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Clause 30—(Special Provisions As To Crown User During Emergency)

Volume 467: debated on Friday 22 July 1949

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I beg to move, in page 22, line 23, to leave out Clause 30.

This matter was discussed during the Committee stage of the Bill, and we are raising it again in the hope that we may obtain an additional explanation from the Government. The Clause deals essentially with the protection of the position of a particular user in an emergency, and, from a careful study of it, the situation seems to be entirely covered by the Supplies and Services Act, and this Clause is therefore unnecessary. The Supplies and Services Act continues until September, 1950, and we have heard it stated at Blackpool at the recent Labour Party Conference, that it is the intention of the Government, if returned to power, to continue that Act permanently from year to year.

Therefore, there seems to be no possible justification for the repetition in a separate Bill of what are really powers under the Supplies and Services Act. Indeed, the powers would appear to be identical, with the possible exception of subsection (1, a), but that is a matter which was so self-evident as to hardly require statement in the Clause at all. We do not think that the Clause represents anything which is requirable; it is just another example of repetitive powers, of having one's cake and eating it as well, of having the blanket powers of the Supplies and Services Act, and, just to make sure, putting the relevant powers all over again into Clause 30 of this Bill. We therefore seek to delete this Clause in the belief that it is unnecessary and redundant.

I beg to second the Amendment.

As my hon. Friend has said, we have had considerable discussion on this point—not always clear, I fear—as to what the real intention was, and whether, in fact, the Supplies and Services Act could apply all the machinery necessary in the circumstances. What we now want to learn from the Parliamentary Secretary is whether this Bill goes outside the provisions of the Supplies and Services Act. If it does, it justifies the present Clause, but if it does not, then we feel that the Clause is unnecessary.

This is not actually a case of repetitive legislation as suggested by the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Erroll). It is rather a case which is equally frequent, of the hon. Member making a speech without thinking, first of all, what he is ging to say. I admit that this is a complicated matter, but I believe there is a perfectly rational explanation, and if the hon. Member will bear with me while I take it rather slowly I shall try to satisfy him.

In the first place, there are no new powers being taken by Clause 30 which do not exist at the moment. In the second place, we are pulling together in Clause 30 and making permanent, not a state of emergency, but the form of procedure which we propose to use in relation to patents when a state of emergency exists, in accordance with the recommendation of the Swan Committee, who have recommended that we should set down in this Bill the particular form of procedure to be related to patents in a state of emergency, without, of course, addressing themselves—as they could not—to the question, which is a quite different one, of the circumstances in which a state of emergency might or might not exist.

The point made by both the mover and the seconder of this Amendment was that since these powers already exist by virtue of the Supplies and Services Act, they were unnecessary in this Bill. That is not true. In the first place, the Supplies and Services Act is temporary legislation, and if we are discussing this matter in serious terms, the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale will realise quite well that the question of what might happen in the future about some possible perpetuation of all or part of the Supplies and Services Act has nothing whatever to do with this at all.

The real issue is that Clause 25 of this Bill, which we have already passed by, repeals Section 29 of the principal Act; and all the emergency powers at present available, that is, the same powers set out in Clause 30, derive from and are dependent on subsections (1, a) and (1, b) of Section 29 of the principal Act which we are now in the process of repealing. The complicated part of this comes in the chain of connection by which we build up from that Section of the principal Act, and I shall endeavour to put this as clearly as I can.

The provisions of subsection (1, a) and (1, b), of Section 29 of the principal Act were extended by Section 7 of the Emergency Laws (Transitional Provisions) Act, 1946, and that Section added to the purposes specified in subsection (1, a) various other purposes, namely, those specified in Section 1 (1) of the Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers) Act, 1945. Those purposes were further extended by the Supplies and Services (Extended Purposes) Act, 1947. I apologise to the House for the complications of that, but there is a chain moving from one piece of legislation to another, all of which rests on Section 29 of the principal Act which we are now repealing. All those powers are available until December, 1950, because they are preserved by the Emergency Laws (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1947, and they would disappear except for this Clause which the Opposition are moving to leave out.

The moment Clause 25 of this Bill becomes law, Section 29 of the principal Act is repealed so that, unless we leave in Clause 30, the whole of that edifice falls to the ground. That would, I think, be obviously undesirable, and would also be contrary to the recommendation of the Swan Committee. I again apologise for the complexity of that, but I think it is a valid explanation, and I hope, therefore, that in those circumstances hon. Members opposite will not press to remove this Clause, which would, I assure them, be a regrettable thing to do.

After hearing how complicated was the answer, I think it was unfortunate for the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to say that I had not studied the subject properly. It is very difficult to follow the full implications of the subject, as the hon. Gentleman's answer indicated. However, I appreciate his reply, and beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.