or to acquire on behalf of His Majesty any property other than land or to enter and search any premises; and provided that such adaptations shall not provide for the amending of any enactment, for suspending the operation of any enactment and for applying any enactment with or without modification and shall not provide for requiring persons to place themselves, their services and their property at the disposal of His Majesty."
    As the Committee are aware, this Clause makes it possible to adapt to the new purposes set out in the Clause any Regulations in Parts III and IV of the General Regulations as well as certain others. I do not know whether hon. Members realise it, but the Regulations in Parts III and IV which are still in existence run to something like 160 pages of print. They differ very much in character. Some of them are extremely drastic and go the full length to which they are entitled to go under the Emergency Powers (Defence) Acts of 1939 and 1940, under which they are made. Many others are by no means so drastic. I think it was the constant policy of the Coalition Government while we remained together never to take much more drastic powers than the needs of a particular situation demanded. Accordingly, many of these Regulations do not go anything like so far in the way of strict control as it would have been legally possible for them to do.

    I have always understood that the proper purpose of Clause 1 is to enable existing controls to be continued for a period, subject to comparatively minor modifications or relaxations, and that the aim of both the Government and ourselves is to taper off gradually the operation of existing Regulations; only they propose to do it in a halting and gradual way and we had proposed to do it more quickly. I gather that our aim is the same, although our pace would be very different. If that is so, I take it that the Government are of the same mind as we are here, that there should be no tightening up of existing powers. Existing powers may be continued or to some extent modified or relaxed. They may be abolished altogether ultimately, but they will not be tightened. I have seen or heard nothing in the course of the Debates on the Bill to suggest that the Government were going to tighten up, in the course of adapting under Clause 1.

    I am therefore very hopeful that the Government will accept the Amendment, but before I leave it to them to say whether they will do so or not I think it is right that I should explain in a little more detail what the Amendment actually does. Hon. Members will remember that the framework of the Emergency Powers (Defence) Act, 1939, is that in the first Sub-section general powers are given for making Regulations for certain purposes there set out, to secure:
    "the public safety, the defence of the Realm, the maintenance of public order and the efficient prosecution of any war…and for maintaining supplies and services essential to the life of the community."
    It was thought that those general powers would not be enough for war-time, and therefore there were superadded to them further general powers, set out in Subsections (2), (3) and (4). Sub-section (2, b) authorises:
    "the taking of possession or control…of any property or undertaking
    the acquisition, on behalf of His Majesty, of any property other than land."
    Paragraph (c) authorises:
    "the entering and search of any premises,"
    and paragraph (d) authorises:
    "amending any enactment…suspending the operation of any enactment,"
    and so on.

    My proposition is this: In so far as any existing Defence Regulation contained in the book does not make use of those special powers contained in Sub-sections (2), (3) and (4) of Section 1 of the 1939 Act, those special powers should not now be imported into any Regulation for the first time. The point is made even more important when we come to the Act of 1940, the Dunkirk Act, if I may call it so, which authorises Regulations,
    "for requiring persons to place themselves, their services, and their property at the disposal of His Majesty,"
    where it appears to him to be necessary or expedient for the same purposes. If those powers were not necessary at or after the crisis of the war, plainly, and I think everybody would agree, they ought not now to be imported into any Regulation for the first time.

    Therefore I hardly think that the right hon. Gentleman can raise any objection to the last half of the Amendment, namely, where it says that the adaptations which are contemplated shall not include
    "any new authority or extension of authority,"
    shall not, for example, require persons to place themselves, their lives or their property at the disposal of His Majesty. I can hardly think that the right hon. Gentleman wants to bring in that kind of control in circumstances where it does not already exist. I will go further than that and say that I see nothing in what has been said to suggest, for example, that there should be power to take possession of "any undertaking," in circumstances where that power does not already exist, or that there should be power to acquire property in circumstances where the power does not exist already. The purpose of the Clause is adaptation and not extension of control, and I want to make that point clear and explicit on the face of the Bill.

    I have no doubt that the right hon. Gentleman or somebody else may say, "Why was not that thought necessary in the original Coalition draft of the Bill? Why did those words not appear there?" For a very simple reason. If you are setting out to get rid of the controls within two years it is not sense that anybody should begin by trying to tighten them up. Obviously, nobody could have any such intention. If you are seeking, however, to maintain those controls for five ears, there is a very distinct danger that certain persons may be tempted to start by tightening them up. Therefore, our object is to get from the Government a clear statement. I hope that they will accept the Amendment, but if they will not, let them give us some alternative which may make it clear that their policy is not to tighten control but, at the worst, to maintain it and at the best to relax it.

    May I say that I thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman who has just spoken, for the very clear way in which he has put the Amendment before the Committee? I can deal with the last sentences he used, in order to illustrate a point. He said that he hoped there would be adaptation and not extension of control, but it is necessary that we should be able to extend all the powers that we now have to the new purposes for which the Bill is designed. I am afraid that, if that principle is accepted, at any rate as the Government's view on the matter, it will be seen that we cannot accept the limiting words which this proviso proposes to impose on us. I have with me my right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply. He maybe faced in the very near future with the difficulty of maintaining the new purposes, including the purposes of how we are going to demobilise men—against which the Opposition voted this afternoon—of acquiring property, taking over undertakings, and doing things of that description. We do not desire to be limited in any way in our efforts to deal with that matter.

    Again, when it comes to dealing with the components of houses for the housing pro- gramme of the Government, we may have to take over undertakings that, I am advised, we should be precluded from taking over if we did not have the powers and if we were limited by the wording of the Amendment. More important than all, it may be necessary to extend Defence Regulation 55 to regulate the production and distribution of essential, rationed commodities. That inevitably involves an extension of authority to take possession and control. With the general attitude that the right hon. and learned Gentleman attributed to the Government, that we do not desire to use these powers in any way oppressively, I agree, but we must arm ourselves, in view of the situation in which the country now is with the necessary powers to deal with situations as they arise. If we should propose—of course, we continually come back to this point—any Regulation that is harsh and uncomfortable, the House can Pray against it, and after it has been annulled and its usefulness is finished, or even if we use it harshly, the House has adequate remedies in order to ensure that our wrongdoing shall be brought to light. I therefore hope that the Committee will be willing not to limit the Clause in the way that the right hon. and learned Gentleman desires

    We are faced—and I repeat what I said on another Amendment as it is applicable to this Amendment—with the matter of housing, with getting on with the task of restoring the export trade, and with other problems which confront the country. It is a situation that has never existed in the history of the country, and no matter what Government had been on this side of the House I believe they would have had to come to the House for these powers. The mere fact that the Coalition Government introduced the Bill is an indication that they felt that some such powers as these were necessary. I must remind hon. Members opposite that no matter how fiercely they denounced controls at the General Election, if we take at the value they put on them the bogies they raised as to our intentions with regard to controls, we might say, in submitting the Bill to the House, that we are astonished at our own moderation.

    6.0 p.m.

    I agree that it is difficult to draw a dividing line here, and if there is any point on which the Government have a genuine case, I am not going to try and stress any difference of opinion. The right hon. Gentleman sought to justify a few of the things to which we take exception, but he has not attempted to justify the rest. Suppose I go through this Amendment and see which are the bits which the right hon. Gentleman thinks he would like to keep and which are the bits he agrees to give away. Perhaps in that way we may be able to narrow down the issue to some extent. Let us take the first words:

    "Provided that such adaptations shall not include any new authority or extension of authority."
    I can see that he has a point for extension of authority and that, if he has Regulation 55, which contains drastic powers of this character to do certain things, he may want to extend it slightly to do some more things of the same kind. He did not say a word, however, to justify any new authority being taken; he dealt only with an extension of existing authority. So I think he can give us "new authority." The next words are:
    "to take possession or control, on behalf of His Majesty, of any property or undertaking."
    I understand that he may want to take possession of property—the Minister of Supply appears to want to do that—but surely he does not want to take possession of undertakings at this time of day, because that is a penal provision if an undertaking is not doing what it should be doing. Certain cases have come up during the war of undertakings being taken over. Surely we are not going to carry that over into peace-time. Therefore, I think the right hon. Gentleman may want to keep authority to take over property, but he ought to give up authority to take over an undertaking. The next words in the Amendment are:
    "or to acquire on behalf of His Majesty any property other than land or to enter and search any premises."
    Perhaps there is a case for having power to acquire a certain number of chattels, although that wants to be narrowly regarded, but surely there is no need for extra powers to enter and search premises. That was a shorthand method adopted during the war, and surely we can now get back to the ordinary law of the land with regard to this. The Amendment goes on:
    "and provided that such adaptations shall not provide for the amending of any enactment, for suspending the operation of any enactment and for applying any enactment with or without modification."
    Here we come to a crucial question. It has been laid down again and again by the Ministers' Powers Report and by all manner of authorities that delegated legislation ought not to have the power of altering Acts of Parliament. There is no reason for it at all. There was a reason in war-time when things had to be done suddenly. An emergency might arise, the House might not be sitting, and we might have to pass a Defence Regulation within a matter of hours, certainly a matter of days, which might have great repercussions on existing Acts of Parliament which it was necessary to alter. Now in peace-time, however, when we can see ahead, when the House sits regularly, there is no need to continue a power to alter enactments by Regulation. Therefore, I ask the right hon. Gentleman at least to give this up. Finally, there is the question of
    "requiring persons to place themselves, their services and their property at the disposal of His Majesty."
    The right hon. Gentleman did not say a word about that in his reply. It is not only a war-time power, but a power that was only introduced at the crucial period of the war. I agree that the right hon. Gentleman has a partial case on the first third of the Amendment, but he has no case on the second third about modification of enactments. If he can show that he has a case on the third third for the extension of this power into peace-time, it gives one a poor view of the kind of world into which the right hon. Gentleman is to project us. I hope that he will give that part up as well. Therefore, I would ask for the acceptance of five-sixths of my Amendment—the second third and the third third in toto, and one-half of the first third.

    I must congratulate the right hon. and learned Gentleman on his plausibility and on the estimate he makes of my generosity. I will make him this offer, that I will reconsider one-sixth of the Amendment, that is, the question of entering or searching any premises. I admit that I would like to reconsider that. After all, we have extended the scope of the Bill. That was one of the objections that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton) had on the Second Reading of the Bill. We have further extended the scope of the Bill by the Amendment for making the life of demobilised men easier, which we have already passed to-day. Therefore, it may be that on that we shall require some new authority. On the question of undertakings, I endeavoured specifically to reply to that in my earlier remarks. If we make a Regulation and someone does not play the game under the Regulation, it may be necessary in the national interest in the circumstances of our time to acquire or exercise control over the undertaking, and we mean to do it.

    With regard to enactments we are, as we were intended to be, the victims of the action of the "Caretaker" Government. We have to deal with this matter between now and 24th February next, because after that date our power to make adaptations and so on vanishes. There are a few Measures that will have to be considered by this House between now and 24th February other than the Amendment of Sections and Sub-sections of Acts of Parliament that may be necessary to enable us to discharge the duties we have taken on ourselves. Therefore, we must rely on our ability to deal in a Defence Regulation with minor points in enactment that may require modification or adaptation. What I have said earlier about undertakings applies to the last phrases in the Amendment. We are determined that we are not going to be obstructed in our efforts to place this country where, in our opinion, it should be, with regard to social comfort at home, to starting up the export trade and to any of the problems that arise during the reconstruction period. We asked for a mandate from the country to be able to do this, and on 26th July we obtained it. We intend to carry it out.

    May I ask the Home Secretary when he proposes to tell the House that he is departing in this Bill completely from the Explanatory Memorandum which appears on the cover of the Bill? That Memorandum, referring to this Clause, says:

    "This clause proposes to confer no power to make fresh Defence Regulations,"
    but only a power to extend the scope of those Regulations to new purposes and to adapt them in such a way as to effect this new purpose. Now we hear from the Home Secretary that by "adaptations" he means any form of alteration, qualification and extension of existing Defence Regulations. What is the difference between taking a power to make new Defence Regulations and taking a power to alter existing ones in any direction and particular and to any extent? Surely it becomes farcical to speak of making no new Regulations when the Minister refuses steadfastly any kind of limitation on the alterations he can make. Under this Clause he can take three words of a Regulation and completely alter its whole sense and purpose by what he calls adaptation and extension. It is virtually wasting the time of the Committee to discuss a Bill which is completely at variance, on the Minister's own argument, with the Memorandum which is intended to convey the sense of the Bill.

    The assurance that the Home Secretary will reconsider the searching of premises at least gives us some confidence that he will not become known as the Fouché of the present regime. That is the first small measure of satisfaction we have been able to extract from the discussions to-day. I thought that the hon. Gentleman who intervened to ask the Whips on this side to suppress further obstruction on our part unconsciously and innocently expressed the real spirit of the party opposite. The more we discuss this Measure and the more we hear about it, the more we see that it has all the hallmarks of coming totalitarianism plus the base effrontery of confiscation. [Laughter.] The prophet has always been laughed at by the fools, and that custom does not change as centuries go on. The psychology that we see opposite is influenced by the Kerensky motif, and I am not certain that we are not witnessing a Kerensky regime in action, a regime stronger than the amiable gentlemen who sit on the Front Bench at the moment. Many hon. Members behind them are working and looking towards that day. I give the Home Secretary that warning.

    I really rose to ask the Home Secretary a question. He said that his party asked for a clear mandate, that they got it, and that the acceptance of any part of this Amendment would be false to the mandate. May I ask him whether he or any member of his party, in the policy put forward at the General Election, said that the Labour Party, if put into power, would require persons to place themselves, their services and their property at the disposal of His Majesty? If they said that during the Election, is that now definitely the policy of this Government?

    6.15 p.m.

    As a matter of fact, hon. Members on that side of the Committee have always been in the habit of grabbing property. This is putting an end to the grab, and getting control in such a way as will bring about a better situation. The hon. Member says that it is a very poor world we are working for. I hope it is very poor from his point of view. I shall be a very happy man if it is a poor world from the point of view of hon. Members on the other side. I would like to draw attention to the twisted Conservative minds of hon. Gentlemen opposite. You see what we had to face when we had Tories sitting on this Front Bench. There is not a trick or manoeuvre they were not prepared to use; the Tory mentality is always ready to deceive, to cheat and to fraud.

    Is it in Order for the hon. Gentleman to make such defamatory references to hon. Gentlemen on these benches?

    "Cheat" and the other words used would not be in Order if applied to individuals.

    The hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) specifically named the hon. Gentleman who represents the Abbey Division of Westminster (Sir H. Webbe) in association with his general remarks.

    I specifically linked the hon. Gentleman with the party to which he belongs, which is notorious as a party which has cheated and defrauded the people of the country.

    May I say that personally I do not in the least mind remarks of that kind? I have sat so long opposite the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council that I am quite used to it.

    Now that oil has been poured on troubled waters, perhaps the hon. Gentleman will proceed.

    I conclude by saying that I heard many speeches made by Labour candidates, and I saw many election addresses, and one thing Labour candidates insisted on was that the people of this country should vote for a Government that would take control of property and use that property in the best interests of the people. There is no question at all about the will of the people or about the mandate they gave. This Government, representing the desires of the people, must insist on every control necessary, so that when the lads come back from the Army they will be employed, and will not have to go through what happened after the last war, when they came back and were walking about homeless and unemployed.

    I hope that the people of this country will realise that the only support there is for the Home Secretary, when he says he wishes to suspend any enactment by Regulation, and to conscript the people by additional Regulations under this Bill, comes from one of the two Communist Members in the House. In the course of the Election I read speeches by members of the party which now forms the Government, and they were against conscription in certain cases. We are asking that the Bill shall not contain provision to require persons to place themselves at the disposal of His Majesty. That is conscription.

    I have a volume of letters—which I know is equalled by those in the possession of every hon. Member—from men in the Services who are praying that they may be demobilised. Yet here comes our fatherly Home Secretary to the Committee asking for additional powers to conscript members of the public for the purposes of this Bill. I hope that the Home Secretary and those hon. Members who support him will look askance at the support they are receiving from the Communist Party.

    Amendment negatived.

    I beg to move, in page 2, line 16, to leave out "in force" and to insert "made."

    This Amendment goes with the succeeding one; they are of a drafting character. It has been the practice to save existing subordinate instruments by a provision saying that they are to have effect notwithstanding the Amendment. These saving provisions were not included in the Regulations themselves but form separate articles of the Order in Council making the Amendment. It is necessary that these subordinate orders and directions, if they are still in force, should be preserved by Clause 1 to 3 of the Bill. When the Amendments are made, the Sub-section will refer to:
    "all orders and other instruments made under the Regulations and in force at the date when the Order in Council comes into operation."
    and this will adequately describe the instruments in question.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Further amendment made: In page 2, line 16, after "Regulation" insert "and in force."—[ Mr. Oliver.]

    Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

    Clause 2—(Power To Make Defence Regulations For Controlling Prices)

    I beg to move, in page 2, line 33, leave out from beginning, to end of line 37, and insert:

    "His Majesty may by Order in Council make such."
    I ask permission to have included in the discussion on this Amendment the Amendment relating to page 2, line 40, to leave out from "description," to "for" in line 41. I hope this will be for the convenience of the Committee.

    I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. Would it be for the convenience of the Committee if the next three Amendments were discussed along with the present one?

    We do not intend to move the second Amendment standing in my name—in page 2, line 38, after "for" to insert "so."

    The Amendment which I have the honour to move, and the associated Amendment, seek to effect that these Regulations shall be made by ordinary Order in Council and not under Defence Regulations. They would exclude some of the powers which have already been discussed from the ambit of this Bill if they were made by plain Orders in Council instead of by Defence Regulations. The particular part of the Clause to which I wish to draw attention consists of the last words, which we ask the Government to omit. They are these:
    "Whether or not such regulations are necessary or expedient for the purposes specified in the said subsection (1)."
    What are the purposes specified in the said subsection? They are
    "to secure at fair prices a sufficiency of those essential to the wellbeing of the community or their equitable distribution; or to facilitate the readjustment of industry and commerce to the requirements of the community in time of peace: or to assist the relief of suffering and the restoration and distribution of essential supplies and services in any part of H.M.'s Dominions or in foreign countries that axe in grave distress as the result of war."
    These are pretty wide objectives to state in Clause 1, which the Government inherit from the Coalition Government. In Clause 2, by including the words which I have quoted, the Government are saying quite bluntly, "We wish to control prices and goods of any description, or charges for services of any description, for purposes other than to secure sufficient at fair prices, other than to facilitate the readjustment of industry and commerce, and other than to relieve suffering and famine abroad." But what can those objectives be? What are they? All we know so far is that they are not the objects set out under Clause 1; they are others, but about what they are—complete silence. As in so much connected with this Bill, we are not told what those objects are.

    In the Clause as now drafted, it would be possible to control prices, or for that matter wages—because wages are frequently charges for service—for any reason at all at the unfettered will of the Government. It would be possible; it is not germane to the arument to say that it would be improbable, or that it would be unlikely, or would not happen. It would be possible to discriminate against one firm or another. Indeed, the Home Secretary in his speech on the Second Reading used these words, and I think the Lord President of the Council, who was reading from the same brief, repeated them. The Home Secretary said:
    "to differentiate price control according to type and quality by fixing maximum prices for particular products and particular businesses."—[Official Report, 9th October, 1945, Vol. 414, c. 122.]
    If those words mean anything, they mean that the Government here seek power to go down into particular commodities and also to go down into particular firms making the same commodity. The words expressly mean that powers are taken not only to control the variety of products but also to control the product of one company or firm as against the same product made by another.

    What words are those? I am sorry I was not here when the right hon. Gentleman began.

    I am sorry the hon. Gentleman was not here. The words I was referring to are:

    "Whether or not such regulations are necessary or expedient for the purposes specified in the said sub-section (1)."

    Where does he say that it is stated that the words he wishes to leave out give the Government power not merely to control goods of any description but to discriminate amongst those goods between one firm and another?

    In that connection I was merely quoting the words which the Home Secretary and the Lord President of the Council used.

    No, I was quoting from the Home Secretary's speech on the Second Reading.

    Those words mean that it will be possible to say to a partner in a firm, "We do not like your face, your private life or your politics, and so we are going to control the price which you may charge for your products while leaving your competitors free." It would be possible under these powers to say at what fee a barrister's brief should be marked, and I wonder what the Lord Chancellor and the President of the Board of Trade would have thought of those powers earlier in their lives. Of course, I am, on purpose, using far-fetched illustrations, but they are to show how far the powers could go, not to show how far they necessarily will go. The Home Secretary's defence of Clause 2 in his speech on the Second Reading, which was of a highly perfunctory character, was not relevant to the subject of the present Amendment at all. He did not touch upon this point. He defended the present powers on the ground that previously they had powers only over manufactures as a class or types of trade as a class. He went on to use, among other words, those I have quoted. I am not suggesting that the powers will be used, or unfairly used, but only that they are there and will allow discrimination to take place. It seems to me that the powers which the Home Secretary has, to deal with specific goods, would still exist under this Clause even if the words which we ask the Government to delete were omitted.

    6.30 p.m.

    The Home Secretary also took the opportunity, when referring to this Clause, to mention restrictive practices, but he followed the practice himself by restricting the discussion—as his colleagues in the Government always do—on this point, to the restrictive practice of holding up prices, and did not mention those designed to withhold labour or to restrict the quality of a man's hand or brain. All these restrictive practices may be—although they by no means always are—wrong and anti-social. Where they are wrong and anti-social is where they fail to carry out one of the objectives set down in Clause 1—where they fail to secure sufficient of the essentials of life for the community at fair prices and equitable distribution.

    So far we see that quite unnecessary "overcoat powers" are being taken, because restrictive practices are wrong when they defeat the object of Clause 1. The powers, as drafted, would, in effect, enable the Home Secretary to keep prices up. He can say, for example, that the Minister of Supply, in one of his State-owned factories, cannot compete with the privately-owned business, a contingency which will certainly arise before very long. He could say "You shall not sell taps or gutter at such and such a price and undercut the Ministry of Supply."

    Again, hon. Members may think that I am taking a far-fetched illustration. I am doing nothing of the kind; I am only saying what could be done under the powers of this Clause, and it is open to Major Milner to call be to Order if I am outside the Clause. The Government could keep prices up, and I want to show hon. Members that this is not a fanciful illustration. I assert that the powers exist, which at this moment are being used, for the purpose of keeping up prices which would otherwise fall, and I challenge the Government to deny that. There is no answer.

    The Government do not know what I am referring to. That is exactly the point made by some hon. Members. Will the Home Secretary, for example, look into the matter of the price of bricks, one of the components of building? I am not saying at this moment that the fixing of minimum prices of bricks is vicious, or not done for a good reason; I am only saying that these powers are now being used by the Government. It is quite easy to follow these Regulations, but the Government themselves do not know. I think there is a good reason why there should be a minimum price for bricks, and I say that the Home Secretary can keep up prices. I know how distasteful these things may be when pointed out, but I have a difficult task to perform, and I will do it with politeness. The Home Secretary can keep prices up. That will give hon. Members an idea how wide, how almost limitless, the powers which he seeks under the Clause can be with these words in.

    Again, the Home Secretary could, although I am not suggesting for a moment that he would, do very great damage to the power of collective bargaining of trade unions over the prices charged for services which are, in some cases, wages. It is absolutely no defence of this Clause to think, or believe, as I do, that he will do nothing of the kind. It is no use to be content with the words which the Lord President of the Council so adroitly used when before the House on the Second Reading. He said they were taking powers, but that it did not follow that they would use them and that hon. Members on this side of the House could rely on the Labour Government conducting themselves with good sense and discretion. To accept that kind of argument is to reduce the proceedings of this House to a farce. The argument runs: "We have a mandate and under that mandate we are entitled to take any power, but you need not worry; we shall use our power with discretion." All dis- cussion in the Committee stage of a Bill, if we accept that argument, would be a mere waste of time, and there are many hon. Members, new to the House, who regard the work of this afternoon as a waste of time—most of it wasted by the Government.

    The point broadly raised by this Clause, as now drafted, is that "overcoat powers" should be handed to the Government to do what they think fit. I notice the Home Secretary is referring to his notes, but when I say "overcoat" I am referring to this sort of words:
    "whether or not such Regulations are necessary or expedient for the purposes specified in the said Sub-section (1)?"
    We could not have a more comprehensive Clause. What the Government want is a sort of atomic blunderbuss which they can fire into the air whenever they like, but the only thing that is certain is that the slugs will end up in the face, and probably other parts of the person, of His Majesty's subjects, however privileged the reasons which prompt it. These are the very things which we in this House, and in this Committee, are here to prevent. We are here to safeguard, as far as possible and as far as necessary, while giving the Government powers for which they ask, that they shall govern without permitting licence and unlimited powers being granted to the Executive over the person and property of the individual, in just the same way as in the early days of our Constitution the faithful Commons protected the citizens from unlimited and indiscriminate interference by the Crown. [Hon. Members: "By the Tories."] The Chairman will probably say that it is going a little beyond the Clause if we get back to Magna Charta.

    The Amendment, as put down, has no other meaning, and I hope the Government will accept it. The powers are very wide, indeed, and will do all—and probably more than all—that is likely to be necessary, even if the Bill has a five-years' life. The Government, as their life progresses, will have need of friends; I am not sure they do not need a few now. I am giving them an opportunity this evening of seeing that sound constitutional practice is as much their care as that of hon. Members. The Lord President of the Council has often, in my hear- ing, made eloquent appeals to the Government when he thought that something they were doing did not accord with those principles. In making his stand for those principles, I know he was sincere, and I ask him and the Home Secretary to go over this first and very important Bill that the Government have presented to Parliament, knowing that they hold those views.

    The right hon. Gentleman referred to me in an aside, and said that he did not wish to accept from me any ruling as to irrelevancy. I do not venture to suggest any such ruling, and certainly would not expect him to accept one if I did. All the same, I thought he might have been interested in convincing this Committee that his arguments were really relevant to the Amendments, and my difficulty was to show how they were. The right hon. Gentleman has made a number of criticisms of the Clause. What basis he has for those criticisms I will examine in a moment, but I would like to say first of all—and I would ask him to correct me if I am mistaken—that none of the criticisms which formed most of his speech would be in any way affected if either of these Amendments was carried.

    The point is, that where the Government are seeking power to go out of a class and into individual types of goods, or individual manufactures, we, on this side of the House, are not contesting that point if it is with the objectives set out in Clause 1. But when Clause 2 contains completely limitless powers, then we think the Government are going too far.

    I dare say that what the right hon. Gentleman has now said has some bearing on what I said, but I must confess that I am unable to see what it is. He made a number of criticisms of the Clause. It is quite true that the Amendments that he proposes would make some difference to the Clause's provisions, but the general effect of the Clause would not be in any way different if we carried either or both of the Amendments which he moved. The powers in the Clause would still be wide powers. Whatever powers the Government have, to interfere with this or that kind of goods, would still be there. The argument that you ought not to give a Government powers merely on their undertaking not to abuse them would still be good. All the right hon. Member would effect by his Amendments, if carried, would be that, instead of doing something by Defence Regulations, it would be done by Order in Council, and, secondly, the powers would be exercisable only for the purposes of Clause 1 of the principal Act, and not independently of these purposes. It seems to me, therefore, that the main part of his speech was directed to criticism of the Clause which his Amendments would not affect.

    6.45 p.m.

    Let us look at the criticism he made. Is he really advancing it as a principle of legislation that you must never give Government powers which bad Governments could abuse? There are not any such powers. There is not any way of putting general powers into such words that a Government could use them only in suitable cases and could not use them in unsuitable cases. If that had been a proper principle of legislation, the Emergency Powers (Defence) Act, which was operated throughout the war, and without which the war could not have been properly prosecuted, could never have been passed. It gave the Government during the war the widest possible powers. Any one of the Regulations could have been abused. Many hon. Members think that some of them were, but that was never regarded as being a good reason for withholding the powers. We had to be content, as the right hon. Member for Aldershot and his hon. Friends will have to be content, to watch carefully and closely the exercise of those powers by the Government and if the powers are abused to bring to the notice of the House each abuse as and when it occurs. We cannot keep the Government without powers merely because Governments can abuse powers, or because the form of words gives them the opportunity to abuse powers.

    What was it that the right hon. Gentleman thought the Government might do and ought not to be allowed to do? He said they would have power to maintain prices. That is so. The whole of this legislation is to give the Government powers which, if the Government did not exercise them, would be exercised only by private interests. Monopolies make these arrangements, cartels make them; the effect of collective bargaining can be curtailed by arrangements between employers. All sorts of arrangements about price maintenance are possible and have been carried out. The whole purpose of this legislation is to give the Government counter powers so that in this period the community may be protected.

    The only other point I want to deal with is the suggestion which the right hon. Gentleman made that there is something in this Clause which would give the Government power to discriminate between individuals or firms offering the same description of services or manufacturing the same description of goods. I ventured to ask the right hon. Gentleman where he found such a power in the Clause and he replied by quoting a speech by the Minister. The whole point of his argument was that Ministers' speeches have nothing to do with it, and that what matters is the wording in the Bill. I ask him again where there is in the Clause any power to discriminate between persons? The words are quite clear:
    "As appear to him to be necessary or expedient for controlling the prices to be charged for goods of any description or the charges to be made for services of any description."
    I should have thought that was conclusive. What the Clause requires is quite clear; it is that the Government should class the description of goods or services the price of or charge for which it wishes to control, and then control the price of or charge for goods or services of that description. There is no discrimination between the goods of one manufacturer and those of another. As long as they are goods of the same description, the Regulation will cover all of them.

    Does the Home Secretary agree with the interpretation of this Clause now being given by the hon. Member?

    I shall be interested in the answer, although I still think that the answer would be irrelevant to this discussion. As has been said time and again by hon. Members opposite, what matters is not what the Minister says. It is not for the Minister to interpret Acts of Parliament. Therefore, it is quite irrelevant for the right hon. Gentleman to ask whether the Home Secretary agrees with my interpretation. I have given my interpretation. It may be quite wrong. What we have to look at is the words in the Bill and not rely on anybody's interpretation. If words have to be interpreted, they will be interpreted in the courts. It seems to me to be plain, and if the Government do not intend the results to be as I have said, they ought to look at the wording again. I think the meaning of the words is that the Government can control the price of goods and the charges for services according to their description. If the Government do not mean that, they ought to change the wording, but until they change it, the right hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton) has no ground for complaint because the things he fears are not to be found in the Clause.

    I am in some difficulty about this Clause, with or without the Amendment. The Clause gives almost unlimited powers. The last two lines of Sub-section (1) of the Clause which the Amendment seeks to remove give unlimited powers for unlimited purposes. I understand that is the point to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton) was directing his argument when he pleaded, not that the Clause should be dispensed with, but that the unlimited powers in the last two lines should be dispensed with. If one takes the view that governments are inevitably and necessarily good, there is a tremendous argument for giving them all power and for not restricting them by the last two lines or any other lines of the Clause. There are people who hold that governments are inevitably good, and one government introduced a Bill in the Reichstag some years ago to give the government all powers in all directions for a period of four years. If anybody starts with that assumption, that may be the logical conclusion of the assumption; but if one starts with my assumption, that government is not a good thing but a necessary evil only to be tolerated as the price of avoiding still worse evils, then one must look carefully at the powers one is asked to give and one must bear in mind, first, that governments always ask for more powers than they need, and, secondly, that they always exercise more powers than they get. I have seen things happen under the Defence Regulations—I have seen things happen to me under those Regulations—which I am perfectly certain were never within the contemplation of the House at the time the Emergency Powers (Defence) Act was passed. I am certain that experience can be matched by many other hon. Members and by many institutions in the country.

    The last two lines of the Sub-section remind me of the South Sea Bubble. It will be remembered that in the early part of the 18th century a wave of speculation spread over the country and all kinds of projects were launched for all sorts of purposes, but there was one which attracted me when I read about it, and that was a company for the exploitation of a purpose too secret to be disclosed. All I ask—and I ask it as an innocent inquirer and not as an opponent of the Government—is this. I am prepared to give them all the powers at a time of crisis which they can convince me are genuinely necessary for the good of the people of this country, but I am not prepared to give them a bit more. They have got to demonstrate their case. When they say:
    "whether or not such Regulations are necessary or expedient for the purposes specified in the said Sub-section (1)",
    there can only be one implication, that they have in mind purposes other than the purposes specified in Sub-section (1). If they do not mean that, then English does not mean anything. All I ask, as a simple and humble inquirer of the fountain of truth, the Front Bench, is this: what are the other purposes that they have in mind? Will they please tell us what they are? Will they justify the request for powers to deal with them? In short, will they take us into their confidence and not ask us to give them a blank cheque? But there is only one end of blank cheques to the Government, and that is bankruptcy for the rest of us. Therefore, I ask the Home Secretary to tell us what are those purposes and try to convince us that the very wide powers in Clause 2, in addition to those in Clause 11, are necessary for the service of these purposes which so far have been concealed from the Committee.

    I am quite sure that the right hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton), when he alluded to my ingenuousness last Tuesday, was speaking with perfect sincerity, and he has put me under a very severe temptation to-night. If I were as ingenuous as he thinks I am, I would accept the first of these Amendments. For what does it do? It enables Regulations to be made for five years instead of limiting the period during which they can be made to the period between now and 24th February next. That, of course, is a temptation which, after the last speech, I am quite sure the Committee will realise, is a very difficult one for me to resist. But I realise that was not by any means the intention of the right hon. Gentleman, and therefore, I give him the assurance that, whatever alterations we may make in this Clause, we will not make the first Amendment that he wants.

    7 p.m.

    I gather that the first objection is one of nomenclature. The Opposition rather feels that it would be a good thing if we could find some other name than Defence Regulations for these Regulations that will be made under the Bill as it is drafted. I admit that that is very attractive. We ourselves would, in fact, like to do it but it involves us in some difficulties in having at certain periods of time two separate sets of Regulations called by different names. As my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council said, when he wound up the Debate last Tuesday, that is a point that we have in mind and we will see if it is possible to meet it without undue administrative difficulties.

    When we come to the other points, which were the main objections of the right hon. Member for Aldershot that induced him to put down these Amendments, we are handicapped very much at present, as the Coalition Government were, in that for one class or description of goods we can fix only one price. Take a class of goods obviously as variable in quality and range as women's frocks. It is absurd to be in the position where one can only fix one maximum price for women's frocks. We desire in similar matters, where there are obvious grades that can reasonably be distinguished, to have the power to fix maximum prices for different grades for the same kind of commodity. I am sure that everyone in the Committee would say that it would be reasonable. If we do not do that, we probably fix a maximum price that is too low for some purposes and much too high for other purposes. There is, of course, a tendency for the maximum price to become also in some cases, where it ought not to become, the minimum price. That is the kind of thing that I gather the Committee would wish us to avoid.

    With regard to the last three lines which have caused a great deal of the argument and give rise I think to the main difference between the right hon. Gentleman and the Government, those words are put in there to deal with the prospect of inflation that might be caused by excessive prices being charged for non-essential goods at a time when, obviously, it as admitted there is a great pent-up spending power in the nation. Certain things are controlled in price, but inflation might well be caused by excessive spending on some of the non-essential goods. I have had brought to my notice, as an illustration of the way in which prices have risen unexpectedly in certain ways, the recent increase in fees—and the justifiable increase in many cases—in secondary schools. There is a great pent-up spending power at the moment in the working classes and, as in the last war, one of the ways in which they have endeavoured to use that spending power has been in getting a better standard of education for their children. Public schools have more clients than usual, the schools below them in social standard have also more pupils, and this has been used by some proprietors of schools unnecessarily to increase fees and take advantage of the present markets. I am not suggesting that this clause would be used to control school fees, but I give it as an example of the way in which the most extraordinary things rise in price, when spending is restricted over a certain area and then tends to flow into some other channel quite unexpectedly.

    Since the right hon. Gentleman has given an example of a case in which it will not be used, can he give an example of a case in which it will be used?

    No, Sir, and I say frankly that the ingenuity of people who want to make money quickly is so great that I never attempt to keep pace with it myself, and I carefully avoid their company.

    Does the right hon. Gentleman include, in the category of those who want to make money quickly, those public schools which, in order to make both ends meet, have to put up fees to meet food costs and so on?

    No, Sir, not those, but there are some others. I was careful not to make any general accusation, but the example I chose was one that was well justified. We feel that the words to which the right hon. Gentleman objects give us the power for which we ask. I am sensible that there is misgiving in the Committee, as was very well expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown), that the words may be, in fact, too wide and might be used for purposes other than those I have mentioned to the Committee. I agree that the Committee is entitled to feel that this Clause when it is passed shall not go beyond what the Government want to do. I have given the reasons why I cannot accept the right hon. Gentleman's Amendment, but I will undertake between now and the Report stage of the Bill to have this Clause very carefully examined to see that we get the powers we want, and, if possible, that we get them in terms that shall be unmistakable. Any Amendments to secure that, if they are necessary, shall be placed on; the Paper so that hon. Members shall have an opportunity of studying them before the next stage of the Bill.

    I am sure that the Committee will be relieved to hear that at last some compunction has forced its way into the steel armour of the right hon. Gentleman and that he is about to reconsider this curious Clause. We in this Committee are all anxious to help and not to delay any further than is necessary the proceedings of the Committee. We shall look with gleeful anticipation to see what form the second thoughts of the right hon. Gentleman take. I hope that his reconsideration of this matter will not proceed on the lines of some of the arguments that he has already addressed to the Committee. I would ask him this question, and it is one which I would like him to have prominently before him when reconsidering this matter. What does he want to do under this Clause in its present or its amended form that he cannot at present do under the Prices of Goods Act?

    I gather that point but I would point out to the right hon. Gentleman that the present legislation—the Prices of Goods Act—does enable him to go into immense detail. I have before me the Goods and Services (Prices Control) Order dealing with domestic pottery, and, taking it at random, I find that there are 20 different pie-dishes mentioned, each in four columns and different prices for each. There seems to be no reason against it. When I look at the one on wool yarns, they are all meticulously described in the Order and the tradesman, who has to master the immense complexities and particularisation of all these Orders, has no reason to agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the Government are deficient in power to make a complete and minute schedule of prices. We shall look forward to this. I would not like to deceive the right hon. Gentleman or the Committee, but the Clause in its present form will never do unless we abandon altogether the control of the House of Commons over legislation. The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman) shakes his head but I heard the argument which he addressed to us, and I beg him and the Committee to look at the implications of what he said. He said, and I agree with him, that it would be impossible to frame legislation which a bad Government could not abuse. That is probably true, but to carry that argument to the extent to which the hon. Member pushed it, would be to abandon all control of Parliament over legislation.

    How far does the right hon. Gentleman suggest I did that? All I said was that because power could be abused, was not an argument in itself for withholding it.

    I do not think that that puts the position as I would put it to the Committee. A bad Executive can abuse any powers. I am not suggesting that right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench at this early stage of their career possess that turpitude of character that would be proper if they were to abuse their powers. I am not doing that, but I do say that it is the duty of the House, whether sitting as the House or in Committee, to make it as difficult as possible for Governments to abuse the legislative powers with which we entrust them, and it is on that basis that we should examine the amended version of the Clause now before us. I can say that there are many of us on this side of the Committee, and probably many anxious minds on the benches behind the right hon. Gentleman, who will recall the dramatic reminder given by the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. Brown) about the Parliament that voted complete power to its Government for five years. I wish the right hon. Gentleman every success in his reconsideration of this difficult matter. We view the Government's difficulties with sympathy, but we do want to know, and if they will only be frank with us and tell us why they want these powers, we shall not make any trouble. In view of what has been said by the right hon. Gentleman, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    I beg to move, in page 2, line 43, to leave out Subsection (2).

    This Amendment raises a very short point, which I am sure the Home Secretary will consider at the same time as he is considering the proposed Amendment to Sub-section (1). Sub-section (2) would appear unnecessary if you retain power to make Orders under Defence Regulations. This is rather, in part, consequential upon the Amendment moved by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton), and I ask the Home Secretary to consider this and the next Amendment—in page 3, line 1, to leave out Sub-section (3)—at the same time as he is considering that to Sub-section (1).

    7.15 p.m.

    Ingenuousness is now beginning to settle on the other side of the Committee. It is necessary for us to have Sub-section (2). Of course, some of the penal provisions in the Acts to which reference has been made are quite inadequate for some of the offences that might be committed, and it may be the desire to impose a minimum fine at least equal to the profit resulting from the commission of the offence. I recognise that the Amendment to leave out Sub-section (3) is largely consequential upon the Amendment which has just been withdrawn, and I will undertake that it will be considered with the previous Amendments. I cannot accept the Amendment now before the Committee.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

    Clause 3—(Revocation And Variation Of Defence Regulations Having Effect Under This Act)

    I beg to move, in page 3, line 4, after "revoke," insert "in whole or in part."

    I think the Commitee will recognise that this Amendment will be of some assistance, both to the Government and to the Committee.

    Amendment agreed to.

    I beg to move, in line 11, after "of," insert "section one of."

    This is obviously a drafting Amendment.

    What does the right hon. Gentleman mean by "obviously drafting"? It is as obscure as it was in the beginning.

    I should not like to say that. The Clause alludes to "subsection (1) of the Emergency Powers (Defence) Act," and it means, quite obviously, Sub-section (1) of some Section of that Act. As a matter of fact, it is Sub-section (1) of Section 1. It is the first Sub-section of the Measure, although this is not the usual way of alluding to it.

    I am asking the right hon. Gentleman a very simple question. I ask him to say if it is or is not a misprint.

    I do not think it is a misprint. It might have been a mis-typing by the person who typed the typescript from which the Bill was printed. It is an error in the Bill, and I am sorry that it should have taken such a long time to put right.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

    Clause 4.—( Parliamentary control over Defence Regulations and orders and other instruments made there under. 56 & 57 Viet. c. 66.)

    I beg to move, in page 3, line 28, after "Act," insert:

    "or which is or is deemed to be a statutory rule to which the Rules Publication Act (Northern Ireland), 1925, applies."
    The purpose of this Amendment is to preserve the existing system under which Orders and other instruments made by Government Departments in Northern Ireland under Defence Regulations continue to be treated as Statutory Rules and Orders of Northern Ireland. Under Defence Regulation 102A, all Orders made by the Government of Northern Ireland, or any Department of that Government, are deemed to be Statutory Rules to which the Rules Publication Act (Northern Ireland), 1925, applies. If the Amendment is not made, the probable effect would be that this provision would have to be revoked as repugnant to Clause 4, and the convenient practice now established would have to be abandoned. It also makes it clear that the instruments have to be laid before Parliament. I may say that I have had negotiations with the Government of Northern Ireland and they are agreed upon the form of words.

    May I ask another question, as I am rather interested in the drafting of Bills? Would it be unfair to assume, in the case of this Amendment and of further Amendments to be moved, that the Government did not satisfy themselves through the usual channels how far agreement might be expected, but that they now have satisfied themselves?

    There are two questions which I should like to ask. The first is whether there is a Scrutiny Committee sitting on this, either in Northern Ireland or here? When these Orders lie on the Table in Northern Ireland, will it be at exactly the same time as the Orders are laid here?

    This part of the Bill was drafted by the Coalition Government. They appear to have omitted to consult Northern Ireland.

    I express my regret that I assumed too readily that the Bills of the Coalition Government were correct in all respects; I ought to have consulted Northern Ireland before this Bill was introduced.

    May I ask the right hon. Gentleman another question? I am sure he will have no objection to answering it. I did not take any particular interest in the late Government. Am I right in assuming that he was a member of the Coalition Government?

    Yes, but may I say that I was not engaged at any stage in the discussions on this Bill.

    I was not a Cabinet Minister but I accept responsibility and, on behalf of the Coalition Government—

    Was not the name of the Lord President of the Council on the back of the Bill?

    Yes, there were three Tory Members' names, and two Labour on the back of it. If hon. Members want to go into that kind of thing—[Interruption].

    With regard to the points put to me by the hon. and gallant Member for Down (Sir W. Smiles) these Orders have to be laid on the Table here and in the Northern Ireland House of Commons. Whether they have the same procedure there as we do, I do not know. Of course they are a self-governing community, having their own Standing Orders, but a Northern Ireland Order attracts in this House all the attention by the Scrutinising Committee and by the House itself that the Orders which apply to Great Britain attract. I am sorry I cannot answer my hon. Friend about the procedure in the Northern Ireland Parliament.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

    There are two small points which I would like to put to the Home Secretary on this Clause. They deal not with the Defence Regulation made under the Emergency Powers Act, but with orders made under the Defence Regulations which are commonly called "the grand-children." The right hon. Gentleman knows what I mean. The points I think are quite simple but they need to be clarified. The first is: What is the meaning of Orders determined to be "of the nature of a public act" in line 28? Presumably it means that merely Local Orders will not have to be laid. I have no quarrel with that, but the Select Committee of Statutory Orders does see local Orders—for instance, Sunday Cinematograph Orders, or Orders setting up Joint Local Boards. However, it does not find much in them and, after all, the Local Orders are usually made on the application or with the consent of the locality. Incidentally, who does the determining? According to the Regulations of 1894 the rule-making authority says whether it thinks its rules are general or local, and presumably the editor of the Statutory Rules and Orders—through whose office they pass, makes the decision. The system seems to work satisfactorily in practice and has had over 50 years to crystallise itself. The Select Committee have no complaints but we would like to know who determines.

    The second point is a constitutional one. Some of these "grand-children" of the Emergency Powers (Defence) Act deal with Northern Ireland and some of these are actually made by authorities in Belfast—the Governor of Northern Ireland or some Northern Ireland Department—under powers which can be delegated by Departments in Whitehall. We have no quarrel with that but it introduces a problem of supervision. Under the constitution of Northern Ireland contained in the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, the Belfast Government cannot deal with such matters as the Defence of the Realm. Well then, are these grand-children of the Act, when made in Belfast, Statutory Rules and Orders in the United Kingdom series, or Statutory Rules and Orders of Northern Ireland covered by the Northern Ireland Rules Publication Act? The answer is in paragraph 2 of the Defence Regulation 102A—they are to be deemed Statutory Rules and Orders of Northern Ireland although they deal with a subject on which the Belfast Government cannot make laws. The Orders concern only Northern Ireland and may as well be published there but what happens to their Parliamentary supervision? Being Statutory Rules and Orders of Northern Ireland they do not come before our Select Committee here; being outside the powers of the Northern Ireland Parliament how can they be challenged in the Northern Ireland Parliament? Our Select Committee has its hands pretty full and is not clamouring for more and more work. I do not suggest that these Northern Ireland grand-children should come to our Committee to be scrutinised, but how does the matter stand? I shall be obliged if the Home Secretary can clarify these two points because they are of some importance.

    The decision as to whether an Order is a local or a general Order is made by the Treasury in consultation with Mr. Speaker and the Lord Chancellor. That appears to be the practice which has been followed hitherto and I see no reason for departing from it at the present time. With regard to the future, now that the "grand-children"—as the hon. and gallant Member calls these Orders which are made under Regulations—where they relate to Northern Ireland are to be placed before his Committee, and their supervision will be in the charge of the Committee of which he is a Member. I do not think there is any other way in which they can be properly looked after because, as he said, some of them are outside the competence of the Northern Ireland legislature and therefore, this legislature being the only one within whose competence they are, I think we must accept responsibility for them.

    This, I agree, is a very difficult situation. Northern Ireland is the only federalised part of the United Kingdom and a position where you have these Defence of the Realm Regulations, and kindred matters, is obviously a very complicated one, which affects not only the Parliament of Northern Ireland. I assume that in these matters the Ministers in Northern Ireland in enforcing these Orders would be exercising delegated authority over the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill, and would not be acting so much as Ministers of the Parliament of Northern Ireland as agents of the Home Secretary here. As regards that matter, Northern Ireland is recognised by this Act—which was passed as everybody should know on no request of ours—as being distinguishable in having local considerations which are not the same as those in this country. May I take it that the right hon. Gentleman, in dealing with these Orders, will consult the appropriate Ministers of the Northern Ireland Government before taking action and, if he can, will act in concert? May I take it that the same consultation and the same sympathy with the particular views and considerations of Northern Ireland will be extended in the future as in the past?

    I am glad to give that assurance. Since I have been in office I have had some very pleasant conversations with the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland and with some of the Ministers in his Cabinet. I am arranging that they shall be consulted in the formative stage with regard to this and similar matters, and I will endeavour to meet their wishes. Of course, it must be understood there are occasions when the final responsibility is mine, and I may have to take a decision, after listening to what they have to say, that may not be fully in accordance with what they would like. But even where the responsibility falls quite definitely on me I shall always endeavour to ascertain what their legitimate views are in regard to those things which enter their province.

    7.30 p.m.

    I should like to thank the right hon. Gentleman for his explanation, which is very clear, but to say that what he has done will mean that the Select Committee will not be allowed to report to the House unless we send for a memorandum from the Department concerned which will mean, in turn, that we might have to send across to Ireland for people to come here if we should require them to do so.

    I am sure the hon. and gallant Gentleman would not wish me to put him into a position where he could make a report without hearing what the other side had to say.

    I was not asking for that. But it will mean sending to Northern Ireland for people to come here to give evidence if there is anything on which we might like clarification.

    Question put, and agreed to.

    Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

    CLAUSE 5.—( Application of principal Acts and effect of their expiry, and adaptation of other enactments.)

    I beg to move, in page 4, line 43, leave out Sub-section (5).

    This innocuous looking Sub-section is really dynamite. I will repeat it, in case any Member here has not got a copy of the Bill. It says:
    "For the purpose of the requisitioned of Land and War Works Act, 1945, the expression" war period" shall include any period after the expiry of the Emergency Powers (Defence) Act, 1939, during which this Act is in force."
    The words, "war period," do not occur in this Act. They refer to Section 59 of the Requisitioned Land and War Works Act, 1945. What this means is that wherever the Requisitioned Land and War Works Act says, "war period," that means a term of five years. I am afraid that I shall have to go at some length into the effect of this small Sub-section upon the different provisions of the Requisition of Land and War Works Act, because it alters completely the Act that was passed only a few months ago, an Act which was supported by Members of the present Government. In effect, it would hold up the development of industry, agriculture and planning in Britain. Under Section 5 of the Requisitioned Land and War Works Act, wherever there are Government works on any land a Government Department can decide to acquire the land or any adjacent land providing they serve notice that will now be within seven years of the passing of this Bill, that is, 1952. By a later Clause in this Bill power is given to extend the period by one year more, to 1953. That will mean that for seven years a man who has Government war works on his property will be in a state of complete uncertainty.

    This matter was discussed by the Select Committee on National Expenditure on 8th March. I see on the Front Bench and other benches distinguished supporters of the present Government who took part in the deliberations of that Select Committee and who supported their Second Report, which dealt with the release of requisitioned land and buildings. Paragraph 36 of that Report says:
    "Your Committee has been impressed by the difficulties confronting Departments in reaching decisions over post-war requirements. They appreciate that it is impossible to work out in detail plans for camps, training grounds, airfields and other establishments which must be retained. Your Committee consider that the time has now come when a definite decision should be made which would enable Departments to determine…which property they will have to acquire and which they will eventually be able to release. This will allow plans to be made for industrial or agricultural production, for housing, or for town and country planning schemes, in respect of property which is now held under requisition."
    That is the considered opinion of an all-party Committee of this House on this problem. Following that Committee, the House said that notice must be given within two years after the end of the war. The present Bill—I hope and believe that there is some error of drafting—will extend that period for seven years, until 1952. At that time I myself thought that two years from the end of the war was too long, and I supported a plea that all these matters should be wound up within one year of the end of the war. Also at that time the present Minister of Health, who was sitting where I am standing to-day, gave us his views on this problem. He said:
    "I believe that it is the worst possible situation for individuals, owners of property or no property to have no practical future before them, knowing that at any moment the Government may step in and do something about which they cannot make the slightest possible conjecture. That is a ridiculous situation, because it substitutes caprice for injustice."—[Official Report, 19th April, 1945; Vol. 410, c. 526.]
    He went on to say that in his view two years was not an unreasonable time. Of course, circumstances have altered. The right hon. Gentleman now has the responsibility and cares of Government office, directed by Government officials. His two years is now altered to seven years. Let me give the Committee a few illustrations of what will be affected. Small garages, by the concentration of industries, have been sites of Government work, where the Government have installed machinery. Those garages which want to be decontrolled will not know until 1952 whether they are to have independence or not. Owners of land adjacent to Government factories which belong to another industrial undertaking want to know where they are in connection with post-war development. That illustration will occur in every area of development in the country. There are 600 airfields, the vast majority of which are on good agricultural land. Unless this Subsection is deleted those airfields will be sterilised until 1952, and those who were on that Select Committee will know the dangers that are implied in that fact. The tentacles of the Air Ministry will be upon those airfields. There are 600,000 acres of land and 80,000 buildings still requisitioned by the War Department.

    Let us take a few illustrations of common land. Marlborough Common has a hospital upon it, and people will not be able to know the future of that common until 1952 unless this Clause is altered. Then there is Blackheath Common, where you have a lorry park. Dartford Heath will continue to have a camp and a sewage farm. That is the effect of the sentence of five years' additional imprisonment under Section 5 of the Requisitioned Land and War Works Act. Under Section 6, where land has been damaged by Government war use, the Government Department will not have to decide whether they are going to acquire it and rehabilitate it until seven years from the passing of this Act.

    Many of us on these Benches think the Government are too slow in demobilising the men from the Services. It is the same sort of inaction that is going to hold the land that has been damaged by war use—the land that is scarred from war from being restored. Directly you make that war period five years, therefore giving them the power to acquire seven years, you are going to hold up this restoration of the land of England. I do not believe there can be any party division on the unfortunate result of Section 6to alter the war period under the Requisitioned Land and War Works Act. Why delay the decision? Two years is long enough. Why delay it for another five years on land used as bombing ranges and tank traps? We have all seen them in the course of our service. We have had to help make these battle scars, and those of us who have made them are only too anxious to get them removed and England restored, There are great acres of concrete lying all over the surface of fertile England.

    Let me turn to Section 15. I am sorry the Home Secretary is not in the House, because he has always had a very great interest in rights of way and highways. I know the Parliamentary Secretary will convey any remarks I may make on Section 15 to him. Under Section 15 of this Act, the Minister of War Transport can wait seven years from the passing of this Bill until 1952 before he decides to stop up permanently a highway that has been temporarily closed. Let me take with this Section, Section 21, which is the parallel Section. Under that Section, every Order made under the Defence Regulations for stopping up and diverting a highway shall continue in force for seven years from the passing of this Bill, notwithstanding the stopping up or diversion of the highway if no longer required for war purposes. That sentence of seven years to me is terribly hard.

    7.45 p.m.

    I have in my constituency aerodromes which were placed there in order to see that Germany has been well and truly bombed. The result is that my constituents have given up their rights of way and free passage. When I came back to my constituency, after an interval at the war, I was dashing to a meeting and suddenly found myself in the middle of an aerodrome-runway with a giant bomber coming in to land. That road had been closed, I was late for my meeting, and I did not realise it in a foggy night. Rights of way and public highways have been stopped up for war purposes, and it is very difficult to get a Government Department to release them. The two years' sentence will become seven years. On Section 15, during the Report stage on 30th May, 1945, the right hon. Gentleman, the present Home Secretary, had something to say. I should like to quote what he said on that occasion:
    "I think the point that has been raised is one of great importance—this question of the reopening of highways that have been closed, some of them important highways linking up small towns and villages. I hope that what the Parliamentary Secretary has said with regard to the attitude of his Minister will, in fact, be carried out. I am very nervous about the effects of the war on highway law generally. Previously there was a very different method of dealing with the closing and diversion of highways. I hope…that we are to get back very shortly to the time when there will only be the way that existed before the war for diverting and closing highways, namely, the action of justices in Quarter Sessions, a special Act of Parliament or a town planning scheme. I think the third method was a very disastrous innovation, and I hope we are not to have any further extension of the way in which the public can be inconvenienced by the closing of ancient highways."—[Official Report, 30th May, 1945; Vol. 411, c. 284.]
    In October the same right hon. Gentleman comes to the House and what does he do? He wants to extend "this dangerous innovation" from two years to seven years and possibly eight. I am not surprised at this. Right hon. Gentlemen on the opposite benches before the Election made very different promises and assurances that now have gone with the wind of success.

    I now turn to the next Section—Section 26. Under that Section, which is a local authorities provision, the local authority can acquire any land for their purposes which they have held during the war, if they give notice within seven years until 1952. The types of case that is dealt with under Section 26 are those premises which, hon. Members will recollect, have been used for the storage of civil defence reserves. In my constituency, and I expect in others, they are badly required for civil production in order to help industry. They also deal with the offices of the regional commissioners. If the decision whether these are to be retained by the local authority is going to be delayed until 1952, it is going to make that large area of land and buildings unobtainable to Britain for restarting business until that date.

    Let me quote the other three Sections which are affected—and some of them are even more important than those I have mentioned. Under Section 28, any Government Department will be able to retain possession of requisitioned property for a further seven years from the passing of this Bill. I hear hon. Members, representing constituencies where there are hotels and dwelling houses, demanding that the land for these hotels and dwelling houses should be derequisitioned. I think the Government have been very slow in derequisitioning property. The encouragement you are giving by this Sub-section is to say that instead of two years, which was given by the Government presided over by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), you are to have seven years, or, if possible, eight. That has been an awkward fact in connection with that Section. In Sub-section (3) you have power to give a Government Department authority to authorise the taking of water. That power will be extended for another seven years. I find that that power is already seriously endangering rural water supplies. In many parts of the country water has been extracted from the local authority statutory undertakings for the purpose of property requisitioned by Government Departments, for instance, aerodromes. There is a great shortage of water as a result. Many of the farmers and farm workers are having to go without water because there is this requisitioning of water resources. What is the justification for that requisitioning to be extended another seven years?

    Section 29 gave the Government two years in which they must remove all the clutter and mess which they have made on requisitioned property. This Bill will extend that two years to seven years. The point I really wish to press is this: This Sub-section amending the Requisitioned Land and War Works Act is not dealing with something about which we have been talking in the rest of the discussion to-day; it is slowing up the whole process of restoring Britain after the war. We have a big job to do in that respect. Why when this Government come into power is that two years suddenly extended to seven years? The first time when this proposal was made was when this Bill was introduced by the Home Secretary. I never heard it suggested, and I took part in all the Debates on the Requisitioned Land and War Works Act, that the Government should keep on requisitioned land for seven years all that clutter and debris. If hon. Members who represent the party opposite felt like that then why did they not move it at that time? Now they have got into power, having had this great success, they try to suggest that this clutter and debris should remain for seven years, and that no adequate steps be taken to restore the land until the completion of that time.

    I wish to mention just one other Section which affects my constituents. Section 33 will give to Government Departments until 1952 the power to acquire easements over or rights restrictive of the user of any land. I do not see the Minister of Town and Country Planning on the Government Front Bench. That is unfortunate because this will seriously affect all planning schemes in Britain. It will also affect housing schemes. Let me give one concrete example.

    I am sorry to interrupt but the hon. Gentleman has already given quite a number of examples, and it is impossible for him to carry on in that way—he might go on ad infinitum. I hope he will now confine himself to the Amendment and not give a further number of examples.

    I ask your help on this matter, Major Milner. This is legislation by reference and is amending the definition of another Act. It has always been my understanding that on such an occasion it is possible to find out how this new definition will affect the different Sections of that Act. Normally this should be done, I suggest, by a new Bill in which there would be a number of Clauses extending the power over these separate Sections. As the Government have decided to effect that by means of legislation by reference surely it is in Order for me to point out the effect on different Sections of that Act?

    The question is one of degree. The hon. Member has given a great many cases and quoted several Sections, and there comes a point when it would be an abuse of the Rules of Debate for him to continue to do so. I do not say that he has reached that point yet, but I hope he will not continue unduly towards it.

    On that point of Order, with great respect, I was giving six different Sections affected by this Subsection. Not every Section of that Act is affected. Fortunately Section 33 is the last. If I am restrained from mentioning town and country planning, I shall, of course, abstain, but with great regret.

    I gather from what you say, Major Milner, that I may continue to deal with the effect on Section 33. I will give this illustration: A local authority in my constituency has submitted to the Minister of Health a plan for rebuilding an area. Under the Requisitioned Land and War Works Act the Air Ministry are objecting to that new housing scheme on the ground that they want restrictive rights of user over this area, which does not belong to them and which is, in fact, scheduled as a building scheme for residential property in the interim development scheme. We understood that that restriction could, at its worst, last for only two years. If this Bill is passed the local authority, the Flaxton Rural District Council, will be prevented from building on that land until 1952. Therefore the whole of the post-war housing plan in that part of the suburbs of York will be delayed by the Government action on this Amendment. I do not want to labour that point any more. [Hon. Members: "Hear, hear"]. That is my constituency. I feel strongly about it. I am quite sure that if hon. Gentlemen go to their constituencies they will find that their own housing development schemes will be equally affected by Section 33. There is my interpretation of this Sub-section. Let me now turn to the interpretation of the Lord President of the Council.

    During the Second Reading Debate last week he said:
    "Clause 5…is simply a consequence of the intended duration of requisitioning powers under this Bill. The Requisitioned Land and War Works Act gives an opportunity to requisitioning authorities to acquire requisitioned land after the properties are given up during a period not exceeding two years, while they negotiate and so on. If the requisitioning powers go on for five years after the Emergency Powers Act expires, the opportunity is postponed until then. Really it is desirable to have these powers in the field of requisitioning because they are related to the general economic powers of the Bill which would be deficient if the powers of requisitioning were not tidied up."—[Official Report, 9th October, 1945; Vol. 414, c. 173.]
    Because my explanation is so different from that of the Lord President of the Council I have gone at length into the effect of this Sub-section. This is not tidying up; it is delaying the matter. This Sub-section will not be confined to new regulations that are brought in under Clause 1 or Clause 2 of this Bill; it will extend to the whole gamut of regulations that are still in operation by the year 1950. For these reasons I hope that the Committee will reject this Sub-section. I appeal not only to hon. Gentlemen who sit on this side of the Committee, but to hon. Gentlemen in all quarters. This is no party question.

    8.0 p.m.

    I had better not quote all my memories or I shall be pulled up, but I do remember how the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) showed his dislike of landowners. I believe the reason the Sub-section is in the Bill is this. The civil servants and Service chiefs have said to the Government, "We want more time than we were given under the Requisitioned Land and War Works Act. Two years is not enough. We have all these great decisions to take on derequisitioning. Give us seven years." I believe that the Government have bowed to the Civil Service and Service chiefs, not for the first time. If the Bill is passed in this form the country will condemn the surrender of the Government to these civil servants. We want to see England tidied up, and for those reasons I ask that this Sub-section be deleted.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) has dealt in some detail with this complicated matter, and I very much regret that the composition of this Committee is different from that which originally dealt with the matter, not for the reason that hon. Gentlemen opposite perhaps think, but because there are so many new hon. Members who are not aware of the extreme labour which was put into making that Act a workable and reasonable Measure. It is with some regret that I now find the Committee taking further time in trying to safeguard the rights of the people of this country against the encroachments of the Executive.

    I did think after the Requisitioned Land and War Works Bill became law, that we had argued for the last time on the question of finalities. If I remember right, we had long and wordy arguments on the subject of contiguous and adjacent land. We did, however, manage to obtain great concessions from the Government on that issue. Now the whole of that argument is re-opened. The owner of that contiguous or adjacent land is as much in the dark as to the future development of that land, be it for common, factory or farm, as he was at that time of the passing of that Act. It is quite impossible to see proper developments, particularly in agriculture, if we are going to have the menace of seven years of uncertainty while Government Departments make up their minds. As I understand this Sub- section, if a farmer or a land-owner wishes to renovate his farm building which is in a spot which may be taken over as contiguous or convenient land nearby a Government factory or perhaps an airfield, that owner will be absolutely unable to demand a decision from the Government Department concerned for seven years. I had a small but gratifying success this morning. For over two years I have been badgering the Ministry of Agriculture to produce a Report on farm buildings, and at long last that Report is in the hands of the printers. I had hoped that would be the signal for a great drive on the part of the agricultural community to plan for those modernised or new farm buildings which would go up in our countryside during the next few years. In all cases where requisitioned land is involved, and in all cases where contiguous or adjacent land to that farm land is under requisition, there will be no finality and no certainty as to what is going to happen to that land until 1952.

    Now that the Home Secretary is in his place I can, perhaps, say to him what he missed—those wise words from my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton. He takes a great interest in highways. Under this scheme, Government Departments, who are notoriously slow in making up their minds, are now being given a further five years before they are forced by Act of Parliament to decide whether or not permanently to stop up a highway. There is in my own district a particular aerodrome which stops up not only an ancient Roman road but the egress from one end of the village. That aerodrome, rumour has it, is not going to be used in the future; it is too near civilisation, or whatever the reason may be. In regard to the highways which are stopped up by that aerodrome, we shall have to wait for anything up to seven years before those highways must be unstopped or permanently kept closed. I ask the Home Secretary to realise that we put up a tremendous fight on the Requisitioned Land and War Works Act for two main purposes. The first was to restore the land of Britain as quickly as possible. The second was to limit the time during which Government Departments could make up their minds. If this Sub-section goes through in this Bill the whole of the work which we did under the Requisitioned Land and War Works Act is undone.

    For those reasons I ask the Home Secretary to give us finality in these matters and to delete from this Clause the offending Sub-section. Why bring it into the Clause at all? There are all the safeguards which the Government can possibly need. I ask him to withdraw this Clause and see that the work with which he sympathises, as hon. Members did during the discussions on the Requisitioned Land Bill, is not brought to naught.

    I must say that we have a certain amount of sympathy with the points put by the two hon. Members who have spoken on this Amendment. If we had thought for one moment that all the fears which they have voiced were likely to materialise there would be a good deal to be said for accepting their Amendment. It is true that if this Sub-section is kept in the Bill it will be possible for some of the land which has been acquired to be kept for a period of at least seven years, but so far as the Government are concerned, although the power is there we have every hope that the Service Departments will, long before then, have decided what they want to do with particular pieces of land that have been acquired. I therefore have to ask the Committee to reject the Amendment, although I would add that, perhaps when we come to the Report stage, if it is possible to find a saving form of words, the Government will be only too pleased to accept them, particularly as—and I shall mention it in a moment—we shall have to move a further Amendment on Report for reasons which I will give.

    What is it that the Requisitioned Land and War Works Act, 1945, does? It was passed, as we have been told by hon. and gallant Members, as recently as last Session. It provides that a Government Department or a local authority may acquire land on which work has been done by a Government Department or a local authority during the war period. I would remind the Committee that this Subsection deals with the continuance of the "war period" as laid down in the 1945 Act. The Government, or a local authority, having acquired land and having done work on that land, are entitled to continue in possession, provided that the process of acquisition, if it intends to acquire, begins within a period of two years from the end of the war period. This means that both Government Departments and local authorities, if they remain in possession, have up to two years to make up their minds. Great play has been made this afternoon by the two hon. and gallant Members, that the period is to be extended by this Bill, by at least another five years. That is true, but, as I have already said, we have no desire to give Departments all this extra time unless it is absolutely essential for the purposes of this Bill.

    The 1945 Act has other provisions for which an extension of the war period is desired under this Measure. That Act gives power to divert, or close, highways temporarily controlled under the Defence Regulations. All these powers—and this answers the question asked by both previous speakers—operate at the present on the assumption that the war period will end on the expiry of the Emergency Powers (Defence) Acts, that is, at the end of next February; but it is the purpose of the Bill, as the Committee knows, to keep some of these Defence Regulations alive, and to continue powers conferred by the 1945 Act. Therefore, it is essential, if these purposes are to be implemented, that the definition of what the war period is to be must be extended, in order that the powers to which I have referred can be exercised after 24th February next. If the Sub-section is not agreed to it will be impossible under the Bill after next February to acquire land on which work has been done or to stop up permanently highways which have been temporarily closed.

    On that point, surely there are two years from next February and not from February, 1945.

    The process has to be begun. It may take two years. It would be impossible, suppose a Government were so minded and it was essential, to take any new measures after the end of February unless the Sub-section was included in the Measure.

    8.15 p m.

    To clear up this point, may I read out to the hon. Gentleman Section 14 of the Requisitioned Land and War Works Act, 1945? It is:

    "The power conferred by this Part of this Act shall only be exercisable if the relevant agreement to buy, notice to treat, or order has been made or served before the expiration of two years from the end of the war period."
    That is, on the hon. Gentleman's argument, two years from 24th February, 1946.

    What the hon. Member says, of course, is true, and in that sense what he says is right. There is this power, which continues for two years after the end of next February.

    Another very useful power is given in Section 6 of the Act of 1945 and, if the Sub-section is dropped, could not be used under the terms of this Bill. That is the power which requires Government Departments to rehabilitate land on which work has been done by the Government or upon which damage has been caused by Government use. If such rehabilitation is necessary, as frequently it is, unless the Sub-section is included it will not be likely that the Government will do that. I would say that, when the Bill was in draft before the last Election, the Clause was contained in that draft. It was part of the Bill as agreed to by the Coalition Government which went out of office when the Caretaker Government came in.

    I wish my hon. Friend would allow me to make my point. The reason why the Clause was not included when the Bill saw the light of print and Members became aware of it was that the Requisitioned Land and War Works Bill had not then become an Act. Therefore it was impossible to include a provision like this in the first draft of this Bill because at that time the 1945 Act had not been put on the Statute Book. I can assure my hon. Friends that it had been, and was, the intention of the last Government to include these powers in the Bill, if the Bill had not been dropped.

    I do not know. Nevertheless, we are grateful to hon. Members who have put this Amendment down because they have drawn our attention—

    Forgive me for a moment. Was the fact mentioned at all in the Memorandum? Has the hon. Member got a copy of it?

    I think if we mention in the Explanatory Memorandum of Bills everything which was done, or suggested, or contemplated when the last Government was in office, the Memoranda of Bills would run to many pages. Hon. Members may take it from me that the facts are as I have just stated.

    I am sorry to interrupt again, but I have here the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum and there is no mention whatever of the point in it.

    I am afraid that I do not gather what the hon. and learned Gentleman is trying to say. I made a perfectly straight forward statement which can be checked by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite.

    If my hon. Friend takes that line, which has been sprung on us without notice, I would point out that there are alongside me certain Members who were in the Coalition Government and who were particularly concerned. This is the first I have ever heard of such a suggestion, and if it had been done it would have been a gross violation of the promise that had been made by my right hon. Friend the Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson) and my right hon. Friend who was then Financial Secretary to the Treasury, that the power of the new requisitioning would definitely be limited to two years. I hope that my hon. Friend, in fairness to us, will withdraw that suggestion, because we have had no notice of it at all.

    I do not know anything about that. There appears to be a difference of view between the right hon. Gentleman and myself. I was not at the Treasury when the Coalition Government were in office, but I am informed—and if I am wrong I will apologise later for it—that when this Bill was in draft there was a Clause similar to this one inserted. It was dropped because at that time the Requisitioned Land and War Works Bill had not been passed and the decision then was to insert it later as an Amendment in the present Bill after the Requisitioned Land and War Works Bill had actually reached the Statute Book.

    On a point of Order. May I ask your guidance, Major Milner, on whether it is in Order for the hon. Gentleman, in resisting an Amendment moved by the Opposition, to quote a Cabinet draft of the previous Government?

    The right hon. Gentleman said "I am informed." Will he tell us by whom he was informed?

    In answer to the point of Order, there is nothing out of Order in what the Financial Secretary is saying.

    Will the hon. Gentleman disclose from whom he got his information, and whose decision it was?

    The hon. and gallant Member is fairly new to this House, otherwise, I think, he would not have asked a question of that sort. I do not want to make more of this than I need. I make the statement for what it is worth. That the late Coalition Government contemplated introducing a Bill of this kind is within the recollection of the House. For the moment, I leave it at this, because it is really a small point. They did contemplate inserting a provision of this kind as soon as the Requisitioned Land and War Works Bill had been passed. The reason it was not put in the present Measure earlier was that the Requisitioned Land and War Works Bill had not then reached the stage of an Act.

    We are grateful to those who put down this Amendment because, in examining the position in the light of it, we have discovered that a gap had been left which quite property should be filled. We propose therefore when we reach the Report stage to move an Amendment which will fill that gap, and cover the definition not only of "war period" but of the phrase "war purposes." I thought the Committee would like to know that, and to know, in addition, how grateful we are to those who moved the Amendment and thus called our attention to the matter.

    I listened with great attention to the speech that has just been. delivered, and my hon. Friend did not make any attempt to give any reason for the statement which he made. He said that one of the reasons why the Government wanted this Sub-section was that the Service Departments could not make up their minds yet as to the land they wanted permanently to retain or purchase and the land or buildings they thought they could return to their owners. What an argument coming from the Financial Secretary to the Treasury. My experience of Government Departments was that one of the weaknesses during the war was the fact that the Treasury had very little control over the Service Departments. I am sure that many of the cases which many of us knew of Service Departments spreading their tentacles without much consideration for either agricultural land, which affected me, or for the rights of individuals, was due to the fact that the Treasury had so little control. One would have expected that the Treasury of all Departments would welcome having a date by which other Departments had to make up their minds whether or not they wanted to retain land or buildings indefinitely or whether they wanted to give them up.

    I can conceive, for example, of no greater waste of national resources, especially at a time when everybody knows we shall be pressed very hard for supplies of food, than to allow the Air Ministry to put off for seven years deciding whether some of the 600-odd aerodromes they have their hands on should be restored to agriculture or not. On the contrary, what we want is that they should make up their minds at once. I expect that my right hon. Friend is a member of the Ministers' Committee which took the place of a committee we had in the last Government, which seeks to get Government Departments to make up their minds what should be restored at once and what they needed permanently. I beg my right hon. Friend to consult the Home Secretary and see whether, between now and the Report stage, we cannot introduce into this Clause some limiting words. If he comes along and says two years is too short and can produce valid arguments for three years, I think that would be reasonable. At all events, it would be an arguable case. But to come down and say that Service Departments cannot make up their minds to seven years is to expect too much even of hon. Members on this side of the House.

    May I make an appeal to the Home Secretary? Could not he accept the Amendment, and, between now and the Report stage, draft other words to cover the limited use to which, I understand, the Financial Secretary requires to extend the Requisitioned Land and War Works Act? It would be a pity for a decision of the Committee to go out that, for instance, certain highways are to be stopped up for seven years. The way in which we have dealt with similar problems before is to accept the Amendment and the Home Secretary would come at a later stage and put forward new wording.

    I am sorry I was not in when the hon. Member was speaking, but I had sat in the Committee continuously from 3·15 until just before he rose, and I hope he will understand that there was no discourtesy to him. As has been mentioned by the hon. Member for Ripon (Mr. York), he knows that I am personally interested in the kind of case that he has just put to me. We are giving consideration to the point in the hope that we shall be able on the Report Stage to submit an Amendment that will make the purposes for which this Sub-section is required perfectly clear. It would not be quite fair to the Committee to adopt the hon. Member's suggestion, but I will undertake that the matter shall have the closest attention of the Government.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    8.30 p.m.

    I beg to move, in page 4, line 44, after "1945," insert:

    "excepting Sub-section (2) of Section forty-five thereof."
    I think I can move this Amendment quite briefly, but it is necessary for me to explain why it would be very undesirable, and I think unfair, that the extension of the war period should apply to Section 45 of the Requisitioned Land Act. It did happen that during the earlier part of the war a large number of properties were requisitioned by the Government at very low rents indeed. That was because at the time there was either the blitz or the anticipation of the blitz, and the rents which were fixed, and have since remained in force, are actually below the figure for the 1939 rent and remain below the current market figure. That being so, Section 45 was designed to adjust the position. It provided that the compensation rent should be increased so that it should be equal to the 1939 rent or the current market rent, whichever was the lower. But it provided that that adjustment should not take effect until a day to be appointed by the Treasury, which was to be a date not later than the end of the war period. The war period then contemplated, and as defined in that Act, was the period during which the Emergency Powers Act remained in force. That period will expire in February next, and I am quite sure that it has never been intended by anybody responsible in either the Coalition Government or this Government that this period should be extended for this purpose. The only reason why the day has not yet been appointed is a purely administrative one. It is, I think, admitted by everyone concerned in this matter, and has always been admitted, that the rents should have been increased from the end of the European war, but for purely administrative reasons the appointed day has still been postponed. In those circumstances, I am sure the Home Secretary will agree that for this purpose the war period ought not to be extended beyond February next.

    When I saw this Amendment on the Paper I felt inclined to accept it, and even after the hon. Gentleman's speech I still think it is a good one. Therefore, I hope I am not giving him too much of a shock when I say that the Government are grateful to him for putting it on the Paper, and accept it.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

    Clause 6—(Application Of Powers Of Ministry Of Supply)

    I beg to move, in page 5, line 1, leave out Sub-section (1).

    My hon. Friend who moved his Amendment in connection with Clause 5 said that he thought it was dynamite, and certainly he went very vigorously into the whole question of his opposition to it. With regard to this Clause, I think its explosive power is really atomic, for it is, in my opinion—with the exception of one which we shall no doubt discuss later—quite the most menacing Clause in the whole of this very menacing Bill. As it stands it renews and confirms the powers of that already bloated Department the Ministry of Supply, which was set up during the war as a purely war-time Department by a purely war-time Measure, extends those powers and, so far as I can see, increases them—at any rate in no way diminishes them—and lets them go on for another five years. The 1939 Act which set up the Ministry of Supply, we all agreed, was definitely a war-time Measure, and it can be extended now for a year at a time, indefinitely if the House so desires, and I can well imagine that nobody at the moment wants to shut down the Ministry of Supply. We should be most disappointed to lose my right hon. Friend and to see him transferred to another quarter, or even perhaps to another place. But surely the present powers of the Minister and of his great, swollen Department can go on year by year with the will of the House. Why should we be asked suddenly to reverse the principal point of that 1939 Act? Why should we cancel the idea of extending it year by year, and carry it on for another five years without any further question and then, I presume, extend it year by year after that? It seems to me to be quite unnecessary to have included provision for such tremendous powers to be given to the Ministry of Supply for another five years.

    The Clause makes the Minister a sort of Pooh-Bah, which in any case he has been throughout the war, but why should he be a Pooh-Bah in peace-time as well? He can do everything. This enables him, and the Ministry, to produce anything they want, to control the production of any article they want, and to compete, as a huge State-trading Department, with private enterprise in any way they decide—I thought that would please the other side—not reckoning all that private enterprise has done to make this country great and enable it to carry through two great wars. There is no doubt that the powers which the Ministry of Supply seek to continue will definitely upset the whole balance of our trading practice. There seems to be just nothing which the Ministry of Supply cannot do. If it wants to do so it can con