House Of Commons
Friday, 21st July, 1950
The House met at Eleven o'Clock
[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]
British Transport Commission Bill
Order read for consideration of Lords Amendments.
I wish to raise a point of order. The Motion on the Order Paper, which I might point out relates to the British, and not, as printed on the Order Paper, the "Bristol" Transport Commission Bill, is for the consideration of Amendments made in another place. There were, in fact, three pages of such Amendments, but the only copy available to hon. Members of this House is one kept in the Private Bill Office, and the promoters, in spite of a request made to them yesterday, have refused to supply a copy of these Amendments.I would ask you, Mr. Speaker, how it is possible for hon. Members to discharge their duties in dealing with these complicated Amendments to an important Bill if the only copy available is one in the Private Bill Office. I seek your guidance.
The remedy is in the hon. Member's own hands, merely to object, and then we can look into the matter. I have not had time to look into it myself.
I am much obliged, Sir.
Lords Amendments to be considered upon Monday next.
Pier And Harbour Provisional Order (Cattewater) Bill
Lords Amendment considered, and agreed to.
Granton Harbour Order Confirmation Bill
Greenock Port And Harbours Order Confirmation Bill
Read the Third time, and passed.
Edinburgh Corporation Order Confirmation Bill
Considered; to be read the Third time upon Monday next.
Orders Of The Day
Isle Of Man (Customs) Bill
Considered in Committee; reported without Amendment.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."
Would the Financial Secretary to the Treasury tell me why we have to go through this procedure every year? It seems to take up an unnecessary amount of time. Could not the provisions of this Bill be embodied in the Finance Bill?
Under the law as it stands it is necessary for the House to confirm resolutions of the legislative authority in the Isle of Man which passes those resolutions annually, but I will certainly examine the suggestion of the hon. Gentleman.
Question put, and agreed to.
Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.
Public Utilities Street Works Bill Lords
Order for Second Reading read.
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."Since I have had experience of the Ministry of Transport I have found the maintenance and keeping open of the streets and highways of this country for traffic a difficult problem. At this moment, especially in the centre of London, we are experiencing that type of problem. If, in the countryside, a large section of road is up, there is only a single carriageway, and if a number of heavy lorries get in the way, substantial obstruction develops rapidly, but in our built-up areas it is much more irritating and serious. At this time of year there is a good deal of criticism both from the Press and the public, but I would remind everyone that if the highway authorities neglected to maintain the standard of their highways, and there was deterioration, the criticism would soon be more serious than it is of the delays which occur through repairs and reconstruction. Nevertheless, in modern conditions—and I always admit the general inadequacy of our road system to cope with modern traffic—there is an added responsibility on everyone connected with the matter to do what they can to minimise the difficulties. In view of the problem of co-ordinating the activities of a variety of important statutory bodies, I welcome the opportunity of putting the recommendations of the Carnock Committee into the form of a Bill. This appeared to be such an obvious and simple reform that I was considerably surprised when I found it emerged in a Bill of 38 Clauses and seven Schedules.
And very complicated.
Yes. I feel that the. Bill is now fairly clear and acceptable after going through all its stages in another place, but if our discussions on Second Reading and in Committee show up any remaining weaknesses in drafting, I shall be pleased to avail myself of any further opportunity of improving the Bill. I admit that it is a technical Bill, but, provided we are satisfied that the interests of the responsible bodies have been safeguarded and that the purpose of the Bill is achieved, we need not be unduly disturbed on that account.The purpose of the Bill is a simple one, despite the fact that it is clothed in legal and technical language. The statutory undertakings are charged specifically with providing certain services to the community, which are a feature of the past 50 or 60 years but play an important part in the life of the community today. They all want to use the highway system as a means of providing those services and, in addition, some of our nationalised industries are also involved in the problem of laying pipes and apparatus along the highways. There are 25 general Acts governing the responsibilities of these statutory bodies and also, 4,000 or 5,000 private Acts apply. It appears to be an insoluble problem to pick out from those many private and general Acts all the relevant provisions and embody them in a Bill of this kind in order to minimise the inconvenience caused to the public in providing these primary services. During the discussions on this Bill in another place a good deal of negotiation has taken place on these points, and we have arrived at a sensible procedure by which to accommodate in this Bill all the necessary provisions contained in thousands of private Acts. The Bill seeks to establish a uniform code to apply to all statutory undertakings when they are involved in breaking up streets to lay their apparatus. Hon. Members who may have been more concerned with this problem even than I have may recall that in 1939 a Committee of both Houses was established under the Chairmanship of Lord Carnock to examine this problem, and see what solution could be found. In these matters responsibility is often so diffused that nothing is done for a long time. I want to assure the House that, however technical the language of the Bill, we have followed generally the recommendations of that Committee. Negotiations went on for some time between officers of my Department and representatives of both Governme4t Departments and statutory undertakers. We achieved a very large measure of agreement by the time the Bill was drafted. Consultations also took place with the county councils associations and the highway authorities for Scotland; and as I am now presenting this Bill with the very considerable—indeed, almost unanimous—approval of the bodies concerned I hope it will commend itself to this House for Second Reading today. The Bill is divided into four parts. Part I, covering the majority of the Clauses, is designed to establish this new code for statutory undertakers in the breaking up of streets. Part II deals with the circumstances which are bound to arise when the undertakers' apparatus is to be altered or is affected by street works. That kind of thing often leads to a good deal of irritation and difference of opinion. Part III, besides dealing with a number of important matters, deals with the restriction on the breaking up by undertakers of a highway recently repaired. Part IV is mainly procedural. Under Clauses 3 and 4 of Part I, undertakers must settle beforehand plans and sections of their proposed street works with the highway authorities. This practice, requiring undertakers to discuss their plans with other interested parties, is an important provision. It enables the other authorities to know what is going on and prevents anyone being taken by surprise. The resentment often felt by people who feel that their interests are being unreasonably treated causes a good deal of trouble. We shall avoid much of that difficulty by this procedure. I want to emphasise that the Bill is designed to protect the bodies concerned, and yet to seek the maximum co-operation between them. At the same time, regard is had for the convenience of the general public. When one is dealing with services to the community, like gas, water and sewerage, one must always make provision for any emergency work. That is safeguarded in the Bill, and we appreciate the experience of these undertakers in dealing with emergency work. If, by any chance, any of the undertakers' apparatus or pipes are to go over or under a railway bridge, or canal, they will have to give the same facility to the transport undertaking as they do, in other directions, to the highway authority. There is also, of course, provision in the Bill for any dispute to be settled by arbitration. Clause 5, together with the first Schedule, gives effect to what I consider was one of the main recommendations of the Carnock Committee, and represents some departure from existing practice. It will enable highway authorities to ensure that mains, pipes and cables can be laid in open land alongside the highway. It is amazing that we have neglected this in the past wherever there are verges on open land. Probably nothing is more aggravating to our common sense than to see some important stretch of our highway, after it has been relaid or resurfaced, immediately torn up for perhaps its whole length for the purpose of laying a sewer or water pipe. I experienced quite recently an example of that.
On the Dover road?
No, on the Colchester road.Hon. Members have shown such an immediate and acute interest in this particular reference that I am making, that I might develop it a little further. On a stretch of dual carriageway we have provided extensive verges. Sometimes I think we have used too much land for these verges. In all these matters we have such a common purpose in mind that I think we shall have to give much more thought to them in the future, and develop a more commonly recognised approach and standard in matters of this description. In the case to which I am referring, pipes were laid along the verges. Yet directly the road narrows and the traffic problem becomes acute, the traffic having become discharged from the dual carriageway, the whole of the road is torn up for the purpose of laying other water or sewage pipes. Even if we find that a Measure of this description does not anticipate all of those problems, nevertheless I feel that in the design and preparation of our roads we have to make provision to avoid a lot of these annoyances in the future. In more leisurely days it probably did not matter, but in view of the enormous capital which is invested in the vehicles which run on our roads we cannot afford unnecessary delays of this kind. Protection is given in the Bill so that the highway authorities will be able to see that the verges are used for this purpose, and I think that will represent a considerable gain to the community. If not, someone else ought to take the matter a step further. Clause 7 contains another important provision which enables the highway authorities themselves to have the right to reinstate their roads at the expense of those who have broken them up. I think that in a good many cases the highway authority concerned is likely to restore the road to its previous standard more rapidly and probably at less cost, and with more consideration for the public, than the undertakers who, of course, are specialists in laying their pipes and apparatus but are not exactly highway authorities. Clause 8 is mainly protective. It places upon the undertakers a responsibility to guard or light or fence their works on the road, for the safety of pedestrians, and, I suppose, primarily for the safety of road traffic.
May I put a question to the right hon. Gentleman on that point? Suppose that the highway authority exercise their powers under Clause 7 and give notice that they will reinstate the service. From the date of giving that notice will they be responsible for lighting and for the condition of the hole in the road?
While the work is in progress?
No, from the moment they have given notice.
I could not answer that point at the moment; I should like a little time to look into it. It is an important point. I certainly see the necessity for safeguarding the matter, if it has not already been safeguarded. It would not be right for the local authority to impose obligations unless on the other hand, they too accepted a similar responsibility. I should say that a matter of that kind would have been safeguarded in the discussions, but for the moment I am not able to give a clear and specific reply. However, as I say, they would not only have the responsibility of guarding and lighting, but they would have to clear away the rubbish and the obstruction as quickly as possible. These heaps are not only unsightly but they can also become a source of annoyance and danger.The provisions in Part II are mainly designed to establish a procedure when undertakers' apparatus is affected because of the alteration to a road or a bridge which carries it or goes over it. In this respect there has been considerable dispute in the past. The Carnock Committee gave very full and deliberate consideration to these matters, and one of their major recommendations was to the effect that the cost of moving or altering the apparatus should fall on the party carrying out the road or bridge alterations. If we can get that firmly and squarely established as the responsibility of those who are carrying out the alteration, it will represent a considerable improvement. When I was explaining Part I of the Bill I deferred dealing with Clause 15, which brings me back again to the problem of what is alleged to be a complex point in this Bill, namely, the fact that it deals with so much retrospective or past legislation. Clauses 15 and 24, with the Fifth and Sixth Schedules, are linked together for the purpose of dealing with this problem. I am assured by the draftsmen that we now have a very satisfactory solution of the matter, and that is the method by which we propose to arrange for this code to supersede the relevant provisions which apply in these other Acts of Parliament. So far as the general Acts are concerned, they do not present a lot of difficulty. In the Fifth Schedule they are dealt with in the form of straightforward amendments of the provisions which are affected. But in dealing with the thousands of private Acts, all of them having some reference to the matters which are sought to be dealt with by this street code, some other method had to be adopted, because, quite clearly, it was an impossible task to search through the whole of those private Acts with a view to making the necessary amendments. I do not see how we could ever have got this Bill to its present stage if we had followed that policy. By a process of cesser provision we had to over-ride all these relevant provisions, but quite clearly one had to anticipate that in some agreement or in some other provision these cesser provisions were not completely adequate. It was desirable, therefore, that if any defect of that kind was disclosed the Minister should have power to rectify it. There is no desire here to take away any of the existing powers of an undertaker. There is no desire to supersede any decision of Parliament. What is desired is to bring the matter into relation to modern conditions and preserve it in a sensible way. While these cesser provisions, in a general way clear, the whole of these thousands of private Acts out of the way, and replace them with this new street code, nevertheless powers are given to the Minister, in the Sixth Schedule, to deal with any defects either by an express amendment or by an order for the purpose of restoring that right if it is not clearly expressed. I do not think I have clearly conveyed what is the purpose here but perhaps I may say that, generally, it is to see that if any right has been removed by the cesser provision, then the Minister has power to restore it. Part IV makes this procedure apply generally, as it is adapted to Scotland and London. London, in particular, has had certain advantages in the past and these are now made general. The Bill applies not only to statutory authorities like gas and water and sewerage authorities, and to bodies like the G.P.O., but also to the Ministry of Transport, which is also a highway authority as far as the trunk roads are concerned. All of these bodies have been consulted continually during the process of this Bill and I should like to acknowledge as fully as I can the co-operation which we have received from their representatives. Many of the interests involved tend to conflict and I do not think we could have brought this Bill forward so rapidly had I not secured a very large degree of co-operation from all those concerned. It has represented a process of give and take, in the very nature of things, and it is an excellent example of commonsense compromise. Everyone who has taken part in the discussions has recognised that the main purpose of the Bill is not to interfere, limit, restrict, or remove any of the existing rights of undertakers, but to see that, in carrying out their public responsibilities for limited services, they do not create a larger disservice to the community by coming unnecessarily into conflict one with another. I think every one has recognised—and it has been recognised particularly in another place—the co-operation of the county councils and the Scottish highway authorities, which has enabled me to present the Bill with a knowledge that a good deal of the laborious discussions are out of the way and that we have before us a fairly well drafted Measure, with most of the matters having been thoroughly considered. I do not see that there should be objection to my asking for the full co-operation of both sides of the House in giving the Bill a Second Reading. If, when we reach the Committee stage, we find that there are further defects, then they can be dealt with, for it is in the interests of everyone that we should make a Bill of this kind as free from difficulties and confusion as possible, as its main purpose is one of clarification.
I think the House will agree with the Minister's first words, in which he said that the Bill could not have been brought forward at a more opportune moment. Those of us who live and work in London have seen this summer some of chaos which can be caused by the breaking up of roads. As the House knows, the Government have asked local authorities to try to complete, or to advance as far as possible, their major road projects this year rather than next year so as to be in readiness for the Festival of Britain. The result has been, and is now, that movement in the centre of London has become very difficult indeed.I found an example of that coming to the House this morning from my office in Essex Street, because half the Strand is up and buses are being sent round by the Embankment. That is a sensible thing to do but, unfortunately, the position is also somewhat complicated by work on the Bailey Bridge at Charing Cross, so that the congestion there is considerable. I think everyone is familiar with the true story of the practical joker who dug up Piccadilly outside the Ritz Hotel "on his own" one evening. Nobody did anything about it for quite a long time. That happened before the First World War. When this Bill has been passed I think such procedure will become impossible; someone will say, "If this is being done by an authorised undertaker I should have been given notice." This is a major Bill of the Session. It has a mention in the Gracious Speech. It consists of 38 Clauses and seven Schedules, and I agree that that is probably inevitable. I would also remind the House that it was found necessary in the first stage of the Bill, in another place, to insert no fewer than 146 Amendments. I see that there are two more Amendments on the Order Paper of this House, even before the Bill has been given a Second Reading. I gather that it is not intended to rush the Bill through within the next week, but to take the Committee stage when we return after 17th October. I should like, as a further preliminary, to ask the right hon. Gentleman why there is no explanatory memorandum. It is a most complicated Bill and nearly every Bill which we have before us has an explanatory memorandum. I think the custom has grown up that when a Bill comes from another place the explanatory memorandum is omitted and in this case, in its place, we have a Financial Memorandum. I ask the Government. when they bring forward Bills—and particularly Bills of this complexity—to give us an explanatory memorandum, for at least that helps us to understand what the Bill is about. I believe that one is promised when the Bill becomes an Act, but that is not much use to us today, although, of course, it will be of assistance to those who have to implement the Act. I hope that in future, particularly on complicated Bills, we shall be given an explanatory memorandum so that we can easily see to which matter each Clause refers. I want to say a few words about the Financial Memorandum, because one extraordinary point emerges which may have escaped the notice of hon. Members. The most important paragraph is paragraph 5, which says:
This must be the only Bill brought forward by the party opposite which has cost and will cost nothing at all. I congratulate them on that. I want to say a word or two about the proceedings which made this Bill possible—in other words, its history. I say this because the only criticism or objection or opposition to the Bill that I have heard has come from people who, having seen it come out in its present form, begin to doubt whether, because of its complications, they will be able to carry out its provisions. The right hon. Gentleman started off with the Committee of Lord Carnock, but I think he will find that the history of this Measure starts considerably earlier. There was the Committee set up under Sir Henry Maybury in May, 1925, which formed what was called a Joint Negotiating Committee. That committee was the first one to try to bring all these undertakers and others interested together to try to get some form of agreement. Their negotiations, as the House must realise, were prolonged. In fact, they did not end their labours until 1938. They were set up in 1925, so they certainly had plenty of time; but their negotiations were not prolonged because they did not take their work seriously or apply themselves to it, but because of the number of people who had to be consulted, and because they were desperately anxious to obtain agreement on every point, if possible, before finally reporting. Then, we come to what the right hon. Gentleman said himself, and that was the setting up in December, 1938, of the Carnock Committee—the Joint Committee of both Houses. I think he will find that they found their work very much easier, and, although set up only in December, 1938, were able to report in June, 1939, because of the work of the joint negotiating committee which had been sitting for so long before. I put that point forward because when people quail at the complexity of this Bill they must realise what an enormous amount of work, in an endeavour to get an agreement, was involved, and how, when we get agreement, perhaps by some form of compromise, it usually means that some Clauses are complicated. The war, of course, prevented the recommendations of the Carnock Committee being carried out before the present time. Further, one of the reasons why this Measure has been so difficult to draft is, as the right hon. Gentleman himself said, because it is taking the place of no fewer than 25 general Acts—the whole of those are set out in the Fifth Schedule—and, I am assured, 5,000 special or private Acts—not 3,000 or 4,000 as the right hon. Gentleman mentioned. This has caused considerable complication in the Bill, because it was found impossible to try to repeal or even to find some of the provisions of some of those old private Acts. They are dealt with, as the right hon. Gentleman said, in Clause 15 and onwards and, in one respect, in the Sixth Schedule. Naturally, in spite of the fact that general agreement has been obtained between all the parties concerned, there may be still a case of difference; and, in that case, under Clause 30, we have the procedure or, straight-forward arbitration. An arbitrator has to be appointed by agreement if possible, and if that agreement cannot be obtained he has to be appointed by the President of the Institute of Civil Engineers for the time being. There are two abuses, of a great number which have been brought to my attention, which this Bill, I hope, will prevent in future. I have had brought to my notice the case of a small gas company a long time ago which, in order to get a Private Bill an unopposed Second Reading in this House, made an agreement that it would move its mains at its own expense should the highway authority at any later date decide to widen or divert a road. Hon. Members of this House know that Private Bill legislation is by no means cheap; and, therefore, some small company would go a long way to obtain agreement to avoid an opposed Second Reading and all the consequential expense. That, obviously, is unfair; and it is unfair that a gas company—which would now be nationalised should be put to expense of that kind, or feel itself compelled to agree to something of that kind—an indefinite commitment in the future which might be extremely expensive. Then, I am told, there have been difficulties, too, and injustices with regard to indemnities provided under Section 153 of the Public Health Act, 1875, which have often proved inadequate. There are just one or two provisions of the Bill which I should like particularly to commend to the House. I think all of them have been mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman. The first is that very important provision that a highway authority may now insist on what I call "filling up the holes" themselves and charging the undertaker for so doing. That is under Clause 7 and the Third Schedule. We have all suffered from the "hole in the road," if I may call it that, that has been inadequately dealt with by a gas or water or electricity company, which has dug it out, another put something on the top making it look like a sort of grave, or else has let it sink, so that a person in a car bumps into it and then bumps out again on the other side. It is definitely laid down that if a highway authority wishes to avail itself of this provision it may do the work itself properly and charge the undertaker responsible. There are just two points on that. One was raised in an interjection by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northants, South (Mr. Manningham-Buller). It is a question of time in both cases. I do not believe—it is a very complicated Bill, and we can deal with this in Committee—but I do not believe that it is laid down that there is any particular time at which the highway authority must carry out the work if it has opted so to do. We do not want a gap between the time when the undertaker has finished his work and the time when the highway authority takes over. Then there was the point raised by my hon. and learned Friend as to what period the highway authority, having opted to do this work, becomes responsible and the undertaker not. My hon. and learned Friend mentioned, I think, the question of lighting, fencing and so forth. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman will look into the matter. It is, of course, a Committee point. The next part of the Bill to which I wish to call particular attention is that dealing with controlled land, namely, Clause 5 and the First Schedule which, I think for the first time, empower highway authorities to authorise undertakers to execute their works on land adjoining the street. If that had been done before we should have been very much better off than we are. Throughout the country there are road verges which have been taken over by highway authorities for ultimate widening, and it will now be possible to do this work there. The Ribbon Development Act, passed some time ago, which now prevents the building of houses on the verge of a road without permission, will also assist in carrying out this valuable provision. Clause 28, which I think the right hon. Gentleman did not mention, provides that, except in an emergency, a highway must not be broken up again within 12 months. That will commend itself to those of us who are motorists, who are maddened by seeing the same street broken up twice within 12 months because of electricity works, gas works, water works, sewer works, and everything else. This Clause lays down that 12 months must elapse before any other work is carried out, except, of course, in emergency. What has always proved a great bone of contention in the past has been the question: Who is responsible when an alteration is made in a road or bridge—particularly a bridge—for removing or altering the undertakers' apparatus? Part II lays down that when apparatus has to be removed or altered because of highway alterations it should and must be the responsibility of the highway authority. It is provided that whoever is responsible for the alteration should be responsible for all the work necessary. That, I think, will get rid of a great many disputes which have taken place in the past. Above all, the Bill makes this great change: that undertakers who observe the code now have a statutory right to lay their apparatus in the road provided they give the necessary notice; they are no longer there on the sufferance. There are just one or two general observations I should like to make before concluding. In carrying out this work, the convenience of the public should be paramount and everything should be planned to that end. We have often heard the phrase "The customer is always right," although if that dictum is obeyed slavishly it is inclined to bring great injustice, or it may do so. Nevertheless, it is not a bad adage to adopt. When works are being planned, the general public who are using the road should be considered first, and the undertakers and the men who have to do the job second, wherever that is possible. My second observation of a general nature is this. Railways, including the underground, are able to do most of their work at night. I realise that all the road work could not be done at night, particularly in residential areas, but I wonder whether at least some of the works covered by this Bill could not be done at night, or even over the week-end, so as to avoid the appalling congestion which sometimes occurs in the middle of cities like London, Birmingham and Manchester, when work which has to be done takes some days in completing. Great care should also be taken when a street in a built-up area has to be closed or partially closed and a diversion takes place that the road to which the traffic is diverted is not itself obstructed. The obstruction at the Charing Cross Bridge is not particularly great, but I did notice that the diversion was due to take place some fortnight earlier, which would have come at the very time when the final section of the Bailey Bridge was being slid into place. They did avoid that, but if they had waited a little longer still it would have been more convenient. I am sure that in the rush hour there will be great congestion where the Embankment and Northumberland Avenue meet by the Charing Cross underground station. Undertakers should think and plan ahead, and should take advantage of the street being up for repair when laying their services. An attempt is made to cover that in the Bill, but they may have to think well ahead. When building a row of cottages or houses there may be uncertainty when the licence will be obtained, and there may be a year's delay. If it were possible for the necessary undertakers' works—electricity, gas, telephone lines, and so on—to be laid beforehand it would probably save a second breaking up of the roads. Incidentally, now that electricity and gas are nationalised it should be—I do not know that it will be easier to get agreement on these matters. I know that all the nationalised services try to make their undertakings pay, and we on this side of the House are always urging them to do so. Nevertheless, as they are all under the general direction of the Government this sort of planning ahead ought to be easier than it has been in the past. My last general observation is this. As little of the road as possible should be blocked when work is being done, even if that causes some inconvenience to the people doing the work. This is dealt with in Clause 8 (1, d). Most hon. Members must have seen sites where a line of flags or fences has been pushed just that extra foot out to give the workman plenty of room to put down his tools, and so on, thereby causing a much more serious blocking than was necessary, and where with a little forethought the obstruction could have been considerably minimised. We on this side welcome this Bill as a much needed reform in our highway administration, but we should have preferred it to have been accompanied by another Bill. In 1938, the Highway Law Consolidation Committee was set up. In this Parliament we have had two highway Measures, the Cattle Grids Act and now this Bill. The legislation is getting more and more complicated. The war prevented a consolidation Bill being brought forward, and I am told that in the last Parliament, from 1945 to 1950, the draftsmen were too busy with various nationalisation Measures to do anything else. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman if the time has not now come when it may be possible to consider bringing in a Measure of general consolidation of the law as regards highways. It would not be a controversial Measure, and I do not think that we would have great difficulty in getting it through the House. There may be some difficulty in drafting, but I gather, because I was not here, that the draftsmen are not as busy as they were between 1945 and 1950. We feel, however, that the provisions of this Bill are much needed and that it should be passed through all its stages in this House without more delay than proper examination demands."The sums involved cannot be estimated, but, generally, disbursements and recoupments under the Bill are expected roughly to balance and it is unlikely that the Bill will result in any substantial increase in the expenditure to be borne by the Road Fund or by the Exchequer."
I was relieved to learn from the remarks of the hon. Member for Lewisham, North (Sir A. Hudson), and the gesture of assent which those remarks elicited from the Minister, that there is no intention of further stages of this Bill being taken before the Recess. The granting of time for dealing with a Measure so long and complex will, I am sure, assist the Minister to fulfil his very plain and frank undertaking today to do all that he can to improve the drafting of the Bill and other points before it becomes law. By way of contribution to that process at this stage, I should like to refer to three matters which, I think, may well be dealt with at later stages, but which, in a general form, are perhaps not inappropriate to a Second Reading Debate.One of the main objects of the Bill is to ensure that the breaking up of highways occurs as rarely as possible and that the effects when it does take place shall be as completely as possible made good. I do not feel that the machinery embodied in this Bill at present is fully adequate to ensure either of these objects. The co-ordination which there must be between the various types of statutory undertaker if the occasions of breaking up streets are to be minimised is obtained under the Bill at present in a purely negative way, by imposing upon would-be breakers-up of streets the prohibition against doing so within a given period; and the notification that a breaking-up is intended is obtained indirectly through a third party—the street authority or manager. I wonder whether, by either administrative process or some legislative change, more positive co-ordination between the undertakers concerned cannot be secured or promoted, which would enable all the undertakers concerned with a particular street or road to get together and decide at what time and how best they could utilise for a common purpose a single act of breaking up. With regard to the reinstatement of the street after breaking up, I share the anxiety expressed by the hon. and learned Member for Northants, South (Mr. Manningham-Buller) and the hon. Member for Lewisham, North, that there may not be sufficient co-ordination between the undertakers and the electing highway authority—that there may be a hiatus between the process of breaking up and the process of reinstatement. One wonders whether this rather sharp division between breaking up and reinstatement is really necessary. As the Bill stands, it is only in respect of reinstatement that the highway or street authority can elect. One wonders whether they could not come into the proceedings at an earlier stage, so that the whole process can go through without a break. Perhaps these two points may be looked into by the Minister between now and the next stage of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman said, very truly, that one of the important innovations which the Bill makes is in regard to alterations of the course of a highway, in that, for the first time, it places the responsibility for the extra expenditure occasioned to statutory undertakers upon the highway authority which initiates a change in the course of a road or bridge, as the case may be. There are, or course, certain exceptions in the Bill to the laying on the street authority of that burden, and I do not think that anyone would disagree with those exceptions. They include, for example, the case where the statutory undertakers have availed themselves of that opportunity to enlarge or improve their apparatus. There is, however, one case where one wonders whether the burden should not at any rate be shared with the statutory undertakers and whether the recommendation of the Carnock Committee has not been neglected in the Bill. The Minister said that the Bill had been drafted firmly on the basis of the Carnock Committee's recommendations; this is, I think, a case where its recommendations have been departed from. If the Minister will look at page x of the Carnock Committee's Report, he will see that it was there recommended that when statutory undertakers availed themselves of a shift in a road to renew their apparatus, then the cost of the relaying should be shared between the street authority and the statutory undertakers. That seems to be an extremely reasonable provision, that if the apparatus of the statutory undertakers is within a reasonable period of the date in which, in any case, it would have to be replaced, then, although they may not improve it or enlarge it, nevertheless they should bear some of the cost of relaying on a new course what in any case they would shortly have to relay on the old alignment. This question of the relaying of equipment due to the new alignment of roads will probably be somewhat assisted by the provisions in the Bill with regard to "controlled land," upon which the Minister spent some time in his speech. I think the provisions about "controlled land" will have to be looked at very carefully before the Bill leaves us. The Minister, I noticed, in the illustrations he used, referred only to the example of road verges to illustrate "controlled land." That is to say, taking the First Schedule, which defines "controlled land," the land may be such as is set out under three headings in the first paragraph of that Schedule, whereas he was referring only to the first case—namely, where the land is already in the possession or control of the street authority. There also falls under the definition of "controlled land," however, land designated under the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, for eventual compulsory acquisition for highway purposes; and it is in regard to that type of controlled land that I would suggest to the Minister that great caution is needed. It will be remembered that under Section 5 of the 1947 Act, in any of the quinquennial plans drawn up by planning authorities land can be designated for compulsory acquisition for this among other purposes, and that designation can run on from one quinquennial period to another ad infinitum, with the sole restriction that after not less than 12 years the owner of the designated land can, by a certain procedure, enforce its compulsory acquisition. The type of case which worries me is that in the universal drawing up of town and country plans going on at present under the Act considerable tracts of land may become "controlled land" under subsection 1 (b) of paragraph 1 of the First Schedule, which, in fact, after 10, 15, or 20 years it is found are not going to be used or required for highway purposes. In the meantime, under this Bill, statutory authorities may have been persuaded or obliged by the street authority or street managers to lay their apparatus there. Then they will be faced, when the land is eventually decontrolled, with having to shift their apparatus. I feel that "controlled land" under the machinery of the 1947 Act is in quite a different category from "controlled land" in the shape of verges, or under the Public Health Act, 1925. I ask the Minister, therefore, to approach with considerable reserve and caution the designation of land under the 1947 Act in such a way as would make it "controlled land" under this Bill. These are three examples of points in regard to this complicated Bill which will have to be looked at during the later stages. I have mentioned them now because I feel that the Minister may like to have them in mind during the coming weeks. In general, I give my entire assent to the welcome which was extended by my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, North, to the Bill.
The discussion on this Bill has proceeded in an atmosphere of considerable harmony, which I do not want to disturb. We support the Government in bringing forward the Bill, which is due if not overdue. It contains many provisions which will facilitate the improvement of the roads, and all that is to the good. I rise for the purpose of saying that those of us on these benches who are interested in road transport have no intention of allowing the months to slip by without asking for a full discussion on transport policy as regards the roads.Occasionally, these semi-technical Bills have been used on Second Reading as an opportunity to discuss much wider topics. I do not think there is any. disposition to do so today, but I am not at all sure that the public at this time are not extremely anxious about the condition of the roads. They notice that the Government have been good enough to dispense with petrol rationing, and they are all rushing madly on to the roads with cars that have been laid up for some considerable time. They find that many of the major roads are in a deplorable condition, notably the Great North Road. They find that traffic lights operated by the police or road surveyors are holding them up while a group of men are engaged in putting down a drain or improving a bridge at the slowest possible pace, taking months and months over the job. I have passed recently along the Great North Road, and I have been held up for 20 minutes to half an hour by these operations which, if there was any disposition to press on with the work, could be completed in a matter of days. I do not wish to dwell on this controversial note, but it is a fact that, compared with what is being done on the roads in other countries, the time taken in resurfacing a small proportion of a road, and thus rendering fast traffic facilities for rapid movement, is greatly in excess in this country. We on these benches will, I hope, get down, at an early stage, when the House resumes after the Recess, to a full discussion on the state of our roads and the speed at which the work of resurfacing and maintenance is done. If, at that time, we can also get on to the major topic of taking up again the work which was stopped at the beginning of the war, of building dual carriageways in a big way, I hope that we shall also take that opportunity. For the rest, this is a technical Bill on which the House is broadly in agreement, and I, for my part, support it.
This is a Bill to which we can all give our blessing. The unique Parliamentary situation that has arisen has given the Minister an opportunity to introduce a Measure of this kind at this stage. It is a useful Bill, and one which is long overdue, and I hope that it will have a speedy and smooth passage through the House. It has been subject to detailed examination in another place, as we have been told, and a great many improvements have been made to it already, to which I hope we shall be able to add at a later stage. It has been rightly said that this is an extremely complicated Measure. I support what my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, North (Sir A. Hudson) had to say when he reminded us that there is no Explanatory Memorandum. An Explanatory Memorandum would have helped considerably in understanding what the Bill is all about. I hope the Minister will remember that in the future.The Bill, as it stands at the moment, does a great deal in solving a very big problem in a very good way. There are a number of points which some of us may wish to raise that would be more appropriate on Committee stage, but there are one or two general observations I should like to make at this stage. The main purpose of the Bill is to co-ordinate the activities of those who at different times have to dig up the streets and reinstate them. I think that the code laid down in various parts of the Bill is a good one. It may prove in course of time that amendments will be needed, because this is one of the things we have to judge by experience, but I would throw out one suggestion, and that is that when the Bill has passed through all its stages a clear resume of certain parts of the Bill containing the code should be made available, having statutory backing, to those whose functions and job it is to deal with this sort of matter. We know that the digging up of a highway often causes a great deal of frustration and bad temper to anyone who has to use the roads. Motorists are often caused great inconvenience and extra wear and tear to their vehicles if they are held back or slowed down because a road has been dug up and left in an unrepaired state until some other authority comes along to complete another job, when the road can be re-surfaced. This Bill does a lot to prevent that sort of situation continuing. There is another matter to which I should like to draw the Minister's attention. We had an opportunity a few weeks ago of considering the Highways (Provision of Cattle-Grids) Bill. During the Committee stage of that Bill, considerable attention was paid to the law relating to the liability of local authorities for damage caused to an individual as a result of a highway getting out of repair—the rule of misfeasance and nonfeasance and the liability of highway authorities in respect of it. We were told on that occasion, although the Government met us to a certain extent in connection with cattle grids, that that was not the Measure in which to go about remedying the state of law in this respect. I suggest to the Minister that this, however, is the ideal sort of little Bill in which that change in the law might be effected. Let me remind the House of the position. Under our existing law, if a highway authority dig up a street or road and subsequently reinstate it, they are liable for any damage which may be caused to an individual if they do the job of reinstatement so badly as to cause someone an injury. On the other hand, if a highway authority allows a road to get out of repair so badly that there are potholes in its surface and a person is injured simply through their neglect, that person has no remedy at all. That, I think, put in a rather untechnical nutshell, is exactly what the law is. I suggest it is a matter with which we ought to have dealt long ago. I see the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) in his place. He no doubt will understand what I mean, and I hope that I have his support on this matter. May I say that I am glad to see him back in the House.
Does the hon. Member realise the sort of situation which could arise if anyone who twisted his foot in a pothole, or caught his toe on the pavement where one paving stone was a trifle higher than the next one, could sue the local authority? It is quite a sensible rule, although it may produce hard cases as every rule does. If we altered the rule it would be asking for a lot of trouble.
I have had a certain amount of experience, though perhaps not so much as the hon. and learned Member, in advising people who have suffered under this disability. I have always thought it to be a very bad rule indeed. If I may remind the hon. and learned Member, the origin of the rule was that in the old days the inhabitants-at-large of each parish were liable for making up the roads, and it was felt that it would be extremely difficult to charge each of the inhabitants with some proportion of the cost which might accrue as a result of someone being compensated.In these days, when every local authority is in some way insured, and when in any event they are liable if they do the job negligently, I think that this rule to which I have referred is outmoded and obsolete, and could easily be swept away. No doubt the hon. and learned Member will have something to say on the matter in Committee, when we can consider the question in greater detail. I put forward that suggestion. This Bill is an admirable vehicle for such a change in the law, and I hope that by incorporating some change of that kind the Minister will make what is in every other way an admirable Bill even more admirable.
I shall resist the temptation which has been put before me of entering into a discussion which would be and is very attractive to lawyers, as to whether the law in regard to misfeasance and nonfeasance in relation to highways does or does not require any change. It may be that we shall have some discussion on that matter in the Committee stage. Whether that would be in order or not is a question upon which I do not venture to express any kind of opinion.This Bill is, in volume, the second biggest Bill introduced in the course of this Parliament. It is, as the right hon. Gentleman has said in moving its Second Reading, a complicated and a technical Bill. I welcome his assurance that careful consideration will be given to amendments proposed during the Committee stage, and I can give him my assurance that we on this side of the House will do our utmost to improve the Bill still further. It is, if I may say so, still capable of improvement in one or two respects, notwithstanding the many Amendments made to it in another place. Although this is a voluminous Bill, technical in character, I feel that it does not do more than deal with the fringe of the problem in relation to the repair of our highways and the problem upon which the right hon. Gentleman touched—the difficulty of keeping streets open at present. I would suggest that there are three distinct problems which have to be tackled in regard to road repairs. One is the question of regulating the exercise of rights held by various undertakers to open up streets; the second is to ensure expedition in the execution of the works for which the streets are opened up; the third is to secure satisfactory restoration of the surface. If I might, in this way, divide the problem into three parts—the Bill is divided into four Parts—I would suggest that the Bill makes a contribution towards the solution of the first problem only, namely, the regulation of the exercise of the right of opening up streets. Although its provisions are very complicated the Bill will, so far as it goes, prove of great value in regulating the exercise of those rights by the many statutory undertakers either under general Acts or under thousands of private Acts. But when one has done that, I am a little puzzled to see where, in the Bill, the sanction is—I may not have detected it—to secure the speedy execution of the works. A procedure is contained in the Bill for informing all others interested when any excavation or the execution of any work is about to take place. Other undertakers may take advantage of the opportunity to come in and do what they have to do, but I should have liked to have seen some incentive—I think that would perhaps be the right word—placed upon the undertakers, when they come in together in that way, to execute their work as quickly as possible. My noble Friend the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke), drew attention to this matter in his short but powerful speech today. It is really rather extraordinary that in these days, when there is modern machinery for road making, and a great length of road, with a good surface, can be laid down at great speed—I have seen a good deal of that recently on Watling Street—all that efficiency and effectiveness can be negatived just because perhaps two men and a boy are doing a minor adjustment to some drain and holding up traffic for a long time. There is great force in the argument that something must be done both to speed up the execution of repairs and, particularly in cities such as London, to try to time the execution of those repairs so as to cause as little inconvenience as possible. In this connection the Minister, who is no doubt a regular reader of the "Daily Express," will not have failed to notice the cartoon which it published dealing with the extraordinary planning which has resulted in all the streets being opened up immediately after the abolition of petrol rationing. Although this Bill can regulate the opening up of a particular street by a number of undertakers, it does nothing, so far as I can see, to remedy the trouble from which London is at present suffering, when so many streets are opened at the same time, causing great inconenvience, loss and expense. While welcoming this Bill, I do not think it really makes any contribution to that pressing problem. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider whether more cannot be done to secure, in cities like London, week-end work or, in some places, work at night, because the inconvenience from which all the people are suffering is becoming intolerable. I turn for a moment or two to the second part of the problem, expedition in the execution of the work. I fear there is a danger that if we get all the undertakers burrowing about in the same hole, if I may use the expression, it may take a great deal longer before that hole is filled up. The right hon. Gentleman may be able to say more about that during the Committee stage. I hope that this process of regulation of the opening up of streets will not mean that a street is kept open longer than it is now. There is a possibility that it will. But we can examine that on the Committee stage. Then comes the question of refilling the hole, the restoration. This is a much more important problem, that of keeping the hole open for as short a time as possible, than has yet been indicated. The right hon. Gentleman may know—I do not—the number of motor accidents and personal injuries that result from excavations being open in the road. I am sure that it is not a small number. In his speech the right hon. Gentleman made reference to a journey he took to Colchester, no doubt in an endeavour to ascertain what the Secretary of State for War had really said. Perhaps he will therefore forgive me if I refer to a recent incident in my own constituency. It took place in the town of Towcester, on Watling Street. Two vehicles were going in opposite directions but, finding themselves in difficulty because of an excavation, they collided. One of them went into a large, stationary, articulated van and drove that stationary van right into the front of the Post Office. It was great good fortune that no one was killed. These incidents can be multiplied, I believe. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will agree that if we can limit the period during which excavations are kept open in the highways, and can secure satisfactory restoration, we are making a material contribution to the reduction of road accidents in this country. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to tell us a little bit more about what powers there are in this Bill. I must confess that I have not been able to detect them, but perhaps I have not studied this complicated Bill with sufficient care. Can he tell us what powers there are to secure expedition in the execution of the works, and speedy restoration? I ventured to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman's speech on what I think is a most important point and not just a Committee point. When an undertaker opens up a hole in the highway and leaves it there in the condition of a hollow in the ground, or as a grave with a hump, as one of my hon. Friends has said, there will probably be responsibility if injuries result from it. Under the Third Schedule, highway authorities can take over restoration of the upper surface. It is a very good thing that they should be able to do so, as we may get a very good restoration of that surface. At the same time, it would be quite wrong that the undertaker should be liable to third parties for injuries received for the condition resulting from his excavation, after notice has been given to him. Yet if one places the liability upon the highway authority and makes them responsible for the conditions of the highway from the very moment that they give the notice, that will be a considerable deterent to highway authorities to doing the very thing which we all consider that highway authorities should do, namely, restore the upper surface. I think that I am right in saying that, as the Bill now stands, notwithstanding notices given by the highway authority, liability in law in respect of the failure to restore the property will still, under Clause 8, remain upon the undertakers. That does not seem to be right, and it cannot be equitable. This is a difficult problem, and I do not press the right hon. Gentleman for an answer to it now. I ask him to give it very careful consideration before the Committee stage. It is very important that it should be clearly laid down in the Bill on whom liability will rest for misfeasance after the giving of such a notice, so that any person who is injured from the surface being left open too long will have a remedy. The problem of streets being kept open, of holes in the road, applies equally to the countryside as to London. It is not infrequently that one receives complaints, as I have recently had from the village of West Haddon in my division, of ditches running right across the road, being roughly filled in, and left in that condition for many months. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider what steps can be taken to ensure more speedy restoration of the surface. I do not think there is any sanction in the Bill in regard to time. That is another point which is worthy of consideration. Something has been said about the power of laying pipes on what is called in the Bill "controlled land." I am sure we agree that wherever possible an excavation should be made alongside the highway and not in it. One has particularly to bear in mind the very heavy weights which are being carried along our main highways, and which, in themselves, are apt to cause breakage of pipes and consequent excavation. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will give consideration to the points raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South (Mr. Powell) as to the limitation of the definition of controlled land. There is very little more I desire to say, except a word or two about the necessity for consolidation. I do not share the opinion of my hon. Friend about consolidation of the law in relation to highways. If he goes into the Library I think he will find that one of the largest legal volumes there is "Pratt on Highways." I wish I had brought it in and showed the House the volume of the law on the subject. I do not envy my hon. Friend the task of trying to consolidate the law in relation to highways, but, at the same time, it would be of great convenience to all if that could be done. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will do his utmost to divert the attention and energies of the Parliamentary draftsmen away from unnecessary and harmful nationalisation Bills to useful Measures of this character. In spite of the observations I have made on certain points I do not desire it to be thought that I do not regard the Bill as good, so far as it goes. It is a very good Bill. The period of gestation has been very long, but numerous conflicting interests have had to be consulted. I am sure that the time which has elapsed has not been wasted. I trust that, with the united efforts of us all, we shall be able to improve the passage of the Bill through the House. I must congratulate the right hon. Gentleman—perhaps this is due to exhaustion after last night—upon not having had the criticism which is now customary from his colleagues behind him for any Socialist Measures.
If I may have the leave of the House to speak again, I would like to deal with one or two of the points which have been raised, although none of them has been of a controversial character. I express my gratification that the Measure has received support. That enables me to come to the matter that I want to emphasise.Most of the points which have been raised today are Committee points. Under even the most favourable circumstances there will not be much time to deal with these problems when we return after the Summer Recess if we are to get the Measure through all its stages in good time. In the light of the general support which I have had today, I am encouraged to express the view that we should ourselves apply the spirit of cooperation and compromise which is involved in the Measure so that undue time is not taken during the Committee stage. I should like to make a general offer to hon. Members in all parts of the House to convey to me during the Recess any Committee points which they desire to raise on their own behalf or as a result of representation made to them by statutory or other bodies. A great deal of agreement can then be reached beforehand about the type of Amendment which may be necessary. That procedure has been adopted hitherto, and if I can get that co-operation we may be able to conclude the remaining stages of the Bill in good time.
Some of us will have other things to do during the Parliamentary Recess, but I and my hon. Friends will endeavour to give the right hon. Gentleman notice of what appear to us to be defects in the Bill in an effort to shorten the Committee stage of this desirable Measure.
I thank the hon. and learned Gentleman very much. All the points raised today will be very carefully examined. The hon. and learned Gentleman spoke about the liability of the undertaker ceasing when that of the authority commenced. I believe that that is already covered with regard to fencing and lighting, but he has raised fresh points about accidents and matters of that kind and the discussion has rather foreshadowed that those problems may be introduced on the Committee stage. As to my attitude to the matter, I shall be only too pleased to examine anything for the purpose of clarifying where responsibility and liability fall, but I should be loth to land myself in the kind of controversy which I could see developing between the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Hay) and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget). That warned me that if I introduced a subject of that kind into the Bill, there would be very little prospect of getting the Measure through all its stages. However, I undertake to give the other matters very serious consideration.Hon. Members have said that the Bill is limited with regard to many of the problems of highway obstruction. No one is more conscious of that than I am, and I should certainly welcome an opportunity—it is not possible on a Bill of this description—for the House to discuss problems of the movement of traffic, maintenance of roads, road construction, types of road, the amount of land which we have used in the past and whether it was necessary, and different types of traffic. All these problems should be dealt with in circumstances where the present restrictions as a result of the rules of Debate do not apply. I have been grievously disappointed with circumstances which have not enabled the Minister of Transport to deal with the more fundamental problems of our highways from which so many consequences flow. I have at least endeavoured to use my period in office to equip Ministers with the powers which are essential if they are to grapple with these problems, and I have introduced a few Measures which represent limited improvements and for which in the normal way, Parliament might not have had time. Getting those Measures out of the way clears the ground for consideration of the major matters. Once or twice I have suggested that, while there is often individual interest, there is not the collective interest in Parliament in the solution of some of these problems which we display in other directions. I always contend that the highway is at the root of grave social problems in the same sense that health, housing and such matters are. I have been in the House for 25 years and I have never seen the House display the same collective interest in transport problems as it has in some other social matters. Springing from the defects, we have a casualty problem which is greater and more continuous than some of the most disastrous diseases which affect the community today. For that reason, I assure hon. Gentlemen that I should welcome a Debate on this subject, and I believe that it would be welcomed in all parts of the House. The hon. Member for Lewisham, North (Sir A. Hudson) delved into history even deeper than I did. Those of us who have been in the House since the Ministry of Transport was established recognise how much we owe to the drive, personality and interest of Sir Henry Maybury and the work which he began in those early days. I am not a bit surprised to discover that he was at work on this problem before the Carnock Committee made its recommendations. It is clear to me that it might have been his early interest in the problem which influenced both Houses in establishing the Carnock Committee. If Sir Henry Maybury's Committee finished in 1938 and the Carnock Committee was appointed in 1939, I do not doubt that that represents the continuity of examination desired by Parliament. I am greatly indebted to hon. Members for the support which the Measure has received. I will look into the points which have been raised and if any of them have to be embodied in Amendments, perhaps we can get agreement in the meantime and shorten the Committee stage.
Will the right hon. Gentleman say a word about the absence of an explanatory memorandum?
I am very sorry that there is no explanatory memorandum with the Bill. It does not arise from a decision by me. It is a matter of procedure. I will look into the matter and see whether we can remedy it at a subsequent stage. It will be quite easy to circulate an explanatory memorandum if that will meet the convenience of hon. Members.
The right hon. Gentleman may be aware that attention has been drawn to this in respect of two other Bills. I did it myself. There seems to be a practice to omit any explanatory memorandum when a Bill comes from another place. I am sure it will be of great assistance and will be welcomed by all hon. Members if that practice could be varied and an explanatory memorandum attached to the copies of the Bill.
I will certainly undertake to look specifically into that point in relation to a Bill of this kind, and if I myself can circulate an explanatory memorandum to any hon. Member interested, I shall be glad to do so. It is just a matter of procedure, and I will see that it is raised in the proper place.
With regard to an explanatory memorandum, may I make the suggestion that a separate White Paper might have been circulated at this stage? It is not without precedent that an explanatory memorandum is not contained in the Bill, and I recollect one occasion—that in connection with the National Health Service Act—on which there was no explanatory memorandum and on which a separate White Paper was issued at the same time.May I say that I agree, regrettably, with the right hon. Gentleman in his reference to the lack of collective interest in this House in matters concerning the roads, but I think he will concede that, as far as the Opposition in this Parliament and the previous Parliament have been concerned, we have helped him a very great deal when dealing with road legislation. The Minister will no doubt recollect the help given by the Opposition over the Cattle-Grids Bill and the Special Roads Bill, and we shall, of course, be only too glad to join with him on future occasions in introducing legislation which will improve both the roads and the administration of road laws. With regard to this Bill, I have only one small point to make. The clerk to the county council in the constituency which I have the honour to represent has written to me about this Bill. He does not express himself as being in disagreement with its principles, but he does say that the drafting of it is so technical and so complex that he is very much afraid that, unless we get it simplified somehow, the Bill, far from simplifying the task of the officials who do the work for the highway authorities, will add to their task, because they are greatly puzzled by it. May I therefore implore the right hon. Gentleman, between now and the reassembly of Parliament in October, to consult with his legal advisers to see whether it is not possible to make some really substantial Amendments which would simplify the Bill without altering its principles? I make that plea very sincerely, and not merely with the idea of adding to the work which the right hon. Gentleman and his Department have to do in these matters. I take very seriously this point made by a very experienced clerk to a county council, and I feel that we should pay attention to this matter of the drafting, so that those who are dealing with the administration of the Bill, who for the most part will not be lawyers, but officials in the county surveyor's department, and who are very busy people, may have their task made easier by using a simple structure of draftsmanship and plain phraseology. By doing so, we shall indeed be doing an even greater public service.
Question put, and agreed to.
Bill accordingly read a Second time, and committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[ Mr. Sparks.]
Committee upon Monday next.
Public Utilities Street Works Money
Considered in Committee of the whole House under Standing Order No. 84 (Money Committees).—[ King's Recommendation signified.]
[Major MILNER in the Chair]
"That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to enact uniform provisions for regulating relations as to apparatus in streets between authorities, bodies and persons having statutory powers to place and deal with apparatus therein, and those having the control or management of streets and others concerned in the exercise of such powers, and for other matters and purposes connected therewith, it is expedient to authorise—
(a) the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of— (i) any administrative expenses incurred by the Minister of Transport or the Secretary of State under the said Act of the present Session; (ii) any expenses incurred by any Minister of the Crown in the discharge or exercise of duties or rights imposed or conferred by the said Act of the present Session on undertakers; (iii) any increase attributable to the provisions of the said Act of the present Session in the sums payable out of the Road Fund; (iv) any increase in the Exchequer Equalisation Grant payable under Part I or Part II of the Local Government Act, 1948, which is attributable to any expenditure of a local authority under the said Act of the present Session; (b) the payment into the Exchequer of any sums received under the said Act of the present Session by any Minister of the Crown, other than sums required by the said Act to be paid into the Road Fund."—[Mr. Jay.]
Resolution to be reported upon Monday next.
Medical Bill Lords)
As amended, considered.
New Clause—(Replacement In Cases Of Physical Disability, Of Surgical Experience By Additional Medical Experience)
(1) Where on an application in that behalf a person satisfies the Council that by reason of lasting physical disability he will be or has been prevented from embarking on, or completing, any period of experience of the practice of surgery or midwifery required for the purposes of any of the foregoing provisions of this Act, the Council may if they think fit direct that the applicant may for those purposes count in lieu thereof experience of the practice of medicine (in addition to what would otherwise be required in his case by the said provisions) acquired in the like manner and for the like period or, as the case may be, for so much of that period as will have remained uncompleted.
(2) Where the Council give a direction under this section they shall give notice of the direction to the body granting the qualifying diploma to the person to whom the direction relates.
(3) Subsections (6) and (7) of section two of this Act shall apply for the purposes of this section as they apply for the purposes of that section.—[ Mr. Blenkinsop.]
Brought up, and read the First time.
I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."The object of this Clause is simply to meet a point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Mr. Hastings) and to empower the General Medical Council, in cases of men suffering from physical disability, to substitute an equivalent period in medicine for the prescribed period of practice in surgery and midwifery.
I would like to thank the Minister for embodying my short Amendment in a much longer, and, I am quite sure, much more efficient, new Clause. I am quite convinced that, not only in literature and art, but also in medicine, some physically handicapped members of society have a very great contribution to make, and I want them to be not only provisionally registered, as they can be under this Clause, but also to have complete registration.There is only one point I want to make. I would like to be assured by the Minister that, by this Clause, a physically handicapped person can, in place of surgery or midwifery, undertake duty in a health centre. If, for instance, he is only permitted to undertake duty in the medical department of a hospital, his experience will be limited, and I would like to be assured that Clause 3, which makes special provision as to employment in health centres, will apply to such a person, so that, after having taken one appointment as a house physician or medical intern, he may then, if there is an appointment available, be able, instead of midwifery or surgery, to take a second appointment in a health centre.
Question put, and agreed to.
Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.
Clause 14—(Constitution Of Medical Disciplinary Committee)
I beg to move, in page 9, line 18, after "diplomas," to insert:
This Amendment is to meet a point raised in Committee by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross), to ensure that, among the nine members who will normally be invited to attend the Medical Disciplinary Committee, there will be at least two elected members of the Council."and at least two of the members who are elected members of the Council."
We on this side of the House are grateful to the Government for having put down this Amendment. We had a similar Amendment asking for an alteration of this kind, and this Amendment gives effect to what we were asking for.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause 15—(Procedure Of Medical Disciplinary Committee)
I beg to move, in page 9, line 37, at the end, to insert:
This is to meet a point raised by the right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) and other hon. Members, and its effect is to give statutory form to the present Penal Cases Committee of the General Medical Council, and to secure that there shall be no overlapping of membership of these two committees."() for requiring that before any matters are referred to the Committee they shall, in such manner as may be provided by the rules, have been brought before and investigated by a Committee of the Council constituted in accordance with the rules, and for securing that a person, other than the President of the Council, who has acted in relation to any matter as a member of the Committee constituted as aforesaid shall not act in relation to that matter as a member of the Medical Disciplinary Committee."
This Amendment carries out suggestions which we made, and we are glad to see it.
Amendment agreed to.
I beg to move, in page 10, line 14, at the end, to insert:
It will be remembered that in Committee there was some discussion on an Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Luton (Dr. Hill) in which it was suggested that a Government Department, before making a complaint to the Council, should institute some preliminary investigation and that the complaint should be fortified by the sworn statement of an officer of the Department. This Amendment is on somewhat similar lines, but is much more moderate. We now suggest that before a matter is referred to the Council for consideration, it should be set down in writing and that some responsible person should take responsibility for the statements upon which the complaint is founded. All we desire is that a matter which might possibly have a prejudicial effect upon a doctor should not be thrown at the Council without some responsible person putting his name to the matter complained of. We do not ask for an investigation by the Department and we do not ask for a sworn statement."(f) for securing that no matter other than a decision in a court of law shall be referred to the Committee unless a statement in writing of the essential facts of the matter has been made and signed by a responsible person."
I beg to second the Amendment.
As the hon. Member has just stated, this gave rise to some discussion in Committee and also some feeling that Government Departments ought not themselves to act in such a way as might prejudice the chances of a doctor before the General Medical Council or that they should not themselves act as a Paul Pry. I gave an assurance in Committee, which I think was satisfactory, that where the tribunal under the National Health Service upheld an appeal by a doctor, no documents should be sent to the General Medical Council in such a case. So we have to some extent covered many of the points raised in Committee. The point now raised is that the documents ought not to be pushed at the General Council without any assurance that they were not trivial and irresponsible, and should not set in motion the ornate machinery of the General Medical Council on what might not be a well-founded complaint.1.15 p.m. Perhaps the House and hon. Members opposite would be reassured if I stated the actual practice. There was an agreement with the General Medical Council in 1932, after informal consultation with the representatives of the Assurance Act Committee of the British Medical Association. Under this agreement particulars of disciplinary cases investigated by executive councils that were before the insurance committees are set before the General Medical Council when they relate (1) to cases of irregular or lax certification. Obviously, such cases must go forward because in those instances there is not a complainant. In fact, it is the public who is complaining in such a case; obviously, the individual has gained by the kind of certificate he wanted and we must protect public funds against lax certification; (2) to cases of unprofessional conduct; (3) to cases in which allegations of canvassing or fraud are established or substantially supported; (4) since 1944, to cases involving professional negligence. Those are the classifications of the cases to which the papers relate, and this is what actually happens in connection with the documents. The documents which are sent to the General Medical Council comprise copies of the following: (a) The report of the Medical Service Committee or the local medical committee in certification cases of the Executive Council. Hon. Members, I am sure, are familiar with the machinery here; (b) The decision of the Executive Committee on the report; (c) The report of the persons who hear any appeal against the decision of the Council; (d) The representations, if any, made by the practitioner to the Minister on the question whether any money should be withheld from his remuneration; (e) The letter of the Department conveying the decision of the Minister; (f) The report of the Tribunal in cases where the Tribunal decide to remove the practitioner from the list. All these documents are, of course, either signed or, in the case of the reports of the Medical Service Committee, approved by persons or bodies; that is, signed by the clerk of the Executive Council or the practitioner himself. However, it is not practicable for the Department to endorse the facts therein stated which are not within the direct knowledge of the Department. In other words, the papers are sent forward signed either by a responsible person or a responsible body, but obviously, we cannot say that the facts in those papers are correct because, before we could state that, we would ourselves have to investigate them, which would mean a pre-trial. If, however, the practitioner contests, for instance, the facts in the report of the General Medical Service Committee, his remedy is to appeal, and the report on the appeal would set out his case. I think hon. Members will therefore appreciate that in all those cases the facts that are sent are sent through approved machinery, and so no papers would be sent in containing merely tittle tattle which would not be sent or signed by an authorised person. I hope that in those circumstances hon. Members will not find it necessary to press the Amendment.
Could the right hon. Gentleman deal with one possible class of case, where representations have been made by an irresponsible person, through his Member of Parliament, to a Minister? It would be possible for the Department of the right hon. Gentleman to send those papers on without any responsible signature having been set to the matters complained of at any stage. I think the right hon. Gentleman will say that in no circumstances would those papers be sent on to the Council, but an assurance on that point would be valuable.
I cannot conceive of circumstances in which that could take place, but I am quite sure that if there were an exceptional case of that sort, and the Department did send in the papers, then there would be attached to the papers the signature of a responsible person.
There is not much between us on the point. It is simply this, that when papers came up from the insurance committees they were forwarded by a body and, if I remember rightly, the clerks of the insurance committees sent a covering note with them. This proposed procedure seems to us somewhat untidy. I should have thought that some precis or statement on the documents could be submitted, signed by the person sending forward the dossier, as it were, would have been convenient to the Department, the General Medical Council and the person against whom complaint is made.I should have thought it would have been for the convenience of all concerned, if the suggestion in our Amendment, which I do not think goes very far, had been adopted. This is that there should be a statement in writing of the essential facts of the matter, which would be no more than a precis of the documents sent forward, and that it should be sent forward under some name or other. It is so much simpler than having to refer to innumerable documents.
The difficulty is that in making a precis of documents, the Ministry of Health, which at this stage is not really concerned but is merely acting as a post office for sending the documents on for such action as the General Medical Council considered to be wise, may, by this pre-digestion of the documents, themselves be tendentious. We all know very well that when we have a number of documents and try to assemble their purport in a summarised form it can be highly tendentious. As a matter of fact, I imagine that most of these documents would be in some consecutive order, because they would have been the subject matter of machinery set up under the National Health Service Act—local tribunals, medical committees and what not. I do not think we should be called upon to do rather more than that.I think, however, that I have satisfied the apprehensions, which were quite legitimate, that the machinery of the Ministry of Health might be used for the purpose of sending frivolous complaints from people, to which no respon- sible signature was attached. Furthermore, I most heartily agree that now we have the National Health Service in existence, and almost all the general practitioners are in contract with the local executive council, we ought to make doubly sure that the State apparatus is not being used for what might develop into an unfortunate system of espionage. We must make sure that it is not turned into a sort of lion's mouth into which all kinds of people might put all kinds of charges against general practitioners, and the Ministry make itself the main instrument of an irresponsible piece of machinery to set afoot investigations into something which might not be tangible at all, but which might be extremely annoying and vexatious to those concerned.
The Minister will realise that the point we had in mind on the Committee stage has been very largely cleared up by the statement made this afternoon. Perhaps it is a pity that we did not have that information earlier. The great fear I had was that a doctor might possibly be brought before the General Medical Council by some sort of backdoor method, without any statement of the case against him which be could get hold of and understand. That is now met.
The information given by the Minister will be very valuable to those concerned. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 17—(Amendments As To Striking Off Register Under S 29 Of Medical Act, 1858)
I beg to move, in page 11, line 22, to leave out "For the purposes of," and to insert "In."I think hon. Members present will realise that we have tried in this case to exercise the utmost ingenuity and so to muffle the blade of the axe as to make it almost look like a benediction. I think the point was well taken. As the right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) said in Committee, there is always a difference of approach between the layman and the lawyer in this matter, not because the lawyer is wrong, but because he uses the terminology of his craft and speaks about "guilt," "conviction" and "adultery" almost not as in the moral category but as juridical terms, whereas the term "guilt" has a different kind of connotation for a lay person; and in the Bill the terms "adultery" and "guilt" are used. Individuals might have got themselves caught in circumstances which did not involve, in the mind of the ordinary person, any degree of turpitude but, at the same time, they would be found guilty of adultery. I am sure that all hon. Members would agree that we should not have a situation in which the General Medical Council would re-try the case, and so we have tried to find a way between the Scylla and Charybdis of that situation. That is what we have done, and I hope the language commends itself to the House. It does what I want, but it does not allow the plaintiff or defendant to have his case re-tried. The facts are taken as facts and, at the same time, a form of language is used that does not necessarily load the name of the individual concerned with what I think the right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove called "a penumbra of guilt or a nimbus of turpitude." I hope that, in the circumstances of the case, the House will accept the Amendment as meeting most of the points made in Committee.
I think it is true that the Minister has exercised his utmost ingenuity in this, and that he has gone a long way to meet the case which was felt, I think on both sides of the Committee, to have some substance in it. I take it that it is the desire of all of us to make expeditious progress this afternoon, yet, being on the Report stage, we can each of us only speak once. I take it that it will be possible to have a general debate on the Minister's first Amendment, on which one or two points in reference to some later Amendments may arise.It might be possible for you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to indicate which of these Amendments you will find it possible to call. Owing to the fact that we are working at fairly high speed just now, we have not had an opportunity of discussing these, except in draft, with the Minister or his representatives, and maybe one or more of them may commend themselves to the Minister in the course of working through them. There- fore, if we could have a general discussion, and could be sure which of our Amendments might be called, my hon. Friends and myself would be perfectly ready to operate that procedure.
If it suits the convenience of the House I have no objection to that. As to the other question about which Amendments are going to be called, there are two which are not going to be called. They are the Amendment to line 2 of the Minister's Amendment in page 11, line 27; and the Amendment in page 11, line 29, at the end, insert:
All the other Amendments are being called."and the Committee may in such proceedings attach to that fact such weight as they may think fit."
As we have been asked to widen the discussion, and I see no objection to that, I should like to say that I am proposing to accept the Amendment to my proposed Amendment in page 11, line 24—namely in line 2, leave out "against him."
I think it is a convenient arrangement that we should have a general discussion on this Clause. I understand, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that you will not be willing to call the Amendment to the Minister's Amendment in page 11, line 27—to leave out "conclusive," and insert "prima facie." That Amendment, of course, would raise the whole general issue which was very fully discussed in Committee the other evening. For my own part, I feel that that is a desirable Amendment. Indeed, that follows from the fact that I have put my name to the Amendment. I do not advance the Amendment on medical grounds, but on the rather broader grounds of what is desirable in the interests of justice. I do not go so far as to say that the doctor, who enjoys considerable privileges under the law, should not be subject to exceptional sanctions. We must have some regard to the limits of what is practicable inserted in the Bill.
I did not realise that the hon. Baronet was going to discuss Amendments which are not going to be selected.
My impression was, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that we were going to have a general discussion on the whole matter and that then subsequently the Amendments would be moved shortly.
Yes, but I understand that the hon. Baronet is dealing with an Amendment which is not going to be called.
I thought, Sir, I had indicated that the Amendment which you do not intend to call is one which, in fact, negatives the whole subsection.
I understood that as we had had a long discussion on that matter in Committee we were not going to repeat it on the Report stage. Indeed, if we are to have an argument on that point today, it would not have been necessary for me to put my emollient on the Order Paper.
I do not wish to be ungrateful to the right hon. Gentleman, particularly when he is in his present sunny mood. I think we should indicate from this side of the House that we are grateful to him for putting this Amendment on the Paper, and although it does not go quite as far as we would have wished, nevertheless it does modify the Clause in a way which makes it more acceptable. But we still have some misgivings about the Clause, even as so amended, and feel that injustices will arise under it.The situation of the doctor is such that if he is to claim the privileges of his profession he must be subject to a rather different code of law from other individuals. For that reason, we have less misgivings than we might otherwise have had in seeing this subsection even as amended.
Unlike my hon. Friend, I am a little doubtful about the use of the words which are proposed by the various Amendments to this Clause. If I may, without getting out of order, I would like to draw attention to the actual wording which will result from incorporating in subsection (2) various Amendments which the Minister is putting forward. As I understand it, the subsection will read like this:
I am not at all satisfied that that is the right sort of wording to use in this case. I would remind the Minister of the point which I raised the other night. I do not want to labour it again, but the law up to now has been that if a doctor is charged before the General Medical Council with some kind of professional misconduct which is based upon a finding of adultery in the divorce court, then that is a prima facie burden of proof against him which he can, if he chooses, shift. If we have this particular wording and if, in fact, such a finding is made conclusive, it weights the scales very heavily against a man who might be innocent. We must not automatically assume that because there has been a finding of adultery against a doctor in divorce proceedings to which he is a party, automatically that is absolutely accurate and cannot be disputed, because there might be circumstances where proof was not available to him. Witnesses might not be available to be called in the divorce proceedings but might subsequently be called in the General Medical Council proceedings. There is another point that I should like to put to the Minister. Whereas the duty of the divorce court is to find out whether there has been adultery between A and B in connection with a certain suit of which the court is seized, the duty of the disciplinary committee of the General Medical Council is to find out whether a doctor has been guilty of professional misconduct with a patient. There are two points there. The adultery has got to be proved and also it has got to be found by the General Medical Council that the doctor has been in professional relationship with the person with whom it is alleged he has committed adultery. That is why I am not happy about the use of the word "conclusive." I do not wish to dispute your Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but I think it is unfortunate that that Amendment to the Minister's Amendment in line 27 is not going to be called. I feel that the wording as it stands will impose a great burden upon the possibly innocent doctor. I know we have got to protect the public, but I think the doctor ought to be looked after as well. We must do justice to him. I hope that even now, in view of these remarks, the Minister will look at this matter again and see if he can omit the word "conclusive," because it will put a heavy burden upon a doctor who wishes to prove his innocence of the charge of professional misconduct."In any inquiry under the said section twenty-nine whether a person has been guilty of infamous conduct in any professional respect, any finding of fact which is shown to have been made in any matrimonial proceedings …shall be conclusive evidence of the fact found."
I should like to raise a point of order on the discussion which is taking place on this Clause. I would like to direct such few remarks as I want to make to the Amendment in page 11, line 29, standing in the name of my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Kelvin-grove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot). I understand that that Amendment is in order and will be called. I should like to know whether I may speak to it now or wait until it is called.
I thought it would be rather unfair to discuss an Amendment which the House knew was not to be called. The Amendment to which the hon. Member refers is going to be called and, therefore, it will be in order to discuss it.
The Amendment to which the hon. Member has referred is going to be called and, in my submission, ought to be considered separately. If I may say so, we have already suffered something from having telescoped several Amendments. In fact, so far the discussion has been almost an argument on the merits of the Amendment to the Amendment which is not going to be called.
Amendment agreed to.
I beg to move, in page 11, line 24, to leave out "a finding against him," and to insert:
Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill," put, and negatived. Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted in the Bill.""any finding of fact against him which is shown to have been made."
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, to leave out "against him."
Amendment to the proposed Amendment agreed to.
Proposed words, as amended, there inserted in the Bill.
Further Amendment made: In page 11, line 27, leave out from "proceedings" to end of line 29, and insert:
"shall be conclusive evidence of the fact found."—[Mr. Bevan.]
I beg to move, in page 11, line 29 at the end to insert:
The purpose of adding this proviso is to make certain that the position of a doctor, against whom a charge of adultery has been conclusively found, is not prejudiced by reason of that conclusive presumption against him and that he will be able to explain the circumstances of his fault—I think that is the best word to use. The proviso merely says that if there is evidence which he wishes to adduce, even though, on the face of it, that evidence may be calculated to negative the presumption—which he will not be allowed to do—nevertheless it would be admissible so as to explain the circumstances, to mitigate the offence and possibly to save him from the harsh penalty which could be inflicted upon him in view of the nature of his offence. I do not think I need say more in explanation.Provided that nothing in this subsection shall prevent any such person from adducing any evidence for the purpose of explaining the nature of the fact or the circumstances leading up to or attending the same.
I beg to second the Amendment.This is rather like the third act of a play; now that we have got rid of the extraneous characters who intervened on Tuesday, we have returned with the original cast to the consideration of the original problems. This Amendment does not in any way go so far as the Amendments which you, Sir, have decided will not be called. It is common ground between both sides of the House that the burden of proof in adultery cases is considerably less than in criminal cases, and I think it is also common ground that a general practitioner can find himself in circumstances in which he has connived at a decision which he would like to challenge, not so much from the question of fact but of the circumstances that surrounded the decision which has been made against him. We do not seek to controvert the question of fact which has been proved, and which is accepted as proved before the Disciplinary Committee. We ask— and it seems elementary justice—that a general practitioner should be given the right—and it must be that—of explaining the nature of the facts and the circumstances which led him to connive, if that be the right word, at the proceedings which took place in the courts. I hope that the Government will be able to accept this proviso.
Since the Minister insists on sticking to the word "conclusive" in the preceding line, I feel that this Amendment will mitigate a very great deal of the rigour which otherwise would attach to the use of that word. Many of the remarks which I made earlier apply here. I think this Amendment will give the doctor an opportunity to state his case and to put forward any mitigating facts. I urge the Minister to accept it, because I think it will greatly improve the Bill.
I have very great sympathy with the intention which lies behind the Amendment. Indeed, in Committee I suggested that the General Medical Council would only accept as a fact that adultery had been committed, following on the verdict of the court, but would address its mind—or could have its mind addressed—to the circumstances surrounding the decision. I had my knuckles rapped by one hon. and learned Member opposite for suggesting that the Council could consider the case. I have always been satisfied that it could consider the circumstances of the case, and I have been trying to envisage the sort of circumstances which would be held to be mitigating.I think I can do it at this stage without running the risk of a long discussion. It seems to me fortunate that no language of the Minister or of hon. Members in this House is written into an enactment, unless it is so wished, and in this matter I can speak freely. We have a very peculiar set of circumstances. We are dealing all the while with the doctor who is alleged to have committed misconduct with his patient. That is the reason why it is necessary for us to keep in mind all the time that it would be unusual for the doctor not to know about that fact. If he were giving collusive evidence in a divorce case, assuming that collusive evidence is given, he would surely provide that evidence to one of his own patients, but I will leave that for the moment. If he did that, I should have thought he would have been guilty of other conduct than infamous conduct. Let us consider these circumstances, because when I was turning it over in my mind I thought that a very peculiar set of circumstances could arise. A doctor under the National Health Service has a maximum list of 4,000. If he is in partnership with two other people, then the three together can be responsible for lists of 12,000. As far as the general practitioners are concerned, until the people on the list have seen them as patients they are merely numbers on which the doctors receive capitation. But, technically, they may be held to be patients. In other words, when does a patient become a patient? Is it when a patient merely put the doctor's name down or is it when the doctor has been consulted by the person? I am not mentioning this in order to set my legal friends arguing the matter, but merely to give it as an illustration that it would be quite competent for a doctor to say that he had never met such and such a person at all. A doctor could say, "I did not know this person was on my list. She had never been to me in a professional capacity." Surely it would be competent for a general practitioner to call the attention of the Disciplinary Committee of the General Medical Council to a fact of such substance as that. Indeed, my information is that the doctor could do so. I am informed, therefore, that the Amendment is unnecessary because, as I said during the Committee stage, a doctor could ask the General Medical Council to consider all the circumstances of the case—first, whether the adultery was with a patient, which is a point I have just been making; secondly, if so, whether the doctors' conduct was infamous in a professional respect; and thirdly, if so, whether the case was such that his name ought to be erased. As I say, where the circumstances surrounding the fact of adultery were such as to give rise to the assumption that he had been guilty of infamous conduct, this would have to be considered; but they cannot ask these questions without hearing evidence on them. I am informed that this is inherent in the General Medical Council procedure. Section 29 of the Medical Act, 1858, requires due inquiry, and if a doctor were denied the right to bring evidence of this kind the proceedings could be invalidated.
That is what happened in the case of Dr. Spackman, which we discussed the other night.
I do not think it is necessary to adopt the language of the Amendment, and I hope, therefore, that hon. Members will not press it.
We are not altogether reassured by the right hon. Gentleman's attitude, in that he holds that our Amendment is unnecessary, and that these rights already pertain to the plaintiff before such a court. We are, perhaps, a little uneasy about the preface or the exordium—if I may so call it—of the Minister's remarks in which he said that, fortunately, the language of no Minister could be written into an Act.
Unless it were so done.
Exactly. What we sought to do was humbly to say that this is a case of Daniel come to judgment, and that the judgment should be written in the books instead of remaining an obiter dictum of great interest and importance, but against which, as the right hon. Gentleman said, it would not be possible for anyone to appeal.Still, we take it for granted that the proceedings before the General Medical Council, which, of course, are not exactly proceedings before a court of law, would be affected by the very clear indication which the Minister has given; that if evidence were being laid in the due inquiry which is prescribed by Section 29 of the Medical Act it would not be affected by what we have just written in this Clause that certain things should be conclusive. What we feared was that in writing this into what will shortly became an Act of Parliament we might thereby have impinged upon or shaved away some of the rights which the plaintiff might have before the General Medical Council. The Minister assures us in the most categorical fashion that that is not so, and that he has consulted his legal advisers on the matter, and that they are of that opinion also. I take it that if, for any reason, it were found that this was being interpreted differently we should then be able to discuss whether the manifest intention of Parliament, which we are, at any rate as Members of Parliament, interpreting, would not then have to be made clear by some amending Measure or other which then we could place on the Statute Book. But apart from that I think we are grateful to the Minister for his explanation. I do not know what view my hon. Friends are willing to take upon the Amendment, but it certainly would not be our desire to have the matter carried to a Division.
I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 21—(Appointment Of Visitors Of Medical Schools)
I beg to move, in page 14, line 2, to leave out Clause 21.You may remember, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that on the Committee stage the right hon. Gentleman very kindly undertook to find out what were the views of the Vice-Chancellors of the Universities concerned in this matter and I am very grateful to you, Sir, for allowing us to move this Amendment at this stage, so that we have the opportunity of getting the Minister to agree to cut out the Clause rather than to deal with it on Third Reading, when we shall have to oppose the whole Bill over what is really only a very minor detail in it. Now, it does seem to me, from my information obtained in the meantime, that the situation is that the Vice-Chancellors are definitely against this Clause, but that, as gentlemen, they cannot very well go back on what they have said so far. As the Minister rightly said, this has been gestating a very long time now, and it places them in an extremely awkward situation to object only at this very late hour. I am bound to admit that there is a considerable degree of explanation of that in the change from the word "inspection" to the word "visit." In the Goodenough Committee, it was quite clear that the intention was to inspect the universities whereas in this Clause it is not made clear. In point of fact, it is in effect an inspection Clause and not a visiting Clause, although the word "visiting" is used in this particular context. I think they have been misled into thinking that the Clause is not as bad as it is; and equally they have thought that possibly the trigger of the Privy Council will never be pulled. It seems to me that if we are passing Bills in this House and making them Acts, we have got to assume that sooner or later, if the General Medical Council continue to bring pressure, that the Privy Council must necessarily agree to pull the trigger and to let such inspection take place. So I think we must look at it from the point of view of assuming that such inspection is going to take place, and we must have regard to the very wide terms in which that inspection is drawn. It is entirely unlimited, because the Clause says:
Now, the difficulty, of course, that the Vice-Chancellors and the General Medical Council are in is this. Sir William Goodenough is chairman of one of the big banks, and he sends his own inspectors round his branches, and he has power and responsibility, the two being linked properly together. He has the power to replace a bank manager; he has the power to tell him the methods; he has power to tell him about accommodation and how he should use it. Arising out of the inspection every thing of that kind is under his responsibility and full power. But in the case of his relationships with the Bank of England, they have, admittedly, rights of general direction in regard to policy, but they very wisely, I submit, confine their powers of direction to that, and do not seek to interfere in the day-to-day management. I think Sir William Goodenough would be the first to agree that, in point of fact, when we do set up such an inspection in day-to-day matters—personnel, subjects to be taught, hours to be kept, and the full range of the day-to-day conduct of the medical school—we are in point of fact, dividing responsibility so that the General Medical Council has part and the university another part but without clarity of responsibility for either. Now, the Chancellor of the Exchequer is good enough to continue to regard me in a certain light as knowing something about organisation and to continue to refer problems to me. I think that the Minister would say that within his own Department he can have the Public Accounts Committee and the Estimates Committee, thinking in terms of control of the purse strings; and, admittedly, that is one of the things that remain; but that he just cannot have people coming in and telling him who is to be his chief establishment officer, in which room he should sit, how many hours a day he should work, and whether he should have this particular form—form 67A, or whatever it is. It does seem to me that we in this House really ought to take very seriously this division of responsibility. But I would maintain that the General Medical Council ought not really to welcome this Clause, but ought to run away from it as fast as they possibly can. Their power will be reduced not increased and they will have responsibility passed to them when they do not want it. I hope the Minister will allow the House not to put through what is, in essence, a bad Clause, merely because with insufficient consideration by the Goodenough Committee and insufficient consideration by the other bodies since, it has not met with the reaction which it ought to have received."…as to the sufficiency of the instruction and as to any other matters relating to such instruction…"
I beg to second the Amendment.
I am a bit confused over this Clause, as I am about everything else in the Bill, for I have reservations about it throughout the whole of its verbiage. When the General Medical Council appoint these visitors and they report back to the General Medical Council, who then pass on that report or any observations to the Privy Council, suppose the Privy Council do nothing. What happens then? Suppose an adverse report is made on a school and the Privy Council do nothing. I do not know what will happen if several schools have adverse reports made about them as to some deficiency in the teaching and the Privy Council do nothing after the report is sent to them by the General Medical Council.I wonder what the Minister thinks will happen. Have the Privy Council got power over the General Medical Council to insist that on certain reforms pointed out by the visitor or inspector action shall be taken? Up to the present these things have happened; reports have been made and the General Medical Council have advised particular schools to make some amendment in their teaching, but those schools have just done nothing. What, will happen here? Suppose the Privy Council interfere. What power have they got over the school? What power have the General Medical Council got over the teaching in schools. I should like some information on what the position is if no action is taken on these reports by either the General Medical Council or the Privy Council.
We had considerable discussion upon this matter in Committee, and I gather that this Amendment has been called for re-discussion because I did say in Committee that we would satisfy ourselves that there was not any considerable resentment among the universities. I have looked at it again, and of course I do not suggest for a single moment that the universities are enthuiastic about it, because no institution is enthusiastic if some other institution shares some of its own prerogatives. Indeed, as the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Pitman) has said, we do not want to get the wires crossed; we want institutions to act with responsibility, because once responsibility is shared, or it is not possible to say quite clearly where it lies, we get into trouble, and I quite agree it is better that we should not mix up the functions.I think, however, the hon. Gentleman was perhaps, if not quite gilding the lily at least adorning the tale when he was using the professional occupation of Sir William Goodenough as an illustration, because Sir William Goodenough was not on the Committee alone. If Sir William Goodenough was too much influenced by his business pre-occupations, there were other members of the Committee who would modify it from their own experience. Sir John Stopford was on the Goodenough Committee, and so was Dr. Janet Vaughan, who is now the new principal of Somerville College, Oxford; so also was Sir Wilson Jameson, who as hon. Members know had a very long academic career. There were, therefore, members of the Committee who could be trusted to keep the university angle before the Committee. Nevertheless, they did decide that this was a reform to make; that the General Medical Council should not be confined merely to inspecting the examinations but should also inspect the institutions where the education was given.
And approve the courses.
Yes. I am also clear that the recommendations of the Goodenough Committee in this respect were not confined to extra-mural studies, and I am informed that Sir Wilson Jameson assured the present Vice-Chancellor of London University in April of this year. I understand that the Ministry of Health consulted the Committee of Vice-Chancellors of Universities on the Bill in December, 1946, and the Committee replied that they had no observations. The General Medical Council, on their own initiative, consulted the individual universities of England and Wales, the Department of Health for Scotland consulted the Scottish universities, and the Irish authorities consulted the universities in Ireland. Of the universities in Great Britain, six, including London, either did not comment on or approved of the proposal regarding inspection; two, while not objecting to the proposal, suggested safeguards to ensure that there should be no encroachment on the universities' liberty of action or attempted standardisation; four either objected to the proposal or thought it unnecessary; the Irish universities did not comment.Nothing further was heard from these various institutions until the Debate in Parliament. I therefore think it can be taken for granted that, while there are natural fears, with which everybody will sympathise, there is no deep resentment. I should have thought that if the institutions work in a commonsense way friction ought not to arise, and that it may not be necessary to invoke the powers of the Privy Council at all. But they are there to be invoked if any difficulty arises. I was asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington (Dr. Morgan) what would happen supposing the General Medical Council felt that things were not right. Well, the answer, of course, is that the Privy Council could take action.
By withdrawing registration. They have that power. Therefore, the problem has already been met. I hope that with that explanation we may be able to get on.
What happens when registration is refused to a student who has done six years, to take an individual case?
It is not the student to whom it is refused; it is the medical school.
The Minister has fully discharged the undertaking he gave to the Committee to go further into this and to make a further statement when it came before the House again. The statement he has made is of much interest. I think it is crystallised in another of his obiter dicta—with which we find ourselves in unusual accord on this Measure—that if it is worked in a commonsense way, friction will not arise. I think that is what we shall need to trust to because, as the Minister has said, two universities asked for safeguards and four actually objected or thought the thing unnecessary, and one of those which did not comment on it—London—has since found itself fairly actively concerned about it.The fact that it came up in 1946, when the pressure of events was very great, probably led somewhat to the same set of circumstances as reduce us to accepting a speaking engagement in the country if it is at a sufficiently distant date, hoping that the world will come to an end before that time, or that some other circumstance will arise to make it unnecessary for us to fulfil our engagement. The fact is, there was no immediate prospect of action, and the Vice-Chancellors therefore did not go into it. Multiplicity of inspections is an undesirable thing, and if worked in a foolish way could give rise to a great deal of difficulty. That, none of us will deny. I think, however, that we may trust that these eminent gentlemen will work this in a freindly and commonsense manner, as the Minister has said. Perhaps in the circumstances it might be unnecessary for my hon. Friend to press his Amendment.
May I ask the Minister for clarity on this point? When I asked what action the Privy Council would take, he said that they would take action on registration, and when I pointed out that this would not affect the university but the graduates of the university, he pointed out that the action would be against the university. I think that what the Minister meant was that the Privy Council would withdraw their recognition of the gradua- ting school and by doing so would affect the registration of any graduate from that school. I think that there is a distinction between recognition by the Privy Council of the school and registration of the individual.
It amounts to the same thing. I was short-circuiting it as much as I could. If the Privy Council refused to recognise the qualifications, it would kill the school as a medical school. What would happen in practice I should think is this: The inspection would call the attention of the authorities to the deficiencies in a particular course of training and would attempt to get those deficiencies made good. If, however, the medical school in question was persistent and did not make good the deficiencies, then the Privy Council would intimate that this might lead to the student who had gone through that examination not being qualified and the Privy Council not recognising the course as suitable for qualification and, therefore, registration. I cannot imagine that the innocent student would be made the victim of the failure on the part of the institution to behave reasonably, and the Privy Council would not therefore take retrospective action. I cannot conceive a British institution proceeding in a course of study which the competent study authority had declared would not qualify those who had passed in it.
In the hope and expectation of wisdom among the General Medical Council and the Privy Council and those who do the inspection, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 33—(Rules And Orders)
I beg to move, in page 18, line 32, at the end, to insert:
This gives effect to the promise that I made that there should be an affirmative resolution to the Order made under Clause 2 (1) of the Bill, prescribing the length of the intern period. This is a very important Amendment, and I am glad that I have been able to do this.() No order shall be made under subsection (1) of section two of this Act unless a draft thereof has been laid before Parliament and has been approved by resolution of each House of Parliament.
I think that we are all agreed that it is a very important Amendment which may go a long way towards obviating many of the difficulties which were foreseen during the earlier stages of the Bill. I think that it is an excellent thing that the House of Commons, which, I think, in any case would have insisted on discussing these provisions, should be able to discuss them under the more dignified procedure of an affirmative resolution, which also means that they will be in general discussion at a more convenient time when the House and the country outside can take note.I am sure that this will be of the greatest benefit in bringing this Bill into operation. It is at present merely an enabling Bill, and I hope that when he is laying the Order the Minister will have regard to the point that I made that the Order should not be so narrowly drafted as to confine us simply to the moment of time and nothing else, but should have one or two general words, such as "other matters connected therewith," which would enable a somewhat wider discussion to take place.
Amendment agreed to.
Further Amendment made, in line 34, after "than," insert:
"the power conferred by the said subsection (1) or."—[Mr. Bevan.]
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."—[ Mr. Blenkinsop.]
I shall be very brief although I would like to be long. I know that I am a lone lamb, so to speak, opposing this Measure. For 40 years I have lived with the idea of reforming the General Medical Council. All through my student career when we were discussing it in Glasgow University—the right hon. and gallant Member for Glasgow, Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) has probably forgotten those days, when he was a democrat—we discussed time and again how and what method we should adopt for the reform of the General Medical Council. Let us see what this Bill is, and how it changes the present situation.The General Medical Council still consists of three different types of members. It consists of the elected members—very few—the nominated members, and the members appointed by the various universities or teaching schools. We can call them nominated members if we like. They are not elected by the schools but simply nominated by the council of the teaching schools. This House, as it appears, as the elected representative body to pass legislation about the conduct and practice of professionals in medicine, thrusts aside indiscriminately the principle of elected members. In other words, they decide that this body of nominated members should not be elected in any way. They should be specially selected by people who may know nothing at all about medicine and who are simply nominated to come on to the General Medical Council. In my view, the representatives concerned with the medical schools should not be on the General Medical Council. It is surprising to me that the Minister made an answer to me in the earlier discussions on this Bill that this Bill was not concerned with medical education. He will find in HANSARD that on the occasion of the Second Reading of the Bill, I discussed the question of whether industrial medicine should or should not be taught in the medical schools, which it is not at present in the majority of them, and which the workers want and for which their various organisations have asked for years. I say that these representatives from the teaching schools should not be on a body of this kind. They might be on sub-committees appointed or elected, but they should not be concerned with the higher ethics of the profession, and I submit with the greatest respect to this House that these members are put there for one purpose and one purpose only, namely, to protect the vested interests of medical teaching in medical schools. That is all they are there for; there is no other reason for their presence there. Every time a recommendation is made for the reform of the medical curriculum by the members who are not there representing the universities or nominated by the universities, these people block every possible change asked for in connection with the teaching schools and the curricula in those schools. Any attempt to cut out the dead wood from medical education, the waste of time, the useless subjects that are incorporated and theories which have been given up years ago, has been denied. Why? Teachers of perhaps 20 or 30 years standing do not want in any way to bring their medical curricula up to date and to cut out all that is unnecessary. All that has not been touched, and that is the reason why reference is not made in the Bill or in any report to the reconstruction and reformation of the medical curricula. I would only mention that the General Medical Council has passed on its pharmacy duties to the British Pharmaceutical Society. I think that is the wrong thing to do. As I pointed out earlier, the General Medical Council has three duties—the question of pharmaceutical supervision, medical teaching and keeping up the register. I know that the keeping of the register is the most important, but someone should protest that the General Medical Council has passed on its duties in this way. I want again to stress my opposition to this Bill on the grounds that the G.M.C. should be an elected body, and that those representing the universities should come from a specially elected facet of the universities. All the members, except those nominated by the Government, should be elected members. Just imagine the nomination of an officer of any Government Department to the G.M.C. I do not know how that appeals to Members in the House, but it seems to me to be quite wrong. The membership of the G.M.C. should be carefully watched in future, and we should see that matters of this kind are not abused in any way. I know that we are not supposed to discuss G.M.C. expenditure in the House. I was told by a prominent person that it would be an outrage if any expenditure in regard to the G.M.C. were discussed in the House. "Outrage" was the word that was used. What would be said if, public money were being spent in some other direction, and, when the matter was raised in the House, Members were told that it was an outrage to do so? I could go on, because I feel very strongly on this, but I have now come to the conclusion that I should not have been in Parliament at all, but should have confined myself to writing. I think I should have achieved more good by writing instead of indulging in speeches. In future, having failed to make my views efficacious, I am going to devote myself to such writing as I have learned to do in the past. I am certain that the G.M.C. will remain practically the same body as it has been in the past, and that there will be the same abuses and the same injustices continuing. I believe that the same sort of men who are there now will continue to be there in the future. The Minister is always talking, as I used to talk in my young days, about the protection of the public. The public have not been protected, of course, and must be protected—and protected against the lawyers as well. I know that education is to be reformed from the point of view of the public, so that a doctor is a good doctor with the necessary medical knowledge. But the fact is that the doctor, both young and old, is entitled to the best justice that can be given to him in the course of the carrying out of his profession. There are not sufficient institutions in the country to provide men with posts in their last year. This Bill, in my opinion, is a deliberate attempt to keep the working classes and scholarship students out of medicine.
The hon. Member may think I am talking nonsense, but I have not yet heard him talk sense. It does not matter, because abuse is no argument. It is my opinion that this Bill is an attempt to keep the working classes out of medicine. The working class doctors have proved their value in medicine. They know the conditions under which their own class live. They try to get into the homes of the people and do the best they can from the point of view of public health and medical education.Having said that, I do not think that anything has been changed by this Bill. The position remains nearly the same as before. The G.M.C. will have the same powers. Not a word is said about the age of the members, or about legal advice coming not from one source but from many. With great respect, I ask the House to agree, in genuine sympathy for a lone Member, that whatever may be thought of my views I have at any rate followed this subject with assiduity through the years, hoping that at some time the G.M.C. would be reformed. I resume my seat still with that hope active in my mind.
No doubt the House has every sympathy with the hon. Member for Warrington (Dr. Morgan), but for all that I think we would prefer the Goodenough Committee to what I might call the "Hyacinth Morgan Committee."
No personal abuse.
I should not have thought that the name given to the hon. Member at baptism would be regarded as abuse. I fully agree that the hon. Member is not responsible for the terms by which he is designated, but he is responsible for the arguments he puts before the House. I think that he greatly exaggerated, to put it no higher, when he said that the purpose of the Goodenough Committee was to make it impossible for members of the working class to attain medical qualifications. That is a statement which, on sober reflection, I am sure he will regret having made.The argument he advanced in general terms was that he did not approve of the G.M.C. in its present form, particularly because it was not more elective. The test of these things is that there should be a good Medical Register, and the fact is that there is a good Medical Register in this country. To be on the Register as a British registered medical practitioner is universally recognised as one of the highest medical qualifications in the world. I have had some experience of the young colonial universities growing up, and of their great desire to see that their students should be fitted to be placed upon the General Medical Register. So highly is this Register thought of that we see the remarkable fact that the Republic of Ireland, which has severed its connection with the Commonwealth in so many respects, still maintains a common interest in this great Register. I commend that to the House and, indeed, to the world as an indication of how highly thought of is this Register, and what a privilege it is considered to be to have one's name inscribed upon it. The work which the Committee and the House have done has been done swiftly and well. As I previously said, the House has been working as a smith works upon a piece of ironwork, hammering it, shaping it and making it a considerably better instrument than it was when we first took up the hammer to it. Both in the case of the other place and our own Chamber we have worked with the common consent of all and have greatly improved the Measure, more particularly by the introduction of the affirmative Resolution in place of the negative Resolution. We have already spoken of that, but it is worth while to bring that point again to notice on the Third Reading as an example of a proposal put forward by the House and accepted by the Minister, thereby doing credit to both. There is no doubt that the working of this Measure will require further careful scrutiny. The danger of overloading the curriculum is great, and the danger lest the dead wood should not be cut out is always present. Unless the dead wood is cut out, the medical curriculum becomes unwieldy and finally defeats its own object. I am sure that those whom we have entrusted with this duty under the Bill will also have that in mind, and that many reforms will continue to be made in the medical curriculum in the years immediately ahead. Otherwise, we should have had no advance from the doctrines of Galen and the proposals of the Middle Ages. The suggestion made by the hon. Member for Rochdale that the university representatives were merely concerned to maintain the vested interests of the then teaching schools cannot stand up against the many instances in which reforms have been secured and introduced into the medical curriculum. It is not yet perfect, but if we accepted all the views which any person put forward it is possible that the present curriculum would not be any more perfect than it had been; its imperfections would merely be in another direction. In a multitude of counsellors there is safety, and in the numerous voices brought together in the British Medical Council, as it will be constituted, a consensus of opinion allowing for steady progress and the incorporation of new knowledge and doctrine will be found. It is in that belief that we give our blessing to the Bill and send it forward. We hope that it will have as its effect the improvement of the great medical schools of this country and the continued improvement in the public health of this country, which is one of the joys of our whole medical administration, and, one might say, of our whole Western way of life. The constant improvement in the health and condition of the ordinary man and woman is one of the most striking facts, so striking that there have now come those who say that the ghost of that excellent and dead clergyman of the Church of England, Dr. Malthus, has risen from its grave and is stalking the world, a spectre more terrifying than many of the spectres of disease and famine that we have successfully dispelled. That is a problem to which we have to look, but the problem with which this Bill is concerned is that of dispelling disease and suffering, and because that is its aim that we give it our hearty support and blessing.
I merely wish to express on behalf of the Government our appreciation of the way in which Members on both sides of the House have co-operated in the proceedings on this Bill to try to secure its easy and speedy passage, and to ensure such amendment, as would clearly make it a more useful and valuable Measure. Even though we have discussed this Measure at rather odd times of the late evening and early morning, we have done so with general good will and without acrimony.In the Measure that has finally come before us we see an improvement here which commands very general support, if not from my hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale (Dr. Morgan). I should not like it to go out from this House that there is in this Bill anything which will tend to restrict the opening of opportunities of working men and women to enter this great profession. Rather, I think, we can be assured that from this added intern year we shall be securing both better conditions for the general public and a higher professional standard which should be the aim of all of us.
Question put, and agreed to.
Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed, with Amendments.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[ Mr. Delargy.]
I am fortunate, because of the chance of the ballot, to be able to raise this matter this afternoon. The last time I was fortunate in the ballot I gave a warning to the Government on the subject of soft fruit, a warning which was more or less correct. This time, with my renewed luck in the ballot, I wish to give another warning to the Government on another subject, that of the dangers attending the Poultry Carcases (Importation) Order, 1950, which came into operation on 10th July.It may seem strange that a Scottish Member should raise this question because Scotland has been more free from the danger of fowl pest than has England. I should like to make it clear, however, that I am speaking this afternoon for the whole of the United Kingdom and not for Scotland alone. The Order to which I have referred permits the importation of poultry from a number of countries. It is one of the Orders made under the Diseases of Animals Acts, and, if it is not past praying for, it is an Order that one cannot pray against. It allows the importation of poultry of various kinds, including domestic fowls, turkeys, geese, ducks, pheasants, guinea fowl and partridges, under an open general licence from various countries defined in the various parts of the Schedule. At the same time as this Order is being implemented, the open general licence system is again restored, because the Ministry of Food are now stepping out of the business of buying poultry from abroad. To the extent that private trade and freer trade is being restored, I welcome this Order. My objection to it is because certain countries from which these carcases are to be imported have fowl pest either endemic or suspected there. The danger of this disease becoming endemic in this country is what I am pointing out this afternoon. Fowl pest is highly infectious. It is something like foot and mouth disease in cattle. It is bacterial in origin, and if it is allowed to enter this country it will be extremely difficult to prevent it from spreading. If it becomes endemic, it will materially reduce the production of eggs and poultry from British farms. That is the real point of my argument. There have been a number of outbreaks during the last few years. Answering a Question the other day, the Minister of Agriculture said that the number of attacks had been reduced, which is a fact, but they have not been eliminated. Only last week there were three outbreaks in Lancashire involving, I am informed 600, 900, and 2,000 fowls respectively. The first of those outbreaks was considered to have contracted the disease from hotel waste containing a Polish chicken which had not been boiled and was infectious. The other two outbreaks were contacts from the original Polish chicken. This is an illustration of how frightfully infectious the disease is and how quickly it spreads. One Polish chicken, put into hotel waste for swill, was responsible not only for the slaughter or death of 600 fowls in the original outbreak, but for the slaughter of another 2,900. The agricultural community are extremely anxious that this infectious disease should not come upon our fowls. We want prohibition of the import of these carcases from countries where the disease is already endemic.
Is there more than one suspected source?
I do not claim to be an expert but I gather that the main source of infection is the imported carcase. Provided it is cooked, it is all right. In the uncooked fowl, even if eviscerated, the disease is there. It gets into the bones of the fowl and is liable to infect others.In the proposed Order there are restrictions on distribution, but I suggest that they are not enough. The restriction on fowls applies to certain areas detailed in the Fourth Schedule. They are London, various parts of Essex, Hertfordshire and Kent. I do not think there are many fowls in London, but there are many in places like Hemel Hempstead, Woodford, Epping, parts of Warwickshire, Surrey and other suburban areas, Lancashire, South Wales and the city and County Borough of Bristol. The danger is that even though there is a restriction on these areas, somebody may throw out a carcase not properly cooked and it will get into the swill, to be conveyed to a nearby farm and start another outbreak. We say, even with these restrictions, the metal discs and all the rest of it in the Fourth Schedule, that the danger is so great that we ought to prohibit importation from the countries where this disease is endemic. Answering a Question on 13th July, the Minister of Agriculture explained that the arrangements proposed in the Order should materially reduce the risk of infected carcases coming into this country. We say that that is not good enough. We must eliminate the risk altogether. He continued:
I venture to give one or two figures which will show that that is not quite good enough. Countries known to have fowl pest at present are Poland, Hungary, France, Holland, Belgium. The importation from those countries in 1949 reached 158,017 cwts., out of a total importation of 615,547 cwts., roughly a fifth. That figure compares with the pre-war importation in 1938 of 440,718 cwts., so that even with total prohibition from the infected countries the volume of imports would still exceed those of 1938. Home-produced poultry for 1949 came to 1,620,000 cwts., as against 1,560,000 cwts. for 1938. It is common knowledge that the markets today have plentiful supplies of table poultry at reasonable prices. It seems clear in the light of those figures that the small reduction which would result from the total prohibition of importation from countries known to have fowl pest would in no way injure the consumer interest. In any case, if it were necessary to increase the production of table poultry in this country, an increase in the feedingstuffs rations would bring it about. In the circumstances, I hope that the Minister will seriously consider amending the Order. Fowl pest is a frightfully dangerous infectious disease which spreads like wild-fire, through an invisible bacterium. If once this country had it endemically, not only should we never be able to get rid of it, but we should materially reduce the eggs and table poultry for our own people. We are producing those commodities in very large quantities today and we could produce more of them if necessary. I hope the Government will seriously consider making a change in this Order. I should like to leave the further details of this story to my hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. Nugent). He will give further details of the workings of the Order, and I believe that he will be able to answer in greater detail than I can, because I do not pretend to be an expert, the question of the hon. Gentleman opposite."I am advised by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Food that supplies of poultry would not be adequate, particularly for the Christmas trade, if imports from all countries where fowl pest is endemic were entirely prohibited."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th July 1950; Vol. 477, c. 1545.]
I want to reinforce the argument which has been so ably put by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Angus, South (Captain Duncan). I am Chairman of the British Livestock Export Group, which is a nonprofit-making body looking after the interests of pedigree livestock, including poultry, in this country. We get able assistance from the Ministry of Agriculture and the Board of Trade in our deliberations. One of the big problems of the group is arranging quarantine for various countries. When an outbreak of disease occurs it cancels the trade which has been done and makes the export trade very difficult.The livestock industry of this country, including poultry, is extremely important. For many generations we have been looked upon as the reservoir of the world for livestock, and every attempt should be made to see that we are kept as free as possible from disease. Every time disease breaks out it drives overseas buyers to other countries for their stocks. The export trade is very highly competitive. The United States of America is looking to the trade of the world and seeks to take our place. The United States has very stringent regulations dealing with disease and it takes great care that there is no chance of an importation of disease from any source whatever. If we do not take the same steps here we shall lose a great deal of our export trade, and it is a very important trade because it is often with dollar countries. It is well known that on several occasions an outbreak of fowl pest has occurred and stopped the exportation of day-old chicks to the Continent. I ask the Minister to close every possible avenue to ensure that we do not allow the disease to come from some of these badly affected countries. I know that it is part of the regulations that swill should be boiled in order to prevent any risk of contamination, but that regulation is extremely difficult to supervise and I have not the slightest doubt that there are many cases of swill not being sufficiently and properly treated before it is fed to our animals. If the disease becomes widespread here we shall have less poultry and eggs than we have at present. Every time an outbreak occurs it tends to put poultry breaders out of business in the areas round the outbreak. Local markets close and it is very difficult for local producers to get their poultry sold through the normal channels. All these things tend to make producers go out of business. We must keep this country as free as we can from this disease. Fowl pest is causing a great deal of trouble on the Continent and I understand that it is wiping out the poultry industry in South Africa. If we can keep free of this disease it may well be that South Africa will turn to us to replace the losses which are taking place there at present, but if she knows that we have fowl pest here she will go to another country which is free from the disease. I hope the Minister will carry out the suggestion made by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Angus, South, and strengthen the Order in such a way that it will be impossible to import this very serious disease.
As a Lancashire Member I want to support the hon. Members who have raised this subject, because Lancashire has had much experience of the terrible ravages of disease. Before the war Lancashire suffered very severely from disease. The smaller number of poultry kept during the war has allowed the land and fowl houses to become clean, but now we are restocking the industry we are faced with the introduction of fowl pest because of the way in which diseased birds are imported.It seems peculiar that this should be the case when we are so careful about providing the public with clean meat. When cattle, pigs and sheep are killed, the veterinary inspector has to inspect every carcase and give it a clean bill of health before it is sold to the public. Yet we are actually importing poultry carcases which are known to be diseased. Because they are known to be diseased, we surround them after their arrival with certain regulations which would not be necessary if the disease was not present. It seems a peculiar feature of administration to demand freedom from disease for our own stock here and yet to import what we know to be diseased carcases from abroad. It may be argued that these birds are clean when they come here, but the disease can be carried on the outside of the carcase—it can be carried on the feathers—and the only thing that will destroy it is heat. The disease can be carried on the feathers, and when the poulterer plucks the bird and throws the feathers away the disease can be carried wherever the feathers go. There was a report in the "Lancashire Evening Post" yesterday of which I propose to read the salient parts. A certain poultry farmer of Pilling, Lancashire, was summoned for not boiling waste foodstuff before feeding it to his poultry. The report says:
It was stated that:"Mr. G. S. Halford, Ministry of Agriculture inspector, said that the failure to boil food was one of the chief sources of fowl pest which was so prevalent at the present time."
I believe that that swill is coming from an hotel which should not have this poultry if the regulations limiting these poultry to certain large towns were properly carried out, but it is impossible to carry them out unless we employ a tremendous number of inspectors to ensure that the poultry go to the correct places. These poultry may be supplied to Manchester, and if anyone goes to Manchester and purchases a bird he can take it anywhere in the country. One fears that fowl pest will spread over the country. The reason why we are so keen that it should be stopped is that so many of our birds are of the highest standard, and we find that they are in very great danger of contracting this disease. I know that the number of outbreaks in recent years has fallen, but I understand that only about 6,000 lb. of poultry comes from those countries where this disease is endemic. In the present state of our poultry industry, and in view of the large number of birds we have, we could very well supply that quantity of birds out of our own stocks without any difficulty at all, and I think that, for the sake of the building up of disease-free stocks in this country and in order to maintain a clean bill of health for our own poultry, these imports should be stopped. I urge the Minister to take such steps as will prevent the importation of diseased poultry into this country. I do not know what people will think when they learn that it is possible to go to a poulterer's shop and buy diseased poultry, when we are not allowed to sell such birds. We cannot sell diseased poultry without getting into very serious trouble, but here the Minister comes along and quite openly sells poultry which is known to be diseased, which is admitted to be diseased and which upon inspection is proved to be diseased. It is entirely wrong that the public of this country should be subjected to the danger of eating diseased poultry when we ourselves are compelled to destroy it. I hope the Minister will take a far more serious view of the matter than has been the case so far, because if this disease spreads, as it appears to be doing once again in Lancashire, it will affect the poultry industry of this country very seriously."On 20th June defendant discovered that 50 of his poultry were infected with fowl pest. They died on the premises. Another 452 had to be slaughtered. Defendant said that he obtained the swill from a local hotel."
I am very grateful to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South Angus (Captain Duncan) for his courage in entering the ballot for the Adjournment Motion on a Friday afternoon, and I hope the Minister will give due weight to the importance which we attach to this matter, since a Scottish hon. Member is prepared to be here to discuss it on a Friday afternoon. I was not surprised to hear the hon. Member for Chorley (Mr. Kenyon) adding his contribution to the case put forward from this side of the House. Of course, Lancashire is deeply concerned with this matter because of its very large poultry stocks and the very large sums of money at stake.The history of this disease is that we have had two sporadic outbreaks, one about 20 years ago and another in the middle 30's. The disease takes its colloquial name of "Newcastle disease" from a sporadic outbreak in Newcastle in 1935. Neither of these outbreaks was serious, and both were dealt with quite efficiently by a policy of slaughter, but the position with which we are now dealing started in February, 1947, when a serious outbreak began and has continued ever since over the last three and a half years. There was some dispute at first as to how it started, but today it is common ground with the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary that there is no doubt that the disease came in on the imported carcases from Hungary in the first place and subsequently from Poland. The losses we have experienced in the last 3½ years are 400,000 birds slaughtered and died, over 3,000 outbreaks, and a total compensation in slaughtered birds of about £300,000. So already the outbreaks have been quite sufficient to be serious to the farming industry. Serious as they are, I would not say that they are serious enough for us to come to this House and say that there should be a total prohibition of imports of poultry of this kind unless there were other considerations as well. The real weight of the argument is that so long as these diseased carcases are imported, we shall never get rid of the disease. There are two ways of dealing with it. One is the slaughter policy which to date has been followed efficiently and succeeded in checking it as far as possible, and the other is to accept the fact that we are to have the disease permanently and to vaccinate birds in an effort to immunise them against it. So long as importation continues, it is just a matter of time before the disease spreads throughout the country and becomes endemic. That happens this way: when the disease makes its initial onslaught it is in an acute stage which is recognisable by the high mortality that follows, but once it becomes really established it takes a milder form which is far more difficult to diagnose. It then flares up from time to time into the acute stage. We get a fair example of how that develops in America. In most of the European countries we have been talking about they do not have a veterinary service or an organisation which gives a clear picture, but in America they do. The disease in that country is endemic and the annual losses run into several million birds and cost enormous sums of money. They have this chronic form of fowl pest which exists mainly in a mild incidence but then flares up from time to time and gives a heavy mortality. They try to deal with it by vaccinating every bird, but this is not particuarly satisfactory. It is difficult to get a really effective vaccine and, if a live vaccine is used, it interferes with the condition of the bird and for the future those birds become reactors. Therefore, once vaccination is started as a general policy fowl pest has to be accepted for ever. We hope earnestly that in this relatively small country surrounded by sea we can get rid of this unpleasant disease and have our flocks healthy. So long, however, as we continue to import the disease in carcases coming from other countries, we shall never get rid of it. I recognise that the work of the Ministry's Veterinary Department has been first-rate in controlling it as far as possible, always allowing for the fact that it is continuing to come in, and the incidence today is much less than it was in the first year. Then we had over 2,000 outbreaks, but now we are down to about 200 a year. Certainly the incidence has been reduced by the control measures the Department has taken of marking the carcases, distributing them in certain areas only, controlling markets, and so on, but it does not alter the fact that, so long as we go on importing, the danger is bound to continue of gradually establishing the disease in the mild form which it is quite impossible to diagnose by visual inspection. The measures that the veterinary experts have taken in sending advisory missions to the principal countries concerned, Hungary and Poland, we trust will bear fruit in due course, but it will be some time before those countries have cleared themselves of the disease. One other small point in connection with the veterinary staff. I think the hon. Gentleman will agree that his Department is extremely short of trained veterinary men. There is a big programme on now of developing the attestation of our dairy cattle. Every time there is an outbreak, as we have now in Lancashire, the hon. Gentleman is obliged to draw his veterinary staff off that work in order to deal with the fowl pest outbreak. It is not a substantial reason, but it is another one which adds up in the picture. On the export point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Leominster (Mr. Baldwin), I should like to cite one instance—the development of the poultry unit in Gambia. In the farming community of this country we were all very shaken when we heard that the poultry unit in Gambia was to be stocked with American chickens because the English poultry world was considered to be too diseased to be used. On further inquiry, we learned that the man who was running the unit was an American, and he had been told that this country was full of fowl pest. That is the kind of reputation which we so easily get because we had this incidence of fowl pest here. Our export of poultry is not tremendous, but it is something. It is significant and we do not want to lose it. That is another point that we hope the hon. Gentleman takes into account. I have done my best within the industry to urge the acceptance of the various regulations to reduce the incidence of the disease, because in past years we have not been in a position to go to the Minister and say, "You have enough poultry without importing these diseased carcases." On account of the consumer interest, it has not been possible to advocate that the importation of diseased carcases should be prohibited. Today, as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South Angus has said, the volume of imports is such that we could do without these diseased carcases. Supplies of poultry are substantially more than pre-war, taking home production also into account. I recognise that the Minister of Food is bound to be concerned with securing enough Christmas poultry. Turkeys and geese come from these countries, and that is the only special thing that would be lost, assuming that these importations were prohibited. The total volume over the year, and especially if we take into account as well the enormous number of rabbits now available, does make sure that the consumer interest cannot suffer today. Therefore, I feel that we can fairly ask the Minister to look at this Order again and to accept, as I know his Department does accept, that his veterinary staff can never do more than control the incidence of this disease. It is like sitting on an atomic bomb which may burst at any time and infect the whole country. It is really in the interest of the nation as a whole that importation should be brought to an end, and that we should be able in that way to clear up the disease throughout our poultry stocks. The Minister knows that it is completely within his powers, under the Diseases of Animals Acts, to prohibit the importation of carcases of any kind, poultry or meat, which are diseased. There is no contravention of any trade agreement in doing so. Here, there seems to be an absolutely sound case for doing it. I hope the Minister has been persuaded, by the case we have put up today, that the risk we are running is the permanent infection of our poultry stocks so long as we continue to import diseased carcases, and that the relatively small consideration, on the one hand, of getting a few Polish geese for Christmas—which are pretty tough anyway—is just not worth it when, on the other hand, the health of this important section of our livestock industry is in the balance. I hope he will look at it again and agree that the total prohibition of import of diseased carcases is the answer.
I think it has been fairly well confirmed in our discussion that the major proportion of the incidence of this disease in Great Britain is due to the importation of carcases from overseas, and we on this side of the House will support the Minister of Agriculture or the Minister of Food in any steps which they take to deal with it.What I am anxious about—particularly because this matter was raised by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South Angus (Captain Duncan)—is that there should not be too much discrimination between Great Britain and Scotland. In Yorkshire we breed some of the best breeding stock in the country, and we are anxious to send it into Scotland to improve the stock there. There seems to be some discrimination against the Yorkshire birds. We are sorry to hear about the outbreak of the disease in Lancashire, and I have no doubt they are dealing efficiently with it, but whereas I am in favour of any restrictions which the Minister might choose to impose on the importation of carcases from overseas. I think it would be a pity if this problem were dealt with too much on a sort of nationalistic basis between the North of England and Scotland. I hope the Minister will see that any undue discrimination against breeding stock from Yorkshire will not be tolerated by his Department. I think it has also been agreed that we are capable in this country of producing all the poultry we really need for our own requirements if only the Minister would see that we get adequate supplies of feedingstuffs.
Like other hon. Members, I also have been approached by my constituents about their fears in this matter. I would like to feel convinced that there is not a point involved in this demand for the restriction of imports, which has not been made absolutely clear by the people who are agitating in this matter. If we are to indulge in a policy of restricting imports, we must not be too shy about admitting the fact that it will be to the advantage of the domestic producer, which in itself is no bad thing, but we must have some regard for the price at the consumer level in this country.I must apologise for arriving late in this Debate, and I must take the risk that this point has already been made. If the Ministry would make some declaration based on its information as to what countries there are where fowl pest is known to be, and make quite certain that we do not import from those countries, that would go a long way towards reassuring our domestic producers. As I understand, the four main countries where fowl pest is really prevalent—Poland, Hungary, Holland and Belgium—are countries against which I know there has been a certain amount of prejudice in the Press. I cannot help remembering that at the time of the importation of Russian grain about two years ago, there was political prejudice against that grain because it was Russian grain; indeed, one heard stories of the grain being below standard even before that grain had been distributed. Speaking for myself, I hope that consumer interests will be fully regarded and that, at the same time, a sane veterinary view will be taken of the matter.
The discussions both outside this House and in it have ranged not round the general question of restricting fowl imports but around the question of whether we should do something of a restrictive nature where it is common ground and admitted that fowl pest is endemic in the flocks from which we are getting our imports.While I dissent from nothing which my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield and Tamworth (Mr. Snow) has said, I think everybody who knows anything about this subject would agree wholly with my hon. Friend the Member for Chorley (Mr. Kenyon) in saying that it would be much too big a price to pay for this limited field of imports—if we could replace them from any other source—to bring them in and run the risk, as we obviously should do, of infecting the whole of our own flocks in quite a short time and having the very costly business of trying thereafter to eradicate the disease. I think my hon. Friend can be satisfied that those who have spoken this afternoon are concerned with this limited field of the small number of countries from whom we are obtaining a proportion of our supply and with the high degree of disease in those countries. I want to say one or two general things about the Order, which will, I think, deal with the questions which I have been asked. but before I forget may I make some comments on points which, it has occurred to me, need to be cleared up so that no unnecessary alarm and despondency is caused outside? My hon. Friend the Member for Chorley spoke about selling diseased birds which we import, and I would not like that to alarm consumers of chickens. It is a fowl disease and not a human disease and, since heat is the one treatment which kills the bacteria, there is no reason why anybody should assume from my hon. Friend's comments that we are selling birds in this country which could have a considerable effect upon the health of the people who eat them. I am sure my hon. Friend did not intend to convey that impression. A number of checks are made to try to get at the birds which come into the country with the disease but, as my hon. Friend knows, these are not very good checks and, short of a laboratory test, it is difficult to tell. That is why we have to take these general precautions against all the birds coming from those countries.
Are diseased birds being sold or not. I understand that if these birds are sold, and if they are cooked properly, the disease will not be transmitted to human beings, but I should like to know this: if the authorities know the birds are diseased, are they then sold?
The point I was making is that it is because we do not know the birds are diseased that we have set up considerable checks. We have sent veterinary officers to the countries concerned to have talks with them about their tests of the birds but, short of a laboratory test, there is no way of showing whether the bird is or is not affected. All we know is that these birds come from countries in whose flocks the disease is endemic, and there is a considerable probability, therefore, that a number are affected. In any case, the disease is not transmittable to, nor does it affect, human beings. It is a disease affecting other chickens, but it does not affect human beings at all.The next point, was, I think, made clear by the hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Nugent). Talking about the dollar situation and the export of our livestock, the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Baldwin) seemed to talk as if the United States had advantages over us in this matter of disease-free flocks and as if we were in danger of losing our export markets as a consequence. The position is entirely the other way round. In fact, the disease is endemic in the United States, whereas it is only now that we are concerned here and it affects only a very small number.
In quoting America as a country which was competing for our export trade, I was not referring to the poultry industry but to all livestock.
In any case, I am not at all sure that I accept that argument. I am dealing with our flocks of birds and there is no doubt of the position. This Order is not a relaxing Order, but one which considerably improves the position from the point of view of tightening up and giving new—and, we hope, effective—safeguards which did not exist before.I think I agree with all hon. Members who have spoken that the only complete check we could get in this way would be to prohibit imports from those countries where the disease is endemic. If there were no other circumstances I am certain that the Ministry of Agriculture, would take the view that the health of our own flocks should have priority and would, therefore, ban importation. Unfortunately, there are other things we have to have in mind, and the fact that we cannot feed the nation without importing food is a point which must always be considered. It has to be considered not only with regard to birds. If we were to take the view that we would not import from countries where meat-borne diseases are endemic, for instance, we should find ourselves in considerable difficulty about agreeing to import any meat from South America, because of the situation there. It would be a very good thing from the point of view of our own herds, but, obviously, we are not able to do it. Similarly, for that reason the Government have come to the conclusion that we cannot take the risk of prohibiting imports of poultry coming from all countries where fowl pest is endemic. What we think we must do is to see what other safeguards we can provide, how we can shield ourselves against the disease, and, at the same time, maintain our food supplies. I shall have a word to say about that before I sit down The latest step we have taken is in the Poultry Carcases (Importation) Order, 1950, which came into effect only a short while ago. This goes a considerable way towards restricting imports. Previous to this Order we had no statutory restrictions on animal disease grounds on the importation of dead poultry. Before the war the disease was not sufficiently prevalent in Europe to make them worth while, and during the war, and since, of course, the Ministry of Food, as sole importer, was able to make its own administrative arrangements. The new Order for the first time, therefore, prohibits imports from all countries where fowl pest is widespread, except four, and they have been correctly mentioned—Belgium, France, Hungary and Poland. That is not the whole story. In the case of Poland we are excluding her geese and her ducks because there are special difficulties, because of their production methods, in taking adequate steps to prevent the import of diseased birds, these are the worst offenders in the sense of getting disease into this country. Therefore, we have prohibited them completely from Poland, at any rate for the moment. The reasons why we are continuing some imports from those four countries are that they have a long-standing trade of this kind with us, and there are difficulties about interrupting that trade. They—in particular, Hungary and Poland —are our main suppliers of poultry, although over the year as a whole the total proportion we get from those four countries, as the hon. and gallant Gentleman said, is not a very high proportion of our total supplies of poultry. Then there is the point the hon. Gentleman the Member for Guildford fairly put, that of the Christmas market. Those of us who have been in the House for the last few years up to and including last Christmas know of the considerable pressure there is round about Christmastime for getting sufficient supplies of turkeys and other poultry, and how we are all concerned to see that our own constituencies have sufficient supplies. It is unquestionably a fact that the total supplies of poultry for next Christmas are not potentially at the moment sufficient for us easily to disregard the imports we get from those four countries. In 1949, our total supplies of Christmas poultry were a little over 16,000 tons, of which some 6,200 tons were provided from home production. We had from Hungary and Poland—and we propose to exclude Polish geese from now on—some 2,100 tons of geese. In 1950, we estimate that there will be a slight increase in our home production to 7,400 tons—an increase of 1,200 tons; but as we are cutting out Polish geese, and as we cannot count on supplies from Hungary, it is quite clear that there is a considerable risk that in 1950, even allowing for imports from those four countries, our total supplies may be less rather than more. Therefore, I feel that it would be unreasonable—and I again emphasise this is a question of balancing one consideration against another—for the Government to take the risk of cutting off the consumers from those sources of supplies, if we can make other arrangements to restrict the field of damage which those importations may do. I say again—I hope it is clear from what I have said already—that I am giving a quite firm undertaking that, although we feel we must continue to allow imports, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Food will review the position in the light of the Christmas supplies when we have seen how they are coming in, and what the trade can obtain from areas that are free. The steps taken to safeguard our flocks are two: first, to reduce the risk of infected carcases being sent to this country; and, second, to localise and prevent the spread of infection from any outbreaks that occur. There are two Orders, the one already referred to, the Poultry Carcases (Importation) Order, and the Live Poultry (Regulation of Sales, Exhibitions and Movements) Order, which aim to do these two things. The first Order requires that the poultry from the countries we have mentioned must, first, be eviscerated, second, be marked with the country of origin, and third, be sold by retail only in five areas in England and Wales, which areas we have chosen because of their industrial and built-up nature, and because there is less likelihood, if we can observe the terms of the Order, of this being spread about and affecting our own commercial flocks. The second Order, as hon. Members will know, restricts the movement of birds to and from those areas. We have sent our veterinary officers abroad, as has been stated, to Hungary and Poland to try to get some agreement with those countries as to the steps that ought to be taken. In general, subject to the one exception I mentioned, of Polish geese, there has been considerable co-operation, and a good deal of improvement has been made at that end. I should like to give one or two figures, because I should not like the impression to get about that we have been having this Debate because the position in this country is getting worse. That is not true. There have been 96 cases of fowl pest in Great Britain since 1st January of this year, as against 208 in the same period for 1948 and 319 for the same period in 1949. One has always to be chary about tempting fate on these matters, and I merely mention those figures to show that, far from there being any evidence that the position is getting worse we are, on the whole, managing to keep it under control. Finally, I should like to say one thing to the poultry keepers themselves. Assuming that we have got to let these fowl in—as, indeed, I think we must for the time being—and assuming that we have taken all the steps we can to localise their movement when they come here so as to be protected, the poultry keepers themselves must do what they can to protect themselves and their own flocks. What has been said today must convince poultry keepers of the danger of using swill that has not been properly boiled, and particularly of allowing their poultry to come into contact in any way with unboiled swill which contains any poultry scraps at all. I would emphasise as strongly as I can that it is much better to get swill which has been boiled off the premises. It cannot be said often enough that it is a penny wise and pound foolish policy to bring in swill to boil oneself if there are poultry on the holding, rather than paying for it from a central plant. It must be boiled properly. That is the most important thing poultry keepers can do themselves. I feel sure that we need not be unduly gloomy. We can keep this pest under control; we can prevent it from becoming endemic here if everybody co-operates—the merchants who handle the imported stuff, our own Department and our own veterinary officers, and the poultry keepers themselves. We shall keep the question under constant review. Should supplies of poultry turn out to be greater than we expect, we shall certainly consider amending the importation Order. Should the Order and the other steps prove to be less effective than we think they will be, we shall certainly be willing to review the Order with a view to tightening it up.
James Keir Hardie (Memorial)
I desire to raise the subject matter of a Motion which I had the honour of placing on the Order Paper as a result of a recent Private Members' ballot, and I wish to ask the House this afternoon to consider the suitability and desirability of erecting in the Palace of Westminster a memorial to the late James Keir Hardie.I would say that as I have wandered about the Palace I have been struck by the significance of most of the statues here. If there is any fault at all, it is that this building pays no tribute, for instance, to John Pym, to Earl Grey—for the first Reform Bill—to the great Lord Shaftesbury and to that illustrious Parliamentarian, Samuel Plimsoll. Above all, we on these benches feel that the time has come when we should honour in this building the great founder of the British Labour Party. In the 1892 General Election, 12 Labour candidates put themselves forward. According to Keir Hardie the movement was "spontaneous, irregular and without any natural cohesion." He said:
Three of these were elected—Havelock Wilson, John Burns and Keir Hardie—and each left his mark on English history. They were by no means the only Labour men in Parliament, but Keir Hardie differed from the other working-class Members of Parliament, first because he was independent of both the Liberal and Conservative Parties, and secondly because he was a Socialist. He came here to create a new Parliamentary Party. As he said:"A number of ardent spirits would get together, form themselves into a local Labour Party and forthwith consider how best to run a candidate."
Much has been said of Hardie's work in Parliament. I want to refer briefly to his courage and to the political and historic significance of his maiden speech. No Member of this House needs reminding of the courage needed in making a maiden speech, but Keir Hardie came here as a simple working man who was pitting his native wit against the giants of a cultured class. In the House when he made his maiden speech were Asquith, Balfour, Gladstone, Labouchere, Morley, Redmond, Randolph Churchill and a young Welshman named Lloyd George. The whole House was against him—not only those on the Conservative and Liberal benches but his own Liberal-Labour Members renounced him. He had even to face the extremely difficult position of 100 Conservatives supporting for tactical reasons the first resolution which he moved in the House of Commons. The political significance of his maiden speech lay in the fact that after the Opposition's official Amendment to the Queen's Speech had been moved, Hardie moved his own Amendment, and in so doing was performing the historical act of saying: Here is a new, a third political party in the House. This House usually has a sense of the dramatic but somehow it went wrong on this occasion. After the official Amendment to the Queen's Speech had been voted down, Keir Hardie did not hear the Speaker call on him. He protested; nothing happened; and the House immediately adjourned in those spacious and comfortable days for six months' holiday. Six months later, in February, 1893, Hardie rose again to move his first Amendment of the Labour Party in the House of Commons. Significant as the very moving of the Amendment was, perhaps even more significant to us was the subject matter of Hardie's first speech. Above all, it called attention to the fact that over 10 per cent. of the British workers were unemployed, and to the fact that they were referred to by many people of the times. in terms of Parson Malthus and of Scrooge in the "Christmas Carol," as the "surplus population." For the 10 per cent. of unemployed there seemed to be no means of maintenance inside the country at all. Keir Hardie boldly declared that the State had a responsibility to provide work for the maintenance of the unemployed. He said that these men had a right to look to the House for assistance in finding employment. He asked cour- ageously, "What have the unemployed to thank Her Majesty for in this Speech." He distinguished the new party from the traditional purposes of supporting either free trade or protection, and said that we could not just afford to wait for better conditions of trade, but must endeavour to deal with the booms and slumps of capitalism. He advocated a 48-hour week in Government factories as an example to others, and a minimum wage of 6d. an hour. He suggested that agriculture, which was even then in a state of decline, ought to be tackled as a serious problem. He ended by saying that the House should speak for the nation as a whole, the unemployed equally with the well-to-do. No man who came to this House was ever braver. On the occasion of the Royal marriage, he called attention to the fact that a woman at Edmonton on that day had died of starvation, and he shocked the House by calling attention to the fact that she, too, was a human being. The England of which he spoke is revealed in the pages of HANSARD, and not merely from the speeches of Socialist propagandists, as an England where children went to school in a state of starvation; where the Army and Navy were called to the Hull dock strike; where guardians made a condition of assistance the willingness of a man to blackleg; where 30 people died in London in one year from starvation, when 7s. 6d. an acre was the cost of agricultural land and £30,000 the cost of an acre of land in Cheapside; where during the previous 20 years 30,000 agricultural workers had left the land. There were no official unemployment figures except those kept by the highly organised trade unions, and these showed 20 per cent. of the ironmoulders and 15 per cent. of the engineers and shipbuilders were unemployed. At a time when Booth was writing his monumental work describing the poor of London, there began in the House what the Liberals called "The attack on 200 years' accumulated injustice." I do not want to make a political speech or call attention to the singular contribution Keir Hardie made to the political freedom of women, for example, or to his work for old age pensions. The fact is that many of the things for which he pleaded in those early days have now become part and parcel of the State and society at the present time. He said that we needed a new political instrument for all this work, and that the workers of the country must have a party of their own. It may be argued against the provision of a statue to this great man that he was not a great Parliamentarian. I would only say that Cromwell was not very distinguished by his contributions to Parliament. The real answer is simply that Keir Hardie's work was to create a political party, and that in the nature of things it was impossible for him to achieve Parliamentary honour in title and distinction. He did not choose to become a Minister in a Liberal Government in the early part of the century, as Burns did, which would have been possible. The very nature and sincerity of the man made his life one of creating a party rather than of seeking honour. In passing, I would draw the parallel of the life of Randolph Churchill to whom a statue exists in the House. In his time he attempted to create a Tory democratic party, and had he lived long enough he might have changed the whole structure of the British Conservative Party. Keir Hardie built a vital part of Parliament. Without the work of Keir Hardie there would have been no Labour Government at present. Even more important—he made a specific and vital contribution to British Socialism. Keir Hardie is, above all, responsible for the fact that British Socialism is at once democratic Parliamentarian, Christian and humanist, and for the fact that the Socialist movement in this country has taken a line very different from that of the Socialist Parties of almost every other country in the world. His life was spent, inside and outside this Parliament, in sacrificing himself to the great task of serving the ordinary people. One thing and one thing only he had in common with Robespierre—he was incorruptible. I would say, above all, that in a great movement built on freedom inside a political party, and in a party which is not distinguished by unanimity on anything, there is, on the whole of these benches and throughout the length and breadth of this great trade union-Labour movement of ours, unanimity as to who was the most significant individual in the history of the Labour Party. We all have our traditions. On the benches opposite the names of men like Disraeli, Gladstone, Asquith and Balfour have meaning. To those of us on these benches names like John Ball, Thomas More, the Chartists, the Tolpuddle Martyrs and Keir Hardie are part of the great tradition of this movement. History belongs to all political parties, and the House, whose decoration in a most curious way pays tribute at the same time to Charles I and Cromwell, by paintings of the Civil War depicting the human and historic incidents on both sides, the House where Walpole and Fox and rival political statesmen of the various centuries can look at each other in St. Stephen's Hall, should be big enough and historic enough to contain at the same time statues of Disraeli and Keir Hardie. I would end by echoing and applying to this great man the tribute paid to the late Mr. Asquith on a similar occasion when the House considered whether it might not honour that great man, and when the leaders of both sides of the House, as I hope they will in this case, came to the House to move a unanimous resolution that a memorial be erected to the late Mr. Asquith. This was the tribute paid to him, and I suggest that it applies very aptly indeed to the man of whose work I have endeavoured to speak:"A Labour Party, gaunt and grim, which knows neither the Liberal nor the Conservative Parties save as opponents to be guarded against."
"At a time when democracy is being challenged and free institutions are being imperilled it is right that the House of Commons should pay their homage to a man who added so much to its renown and influence."
It may be convenient if I indicate at once the view that the Government take of the matter raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test (Dr. King). I should like to congratulate him on his speech and on the non-provocative and substantially impartial and non-partisan way in which he has raised this matter. It is desirable that in anything which any of us have to say we should be as impartial as possible because, at the end, this must be the subject of discussion between the Parliamentary parties. It is desirable that agreement should be reached.I should like to say at once that as far as the Government are concerned we are sympathetic to the view put by my hon. Friend in his speech. I hope that I shall justify that to the satisfaction of the House a little later, but it might be convenient if I were to indicate something of the history of this matter of a memorial to the late Mr. Keir Hardie so far as our records of Parliamentary proceedings go. The matter was first raised in July, 1924, by Mr. Dunnico. He only asked for facilities for the placing of a bust which would be presented by subscribers in recognition of Mr. Hardie's services. At that time, Mr. Jowett was First Commissioner of Works, himself a great friend and fellow worker with Keir Hardie. He replied that the request could be more properly made when it was clear that the desire for such a memorial was general and did not come solely or mainly from Members belonging to one political party. The matter was again revived on the suggestion of Mr. Arthur Henderson, in March, 1925. After consulting Mr. Baldwin, Viscount Peel replied that whatever Mr. Hardie's qualities might have been as a social reform theorist and a propagandist of new ideas, he certainly did not think that Mr. Hardie ever attained a Parliamentary standing sufficiently high to qualify him for this distinction. Perhaps it would be well if I were to deal with that point straight away. Certainly, Mr. Hardie never became Prime Minister or even an occupant of the Treasury or Opposition front bench in any capacity. He lived in days when the Labour Party was of a size in this House which, I imagine, made it not easy for any of them to become Parliamentarians in the full and outstanding sense of the term. The forces that they mustered were not exactly conducive to that end. Undoubtedly, Mr. Keir Hardie was a considerable Parliamentary figure. He was a famed Parliamentary figure, and although there may be something understandable in the view that Viscount Peel expressed it misses fire on the real status that Keir Hardie had in the world of politics and on the extraordinary influence he ultimately had on the shaping of our Parliamentary Government. He was, as my hon. Friend has indicated, as near as may be the founder of the Labour Party. Any of us who is now asked, at a public meeting, "Who was the founder of the Labour Party?" would almost inevitably reply, "Keir Hardie." There were other great men who took part in the process, Socialists, trade unionists and others, but as near as we can get it the symbolic and, to a great extent, the actual figure, was Keir Hardie. His important and significant contribution to British Parliamentary and political history was that he inspired the formation of a new and independent political party, with its own finances, and when it arrived in Parliament, with its own Whips. That political party became, in due course, responsible for the Government of the country, under Parliament, with two minority Labour Governments and, in these later years, two majority Labour Governments. There may be views as to whether this result was desirable, and such views will inevitably exist. That was the historical significance of the life of this man and the sequence of the events of history. Upon our Parliamentary institutions and our Parliamentary situation, and upon the whole sweep and sphere of Government in economic and social affairs, this man, James Keir Hardie, Scots miner, had an outstanding and distinguished influence. His name is symbolical of this great development. In Parliamentary and extra-Parliamentary spheres his life and work are as significant in relation to Parliamentary institutions and to the Government as, in their way, were the lives of other great men whose statues we are happy to see in the Palace of Westminster. Even if it be the case that in the sense of being Parliamentarians there were greater Parliamentarians with a longer experience of the handling of great affairs in this House—it may be a perfectly fair point to argue—nevertheless, in relation to the development of British public affairs and in relation to British Parliamentary affairs, Keir Hardie stands, I think, equal in importance and significance to a large proportion of the great men whose memory is recorded by the memorials which exist in the Palace of Westminster. Therefore, in so far as the Opposition will be consulted about this—they will be consulted about it; it is right that they should be—I ask them to take into account this broad significance of the man and his work, and I am sure that I shall not appeal in vain for a degree of tolerance and understanding, including the understanding of the deep feeling which Labour Members and Labour people outside have that it is time that recognition was given. I hope that we may be able to secure agreement about an appropriate memorial to the memory of James Keir Hardie. I thought I would pause to comment upon the view which was taken by Viscount Peel in 1925. Mr. Ammon—now Lord Ammon—raised the question again in December, 1929, and now there comes into the picture Mr. Lansbury, another old friend and colleague of James Keir Hardie, who had become His Majesty's First Commissioner of Works and Public Buildings at the time when that office held a title of dignity which has now fallen, in these utilitarian days, into the "Minister of Works." I am ready to change it, subject to Parliament, at any time under whatever Act it is by which these titles can be changed by Order. Mr. Lansbury restated his predecessor's point that any memorial should receive the general assent of the House as a whole and not of one party only, but he continued:
I do not quite know what the result of that consultation was, but, anyway, nothing much happened. In a moment I will tell the House what happened, but I do not think that it was adequate. Mr. Lansbury added that the Conservative Party had a bust of Joseph Chamberlain in their Whips' room at the House of Commons and that there was no reason why the Labour Party should not hang a portrait of Keir Hardie, which was already in the possession of the Office of Works, in the Labour Whips' room. It is historically interesting to note that the portrait was eventually hung in the Labour Whips' room in February, 1930; but it cannot now be found in the Whips' room, and it is learnt—I think it is accepted as a fact—that it was destroyed at the time of the bombing of the House of Commons Chamber. That is historically interesting, and I thought that I ought to report that sad occurrence to the House. Later there was a movement to have a bust of John Redmond in the House. Again, the question of memorials generally came up and consideration was given to the question generally and in relation to Mr. Keir Hardie. As a result certain rules of procedure in these and similar cases were adopted. There have been some other incidental matters, but not on this scale. The rules drawn up for the guidance of the Ministry of Works are to this effect:"If you think that the time is ripe for a fresh move to he made, perhaps you will consult the Opposition Whips as to what they consider the views of the other parties might be."
"Any request that a statue, bust or other memorial to any persons be erected within the precincts of the House of Commons should be made, in the first instance, to the First Commissioner of Works, who, if he considers the request worthy of examination, should invite Mr. Speaker or his representative and the Whips of all three parties to consider the matter with him."
The other rules deal with consultation—
It being Four o'Clock, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[ Mr. Kenneth Robinson.]
There is also provision whereby the Royal Fine Art Commission should be consulted and various other matters of procedure. The consent of the Lord Great Chamberlain is also required if the memorial involves any structural alterations to the buildings, and it is also provided that no memorials may be erected to any person within 10 years of his decease, except in accordance with a Resolution of both Houses of Parliament. That point does not arise in this case.It seems to the Government and to myself that we should like this matter to be pursued, and therefore, I would propose to suggest to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Works that he should consult Mr. Speaker, whose view in the matter is important, of course, and the Whips or whoever it may be as representing the other Parliamentary parties. Clearly, this is not the sort of thing that anybody would want a big row about, or any controversial or bitter discussion. The Conservative Party and Liberal Party may have their views, and they must, of course, be taken into account. This is a Friday afternoon, and there are not many of us here, and I would only like to say this to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. I can understand the possibility that they might say "Well, he was not a great and powerful and outstanding figure of the Gladstone and Disraeli type of person in the House of Commons, but he was, notably, a Socialist agitator in the country," which he was. I have been one myself and I am still one, in all parts of the country, including the Highlands of Scotland. They might, therefore, say, "He does not quite come within this category." In that case, I would only urge upon the Opposition that they should recognise that, in our judgment, and I think the judgment is fair, James Keir Hardie, miner, Scotsman, the man who taught himself to write shorthand with chalk at the coal face, and all those things which made him a man of great character to us, is a spiritual founder of this modern Labour Party which has become a great party in the State—and it is to the credit of the British Constitution that a great and new party should be able peacefully to become a predominant party in the State, although some people think it is a pity that happened. I understand that. Keir Hardie is regarded in that light, and I make the statement that this man, agitating, propaganding and functioning in this House, did materially influence the course of British Parliamentary and constitutional history, and economic and social policy, and I would hope that the Opposition, together with the Liberal Party, would say that, although he is perhaps not quite in line with the figures that are there, he was, none the less, a very great man who influenced events to an enormous extent. I hope we can reach agreement, not about the doctrines he preached, but on the view that he was a great man in the history of our country, with a very substantial influence on the course of British public affairs and Parliamentary institutions, and that we may agree that, in all those circumstances, it would be right and proper that the House of Commons should take note of that and erect a suitable memorial to his memory.
I think the House will sympathise with me in following the speech of great dignity with which my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test (Dr. King), opened this Debate, and also in following my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council, who, I feel sure, has spoken, in a very special way, in accordance with the general traditions and sympathies of our party. I say this in no controversial way, but would point out that I belong to the party which, at the last General Election, polled the largest number of votes gained by any political party in history. I suggest, therefore, that if democracy has any meaning the founder of such a party as that might secure a worthy place in this House.Just now I saw my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Bridgeton (Mr. Carmichael), attempting to rise, and I even noticed the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir D. Robertson) nodding his head in sympathy at one point during the speech of the Lord President of the Council. I say to both Scottish hon. Members that Keir Hardie is more than one of the historic figures of Scotland. When he raised the banner of Socialist revolt in Mid-Lanark in the early 90's of the last century, it was significant that the Scots rejected both the gospel and the prophet, and that Keir Hardie had to come to London, to within four miles of where I was born, where the electors of East Ham lifted him on their shoulders and made him a Labour Member of Parliament. It was significant, too, that afterwards he represented Merthyr Tydvil for a time. We are, therefore, talking of no nationalistic figure but of a man who sprang from the soil of Scotland, a man who came down here first to represent a part of this great Metropolis and afterwards one of the traditional Labour constituencies of Wales. Whether Keir Hardie was a great Parliamentarian or not cannot be judged merely by whether he has spoken across the Floor of this House. What counts is what his life stood for in British Parliamentary history, and the profound impact he has had upon all our institutions. Other hon. Members who knew Keir Hardie more than I did will perhaps wish to speak. I speak as one who came into this party when I was 16 years of age and who has been in it for 30 years. I came in within a year or two after Keir Hardie's death. He was a great and revered figure then but his stature—
I apologise for interrupting but I should have said that I am among those who knew Keir Hardie personally. I could not speak of him as a Parliamentarian because I never saw him in the House of Commons, but I knew him personally and undoubtedly he was a great man.
Yes, I had assumed the Lord President of the Council knew him personally.
I wondered. My hon. Friend might have thought I was too young.
I am astonished that the Lord President should attempt to score a debating point of that kind upon such an emotional occasion. I always assumed that the Lord President knew Keir Hardie personally and he must have been profoundly affected by him, as I was. In those days I knew the Lord President at least by name and I lived fairly near the town where his gifts blossomed.We are speaking of a prophet whose prophecies have come true. The gospel of "maintenance or work" that he enunciated was almost a foreign gospel in his lifetime. It was a time when there were strata in society which knew the lowest depths of despair, as is shown in Jack London's "People of the Abyss." We had a society at that time at the bottom of which were people who were completely degraded. Keir Hardie at least tried to lay the foundation of the philosophy that would see that there was a level below which the poorest and meanest could not fall. That is, possibly, his greatest contribution. Though I cannot match the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test, I hope that this House is big enough to recognise the implications of full democracy—that we should honour great men, from whatever party they come. In the opinion of hon. Members on this side of the House, at least, this was a truly great man, in the tradition of British history; and I should be very glad to know that the Conservatives, so long after his death, recognise that.
I must apologise to the House that I did not hear the beginning of the Debate, but the Lord President will understand that that was because we were engaged in entertaining some Canadian boys here. I draw no party line in this matter. I hope we have no party line. I would very much like to support a suggestion that a memorial should be erected in this honourable House to Keir Hardie.One of the great traditions which this country has given to the world, and to my native country of Canada, is that a man can rise within our way of life by his own ability and character; and if ever that applied to any man, it certainly applied to Keir Hardie. At the moment we are not concerned with whether what he built will eventually prove good or bad. He certainly gave firm substance and philosophy to the rise of what has become the Socialist Party. Historians will decide whether that rise was right or not, but the achievement was enormous. We should have a memorial as a tribute to him, and as a tribute to historic fact and, possibly, as a memory of the Socialist Party when it has finally disappeared. It may be that hon. Gentlemen opposite think the Socialists are immortal without being divine, that they will live for ever; but I should like to put to the House, as a student of the political scene, that when any party gives birth to another party, the mother dies. The child lives until it becomes mother or father, whichever the case may be. Liberalism gave birth to Socialism. [Laughter.] I do not think hon. Gentlemen opposite should deny their paternity. It is a mean party that denies its mother's womb. Out of its loins the Society Party was born and the mother has died. [Laughter.] I am sorry, I am getting confused. In turn, the Socialists gave birth to Communism. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh! No."] I am sorry, but even Communism must have a parent, and I think the Socialist Party is in the process of dying. Fortunately, the Conservative Party is sterile. It gave birth to nothing.
It can never give birth.
That is why the Conservative Party will live on for ever, because in our case the mother does not die.I intended this to be an entirely sincere speech. Since Keir Hardie played this enormous part in the creation of the Socialist Party, I should like to pay a tribute to the Socialist Party. This may rob me of my chance of office when we come to power. [An HON. MEMBER: "Don't worry."] The Socialist Party—the Labour movement and the trade union movement generally—has definitely awakened the social conscience. I pay that tribute unblushingly to the efforts of the party opposite. It has hastened the democratisation of life. If only it had remained a missionary and evangelical force in the country, what value it could have been for a long time. Only when the missionaries decided that they could take over the economic life of the country did the disaster reveal itself. Since I believe that hon. Members opposite must be swept out of office and power soon because of their economic failure, I say to them in my farewell and adieu: We acknowledge that you did much for the spiritual awakening of the country, and, while we are delighted at the thought that you will soon disappear, we shall remember you, and we think that we should have in this House a permanent memento that you once existed.
I hope that I shall say nothing which will mar the general feeling of the House today. I do not speak merely as a narrow-minded Scotsman. I go to the other extreme and I say that it would be unfitting for a Scotsman in this House to hear a Debate of this kind without at least attempting, in his own humble way, to make his contribution. I will not enter into controversy with the hon. Member for Southgate (Mr. Baxter) about the future of the Socialist Party or the Conservative Party. We are, I hope, anxious to recognise the place of a man in the history of British political democracy, and I think we are bound to regard Keir Hardie as a great Parliamentarian in the broadest sense of the word.If anyone studies the history of the Socialist movement he is bound to recognise that Keir Hardie actually made a challenge within the Socialist movement itself—a challenge to figures like H. M. Hyndman and others as to the trend of political thought in this country. If he was a champion of any one thing, he was a champion of Parliamentary government. In that sense he went among the working class of this country emphasising the importance of Parliamentary government. That was at a period when there was serious discontent among the working class.It is quite true that that discontent was not canalised in any way which could be regarded as giving significance to any political thought, but there was discontent and he tried to organise them along constitutional lines. It is quite true—I give this point to the hon. Member for Southgate—that he made an attempt to extend political democracy in this country through the medium of the Liberal Party. In his early days he had a feeling, without having imbibed Socialist thought at all, that there was something radically wrong in this land where the harder people worked the poorer they were, and the less people worked the richer they were. He thought there was something radically wrong in that kind of economy, and he also thought the time had arrived when ordinary working men from the pits and the factories should enter the British House of Commons. He pleaded with the Liberal Party to accept that view, but until then it was unheard of, and he was unable to penetrate their minds with his ideas. He made the famous fight in Mid-Lanark. It is quite true that he ultimately came down to London, where he was recognised and sent to the House of Commons. Obviously, he could never be a great Parliamentary figure, standing at the Treasury Box. He was in the process of building that great democratic party which made it possible to have ordinary working men standing at the Treasury Box; and, while I do not want to enter into controversy, my view is that they will be standing at the Treasury Box for many years to come. We do not recognise Keir Hardie merely as a figure; he was symbolic of an expanding democracy. The right to enter the British House of Commons, the right of the ordinary worker to speak alongside the privileged person, is not in itself sufficient; what is important is what he is attempting to say, what he is attempting to do, and the things he is attempting to have accomplished in the framework of our constitution. I can think of other things which Keir Hardie achieved. First, he fought all his life to have the miners regarded as honourable men in society. No man, whatever his political opinions, will dispute that today miners are among the most dignified members of the community. That was made possible by the development of Parliamentary representation, on the basis urged by Keir Hardie, until the party which he championed became the Government of the country. I remember his struggle for the right to work. I did not know him as an intimate; I knew him when I was a minor, a small insignificant lad in the movement in the West of Scotland. He fought for the right to work. It has now been acclaimed from both sides of this House of Commons that the main purpose of government, so far as our internal affairs are concerned, must be the maintenance of full employment. That is now accepted, and in the last five years—in my view at any rate; and I admit that this is a political point—the Government have attempted, in their organisation of our national economy, to work along those lines. Another point which I should mention was Keir Hardie's great nationalism, as expressed in his love of his fellow men all over the world. He was a great internationalist and a great Scotsman. Those are not conflicting viewpoints. The two harmonise. In my view, the great nationalist cannot give full expression to his nationalism unless he permits the same right to the people of other lands, and Keir Hardie did that; and his outstanding achievement in that field was his agitation on behalf of the people of India. If I may be permitted to say so, I think the most outstanding achievement in the Government's record of the last six years is not only the granting of freedom to India, but the permitting of that freedom to develop while the spirit of co-operation continued on a stronger scale than ever before. I believe that at this very critical hour in world history, when there are very grave fears and doubts in the minds of men in all corners of the world, India can play a tremendous part in the possibility of establishing world peace. I think we have to look back to the pioneer work of Keir Hardie in that respect. We must recognise it if we are to have a true history of the development of political democracy in this, in my view the freest institution in the world; because, as has been said, a man can come direct from a bench in a factory into this House of Commons and immediately cross swords with someone who has been here many years. It is a great opportunity, this right to express oneself freely. Keir Hardie made his contribution in that direction in influencing the minds of the people towards constitutional change. He held the view that political democracy was merely a beginning of that great idea of democratic government and he fought not merely for the right to be in this British House of Commons, but ultimately the right to use this great institution so that it might be possible to remove the wrongs and the ills and the uncertainties from this land, and finally to stretch out our hand to the people of the world in permanent peace. I think it would be a great honour for all Members of Parliament if we took the opportunity, through the usual channels, in the most friendly and kindly way, to erect a monument or a statue to one of the great figures in this country, who was, too, a great Scotsman.
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Southgate (Mr. Baxter), I did not hear the opening part of the Lord President's speech. I was not aware that this Debate was taking place; I came in to hand in a Question, having torn myself away from the burden of correspondence which all of us here have to carry, and I heard enough of what he said to compel me to take my seat and hear him to the end. I should like here to say that I personally regret that more of our colleagues on this side of the House are not here now, because I feel certain they would have been as deeply touched as I have been by the right hon. Gentleman's speech.I was born and brought up in the same part of the country as Keir Hardie. I remember quite well, though I was very young at the time, when he first entered this House. I think he played a very great part in bringing to the knowledge of the House of Commons the conditions under which the greatest number of people lived in this country. I think he was a great pioneer. I have often wondered how difficult it must have been for him when he came in as the first Socialist Member of Parliament. I like to believe, however, that the Members of both the historic parties made him welcome. I feel sure they did, though they would have disagreed with his policy, as I should have done and as all of my colleagues on this side of the House would have done. However, we admire him, and are proud to do so because the great party which now governs our country sprang very largely from his efforts, and of those of other pioneers. I earnestly hope that this proposal, made so well by the Lord President today, will go through with acclamation on all sides of the House.
I think all of us on this side of the House are very grateful to the two hon. Gentlemen opposite who have spoken in this Debate; and perhaps by their reaction, less emotional than ours, they have contributed more to the success of the proposal made by my right hon. Friend. It is almost impossible for us who have been nurtured in the Labour movement to speak of the memory of Keir Hardy without a great deal of emotion. However, today we are not considering Keir Hardie as a great Socialist. We are considering him as a great democrat. I say as a great democrat advisedly, because I think Peel's formula of a great Parliamentarian was the wrong one. We have done honour to the memory of Oliver Cromwell in this House, but no one would suggest it was in admiration of Cromwell's regard for the Standing Orders of the House of Commons.I think it is right that we should remember Keir Hardie as the man who gave a new impetus to democracy in this country, and who brought into existence a new political organisation that made it possible for us to widen the democratic basis upon which this Parliament rests; and by so doing, I think, contributed greatly to the preservation of democracy in this country when democracy in other countries of the world was fighting a losing battle. It is right, as the Lord President said, that any proposal of this kind should be undertaken with the united support of the whole of this House, and I am glad negotiations are to be undertaken. I would suggest to the Lord President that if in those negotiations he has to concede some point to the Opposition, he should concede the point that we on this side of the House are prepared to abrogate any right we may have to erect a statue to the late James Ramsay MacDonald. Today we have in the Leader of the Opposition another great democrat, a man who has a great heart, and a man who has a great faith in the rightness and quality of parliamentary government in this country, and I hope that this House today will send to the Leader of the Opposition a message of hope that he will once again rise to the greatness of an occasion, that he will show again that spirit which makes him loved by even those of us who strenuously disagree with his point of view, and that he will lead his party in adopting the same line as that taken by the two hon. Gentlemen of his party who have spoken today—lead them to pay honour and respect to that great democrat, James Keir Hardie.
I think it is excellently and, perhaps, characteristically British that there should be unanimity in this House today upon this proposal to erect a memorial to Keir Hardie. I speak as a representative of the constituency which sent him to Parliament for the first time in 1892. That Borough of West Ham has already honoured Keir Hardie. They have unveiled a bust in his memory, and one of the great housing estates that are being built there is called the Keir Hardie Housing Estate. His memory is legendary there, as it is throughout the country. He was a man of the people, and the people honour his name and will be proud to support the recommendation for this memorial.
The Question having been proposed at Four o'Clock and the Debate having continued for half an hour, Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.
Adjourned at Half-past Four o'Clock.