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Commons Chamber

Volume 440: debated on Friday 25 July 1947

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House Of Commons

Friday, 25th July, 1947

The House met at Eleven o'Clock

Prayers

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Private Business

City Of London (Tithes) Bill Lords

( King's Consent signified.)

Hove Corporation Bill Lords

Read the Third time, and passed, with Amendments.

Orders Of The Day

Wellington Museum Bill Lords

Considered in Committee (Bill amended in the Select Committee).

[Mr. HUBERT BEAUMONT in the Chair]

Clause I—(Transfer Of Apsley House And Certain Wellington Heirlooms And Other Chattels)

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

11.7 a.m.

Clause of this Bill is, I think, fairly plain, and I understand it fairly well, but it is, so far as I am aware, a new Clause, and I do not know what are the precedents for it. It concerns the property and chattels which are to vest in the Ministries of Works and Education. I believe I have the agreement of at least one hon. Gentleman opposite in saying that, when we are passing a Bill of this kind, it is rather essential, as there may be other instances later, that we should have some explanation as to how this Clause was worked out and upon what principles. I am not opposed to it in any way, but I should like to know precisely what principles we are applying. Why, for instance, should the Ministry of Works come into it? I think the House should be told these things.

The reason is that there are some objects which have educational value, and it would be easier if they were in charge of the Minister and were used for various educational purposes, and that is why they are placed in the possession of the Minister of Education.

I wanted to know how far the Minister of Works was concerned and why that Ministry comes in here Presumably, there is a reason for it.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 2—(Use Of Part Of Apsley House As A Museum, Etc)

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

This Clause relates principally to the Ministry of Education, which is taking charge of a very large number of useful objects, every one of which, I feel sure the Committee will agree, should be accessible to the public. The complaint was made, however, in the very interesting speeches made on the Second Reading of this Bill on 27th June, that there were other places which might be brought in, such as the Rotunda at Woolwich. Since that date, there has been time to go into this matter, and I think it would be an advantage to the Committee to know whether any arrangements are being made for housing in Apsley House, which formally belonged to the Duke of Wellington, any other relics which may come under the care of the Government. May I ask whether any arrangement is being made to collect any interesting relics of this kind, because I do not think that, at the moment, they are available to the public. I hope that someone will help me to obtain an opportunity for the public to see these things. Are any arrangements being made, and have the Government thought the matter out?

I take it that is a matter of administrative arrangement under the powers vested in the Government.

Surely, considering the notice which was given of this in the speech on Second Reading, the Minister of Education might by now have gone into the matter, and been in a position to tell us what sort of policy he is going to adopt. I am only trying to help him. I do not think that the matter should have been left all this time without something being done. Would the Gov- ernment view in a friendly way the possibility of collecting any further relics, and would they be housed in this building?

I am quite satisfied with Subsection (2, a) of this Clause, but, with regard to Subsection (2, b), I want this building reserved for the purpose for which it was acquired. I would point out that, in other cases, Government Departments have secured the possession of public buildings, and have used them for other than their original purposes. I have in mind the National Portrait Gallery of Scotland which, by the munificence of the late Sir John Finlay, was presented to Scotland, and which, for the last four years, has been used as the headquarters of the Identity Registration Office.

I must point out to the hon. Member that he is now getting out of Order.

Thank you for your guidance, Mr. Beaumont. I gave that example to show that the case was sufficiently strong for preventing this building from being used for purposes other than those for which it was provided. I take it that its use as an office is definitely excluded, but I shall be glad to have some satisfaction on that point.

Whatever is done under this Subsection is, of course, subject to the consent of the Duke.

There is one other point on which I should like some information, and that is with regard to the use of this building for the purpose of entertainment. I believe everyone agrees that it should be used for such a purpose, but, as I gather that the number of objects of art is very large, and that they cannot all be kept there, would it not be an advantage to put them in some place where they could be seen by the public? May I have some information as to public receptions there? I should also like to have a further answer about the objects of art, and to know if, for instance, it would be possible to lend any of them to, say, Scotland or Belfast from time to time, so that more people may have an opportunity of seeing them.

No decision has yet been taken about the distribution of these works of art, or exactly where they will be housed. That matter can be dealt with by question and discussion at a laser date. With regard to the first point raised by the hon. Gentleman, it is intended that, as the Government are short of accommodation for entertainment purposes at the moment, the house should, on occasion, be used in that way.

I should like to thank the hon. Gentleman for his effort to give an explanation, but I must add that I very much regret that he has obviously not given much thought or care to t ais matter.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill. Clauses 3 to 5 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 6—(Destruction Of Or Damage To Apsley House)

11.15 a.m.

I beg to move, in page 5, line 38, to leave out Subsection (3).

When the Minister of Works moved he Second Reading of this Bill, he referred to the magnanimous gesture of the Duke of Wellington in handing over Apsley House, and to his great public spirit. Those sentiments were echoed from both sides of the House. I submit that it is quite wrong to take advantage of the Duke's generosity by allowing Subsect on (3) of Clause 6 to stand. Under Subsection (2), if damage is caused by fire, or in any other way, to any part of the house through the negligence of the Duke or his servants, the Duke is to be responsible for making good that damage, and the same is to apply if there is damage to furniture, but not if there is damage to the exhibits in the museum. Subsection (2) is not unreasonable. It is right to put responsibility for negligence on the Duke, and I make no complaint about that. But, under Subsection (3), if damage is caused by fire in the part of the house which the Duke occupies, his negligence is to be presumed—the burden of proof is to be on him. In the Second Reading Debate, the Minister apparently considered that was an ordinary liability of a tenant. He said:
"The Duke himself would be responsible for the ordinary tenant's liabilities in respect of the part of the house that he will occupy." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th June, 1947: Vol 439. c. 892.]
I submit that no such liability ordinarily attaches to a tenant, and the chairman of the Select Committee, the hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benson), when speaking about this Clause, said:
"I have been accustomed to handle leases all my life, but I have never yet come across a lease which is so unconscionable as to include a Clause like this."
I agree with the chairman of the Select Committee. The burden of proving negligence ought to be on the Crown, and not on the Duke of Wellington to prove its absence. It is surely, an ordinary principle of British justice that a man should be deemed innocent of negligence unless the contrary is proved. I hope that one of my hon. Friends more learned than I will develop that point.

The agent for the Bill argued in favour of Subsection (3) that the Crown could never prove how a fire took place. I submit that this is not a good reason for imposing an unjust burden on the Duke. Moreover, he might be in precisely the same difficulty. Let us suppose, for example, that he was away from the house, and that his part of it was left in charge of a housekeeper, and that during his absence a fire took place and the housekeeper perished in it, which is by no means an impossible contingency. In those circumstances, how could the Duke prove the absence of negligence? The Committee were also told by the Treasury Solicitor that the Duke had agreed to this Subsection. Even if he did, I submit that Parliament ought not to pass something which is manifestly unfair, especially when the Duke has behaved in the generous way to which the Minister referred.

Of course, the Duke could insure his liability under both Subsections (2) and (3). He could insure both his liability for negligence and his liability for presumed negligence. I have, however, been at pains to make inquiries at Lloyds to ascertain whether, if this Subsection (3) casting the burden of proof on him were left in, the premium would be the same as if the Subsection were left out, and I am assured that the premium would be substantially higher if the Subsection were left in. Therefore, the matter is not an academic one; it is a point of substance, and I submit that the Duke ought not to be put to the extra expense to which he will be put if we leave Subsection (3) in the Clause.

I wish the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Keeling), who is so anxious to promote this alleged principle of justice, had been equally active in its advocacy where the interest of the State, rather than of a private individual, was concerned, because, curiously enough, in another Bill which is to come to this House on Report today, exactly the same principle is embodied in relation to the Crown. In the case of the liability of the Post Office for postal packets in transit—I am quoting this as an example of what is, in fact, the general principle which is applied to these matters, and it is only one example—the Bill provides that there is a liability on the Post Office for the loss or damage of such postal packets if it is caused by their negligence, and the onus is cast upon the Post Office to prove, if damage or loss occurs, that it was not occasioned by their negligence. I hope the hon. Member for Twickenham will move his Amendment to that provision just as he has moved it to this one.

This Amendment, the object of which, as the hon. Member has said, was fully considered, discussed and rejected by the Select Committee, is really quite inappropriate to the circumstances for which this Bill, by agreement with the Duke, provides. Under the scheme, as the hon. Member knows, Apsley House is divided into two quite separate portions, one to be retained for the occupation of the Duke, and the other to be occupied by the Crown. If any fire occurs in that portion of the building which is occupied by the Crown and it extends to the Duke's portion, the Crown accepts full liability for it. Negligence or not, the Crown undertakes liability for any damage which results, whether it is occasioned by he fault of some Crown servant or whether it is the result of something which, so far as they are concerned, is a completely inevitable accident. It has not been sought, although it might well have been, to impose any such liability on the Duke. The Duke is only to be liable if a fire occurs in his portion of the premises through the negligence of himself or his servant. His portion of the premises is under the control of himself or his servants. The Crown have no access to it. The Crown can have no possible means of establishing whether or not there has been want of care on the part of the Duke or his servant in giving rise to a fire. Therefore, as the Duke agreed, this Clause was inserted in the Bill, and he has accepted the onus of showing how the fire occurred, or, at least, if he is unable to, do that, of showing that it was not the result of any negligence on the part of himself or his servants.

The hon. Member for Twickenham says that that is unusual. So far from it being unusual, it is the ordinary common law principle which applies to cases of this kind—what lawyers call the rule in Rylands v. Fletcher. For many scores of years it has been the rule that if a fire escapes, say from the house occupied by the hon. Member for Twickenham, and sets light to my house next door, the hon. Member for Twickenham will have to pay for the damage which I have incurred unless he is able to show—and the onus lies on him—that what has happened is the result of an inevitable accident and not from any fault on his part. Living next door to the hon. Member for Twickenham, if I had the good fortune to do so, the onus of proving that he had been negligent would not lie on me if my house were destroyed by a fire which had spread from his. It would be for him, whose fire had spread, to show that the fire had originated from a pure and inevitable accident. That is the ordinary principle of law.

If what the right hon. and learned Gentleman is stating is correct, as I dare say it very probably is, is he not showing that the whole of this Subsection is quite unnecessary, and that the position might he allowed to rest where the common law has put it?

I do not think so, because what has happened here is that we have made a special agreement with the Duke, undertaking a special liability on the part of the Crown and giving rise to a different liability on the part of the Duke. One must read the Clause as a whole, and, in order to be quite clear that while the Crown is undertaking a special liability, the Duke remains under what would be the normal liability, we have expressed it in the Bill.

I was directing my argument to the point, which has been stressed many times by the hon. Member, that there is something new in this, and something contrary to the ordinary principles of justice. This is an age-long principle of our ordinary law. We have altered it in this case, in order to impose a higher liability on the Crown and to retain the existing normal, customary liability on the Duke.

The Attorney-General said that it was the ordinary rule as laid down in Rylands v. Fletcher. Surely the rule in Rylands v. Fletcher applies only where a person keeps an inherently dangerous thing on his premises, such as a reservoir or a bull, and the liability attaches to him if he allows the water or the bull to escape. There is nothing of that sort here at all.

The hon. Member, if I may say so with respect, is wholly mistaken, and I have no doubt that other hon. and learned Members opposite will be able to assist him on this point. This is not at all a matter of doubt. For scores, if not for hundreds of years, the escape of fire has been regarded as covered by this principle. Indeed, there is a strong argument for going further, and saying that if a fire escapes from the hon. Member's house to my house he is under an absolute liability, and if he shows that he is guilty of no negligence at all, he is still guilty if my house is burned down. But I am not pressing that. I myself do not think that is correct, but the rule in Rylands v. Fletcher, which applies to the escape of fire, is one of the well-established Imo-positions of our law which, for a long time, has been in no doubt at all.

The whole of the circumstances resulting in the division of Apsley House are peculiar, and there is no exact precedent for providing for such matters as damage by fire and other relationships which may arise between the Duke and the Crown. A bargain was made between the Duke and the Crown that, on the one hand, in certain circumstances, the Minister of Works should be absolutely responsible, and, on the other hand, the Duke should be responsible for negligence, the onus being on him to disprove it. That was the arrangement. If it is now sought to depart from that arrangement it may well be that we shall want to re-open tae whole of the agreement concerning these matters, and see whether they ought not to be dealt with in some different way. In those circumstances, I hope the hon. Member will see fit to withdraw his Amendment.

11.30 a.m.

As a layman and a non-learned Member, I am not impressed by the argument which the learned Attorney-General advanced, albeit quite lucidly, in regard to his residence adjoining that of my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Keeling), as if these were parallel circumstances. Surely, the right hon. and learned Gentleman will agree that there is a difference between his sober and well conducted residence and the equally sober and well conducted residence of my hon. Friend, and an establishment of this character? The Duke of Wellington is now dividing his house in two, half being a residence and half a place of entertainment. The kind of entertainment we are to have is not indicated very clearly. Apparently, according to Subsection (2, a) it is to be

"for the purpose of any entertainment given on behalf of His Majesty's Government."
I am inclined to think that, if the learned Attorney-General had found that the hon. Member for Twickenham was devoting his residence to any entertainment—even in the right hon. and learned Gentleman's restricted sense of what entertainment might be—it would certainly qualify the value and nature of his adjoining residence, and also the risks inherent therein. Persons who attend entertainment under the auspices of His Majesty's Government, or any Government, are of a very varied and diverse character, and it might well be—

The hon. Member is now out of Order. This Bill is concerned solely with the Wellington Museum.

I was merely taking that example as an illustration. I noticed that the learned Attorney-General was allowed to refer at some length to the Post Office.

It is by way of illustration that I am comparing this to the example the right hon. and learned Gentleman gave with regard to his own residence and that of the hon. Member for Twickenham. My mind would not have gone in that direction except for the fact that he mentioned it.

Surely, there is a profound difference between two adjoining residences, where the risks of fire are normal and habitual, and a residence which is partly shared by the Government who quite rightly, claim the right to bring to that building at any time, and under any circumstances, large numbers of persons with either sound or doubtful qualifications. A person who is sharing as a private concern, for example, His Majesty's Theatre, with its usual entertainments, is, under an ordinary practical insurance policy, liable to a very much higher premium than he would be if he were living in a detached building. The liability placed upon the occupier of the residence because of the use to which the other portion of the premises is put—and it is a very ill-defined use in the case of Apsley House—seems to me to alter the liability very seriously. I can assure the learned Attorney-General that if he, as the neighbour of the hon. Member for Twickenham, takes out a risk with any reputable insurance company, he will find it to be very different from one which the Duke of Wellington takes out with the same insurance company; the rating will be very much higher in the second case than in the first.

I am surprised that the Attorney-General should insist upon keeping in this Bill a Subsection which, on the face of it, looks so harsh and unconscionable as does this one. I am equally surprised by the weakness of the argument with which he has bolstered his case. The Duke of Wellington, in his generosity, has agreed to these proposals, but that is not the slightest reason why this Committee should not amend them. We in this Committee are never bound by agreements reached outside, and when the Duke is making over to the country a gift of such priceless value as that which he is now giving, it is monstrous to maintain in the Bill such an unconscionable Subsection.

The position of the Government is, of course, different from the position of an ordinary citizen in the matter of insurance. Hon. and right hon. Members opposite know, or should know, that in the ordinary way the Government do not insure their property; the Government have so much property, spread over such a wide area, that, in the public interest, they very wisely carry their own burden of risk. Therefore, any fire originating in Apsley House will not be dealt with as it would be in the case of two owners of, let us say, adjacent semi-detached villas, where the fire spread from the one to the other. In that case, of course, the matter of liability is dealt with between the insurance companies by what is called the ordinary "knock for knock" clause. In this case one party, the Duke, will be insured, and the other party, the Government, will not be insured.

As far as I know, there is no such thing as a "knock for knock" agreement in regard to fire insurance; nor, of course, is there any obligation on the owners of adjacent proporty to insure against fire. No doubt, the right hon. Gentleman is thinking of the case of motor insurance, which is a rather different case, covered by Statute.

I am obliged to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for his correction if I misused the term "knock for knock". No doubt the question of liability would be settled without litigation between the insurance companies concerned. That is the point. This is an exceptional case, because, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman knows, every leaseholder is compelled, under the terms of his lease, to insure his premises against fire. It is the most usual thing in the world to have a fire insurance policy upon a house, and I am quite sure the learned Attorney-General has a fire insurance policy upon his own house. In this case, there will be an exceptional position, in that one party will be covered by insurance and the other party will not be. In those circumstances the Crown is bound, as trustee for the national Exchequer, to use to the full against the Duke of Wellington any powers given to it by this Bill.

Government Departments are always frightened of the criticisms of the Public Accounts Committee, as the hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benson) and I know full well. If it appeared to the Public Accounts Committee that under this Clause the Crown had a good claim against the Duke of Wellington for a considerable sum of money—it might run into half a million pounds—but had compromised that claim in any way, and had not operated to the full the powers given to it by this Subsection, then those concerned would get into serious trouble with the Public Accounts Committee. The Gov- ernment, therefore, are always in the position of a trustee who can make no settlement but is bound to use to the full the powers entrusted to him by law. That is the position from which we start. If this Subsection does, in fact, add anything lo the common law the Government are bound, when occasion arises, to use this Clause to the full against the interests of the Duke of Wellington.

But the Attorney-General goes on and draws an analogy between the position of the Duke under this Clause and the position of the Post Office under, the Crown Proceedings Bill. Frankly, that is as weak an argument as has ever been advanced in this Committee. I suppose he might compare the position of the Duke to the liability, and the special liability, placed upon common carriers, such as railway companies, who hold themselves out as persons who are ready and willing to convey goods for the public. He might, I suppose, compare the position of the Duke to the special position of innkeepers who take charge of goods deposited with them by residents. But to say that the Duke should accept the same position as the Post Office, who hold themselves out as able and willing to carry safely from one part of the country to another parcels and packages entrusted to them by the public, is, to my mind, utterly ridiculous. Why should the Duke undertake any special liability or responsibility of that character? He is an ordinary private citizen. Why, in respect of these premises, there should be placed upon him a special and more onerous liability than that carried by the ordinary citizen, I do not know.

Lastly, the learned Attorney-General contradicts all his former arguments by saying: "Oh, but this Subsection does nothing to the common law. This is a e common law position. If a fire breaks out in your house and spreads to mine which is next door, then there is a presumption of liability against the person in whose premises the fire originates. That may very well be the case, though I am not at all sure that the owner of the house in which the fire originated would not be able to plead an act of God if his house had been struck by a thunderbolt or something of that character.

That is one of the elementary things which one learns and that is what I sought to explain to the House as an ordinary principle of law. That was why I referred to the Post Office. The hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Keeling) was saying that this was something new, unusual and unprecedented. The ordinary principle of law is that where a person has exclusive control over property, and something untoward occurs in connection with that property and results in damage, it is for him to show that the damage was not due to his negligence. If he can show that it was due, to an act of God he escapes liability.

It is up to the right hon. and learned Gentleman to tell the Committee upon which leg he is standing. Does this Subsection add anything to the common law position or does it not? Will he answer that question with a plain "Yes" or "No"? We shall at any rate know where we stand. Is there no answer?

The Subsection embodies in the contractual arrangements between the Duke and the Crown what is a normal principle of common law. As this was a matter of contractual arrangement between the Duke and the Crown in which the Duke accepts a more onerous liability than exists in common law, that must be made the subject of statutory provision.

I take that elaborate answer to mean that if this Subsection were taken out of the Clause and if a fire originated, the liability of the Duke would be no more and no less as a result of the deletion of the Subsection. Is that the position?

I have given the answer. If the right hon. Gentleman does not understand it, I am afraid I cannot help it.

I assume the answer of the right hon. and learned Gentleman to mean that the Subsection adds nothing to the common law position and that if it is deleted from the Bill the liability of the Duke will be precisely the same as it would have been under the common law. In those circumstances we shall have no alternative but to press the Amendment to a Division.

11.45 a.m.

It very often happens that when there is a bargain between two parties a clause of a declaratory character is inserted in the agreement. It may not add anything or detract anything from the common law position, but it is put in so that there shall be no ambiguity. I think that is one of the reasons for this Subsection in this case. The Attorney-General has brought in our old friend the Rylands v. Fletcher rule. Like the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Keeling) I was at first rather surprised to find it at Apsley House. To my mind the relationship between the Duke and the Crown is very much that of a lessor and a lessee whereas the case of Rylands v. Fletcher deals with the position of a person who brings a tiger or some other dangerous thing onto his land, a thing, as my right hon. and learned Friend said, inherently a danger to his neighbour.

It is quite normal in the case of a lessee of valuable premises for him to, insure against all fire risks, whether they are to a duke's residence or not. Under this provision the Duke is in a stronger position than the normal lessee because if he can prove that he was not guilty of negligence he is no longer responsible. The ordinary lessee is responsible, whether guilty of negligence or not. That is a strong point and therefore this is not an unconscionable Subsection. It is much milder than the normal clause found in many rack rent leases.

The second point which is quite conclusive, is the Duke s own view of the matter. I see in the minutes of evidence taken before the Select Committee, that Sir Thomas Barnes, who I believe is the Treasury Solicitor, said, in answer to the chairman:
"This part of the bargain I, as a matter of fact, discussed with the Duke, and he thought it was a reasonable thing to do. He took the view that it is right that if a fire happened in his part of the building it would be quite impossible for us to say how it took place."

The evidence goes on:

It might have taken place there through no negligence; through the fusing of a wire, for instance, or because somebody over-stoked the fire. He was quite content to take upon himself the burden of discharging the onus of showing how the fire arose.

If he is willing, I do not think the Committee will have anything to say."

Yes, I will. The chairman went on:

"But it seems to me that it would have been far more equitable had the risk been borne according to the relative occupation However, if the Duke is agreeable there is nothing more to be said."
In these circumstances, if the Duke agrees with this burden, slight though it is, I do not think this Committee need worry about it now.

I have put my name to the Amendment, and I very rarely do that unless I have good reason. The words which the hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benson) used in the Select Committee were very strong and drastic. He takes up the position that this is an agreement to which the Duke makes no objection. It still seems to me there is a suspicion of a hard bargain on behalf of the Crown. The impression I have is that the Subsection in question is using a very generous offer to impose a very hard bargain on the Duke and is a matter which this Committee should look at. The Attorney-General sought to compare the behaviour of the Opposition on this with their behaviour on some other Bill that may come later today, but there is a difference between the Duke's position and that of the Post Office, which registers its parcels and extracts a fine from the subject—[An HON. MEMBER: "A charge."]—I prefer to call it a fine because they take so much from the subject for registration. The Attorney-General said we had a bargain. That is correct. It is a bargain on one side and that bargain does not become law until it has passed through the House of Commons, the final arbitrator.

The House should look at this matter from the point of view of the taxpayer in the widest sense. The bargain should be reasonably good and secure, but the House must look at it from the point of view of the good landlord. That does not mean imposing unduly harsh terms. I know that is a theory which obtains in the Tory Party, but I am advised that it obtains among a large number of people who do not belong to our party.

The normal landlord imposes far harsher terms than are imposed under the Bill.

I do not know anything about the hon. Gentleman, but I know a good deal about the hon. Member for Chesterfield. He has a sound knowledge of agreements and bargains of this kind. The hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. Rees-Williams) may set himself up to know much more, but from the many speeches which I have heard him make, I have heard no evidence of it so far. I am appealing to the conscience of this Committee not to impose on the Duke the Clause in its present form, which the hon. Member for Chesterfield described as "unconscionable." The Attorney-General seemed a little bit peeved because he has been kept here to do a little job this morning, but I appeal to him to accept the Amendment, because if he does so, it will be in accordance with the best traditions of the country. I hope that a Division will be avoided, but there will certainly have to be one if this Subsection is not deleted.

When I referred to this Clause in the Select Committee as "unconscionable," I admit that I did not know that it was merely stating the common law. That makes a considerable difference, but, nevertheless, I am not entirely happy about it. I cannot support the Amendment, because I think it is bad in this respect: Subsection (3) is valid in application to Subsection (1). If fire breaks out, and destruction is absolute, then, under Subsection (1), the Treasury must compensate the Duke for his loss if under the proviso that the fire is not due to his negligence. In this case the onus of proving that there was no negligence on the Duke's part should rest upon him. But with reference t) Subsection (2), I think the onus of proof is rather harsh. We are saying, "You are making a gift to the nation, but we will only accept it on condition that you insure it." That is what it comes to. The Treasury have a right to say, "If you require compensation you have t prove that your hands are clean." That is different from saying, "If fire breaks out, and it damages the part we are using, you will be liable for damages unless you can prove that you were not negligent." I would be prepared to urge acceptance of the Amendment on the Government had it made Subsection (3) an addendum to the proviso to Subsection (1) But whether Subsection (3) is common law or not, we are receiving a generous gift, and there are some grounds for accepting it graciously.

I think that both sides of the Committee will be in agreement with the hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benson) in expressing the view that where a gift of this sort has been made it should be accepted graciously, and without the tag put on it, "If any damage is done to the gift hereafter, through fire coming from the part left in your possession, you will be assumed to be guilty of negligence, and responsible." I hope I shall be able to satisfy the hon. Member that it would not be very useful to make Subsection (3) apply to Subsection (1).

Subsection (3) does apply to Subsection (1). I object to it applying to Subsection (2).

I am in entire agreement with the hon. Member. The Attorney-General drew a red herring across the path by trying to compare the position under this Bill with the responsibility of the Post Office for articles in their possession in the course of transit. Here, the Duke of Wellington is neither in possession nor in control of the other part of Apsley House. In the case of the Post Office, they have complete possession of goods while they are in transit but—

This liability is imposed on the Duke only in respect of that portion of the premises which are bailed to him. There is a bailment in so far as there can be a bailment, and he is in exclusive possession of this portion of the premises.

I agree that he has exclusive possession of the part of which he remains the occupant, but under the Bill the burden is put on him of being responsible for damage to the rest of the premises. The presumption is that in every case where negligence is not proved the damage is due to his negligence.

That is wrong. The presumption applies only to a fire occurring in the premises over which the Duke has exclusive control.

That does not in any degree contradict what I was saying. The right hon. and learned Gentleman sought to justify this Subsection on the basis that there was a bargain between the Duke and the Crown, and that the other side of the bargain was that the Crown was accepting absolute responsibility and liability for any damage to the part of the premises in the Duke's possession resulting from fire originating in the other part of Apsley House.

12 noon.

I hope the right hon. and learned Gentleman will follow this argument. He said there was a quid pro quo, that the Crown were accepting absolute liability for any loss suffered by the Duke as the result of a fire originating in some other part of Apsley House. I do not read that in the Bill anywhere. Let us see what is provided. Under Subsection (1) one sees that liability to make payment under Subsection (2) to the Duke of Wellington only arises where:
"Apsley House is destroyed or so damaged that in the opinion of the Minister of Works it could not be restored so as to preserve the association thereof with the first Duke of Wellington."
And then:
"the Minister of Works gives notice in writing to the Duke of Wellington for the time being to that effect—"
So that before paragraph (b) which provides for any payment to the Duke can come into effect, there must be really total destruction of Apsley House. There is not in this Bill any provision whereby absolute liability is placed upon the Crown to make good the loss done to the premises in the occupation of the Duke resulting from a fire starting in the other part of Apsley House which is put out before the stage of total loss is reached. That being so, where is this quid pro quo? The right hon and learned Gentleman's statement is surely quite misleading when he says that this Bill casts an absolute liability upon the Crown to make good any damage done to the Duke's part by fire starting in Apsley House. It is not there.

Furthermore, let us see to what extent the Crown accepts liability under Subsection (1). It is only to pay compensation which is held to be:
"reasonable in view of the loss by the said Duke and his successors of the said rights;".
There is no provision there for payment of compensation for damage done to the property of the Duke inside his flat, so in that particular I suggest that the right hon. and learned Gentleman again was inaccurate and that, on the other side of the bargain, having put this great bur- den as I envisage it on the Duke, all the Crown will do is to say that where they think there has been total destruction, they will pay compensation for the loss of the rights set out in Subsection (3) to the Duke but no more, and will pay nothing at all where there is not a total destruction of Apsley House. That does not seem to be in any way a fair bargain. I agree with the words used by the hon. Member for Chesterfield, that on the basis of testing this as a bargain, it is unconscionable.

I would much prefer Subsection (3) to be taken out and leaving it to the common law position; at the same time, if it be the intention of the Government and the right hon. and learned Gentleman to declare that the State will be responsible for any damage done to the Duke's possessions in his flat under absolute liability to do that which he said in his first speech, then I suggest to him that, following upon his words, it is really necessary that he should put down an Amendment to this Bill to carry that intention into effect. I hope the right hon. and learned Gentleman will now make the position clear with regard to that. We do not want to take up too much time on this Measure because there is a great deal to do, but we cannot pass a Clause of this sort which may afford a precedent on a number of other occasions without putting matters of this nature in correct form.

There is a general obligation under Clause 5 to keep the structure of the whole building in repair. There is, in addition, the ordinary liability under the Rylands v. Fletcher rule which exists in the case of escape of fire from the Crown's portion of the premises to the Duke's, and if fire so escapes, we have said that we shall accept absolute liability for it.

It is not in the Bill, I agree, except as covered by Clause 5 (1). Hon. Members on both sides of the Committee will appreciate this, I hope. We really are imposing on the Duke here by agreement with him, a liability which is much less onerous than that normally undertaken by tenants. I agree with the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. Rees-Williams) that there is an analogy to a tenancy here, but it is a liability which is much less onerous than that normally undertaken by tenants of property who are put under liability to insure under their lease, or than that of tie occupiers of property, because there are the two analogies. In the case of escape, the analogy is with the occupier; in the case of fire, which is confined to tae Duke's portion of the premises, the analogy is with the tenant. So I say we are putting the Duke under a less onerous liability, both in regard to that portion of the premises of which he is a tenant, and also in regard to that portion of the premises of which he is not the tenant but which adjoins the portion in his own occupation. Where fire escapes in the ordinary course there is a liability which it is difficult in practice to avoid.

Hon. Members will appreciate that these matters have, necessarily, to be the subject of negotiation. One way of dealing with the matter might have been to say that the Duke would be responsible for any fire occurring in his own portion of the premises and would be under a complete liability in regard to that, and that the Crown would be responsible for any fire occurring in the Crown's portion of the premises, and that the Crown would be responsible completely for that. After discussion, it was thought—both sides agreed about this—that the fairer and more satisfactory way was to deal with the matter on this basis, and I ask the Committee to say that it would not be right to interfere with the arrangement which was come to, without reopening the whole matter so that we could discuss it again with the Duke aid decide whether, in the circumstances, it would be better to deal with it in the alternative way or in some other way. That being the position, I am afraid that I cannot accept this Amendment, and I hope that hon. Members will not think it proper to press it.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman has now disclosed that there has been an undertaking given to the Duke with regard to liability for fire causing damage n the Duke's part but, as far as I am aware, it is the first time we have heard of that, and we do not know what are the terms of the undertaking Could the right hon. and learned Gentleman perhaps inform us, and could he at the sari e time explain when this Bill is dealing with, on the one hand, the rights of the State and, on the other hand the rights of the Duke, why this important undertaking is not contained in the Bill?

I am afraid I cannot add to what I said when I told the Committee originally what was the position. The Crown have in fact accepted an absolute liability in regard to the escape of fire from their portion of the premises.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman has justified Subsection (3) on the ground that the Duke agreed. He has also told us that the Crown agreed that if fire broke out on the museum side of Apsley House and spread to the Duke's side, the Duke would be

Division No. 339.]

AYES

[12.11 p.m.

Adams, Richard (Balham)Greenwood, A. W. J. (Heywood)Porter, G. (Leeds)
Attewell, H. C.Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)Price, M. Philips
Awbery, S. S.Griffiths, W. D. (Moss Side)Proctor, W. T.
Ayles, W. H.Guest, Dr. L. HadenRees-Williams, D. N.
Balfour, A.Hale, LeslieReid, T. (Swindon)
Barstow, P. G.Hall, W. G.Rhodes H.
Battley, J. R.Hamilton, Lieut.-Col R.Ridealgh, Mrs. M.
Bechervalse, A. E.Harrison, J.Royle, C.
Belcher, J. W.Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick)Segal, Dr. S.
Benson, G.Hicks, G.Shawcross, Rt. Hn. Sir. H. (St. Helens)
Beswick, F.Hobson, C. R.Silverman, S. S, (Nelson)
Bing, G. H. C.Holman, P.Skeffington, A. M.
Bowden. Flg.-Offr. H. W.Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.)Skeffigton-Lodge, T. C.
Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton)Hughes, H. D. (Wolverhampton, W.)Smith, H. N. (Nottingham, S.)
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'pl, Exch're)Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.)Smith, S. H (Hull, S. W.)
Braddock, T (Mitcham)Irving, W. J.Sparks, J. A.
Brown, George (Belper)Jones, D. T. (Hartlepools)Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)
Brown, T. J. (Ince)Jones, Elwyn (Plaistow)Sylvester, G. O.
Bruce, Major D. W.Jones, P. Aslerley (Hitchin)Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Burden T. W.Keenan, W.Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet)
Carmichael, JamesKenyon, C.Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)
Chetwynd, G. R.Lewis, J. (Bolton)Thomson, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Ed'b'gh, B.)
Cluse, W. S.Longden, F.Thurtle, Ernest
Colman, Miss. G. M.Lyne, A. W.Viant, S. P.
Cooper, Wing-Comdr. G.McAdam, W.Walkden, E.
Corvedale, ViscountMack, J. D.Walker, G. H.
Cripps, Rt. Hon Sir. S.MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)
Daines, P.Mallalieu, J. P. W.Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.)
Davies, Edward (Burslem)Mann, Mrs. J.Wells, P. L. (Faversham)
Diamond, J.Manning, Mrs. L (Epping)Wells, W. T (Walsall)
Dobbie, W.Martin, J. H.West, D. G.
Driberg, T. E. N,Mathers, G.While, H. (Derbyshire, N. E.)
Dumpleton, C. W.Mellish, R. J.Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
Durbin, E. F. M.Mitchison, G. R.Wilkins, W. A.
Evans, S. N (Wednesbury)Moyle, A.Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)
Ewarl, R.Nichol. Mrs. M. E. (Bradford. N)Wills, Mrs. E. A.
Fairhurst, F.Noel-Buxton, LadyWise, Major F. J.
Farthing, W. J.Paget, R. T.Woodburn, A.
Gallacher, W.Parkin, B, T.Yates, V. F.
Ganley, Mrs. C. S.Paton, J. (Norwich)Younger, Hon Kenneth
Gordon-Walker, P. G.Pearson, A.
Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Wakefield)Popplewell, E.TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Mr. Simmons and Mr. Hannan.

NOES

Baldwin, A. E.Buchan-Hepburn. P. G. T.Darling, Sir W. Y.
Beamish, Maj. T. V. H.Byers, FrankDavies, Clement (Montgomery)
Boles, Lt.-Col D. C (Wells)Carson, E.Dodds-Parker, A. D,
Bower, N.Challen, C.Drewe, C.
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.Conant, Maj. R. J. E.Dugdale, Maj Sir T. (Richmond)
Bracken, Rt. Hon BrendanCrosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir D. P. M.
Bromley-Davenport Lt.-Col, WCrowder, Capt. John E.Galbraith, Cmdr T. D.

compensated. He has not explained why that agreement, of which we are informed for the first time today, should not be put in the Bill. I cannot see any reason why one agreement should be put into the Bill and not the other, and in order that the Government may reconsider this point I beg to move, "That the Chairman do report Progress and ask leave to sit again."

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."

The Committee divided: Ayes. 124; Noes, 51.

George, Maj. Rt. Hn. G. Lloyd (P'ke)Lucas, Major Sir J.Prior-Palmer, Brig. O.
Gridley, Sir A.Lucas-Tooth, Sir. H.Ramsay, Maj. S.
Grimston, R. V.Macdonald, Sir P (I of Wight)Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)
Hannon, Sir P. (Moseley)Maclay, Hon. J. S.Ross Sir R. D. (Londonderry)
Haughton, S, G.Manningham-Buller, R. E.Smithers, Sir W.
Hinchingbrooke, ViscountMoore, Lt.-Col. Sir T.Teeling, William
Holmes, Sir J, Stanley (Harwich)Morrison, Maj. J. G (Salisbury)Wheatley, Colonel M. J.
Jeffreys, General Sir G.Neill, W. F. (Belfast, N.)Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)
Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W.Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.
Kingsmill, Lt.-Col. W. H.Orr-Ewing, I. L.TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral)Prescott, StanleyMr. Keeling and
Mr. Charles Williams.

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

I should not like to take part in any controversy on this Bill and I am sorry that there should have been any controversy on this matter. It is one on which the Committee has a sound outlook and wishes to do its best. I am very sorry that owing to the unfortunate obstinacy of the Law Officer there should be any feeling in the House on this matter. May we hope that things will be better now that the Law Officer is not here?

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 7, 8 and q ordered to stand part of the Bill.

New Clause—(Power To Vary The Second Schedule To This Act)

(1) Subject to the provisions of this Section the Minister of Works may by order made with the consent of the Duke of Wellington for the time being vary the provisions of the Second Schedule to this Act, and as from the date of the coming into force of that order the provisions of this Act shall have effect accordingly

(2) Before making any order under this Section, the Minister of Works shall lay a draft thereof before each House of Parliament, and the order shall not be made until the expiration of a period of forty days beginning with the day on which a copy of the draft is laid before each House of Parliament, or, if such copies are laid on different days, with the later of the two days, and if within that period either House resolves that the order be not made, no further proceedings shall be taken thereon, but without prejudice to the laying before Parliament of a new draft.

In reckoning any such period of forty days, no account shall be taken of any time during which Parliament is dissolved or prorogued or during which both Houses are adjourned for more than four days.—[ Mr. Durbin.]

Brought up, and read the First time

I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

This new Clause is not I portentous and it is hoped that it will meet with the unanimous support of the Committee. The Select Committee felt that the existing distribution of the ownership of the rooms in Apsley House might not suit changed circumstances in the future, and they therefore suggested that a certain degree of flexibility should be brought into that part of the arrangement set up by the Bill. It is therefore proposed that the Minister of Works shall be able by Order to change the distribution of t le area of the house as between himself and the Duke, subject to the consent of both parties. I am informed that the addition of this Clause is agreeable to the Duke.

I think that this provision will meet with the agreement of toe whole House and it does show that the arguments put forward earlier by tae learned Attorney-General to the effect that we could not at this stage make a change were groundless. It shows that it is possible for the House of Commons in an agreement such as this—in a bargain as was said earlier today—to do something which is justifiable and right. I can only recommend to the Attorney-General that he should study the future conduct of the affairs which he may be called upon to perform, from the point of view that if he had greater consideration of the facts and less of harsh legal points, he might then be able to get his business through with greater expedition.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

First and Second Schedules agreed to.

Rill reported, with an Amendment; as amended (in Committee and on remittal), considered.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read the Third time.—[ Mr. Durbin.]

12.27 p.m.

I am sure the House would wish something to be said on the Third Reading of the Bill because, after all, it has been improved in the Committee stage by the addition of a new Clause. I may have given the wrong impression just now that this improvement was instigated from Government sources, and for this reason it is only just that I should apologise to my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Keeling), since he was the real author of the improvement. Having corrected what may have been a wrong impression, I should like to say how glad I am to welcome this Bill, both from a national point of view and because of the extraordinarily valuable memorial we now have. There is no need to say more than that, except to remark in passing that I hope that even now, on some other occasion, it may be possible to amend one provision which remains in the Bill and which could so easily have been deleted if good nature had been shown in the Committee stage.

I think it would be the wish of the House that the Government should associate themselves with the latter half of the hon. Member's remarks, and that I should say that they are exceedingly glad that, thanks to the generosity and wisdom of the Duke, it is possible to open this memorial.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed, with Amendments.

Crown Proceedings Bill Lords

Considered in Committee [ Progress. 11th July].

[Major MILNER in the Chair]

New Clause—(Application Of 56 & 57 Vict, C 61 To The Crown)

The Public Authorities Protection Act, 1893, shall, in its application to any civil proceedings against the Crown, have effect as if in paragraph ( a) of Section one thereof for any reference to six months there were substituted a reference to twelve months.—[ The Lord Advocate.]

Question again proposed, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

When the Committee adjourned its discussions a fortnight ago I had just moved the Second Reading of the new Clause. In Scotland the period to which it refers is still six months, and it seems desirable that where we are dealing with the Crown the rules should be the same in both countries. For this reason I propose that it should be made one year in Scotland just as it is in England.

Although the Lord Advocate has dealt with this new Clause very briefly and has indicated that it is limited to Scotland, it is in fact, I submit, a general provision for all proceedings against the Crown in England and Wales as well as in Scotland. I understand that it means that proceedings against the Crown have to be brought within a period of 12 months, whereas otherwise—on the ground that the Crown is considered to be a public authority—they have to be brought within six months. I think that the effect of this Clause is to make 12 months the period for all actions against the Crown.

This new Clause is intended to go into the Scottish application part of the Bill. The rules of limitation in England are separately dealt with and this provision will apply merely to Scotland. Its only effect will be that, so far as Crown proceedings are concerned, the period will be a year, whereas at present it is six months in Scotland.

12.30 p.m.

I do not think the Committee should part with this new Clause without something being said by way of protest against the keeping alive of the provisions of the Public Authorities Protection Act. Hon. Members on both sides of the Committee who know something of the working of that Act regard it as one of the worst on the Statute Book. I am indeed sorry that the Government have not taken the opportunity, when amending Crown proceedings, to amend that Act. I hope the Government may deal as soon as possible with the manifest injustices that mar that Act.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause—(Recovery Of Documents In Possession Of Crown)

Subject to and in accordance with Acts of Sederunt applying to the Court of Session and the sheriff court, commission and diligence for the recovery of documents in the possession of the Crown may be granted in any action whether or not the Crown is a party thereto, in like manner in all respects as if the documents were in the possession of a subject:

Provided that—
  • (i) this subsection shall be without prejudice to any rule of law which authorises or requires the withholding of any document on the ground that its disclosure would be injurious to the public interest; and
  • (ii) the existence of a document shall not be disclosed if, in the opinion of a Minister of the Crown, it would be injurious to the public interest to disclose the existence thereof.—[The Lord Advocate.]
  • Brought up, and read the First time.

    I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

    This Clause deals with the equivalent in Scotland of the provision made in England.

    Will the right hon and learned Gentleman explain it a little further?

    This matter was dealt with on Second Reading when the right hon. and learned Member for Hill-head (Mr. J. S. C. Reid) made some observations on it. In England this is called "discovery." It is the right of a party to litigation to recover documents which are in the hands of the opposite party, or of a third party. In Scotland we have a delightful word, "haver." I do not know what the English equivalent is. In Scotland we have always been able to recover documents from the Crown, but certain modifications were made in this Bill which made it desirable to deal with this matter by a separate Clause. Broadly speaking, I think the effect on recovery of documents will be the same in both countries.

    Do I understand that this will leave the position in Scotland as it is at present?

    Broadly that will be so, with one exception. If the hon. and gallant Member will look at the second proviso he will see the exception. I explained on Second Reading, or at the last meeting of the Committee, that I would have to alter the discovery pro- visions. That was merely necessary because of the second proviso. The point has been considerably discussed already, and although up to now it has always been possible to recover documents from the Crown something had to be put into the Bill to cover that proviso, and from a drafting point of view it was thought desirable to deal with the matter in this way.

    I wish to pursue the point of paragraph (ii) a little further, because in my recollection of the previous discussion on the question of discovery a very strong case was made out that the onus of deciding whether or not a document in those circumstances should be subject to privilege and, therefore, not discoverable against the Crown, ought not to be forced on the Minister concerned. It is putting on him an onus and burden of decision in which he is a party actively concerned on the one hand, and which he ought not to be asked to decide either for or against his own interests. Various alternative suggestions were put up to the effect that it might lie in the decision of a judge, or a judicial committee, or some people who were independent and judicially minded who would certainly be as discreet as anyone could be to ensure that no information arising out of documents should be disclosed contrary to the public interest. It was also felt that they would be eligible to assess the importance of the documents from the national point pf view. I wish to ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman whether these considerations, which were very carefully laid before the House and were, I thought, sympathetically received by him, have been taken into account in the drafting of this Clause, and also why they have not been acceded to.

    I was slightly tickled by the opening of the speech of the Scottish Law Officer. It seemed a curious doctrine—not that we are surprised at curious doctrines from the other side of the Committee—that this new Clause should come in because an hon. Member said something about the matter on Second Reading. When we come to the Committee stage, it gives Scottish Members a chance of threshing out such matters. We have arrived at that point, but even with an English lawyer helping me I am still not quite clear what we are doing. However, a new Clause of this kind, coming in the first place, I gather from the Conservative benches, in all probability can be accepted without any inconvenience. But I think it should be remembered that we have some rights on the Committee stage. There may be some hon. and learned Gentleman on the other side of the Committee who may follow on these lines and explain to my mind, not terribly well instructed on Scottish law, what this Clause does.

    The hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) is never a very easy speaker to follow because although he succeeds in using a phenomenal number of words, he never seems to say anything. The speech which I do want to follow is that of the hon. Member for Chichester (Mr. Joynson-Hicks). He suggested that the question of what documents it was not in the public interest to disclose should be a judicial decision, and not a political decision. I think that argument is ill-founded. It was dealt with in detail by Lord Simon in the judgment in the "Thetis" case. The trouble is that what is the public interest is essentially a political question, and judges are not equipped to decide political questions. Indeed, I feel the law generally gets itself into very great trouble when it casts on to judges the decision of matters which are not legal matters at all. Any of us who have had experience of running-down cases where the decision of how a motor car should be driven has been thrown on to judges, have learned that that form of litigation has been reduced to almost absolute uncertainty. An earlier generation was wiser in regard to collisions at sea, when it provided judges with assessors who understood the sea. I believe we would make a great mistake if we tried to put on to judges these essentially political questions.

    There is one further aspect of discovery upon which I would like to say a word. Documents are refused and privilege is claimed for them for two reasons. The first is that disclosure of a particular document would be contrary to the public interest. I have no more to say on that. But a much greater number of documents are refused because they fall into classes, and it is said that, quite irrespective of the question whether a particular document would or would not affect the public interest, it belongs to a class of document the disclosure of which would be contrary to public interest. These classes are wide. They include, for instance, all departmental minutes, all reports made by one civil servant to another, reports from one Department to another Department; there is a whole series of classes into which I need not go. Privilege is claimed for documents because they belong to one or other of those classes, and that rule is most rigidly applied. It is applied whether it be in the Crown's interest or not. Often, indeed, the Crown is prevented, in litigation, from producing documents which are conclusive in its own favour, documents which do not affect the public interest in the least, one way or the other, simply because they belong to a particular class of documents.

    I remember two cases at least in which the Crown was prevented from producing a document which was quite conclusive in its own favour, and the production of which would not have affected the public interest one way or another. In addition to those two, perhaps I might mention another case, in which a farmer, Mr. Odlum, a very famous cattle breeder, brought an action for libel against the chairman of the local war agricultural executive committee. It was in substance against the secretary of the committee, for whom the chairman took responsibility. It had been stated that when that farm had been purchased by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson) the then Minister of Agriculture, it had been in a bad condition, and that the right hon. Gentleman had greatly improved the farm. Mr. Odlum considered that statement to be a libel upon him. It was a privileged document, and, therefore, the issue turned on whether it was malicious, that is to says, whether the gentleman who produced the document honestly believed that the farm was in a bad condition when it was taken over.

    It was a known fact that that very gentleman, before any question of litigation had arisen, had reported as to the category, whether "A", "B" or "C", into which that farm should be put. That document could not be produced because it fell into a class of departmental reports. Of course, the effect of the Crown's refusal to produce that document was that everyone immediately assumed that the farm had been reported upon as an "A" farm. The document was assumed to be dead against the Crown, and its non-production was assumed to have been sharp practice. I am saying nothing about what that document would have shown, but it might very well have cast a much different reflection upon that case. That is the sort of instance in which this rule as to a class of documents works very badly.

    12.45 p.m.

    The trouble with this rule is that it came into being to deal, not with the cases in which the Crown was concerned, but with cases in which the Crown or a Minister was being called simply as a witness, and which documents the Crown or the Minister, as a witness, should be compelled to produce. When the Crown became a party to the litigation directly in the past, then the rules which had been applied to the Crown as a witness were used to cover the Crown as a party. They are really inappropriate rules for that purpose, and I hope that now that the Crown is to be a party, these rules will be reconsidered and worked out again, and that privilege will only be claimed for documents because the specific document affects the public interest, and not merely because it belongs to a class of document.

    I am not a lawyer, and, therefore, I naturally feel some diffidence, like my hon. Friend the Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams), in intervening in a Debate which is obviously particularly reserved for the legal Members of this Committee. I object to this Clause, just as I object to the whole procedure which has been displayed by the Lord Advocate in regard to this Bill. Two days ago I made a protest against Scotland being fobbed off by being included in English Bills instead of having a proper Bill of its own, which would make clear to Scotland the kind of legislation this House was proposing. We are today faced with exactly the same position. The Lord Advocate finds, at the last minute, what everyone in Scotland knows, that Scottish law is entirely different from English law, and he now comes along and makes various proposals to try to bring this Bill into consonance with Scottish law. That is demonstrably bad, it is an insult to Scotland, and it is an insult to this Committee.

    The hon. and gallant Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir T. Moore) may be glad to know that this Bill is now bringing English law into consonance with Scottish law. We have had a great many of these things in Scotland for centuries.

    Why not, for a change, introduce a Scottish Bill and let the Attorney-General introduce a few Clauses in order to bring English law into consonance with Scottish law? Why not let England join in occasionally and demonstrate her inferiority to Scotland instead of Scotland apparently always having to demonstrate her inferiority?

    I am not quite sure whether the hon. and gallant Member's last remark was in Order.

    I rose to object to this Clause, and indeed to object to the neat Clause, which has not yet been reached, and to the whole procedure adopted by the Lord Advocate.

    The hon. and gallant Member is going too far. We have not reached the other Clause to which lie has just referred.

    I was quite aware of that, but in case I was called from the Committee before the next Clause was called I wished now to register my protest.

    That is out A Order. I cannot take any such notice until the Clause referred to is called.

    While accepting your Ruling, Mr. Beaumont, I would ask whether the Lord Advocate can explain why he is submitting to this intolerable indignity of having to introduce Clauses into an English Bill so as to bring Scotland into consonance with English law? That question has not been answered, and Scotland will need an answer.

    I do not want to intervene in the discussion between my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir T. Moore) and the Lord Advocate. I feel that the Lord Advocate has probably, almost obviously, lost his brief this morning, and has just come in casually, and it is a little hard to tackle him seriously on this matter. My purpose in rising is to thank the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget). If I might have his attention just for one minute, I would say that the hon. and learned Member for Northampton was kind enough to refer to me at the beginning of his speech. I seldom make a speech for as long as he does and certainly I hope that I do not speak as slowly as he does. I will not comment on anything else, either on the new Clause or on the hon. and learned Gentleman, except to congratulate him most sincerely, and, I hope, with effect, on the fact that he has made a speech which should thoroughly qualify him to become a Scottish Law Officer.

    Question put, and agreed to.

    Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

    New Clause—(Provisions As To Arrestment)

    Arrestment in the hands of the Crown or of a Government department or of any officer of the Crown as such shall be competent in any case where arrestment in the hands of a subject would have been competent:

    Provided that nothing in the foregoing provisions shall warrant the arrestment of:—
  • (a) any wages or salary payable to any officer of the Crown as such;
  • (b) any money which is subject to the provisions of any enactment prohibiting or restricting assignation or charging or taking in execution; or
  • (c) any money payable by the Crown to any person on account of a deposit in the Post Office Savings Bank or in respect of a war savings certificate or national savings certificate.—[The Lord Advocate.]
  • Brought up, and read the First time.

    I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

    This has to be moved as a new Clause because it was covered by Privilege in another place.

    Once again I would ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman to explain a little further. As I understand it, this new Clause simply means that the private citizen can arrest money in the hands of a Government Department. I do not know whether there should be these exceptions contained in the proviso. It is possible for the ordinary citizen who is owed money by someone in the employ of a private individual, to arrest that money for a debt due to him, within certain limitations. Why should it not be so possible where the debtor is in the employment of the State? I do not follow the point. It may be that it has always been so but, if that is the case, why should it be continued? I do not understand why paragraph (c) is introduced excepting from arrestment moneys in the Post Office Savings Bank. Why should money in the Post Office Savings Bank be in a different position from money in any other bank? Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman explain the situation and tell me whether or not I am right in my interpretation?

    This new Clause simply states the position in Scotland as it exists at present. These rules have existed in Scotland for centuries, and similar rules have existed in England. It is true that quite a number of people take the view that there ought to be a considerable restriction. Hundreds of years ago not so many people were concerned, but since then the number of people who are servants of the Crown has increased. It may well be that there is a case for bringing the axe down now. Obviously, this is not the Bill in which to do it, nor is this the proper time. In the case of the other point raised by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Pollok (Commander Galbraith) I should have said that I propose to accept the Amendment in the name of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Hill-head (Mr. J. S. C. Reid) to leave out the last two lines of the new Clause. In accepting it, I am doing what was done in the corresponding English Clause where a similar Amendment was accepted, so that the same rule will operate in both countries. The hon. and gallant Gentleman is right in saying that it still protects Post Office Savings Bank deposits the reason for this is the serious administrative difficulties in which the Post Office would be involved. One can draw money from any post office in any part of the country. Obviously, if an arrestment were lodged in Edinburgh it would not be practicable to inform every sub-postmaster in Great Britain of the existence of that arrestment.

    I note the Lord Advocate's explanation regarding Post Office Savings Banks, and I suggest that if his argument is relevant at all it should be applied to trustee savings banks where also there is the right of withdrawal interchangeable throughout the country. I take it that he intends to accept the Amendment in the name of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hillhead—

    The hon. Gentleman is out of Order in referring to the Amendment. We are dealing now with the new Clause.

    I was merely repeating what the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Lord Advocate said. He said that he proposed to accept it, and I thought that as he said that, I might—

    The hon. Member will have an opportunity of saying what he pleases about the Amendment when we come to it.

    1.0 p.m.

    I confine myself then to the new Clause. I would point out to the Committee that paragraph (c) gives great latitude to a person who might be subject to arrestment. One is entitled to deposit several hundred pounds in the Post Office Savings Bank, one is entitled to have £500 in War Savings Certificates, and I do not think there is any limit to the number of 10s. National Saving certificates which one may hold. Therefore, it is apparent that a very large sum of money might be held by a person who may he liable to arrestment. If there was a desire to limit the amount of such money held by him, it would appear that there is something to be said for this limitation. If paragraph (c) is to remain unamended, I suggest it should be extended to include trustee savings banks, ordinary banks and other national savings, including the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board.

    I do not understand why this is not the proper Bill in which to make these changes in the law, but I accept what the right hon. and learned Gentleman says. I hope that he will consider the matter at some future date and without too much delay.

    Question put, and agreed to.

    Clause read a Second time.

    I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Clause, to leave out lines 14 and 15

    The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Lord Advocate has indicated the basis of this Amendment which, as I understand it, brings procedure in Scotland into line with that which obtains in England. Its effect will be to delete
    "in respect of a war savings certificate or national savings certificate."
    The last time I ventured to intervene on a matter of Scottish law I found myself a Member of the Scottish Grand Committee. Although that may have been a privilege, it occasioned some discomfort and, therefore, I do not intend to enlarge my remarks on this Amendment.

    I find myself in disagreement with the right hon. and leaned Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe). I prefer the Government's new Clause as it stands. In Scotland we have long been encouragers of thrift. This Amendment will limit the amount of thrift and economy which our great nation habitually practises. I think the Government's first thoughts are better than the Opposition's second thoughts. I should be happy to support the Government if they will stand by their Clause, which will give protection to those who invest in Post Office Savings Bank, in War Savings Certificates and National Savings Certificates. A great appeal was made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer—

    The hon. Mamber has slightly misunderstood the Amendment, which does not affect the Post Office Savings Bank.

    The Chancellor is making an appeal for a great extension of National Savings, and this will encourage it. So I will support the Government rather than the Amendment moved by my right hon. and learned Friend.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Clause, as amended, added to the Bill.

    New Clause—(Liability In Respect Of Trunk Roads)

    Proceedings shall lie against the Crown under this Act in respect of injury caused to any person or of loss or damage caused to any property by the neglect or default of any servant or agent of the Crown in its capacity as highway authority in maintaining any trunk road in Great Britain.—[ Mr. Joynson-Hicks.]

    Brought up, and read the First time.

    I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

    This is a question which was discussed to a certain extent on the Second Reading of this Bill, and I was very hopeful indeed that the Lord Advocate, in replying, would have given some indication about the Government's attitude on the proposal which is contained in this new Clause. It may possibly come as a surprise to some hon. Members, though certainly not to legal hon. Members, to learn that, when a public authority is responsible for the repair and maintenance of a highway, no liability attaches or can attach to that public authority for any damages or injury which a member of the public may incur as a result of the failure of the public authority to maintain the highway or carry out its obligations. May I illustrate that very briefly?

    Let us suppose that one is motoring along a public road, and that the local authority has failed to clear the ditch at the side of the road. It may be a foggy night, and, despite the fact that one is driving with all care, one does not notice that the ditch has become overgrown. One cannot see the ditch because it is overgrown, and one goes into the ditch and suffers injury. One cannot claim against the Government or the public authority, whichever it may be, for their failure to have made the ditch apparent to road users. That is one case. A much more usual case is the case of potholes. Suppose that a public authority responsible for the repair and maintenance of the highway has failed, from any circumstances whatever in its duty. Suppose that its inspectors had so lamentably failed to carry out their duties that they had never reported to the public authority that a certain road for which it was responsible, had got into a shocking condition, and had in it potholes, through wear and tear upon the roads, so that it had become a danger to road users.

    Suppose, alternatively, that the public authority did, in fact, know all this, and, notwithstanding that, did nothing to make good and repair this danger in the public road, with the result that a motor omnibus, fully loaded, went over the road, broke a spring, and had an accident in which many people were injured. There is no possibility of any of those people who were injured having any right of recovery against the public authority, because where the public authority failed in its duty was in a matter which we call "nonfeasance." I see the Lord Advocate looking at me somewhat critically, and I am not surprised, because this does not apply to Scotland. It is part of English law only, and it may come as a surprise to the right hon. and learned Gentleman to realise how far England falls behind Scotland in this particular matter.

    On the contrary, I would like to give an example of where liability does attach to a public highway authority in a case of "misfeasance." Supposing the servants of a public highway authority have, in the course of work which they were doing, left an unlighted heap of stones or road-making materials upon the highway, with the result that a vehicle ran into it and an accident was caused. That is a positive action on the part of the highway authority which was carried out negligently and for which they are liable, because it was a positive action and an action of "misfeasance."

    Those are the two principal categories in which liability may and may not occur in cases of this sort, and the object of my new Clause is to bring them into line, and to render, so far as the Crown is concerned, liability to be attached to the Crown in cases both of "nonfeasance" and "misfeasance," wherever they are the responsible highway authority. Under the Trunk Roads Acts, the Crown has become the highway authority for trunk roads all over the country, and there are some 9,000 miles of trunk roads, so that this question is a material and important one, particularly as the roads for which the Crown is responsible are the main roads and the biggest roads, which carry, far and away, the greatest and heaviest quantities of traffic. It is, therefore, vitally essential, not only that these roads should be kept in a proper state of repair, but that there should be this sanction which the public can have against the Crown as the highway authority, to ensure that their duties are properly carried out and that they cannot escape from those duties by not being able to be rendered liable for cases of "nonfeasance."

    Again, this is by no means a new matter. I am very glad indeed to see that the right hon. and learned Gentle- man the President of the Board of Trade is sitting on the Front Bench opposite, because I am sure that, in his professional capacity, he can, if he will, bring to bear a good many legal authorities in my support, but I would refer briefly to one or two dicta of judges cases of this sort. It goes back a very long time. If I may refer to the case of Thompson versus the Brighton Corporation, who were a public authority for the purpose of that particular case, in 1893. Lord Justice Smith said:
    "It has been held tot, at any rate, over 100 years, dating from the case of Russell versus Men of Devon, that no action for damages will lie against a surveyor of highways for injuries received by reason of a highway being out of repair."
    That is a principle of law which I am seeking to reverse, because I am quite satisfied that all the legal fraternity, as well as the members of the public who are conscious of it, are thoroughly opposed to it and consider it a thoroughly bad principle of law. Lord Justice Lindley, in t he same case, said:
    "The law on this subject is, in my opinion, very unsatisfactory, but I cannot on that account declare it to be different from what it is."
    Again, later than that, in 1932, in the case of Guilfoyle versus the Port of London Authority, Mr. Justice Humphreys, as he then was, stated:
    "Under the modern authorities, a transfer to a public corporation—"
    and, therefore, I think the same must apply when transfer takes place to the Crown—
    "of the obligation to repair roads does not of itself render the corporation—"
    and that now means also the Crown—
    "liable to an action for damages for nonfeasance as distinguished from misfeasance."
    He went on to say:
    "However unsatisfactory the law may be—and I am only saying what has been said repeatedly by other judges, and, indeed, by many members of another place, when I say the law is unsatisfactory in this respect—it is tin.—and I am bound to pronounce it."
    I am asking the Committee to put these recommendations into effect and to amend the law. It is not a matter which is without precedent, and, having appealed to the right hon. and learned Gentleman at one end of the Front Bench opposite, I now Appeal to the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Lord Advocate at the other end of that bench, because here we are playing a game of tit for tat on the last Clause, and ask for his support to bring the law of England into line with that of Scotland. I know he will bear me out when I say that there is the same liability in Scotland against a public authority for matters of non-feasance as there is for matters of misfeasance. I very much regret that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir T. Moore), and my hon. Friend the Member for South Edinburgh (Sir W. Darling) are net present at the moment to hear our appeal to Scotland to take England under its wing in this matter.

    The matter was particularly referred to in the Alness Report which pointed out the unsatisfatory state of the law, and the desirability of bringing it into line, as between England and Scotland, by making English law on this point conformable to Scotch law. That has become still more important, and still more emphatic since last year. Under the Trunk Roads Act of 1946, we added to the responsibility of the Crown many trunk roads which run right up into Scotland. Can there be anything more ridiculous than for a member of the public who is travelling upon the main trunk road between England and Scotland to find that, if on the English side of the Border, he meets with an accident through the disrepair of the road, he ha, no recourse against the Crown, whereas, if he goes 10 yards further on, across the Border, and falls into a pot-hole, he can sue the appropriate Minister. That is a really ridiculous state of affairs, and one which should not be tolerated any longer. It has been so recognised by the legal profession for upwards of 100 years, and they have continually ex pressed their discontent with the situation Finally, may I refer the Committee to perhaps the oldest of all authorities. Hon Members on all sides will be familiar with the fact that it is a sin to do the things we ought not to do. I ask them to remember that it is also a sin not to do the things which we ought to do, and therefore, to accept this new Clause.

    1.15 p.m.

    The hon. Member for Chichester (Mr. Joynson-Hicks) has made an interesting and persuasive case for an alteration of the law in regard to the liability of highway authorities. It is a case that we have not overlooked, and that we shall not overlook in future. I have a great deal of sympathy with the view that the old rule, as to the absence of liability for misfeasance, should be done away with. It is a survival from times and circumstances which have greatly changed. But this Bill is not, and cannot become, the vehicle for general reforms in our law. As I sought to explain to the House on Second Reading, the purpose of the Bill is not to reform the general principles of the law, but simply to put the Crown in the same position as the subject under the existing rules of law. One really cannot start altering the general principles of the law in relation to particular defendants only; one has to alter them so that they apply regardless of the particular defendant sued.

    This rule about misfeasance and nonfeasance applies to all highway authorities, and if it is to be abolished, as perhaps it should be, it should be abolished in relation to them all. I entirely agree, if I may say so with respect, with the view of the hon. Member that it is ridiculous to have different rules in England from those in Scotland. It would be even more ridiculous to have in England, different rules, one applying to a trunk road, and another to a road not so classified. Such a state of affairs would lead, in practice, to hopeless confusion and difficulty. This is a matter which ought to be dealt with, if it is dealt with at all, comprehensively and with regard to all highway authorities, and not made a matter for discrimination against the Crown alone. For these reasons, I cannot accept the new Clause.

    I quite appreciate the arguments of the right hon. and learned Attorney-General that this Bill is limited to the procedure of litigation against the Crown, and that it is not making any alterations, in substance, in the law. But I should like strongly to support the plea of my hon. Friend that this is a matter which does require urgent attention. I would put it to the right hon. and learned Gentleman that, as far as I can see, the opportunities provided by departmental legislation will always be subject to the same form of repudiation-when this alteration in the law is suggested, and that the responsibility for making these desirable alterations in the law, which cannot be strictly attributed to departmental legislation, must really be placed on the right hon. and learned Attorney-General. I am sure that is a responsibility which he will gladly assume, and I hope that he will bear it in mind, and will fight for these improvements in the law. I repeat that, as far as procedure is concerned, this Bill is a very great step forward.

    I rise to express my full appreciation of the arguments adduced by the right hon. and learned Attorney-General. I was fully conscious of the fact that I was likely to be met with those arguments, but, on the other hand, may I point out to him that he has got to make a start some time or other if he is not prepared to deal with the whole matter—as, so far, he has given no indication of doing—by an omnibus procedure. When we tried to introduce the principle into the Trunk Roads Bill, we were met with the answer, "Well, you cannot do it just for the trunk roads which are being added by this Bill, because, then, the principle would only apply to some and not to others." When we try to do it now, we are told that it would introduce the responsibility on the Crown alone, and not on other public highway authorities. I think that is the worst argument that could be put forward, because the Crown should set the example. I hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will bear that in mind. The difficulty is to obtain the opportunity, but I am quite sure that, if he will take the initial step, he will have our support. In the light of what he has said, and his sympathetic reception of the principle involved, and in the hope that he will take steps to introduce a general Measure, which, I entirely agree, is desirable, to bring the law into conformity, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.

    Motion and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

    First Schedule agreed to.

    Second Schedule—(Enactments Repealed)

    19 & 20 Vict. C. 56.Exchequer Court (Scotland) Act, 1856.Sections five to nine.
    In Section ten the words from "in place of," to "provided."
    Sections eleven and twelve.
    In Section twenty-two the words from "and all interlocutors or decrees," to the end of the Section.
    Schedules A, B, C, D and E.

    This and the following Amendments are consequential.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Further Amendments made: In page 30, line 45, at end, insert:

    38 & 39 Vict. c. 89.The Public Works Loans Act, 1875,Paragraph (1) of Section five, and in Section seven the words from "Where the secretary" to the end of the Section

    Page 31, line 21, at end, insert:

    57 & 58 Vict. c. 60.The Merchant Shipping Act, 1894.Subsection (4) of Section four hundred and sixty

    Line 48, at end, insert:

    26 Geo. 5 & 1 Edw. 8. c. 44The Air Navigation Act, 1936.Subsection (5) of Section twenty-six, paragraph (5) of Section thirty-two, and Part II of the Fourth Schedule.

    Schedule, as amended, agreed to.

    —[ The Lord Advocate.]

    Bill reported, with Amendments; as amended, considered.

    Clause 9—(Liability In Connection With Postal Packets)

    1.28 p.m.

    I beg to move, in page 7, line 10, to leave out "market," and to insert "replacement."

    This is a manuscript Amendment, which I have handed in to the Table and of which the Attorney-General has cognisance. Those hon. Members who were present during the discussions on the Committee stage will recall that on that occasion an Amendment was moved to delete the whole of the Subsection, and the Amendment was defeated. The reason for that Amendment was, briefly, the argument that the market value of a registered postal packet would be almost impossible to determine. That argument was not entirely successful, and it was rejected by the Attorney-General. The reason I am now moving this much more limited Amendment is because I think it meets, in substance, the arguments which we advanced, and also meets the point raised by the Attorney-General in reply.

    The effect of the Amendment is this. We all agree that if a registered postal packet is lost or damaged, the consignor of the postal packet should not be in a position to recover more than—if I may use a neutral phrase—the proper value of that packet. The words in the Subsection are "market value." The market value is likely to be exceedingly difficult to ascertain. A case which has been quoted is that of an article which one might find at some rather specialist shop —not a proprietary article, but an article in reasonably common production which can be bought in a West End shop for say,£20 Elsewhere that article may be obtained for £15, and somewhere else even for £12 10s. The article is new. It is put in the post and gets lost. In the article then new or secondhand? What is its market value? All these questions, and a great many others with which I will not now burden the House, arise on the consideration of the market value. The right hon. and learned Gentleman, if I am correctly reporting him, said that the criterion must be the market value, in order to exclude consequential value. We realise that there may well be a flow of values which are consequential and which should not be recoverable.

    It is in order to meet the right hon. and learned Gentleman in that respect that I have adopted the suggestion which was first put forward by the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Hale) of replacement value. One example which was quoted from the benches opposite was this: What would be the market value of legal documents which were consigned through the post, registered and lost? What would be the market value of conveyances, contracts and waste parchment suitable only for the making of jam pot covers? The market value would clearly be negligible. But the replacement value, which is really the actual value—and "actual value" was the expression used by the right hon. and learned Gentleman later in the Debate on this subject—would be the true value which, up to the limit for which he had insured by registration, the consignor should be entitled to recover. I believe replacement value is the true criterion which should be included, and which I know it is the desire of hon. Members on both sides of the House should be included in this rather difficult Clause.

    I beg to second the Amendment.

    The Attorney-General will remember the argument which was advanced on the previous stage. He will remember that it was suggested that the words "market value" in the case of certain types of articles brought in certain disadvantages, and, while he put forward what were perfectly valid objections to the Amendment which was moved on that occasion, I suggest that the present Amendment gets over those difficulties while, at the same time, getting over the difficulties which several of my hon. Friends anticipated from the use of the word "market."

    We have given very careful consideration to the arguments which were very properly raised when this matter was considered in Committee, but I am afraid we are not able to accept the Amendment. It has to be understood that the Post Office are only undertaking a limited form of insurance in regard to this matter, and these limitations have to be maintained. What hon. Members opposite are now seeking to do is to substitute for the test of market value, a test which is wider and, as we think, in some cases at all events, more difficult to apply and enforce. Certainly it is a test which, in certain cases, might give rise to a much heavier liability than the Post Office are at present prepared to accept. We cannot attempt to cater for the special type of case which the hon. Member for Chichester (Mr. Joynson-Hicks) has in mind. In the common run of cases, it is very difficult to see that there is any valid criticism which can be directed against the market value as being the common measure of compensation. It is a measure with which the courts are very familiar, and which they are applying constantly in cases concerning the sale of goods, conversion, detinue, and so on, and in practice the courts have no difficulty in deciding in each case whether to apply a wholesale, retail, new or second hand price.

    If, to take a particular example which was mentioned, it turns out that something was bought at an inflated price in the West End, which could have been bought much more cheaply elsewhere, I am afraid that those who made the mistake of buying at the inflated price may have to suffer the consequences of their extravagance in that respect. These are matters which are dealt with commonly by the courts in the normal course of their ordinary jurisdiction. Given the limitation—and this is what has to be accepted in regard to the whole service—of the registered service in its insurance aspect, market value is, we think, the fairest and, on the whole, the most practical criterion which can be adopted.

    The Post Office cannot seek to convert registration into a full dress insurance scheme designed to cater for exceptional or varied cases. The provision of a scheme of that kind is not one of the functions of the Post Office. On the contrary, it is absolutely essential, if the service is to be maintained at all, for it to be simple so that it can continue to be run by the ordinary provincial staff who handle it and conduct it now, and so that it should not impose so heavy a financial burden as would necessitate a very considerable increase in rates. The registered service does not pay its way at the moment, and if we undertook a higher liability than that which we are prepared to undertake by the Clause as drafted, the loss would, indeed, be a substantial one. Therefore, I am sorry to say that I cannot accept the arguments of the learned Member, persuasive though they were.

    Might I ask one question before the right hon. and learned Gentleman concludes? Suppose a person has paid Lao for a new article, takes it straight off to a post office, and dispatches it by registered post, paying the fee which they ask for registration up to the value of Lao. Does the learned Attorney-General consider it fair, when that article is lost and a claim made: that the Post Office should then say: "The market value is only £10?"

    The answer is that the Post Office would not say that at all It would be entirely a matter for the court to say what was the market value, and I have no doubt that the court would come to a fair conclusion about it. At all events, it would not be for me, and is not for me, to criticise the conclusion at which the court might come. I should think they might well come to the conclusion that the market value in the case of the absolutely new article remained at £20. I do not know; it is entirely a matter for the court.

    Amendment negatived.

    Clause 10—(Provisions Relating To The Armed Forces)

    I beg to move, in page 9, line to, to leave out Subsection (3).

    We gave very careful consideration to the arguments which were advanced from both sides of the House in regard to this Subsection which, as the House will recall, would have the effect of reducing the amount of damages which a soldier on duty might recover in the case where he has been injured by two or more defendants. We have had careful regard to those arguments, and in deference to them we have decided to move this Amendment.

    On behalf of myself and the other hon. Members who raised this matter before, I should like to thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman for meeting the arguments which we put forward.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."

    1.35 p.m.

    I do not think the learned Attorney-General would think it seemly that a Bill which he introduced on Second Reading, with a good deal of justification, as a Measure of major importance, should be allowed to have its Third Reading without something being said about it. It would be almost indecent, and it would certainly show a lack of respect for the speech which the learned Attorney-General himself made in moving the Second Reading. As the House will recollect, the learned Attorney-General said that not only was this a Bill of major importance, but also one in connection with which it was a palpable weakness to pat oneself on the back. If I may say so, with respect, the learned Attorney-General indulged in a good deal of self back patting during the speech which he made in introducing the Measure.

    I think all hon. Members agree that this Bill does a certain amount to get rid of a lot of legal lumber, and to consign to salvage a good deal of stuff which ought to have gone to salvage a long time ago. But the learned Attorney-General perhaps overrated the amount of good which this Bill will, in fact do. The House appreciates the fact that a goon deal of the antiquated lumber of which the Bill disposes was lumber more of a formal nature than lumber of real weight and substance; that is to say, while a good deal of the procedure which the Bill does, away with was quite illogical and out of touch with modern conditions, yet it had been so successfully by-passed in so many ways that it did not cause anything like as much injustice as, on the face of it, it would be likely to do. On the other hand, I personally regret the fact that in substance, and on points of importance, the Bill does not go further than it does.

    The particular point to which I invite the attention of the House at this stage is Clause 30. It will be noted that that Clause not only does not abolish the very considerable privilege which the Crown, as a public authority, enjoys in respect of litigation in that actions have to be brought against it if they are to be brought at all, in a much shorter space of time than is the case with a private person, but, by Subsection (2), goes out of its way to perpetuate that anomaly When the Government were setting out, as according to the learned Attorney-General they were, to do what according to the learned Attorney-General ought to have been done years ago, namely, to put the Crown, so far as is possible, in something of the same position in litigation as the subject, then I suggest it is a great pity that they did not go further and put the Crown in the same position as the subject from the point of view of the limitation of actions.

    As I understand it—and as a result, so far as Scotland is concerned, of the Amendment which was accepted today—the position is still that the subject who desires, under the machinery of this Bill, to bring an action against the Crown in regard to a tort, has to commence his action within 12 months whereas, if the person whom he desires to sue is a private citizen he can, under the Limitation Act, 1939, have six years in which to do it. I suggest, first of all, that one year is too short a period; and secondly, that it is anomalous to have a different period if the defendant is the Crown—

    On a point of Order. Is it in Order for the hon. Gentleman to allude to what is not in the Bill?

    No. I am afraid I was not paying very close attention to what the hon. Member was saying, being otherwise engaged. The Debate must take place upon what is in the Bill, and not upon what is not in the Bill.

    I fully appreciate that, and that is why I am dealing with d specific provision, in fact, Subsection (2) of Clause 30. If the Home Secretary has not a copy of the Bill in front of him I hope that he will be good enough to obtain one. No doubt his Parliamentary Secretary can oblige. This is what the Subsection says:

    "Subject to the provisions of the preceding Subsection, nothing in this Act shall prejudice the right of the Crown to rely upon the law relating to the limitation of time for bringing proceedings against public authorities."
    That is to say, there is a specific provision maintaining in full the effect of both the Public Authorities Protection Act, 1893, and the Limitation Act, 1939, so far as actions against the Crown are concerned. I am entitled, I submit, to have regard to that Subsection, and I suggest it is a pity that it is in the Bill.

    I will give my reasons. Hon. Members on both sides of the Committee who have had any direct experience of litigation will know that in possibly a small but appreciable number of cases, particularly where the plaintiff is a person of poor financial position and is unable as easily as a wealthier person to commence proceedings, action is rendered impossible when it is not commenced within one year, where the defendant is a public authority. That state of affairs will be perpetuated in actions against the Crown. It seems unjustifiable for the Crown to operate within such a narrow limit.

    If it is contended that a year is sufficient, then it is anomalous that it should be six years in the case of a private individual. The Government should have gone further to clear up the legislative morass which surrounds Crown proceedings and should have put the Crown in the same position, from the point of view of the limitation of action, as a private individual and certainly should have provided a period longer than one year. The Crown as defendant is in a strong position in many ways. The Attorney-General will agree, no doubt, that the Crown has the best possible legal advice at its disposal and unlimited funds for litigation. It has skilled servants, in the Treasury Solicitor's office and elsewhere, who are at least a match for any that the subject has at his command—I except, of course, my hon. Friend the Member for Chichester (Mr. Joynson-Hicks)—The Crown is extremely well served on the legal side. Why is it necessary to give the Crown this procedural advantage, which is of the greatest value when it is dealing with the small, ignorant man, or the man without adequate legal advice? Is it necessary to do this?

    I welcome a good many of the provisions of the Bill. While we concede that the Attorney-Genera'] is right in giving himself one gentle pat on the back in respect of it, we believe that it might have been so much better if the Government had had the courage to do as they have often been pressed to do during the last two years, tackle the privileged position which the Crown has as defendant, in respect of the limitation of action.

    1.45 P.m.

    I do not often agree with my Parliamentary neighbour the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) but I do agree with him this morning when he says that we ought not to let this great Bill pass without a few comments. The point that the hon. Member has made is similar to a number that have been made during the course of the Debate pointing out what hon. Members consider to be little blemishes. Unfortunately, as there has been some concentration upon the so-called blemishes in the public Press and on the wireless, the merits of the Bill have tended rather to be overlooked.

    We all welcome the purpose and the principle of the Bill, but the habit of concentrating upon blemishes has led people to believe that the Government are doing something wrong and something to the detriment of the subject, instead of, as they ate, giving subjects the greatest advantage vis-à-vis the Crown that they have had since the Bill of Rights. The matter of the Bill has been under consideration for 26 years—consideration of all kinds, active, very active, urgent, and so on. Any number of Parliamentary Ouestions has been put down, and the answer has always been that the matter was being given consideration, active, very active, or urgent, as the case might be. It has fallen to the Labour Government, despite the press of the legislation for great schemes of social benefit that have been passed through this House during the last two years, to bring in this great constitutional advance.

    It is a complete answer to people who hold that the Government is totalitarian or has totalitarian tendencies or that it has no interest in the common man as an individual. The Bill sweeps away a historical anachronism in the courts of justice. No longer will the Government have to resort to shifts and devices in order that cases may be heard in the courts and subjects obtain a remedy to which in law they were not entitled. The Bill also extends to civil servants a course of action which they have never had before. In fine, it is a Bill of which we can be proud. I commend it not only to the House but to the country at large. I specially want to thank the Attorney-General and his noble Friend for doing what no other Lord Chancellor or Attorney-General has done in the course of the history of this country.

    1.48 p.m.

    I would not enter the discussion on the Bill were it not for an observation made by the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. Rees-Williams). He claims great credit for the Government for bringing forward the Bill. Surely, what made the Bill extremely urgent was the number of nationalisation Measures carried through or proposed by the Government. When the State acquires a great many industries and masses of property there are great openings for action between the citizen and the State. Therefore, an extension of the right of citizens to bring actions becomes necessary. Hon. Members w ho have taken part in the Standing Committees on Nationalisation Bills have questioned the Attorney-General or the Solicitor-General as to the position of a citizen when the State takes over the ownership of industries and properties. We have been told that a Measure of this kind would be introduced to safeguard everybody. We are, therefore, very glad to give it our support. It was necessary, in order to make the position a little clearer.

    1.49 p.m.

    I must correct the misapprehension under which the hon. Member for Stockport (Sir A. Gridley) seems to lie in regard to this Measure. The Measure has no effect whatever on the right of action against the variots nationalised industries. On a number of occasions, and on one at least in answer to the hon. Member, I have explained that industries which are being taken under public control are managed by put-lie corporations, which can be sued just as any other corporation can be sued, under the ordinary processes of the law. The special exemption which the Crown has hitherto enjoyed has never been extended to nationalised industries. This Bill was introduced to deal with claims against the Crown, and it is a Bill for which there has been a demand for e long time. That the importance of the Bill, which has so long been pressed for, both by the public and by the profession, should now be belittled by certain organs of the Press, and certain of our opponents, is not altogether surprising, and I must agree with my hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon (Mr. Rees-Williams) that the account of the Bill given by the B.B.C., which recited only what the 13:11 does not do, and said nothing of the important things that it does, was a little remarkable.

    I do not propose to follow, in detail, the observations made by the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) save to say that the answer to him is exactly the same as the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Chichester (Mr. Joynson-Hicks) This is not a Bill to make general reforms in the law; it is a Bill to put the Crown on the same basis as the ordinary public corporation. The Crown will be in no special position in this matter of limitation; it will take advantage of the existing laws which apply to all public authorities in this respect.

    The Crown is a public authority, I suppose the largest public authority of its kind in the world, and the analogy is to public authorities, and not to private individuals. Before we speed this important Measure upon its way, I would like to thank Members on all sides of the House for the help and assistance they have given us in connection with it. We have, between us, overcome all the doubts and difficulties which prevented our more timorous predecessors from producing this long overdue reform, and I have no doubt that it will make a very significant contribution to the efficiency and justice of our law and the equality of all people before it.

    1.53 p.m.

    In view of the final observations of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, I must say a word or two before we part with this Measure. That it is an important Bill no one on this side of the House will dispute. We have not sought, as I thought for one moment the Attorney-General suggested, to minimise its importance On the other hand, we do not want to compete, like the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. Rees-Williams) for some of the jobs with the Coal Board, and in other places—

    It is not only an absurd but a gratuitous insult to say that I supported this Bill in order to get a job with the Coal Board. Already this morning I have been accused by the hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) of speaking too often which, in his case, is a classical example of Satan rebuking sin, but this is too much.

    If I drew the wrong impression from the phrases which the hon. Member used in connection with this Bill, and his exaggerated remarks, I withdraw what I said, but the hon. Gentleman did say that this was a complete answer to any suggestion of a totalitarian tendency, or anything of that sort. The Attorney-General said that this Bill placed the individual in the same position, in suing the Crown, as in suing the ordinary corporation. On the Second Reading, we talked a lot about the equality which now existed between the State and the public. The Crown is still insisting on priorities of its rights in certain actions which we may discuss later. While we think this is a good Bill, we regret that the Government have not found the time to clear up the whole of this lumber, which requires attention.

    The Attorney-General seemed to make some criticism of the report of our Debate by the B.B.C. I did not hear that report, but I assume that it is quite natural that when both sides of the House are engaged in trying to improve an important Measure, and there are questions and answers in relation to that, a fair report of a Debate on it would give more attention to what has been said than to the good points in the Bill, which had not been subject to Debate. I am sorry that the right hon. and learned Gentleman thought fit to attack and criticise the B.B.C. in that matter. However, we can pass this Bill with the satisfaction that some progress is being made, although not so much as those on this side of the House would desire.

    Question put, and agreed to.

    Bill read the Third time, and passed, with Amendments.

    Statistics Of Trade Bill

    Lords Amendments considered.

    Clause 3—(Returns For The Purposes Of Census)

    Lords Amendment: In page r, line 37, at end insert:

    "A notice issued by a competent authority in pursuance of powers delegated to that authority shall state that it is so issued."

    1.57 p.m.

    I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

    This Amendment fulfils a promise which I made on the Report stage. Members opposite had moved an Amendment having the same effect as these words, and I promised that while we could not then accept it we would bring forward an Amendment, at a later stage, which would have the same effect. Hon. Members opposite wished to ensure that when the competent authority under the Bill was acting under delegated powers it should be made clear that it was so doing. This Amendment does make that clear.

    I would like to thank the hon. Gentleman for the way in which he has met this point, which is of some importance. The persons concerned with the notice may know now under what Statute and authority the particular Government Department is seeking to act. This Amendment particularly meets our point and fulfils the undertaking given by the hon. Gentleman, and, therefore, we desire merely to express our thanks to the Government for it.

    Question put, and agreed to.

    Clause 10—(Information From Persons Entering Or Leaving The United Kingdom By Air)

    Lords Amendment:

    In page 6, line 40, leave out from "whereby" to the end of line 42 and insert "any person entering or leaving the United Kingdom by air may be required to give, to such person and in such form and manner as may be prescribed, particulars of his age, sex and marriage and of the nature of his occupation and particulars of the country in which he last permanently resided and the country in which he intends next permanently to reside.

    (2) If it is not reasonably practicable to require any such person to give any such particulars as aforesaid any other person in whose company and under whose care he is travelling may be required to give those particulars on his behalf"

    2 p.m.

    I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

    This is an Amendment of some substance. During the Report stage my right hon. and learned Friend was asked if he would consider making more specific the nature of the information that can be required from persons entering or leaving the country by air. As was explained then, the information is required for the purpose of providing migration statistics corresponding to those obtained under the Merchant Shipping Act about migration by sea. The words of the original Clause were somewhat vague and the undertaking was given that, at a subsequent stage, the nature of the information would be made more precise, and this Amendment seeks to do that.

    The House may recollect that in the Report stage on this Bill Clause 10 was really a new Clause put down without any previous discussion, either on the Second Reading or in the Committee. It is a Clause which really does not come very appropriately ink a Bill entitled "Statistics of Trade." The House may also remember that during the Debate on the Report stage there was considerable argument as to the effect and purpose of this Clause, and it was only after fairly lengthy Debate that, on the promise of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, that this Clause would be amended in another place that it was passed without a Division.

    I cannot regard the Amendment to which we are asked to agree as entirely satisfactory. After all, this Clause applies to anyone entering or leaving this country by air. Let us consider the particulars which have to be asked for, and given: age, sex, marriage. Will not he individual's passport disclose all those three things? Under the Merchant Shipping Act the penalty for not giving the information which is required falls upon the master of the vessel, but here you ire apparently making it a criminal offence for a person not to give those particulars which anyone seeing their passport could surely ascertain for himself. Then it goes on to say that they may be required to give particulars of the country in which they will permanently reside I am lot quite sure what is meant by that. A man can state in which country he last permanently resided but what does "particulars" mean? Does it mean that he has to give some description of the co an-try, a few adjectives or something of that sort—it is rather curious drafting—of the country in which he intends next permanently to reside?

    There is one thing which a man or woman entering or leaving this country is not required under this Clause to give, and I am rather interested at the omission. There is no requirement to state nationality. I should have thought the Home Secretary would have been interested in that. Why is it that if their age, sex, marriage and residences have to be disclosed, nationality is omitted? I should like to know the answer to that. Presumably on arrival in this country by air—and it is only when one arrives by air that this Clause applies—the individual will have to fill up a form even if he is leaving this country by air in two hours' time or in ten minutes' time. It may be, indeed, that under this Clause he can be required to fill up yet another form on his departure. Of course it may be right that anyone visiting this country now should taste the delights of form-filling in this new Socialist Britain, but are we not going a little too far in making a criminal offence of these matters?

    What is to be the position? Supposing someone about to leave this country by air, who has his passport and passage, refuses to give the particulars which can be required under this Clause if the Amendment is adopted. Is there any power to stop him embarking in the aircraft, because, if not, it really does not seem to serve a useful purpose. Suppose a man leaving this country says quite falsely that he intends to make his next permanent residence Timbuctoo when, in fact, he is going to Tibet. The authorities and the Board of Trade may doubt his statement, but what will they do about it? They will have no evidence to prove the falsity of it until he has left the country and taken up his residence in Tibet. I suppose that if ever he returns to this country he can be prosecuted and sentenced to two years' imprisonment or fined £100. Is there any power, where there is refusal to give the information which can be asked for under this Clause, to prevent departure? If there is not, it is really not useful to impose penalties in this way.

    This Clause applies to any visitor by air. Suppose an American film star, instead of coming on the "Queen Elizabeth," chooses to come by air and lands in this country. Why should it be made a criminal offence for her not to disclose her true age to the President of the Board of Trade, because that is what this Clause does. If she comes by ship, she is not liable to any penalty. The master of the vessel may be liable, if he gives her age wrongly, but he may have other methods of finding out the truth of the matter than the President of the Board of Trade, I do not know. However, if she comes by air, what is the position? If she refuses to say what is her age, then she can be prosecuted and fined £20, but if she commits the grave offence of telling the President of the Board of Trade that she is younger than she is, then she is affected by Subsection (3) and is liable on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or to a fine not exceeding£100 or in either case to both such imprisonment and such fine.

    Similarly, of course, if in a facetious mood she gives an incorrect answer as to her sex or marriage or as to the nature of her occupation. Why is it that we are making such methods of inquiry with regard to visitors to this country? The Parliamentary Secretary said it was intended to deal with migrants, but it deals with all persons entering or leaving this country by air. The President of the Board of Trade said, when we were discussing this Clause before, that he would certainly give consideration to the question of bringing the penalties for failure to give correct information, or for giving false information, into line with the Merchant Shipping Act, Section 76 (3) where the maximum penalty is £20—very different from what is provided here. In this Amendment we are imposing a terribly heavy penalty on a person who recklessly states his wrong age, his wrong sex, that he is married when he is not or he is unmarried when he is, most of which information is available from his passport; or if he recklessly gives wrong particulars of the country in which he last permanently resided or of the country in which he intends next permanently to reside.

    I do not consider that this Clause is properly placed in the Statistics of Trade Bill. I agree that to some extent some of the points which have been raised in the Debate have been met, but as it stands it is using a sledge hammer to stop a very small number landing by creating criminal offences of the kind it does under Subsection (3). The only real purpose of this Clause is to indicate to the public the serious thing it is if a Socialist bureaucrat is not obeyed and a lady does not tell the Board of Trade her true age.

    I cannot see what this Clause is doing in the Bill at all.

    On a point of Order. Are we discussing whether this Clause is in the Bill or not?

    We are discussing whether the House agrees with the Lords in this Amendment to the Clause.

    That remark was made in passing, but surely we are entitled to discuss the Clause.

    Yes, the Amendment in relation to the Clause. There are one or two points to which I should like to draw the attention of the President of the Board of Trade. The first one is that which has been raised by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Buller), as to particulars of the country in which the -person last permanently resided. Can we be told under what conditions this word "permanently" is used? What is the qualification for saying whether one resides permanently in a country? There must be some standard by which this question can be answered and I should like to know what it is. Assume that one is coming from Russia, would one have to write a thesis on "I chose freedom"? One is also asked to whom one is married or whether one is married, but this country does not recognise the marriage laws of a number of other countries. Take, for instance, a divorce in Reno. That does not operate in this country. If someone is divorced according to an action taken in Reno and lands here, if that person states those facts he or she would leave himself or herself open to penalties under Subsection (3). I must say that this Clause and this Amendment do not meet our requirements. Could the President of the Board of Trade answer the particulars about nationality put by my hon. and learned Friend? It seems to me that this Clause, as drafted originally, was for another purpose, and this is a face saving device.

    I am not sure what the Opposition what. We are indifferent whether this Amendment goes in or not. The Opposition asked for it and we agreed to it in another place. If they do not want it we will vote with them and restore the Clause to its original state.

    The right hon. and learned Gentleman did say in reply to me that he wanted to bring the penalties under this Clause into line with the penalties under the Merchant Shipping Act. Has he anything to say about that?

    It does not arise in relation to this Amendment. This Amendment is to Clause 10 (1) which is giving a definition as to the particulars which may be asked for. If hon. Members want the wide Clause as originally drafted it is all right by us. If they want the Amendment it is equally all right.

    Could the right hon. and learned Gentleman tell us what

    "particulars of the country in which he last permanently resided"
    means? Is it a matter of a name?

    This is the wisdom of another place in defining a matter which they think should be inserted.

    The hon. and gallant Gentleman has already spoken and cannot address the House again on this point.

    Surely we can have the opinion of the right hon. and learned Gentleman in regard to the points put by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Daventry (Mr. Manning-ham-Buller)? He asked the right hon. and learned Gentleman several points, including why nationality was not mentioned and what sort of particulars were going to be required. Surely it is within the powers of the right hon. and learned Gentleman—and I admire his powers—to tell us.

    Anyone who has followed the Debate in another place will be familiar with this. I assume that all hon. Members interested in this matter will have followed the Debate in another place. However, if hon. Members want to know why nationality is not here, it is because it is unnecessary inasmuch as the nationality of people can be got from the travel documents which they have. If hon. Members want to know what "particulars" means, it is a phrase which is always used in connection with giving a definition of a place of residence and particulars of that place of residence. It is a perfectly familiar phrase for that.

    The right hon. Gentleman has already spoken and cannot speak again.

    Surely I am entitled to ask a question by leave of the House. The reply of the right hon. and learned Gentleman is still further provoking. If he says the particulars of nationality are already apparent from travelling documents, can that not apply, too, to the other particulars which are asked for? Why is this necessary?

    2.15 p.m.

    I want to speak on a more serious point than has been raised so far. First, I want to support strongly the remarks made by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Buller). This Amendment affects one who is very dear to the President of the Board of Trade and who might be described as the precious pet of the Board of Trade—the gentleman with dollars in infinite abundance. The House will realise that I am referring to Mr. Rank. He has got to import a large number of ladies of dubious ages into this country in order to swell our film trade receipts. If, in fact, the President of the Board of Trade is going to force these ladies from Hollywood to disclose their exact ages, Mr. Rank will pot be in a position to bring in the millions of dollars which he has promised to us. I attach very great importance to the Board of Trade's statement about the great number of dollars which they hope will be earned in the United States of America by exporting British films.

    I strayed into a path which I should have avoided. I should have stuck to the particulars which are mentioned in this Amendment. I beg the President of the Board of Trade, whose wintry charms appeal even to film actresses, not to go—

    I do hot know whether that remark is out of Order, but I do not think it has anything to do with the Clause.

    It is a tribute to the President of the Board of Trabe and I hope that the President, realising his responsibilities for the film trade, will take some notice of these really substantial points raised by my hon. and learned Friend. We are very anxious to get on with the Business in order to come to the Companies Bill, but if the President of the Board of Trade adopts a sort of Gandhi-like attitude and will not answer the points put to him it does not help. A little courtesy would do no harm, and might speed up business.

    I should like to ask the President of the Board of Trade what exactly is meant by "entering the country." As the House will be aware, many people come to this country by air en route for Europe, and they may land at one of our airports for purposes of refreshment or refuelling. Is it intended to imply by the phrases used in this Bill that persons who land here en route for other countries are to be subjected to this formality? The second point I wish to raise is why we require only "his" age and not "her" age.

    Is it intended that this shall not apply to women at all, and is it after all true to say that the President of the Board of Trade is not so harsh as he appears to be and is ready to exclude women from this requirement? I should like to have those two points clear in my mind, and I am sure that right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench do no: wish members of the Opposition to hi, lacking in clarity on points of law.

    I am in some difficult) on this matter not having heard the whole of the discussion, but I have listened to the last two or three speeches, in which the right hon. and learned Gentleman has been asked to give further information. I have had the honour of watching and listening to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for years, and have a great appreciation of his capacity to give information.

    The hon. Gentleman must confine his remarks to the Amendment which we are discussing.

    The Amendment is concerned with persons entering and leaving the United Kingdom, and we very much want more information as to what precisely is meant. I was trying to show that I believed that it would be very easy to obtain that information. I do not think I should be justified in asking for anything which was difficult, but this information is easy to obtain and I am suspicious of a matter of this kind which affects important and useful people coming into this country. This matter A entering and leaving is one on which we have always expected full information, and for that reason, realising how able the President of the Board of Trade was, I was asking him whether he would assist us in a matter of this kind affecting conditions of egress from or entry into this country. Why is it necessary in all cases to ascertain the exact occupation of the person concerned? Is this a kind of Gestapo inquisition in which the Government really want to know whether a person is a Communist for instance? Communism might be considered an occupation, and we who stand for liberty should assure ourselves that this provision is not to be used as an opportunity for persecuting the Communist Party.

    If you say it is out of Order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I am bound to accept that—

    If the hon. Member does not know, then I will rule that it is out of Order.

    I fully accept that when we are dealing with a matter of describing the occupation of a person and the country to which he belongs, that does not cover the political side of anyone coming into this country. In other words, we have arrived at the position where the Government may not make any political inquiries concerning anyone coming here, and I am rather glad that we have had that laid down so clearly, because I was a little afraid of this position.

    I rise to say that I think that this Amendment is a considerable improvement of the Bill and that I am not worried about the position of Communists as the result of it. I am, however, very seriously worried about the aggravation of the Communists, and I must say that the hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) has made a thorough study of and has become an expert in the laws of aggravation.

    Question put, and agreed to.

    Clause 17—(Interpretation)

    Lords Amendment: In page 9, line 37, after ("Food") insert ("the Minister of National Insurance").

    I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

    At the present time the Minister of National Insurance is not empowered to obtain information for statistical purposes under the National Insurance Act, but I think that it will be quite obvious that in the course of his administration of that Act it will be found necessary for the Minister to collect quite a lot of information for statistical purposes. This Amendment, therefore, seeks to add the Minister of National Insurance as one of the competent authorities under the Bill so that if he needs statistical information about the insured population, additional to that which becomes available to him in the normal administration of the Act he may be able to collect it.

    While we are not opposed to the Government acquiring knowledge, it is rather odd that at this late stage we should be asked to add to the list of Government Departments which can all ask any question they think fit under Clause I. I am at a loss to know from what the Parliamentary Secretary has said what particular type of statistics it is thought that the Minister of National Insurance will require. I have not studied the whole of the list in Subsection (3), but if any Government Department of any magnitude is omitted from it, and if this is the last big Government Department to be included, surely it would be much simpler to say "every Government Department" instead of setting out this list of Departments, row numbering 20 I believe, which can ask any questions they like of any individual and make it a criminal offence not to answer?

    Like my hon. and learned Friend, I am rather doubtful why this list should include the Minister of National Insurance. It seems to me that all the information which the Minister of National Insurance might require could be obtained from the figures which are produced by the Ministry of Labour or those which come into the hands of the Board of Trade or the Registrar of births and deaths. I cannot see what kind of statistics it is expected that the Minister of National Insurance may require, and I imagine that the Parliamentary Secretary was unable to see either; otherwise he would have given the House some instances. He has not done so, and I would like him now to tell us what exact set of statistics will be produced by including this Minister in the Bill which would not be available from the Ministry of Labour or the Registrar of births and deaths. If the hon. Gentleman does this I feel sure that we shall be much happier about it than we are at the present time.

    2.30 p.m.

    I do not favour the inclusion of these words because we have been told that the purpose of the Bill is to collect statistics quickly and easily. The more Government Departments concerned there are, the more difficult that will be, because the more they are piling up figures, the slower the process will be. There has been an enormous increase in the amount of statistics coming in at a time when we have a shortage of staff of the quality needed to do this work.

    The hon. Member must really address himself to the Amendment on the Order Paper. He appears to be ranging over the whole question.

    I am very sorry if that is so, but I am trying to show that by adding this Department the process of the Bill will be slowed up. It would lead to delay. I say that on behalf of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, who should be protecting his own interests, and cutting down the number of Departments to be included. If he is not going to protect himself and support me on this question, all I can say is that it is quite hopeless to try to help the Government in any way.

    I do not propose to say anything about the desire of the hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) to assist the President of the Board of Trade. My opinion on that might well be guessed. In answer to the hon. Member for Bucklow (Mr. W. Shepherd), in connection with the Unemployment Insurance Acts the Ministry of Labour took a complete count of the insured population each July when the employment books were exchanged. They will no longer be the competent authority to do that, and under present arrangements it would be impracticable for the Ministry of National Insurance to have all the cards exchanged on the same date. Because of that, there would be no complete count of the insured population on any particular date. Therefore, we have to find some other means to obtain what is very necessary statistical information about the insured population. In order that it should be as nearly comparable as possible in scope and completeness with that which is now obtained, it is essential that it should be closely related to the operations of the Ministry of National Insurance, and this Amendment is designed to give the opportunity to collect those necessary statistics.

    From where is the Ministry of National Insurance to get the figures if not from the Ministry of Labour?

    Question put, and agreed to.

    Remaining Lords Amendments agreed to.

    Industrial Organisation Bill

    Lords Amendments considered.

    Clause 1—(Power To Establish Development Councils, And Purposes Thereof)

    Lords Amendment: In page 2, line 22, at end insert:

    "A Development Council order shall not be made unless the Board or Minister concerned is satisfied that the establishment of a Development Council for the industry is desired by a substantial number of the persons engaged in the industry."

    2.33 p.m.

    I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

    This Amendment emanated in another place from Members of the Opposition, and its effect is to prevent Ministers from making development council Orders unless they are satisfied that a substantial number of persons engaged in the industry concerned, whether employers or workers, are in favour of establishment of such a council. The Bill as it stands requires Ministers to consult representative organisations in the industry concerned before making an Order. Originally, it did not put Ministers under an obligation to obtain the agreement of the industry, or any part of it, before doing so. During the various stages of the Bill's passage it has been made obvious that hon. and right hon. Members opposite were anxious about this point, and they addressed Amendments which would have the effect of limiting the powers of Ministers to impose councils on unwilling industries. Those Amendments were resisted mainly on the ground that it was in the national interest for Ministers to retain in their own hands power to override the wishes of people in the industry in extreme cases where the establishment of a council was essential for the future wellbeing of the industry, and its development in the national interest.

    This Amendment concedes the principle that there should be some restriction of the Minister's power to set up a council against the wishes of the industry, but it leaves the Minister a wide descretion. He is now required to get support not from the whole industry or both sides, but merely from a substantial number of persons engaged in the industry, and they may be made up of employers, or workers, or both. As I have pointed out on two or three occasions, safeguards are inserted in the Bill against the imposition in the national interest of councils against the wishes of the industry and if the industry or a greater part of it, is not prepared to work with the development council there is no power to make them do so. That safeguard has been there all the time, and now there is the additional safeguard that a substantial number of persons engaged in the industry must agree.

    We on this side of the House welcome the Amendment, which is similar to the provision for which we pressed on earlier stages. Although it has not gone very far, we must be thankful for small mercies. We have had a great many assurances that the Board of Trade would not, except in extreme instances, impose a development council on an industry. But I was surprised that the Parliamentary Secretary said it still left the President of the Board of Trade with very wide powers. He has very wide powers elsewhere, but the effect of this Amendment is not to make use of those powers possible, but to provide that a substantial number of persons should be in favour of him using this power. I say that for the purpose of accuracy, because what he said was not strictly accurate. He said that because it left the decision to the President of the Board of Trade, therefore, it gave an almost unlimited range over the field, but it is only after he has satisfied himself that a substantial number of persons engaged in the industry agree, that he can impose a council. Otherwise, I find myself in the unusual role of thanking the Government for having at long last followed some of the various contentions which we advanced at other stages of the Bill. This partial conversion, however flickering the light may be, is very welcome and unusual to us on this side of the House.

    I am rather surprised to hear the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton) giving praise to this particular Amendment. It surprised me because it is the first time, within my knowledge, that the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to give to the trade union section, or the workers' section of an industry, the right to determine whether this Clause shall apply. To take a particular industry, as an example, supposing there are 80, 000 operatives engaged in it, and 500 manufacturers, then if the workers' side of the industry agree that a development council is needed, the numbers they represent is obviously a substantial proportion of that industry. I feel that there was no need to make this particular Amendment. The original Clause contained all that was required to give the Minister the power, and the Amendment is merely a sop to the conscience of the Opposition by saying, "Here is an Amendment which will do something." If the Amendment means what I think it means, one sick of the industry will be able to determine whether there shall be a development council, which is, obviously, as it should be.

    I was rather surprised, as I have no doubt were my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench, to hear the interpretation placed upon this Clause by the hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Attewell). The hon. Member lives in a world of some 20 or 30 or 40 years ago, from which he cannot escape, and in which there was always a cleavage of opinion between the views held by employers, on the one hand, and by employees, on the other. That is not a situation which exists today, and it would be futile to imagine that in any particular industry—

    As the hon. Member has challenged me, I would point out that I am a member of the Boot and Shoe Operatives' Union, which represents up to 90,000 operatives, and which has declared for a development council, the employers have declared against it.

    That does not in any way disprove what I was about to say. It is true that there may be, in a particular industry, a majority of employers who are against the establishment of a development council, but that does not mean that within that industry there are not employers who are in favour of it. I have no doubt that in the boot and shoe industry there is quite a substantial minority of employers who want a development council. Therefore, the condition no longer obtains of all the employers being on one side and all the employees on another. What this Amendment does, which is why we approve of it, is that it gives the President of the Board of Trade the discretion where such a condition exists—where there is probably a small minority on one side or the other for or against a development council—to decide whether such a council should be imposed.

    We feel that in the setting forth of this condition that a substantial number of the persons in the industry shall be in favour, we have a safeguard, though it is a small one. Most industries which are doubtful about development councils are afraid that the President of the Board of Trade will use these powers harshly. We approve of this Amendment because it gives a certain amount of satisfaction to those who may think along those lines. During the time this Bill has been discussed, we have said that no conceivable benefit, either to the national interest or to the more narrow interest of the Government of the day, can result from forcing upon an industry a development council. Such a council will only succeed if it is successful in building up an area of good will, in which all sides of the industry are prepared to contribute something for its general well being. If these conditions do not obtain, these development councils, even if they are imposed, will merely become a piece of derelict machinery. Therefore, we are glad of the small assurance and the small safeguard which this Amendment affords

    Question put, and agreed to.

    Clause 2—(Constitution, Etc, Of Development Councils)

    Lords Amendment: In page 3, line 11, at end, insert:

    "and shall contain provision for securing that the persons who are included as being of the categories specified in paragraphs (a) and (b) of the last preceding subsection shall together be of a number constituting a majority of the members of the council"

    2.45 p.m.

    I beg to move, "This House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

    This Amendment carries out a promise I made during the course of the Report stage.

    I would like to thank the President of the Board of Trade for fulfilling so entirely the promise he gave us. During the Committee stage, we pressed the point of trying to secure that either side—either employers or employed—on the development councils, should, under the Bill, have a majority over the independent members. The President of the Board of Trade has not been prepared to go so far as that, but this Amendment, as it stands, has some significance for the hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Attewell), who was apparently unable to conceive of circumstances in which employers and employed were in agreement. That happens, and it happens much more often than the hon. Member appears to credit as likely. This Amendment means that if the employers and the employed are both agreed on a subject, they cannot be voted down by the independent members who are appointed at the disposition of the President of the Board of Trade. Therefore, once again, we have a case in which a Governmental wish may not he imposed upon an unwilling industry. An unwilling industry, in this connection, means an industry both sides of which agree that something is desirable or undesirable. I would ask the House to remember that these cases of both sides of industry knowing their own business, and agreeing how it shall be conducted, are much more frequent than those who study the OFFICIAL REPORT might be led to suppose.

    I wish to elucidate something in respect of category (c). Is it the intention of the Government to appoint civil servants as independent members? There is a good deal of misunderstanding upon this issue in the country. I have seen it recorded in trade journals that it is the Government's intention to fill all these positions of independent members with civil servants, and so gain control, or an aspect of control, over these development councils.

    No, Sir, that is not the intention. It would be entirely contrary to the intention and object to put civil servants in such positions. I do not say that if both sides of an industry came and asked us, for some particular reason, to put a particular civil servant on the council for a particular period of time, we might not consent. But the appointment of civil servants to those positions would be contrary to all my ideas, and to the Bill.

    Question put, and agreed to.

    Clause 5—(Restriction On Disclosure Of Information)

    Lords Amendment: In page 5, line 41, at end, insert:

    "(4) A Development Council order shall make provision for ensuring that, where under powers conferred by virtue of either of the two last preceding sections a requirement is imposed to furnish returns or other information relating to an individual business or to produce for examination hooks or other documents or records, and the person on whom the requirement is made uses in his business what he claims to be a secret process that ought not to be disclosed on the ground of risk of prejudice to his business, he shall not be subject to any liability for withholding disclosure of any particulars relating to the process unless the form of the requirement and the making of it in that form have been approved by the Board or Minister concerned after consideration of his claim."

    I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

    This Amendment is designed to protect trade secrets. During the passage of the Bill the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton) and many of his hon. Friends frequently asked that we should introduce into the Bill some provision to protect trade secrets During the Committee stage an assurance was given that we did not contemplate that development councils would, in fact, use their powers to obtain this kind of information. I do not think that he was very satisfied with an assurance of that kind. On the Report stage my right hon. and learned Friend promised to put down an Amendment providing further safeguards against the abuse of a council's power in this way, in order to give to industrialists as little reason as possible for apprehension. I agree that we should do everything we can to remove from the minds of industrialists any fear that they would be exposed to the opening up of their trade secrets. I believe that this Amendment will have dial effect.

    Again, I thank the President of the Board of Trade.For having made us easy on this point. That was not so easy to do as it appears at first sight. The difficulty about protecting trade secrets was that if there was unlimited power by industrialists to say that any process was secret they would find it in their power to prevent the operation of necessary parts of this Bill acting. At the same time, it must be recognised that there are processes, perhaps not covered by patents or by what the Americans call "know-how," which it would be very embarrassing for a manufacturer to have to disclose even to a development council especially when that council, in the nature of things must have Independent members on it from other industries. Therefore, my suggestion was that if we left it in the ultimate power of the Minister to decide whether the information regarding a secret process was to be asked for, then we would get as near satisfying the apprehensions that we have on this side of the House as is possible. I think this carries out that undertaking which was given during the Committee stage and we welcome it for that reason.

    I would like to assure the Parliamentary Secretary that he need not get worried I am not going to ask him a question, whether I think that he would answer it or not. I want to say—and I speak, neither as an industrialist nor a trade union leader — that I welcome this Amendment. I believe that it is essential that we should do nothing whatever to create suspicion about this Bill in any section of industry. I wish that the Parliamentary Secretary would not look at me in such an unkindly way. I am not going to say anything unkind to him. I merely wish to congratulate his chief on having accepted the bigger and wider view on this matter. I know that he is trying to remove distrust. We had a good deal of discussion on this point earlier. The Bill has gone through its various stages. I am glad that we have been able to accomplish something and that we have done something to relieve what is a very natural and just suspicion. I feel sure that these statistics will not be used for other than absolutely necessary purposes and that they will be kept secret. I think that it would have been right for some ordinary member who represents the trade, especially the trade unions, to get up and to say how glad he is that the employers' side have been helped by the Government on this point.

    Question put, and agreed to.

    Remaining Lords Amendments agreed to.

    Companies' Bill Lords

    Order for consideration, as amended, read.

    2.55 P.m.

    I beg to move:

    That the Bill be re-committed to a Committee of the whole House in respect of the Amendments to Clause 43, page 40, line 26; Clause 46, page 43, line 18 and Clause 46, page 43, line 46, standing on the Notice Paper in my name, and in respect of Clause 6g."
    The reason for this is that it has been suggested that possibly one of these Amendments might cause an extra charge. I think it is a possibility, and I suggest that when we get into Committee it would be convenient to consider all the Amendments together and to deal with all the points at once.

    I fully agree with the advice given by the President of the Board of Trade and I hope that we can get on with the Bill.

    May I ask a question in regard to Clause 69? Will it be possible for that Clause to be discussed fully in all its implications and may we ask questions about it—or may I ask some questions now and have an answer?

    Yes, the appropriate Clause will be before the Committee at the appropriate time.

    Question put, and agreed to.

    Bill immediately considered in Committee.

    [MAJOR MILNER in the Chair.]

    On a point of Order. I think the most convenient way of proceeding would be if we were to deal with all these Amendments on the Order Paper on recommittal at the same time so that I may be able to make a general statement in regard to them. I hope that we shall be able to cover all the points. If hon. Members feel that that is not convenient, then we will proceed, taking them one by one.

    I think myself that the course suggested would be convenient. If there is any objection, it is a matter for the Committee. These Amendments more or less hang together.

    I think, Major Milner, that on consideration the Committee will see that these are all points dealing with the question of Clause 46. They all turn on one general argument. Therefore, if we take them together we could take the general argument as a whole but we could take a separate vote.

    On a point of Order. As I understand it, there are one or two Amendments to proposed Amendments. Of course, it depends on the Chair whether they are called, but it would help us if we knew whether or not they are likely to be called, if it is possible to be told at this time. They are separate Amendments and it would help us to know whether we might have a discussion on them or whether the whole matter must be discussed as one.

    It seems to me that the first Amendment —in Clause 43, page 40, to leave out lines 26 and 27—deals with quite a different point from the other Amendments. While there appears to be no objection to con- sidering the other Amendments together, there seems to be a certain objection to taking the first one with them. It appears to deal with an entirely separate point and, though I may be wrong, I feel that if we try to take them together we shall take up much more time than if we we dealt with that one separately.

    Clause 43—(Inspection Of Company's Affairs In Other Cases)

    3.0 p.m.

    I beg to move, in page 40, to leave out lines 26 and 27.

    The reason for this Amendment is because of some doubt which has been cast upon the significance of the words
    "and if it also appears to the Board that the matter is one of public concern."
    During the Committee stage, it was doubted whether that would not limit the exercise of the powers given to the Board as regards investigations, which powers were desired to be very wide powers because of what was taking the place of the various other Clauses, which had formerly been there, as regards nominee shareholders. It is, of course, obvious that, in any case, the powers of the Board under this Clause must be discretionary, subject to what I might say on the next Amendment, and these words, possibly, do appear to have a somewhat narrower significance than was intended, particularly having regard to the fact that, in Clause 46, dealing with the appointment of inspectors, the words used are:
    "Where it appears to the Board of Trade that there is good reason so to do."
    It was thought that the courts might read the words as in some measure distinguishing from that state of affairs. We do not want to limit the distinction in Clause 43 by putting in the words "The matter is one of public concern," because that is going to be read so as to make it more limited, and we therefore suggest that it would be better to leave those words out rather than try to qualify, in a rather dubious way, these discretionary powers.

    We are very grateful to the President of the Board of Trade for his explanation. It seems to me to be a very much tidier arrangement and so far as my hon. Friends are concerned, we entirely accept it.

    I rather feel that it would not be advisable to leave out these words at all, because there are matters which may be of public concern and which may not come under Subsection (1, b). I want to refer to a particular instance where we might consider that it was a matter for investigation or public concern, but which did not come under this Subsection.

    For a long time, we in Liverpool have been cursed, if I might say so, with he difficulties of the greyhound racing track of a company which was formed in 1935, and, peculiarly enough, was taken over by another company, which some of us on the Betting and Lotteries Committee in Liverpool felt was not a fair section of the people to represent the money that came in on greyhound racing. The Betting and Lotteries Committee in Liverpool have paid a very great deal of attention to this matter and have gone very deeply into the question of the shareholders and those who control the company, and, while we are positive that there is somebody in the background who has had a conviction for fraud and has actually been in prison for that fraud, we are unable, because of the limited details that are given, to put our fingers on that particular individual. Therefore, I would think that, in instances of that sort, and there must be many of them, it would be a matter of public concern whether it would be necessary for an investigation by representatives of the Board of Trade. Let me go more fully into this matter. This particular company has shares to a very great amount. Its shares are in the nature of over 1,800,000 shilling shares—

    May I interrupt the hon. Lady? She is under a misapprehension as regards this Amendment. The words which are proposed to be left out are an added limitation to the Clause. It is not that leaving them out would allow more to be done; it would allow less to be done, and, by taking the words out, it gives a wider discretion to the Board of Trade and not a narrower one. Therefore the hon. Lady's argument is in favour of the Amendment.

    Most people would understand—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Well, then, I do not understand what hon. Members opposite understand, and I am very glad that I do not. I take it that it would give wider power, but if my right hon. and learned Friend says it does not, then I can continue my speech in support of the Government. I would much sooner do that.

    The position is that there have been so many changes of shareholders in this company, from time to time, and so much complication about the matter, that the Liverpool Betting and Lotteries Committee, because they were unable to obtain the necessary information, have been compelled to issue licences to this track, although the majority of us are certain that this company is being—

    On a point of Order. This is very interesting, but, surely, Major Milner, it should come under Clause 46, and should not be discussed on this Amendment.

    I understand that the hon. Lady has put forward a proposition with regard to this Clause which enables inspection to take place. I do not know whether it is necessary or desirable for the hon. Lady to go into further details, having regard to the fact that her object will he achieved by this Amendment which I gather is acceptable to all sides of the Committee.

    Further to that point of Order. If hon. Members will look at Clause 46, they will see that it is the one which deals with the

    "Appointment and powers of inspectors to investigate ownership of company."
    This Clause has nothing to do with the ownership or directorship of companies.

    I do not think that the hon. Lady is out of Order. She has, however, been assured by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade that there are adequate powers of inspection in respect to the case she has in mind, but if she desires to continue she may do so on her own responsibility.

    I want to finish the statement I started to make because it is of such great importance to the Liverpool area. There are numbers of people in that area who could easily have been defrauded if certain steps had not been taken with reference to the flotation of a company, and I want to be certain that there are sufficient powers under this Clause to deal with this particuar matter in Liverpool.

    I think the hon. Lady is now going beyond the particular Amendment before the Committee, which is to leave out lines 26 and 27 in page 40. It does not seem to me, in order either to support or to oppose that particular Amendment, that it is necessary to go so much into the details of the case which the hon. Lady is putting forward. I think that she is going beyond the Amendment before the Committee.

    Can you tell me, Major Milner, under which particular Clause I can raise this matter, because it is of great public interest, so far as Liverpool is concerned, and I have a responsibility in regard to it?

    On a point of Order. Would not the hon. Lady be able to raise the matter quite easily on Clause 46? It seems to me that would be the proper Clause on which to raise it. I would like your guidance, Major Milner, as to whether, if some of us want to say something on this point, it will be in Order?

    At any rate, I do not think this is an Amendment on which to raise the matter. Clause 46 may he the right one.

    Clause 46 appears to deal with the question of the appointment and powers of inspectors to investigate the ownership of a company. My point is not concerned quite with the ownership of a company. It is a question of the control and appointment of shareholders for particular purposes. It is a question not of ownership, but of which person or persons have the right to appoint shareholders in order to keep the company going. [Interruption.] I do not need to make any reference to Liverpool, and I might say to hon. Members opposite that when I make a statement I make it irrespective of what comments come from the other side of the Committee. I am not asking for the guidance of hon. Members opposite. I am asking your guidance, Major Milner, as to whether I can raise this matter later. If you give me your assurance that I can, I will leave the matter now and I will proceed with it on Clause 46.

    Before you give your Ruling, Major Milner, may I be permitted to point out that on Clause 43 we are discussing a question of the rights and powers of the Board of Trade to appoint inspectors to inspect a company's affairs in various cases. As my hon. Friend the Member for the Exchange Division of Liverpool (Mrs. Braddock) has mentioned, Clause 46 deals merely with the powers of inspectors to investigate the ownership of companies. In what I regard as a most interesting and valuable speech which the hon. Lady was in process of making, we were being told of a specific instance concerning a company's affairs which are being conducted in a manner which may be unlawful or oppressive, or which may involve precisely the set of circumstances which Clause 43 is designed to cover. I submit it would be very unfortunate if, after hon. Members have challenged the suggestion of my right hon. and learned Friend that we should discuss all these Amendments together, and after having insisted that they should be dealt with separately, that the hon. Lady should not be allowed to continue her argument on Clause 43.