Again considered in Committee.
[Sir CHARLES MACANDREW in the Chair]
Clause 1—(Charges For Telegrams)
Amendment proposed: In page 1, line 9, leave out "three," and insert "two."—[ Mr. Hobson.]
Question again proposed, "That 'three' stand part of the Clause."
I think it will be within the recollection of most hon. Members that I was on the point of expressing some surprise that the Assistant Postmaster-General had not placed on the Order Paper an Amendment to the original proposal of 3s. for 12 words for telegrams and 3d. per word thereafter.I do not know if other hon. Members have received complaints from constituents about this extraordinary burden which has been imposed upon the senders of telegrams, whether for social, industrial or commercial purposes, but I have had a number of telegrams and letters asking me to oppose the original proposals and to support any effort made to modify them. I am surprised that the Assistant Postmaster-General has not acted in accordance with the recommendations of the Select Committee in this matter. I am glad to see the Chairman of that Committee is present in the Chamber, and I have no doubt he will make a contribution to the discussion later. There were two recommendations from the Committee. The first was that the Post Office and the Treasury should examine various alternative schemes to bring the inland telegraph service into some sort of balance. The second was that the Post Office should pursue its investigations into the possibility of increasing rates for inland Press telegrams. 6.30 p.m. It does not fall to me on this Amendment to discuss the second recommendation. In passing, I would say that if it had been adopted about 30 years ago, and the equity which we shall try to seek in later Amendments had been secured, there might have been a possibility—I put it no higher than that—that the financial position would have been much healthier. I have never been able to understand why some members of the community should get priority treatment for Press telegrams at a very low, unreasonable and uneconomic charge. I cannot understand why that has been allowed to go on for so long. In the interests of equity, I shall support any proposal to readjust the position, if only in a small way, though I must make it clear even to my hon. Friends that I think that it is only the small Press unit which will be affected. The time for catching the big fish has gone, and if we are not careful a little hardship, which will be suffered by reporters of minor events, might be caused. I cannot understand why the Post Office have not had regard to what is a most important alternative suggested by the Select Committee. In the form of a question—No. 1192—the Chairman of the Select Committee said:
That question was put to the representatives of the Post Office by the Chairman. The answer was:"If you were given a figure or if you were told that the Treasury were prepared to face a deficit of up to five million, would there be any chance of keeping that deficit down to that figure, especially if you were told you could vary charges at your own will so long as the deficit did not exceed five million?"
I underline this—"I think broadly that we might work that out; it might oscillate, because you cannot alter charges every six months. It would have to be an average five million a year over a period; but I think if we were told …"
Then the Chairman said:"You must aim at a deficit of five million a year and no more, averaged over a fair period, and you may modify your charges to fit that,' we might manage to do so by and large."
Having examined a number of suggestions, the Chairman of the Select Committee comes to the conclusion that here is an alternative worthy of consideration. It is still worthy. I am glad to see the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) in his place, because he dealt with the point on Second Reading. He will agree that after listening intelligently to that debate he came to the conclusion that it is impossible to make the telegraph service solvent under any conditions. I think that the Assistant Postmaster-General and my hon. Friends will agree. It is one of the services which it is impossible to make solvent in view of present-day conditions. Therefore, the best solution is to introduce a basic figure below which we should strive not to go. That must have been in the mind of the Select Committee. I do not say that £5 million should be the figure. It might be too low or too high. However, I suggest that it would have been profitable had the administration considered whether or not to accept that scheme and to accept the responsibility for keeping near that figure. Nothing came of that suggestion. The Assistant Postmaster-General can correct me if I am wrong, but as far as I know he did not even mention it. If I was a member of the Select Committee and the Minister responsible had not even had the courtesy to refer to such a suggestion, I should protest most strongly. Hon. Gentlemen opposite who made the suggestion should protest most strongly today at the fact that the Assistant Postmaster-General has completely ignored it. It remains to be seen whether consideration has been given to the matter. If there has been such a consideration the Assistant Postmaster-General should tell us what are objections. There was another scheme which appears to have received scant consideration. It was proposed by the Union of Post Office Workers to which my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Hobson) referred. The union suggested that 1s. 6d. should be a basic minimum for nine words and that there should be a charge of 2d. a word thereafter. That would make a charge of 2s. 8d. for the 16 words of an average telegram. I cannot see any reference in the OFFICIAL REPORT of the Second Reading debate to any serious consideration having been given to that scheme. I associate myself with the tribute paid to the work of the union. There is something almost unique in the way in which the union have been tackling the problem of the telegraph service, knowing full well that whatever they did in the matter would result in redundancies among their own members. They have had conversations, not only at administrative level, but also at Ministerial level, in their effort to prove that the Minister ought not to take the drastic step of imposing a 100 per cent, increase knowing, as he must do, that it will kill the telegraph service. That will be only a question of time. If the charge is to be 3s. for the first 12 words and 3d. a word after that, the public will know that it is a prohibitive sum and will realise that it is done only because the Government wish to get rid of the service. I cannot see anyone paying 4s. or 5s. for ordinary telegrams, especially when there is a reliable and speedy postal service like we have. I say that with all due deference to the deferred night service. The union said that if its scheme were adopted, the deficit would be reduced by nearly £1 million. I have known the time when I could estimate what would happen in the Post Office, but having left it for a year or two I am not now in that position. I can only calculate broadly, and on that basis I believe that the scheme would save about £900,000 per year. That would be a very substantial reduction in the deficit, and if we ally that with the point which I made under the first heading of the suggestion by the Select Committee, we should be approaching a measure of stability. I am sorry to take so long, but it is important that we should put all these points of view to give the Assistant Postmaster-General an opportunity Jo do what he should have done on Second Reading, and that is to deal with the suggestions which have been put forward. My hon. Friends and I suggest a minimum of 2s. for 12 words and 2d. a word thereafter. At an average of 16 words per telegram, that would be 2s. 8d., which is very near the figure produced under the scheme suggested by the Union of Post Office Workers. The Assistant Postmaster-General and the Department have disintegrated the Service out of all reason. The Leader of the Opposition was right when he said that we must take a service like this as an entity. It is ridiculous to try to break it up into small bits. After all, it forms part of one service of telecommunications facilities. One cannot break up such a service, for if one did one would not have telephones in the North of Scotland or telephone kiosks in rural Wales. Only in the big cities would such facilities be found."That seems to be the only practical suggestion at the moment."
Like sponsored T.V.
I will leave that matter to my hon. Friend, for I might find myself out of order if I pursued it.Not only have the Assistant Postmaster-General and his Department disintegrated the telegraph service from the postal service, but in his speech the Assistant Postmaster-General was also separating it from the other parts of the telecommunications service. He said that a deficit of £4,500,000 was anticipated this year on inland telegraphs, that for the telegraph service alone the deficit would be £3.1 million, and that we could not take into consideration teleprinters rented to subscribers or the overseas telegraph service. Why cannot we do that? The teleprinted service to subscribers and the overseas telegraph service could not be carried on for two hours if it were not for the rest of the inland telegraph service which is the framework on which those other services are built. I remember when the services to certain foreign countries did not pay. We did not stop those services; we said that the services on the whole would pay and that those facilities were required in the interests of this nation and other nations. The Assistant Postmaster-General has not yet shown any signs of doing so, but I hope that after some of us have spoken he will say that he will accept the Amendment. I do not see how he can act otherwise. If he does not propose to accept the Amendment, let him be fair and tell the Committee that it is witnessing the beginning of the end of the telegraph service as we have known it. I cannot repeat what was said on Second Reading, but I should like to point out that whoever is responsible for endangering the telegraph service, with all its repercussions on strategy, trade and commerce, has done a disservice to the nation. It not only makes it impossible for ordinary people to send telegrams but it makes it difficult for trading and commercial establishments to rehabilitate themselves. We have passed through a very difficult period on the telegraph side since the war. There has been development of the telephone service but it has not been possible for us to do all that we should like to do for trade. In the years ahead there might be increased interest in the telegraph service, but that will not be brought about by doubling the price of telegrams. I am surprised at hon. Members who come here under the cloak of being business people and tell us that we on this side have no experience of business and that big business knows how to deal with these things. If this is the way that business representatives look after one of the finest industries in the country, we had better get rid of the idea of private enterprise, for there is no private enterprise in this. All that we see here is a spirit of defeatism. Hon. Members opposite say that the ends do not meet, that it is all very worrying and that the Select Committee on Estimates time after time suggests that the Government are not doing their best to overcome deficiencies, and they lose faith and say, "All right, let us kill it. That is the easiest way. What does not exist cannot be criticised." I am surprised that hon. Members opposite who have had experience on the Select Committee and know the inside of this business have not pressed the Assistant Postmaster-General to do something infinitely greater than he has done. I hope that even at the 59th minute of the 11th hour the Assistant Postmaster-General will stand in a manly way at the Dispatch Box and say that after listening to all the arguments and the case put forward he agrees that the Government have made a mistake and that they will reprieve this service which in the opinion of many of us has been unrivalled in the skill, efficiency and loyalty of those who operate it.
I know that the whole Committee very well understands the deep emotion that underlies the practical approach of the hon. Member for Droylsden (Mr. W. R. Williams), who has given up many years of his life to this service and we fully understand that these matters must cause him great pain. These situations often arise in the forward march of progress. One knows, for example, how very many people, in the days of the horse, felt very unhappy about the coming of the motor car. Even more recently, one could understand the feelings of the London tram drivers when the trams were abolished. Therefore, I fully understand the hon. Member's emotion, and I think that the whole Committee feels with him.To return to the question of the Select Committee on Estimates, I would remind the hon. Gentleman that that Committee has, as its terms of reference, the task of reporting what, if any, economies, and so on, are possible. I fail to see how any Estimates Committee could fail to recommend significant economies when it realises that either the State or other users of the Post Office have to pay for an average loss of 2s. 9d. per telegram.
That is a very important point, and one on which the Committee would like an explanation. The terms of reference of the Select Committee on Estimates are
The fact is that the recommendations of the Select Committee were policy recommendations, and that was the amazing thing. I am astonished that there has been no expression of opinion on that point. Here, we get definite recommendations on policy from the Committee on Estimates."to report what, if any, economies consistent with the policy implied in those Estimates may be effected therein."
The hon. Gentleman has raised a very important point. It all depends on how one defines policy. If we attempt to define it as narrowly as the hon. Gentleman does, I think we should find that the Committee would make no recommendations of any sort at all. The hon. Gentleman defines policy as any action of a Government Department. I wish that the word policy was not used. I take it that policy means political policy, as distinct from administrative policy, and that is the way in which the Estimates Committee define the word policy. I quite agree with the hon. Gentleman that it is a very important point, but I think it is one that cannot ever be settled, and that we must rely on the common sense of the Estimates Committee and of the House in its interpretation.I now want to say something to the hon. Member for Droylsden about the suggestion of limiting the deficit, which is referred to in Question 1192 of the Minutes of Evidence. It is a question of limiting the Inland Telegraph Service to a definite loss and budgeting for that loss. I am sure that the Post Office gave consideration to the suggestion and probably rejected it for this reason: it all depends on how we vary the charges, and if the Postmaster-General and the Treasury came to the conclusion that the loss must be limited to something like, say, £2½ million, we would still have had a precisely similar Bill to this Bill in order to meet that desired end.
Is not that precisely the effect of the Bill? If these charges are now adopted, they will reduce the deficit from £4½ million to about £2 million. Does the deficit stay there, or will there be another Bill to increase the charges to get rid of the rest of the deficit?
I do not see the point of that intervention. My point is that the estimated deficit for 1953–54 was £4.6 million. I have given the estimate for the economies under this Bill as £2.7 million, which reduces the deficit, as the hon. Gentleman says, to just under £2 million. The hon. Member for Droylsden's suggestion would depend entirely upon what level of loss was to be budgeted for.
I am merely asking whether the hon. Gentleman agrees that the Post Office services should carry a deficit of £2 million on the telegraphic services?
I think that £2 million would not be a bad deficit, bearing in mind all the factors involved. I should be very unhappy if the Government introduced a Bill next year to increase the charges still further. I do not think there is much in the argument that we should approach the matter from the point of view of aiming for a definite deficit, rather than in this experimental way of seeing what steps will result from this present proposition. We should have had some such proposal for raising the charges and removing the deficit in any case.
This is a very important point, although it is really more appropriate to the debate on the Question "That the Clause stand part of the Bill." The extent to which an increase in charges will reduce the deficit is based entirely on the estimate of the Department as to either an increase in traffic or a reduction in traffic, but the fact is that the divisor is not known, and we are bound to get an incorrect quotient when we have no divisor.
I think the hon. Gentleman would agree that those who are best qualified to make estimates are the people in the Post Office themselves. The hon. Gentleman has, quite rightly, praised the Post Office, and I think we must allow that they can make better estimates, certainly than I can make myself, of what the result of the change will be. It may be true that they can only do it by an intelligent guess, but I should imagine that their guess would be more intelligent than the guesses of others.Next, I am surprised that the hon. Member for Droylsden should run two arguments at the same time. First of all, he says that the Postmaster-General should adopt the policy of budgeting for a specific loss—a limited loss—and ignores the fact that that would mean frequent variation of charges and resulting in Bills of this nature every year or two. Then, he went back on the old claim that the services of the Post Office should be treated as an entity. It is not a question of definite right or wrong; it is a question of opinion. I myself feel, as a representative of the taxpayer, as we all are in this House, that it is difficult to justify what may react to the detriment of the taxpayers in reducing any payments by the Post Office to the Exchequer or increasing payments by the Exchequer to the Post Office, or what may mean increased charges to areas of the other Post Office services. I now want to say a word or two about the actual charges. To the great majority of the people using them, the new charge for telegrams will not be prohibitive. It cannot be maintained that the number of telegrams sent by business and commercial people will necessarily decline, or that every one of these people who used to send telegrams will now cease to send them because they have to pay more for them. I think that the hon. Member for Droylsden is taking an unduly pessimistic view of the health of his old friend and master.
I am not the only one who takes that view. The Post Office has taken the view that this charge will reduce the number of telegrams by 33⅓ per cent. The difference between us is that, once we go beyond a certain mark, we can see that the beginning of the end of the service is in sight.
I differ from the hon. Gentleman in one respect only. I do not think that the service will ever die, at any rate until we reach the position where almost every person in the country has ceased to have any use for telegrams; and I do not think that that time is within sight. It is an exaggeration to say that the proposed increase will kill the service.I have only had one or two communications at the most from my constituency about this Bill. In our present state of financial stringency we cannot afford to run any department of the Post Office at an exorbitant loss. The Select Committee was right in its recommendation. It went very carefully into the matter, and recommended that the Treasury and the Post Office, in conjunction, should endeavour to bring about a significant reduction. It was no use tinkering with the job. The important word was "significant." As trustees, as we all are for the finances of the country, and for the users of other postal services as well, the Select Committee was bound to make that recommendation. I welcome the Bill, which will authorise a significant reduction which will not kill the service, which will cause very little hardship, and which will enable the Post Office to carry out its duties towards the community.
I was interested in the remarks of the hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. Nicholson), who was Chairman of the Estimates Committee. He would be the first to admit that it is not the sub-committee that finally makes a recommendation but the full Estimates Committee. As a member of that Estimate Committee, I take a different view of its scope and powers from that of the hon. Member. It was not for nothing that the Report of the Committee said these words in paragraph 13:
here are the important words—"Your Committee do not therefore find themselves in possession of sufficient knowledge to enable them to advise as to the particular course to be followed "—
It is not within the power of the Estimates Committee to recommend any such course. I for one would not be a party to the Estimates Committee's Report if I had not considered the matter carefully. We recommended that the Post Office and the Treasury should, in conjunction, make a thorough examination. There was nothing definite about that. It was not an examination just of the Estimates Committee's scheme, but of any other scheme they thought would reduce the deficit. It is on this point about the reduction of the deficit that the quarrel lies between the two sides of the Committee. The third question asked in the subcommittee's report was: "What should be done?" The answer given by Sir Ben Barnett in the evidence on Wednesday, 10th June, paragraph 1071, was:"even were they empowered to do so."
We considered that in the circumstances there should be an increase in the tariff, but we do not think that the Government have done the right thing. They are not making a substantial increase but one that is colossal. They are doubling the cost from 1s. 6d. to 3s. for 12 words. That is where we quarrel with the Government. Having regard to the circumstances and the history of the service, a substantial increase from Is. 6d. to 2s. would have been sufficient, with the additional word charge at 2d. instead of 3d. The three sections of the Post Office, shown in the accounts presented to Parliament are, first the postal section, and secondly, the general telegraph section, of which the English service is only a part. There has been no splitting up for the purpose of presenting accounts. The third section is the telephone section. From 1922 to the beginning of the war the general telegraph section never had a deficit lower than about £650,000. It ranged between that figure and £1,600,000. From 1946, the deficit has varied from £1.9 million to £4.4 million. In the light of these figures I want to examine the Government's proposals. Last year, the deficit was £3.6 million. It is estimated that this year it will be £3.1 million and next year £2.9 million. Without any raising of charges, therefore, the estimated deficit for next year would have been lower than at any time since 1946. In the accounts presented to Parliament, the general telegraph service for 1947–48 showed a deficit of £2.4 million. The Government now propose to double the rate and by so doing cut the traffic by 30 per cent. They are bound to render people unemployed—but I will come to that aspect of the matter later. Instead of having a deficit estimated at £2.9 million, they will have one of £400,000, lower than at any time this century, apart from war years, when obviously things are entirely different. If this scheme succeeds we shall have a complete change in the finances of the Post Office. In 1912, the deficit was £1.1 million and, in 1913, £1.2 million. We must remember the changed value of money when considering the justice of the proposed exaggerated increase. The Government are completely changing the whole position in these three sections of the Post Office. There is no justification for what the Government are doing, not even in the Report of the Estimates Committee. We have to recognise that this is a national service. The hon. Member for Farnham ended his speech by saying that he did not think that this increase would kill the service. If he thought that, why on earth did he start by saying that there is always a certain amount of regret at the passing of things? He spoke about the horse, about how it had gone out of existence as a haulier; how the London trams had disappeared, and so on. Why did he say that, and then finish with a completely phoney suggestion that he did not think that the increase was going to kill the service?"To make a great impression on the deficit there are only two alternatives, really, in our view; one to restrict the service considerably, or, two, to impose a substantial increase in the tariff."
I was merely sympathising with the hon. Member for Droylsden (Mr. W. R. Williams) who joined the telegraph service in its heyday and who has since seen it outstripped by other services. I did not say that the increase would kill the service, but it is a declining service and belongs to the past rather than to the future. I sympathised with the hon. Gentleman because we saw his regret and distress at the decline of this service.
If the hon. Gentleman saw my hon. Friend the Member for Droylsden (Mr. W. R. Williams) in such emotional distress, it would have been better had he come in with the latter part of his speech rather than the first part, and told him that this was not going to kill the service. His method of applying sympathy is not very effective. The fact is, of course, that we cannot do without this service. We have only to remember its strategic value, if nothing else.
What is going to take its place?
I do not know. We shall probably go back to carrier pigeons, on which, occasionally, we have to depend in war.The Government have taken the first step towards the destruction of this valuable means of communication. The number of telegrams sent last year was 34 million. The Government reckon that this increase will have the effect of reducing their number by some 11 million. If that is not leading to the dismantlement of the service, I do not know what is. A service can only be maintained if people are prepared to work in it, but we shall recruit no one into this service under these conditions. The telegraph service has served this country pretty well. That is true, not only of the distant past, but even of the present time. I believe that 53 per cent, of telegrams are sent by ordinary householders, and 47 per cent, by business concerns. Let us consider the effect of this increase on businesses. It will mean an increase in their expenses which, of course, they can recoup by passing it on to the consumers.
The customer will not pay it.
The customer always pays.
In fact, the Treasury pays 52 per cent, of it.
I think the hon. Gentleman had better read the Report of the Estimates Committee.
As the average incidence of industrial and commercial taxation today is 52 per cent., it follows that any increased charges, which are, of course, assessable for tax relief, would result in the Treasury paying 52 per cent.
In other words, the hon. Gentleman is saying that the Treasury will subsidise this increase on behalf of the business community. They will not do it for the old-age pensioner who has to send a telegram.About 12 million householders in widely scattered areas depend on the telegraph service because they have no telephones. Surely the Assistant Postmaster-General must realise that the original statement on alternatives by his leading official really means either cutting off the service geographically or economically as far as some people are concerned. By raising the charge to 3s., the Government are putting the service out of the reach of a considerable number of people, and it is obvious that this is where the loss of those 11 million telegrams comes in. People will not be able to afford to send telegrams, and in cases where it is absolutely necessary for them to do so the increased cost will represent a hardship. Telegrams are mainly sent by private people at times of distress and when a death occurs in the family. Then it is usually not a case of sending one telegram, but three or four. It would be interesting if the hon. Gentleman could tell us what this is going to mean to hospitals. It may well be that, in view of the increased cost, hospitals will not send telegrams notifying people that there is a bed for them. Instead, they will send letters, with the result that hospital beds will remain empty for a day or two. That is one of the other indirect results of this increase. The Assistant Postmaster-General should also remember that the telegraph service in the scattered areas of the country is not as good as it was. For instance, delivery has been centralised. In my own constituency, telegrams that were formerly delivered in Darvel, which is on the border between Ayrshire and Lanarkshire, were sent out from the post office in Darvel. They are now sent out from a post office in Kilmarnock, and are delivered by messengers on motorcycles. As a result, there has been a slowing up in the speed of delivery, and in winter it will probably lead to a breakdown in the service if the weather is such that the motorcyclist cannot get through. Therefore, we are going to be asked to pay more for telegrams and to get a worse service. Admittedly, the Post Office workers agreed to this with a view to preventing an increase of this character. I think that the saving in Ayrshire has been something like £200 a year. From the point of view of the history of this service, this doubling of the charge is quite unjustified. Had the charge been increased from 1s. 6d. to 2s. it would have been sufficiently substantial, and would probably have met with the support of the whole Committee.
I propose to confine myself to the Amendment, and I intend to be very brief. The Post Office wants to increase the charge for a telegram of 12 words from 1s. 6d. to 3s. and the charge for each additional word from l½d. to 3d. The Amendment proposes that the present rate should be increased to 2s. for 12 words and to 2d. for each additional word, and it is the Amendment that I want to support.I understand that the surplus of the Post Office is estimated to be between £2 million and £3 million. That surplus applied before these increased charges were proposed. Both sides are agreed that these Post Office services should be regarded as a whole. There is no need to argue that proposition this evening, because it is obvious. Both sides recognise that there must be a deficit on this particular inland telegraph service—and I emphasise the word "inland." The real issue therefore is the amount of the deficit. I was very pleased when the hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. Godfrey Nicholson) agreed that there must be a deficit. If I understood him correctly, he would regard it as reasonable if the other services carried this particular service with a deficit of £2 million. I do not know whether both sides would take that view. I did not regard it as reasonable, but I should expect the Post Office to be a little more generous. The loss is £4½ million. If these increased charges are adopted, it will be reduced to £2 million. That is a very substantial reduction, but it is also based on an assumption that the traffic will fall by 30 per cent. I have never yet heard the Assistant Postmaster-General analyse the effects of a 30 per cent, fall in traffic. There must be a reduction in other costs too, and although I am not saying they would reduce the deficit, I should like to know more about that. In their Report the Estimates Committee have touched upon policy when they have come forward with a recommendation which doubles the charges as this does and which will cut traffic by 30 per cent. Indeed, as my hon. Friend the Member for Droylsden (Mr. W. R. Williams) has said, it is more calculated to kill the service. By that he did not mean that every telegram would go out of existence but that the service would be disrupted. No one in this Committee can say that he is wrong.
No one can say that he is right.
We can, because the assumption is that when these charges are adopted the traffic will go down by 30 per cent., so he is right to that extent.
It is an assumption.
No, it is an estimate. It is a forecast, and the Post Office are very intelligent at forecasting.It affects policy, and it is going to affect the domestic user of the telegram by making it too expensive for him to use. I should like again to emphasise a point I made on Second Reading. In circumstances of life and death, the ordinary working-class family would have to send not one but two, three or four telegrams. Four times 4s. is 16s.—that is piling it on. It will have a crippling effect on that section of the community restricted to the use of the telegram. I leave out the training hospitals which send out a good many telegrams. It is a reliable method, and it will mean that the cost will go up tremendously in those hospitals. They send a telegram because they do not want bed accommodation to be wasted. They want beds to be occupied as soon as possible. The Postmaster-General and the Assistant Postmaster-General have been very generous in their praise of the staff —for the help they have given and so forth in meeting these difficulties. During the Second Reading debate I welcomed the declaration that the staff representatives would get the fullest prior consultation. In the face of this problem I hope we shall see developments in consultation between administration and staff, but is this the right way to reward the staff for their loyal service and help? I was in favour of the union's proposal mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Droylsden. This Amendment does not go so far as the union suggested but if it were adopted it would also be a gesture to the staff. I conclude by saying that to accept this Amendment would be reasonable as a gesture to the staff, and reasonable help to the public, particularly those who cannot afford a telephone and who are driven in urgent circumstances to use the telegraph service. I am sure that it is not the desire of the Assistant Postmaster-General to take positive action to kill the service, but cannot he soften the blow to the extent suggested by the Amendment? Since we are all agreed that the service must be regarded as a whole, and that a deficit must be carried by the service as a whole, cannot this Amendment be accepted and so carry the deficit on the reduced figure instead of adopting these charges which will send up the Post Office surplus from £3 million to £5 million?
Up to now the bulk of the argument has been centred on the financial and economic aspects. I want to speak about the human aspect. The old-age pensioner has already been mentioned, but I think that it has not been sufficiently stressed that the majority of old-age pensioners are living alone. In time of crisis or illness they have to summon the other members of their family, or friends, in the main, by telegram. In times of trouble these increased charges will hit them very hardly.Then there are the old people who are, perhaps, not old-age pensioners but who will also suffer from the increase in their cost of living and will find these extra charges very difficult to bear. I know that it is not easy to discriminate between one section of the community and another. Both on Second Reading and this evening it has been brought out that it would be extremely difficult to discriminate between one class of user of telegrams and another. One could not have different kinds of forms for different kinds of people. The example of the fishing industry and the losses it will probably suffer as a result of the increased telegraph charges has been instanced to the House and to the Committee. There are other people also. There are the coastwise merchant seamen going from port to port. They wish to send messages to wives and dependants, to send weekly amounts of money by telegraph money order, to send telegrams saying that they have arrived safely in port, or asking their wives to telephone to a certain call box in a certain port at which they have landed in order to speak to their wives and children. 7.30 p.m. I represent the Port of Goole in the West Riding, a port which contributes a fair number of men to this very valuable coastal trade, sometimes extending to the Continent but mainly around our shores. This proposal will hit very hard at the wives of these men, who live sometimes in conditions of loneliness while their husbands are at sea, and who look forward at least twice a week to hearing from their husbands by telegram—as I have already said, to receive money and also to hear that their husbands have landed safely. Goole is only one of many similar places where this problem will arise. When we consider the class of people who use telegrams, not as luxuries, not for inviting friends to cocktail parties and similar social occasions but because of dire necessity, we must not rule out these people, the seamen of Britain, who rely on the telegraph service to maintain communication with their families. At present a telegraph money order may cost 3s. 6d. or 4s. The proposed increased charge will make a great difference. If these men are forced to send their money by registered post instead of by telegraph money order at the increased charge, it will delay the receipt of the money; the wives will be in distress for a few days, and they may be in embarrassed circumstances and unable to meet their regular bills at their local shops. I hope the Assistant Postmaster-General will consider these points. I hope he will accept the Amendment and withdraw this proposal for so large an increase from 1s. 6d. to 3s. in the cost of telegrams.
I should be neglecting my duty if I did not emphasise what has been stated so well by my hon. Friend the Member for Goole (Mr. G. Jeger) on behalf of those people who work on the sea and are separated from their families. This problem is very acute in my constituency, where the feeling of resentment at the attitude of the Post Office is very deep.It is no good the Assistant Postmaster-General saying, as he said in answer to a Question I asked not long ago, that the increased cost to the industry in applying this extra charge would be one-fiftieth of a penny per stone. It was a very nice, slick answer, and no doubt it may have made some impression among ill-informed people. The fact is that the merchants—those are the persons who have to sell the fish—have increased charges amounting to £200,000 a year, and this is an industry which is concentrated in a comparatively few places and which makes great use of telegrams in the course of business. As I say, the answer which I was given was slick, but it made no sense at all because it had no relation to the truth. The merchants will have increasingly to use the telephone, and there will, therefore, be an increasing concentration on the telephone service, so that there is bound to be congestion at places like Billingsgate, Birmingham and other big centres of distribution. There will be a great demand for the service, and there will be considerable delay as a result. I do not know how many communications the Assistant Postmaster-General has had from the telegraph staff. They are embittered; they feel that this blow will disintegrate and almost destroy the service. There is a feeling of frustration and of despair in many cases. It seems to me that particularly on the East Coast it is essential to maintain this virile service which has in the past been of great benefit in the defence of the country in times of hostilities. Apart from the humanitarian aspect of the matter, I hope that the Assistant Postmaster-General will realise that this increased charge is exorbitant and will withdraw it.
I am very grateful for one thing that the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Hobson) said when he moved this Amendment. He said he was quite satisfied that we had effected every possible mechanical economy within the Post Office on the telegraph side, and I think that that is important because it shows what little scope there is for mechanical economies within our own organisation. Therefore, if this deficit is to be reduced, we have to do it in some other way. It is no good imagining that some magic reorganisation can do the job for us.I think I am right in saying that no hon. Member has served in the Post Office longer than the hon. Member for Keighley who, I think, has had more experience of it than any of us here. I am grateful to him for that expression of opinion, because it coincides exactly with my own. I think he also knows of the efforts which have been made by the Post Office in late years by one means or another—one might almost say "by one device or another "—to reduce this loss, and I think he also knows the spirit of the staff and the way in which they have co-operated with us very loyally and have done their best to help in this matter. I wish I could accept this Amendment. Nothing would give me greater pleasure; and if anything would induce me to do it, it would be the plea put forward by the hon. Member for Droylsden (Mr. W. R. Williams), who knows the service from inside probably better than any of us. But if I were to do so, all I should be doing would be very largely to nullify the whole purpose of this Bill. On Second Reading, I tried to explain to the House why the Government felt very reluctantly that they had to raise the charges and, above all, to double them. As I said, it was not a popular decision. I wish it fell to my lot to make some popular announcements in the House. We should not have made this decision unless we were convinced that the circumstances justified it. As the House knows, under the tariff of 3s. for the first 12 words and 3d. for each additional word we are hoping to reduce the deficit on inland telegrams from £4,500,000 to £2 million. Suppose that we were to accept this Amendment and substitute 2s. for 3s. and 2d. for 3d., and then assume—this must be an assumption—that the effect of that would be to reduce the volume of traffic not by 30 per cent, but by 10 per cent. Then the estimated deficit would be reduced by only £1 million, from £4.6 million to £3.6 million.
Would the hon. Gentleman say to what extent that would reduce the deficit under the general heading of "Telegraphs" in the statement of surpluses and deficits as contained in the Commercial Accounts, so that we can ascertain the real deficit over the whole of the telegraph service?
I shall come to that in a minute. That point was dealt with by the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross).The Government feel that this loss of £3.6 million is far too heavy to be borne by the users of other Post Office services. That is, in effect, what it means. Every extra telegram sent means an extra loss. The traffic is dying, but it is not dying primarily because of the cost; it is dying because more convenient facilities are becoming available. In the past, every reduction in telegraph charges has meant an increase in the loss, and every increase in charges has meant a decrease in the loss. As the hon. Member for Droylsden (Mr. W. R. Williams) said, it is impossible to make the telegraph service solvent. We have to decide at what figure we must fix our charges to the public. One or two Members have said—I do not think they quite meant it in the sense in which they expressed the word—that the telegraph service would die. It will never die completely; there is a place for it in this country. But in the difficult situation which now exists, when the service is declining not because of the charges but simply because other facilities are becoming more readily available, we have to decide at what figure we should try to stabilise the deficit. If we accept this Amendment we have to ask ourselves whether it is right that a man who sends an inland telegram should receive a subsidy of 2s. 4d. on it. I must remind the Committee that even at the 3s. rate every sender of a telegram will receive a subsidy of 1s. 6d. My own feeling is that if we were to accept this Amendment the Committee would be quite justified in saying that we did not mean businesss, and were not facing up to the difficulty which confronts us. I am not quite sure on what ground—except the quite reasonable one of sentiment, to which I attach the fullest importance—it is suggested that we should be justified in charging only 2s. as the basic rate and 2d. a word thereafter. As the Committee knows. about half the telegrams sent are business telegrams, and there cannot be the slightest justification for subsidising business men to the extent of 2s. 4d. per telegram. If that subsidy can be justified, so can a proportionate subsidy on telephones and on letters.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer is proposing to subsidise industry by means of the new investment allowance.
Whether that is a subsidy or an alleviation of taxation would be quite out of order for me to discuss on an Amendment of this sort. Every argument for such a subsidy could be used in favour of a subsidy for inland letters or telephones, and, in the end, we should all be subsidising each other.
Are not we already subsidising some business men through the printed paper rate?
That may be so.
It is so.
Then it is so. But here we are dealing with a subsidy which amounts to the figure I have suggested.Of the balance of telegrams sent, two-fifths are greetings telegrams, and these represent the more joyous occasions in life. I do not think we are doing anything unreasonable in asking people to pay a decent price for them. Is it right that we should ask the users of other Post Office services to subsidise the senders of greetings telegrams? If we did, the Committee would say, "You are not in earnest in facing this difficulty." As I have pointed out on several occasions, only 3 per cent, of telegrams sent come into the category of life and death. It is clear from this small percentage that only on comparatively rare occasions do people have to send telegrams of this sort. As one hon. Member has said, it may be necessary on these occasions for a family to send not one but several telegrams, but even so it is a matter of a number of shillings rather than of pounds. Here we are fixing the rates of the inland telegraph service as a whole, and I do not think we should be justified in basing our charges merely on telegrams which are sent in infrequent emergencies. especially as we have gone a very long way to meet this point by instituting the half price overnight telegram. Every increase in rates must affect somebody, but virtually all the people using inland telegrams are customers who could, and, I think, should, make a greater contribution towards meeting the cost of them.
Including the Press.
We shall come to the Press shortly, when we discuss another Amendment.The hon. Member for Droylsden asked if we had investigated the scheme put up by the Union of Post Office Workers. We have done so. That scheme suggested that we should charge 1s. 6d. for nine words and 1½d. a word after that. We rejected that scheme because it would reduce the deficit by less than £1 million and, faced with the position with which we are now faced, we felt that that was not enough. We did investigate the possibility of raising the basic charge to 2s. 6d., and 2½d. a word thereafter, but this would still have left a deficit of over £3 million. While this would make a substantial improvement in the general position, the Government felt that they would not be justified in merely reducing the total deficit on inland telegrams from £4½ million to £3 million. The hon. Member for Kilmarnock raised an interesting point when he suggested that we should consider the telegraph service as a whole, and he went on to say that between the wars the deficit was about £1 million. There is an enormous difference between the situation which existed then and that which exists now. Between the wars the average Post Office surplus was about £10 million, and sometimes more. Now, at the beginning of the financial year, we have an estimated Post Office surplus of less than £3 million. In fact since these last figures were presented to the House, the surplus has been reduced by another £700,000, because of wage claims. If we had a surplus of £10 million, or were budgeting with a large surplus and without the difficulties of increasing wage claims, I do not know whether we should have made quite the same proposals, but unless the Post Office is to run at a loss —and I am sure that not a single hon. Member is advocating that—we have to ask ourselves, in the absence of any attempt to make this service a little more solvent, on what other services we should raise the rates. I do not think any Member would suggest that we should raise the inland postal rate from 2½d. to 3d., or make a further increase in the charge for the telephone service. The justification for this increase is that on this service we are losing £4,500,000 and have reached a stage at which on a telegram that costs 5s. we get 2s. back. We have to make some substantial increase in the charges for this service to bring that difference a little nearer into balance. I have been having another look at charges made in other countries. It is not easy to strike an exact comparison between theirs and ours, because there is such a wide variety of conditions. In some countries the charge for delivery outside a certain area is much higher than here, although the limits are low. In some cases the accounts are so intertwined that it is very difficult to find out the exact position. Taking the picture as a whole, however, the new charges proposed do not vary very much from what we find elsewhere, and they are certainly much cheaper than they are in the United States. I quite understand the reluctance of hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the Committee to double the telegraph charges. I have equal reluctance myself, I can assure the Committee. However, for the reasons I have given, I regret that I cannot accept the Amendment.
Although I have listened very intently to the explanation given by the hon. Gentleman I am not satisfied, and neither, I think, are my hon. Friends. I do not think he proved his case. He went into the logistics very carefully, but the only case he seemed to make was that none of us should be subsidised at any time or in any place. We may have something to say about that on the Clause. We feel that the hon. Gentleman's difficulty could be met by an increase of 33½ per cent, instead of an increase of 100 per cent., and because of that we shall have to divide the Committee.
Question put, "That 'three' stand part of the Clause."
Division No. 74.]
|Aitken, W. T.||Gough, C. F. H||Odey, G. W|
|Alport, C. J. M||Gower, H. R.||O'Neill, Hon. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)|
|Amory, Rt. Hon. Heathcoat (Tiverten)||Graham, Sir Fergus||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J||Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)||Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)|
|Arbuthnot, John||Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Osborne, C.|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.)||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Page, R. G.|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Harden, J. R. E.||Peake, Rt. Hon. O.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Hare, Hon. J. H.||Peyton, J. W. W.|
|Banks, Col. C.||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Pickthorn, K. W. M.|
|Barlow, Sir John||Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Pilkington, Capt. R. A|
|Beach, Maj. Hicks||Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)||Pitman, I. J.|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Harvie-Watt, Sir George||Pitt, Miss E. M.|
|Bennett, F. M. (Reading, N.)||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Powell, J. Enoch|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport)||Heath, Edward||Price, Henry (Lewirsham, W.)|
|Bennett, William (Woodside)||Higgs, J. M. C.||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L|
|Bevins, J. R (Toxteth)||Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton)||Raikes, Sir Victor|
|Birch, Nigel||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Ramsden, J. E.|
|Bishop, F P||Hirst, Geoffrey||Rayner, Brig. R.|
|Black, C. W.||Holland-Martin, C. J||Redmayne, M.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt Hon J||Hollis, M. C.||Renton, D. L. M.|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Hops, Lord John||Ridsdale, J. E.|
|Braine, B. R.||Hopkinson, Rt. Hon. Henry||Robertson, Sir David|
|Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W)||Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.||Roper, Sir Harold|
|Brarthwaite, Sir Gurney||Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)||Russell, R. S.|
|Brooke, Henry (Hampstead)||Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)||Savory, Prof. Sir Douglas|
|Brooman-White, R. S.||Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)||Schofield, Lt.-col. W|
|Buchan-Hepburn, Rt Hon. P G. T||Hurd, A. R.||Scott, R. Donald|
|Bullard, D G.||Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'rgh, W.)||Scott-Miller, Comdr. R.|
|Burden, F. F. A||Hylton-Foster, H. B H.||Shepherd, William|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Iremonger, T. L.||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Campbell, Sir David||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)|
|Carr, Robert||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood)|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)||Snadden, W. McN.|
|Channon, H.||Kaberry, D.||Spearman, A. C. M|
|Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)||Kerby, Capt. H. J||Speir, R. M.|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.)||Kerr, H. W.||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard|
|Cole, Norman||Lambert, Hon. G.||Stevens, G. P.|
|Colegate, W. A.||Lambton, Viscount||Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.)|
|Conant, Maj. R. J. E||Langford-Holt, J. A.||Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Craddook, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Leather, E. H. C.||Storey, S|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E||Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)||Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)|
|Crouch, R. F.||Llewellyn, D T.||Summers, G. S.|
|Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)||Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C.||Sutcliffe, Sir Harold|
|Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S)||Taylor, Sir Chares (Eastbourne)|
|Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.)||Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Deedes, W. F.||McCalHim, Major D.||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Digby, S. Wingfield||McCorquodale, Rt Hon. M S||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon W.)|
|Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.||Macdonald, Sir Peter||Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N.|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord Malcolm||McKibbin, A J.||Tilney, John|
|Drayson, G. B.||Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)||Touche, Sir Gordon|
|Drewe, Sir C.||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Turner, H. F. L.|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hon. Sir T. (Richmond)||Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley)||Turton, R. H.|
|Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West)||Maitland, Patrick (Lanark)||Vaughan-Morgan, J K|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Manningham-Buller, Sir R. E||Vosper, D. F.|
|Erroll, F. J.||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Walker-Smith, DC|
|Fell, A.||Marples, A. E.||Wall, P. H. B.|
|Finlay, Graeme||Marshall, Douglas (Bodmin)||Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)|
|Fisher, Nigel||Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C||Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.|
|Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F||Medlicott, Brig. F.||Wellwood, W.|
|Foster, John||Mellor, Sir John||Williams, Rt. Hon. Charles (Torquay)|
|Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)||Molson, A. H. E.||Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)|
|Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir David Maxwell||Mott-Radclyffe, C. E||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Galbraith, Rt. Hon. T. D. (Pollok)||Nabarro, G. D. N.||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)||Neave, Airey||Wills, G.|
|Gammans, L. D.||Nicholls, Harmar||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Garner-Evans, E. H.||Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)||Wood, Hon. R.|
|George, Rt. Hon. Maj. G. Lloyd||Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.)|
|Glover, D.||Nugent, G. R. H.|
TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
|Godber, J. B.||Nutting, Anthony||Mr. Studholme and|
|Gomme-Duncan, Col A||Oakshott, H. D||Mr. Robert Allen.|
The Committee divided: Ayes, 215: Noes, 199.
|Acland, Sir Richard||Hamilton, W. W.||Palmer, A. M. F.|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Hannan, W.||Pannell, Charles|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Hardy, E. A.||Parker, J.|
|Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven)||Hargreaves, A.||Parkin, B. T.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hun. C. R.||Hastings, S.||Pearson, A.|
|Awbery, S. S.||Hayman, F. H.||Peart, T. F.|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Healey, Dennis (Leeds, S.E.)||Plummer, Sir Leslie|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J||Herbison, Miss M.||Popple well, E.|
|Bartley, P.||Hewitson, Capt, M.||Porter, G.|
|Bence, C. R.||Hobson, C. R.||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Benn, Hon. Wedgwood||Holman, P.||Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)|
|Benson, G.||Houghton. Douglas||Proctor, W. T.|
|Beswick, F.||Hoy, J. H.||Pryde, D. J.|
|Bing, G. H. C||Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)||Pursey, Cmdr. H.|
|Blackburn, F||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Reeves, J.|
|Blyton, W R.||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Reid, Thomas (Swindon)|
|Boardman, H.||Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Reid, William (Camlachie)|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Richards, R.|
|Bowden, H. W.||Irving, W. J. (Wood Green)||Robens, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Brockway, A. F.||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Brook, Dryden (Hallfax)||Janner, B.||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N)|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Ross, William|
|Brown, Rt Hon. George (Belper)||Jeger, George (Goole)||Shackleton, E. A. A.|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Jeger, Mrs. Lena||Short, E. W.|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||Johnson, James (Rugby)||Shurmer, P. L. E.|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.)||Jones, David (Hartlepool)||Silverman, Julius (Erdington)|
|Callaghan, L. J.||Jones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham, S.)||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Carmichael, J.||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)|
|Champion, A. J.||Keenan, W.||Skeffington, A. M.|
|Chapman, W. D.||Kenyon, C.||Slater, J. (Durham, Sedgefield)|
|Chetwynd, G. R||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Clunie, J.||King, Dr. H. M.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Coldrick, W.||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Collick, P. H.||Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)||Sparks, J. A.|
|Cove, W. G.||Lewis, Arthur||Steele, T.|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Lindgren, G. S.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)|
|Crosland, C. A. R.||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.||Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Logan, D. G.||Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)|
|Cullen, Mrs. A.||MacColl, J. E||Swingler, S. T.|
|Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||McGhee, H. G||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||MoGovern, J.||Taylor, Rt. Hon. Robert (Morpeth)|
|Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||Mclnnes, J.||Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)|
|de Freitas, Geoffrey||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|Deer, G.||McLeavy, F.||Thornton, E.|
|Delargy, H. J.||MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)||Tomney, F.|
|Dodds, N. N.||Mann, Mrs. Jean||Viant, S. P.|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Manuel, A. C||Wallace, H. W.|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Mason, Roy||Warbey, W. N.|
|Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||Mayhew, C. P.||Watking, T. E.|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Messer, Sir F.||Webb, Rt. Hon. M. (Bradford, C.)|
|Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||Mikardo, Ian||Weitzman, D.|
|Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury)||Mitchison, G. R.||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Fernyhough, E.||Moody, A. S.||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Fienburgh, W.||Morgan, Dr. H. B. W.||White, Mrs. Eirene (E Flint)|
|Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.)||Morley, R.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Follick, M.||Morris, Peroy (Swansea, W.)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Fortran, J. C.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S.)||Willey, F. T.|
|Freeman, Peter (Newport)||Mort, D. L.||Williams, David (Neath)|
|Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N||Moyle, A.||Williams, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Don V'll'y)|
|Gibson, C. W.||Mulley, F. W.||Williams, W. R. (Droylsden)|
|Gordon-Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Murray, J. D.||Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)|
|Greenwood, Anthony (Rossendale)||Nally, W.||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Grey, C. F.||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hen. P. J.||Wyatt, W L.|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Oldfield, W. H.||Yates, W. F.|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Oliver, G. H.||Younger, Rt. Hon K|
|Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Orbach, M.|
|Hall, John T. (Gateshead, W.)||Oswald, T.|
TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
|Mr. Royle and Mr. Holmes.|
I beg to move, in page 1, line 25, to leave out from "repealed," to the end of line 28, on page 2.
I think it would be convenient if we discussed, at the same time, the next Amendment, in page 2, line 30.
I hope we may have some reciprocity from the Assistant Postmaster-General here, because in his last speech he accepted many of the arguments which I am about to put forward, particularly the argument that the country is in no economic position to meet, nor can it justify, the continuance of the subsidy to business men on their telegrams. The Committee has supported the right hon. Gentleman in saying that it is an impossible situation when the taxpayers and the other users of the Post Office have to pay 2s. 4d. every time a business man sends a telegram. If that is true, then, clearly, the hon. Gentleman will be in an amenable frame of mind when I put to him the facts which lead me to move the Amendment about the rates for Press telegrams.The sub-committee of the Estimates Committee which considered this matter paid particular attention to the Press telegram rates, and in Question 1241 of the Report of the Minutes of Evidence it was elicited from the Post Office representative present that the loss on Press telegrams was the staggering figure of £238,000. That was subsequently amended, after the Post Office had gone away and weighed the cost of handling the telegrams, to about £150,000. The Estimates Committee were so impressed by this that they asked that steps should be taken to mitigate the loss on the inland telegraph service which arose from this Press rate. The purpose of the Amendments is to abolish the Press rate altogether and to ask newspapers to pay the ordinary rate which the public will have to pay—3s. for the first 12 words and 3d. a word thereafter. It may well be argued that this is not the time to break with custom and to upset an arrangement which has been in operation for so long. The Estimates Committee paid some attention to that point and said that the Press rates had been in existence for so long that it would not be easy to abolish them or alter them. What I think this Committee must consider is whether the sanctity of time has justified a preference being given to the Press and I should like, therefore, to remind hon. Members of the way in which this Press rate was instituted. I hope I shall not be out of order, Sir Rhys, when I say that this started in 1858, when a gentleman called Ricardo, not, I think, the famous economist but the manager of the Electric Telegraph Co., wrote to Mr. Gladstone and said that the telegraph companies of this country ought to be owned by the State. I regret to say that I cannot tell the Committee what Mr. Gladstone said in 1858, but this is true: he did nothing at all. In 1868—and in reading these reports one does so against a background of flowered waistcoats, oiled ringlets and a sturdy man cutting down trees—Mr. Disraeli decided that the telegraph service should be State-owned. This was of particular importance to the Press, and the Press has inherited the legacy from those days. Now, in those days, the telegraph companies performed a dual purpose. They were, first, the collectors of news in their areas and they were, secondly, the transmitters of news; and the newspapers paid the telegraph companies—this was before they came under State ownership —a rate which covered also the collecting of news. For example, if Mr. Disraeli went to Manchester and made a speech, it was the telegraph company which reported what he said and transmitted to the newspaper a report of his speech. For this the newspaper paid a lump sum to the telegraph company and I will deal later with the way in which that was divided. When the Government proposed that the telegraph company should be nationalised—when one of the first great nationalisation Acts took place in the middle of the 19th century by a Tory Government—the Press were very worried and anxious about their position and those newspapers which supported this major act of nationalisation were threatened by some telegraph companies that unless they opposed the Bill, or at least withdrew their support for it, their services might be cut off altogether. One section of the Press, therefore, was frightened. Another section, led by Mr. John Taylor, who was then the owner of the "Manchester Guardian," took the view that this was a very good thing indeed and organised a petition of 177 newspaper proprietors who came forward with a request that the Bill should go through but, what was important, that the newspapers should not pay any more than they were paying to the telegraph companies. There was a third section of the Press which, I regret to say, was venal and corrupt and which had been accustomed to extracting subsidies of one kind or another, and it also had an axe to grind. But all sections of the Press united in wanting to get as cheap a rate as possible. Mr. Disraeli's Administration, like other Administrations which we have experienced, very much wanted to get the Bill through, so they said to the Press, "All right. If you will support us on this we will see to it that you get a cheap rate, lower than the rate which you are paying the telegraph companies." Mr. John Taylor, of the "Manchester Guardian," said, "All right. I will give you £126, if you will give me a service of Press telegrams, instead of the £200 which I am paying the telegraph companies, and the other £74 which I save I will put into the establishment of a co-operative news agency." That is a news agency such as the Press Association, which is a co-operative news agency in this country. Mr. Disraeli, to get the Bill through, said, "That is what we will do. We will give you this cheap rate." And the Press telegram rate was born and has been in existence for many years. When the debate took place in the House in 1868, it was quite clear that Mr. Gladstone did not think the electric telegraph had come to stay in any case. He was fairly pessimistic about its future and quite convinced that State ownership of the telegraph service would result in the Government reading the telegrams and in the Government being very careful to see that the political intelligence which was despatched was not of an objective kind. On that occasion Mr. Gladstone was wrong, but the positive fact which arose was that the Press telegram rate was 1s. for 100 words in the daytime and 1s. for 75 words at night, with a charge of 2d. for copies. That remained as the rate until 1915, when the rate of wordage was lowered from 100 to 80 and from 75 to 60 and the charge of 2d. for copies was increased to 3d. Then, in 1940, the charge was raised from 1s. to 1s. 3d. So that for 75 years, because the Act establishing the nationalised telegraph service was being put into operation and brought in against the wishes of the private telegraph people— who, after all, did not do badly because they got £5 million—and because those circumstances were fairly squalid—there was tremendous rigging of the market, with inspired statements saying that the Government were not going ahead with the Bill, down went the shares of the telegraph companies, speculators came in and bought up the shares—things which have gone on fairly consistently in our civilisation in deals of this kind for many years; because it was a squalid deal like this, the Press was able to get this fantastically low rate and was able to go on enjoying it from Government after Government for 75 years. What is the justification of it today? Conditions have altered. The Press of this country, taking it by and large and with the usual reservations one makes, is free in the sense that it is unsubsidised. Indeed, it is the proud claim of the newspaper proprietors, whether the owners of massive organs or comparatively small newspapers, that the Press is unsubsidised and that, unlike other countries such as France, and Germany before the war, no newspaper here exists on the subsidies of anybody but depends for its success on the appreciation of its readers and the appreciation of its advertisers. For example, we had at the beginning of the war a situation where Reuters, the great overseas Press agency, was in dire straits because so many of its customers had gone. Japan had occupied the East, Germany had occupied Europe. There was a suggestion that the British Government should give Reuters a subsidy, but the newspaper proprietors in Fleet Street said, "No, we will not permit a great agency like Reuters to have a subsidy." They negotiated with the Press Association for the purpose of taking over Reuters—I was a member of the proprietors' negotiating committee. So keen was the Press that not even through an agency with which they were only associated in the sense of being customers—I am talking now about the London daily papers—should any subsidised sources of news come to the offices, that they entered into an arrangement to buy into Reuters and so save it from having to accept a Government subsidy. Therefore, on moral grounds the Press is against subsidies. On the grounds that a free Press must be free in the commercial sense, the Press is against subsidies of any kind. And now there is no economic reason why the Post Office should give subsidies to newspapers for, I am pleased to learn, the newspapers are doing very well at present. My hon. Friend the Member for Droylsden (Mr. W. R. Williams) has suggested that this Amendment might work rather harshly on some of the smaller papers, but that is always the way with these things; when there is an instance of a change of cost, it presses more hardly on some people than on others. Taxation is an example. But I would reassure my hon. Friend on this point because the provincial newspapers, which largely are the users of Press telegrams, are showing year in and year out a healthy state of dividend and a generous rate of distribution. Therefore, they do not want the subsidy they are now getting and which they will get under this Bill. For I hope there is no confusion on the part of the Committee as to whether this is a subsidy that is being offered to them, for subsidy it certainly is. Last year's traffic in Press telegrams amounted to £28,000 on which there was a loss of approximately £65,000. These are the figures which the hon. Gentleman the Assistant Postmaster-General gave only a few weeks ago. 8.15 p.m. If the Press telegrams were sent at normal rates the Post Office would have received not £28,000 but £175,000 and under this Bill, if there is no change in the volume of traffic, the Post Office will receive £66,000 for its Press telegrams. If, however, the Press pay for their telegrams at the normal rate of 3d. for a dozen words and 3d. a word thereafter, it would be paying £350,000. Up to now the taxpayer, or the other users of Post Office services, have been giving the Press, through the Press telegram rate, a subsidy of £147,000 a year—that is the difference between the £28,000 they paid and the £175,000 which it would have cost them if they had put the telegrams through at normal rates. Now the subsidy under this Bill, if the Amendment is not accepted by the hon. Gentleman, will be £284,000—the difference between the £66,000 estimated and the £350,000, which is what the Press would be called upon to pay if it had to pay for its telegrams at the public rate. So the subsidy to be given to the Press under this Bill is twice what it is today. Instead of being £147,000, it will be £284,000, and on this estimate of £66,000 it is still estimated that there will be a loss of between £15,000 and £20,000 a year. If it is argued, as the hon. Gentleman argued just now, that there is no justification for giving to the business man a subsidy of 2s. 4d. on his telegrams, what is the justification for giving the Press a subsidy of between £15,000 and £20,000 a year? We do not want a subsidised Press and nobody is more insistent on that than the newspaper proprietors themselves. They have constantly been inveighing against subsidies of one kind and another. They believe in free enterprise, in standing on their own feet, in facing the future with calm and courage, in every man doing the best he can and the devil take the hindmost. That is, roughly, the tradition and philosophy of the newspapers. That is admirable from the point of view of the taxpayer, and I therefore suggest that the Assistant Postmaster-General now looks in the direction where honey is waiting for him, accepts this Amendment and so reduces the potential loss on the service by a considerable amount, and abolishes for good and all any suggestion, any possible accusation, that this Government or any other Government, no matter what their political complexion, are subsidising the Press of this country. He would perform two services: he would benefit the taxpayer and he would see to it that the fair name of the British Press is never tarnished.
My hon. Friend has moved the Amendment with great capability, has martialled the facts, and has stated an unanswerable case. He was wise to base his argument upon the dictum laid down by the Assistant Postmaster-General in the previous debate, when he said that people who can afford it, ought not to be subsidised. Here is a case to which that dictum can be applied, and in the dire circumstances in which he considers the inland telegram traffic to be, this concession which was made in the past ought not to be continued. In fact, it is the one concession which ought to be attacked more than any other because it is a subsidy or a concession, call it what you will, given to the least deserving sections of the community insofar as they are not the least prosperous.No doubt the hon. Gentleman will say that this is a small matter, but I am wondering whether it really is so. The arithmetical veracity of the hon. Gentleman has been questioned before and I am wondering how related to fact is his statement about the loss sustained on this part of the inland telegraph service. It has been said repeatedly that the hon. Gentleman has the best advisers and that they are used to making estimates. There are enough of them here tonight, anyhow. A loss of £238,000 a year was reported to the Select Committee on Estimates, then by some mysterious means that sum is reduced to £150,000. How comes it that an estimate which was originally nearly £250,000 is reduced by nearly £100,000? By what process does this manipulation take place? That statement was dated 22nd July, 1953, and now the Assistant Postmaster-General tells us that that is all wrong. I wonder who told him that. Now we are told (that the loss is £60,000, according to column 1870 of the OFFICIAL REPORT for 30th March of this year. What mysterious calculations are taking place? What is the real loss on Press telegrams? The Select Committee on Estimates is solemnly told, on the one hand, that the loss is over £250,000, and then the Assistant Postmaster-General says, on the other, that that is wrong and that it is only £60,000. We are entitled to an explanation. Has the figure been whittled down because of criticisms in the Select Committee? Is this the intelligent guess upon which we have to rely? All this leaves me full of suspicion. I am sorry to have to be suspicious about the estimate of a Department for which I have learned to have the greatest possible respect. Is this £60,000 the hon. Gentleman's own estimate or that of the Post Office. If it is his own, will the hon. Gentleman explain to the Committee the underlying basis for the £60,000 and equally the underlying basis for the £238,000? Then, as an exercise in arithmetic, the hon. Gentleman might tell us what is the basis for the £150,000. The Committee is entitled to know what is the extent of the subsidy to the Press. No one will get any Press headlines about this, but apparently something is being concealed and being whittled down. I am astonished that it has been whittled down from that side of the Committee where it is a part of hon. Members' doctrine that they do not believe in private enterprise.
Did my right hon. Friend say whistled down?
I said whittled down. My hon. Friend is getting a little older and either my enunciation is going or his hearing is not as good as it was. That too is whittled down.No doubt the Assistant Postmaster-General will say to me, "Why did you not do this when you were in office?" But he has already provided the answer, because I had a substantial surplus on the whole account and, therefore, I felt that it was not necessary to take this step at that stage. That is my defence. It is proposed, under the Bill, to charge 3s. for every 60 or 80 words or part thereof, so I take it that the Press people will pay 6s. for 120 words while the average citizen, the private user will have to pay 30s. for the same number of words, and most Press telegrams are long telegrams. It is inexcusable to provide preferential treatment for people who can meet the ordinary rate quite adequately. That is the basis of our case. The Assistant Postmaster-General said that the inland telegraph service is in dire need of attention and that we must double the charge to the ordinary private user. If that is the case, we should not put ourselves in the position under this Bill of subsidising Press telegrams to the extent of over £280,000 a year.
Hear, hear, and sometimes a lying Press, too.
Not only is it subsidised to the extent of £284,000 as compared with the private user, but if one has regard to the cost of the inland telegraph service it is subsidised by over £300,000 a year. What has the Chairman of the Select Committee on Estimates to say about that? Here is a subsidy of over £300,000 a year going to people who can well afford to pay the ordinary rate.
The Select Committee said that the deficit on the inland Press telegram rates a year was originally estimated at £238,000, but the Post Office later pointed out that one factor in the calculation, which was largely a notional one
"… might have been exaggerated, and that it was possible that a fresh comprehensive study of the matter might lead to a lower estimate of the deficit, perhaps not much over £150,000."
The hon. Gentleman has missed my argument, but I am sure he will be charmed with the modesty of the use of the word "exaggerated." I think that that is a modest way to describe a fall from over £250,000 to £150,000, and now we are told that it is not even that but £60,000, so the hon. Gentleman and his Committee apparently were working on assumptions for which there was little basis.We cannot justify doubling the charge to the private citizen for the use of the telegraph service while at the same time providing a subsidy of £300,000 a year to the Press people for Press use of the telegraph service. That is our case, and unless the Assistant Postmaster-General can accept our view we shall have no alternative but to divide the Committee.
I am sure we are all very grateful to the hon. Member for Deptford (Sir L. Plummer) for what was a very interesting historical survey. It was quite new to me, and I found it fascinating. The hon. Member, because of his knowledge and experience, is in a particular position to give such a survey.The point raised by the hon. Member was that the Press of this country has always stood very resolutely against any subsidy. He felt that in one sense we were almost insulting it by giving it a subsidy in this direction. All I can say is that we have never had any representation from the Press that it objected to being subsidised. The Press has seen the Amendment on the Order Paper in the name of the hon. Member for many days, but I have had no letters from the Press saying that it entirely supported the Amendment.
I am sure the hon. Gentleman will be familiar with the tag, 'Pecunia non olet."
I thought the hon. Member was making a very strong defence of the honour of the Press and its dislike of subsidy, but in this case it does not seem to object to subsidies.The right hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards) asked where we got the estimate of £230,000 and why it was suddenly whittled down. He asked whether I had whittled it down—
The hop. Gentleman should be more careful in his use of words. I did not ask if he whittled it down, but why he whittled down from £150,000 to £60,000, an entirely different matter.
I did not whittle it down, but my financial advisers did so. The reason is that it is many years since the charges have been costed and the first figure was a wrong one. I am quite prepared to admit that. The figure with which we are now dealing is a figure of £90,000. It is a small amount, but I am quite prepared to admit that even if it is a small amount it is the duty of this Committee to scrutinise it with very great care.
Before the hon. Gentleman leaves that point, as I do not want any confusion about this, may I remind him that on 24th March he told me in the House:
That is the figure I have been using. Now we have a new figure of £90,000 and I wonder if the hon. Gentleman can explain what that represents."The loss attributed to inland Press telegrams in the year ended 31st March, 1953, was about £65,000."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th March, 1954; Vol. 525, c. 121.]
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will balance it with the statement he made in the Second Reading debate of 30th March:
"The revenue received from Press telegrams is now under £30,000 a year and it costs us over £90,000 a year."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th March, 1954; Vol. 525, c. 1870.]
That is perfectly true, the revenue received is about £30,000 and the cost of sending the telegrams is about £90,000—
The figure is £65,000.
No, the figure of £90,000 was used by the right hon. Member for Caerphilly. The loss was £60,000 a year. We are only dealing with a comparatively small amount, but we must examine it with very great care. The effect of the new charges specified in this Bill will be to reduce the loss from the figure I gave to approximately £15,000. The effect of this Amendment would be to abolish the Press rate altogether—that is what it boils down to.On the Second Reading debate the hon. Member for Deptford made a very strong speech on the subject. As I told the House then, there was only one justification for this—history. Press telegrams have been given preference in this country for at least 80 years and, if we were to abolish the concession altogether —we propose to reduce it very considerably, as I have pointed out—we would be doing something which hardly any other country has done.
That was done by doubling the charge.
No, as I explained, the charges now made for inland telegrams bear a very striking resemblance to what they were.
Do the United States give preferential terms for Press telegrams?
I could not say off hand; I think the answer is, "Yes."These Press charges have been in operation for many years. In that time there have been many Governments of different complexions and none has interfered with them. In the case of the overseas telegrams we are bound by inter national agreement. I mention that only because, if we were to do away with the concession for inland telegrams, it would mean that we were treating our home Press more harshly than the overseas Press. It is difficult to assess what would be the effect—
The hon. Gentleman is not doing justice to his case. Is it not the fact that our own Press men, our own agents overseas, who send telegrams get a much lower rate?
I do not wish to press this point, but we should be treating the home Press more harshly than the foreign Press.
More severely then. I think that in fairness we should look at this question apart from any prejudice.Who are the people who would suffer most from the withdrawal of the concession? During the Second Reading debate one hon. Member said that it would be Lord Beaverbrook. I can assure him that whoever may suffer from the withdrawal of the concession it would not be Lord Beaverbrook. His papers and all the big London papers, as I am sure the hon. Member for Deptford would agree—
I said this on Second Reading.
—make extensive use of private wires and teleprinters on which, I am glad to say, we make a profit. The people who would be most severely hit would be the provincial papers with a limited circulation. It would not be the provincial papers which are members of a chain, it would be the small provincial papers. I do not know to what extent hon. Members on either side of the Committee feel that this type of newspaper should be penalised in this way.I do not think that it is a matter of general principle to subsidise business or private interests. If we look at it from a comparatively narrow point of view, I agree that the Press rate could be abolished, but I do not think that in a matter of this sort we should make quite so violent a break with tradition. No Government has done it—the right hon. Gentleman did not do it when he was in office. I am making no party point; I am merely stating that it was not done by his Government, and I do not blame them. We have raised the Press rate very considerably, but if we accepted this Amendment it would mean multiplying the rate charged by 12 times. This would be a discrimination of another kind, and I hope the House will agree that it would be wrong to abolish the concession altogether.
Of course we are disappointed with the reply of the Assistant Postmaster-General. He has not looked at the situation from the point of view of the newspapers. Almost every newspaper in this country has increased its circulation since the war, and increased its price, either by 50 per cent, or double the previous amount. There is scarcely a newspaper which has not doubled or trebled its advertising rates. This is not a great burden for the newspapers to carry, particularly when so many of them are saying that it is a scandalous thing that hon. Members of this House should have their meals subsidised by the taxpayer—which is an untrue statement.I should have thought that an opportunity was provided here for the Assistant Postmaster-General to see that the newspapers pay their proper rate, and I hope therefore, in view of the attitude which the hon. Gentleman has adopted, that my hon. Friends will go into the Lobbies in support of this Amendment, and against the Government.
I must say that the reply of the Assistant Postmaster-General was quite unsatisfactory. He half gave the case away. He said that, looking at things from a commercial point of view, there is justification for an increase. He defends the refusal of the Government to accept this Amendment on the grounds of sentiment. I should have thought that in these times of crisis we have far more cause to be sentimental about old-age pensioners than about some independent provincial newspaper owners. In South Wales there are only three really independent newspaper owners. I do not know how many there are in the whole country; but are they in the position that they cannot afford to pay what the ordinary private user has to pay? In the circumstances, I ask my hon. and right hon. Friends to divide the Committee.
I am in a clear position on this subject, because the Select Committee recommended that the Post Office should pursue as a matter of urgency their investigations into the advisability of increasing the rate for Inland Press telegrams. I have only this to say. It is the practice throughout the world to give the Press advantageous rates for inland telegrams. I do not know whether when I was absent from the Committee comparative figures were quoted. In Australia, Canada and New Zealand similar conditions apply.In Australia the ordinary rate for the general public is 2s. 6d. for 10 words, and the Press rate is 1s. 3d. for 24 words.
Division No. 75.]
|Aitken, W. T.||Bennett, F. M. (Reading, N.)||Braithwaite, Sir Gurney|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport)||Brooke, Henry (Hampstead)|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Bennett, William (Woodside)||Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T|
|Amory, Rt. Hon. Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Bavins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Bullard, D. G.|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J.||Birch, Nigel||Butcher, Sir Herbert|
|Arbuthnot, John||Bishop, F. P.||Campbell, Sir David|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.)||Black, C. W.||Carr, Robert|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Bowen, E. R.||Cary, Sir Robert|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A.||Channon, H.|
|Barlow, Sir John||Boyle, Sir Edward||Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)|
|Beach, Maj. Hicks||Braine, B. R.||Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.)|
|Bell, Philip (Balton, E.)||Brailhwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)||Cole, Norman|
In France the rate is 100 francs for 10 words, and the Press rate is two francs for each five words.
In France there are many small independent papers.
The rate of two francs for five words compared with 100 francs for 10 words shows a pretty big difference. It is a ratio of 25 to one. That is significant. I must say that on the face of it it is illogical.It has been the policy of every civilised Government to assist in the dissemination of news and to believe that the dissemination of news is a good thing. From the day when the telegraph service was taken over by the State in 1868, it has always been the policy of every successive Government—Conservative, Liberal and Socialist—to subsidise the Press to that extent. The loss is not enormous. The traffic is not enormous. The alterations made by the Bill will make a difference—
Tell us the figures.
I do not know which figures the hon. Member needs.
I do not mind—any the hon. Gentleman likes.
I have never known such a voracity for general information. The hon. Gentleman had better think again.This is a policy followed by every civilised nation. It would be a striking step if, owing to the passage of the Amendment, this nation alone, of all civilised nations, went back on universal practice.
Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
The Committee divided: Ayes, 201; Noes, 185.
|Colegate, W. A.||Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'rgh, W.)||Prior-Palmer, Brig. 0. L|
|Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Hylton-Foster, H. B. H.||Raikes, Sir Victor|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Iremonger, T. L.||Ramsden, J. E.|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Rayner, Brig. R.|
|Crouch, R. F.||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Redmayne, M.|
|Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)||Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)||Ridsdale, J. E.|
|Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)||Kaberry, D.||Robertson, Sir David|
|Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.)||Kerby, Capt. H. J.||Roper, Sir Harold|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Kerr, H. W.||Russell, R. S.|
|Deedes, W. F.||Lambert, Hon. G,||Savory, Prof. Sir Douglas|
|Digby, S. Wingfield||Lambton, Viscount||Sohofield, Lt.-Col. W.|
|Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.||Langford-Holt, J. A.||Scott, R. Donald|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord Malcolm||Leather, E. H. C.||Scott-Miller, Comdr. R.|
|Drayion, G. B.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Shepherd, William|
|Drewe, Sir C.||Liewellyn, D. T.||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hon. Sir T. (Richmond)||Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C.||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)|
|Duncan, Capt. J A. L.||Lucus, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)||Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood)|
|Eden, Rt. Hon. A.||Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)||Snadden, W. McN.|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Spearman, A. C. M.|
|Erroll, F. J.||McCallum, Major D.||Speir, R. M.|
|Fell, A.||McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S.||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard|
|Finlay, Graeme||Macdonald, Sir Peter||Stevens, G. P.|
|Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F.||McKibbin, A. J.||Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.)|
|Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)||Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)||Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir David Maxwell||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Storey, S.|
|Galbraith, Rt. Hon. T. D. (Pollok)||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)|
|Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hllthead)||Manningham-Buller, Sir R. E.||Studholme, H. G|
|Gammans, L. D.||Marlowe, A. A. M.||Summers, G. S.|
|Garner-Evans, E. H.||Marples, A. E.||Sutcliffe, Sir Harold|
|George, Rt. Hon. Maj. G. Lloyd||Marshall, Douglas (Bodmin)||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Glover, D.||Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Godber, J. B.||Medlicott, Brig. F.||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Gomme-Duncan, Col. A.||Mellor, Sir John||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Gough, C. F. H.||Molson, A. H. E.||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W.)|
|Gower, H. R||Nabarro, G. D. N.||Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N.|
|Graham, Sir Fergus||Neave, Airey||Tilney, John|
|Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)||Nicholls, Harmar||Touche, Sir Gordon|
|Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)||Turner, H. F. L|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.)||Turton, R. H.|
|Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Nugent, G. R. H.||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)||Nutting, Anthony||Vaughan-Morgan, J K.|
|Harvie-Wart, Sir George||Oakshott, H. D.||Vosper, D. F.|
|Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||O'Neill, Hon. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)||Wall, P. H. B.|
|Heath, Edward||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)|
|Higgs, J. M. C.||Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)||Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.|
|Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton)||Osborne, C.||Wellwood, W.|
|Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Page, R. G.||Williams, Rt. Hon. Charles (Torquay)|
|Hirst, Geoffrey||Peake, Rt. Hon. O.||Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)|
|Holland-Martin, C. J||Peyton, J. W. W.||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Hollis, M. C.||Pickthorn, K. W. M||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|Hopkinson, Rt. Hon. Henry||Pilkington, Capt. R. A||Wills, G.|
|Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.||Pitman, I. J.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)||Pitt, Miss E. M.||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)||Powell, J. Enoch|
|Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Hurd, A. R.||Major Conant and Mr. Legh.|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Champion, A. J.||Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Chapman, W. D.||Gibson, C. W.|
|Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven)||Chetwynd, G. R.||Gordon-Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Clunie, J.||Greenwood, Anthony (Rossendale)|
|Awbery, S. S.||Coldrick, W.||Grey, C. F.|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Collick, P. H.||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)|
|Bartley, P.||Cove, W. G.||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Lianelly)|
|Bence, C. R.||Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Calm Valley)|
|Bonn, Hon. Wedgwood||Cropland, C. A. R.||Hall, John T. (Gateshead, W.)|
|Benson, G.||Cullen, Mrs. A.||Hamilton, W. W|
|Beswick, F.||Davies, Harold (Leek)||Hannan, W.|
|Bing, G. H. C.||Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||Hardy, E. A.|
|Blackburn, F.||Deer, G.||Hargreaves, A.|
|Blyton, W. R.||Delargy, H. J.||Hastings, S.|
|Boardman, H.||Dodds, N. N.||Hayman, F. H.|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon, A. G.||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Healey, Denis (Leeds, S.E.)|
|Bowden, H. W.||Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Herbison, Miss M.|
|Brockway, A. F.||Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||Hobson, C. R.|
|Brook, Dryden (Halifax)||Evans, Edward (Lowettoft)||Holman, P.|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury)||Houghton, Douglas|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Fernyhough, E.||Hoy, J. H.|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||Fienburgh, W.||Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.)||Fletcher, Erie (Islington, E.)||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)|
|Callaghan, L. J||Follick, M.||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)|
|Carmichael, J.||Forman, J. C.||Hynd, H. (Accrington)|
|Hynd, J. B. (Atteroliffe)||Mort, D. L.||Slater, J. (Durham, Sedgefield)|
|Irving, W. J. (Wood Green)||Moyle, A.||Smith, Ellis (stoke, S.)|
|Isaacs, Rl. Hon. G. A.||Mulley, F. W.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Jarnner, B.||Murray, J. D.||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Jeger, George (Goole)||Nally, W.||Sparks, J. A.|
|Jeger, Mrs. Lena||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon P J||Steele, T.|
|Johnson, James (Rugby)||Oldfield, W. H.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)|
|Jones, David (Hartlepool)||Oliver, G. H.||Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)|
|Jones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham, S.)||Orbach, M.||Swingler, S. T.|
|Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Oswald, T.||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Keenan, W.||Palmer, A. M. F.||Taylor, Rt. Hon. Robert (Morpeth)|
|Kenyon, C||Pannell, Charles||Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)|
|Key, Rt. Hon. C. W||Parker, J.||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|King, Dr. H. M.||Parkin, B. T||Thornton, E.|
|Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Peart, T. F.||Tomney, F.|
|Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)||Plummer, Sir Leslie||Viant, S. p.|
|Lewirs, Arthur||Popplewell, E.||Wallace, H. W.|
|Lindgren, G. S.||Porter, G||Warbey, W. N|
|Lipton, Lt.-Col. M||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)||Watkins, T. E.|
|Logan, D. G.||Proctor, W. T.||Webb, Rt. Hon M. (Bradford, C.)|
|MacColl, J. E.||Pryde, D. J.||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|McGovern, J.||Pursey, Cmdr. H.||Wheeldon, W. E|
|McKay, John (Wallsend)||Reeves, J.||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)|
|McLeavy, F.||Reid, Thomas (Swindon)||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)||Reid, William (Camlachie)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Mann, Mrs. Jean||Richards, R.||Willey, F. T.|
|Manuel, A. C||Roberts, Rt. Hon. A.||Williams, David (Neath)|
|Mason, Roy||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||Williams, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Don V'll'y)|
|Mayhew, C. P.||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Paneras, N.)||Williams, W. R. (Droylsden)|
|Messer, Sir F.||Ross, William||Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)|
|Mikardo, Ian||Royle, C.||Woodburn, R. Hon. A.|
|Mitchison, G. R.||Shackleton, E. A. A||Wyatt, W. L.|
|Monslow, W.||Short, E. W.||Yates, V. F.|
|Moody, A. S.||Shurmer, P. L. E.||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|Morgan, Dr. H. B. W.||Sitverman, Julius (Erdington)|
|Morley, R.||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)||Mr. Pearson and Mr. Holmes.|
|Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S.)||Skeffington, A. M.|
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
Having made quite plain our position in relation to the two propositions in Clause 1, from which we are dissenting, it will be for the convenience of the Committee if we do not now divide against the Clause, which will probably enable us to have the short debate which we are hoping to have on Third Reading fairly quickly. I hope, however, that it will not be understood that we are in any way assenting to the proposals contained in this Clause.
Question put, and agreed to.
Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Schedule agreed to.
Bill reported, without Amendment.
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."As I hope I have already made clear, the Government have embarked on this drastic alteration in charges for telegrams only with the greatest reluctance. The service has been declining for many years, but I should like to correct any impression that the Government feel that it is now dead. People will want to send written messages more quickly than by post when the last post has gone, and the overnight telegraphic service will be particularly useful for this. We are accused of killing the telegraph service, but I have said that it is by no means dead, and I am convinced that it never will be. As the hon. Member for Droylsden (Mr. W. R. Williams) pointed out, and as I have realised from the beginning, this increase in charges is of particular concern to the staff of the telegraph service. For many years they have maintained the highest traditions of loyalty and keenness, in spite of the depressing effects of these conditions. Telegraphists have always been noted for pride of craft and they will continue so to be, as I am sure the hon. Member for Droylsden will agree. We shall make very special efforts to avoid hardship to the staff as the result of the fall in traffic. Negotiations between my officials and the staff associations are going on, and with good will on both sides I do not doubt that we shall get satisfactory agreement. We are always losing staff by retirement, death and resignation, and much can be done to cope with redundancy by the simple process of not taking on any more staff. Running a service of this kind is very complex. Many attractive suggestions have been made to us which have proved, on examination, to be unworkable. I assure the House that we shall not give up the search and shall economise in every conceivable way while maintaining the highest traditions of the telegraph service.
I do not wish to detain the House for more than a few minutes. We voted against the Second Reading of the Bill, not because we do not think that an increase in telegraph charges is necessary, but because the proposed increases are excessive. We shall vote against the Third Reading because no concession at all has been made to us by the Minister.We felt that the Minister would look at the proposals we made for an increase of 33⅓ per cent, instead of an increase of 100 per cent., but he has failed to do so. Further than that, he still retains the pernicious subsidy to the Press. I am
Division No. 76.]
|Aitken, W. T.||Colegate, W. A.||Graham, Sir Fergus|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Conant, Maj. R. J. E.||Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)|
|Amory, Rt. Hon. Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C||Hall, John (Wycombe)|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J.||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)|
|Arbuthnot, John||Crouch, R. F.||Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, VV.)||Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)||Harvie-Watt, Sir George|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M||Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.)||Heath, Edward|
|Barlow, Sir John||Davidson, Viscountess||Higgs, J. M. C.|
|Beach, Maj. Hicks||Deedes, W. F.||Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton)|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Digby, S. Wingfield||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount|
|Bennett, F. M. (Reading, N.)||Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.||Hirst, Geoffrey|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport)||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord Malcolm||Holland-Martin, C. J.|
|Bennett, William (Woodside)||Drayson, G. B.||Hollis, M. C.|
|Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Dugdale, Rt. Hon. Sir T. (Richmond)||Hopkinson, Rt. Hon. Henry|
|Birch, Nigel||Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.||Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P|
|Bishop, F. P.||Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West)||Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)|
|Blank, C. W.||Elliot. Rt. Hon. W. E.||Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A.||Erroll, F. J.||Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Fell, A.||Hurd, A. R.|
|Braine, B. R.||Finlay, Graeme||Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'rgh, W.)|
|Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)||Fisher, Nigel||Hylton-Foster, H. B. H|
|Braithwaite, Sir Gurney||Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F.||Iremonger, T. L.|
|Brooke, Henry (Hampstead)||Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)|
|Brooman-White, R. C.||Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir David Maxwell||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)|
|Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T.||Galbraith, Rt. Hon. T. D. (Pollok)||Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)|
|Bullard, D. G.||Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)||Kaberry, D.|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Gammans, L. D.||Kerby, Capt. H. J.|
|Campbell, Sir David||Gamer-Evans, E. H.||Kerr, H. W.|
|Carr, Robert||George, Rt. Hon. Mai. G. Lloyd||Lambert, Hon. G.|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Glover, D.||Lambton, Viscount|
|Channon, H.||Godber, J. B.||Langford-Holt, J. A.|
|Clarke, Cot. Ralph (East Grim lead)||Gomme-Duncan, Col- A.||Leather, E. H. C.|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.)||Gough, C. F. H.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.|
|Cole, Norman||Gower, H. R.||Llewellyn, D. T.|
amazed that the hon. Gentleman did not see fit to give way to the Amendment which was proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Deptford (Sir L. Plummer). The whole of the Minister's case was that he was against a subsidy in any form, but if he is against a subsidy to Post Office and telegraph users, why is he continuing the subsidy to the Press? That is a concession that he could well have made.
The Bill is bad. It will not have the results that the hon. Gentleman expects. Therefore, we are logically bound to vote against the Third Reading.
I was glad to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Hobson) say that we shall vote against the Third Reading. We have made clear how we feel about the Bill. The Minister spoke about the keenness of the staff. He reminded me of what the Minister of Works is reported to have said recently about making people keen. I cannot see the Bill making anyone keen about the Assistant Postmaster-General in his present office.
The House divided: Ayes, 198; Noes, 176.
|Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C.||Peyton, J. W. W.||Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)|
|Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)||Piokthorn, K. W. M.||Studholme, H. G.|
|Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Pilkington, Capt. R A||Summers, G. S.|
|McCallum, Major O.||Pitman, I. J.||Sutcliffe, Sir Harold|
|Macdonald, Sir Peter||Pitt, Miss E. M.||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|McKibbin, A. J.||Powell, J. Enoch||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)||Prioe, Henry (Lewisham, W.)||Thomas, p. J. M. (Conway)|
|Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O- L||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Raikes, Sir Victor||Thompson, Lt-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W.)|
|Manningham-Butter, Sir R. E.||Ramsden, J. E.||Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N.|
|Marlowe, A. A. H.||Rayner, Brig. R.||Tilney, John|
|Marples, A. E.||Redmayne, M.||Touche, Sir Gordon|
|Marshall, Douglas (Bodmin)||Ridsdale, J. E.||Turner, H. F. L.|
|Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.||Robertson, Sir David||Turton, R. H.|
|Medlicott, Brig. F.||Roper, Sir Harold||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Mellor, Sir John||Russell, R. S.||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.|
|Molson, A. H. E.||Savory, Prof. Sir Douglas||Vosper, D. F.|
|Nabarro, G. D. N.||Schofield, Lt.-Col. W.||Wall, P. H. B.|
|Neave, Airey||Scott, R. Donald||Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)|
|Nicholls, Harmar||Scott-Miller, Comdr. R.||Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C|
|Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W)||Wellwood, W.|
|Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.)||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)||Williams, Rt. Hon. Charles (Torquay)|
|Nugent, G. R. H||Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood)||Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)|
|Nutting, Anthony||Snadden, W. McN.||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Oakshott, H. D.||Spearman, A. C. M||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|O'Niell, Hon. Phefim (Co. Antrim, N.)||Speir, R. M.||Wills, G.|
|Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)||Stevens, G. P.||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Osborne, C.||Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.)|
|Page, R. G.||Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Peake, Rt. Hon. O||Storey, S||Sir Cedric Drewe and Mr. Legh|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Greenwood, Anthony (Rossendale)||Mayhew, C. P|
|Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven)||Grey, C. F.||Messer, Sir F.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Mikardo, Ian|
|Awbery, S. S.||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Mitchison, G. R.|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Monslow, W.|
|Bartley, P.||Hall, John T. (Gateshead, W.)||Moody, A. S|
|Bence, C. R.||Hamilton, W. W.||Morgan, Dr. H B. W.|
|Benn, Hon. Wedgwood||Hannan, W.||Morley, R.|
|Benson, G.||Hardy, E. A.||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)|
|Beswick, F.||Hargreaves, A.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S.)|
|Bing, G. H. C||Hastings, S.||Mort, D. L.|
|Blackburn, F||Hayman, F. H.||Moyle, A.|
|Blyton, W. R.||Healey, Denis (Leeds, S.E.)||Mulley, F. W|
|Boardman, H.||Herbison, Miss M.||Murray, J. D.|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G||Hobsen, C. R.||Nally, W.|
|Bowen, E. R.||Holman, P.||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P J|
|Brockway, A. F.||Holmes, Horace||Oldfield, W. H|
|Brook, Dryden (Halifax)||Houghton, Douglas||Oliver, G. H.|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D||Hoy, J. H.||Orbach, M.|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)||Oswald, T.|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||HugheS, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Palmer, A. M. F.|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.)||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)'||Pannell, Charles|
|Callaghan, L. J.||Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Parker, J,|
|Carmichael, J.||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Parkin, B. T|
|Champion, A. J||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Peart, T. F|
|Chetwynd, G. R||Janner, B.||Plummer, Sir Leslie|
|Clunie, J.||Jeger, George (Goole)||Popplewell, E|
|Coldrick, W.||Jeger, Mrs. Lena||Porter, G.|
|Collick, P. H||Johnson, James (Rugby)||Price, J. T. (Westhougbton)|
|Cove, W. G.||Jones, David (Hartlepool)||Proctor, W. T.|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Jones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham, S.)||Pryde, D. J.|
|Crosland, C. A. R.||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Pursey, Cmdr. H|
|Cullen, Mrs. A.||Keenan, W.||Reeves, J.|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Kenyon, C.||Reid, Thomas (Swindon)|
|Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W||Richards, R,|
|Deer, G.||King, Dr. H. M.||Robens, Rt. Hon. A|
|Delargy, H. J.||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Dodds, N. N.||Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)||Ross, William|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Lewis, Arthur||Royle, C.|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Lindgren, G. S.||Shackleton, E. A. A|
|Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M||Short, E. W.|
|Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury)||Logan, D. G.||Silverman, Julius (Erdington)|
|Fernyhough, E||MacColl, J. E.||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Fienburgh, W.||McGovern, J.||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)|
|Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.)||MoKay, John (Wallsend)||Skeffington, A. M.|
|Follick, M.||MoLeavy, F.||Slater, J. (Durham, Sedgefield)|
|Forman, J. C.||MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N||Mann, Mrs. Jean||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Gibson, C. W.||Manuel, A. C||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Cordon Walker, Rt. Hon P C||Mason, Roy||Sparks, J. A|
|Steele, T.||Warbey, W. N.||Williams, W. R. (Droylsden)|
|Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)||Watkins T. E.||Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)|
|Swingler, S. T.||Webb, Rt. Hon. M. (Bradford, C.)||Wood burn, Rt. Hon. A|
|Taylor, John (West Lothian)||Wells, Percy (Faversham)||Wyatt, W. L.|
|Taylor, Rt. Hon. Robert (Morpeth)||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)||Yates, V. F.|
|Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Thornton, E.||WilIey, F. T.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Tomney, F.||Williams, David (Neath)||Mr. Pearson and Mr. Arthur Allen|
|Wallace, H. W.||Williams, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Don V'll'y)|
Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.
Long Leases (Scotland) Bill
Order for Second Reading read.
Motion made, and Question put (Pursuant to Standing Order No. 60 (Public Bills relating exclusively to Scotland)) "That the Bill be committed to the Scottish Standing Committee."— [ Mr. Henderson Stewart.]
Question agreed to.
Bill (deemed to have been read a Second time), committed to the Scottish Standing Committee.
Visiting Forces (Application Of Law)
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That the Draft Visiting Forces (Application of Law) Order, 19i54, a copy of which was laid before this House on 18th March, be approved.— [Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe.]
On a point of order. As I understand it, an Order has to depend on a live statute. The recital to this Order quotes Section 8 of the Visiting Forces Act, 1952. The Visiting Forces Act, 1952, has been passed by the House, but Section 19 of that Act provides that
Now, Sir, as far as I know—and I have taken the trouble to check it—no Order bringing this Act into operation has yet been submitted or passed. It therefore does not seem to me that this Draft Order depends on any statute that is binding on any person, and the Secretary of State would appear to have no authority, until the Act comes into operation, for submitting an Order under any of the Sections of the Act. I would sug- gest that until he brings in an Order under Section 19, bringing the Act into operation, Section 8—under which this Order is purported to be made—is of no effect, and no delegated legislation can therefore depend on it."This Act shall come into force on such date as Her Majesty may by Order in Council appoint, and different dates may be appointed in relation to different provisions of this Act."
As you will see if you look at Section 8 (6) of the Act, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, the consideration which the right hon. and learned Gentleman has advanced has been anticipated in the form of the statute.
The subsection says:
If one takes the matter in the logical order, the first consideration is that this is only a Draft Order. My Motion is:"No recommendation shall be made to Her Majesty in Council to make an Order under this section unless a draft thereof has been laid before Parliament and approved by resolution of each House of Parliament."
The second point is that there is no subsidiary legislation until Her Majesty in Council has not only had the recommendation but has approved it, and the recommendation cannot go to Her Majesty in Council until the Draft Order is approved by the House. There is the third point, that the House has, in my submission, an inherent right to see that its own position as a legislative body is protected and assured. As the right hon. Gentleman and you are well aware, three Orders have to be introduced before this Act comes into force. The first is the one the right hon. Gentleman has referred to, under Section 19 (2), which brings the Act into force. The second is under Section 1 (1), dealing with the countries which are affected. It would be a derogation of the legislative position of the House if, by bringing these two into force at a certain date, one presented the House with a fait accompli under this Order, which is the third. That is what we have tried to avoid by using this procedure, and for all three reasons I have mentioned I submit that we are in order."That the Draft Visiting Forces (Application of Law) Order, a copy of which was laid before the House on 18th March, be approved."
My contention is that the right hon. and learned Gentleman fails on the first point he submitted. Section 8 (6) is not in operation at the moment, because no Order under Section 19 has been brought in to bring the Act into operation. I do not think the right hon. and learned Gentleman contends that the Act is in operation. Therefore, Section 8 (6) is not in operation either, and it is rather a queer doctrine, coming from the other side of the House, that one can promote delegated legislation on the authority of a statute which is not yet in force. I suggest, with all due deference to the position of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, that until he has submitted and secured the approval of an Order under Section 19 (2), Section 8 (6) is not in operation, and therefore no delegated legislation can depend upon it.
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman does not want to take a bad point. My first point is that this is not delegated legislation; it is a Draft Order. It cannot be recommended to Her Majesty until it has been approved, and we cannot have delegated legislation until it has been recommended to Her Majesty and Her Majesty in Council has approved it. That is my point.
I am sure that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will not deny that this Order at some time or another must depend for its validity on being made within the terms of Section 8 (6) of the Act.
I do not agree.
Why have Acts of Parliament at all? Why not bring in Draft Orders and get along with them? It is the kind of thing that I understood the party opposite were always very frightened of. I submit to you, Sir, that this Act does not come into operation until an Order has been formally made, legally made, and is binding under Section 19 (2), and that until that has taken place the rest of the Act is not in operation, and that any legislation of any kind that depends for its validity on some Section of that Act cannot have validity until the first Order under Section 19 (2) has been approved. I think that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is submitting his Orders in the wrong sequence, and that before we can deal with this Order there should be an Order under Section 19 (2).
I should like to support what my right hon. Friend has said. The Home Secretary purported to justify this procedure by reference to Section 8 (6) of the Act, which he quoted.
I did not do anything of the sort.
That Section is not at the moment part of the law of the land. I think the Home Secretary himself said that this Order for which he is now seeking approval is not delegated legislation. If it is not delegated legislation, what is it? He himself said it was something he was bringing before the House because of what is written in Section 8 (6). That is what he said. That is the only excuse he can have for bringing it before the House. Either it is delegated legislation or it is brought forward because of what is written in Section 8 (6). That is his own argument. That Section 8 (6) is not yet part of the law of the land. It may never be. Perhaps no Order will be made. If an Order is made, it may be anulled.Therefore, the first question is, what are we discussing tonight? By virtue of what are we asked to approve this Order? What is the statute on which this document depends, if any? It cannot be Section 8 (6), because that is not part of the law of the land. What is the basis from which this Order originates? The Home Secretary has entirely failed to put forward any argument that gives the House any basis on which to proceed with this discussion. This discussion ought to be adjourned until an Order in Council has been made bringing the Act into operation.
I have a further submission to make that has not yet been made. The argument that is now adduced by the Home Secretary is invalidated by words of his own choosing, words he uttered in this House on 11th March last. On that occasion he announced:
He went on to recapitulate the three Orders in Council that would have to be made, and at the top of the list he put"It is the intention of the Government to bring the Visiting Forces Act, 1952, into operation in the near future. For this purpose three Orders in Council must be made and must come into force at the same time."
That means surely that the Home Secretary admits what he is now apparently challenging—that in order to make any move at all in the matter the first thing which has to be done is to take appropriate action under Section 19 (2) to bring that Act into effect."… first, an Order under Section 19 (2) appointing the date on which the Act shall come into operation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th March, 1954; Vol. 524, c. 2442.]
The right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) based his argument upon the Visiting Forces Act, 1952, and upon the fact that this was delegated legislation depending upon that Act. It does not appear to me that it is delegated legislation; it is not an Order made under that Act but a Motion for a Draft Order. It is a matter for discussion by this House, but it is not delegated legislation depending on the Act of 1952.
That being so, it would be for the convenience of the House if you could give a ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. As I understand it, under the Standing Order this discussion must close at 10 o'clock. As you are aware, that Standing Order provides for a discussion to continue after 10 o'clock only on an Order made pursuant to the statute.
That does not seem to arise.
Now that you have resumed the Chair, Mr. Speaker, it might be convenient if we sought your ruling on this point now, rather than wait until 10 o'clock, when the debate might be interrupted. If you take the same view as myself of the meaning of Standing Order No. 1, this discussion is bound to be cut short on the ruling of Mr. Deputy-Speaker that this is not an Order made pursuant to a statute. It might be appropriate for the Government to put before the House for some general discussion a piece of paper which they have printed, but there is no Standing Order which permits discussion of it to continue after 10 'clock.Perhaps the Home Secretary will consider adjourning the discussion rather than have part of it until 10 o'clock and a continuation on some other day. If you could give a Ruling, Mr. Speaker, it would assist hon. Members in knowing whether to prepare the various speeches which they have in mind on this important Measure or whether it is likely that the discussion will be abruptly terminated at 10 o'clock and adjourned to some future occasion.
This is a complicated point. I notice that the Order itself does not express itself in the opening paragraph as being made under the authority of the statute. That is quite true. I have not looked it up, but recalling our previous discussion, I remember that the statute gave power for the provisions of the statute to be brought into effect by means of an Order of this kind. I should like to hear the view of the Home Secretary or the Attorney-General upon the point which has been raised.
I think the attention of the House should be drawn to Section 37 of the Interpretation Act, 1889, which reads as follows:
Under subsection (6) of Section 8—"Where an Act passed after the commencement of this Act is not to come into operation immediately on the passing thereof, and confers powers to make any appointment, to make, grant, or issue any instrument, that is to say, any Order in Council, order, warrant, scheme, letters patent, rules, regulations, or byelaws, to give notices, to prescribe forms or to do any other thing for the purposes of the Act, that power may, unless the contrary intention appears, be exercised at any time after the passing of the Act, so far as may be necessary or expedient for the purpose of bringing the Act into operation at the date of the commencement thereof, subject to this restriction, that any instrument made under the power shall not, unless the contrary intention appears in the Act, or the contrary is necessary for bringing the Act into operation, come into operation until the Act comes into operation."
I hope the right hon. and learned Gentleman can understand it.
A little education will not do the hon. Gentleman any harm. Subsection (6) reads:
That, therefore, gives a clear, positive power to lay the draft before Parliament and have it approved. That is what is being done this evening. It is covered by Section 37 of the Interpretation Act, and therefore I submit that the matter is in order."No recommendation shall be made to Her Majesty in Council to make an Order under this section unless a draft thereof has been laid before Parliament and approved by resolution of each House of Parliament."
Further to that point of order. If I may venture to add a footnote to it, the right hon. and learned Gentleman has read out Section 37 of the Interpretation Act of 1889, but the Section he has read out was limited expressly to Orders which were necessary to bring the Act into operation. That would refer to an Order under Section 19 of the Visiting Forces Act, 1952, but clearly it would not refer to an Order under Section 8 of the Act which is not an Order to bring the Visiting Forces Act of 1952 into operation at all; it is an Order which is made for the purpose of the exercise of certain powers given under Section 8 after Section 8 has been brought into operation. So that whatever may be the answer to the conundrum which has been posed, it certainly cannot be Section 37 of the Interpretation Act, 1889.The point of order raised by my right hon. Friend was that until the Act had been brought into operation this draft that we are asked to discuss is no more than a piece of paper, with no effect for any purpose whatever. I do not know if the view of the Home Secretary means that we may hereafter be called upon to discuss nicely written out pieces of paper which may, in perhaps 10, 15 or 100 years hence, be useful for the purpose of some Act which is then brought into operation but which is not related to any operative part of any Act at the time we are discussing it. If that is what it means, I suggest that to be asked to discuss a piece of paper of that sort is to abuse the processes of the House.
You have given a Ruling, Mr. Speaker. Surely it is not proper for the right hon. and learned Gentleman to try to upset that Ruling on a side wind?
I must bow to your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, but I thought you asked the Home Secretary and the learned Attorney-General to indicate their views as to this matter to you. The Attorney-General did so, and I was venturing humbly to raise a possible doubt which seemed to me to arise on a possible misreading of Section 37 of the Act.
I think the right hon. and learned Gentleman has perhaps not considered the matter as fully as he might have done. If he will look at Section 8 (6) he will find that is a necessary thing for the purpose of bringing the Act into operation. Unless we apply the law, as the side-note of Section 8 suggests, there will be nothing to operate upon, and therefore it is just as necessary a part of bringing the Act into operation as anything else. What the two right hon. Gentlemen are trying to do is to make it impossible for Parliament to carry out the statute which it has passed.
If the Attorney-General is going to say that, Mr. Speaker, I must ask your permission to correct it. The right hon. and learned Gentleman knows perfectly well, so does the Home Secretary that the right and ordinary course to adopt is to bring the Act into operation by an Order properly made under Section 19. When the Act has been brought into operation, the next step is to exercise the powers which the Act confers by Section 8. I would not have made that observation with that heat if the Attorney-General had not tried to introduce into the argument a view which, I submit, is wholly insupportable on any possible view of this problem.
With great respect, I think that I should deal with that. The intention, as already stated, is that all these three Orders are to come into operation simultaneously for the purpose of bringing the Act into operation, and thus one is just as essential as the other. Therefore, if one looks at the matter from any common sense point of view and not from the severely legalistic point of view—
Further to that point, I hope, Mr. Speaker, that you will gather from what the Attorney-General has just said that he is practically conceding the case that has been made by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Neepsend (Sir F. Soskice). In other words, the Attorney-General has asked you almost in terms to disregard the strict legal position and look at what he calls the commonsense position. I venture to submit in support of my right hon. and learned Friend that your Ruling must be determined on the strict principles of law and in accordance with the strict rules of procedure of this House.Whilst Mr. Deputy-Speaker was in the Chair the Home Secretary admitted that this Order was not a piece of delegated legislation. In other words, it is not an instrument to which Standing Order No. 1 applies and therefore cannot be discussed after 10 o'clock. The Attorney-General also recognised that when he said that the Act of Parliament is not yet in force—and for all we know it may never come into force. The Attorney-General tried to suggest that it was necessary to pass this Order to bring the Act into operation. That is not so. If the Government want to bring this Act of Parliament into operation, it is quite easy for them to do so by making an Order under Section 19. After they have done that they can also lay this proposed Order before the House. At the moment the Act of Parliament is not in operation and it may be amended before it comes into operation. We are at the moment discussing a piece of paper which has no statutory or other authority at all.
I must apologise to the House for intervening again, but I am afraid that I read Section 37 of the Interpretation Act rather quickly last time, and perhaps the right hon. and learned Member for Sheffield, Neepsend (Sir F. Soskice) and his hon. Friends did not catch all of it. I will read it in part again. The words are, when one is dealing with these matters:
If this is not necessary, it is most certainly expedient."… that power may, unless the contrary intention appears, be exercised at any time after the passing of the Act, so far as may be necessary or expedient for the purpose of bringing the Act into operation.…"
I should like to try to clear this matter up, although I have had only a very short time to study it. It seems to me that there has been some confusion as to what Standing Order No. 1 says. The term "delegated legislation" has been widely used tonight, but that is not used in the Standing Order. The Standing Order refers to
Therefore, the matter really comes to this, that the proceeding should be in pursuance of an Act of Parliament and not whether it is delegated legislation or not. That is quite irrevelant and beside the point. The Visiting Forces Act, 1952, says in Section 8 (6), as a prohibition, that"… proceedings in pursuance of any Act of Parliament.…"
It seems to me, therefore, that this draft that is laid is laid in pursuance of an Act of Parliament. It is not delegated legislation in the commonly accepted meaning of that term. It seems to me to be in pursuance of the Act."No recommendation shall be made to Her Majesty in Council to make an Order under this section unless a draft thereof has been laid before Parliament.…"
Further to that point, I do not know whether you were in the Chamber, Mr. Speaker, when your deputy ruled on this matter. He ruled that this document was not presented to the House pursuant to the Act and it was because of that Ruling that I raised this point with you, Mr. Speaker. Do you say that that Ruling was given in error?
The hon. and learned Member will forgive me, but I thought that what my deputy said was that this was not delegated legislation. As I have distinguished between delegated legislation and proceedings in Parliament in pursuance of an Act of Parliament, I do not think that there is anything in the point.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. This occurred before you had an opportunity of considering the point and when your deputy was in the Chair. It is quite clear that in accordance with your Ruling, the business we are to transact must be pursuant to an Act of Parliament. I endeavoured a short time ago to make the statement that to be pursuant to an Act of Parliament the Act of Parliament bad to be brought into operation and this Act of Parliament will not be operated until Section 19 (2) is brought into effect.The Home Secretary, when announcing the intention of the Government to bring the Visiting Forces Act, 1952, into operation in the near future said, on 11th March last:
There is no Order under that point—"For this purpose three Orders in Council must be made and must all come into force at the same time. These Orders are, first, an Order under Section 19 (2) appointing the date on which the Act shall come into operation …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th March, 1954; Vol. 524, c. 2442.]
I was sitting on the Treasury Bench and heard the hon. and gallant Member make that submission, or use words to that effect, but that does not alter my decision that this Order is in pursuance of an Act of Parliament.
On a point of order. Can we be told under what power a draft of an Order can be made under an Act of Parliament which itself is not yet in operation? If the Act is not law, how can the Order be law?
I will answer the hon. Member if he will resume his seat. The Act of Parliament is on the Statute Book and it has effect for all its provisions except those which are limited by the provision that the commencement of the Act must be on a future date, but all the other provisions of the Act are of full statutory force. Therefore, I say that this Order is in pursuance of that Act. It is on the Statute Book and has its effect.
With great respect, Sir, are we to understand that an Act of Parliament which definitely contains a provision that it cannot come into operation until a certain step has been taken subsequently to put it into operation, nevertheless a Draft Order under such an Act, which has not yet been notified as being operative, is valid and legal?
With a few important verbal corrections the hon. Member is quite right.
I suggest then, that on your Ruling, Sir, my interpretation is quite right and that the Home Secretary is quite wrong.
I must have misunderstood the hon. Member. In my view, the Home Secretary is quite right.
May I ask the House to descend from the metaphysical realms, which we have all enjoyed being in, and to consider the Motion now before us. It has been pointed out in several speeches and quotations that the Draft Order in Council before the House is one of three which are necessary in order to make the Act fully effective. One is under Section 19 (2), another is under Section 1 (2), and the third, this Draft Order, to which reference is made, is under Section 8.Apart from the question of correctness, which we have fully discussed, it was, as I indicated, thought desirable that the House should pass its view on the one Order out of the three which is to be laid before the House before the other Orders were made. As I indicated before, if the Draft Order is approved it is the intention of the Government that this Order in Council, and the Orders to which reference has been made, should come into force simultaneously, and there will also be an Order under Section 15 applying the Act to the Colonies. It is inevitable that the Draft Order under Section 8 should be long and complicated. That is the result of the form in which Parliament enacted Section 8 of the Visiting Forces Act, because that requires that the provisions of United Kingdom law being applied to visiting forces should be set out in detail. Whatever views right hon. and hon. Members have about the various aspects of the matter, I think they will all support this change in the law, because under the law as it stood the existing provisions—notably Section 2 (3) of the Visiting Forces (British Commonwealth) Act, 1933, which was applied to the forces of allied countries in 1940—have the affect that any enactment conferring any privilege or immunity in relation to the home forces is automatically applied to visiting forces unless an Order in Council is made directing that a particular enactment should not apply. That is a quite general provision which makes everything apply, unless it is excluded by Order in Council. I think everyone will agree that it is far better that we should have a detailed Order so that everyone can find out what is applied to the various forces. This Order makes the specific and detailed arrangements required by Section 8 of the Act so that Parliament will be fully informed of the precise privileges and immunities conferred on the visiting forces. I wish to point out that the new arrangements are in certain respects more restrictive to the visiting forces than existing arrangements. There is one example to which I would refer the House again, because of the interest which has been shown in it by a number of hon. Members. It is that Sections 144 and 145 of the Army Act are not applied to visiting forces by this Order, and therefore maintenance and affiliation orders made by United Kingdom courts against members of visiting forces will be enforceable, if payment is not made, by the ordinary process of law. I understand that the United States authorities will do all they can to persuade their members to pay without recourse to these powers. I have no doubt that in most cases they will be successful, but the position is that these Sections of the Army Act which would have had an exempting effect do not apply.
That means, of course, so long as the visiting soldier is in this country?
Yes. All our legislation is intra-territorial except, for example, that which covers British ships under special Acts. The member of the visiting forces is in exactly the same position as any other visitor to our shores. He can be got at by the courts when he is within the jurisdiction of the courts.I want to say something about the obligations under the North Atlantic Treaty Status of Forces Agreement. As Parliament accepted when it enacted Section 8 of the 1952 Act, it is necessary that the laws relating to the home forces should be applied in essentials to visiting forces in this country if they are to be able to carry out their normal military functions here. We have had considerable experience during the past years of the facilities required by our own forces abroad and also of the needs of visiting forces in this country. I remind the House that the Government are already committed under the North Atlantic Treaty Status of Forces Agreement, which was signed in London in June, 1951. I remind the House in no combative spirit that in June, 1951, the party opposite were in office. The Government are already committed in respect of the more important provisions to be made for visiting forces. The Visiting Forces Act, 1952, and this Order, will enable the Government to carry out their obligations under the Agreement made by the party opposite when they formed the Government of the country. I should like to give one or two examples and to try to relate them to the Agreement to show how it works.
Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman be good enough to tell the House whether the United States Government have carried out their obligation and produced reciprocal legislation?
I shall come to that. If the hon. and learned Gentleman had been present in the House when we discussed the matter before, he would know that I had mentioned that reciprocity was one of the most important matters in all our minds and that I said—I think at the instance of the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. E. Fletcher)—that I was delaying this matter until, in my view, there was reciprocity.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman does me an injustice. I was present in the House, and he said that in reply to me.
The hon. and learned Gentleman probably does not apply it to his speeches, but it is necessary sometimes to take points in order and to deal with one point at a time. I know that the hon. and learned Gentleman finds difficulty in that; but when one is opening a debate it is preferable to do it. If the hon. and learned Gentleman would, for once, take a slight suggestion, I am sure that he would find it useful.I want to give one or two examples. The first example is Article 5 and the First Schedule of the Draft Order. They make provision by which certain powers vested in British Government departments to acquire land for use by the home forces may be exercised by those departments—that is the British departments—to acquire land for the purpose of visiting forces. This will enable the United Kingdom to carry out its obligations under paragraph 3 of Article IX of the Agreement, which obliges the receiving State to assume responsibility for making suitable arrangements to make available to a visiting force the buildings and the ground which it requires. I would point out that it was the view of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite that paragraph 3 of Article IX of the Agreement should apply, and we are carrying out what they thought was necessary. The Fourth and Fifth Schedules to the Draft Order provide respectively for the summoning of witnesses to the service courts of a visiting force, and for assistance where necessary in carrying out the sentences of those courts, both of which are essential if the service courts of visiting forces are to function in this country. These provisions are supplementary to Sections 2 to 5 of the Visiting Forces Act, 1952, and, again, they are in accordance with Article VII of the Status of Forces Agreement. I know that the summoning of British witnesses to a foreign service court is a matter about which the House is concerned. I would point out that under the Order the summoning of the witnesses must be done by an officer of the home Forces, and that the detention of a person sentenced by a service court of a visiting force, who must be a national of that country, in one of our prisons must be under the authority of a Secretary of State or the Admiralty. I would also remind the House that under the Agreement, and under the Act, though the service courts of a visiting force are given authority to operate in the United Kingdom, members of those forces charged with an offence against United Kingdom law will normally be tried by United Kingdom criminal courts, unless the offence arose out of or in the course of the offender's duty, or unless it was an offence against the person or property of another member of the visiting force or against the property of the sending country. Another example is that the Order adapts the Gun Licence Act, 1870, and the Firearms Act, 1937, so as to put members of visiting forces in the same position as members of the home forces, and enable them to carry firearms without a licence. I do not think that anyone would deny to the members of any force which purports to be a force the right to carry firearms without a licence.
Only on duty, of course.
Yes. It also enables them, if they wish, to acquire them for official purposes on the same terms as members of the home forces in like circumstances. This is in accordance with Article VI of the Agreement.There is another point on which there has been interest in the House. I am trying to pick out the points which hon. Members have brought to my attention. I should like to detain the House for a moment with regard to road traffic legislation, because that is a point in which the House is interested. Article 8 of the Order deals with the adaptation, for the purposes of visiting forces, of road traffic legislation. One effect of this Article will be to exempt vehicles belonging to visiting forces and used for their purposes—I stress these words—and other vehicles so used by a person subject to the orders of any member of a visiting force, from the provisions of the Road Traffic Acts relating to compulsory third-party insurance. This places visiting force vehicles in the same position as our own Service vehicles abroad and in the same position as vehicles of the home forces. When a member of a visiting force is driving a car when not on duty, he must have third-party insurance, and he will commit a criminal offence if he has not. The Minister of Defence is making arrangements under Section 9 of the Visiting Forces Act, 1952, by which claims against a member of a visiting force who is on duty when the incident giving rise to the claim occurred will be dealt with by the British authorities; they will come into effect when the Act is in force and the Agreement has been ratified by us.
This is a very important point. The Home Secretary says that the Minister of Defence is making these arrangements and that they will come into force. May we be told whether the details will be laid before Parliament? May we have full knowledge of the arrangements which the Minister of Defence is authorised to make under Section 9?
There is a Question down for tomorrow on that point, the Parliamentary Secretary tells me. As I said, they will come into effect when the Act is in force. The hon. Gentleman will see the answer tomorrow, and if there is any point he wishes to raise, perhaps he will indicate it to me or to my hon. Friend. The last thing we want to do is to prevent him from raising any point or being satisfied about it.I want to deal with reciprocity, because I know the House is interested and the hon. and learned Member for Horn-church has asked me about it tonight. I would point out that this Order deals only with the position of visiting forces in this country, but I know that the House has shown itself rightly concerned to know what is the position about the treatment of our own forces abroad. It is obviously important that we should not give extensive facilities to forces in this country if our own troops abroad are not to be given comparable facilities. We are all agreed on that, and that is the point to which I am going to address myself. It will be seen that, apart from the member countries of the Commonwealth, the Visiting Forces Act and this Order are to be applied only to those countries which have already ratified the North Atlantic Treaty Status of Forces Agreement. I have here, and I am quite prepared to give them if the House desires them, the dates of the ratification of the Agreement. When we, in our turn, have ratified the Agreement, which we intend to do as soon as the Visiting Forces Act is in force and we are in a position to carry out our obligations, our forces will be entitled in those countries to the privileges and immunities for which the Agreement provides, and these are the main ones covered by the Order. I should say that many of these privileges are already being enjoyed, by arrangement, in the countries where our forces are stationed. All the foreign countries named in Article 3 of this Order have ratified the agreement, and I have the dates here if anyone is interested. I am assured that, in those countries, no further steps are needed to enable effect to be given to the Agreement, except for one point. In the United States, legislation has been introduced to give effect to the provisions of Article VIII of the Agreement—I repeat Article VIII, in case there is any confusion. That deals with claims against members of visiting forces, and legislation is not needed in respect of the remainder of the Agreement. I should just remind the House here that I made a statement in this House on this point on 11th March of this year, and it might be convenient if I were now to remind the House that I then quoted a statement of Mr. Bedell Smith, Undersecretary of State, which he made to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on 7th April, 1953. He said:
That is an interpretation by the American Government of their own Constitution-which I suggest should satisfy us here. In most of the countries concerned the act of ratification in itself makes the Agreement part of the law of the country without any specific legislation, as is. necessary in this country. If hon. and right hon. Gentlemen have performed the somewhat laborious task, as I have done, of comparing the different Articles of the Agreement with the Articles of this Order, I think they will have found that once the Agreement has become part of the substantive municipal law of the country, our troops would not be in a worse position than if an Order such as this were made."The Bill to implement the claims provisions of the agreements has been transmitted to Congress. The interested agencies are agreed that they do not require, and accordingly they do not plan to submit, further legislation to implement any of the proposed treaties."
One question on that point is important, and will assist my hon. Friends to form a view about it. Conversely, can the right hon. and learned Gentleman assure us—I daresay he can—that nothing in the Draft Order which he has put before the House, taken in conjunction with the Visiting Forces Act, goes beyond what is provided for in the Agreement to which he has referred? He has almost said that already, but a specific assurance about it, which he no doubt can give, would assist us to make up our minds.
I want to be meticulously accurate with the right hon. and learned Gentleman. I think I can go as far as to say that anything that goes beyond the Agreement is necessary in order to deal with the form of our statute law, but it is not a substantive increase. It is an increase necessary from the way our legislation is drafted. I must say that, because otherwise one could always find difficulties arising from a statute which might have a special history.I have spoken of the position of the United States, and I would like to repeat what I have said already. The United States Embassy have given us an assurance that the United States Government, in ratifying the Status of Forces Agreement, have undertaken to meet the claims for reimbursement submitted to them under Article VIII of the Agreement. It is important, for those who have to meet the consequences of the Act, to know that that is a matter of financial adjustment between Governments. The individual in this country who has a claim accepted will be paid out of British Government funds, and it is the British Government who have to recover from the American Government under the terms of Article VIII of the Agreement. I hope no one will think from that that if he had to negotiate with the American Government it would be to his disadvantage, but it is good that people should know that they have to negotiate with the British Government and that the British Government make the claim and get the money from the American Government. I have tried to interpret the spirit of the House as I have understood it on this point. I do not think that the last Government, or any Government, would have designed to approach the matter in a spirit of strict bilateral bargaining, in the sense of seeking to make a separate agreement on the basis of strict reciprocity with each of the countries concerned. We do not believe that it is the right approach, or that it accords with the spirit of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. In some countries we have a number of troops. In others, we have few, and it does not follow that countries where we may have many troops will have many of their troops here. At the moment, only the United States and Canada have substantial numbers of forces here, but there are, and will be, contingents and detachments from other countries from time to time. I think that we ought to consider—and I am sure that the late Government did too—our feelings towards countries who are co-operating with us in N.A.T.O. as the feelings of different members of a team to one another. We would not expect treatment of these members to vary according to the number of their troops which happen to be in this country or according to the number of our troops that happen to be in their countries. We ought to try to lay down a plan which gives effect to the Agreement that we have made, and which ensures that that is done on any soil at any time. We have recently been reminded by the celebration of the fifth birthday of the North Atlantic Treaty that we are depending for our defence on the efficiency and preparedness of the forces provided by the countries taking part in that great joint effort. In the detailed provisions of this Order, the Government are providing for the forces of our Allies, who will from time to time be in this country in pursuance of our common aim, and making provision essential to their efficiency in this country. I ought to mention that the member countries of the Commonwealth, with the exception of Canada, are not members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. We have, however, a long-standing arrangement with them, and I am sure that no one in this House, wherever he may sit, would suggest that their forces ought to be treated in any way less favourably than the forces of our North Atlantic Treaty Organisation Allies. To sum up, the provisions of the Order are necessary to efficient functioning, and I have tried to bear in mind two things —which the House taught me with no uncertain voice—on this subject. The first is that it wanted as soon as possible to get the advantage of the more favourable conditions towards our people and a greater restriction on the visiting forces which this Act will give. But they did not want this Act to be brought into operation until reciprocity was clear. I believe that reciprocity is clear, and that we all want to see that relaxation and a more favourable position for our subjects and a greater restriction on the visiting forces within the terms of the agreement. I believe that if we pass this Order and bring the Act into force we shall attain the more favourable position which we all desire.
This is a very long, complicated and important Order, and is not the kind of Order that ought to be discussed at this time of night. In view of the way in which business was protracted today, I think it would have been better if arrangements could have been made either that it could have been started earlier or that, after the preliminary statement by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, it could have been continued and finished on another day.The Special Orders Committee in another place has more extended duties than the Scrutiny Committee of this House. The Special Orders Committee made a report on this Order a week ago. Its opinion was that the provisions of the Order raised important questions of policy and principle, that it was not founded on precedent, that, in the opinion of the Committee, the Order could not be passed by the House without special attention, but that no further inquiry was necessary before the House proceeded to a decision on the Resolution to present an Address to Her Majesty praying that the Order be made. This Order arises from an Act which occupied this House for a very considerable time.
Will the right hon. Gentleman allow me to call attention—with the greatest good temper and friendships—to the fact that, in nearly 20 years in this House, this is the first time that I have ever heard the right hon. Gentleman refer with approbation to anything which the other place has done?
The right hon. and learned Gentleman has been in this House for 20 years and at least has learned that when my worst enemies do good I am prepared to recognise it. I only wish that he would sometimes feel that on this side of the House we are trying to help him.The Order, if it were presented to the House as a Bill, would take a very considerable time to consider, because almost every Article raises most im- portant points. When he was able to get to it after the points of order had been disposed of the Home Secretary took the trouble to explain the Order to us in great detail, and took a considerable part of the time of the House. We willingly conceded the time to him, because he explained the matter with great care, and also because both sides of the House recognise, I hope, that this very important Order will in matters of military training and discipline control for some time very important aspects of the relations of ourselves and our allies. I therefore hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will not think that I am being pernickety if I ask some detailed questions about the Order. I should first like to reinforce what my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said when the Home Secretary made his statement on 11th March. We would have preferred that there should have been a separate Order made in respect of each of the nations outside the Commonwealth whose forces will have this Act applied to them. We think that that would have been desirable. We could then have considered in rather better circumstances some of the differences which may be involved in the question of reciprocity. As the right hon. and learned Gentleman has made clear, it is very difficult to draw a general clause that will cover that point, or to be satisfied that in the end we shall receive the same sort of reciprocity from each of the countries involved. The Home Secretary is, apparently, satisfied that he has secured reasonable reciprocity—I put it no higher—from the United States of America, which, so far as forces in this country are concerned, is at present the most important country with which we have to deal. The Canadians are members of the Commonwealth. The United States is the only country mentioned in Article 3 (1) of the Order which has a substantial number of forces here. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) has devoted some time to a very careful study of this matter, and I understand from the discussions we had earlier that he received some of his legal tuition in the United States. Therefore, I shall not develop this point, because, in spite of the flattering adjective applied to me by the right hon. and learned Gentleman earlier in this discussion, I should not like to say anything that might have to be repudiated by my hon. and learned Friend. Have the Government any idea how much land is likely to be required during the next five years, under the provisions of Article 5 of the Order, to carry out the obligations which the Service lands departments are to undertake when this Article becomes operative? In various parts of the country very hostile comments have been made about the amount of land required by our own forces, and in certain agricultural areas allegations have been made that it is not always the worst land, from an agricultural point of view, that is taken. This Order provides for a very considerable extension of the demands that may possibly be made upon land, and I should be interested to know the extent to which it is expected that land will be requisitioned, and also the kind of relationship that will exist between the visiting forces and the officers of our own forces who will have the responsibility of acquiring the land which the visiting forces require. We approve the action which has been taken to secure that the negotiations, as between the land owner, the tenant and the military forces, will be undertaken by our officers and not by those of a visiting force, but will our officers have the right—or even the duty—to submit the requisitions of the visiting force to careful scrutiny and to apply to them at least the same standards that are applied by our officers when they requisition land and buildings for our forces? We should have assurances on both those points. Article 6, which deals with the appointment of special constables, again applies our Acts to further persons, and says that those Acts
Are these special constables to be British subjects? Or can they be civilian persons attached to the visiting forces? Or could even members of the visiting forces themselves be sworn in as special constables under this Article and discharge in this country the duty of special constables? I am sure that if that is so there will have to be some limitation on the demands we can make on special constables, because, as I understand, a special constable, once sworn in, has to come up whenever he is called on by the chief constable to discharge such duties as the chief constable may wish to place upon him. I hope we can have some explanation of that. I welcome, in general, what the Home Secretary said about Article 8, and the question of road vehicles. I have no doubt that one or two of my hon. Friends who are particularly interested in that matter will wish to put some further questions to him. We come to Article 9 which will exempt from rating premises occupied by visiting forces and, I understand, applies to them, in granting them exemption, the same position as the Crown occupies in this country. Will the visiting forces make contributions in lieu of rates to the local authorities within whose areas those hereditaments are situated? The Crown, although exempt from rates, makes a contribution in lieu of rates which generally works out to about the same amount as would have been charged if the property had appeared on the rate book and a demand note had been sent by the local authority. Will that same action be taken by the visiting forces regarding properties they occupy? We come to Article 11, which brings into effect the Second Schedule to this Order and numerous and very varied laws to which general Crown privilege applies. Similar privileges are to be enjoyed in future by the visiting forces. Are we quite certain that there are no additional safeguards necessary with regard to any of these? I come to the Third Schedule. My hon. Friend the Member for Accrington (Mr. H. Hynd) made a comment about the carrying of firearms by visiting forces. I can well understand that it would be foolish to do other than exempt a man who is on duty, on parade, from any law that forbids the carrying of firearms. He should be in exactly the same position as members of our own forces in that matter. My hon. Friend asked, however, whether this exemption applied only to members of the visiting forces carrying firearms when on duty. Is this exemption limited to that? Or is a member of the visiting forces, when off duty, visiting the hostelries in the neighbourhood in the evening, or carrying on other off-duty pleasures and occupations, still entitled to carry, for instance, a revolver? That is a point on which we should be sure because during the war there was considerable difficulty on occasions with the Polish Forces when, at dances, they appeared to have attracted the local young ladies rather more than did some of the native troops and there were incidents which were very ugly. This continued in peace time, as I knew when I occupied the position now adorned by the present Home Secretary. I cannot think that it would be a good thing for it to be understood that a member of the visiting forces was entitled, when off duty, to carry firearms which, if he imbibed too much, might be drawn in circumstances which might lead to very ugly and provocative incidents. Paragraph 12 brings in the Fourth Schedule which relates to the Service courts of visiting forces. I notice that paragraph 8 (2) of the Fourth Schedule reads:"shall extend to the appointment of persons so nominated to be special constables …"
That reads, and I have no doubt sounds when read by someone less hoarse than I am tonight, very attractive, but how is the ordinary British citizen, appearing as a witness before a tribunal presided over by officers of visiting forces, to be protected in the exercise of the immunity which this sub-paragraph purports to give him? Will there be a person of British origin and of legal knowledge present to hold a watching brief and to protest if an attempt is made to get from the witness"Without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing sub-paragraph, nothing in this Schedule shall compel any person to give or produce any evidence which he could not lawfully be compelled to give or produce in any court of criminal jurisdiction in England."
I suggest that this is a very important matter indeed and might well be a serious invasion of the liberty of a subject of this country when giving evidence before these tribunals. I hope that the Attorney-General, if he is to reply to the debate, will be able to reassure us on those points. These are matters which appear on the face of this Order, and I hope we shall have explanations of them. May I now raise generally the question which the right hon. and learned Gentleman and every other hon. Member knows has caused a grave anxiety in the country and in the House? I want to deal with the question of bastardy orders which are obtained against members of the visiting forces. I understood the right hon. and learned Gentleman to say that these can be enforced all the while the member of the forces remains in this country. Once he gets outside the three-mile limit, however, the Order has no further effect unless he chooses to come back. It is true he can continue to make voluntary payments, but there has been a feeling in some quarters, even in the House, that the effect of this Order would be to make the order of the court binding on the soldier after he had left this country and that the contributions could still continue. I never took that view myself, but hon. Members who have been in the House when this has been the subject of Question and answer will agree, I am sure, that some hon. Members seem to have assumed that it was possible, through this Order, to enforce these payments."evidence which he could not lawfully be compelled to give or produce in any court of criminal jurisdiction in England"?
It was clearly understood the other night, on the Adjournment debate, that this was not the case.
But I am sure the hon. Gentleman will agree that certain people have been hugging to themselves the delusion that in some way or other this or some similar Order would put the matter right.I heard it suggested in some quarters that there might be an arrangement between the forces whereby, if the claim was admitted, the visiting forces, when the soldier returned home, would undertake some form of collection and pass it on. I do not think that that was ever given official blessing, but I have heard it mentioned. I hope the Government will clear up tonight the interpretation of the Order. I cannot help thinking still that it would have been better if the right hon. and learned Gentleman had submitted the Orders to us in what, to my lay mind, appears to be the reasonable consecutive order; that, first of all, he would have made the Order under Section 19 (2), then an Order under Section 1 (2), and then this Order under Section 8 (6). I understand that he will so introduce them that they will come into operation simultaneously. Surely the Order under Section 19 (2) has to be at least a few minutes ahead of one of the others to bring the Act into operation? Although it may not be a very long time, I would still have thought that we have to get an Order under Section 19 (2) before anything else in the Act becomes operative; that is to say, that it imposes a liability on us or confers a favour or imposes a liability on the forces of some country other than our own. I hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman, after considering what may be said in the course of this debate, will take an early opportunity of putting the matter right by bringing in an Order under Section 19 (2). May I say, in conclusion, that we are all grateful to the various countries who are associated with us in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, and recognise the joint responsibilities that we have for preserving the peace of the world and for preparing ourselves to resist aggression. The conduct of visiting forces, whether our own or the forces of other countries here, has a great deal to do with the possibility of maintaining and consolidating any alliance that may be entered into. I have always believed, having been part of an army of occupation once, that the ordinary British soldier, a man from a regiment of the line, for instance, is certainly the best example of the British way of life we could send out in such circumstances. If he has any fault at all it is that he is too generous on occasions to those with whom he had been desperately fighting only a few days earlier. We desire that this Order, and the similar legislation that will be required in other countries, shall be so used by our forces and by the forces of our allies to cement the brotherhood that it is necessary to create and to maintain, if our efforts for the preservation of the peace of the world and resistance to aggression are to be, as we hope they will be. successful in our day and generation.
This is a measure which, I think the whole House is agreed, is of considerable importance. Indeed, its importance transcends the actual details we are discussing. It affects the whole of our relations with foreign forces which may be in this country for some time to come. Therefore, it is of supreme importance that in regard to our relations with our allies we should consider whether or not it provides reciprocity. I am sorry that the Home Secretary has left the Chamber, because he deceived the House—whether purposely or not I do not know—on this matter and I hope he comes back to hear what I have to say about it.It is of supreme importance, in connection with our relations with the United States of America, that we should have complete reciprocity. If we have not that reciprocity all that the right hon. and learned Gentleman and his hon. Friends are doing is to see that this country is treated in the same way that our party attacked them for years for treating the Egyptians and Chinese by insisting that foreign forces should have powers in our country that we do not exercise in theirs. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that he had had a message from the American Ambassador.
It was not in relation to that.
That is exactly what I suspected.
What my right hon. and learned Friend was referring to were the provisions of age in relation to the reinvestment of claims. He said that the other matter was covered by the Agreement.
That is exactly the point I wish to lay before the House. The essence of these regulations, and of the Act, is that we give exclusive jurisdiction to foreign courts and take that jurisdiction away from our own courts. The Home Secretary—and I hope the Attorney-General will deal with this when he replies—quoted from the Year Book on International Law, saying there was a reciprocal arrangement with the United States. That article was contributed, I am sure, in a well-meaning way. It was a little note which appeared in the Year Book by an official of the British Embassy. It has, in fact, been repudiated completely by Dr. Barton, of the University of New Zealand, who is considered to be probably the greatest expert on this subject. It is absolutely clear, from reading the proceedings in the American Senate, that the American Government have, in fact, refused to, and find that under their constitution they cannot, give these rights. What the Attorney-General should answer is whether the United States Government are prepared to give to British military courts in the United States exclusive jurisdiction.
The Hon. Walter Bedell Smith said to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations recently that:
"In the opinion of the United States Government no further legislation was required in the United States to give effect to Article Seven of the Agreement."
The Attorney-General ought to read what was said in the United States Senate.
That is what I was reading.
Let me call his attention to it, if he takes that point of view. His right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary said this about the matter—
Does the hon. and learned Member know who Mr. Bedell Smith is?
Yes, I am perfectly aware of the position. The whole legal position is set out in the Congressional Record and I will quote from it. It is the exact opposite of what the Home Secretary said to the House. If he misinformed the House on one occasion of what took place in the United States Senate there is a reasonable probability of the House being misinformed again by his colleague the Attorney-General. The Home Secretary said this:
He continued:"The facilities given to the United States forces under the 1942 Act, which, the House will remember, were exclusive jurisdiction in the hands of the United States authorities, were given to us in the United States reciprocally in 1944 by the Public Law, No. 384 of the 78th Congress and contained in the Presidential Proclamation. This reinforces the view I have been given."
If one looks at the Congressional Record, it says exactly the opposite, word for word, of what the right hon. and learned Gentleman told the House. Senator Revercomb, introducing the Bill, said:"Public Law, 384, brought into force as regards United Kingdom armed forces by Presidential Proclamation 2626 of October 11th, 1944, assumes the existence of this exclusive jurisdiction under international law and implements it. That this is the legislative intent is clear from the debate in the Senate reported in Congressional Record for June 22nd, 1944."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th October, 1952: Vol. 505. c. 1590–1621.]
He went on to say that this was a purely administrative provision and they did not in any circumstances oust the jurisdiction of the Federal or State courts. It is quite true that people like Mr. Bedell Smith, in endeavours to assist the right hon. and learned Gentleman in the rash pledges they have given, did make statements, but when we come to deal with what was said in the Senate by persons responsible one sees that the position is the exact opposite of that described by the right hon. and learned Gentleman in this House. I think it a matter of some seriousness that the position should have been so misstated by the right hon. and learned Gentleman. I will read the words he quoted, possibly thinking they were the right statement of the position, from the British Year Book of International Law, for 1946, page 341, and the comment made afterwards on them by Dr. Barton, who is probably the most authoritative writer on this subject. Dr. Barton, referring to the second of two articles contributed by him to the British Year Book of International Law for 1949 and 1950, states:"There is no reason why it could not happen, because we are not by statute recognising the existence of the friendly foreign service courts. If they want to try a man and convict him, …there is nothing … saying that the friendly service courts shall have exclusive jurisdiction."
that is, at the time Counsellor in our Embassy at Washington,"… the author (Bathurst)"
That is the authoritative view of the position in the United States, but for some reason, the learned Attorney-General thought proper to say otherwise on no evidence whatever."offers no proof of his statement. A careful reading of the recommendations of legislative committees and of the debates in the Senate reveals that, on the contrary, the existence of exclusive jurisdiction was not assumed, nor was it considered advisable or possible for Congress to make such a concession to the members of friendly foreign forces in the United States of America."
The hon. and learned Member has no right to make a statement of that kind. I have already referred to the statement by the Undersecretary of State, and that was made on 7th April, 1953, or seven years later than the time to which he refers. Since I have been challenged, I would say that the Under-Secretary of State said at that time that the Bill to implement claims had been transmitted to Congress, but that the interested parties did not propose to implement any of the proposed treaties.
What is the date of that?
7th April, 1953—seven years after what he is quoting.
But what the Under-Secretary says has nothing to do with what is decided by Congress.When one looks in the Congressional Record, one must look at what the Judicial Chairman of the Senate says for an opinion of that sort. If I am to be challenged on this matter, I think it only proper for me to give to the House the concluding paragraph of Dr. Barton's letter to the Home Secretary on this very matter; and which was written on 17th August, 1953. Having dealt with the arguments of the right hon. and learned Gentleman in this respect, Dr. Barton says:
I hesitated to quote this until I was challenged; but the House was completely deceived on the last occasion, and what I hope the Attorney-General will explain is whether there exists any legislation in the United States at this moment which ousts the jurisdiction of the United States courts for British subjects so that they have to be tried by British courts. If so, can that be implemented here? This is no small or light matter, but something which affects our whole relationship with the United States. Are we to give them rights which they are not prepared to give to us? Or are we to make a stand, and say that it may be only a nominal matter that we are asking for the same rights, but we are entitled to them, and why should we not have them? It is not only a question of people being tried in our courts; it is also that people who come to this country have the right to the protection of our courts. If we deny American citizens, or anyone else, the protection of our courts we should do it only on a reciprocal basis. I say that is not being done by the United States Government; that the statement of Mr. Bedell Smith, in so far as it means anything—which is doubtful—has no validity at all. It is not even a statement made by a Member of Congress. Every single statement made when the matter was considered for the first time by the Senators in the Judicial Committee of the Senate shows that not only were they unwilling to pass this law, but that the very Constitution of the United States forbade it being passed. Regarding the arguments on which the Home Secretary relied on the last occasion when the matter was discussed, the Attorney-General knows quite well, from the extracts which I have quoted, that they are completely discredited and repudiated in the Year Book of International Law, and that it was unfortunate that they were put before the House. I hope that we shall have an explanation and an excuse from the Attorney-General and also a pledge that, before any Order is made under this Act so far as the United States is concerned, there will be complete reciprocity."I have too high a regard for your high competence, which I have long admired, in the profession to which we both belong, to believe that you could personally be responsible for the statement that you made. Indeed, I gather from what you are reported to have said that this information was placed at your disposal by your advisors. It is a matter for regret that they should have seen fit to resurrect this discredited statement because it must have had the result of misleading the House on what was an extremely important point."
On behalf of the people of East Anglia, where so many American occupied camps are situated, I wish to express gratitude to my right hon. and learned Friend for his continued work to bring about this change in the law. Great hardships are being suffered by our local people. One need only open the local newspaper to see that continually Americans are seeking accommodation in the surrounding villages. This means that they have to travel from the villages to the camps by car.Many of the camps are isolated and the troops visit the surrounding towns and villages. I consider that we have been good hosts to these allies of ours, but civil contracts do arise, and there is also the question of the personal relationships between the troops and the civilians. The change in the law which it is now sought to bring about will be welcomed by my constituents.
It is certainly a venture for a layman to intervene in this matter and I do so only on the issue of reciprocity. That appears to me to be the most important issue. I recall the arguments that we had over the Bill, and that hon. Members on this side of the House admitted that it was an improvement on the existing state of affairs. On the other hand, that is achieved at the cost of making this very exceptional provision a permanent part of the system of this country.We on this side came to the conclusion that that was worth doing, and was tolerable, only on conditions of reciprocity. Indeed, the Home Secretary and the Attorney-General have implied that they take the same view. Our deliberations tonight seem to me to turn almost exclusively on this question of whether or not reciprocity has, in fact, been given to us or, at any rate, if the prospect of it is sufficiently secure to warrant us going forward. I have listened as carefully as a layman can to the learned constitutional arguments about the position in the United States, which, have been put forward by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing), and the submissions made by the Home Secretary and the Attorney-General. I must say I have been struck by the fact that so far in the debate the Home Secretary and the Attorney-General have given only one reply to the argument of my hon. and learned Friend, and that reply is to rely exclusively on the words of Mr. Bedell Smith, the American Under-Secretary of State. That seems to be a profoundly unsatisfactory assurance. My point is a very simple one—it is a fact which a layman can judge just as well as a lawyer—that from all experience in our dealings with the United States, and all experience of United States procedure, the opinion of a Minister or official, who is not a Member of Congress, as to what Congress will or will not do, is an opinion and nothing more. We are somewhat disturbed when the Attorney-General gets up and quotes, with some heat, and more emphasis, that opinion of Mr. Bedell Smith—given, I am quite sure, in the utmost good faith—as a conclusive argument which sweeps away all doubts. We have seen statements by American Ministers on other matters as to what Congress would or would not do, and we have seen efforts by American Ministers to get legislation which Congress thwarted again and again. Nothing is more common in Congress than to refuse to carry out Acts of the Executive. It is an entirely different position from that in this country. When this House refuses to carry an important Act, the Executive falls and we have a General Election. But that is not in the least the case in the United States. Because Mr. Bedell Smith says he is going to propose a Bill to Congress does not give us the slightest hope. He said it was necessary to have a Bill in one case, and in another case—perhaps the Attorney-General will contradict me if I am wrong—he said that special legislation was not necessary. I would address myself to the point that it is not necessary, in his opinion, that a Bill should be carried through Congress. That is just an opinion, and we must weigh most carefully in this House whether we can pass legislation on the strength of that opinion, and good intention, no doubt, of an American Minister. The Government should give us more substantial reasons than that. Now I go to the second point and this applies to the question of the proposed legislation. It is admitted that it may be necessary to carry out some of these provisions to the point where Mr. Bedell Smith says that no legislation is necessary. That, again, is only his opinion and Mr. Bedell Smith, with the best will in the world, cannot assure us of that. The only authority which can assure us of that is neither the American Secretary, nor the American Legislature, but the American Supreme Court. Time after time there have been instances where the action of the American Executive has been ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. The Executive believed that it was acting constitutionally in legislative or administrative action, but sometimes, a year or so later, its action was ruled unconstitutional. There are dozens of instances where that has happened, and a major one like the N.R.A. comes to mind almost at once. The Attorney-General has quoted us the opinion of Mr. Bedell Smith as though that dispenses with the whole matter, because he is perfectly sure that reciprocity will come about. He argues that Mr. Bedell Smith says so, but our experience of the working of the American Constitution suggests that no such assurance can be given. Surely the Attorney-General has something more substantial to rest his case upon that reciprocity will come about. I hope he will give us something more to justify his feelings than repeated utterance of the words of Mr. Bedell Smith. What is at issue is that we have the disturbing fact of the quotation given to us by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hornchurch that a very eminent constitutional authority says that reciprocity cannot be given to us, and that almost certainly the United States Supreme Court will rule that it would be unconstitutional. I may be wrong, but I cannot see that it has very much relevance to say that that opinion was given seven years ago. The American Constitution has not been amended in the last seven years in this respect, and, therefore, how that affects the matter I do not know. Perhaps the Attorney-General has other arguments which can reassure us, and if he has I think he ought to put them forward. He cannot rest his case simply on the contentions of a particular American Minister who has had no regard to the legislative action that may be necessary on the part of Congress. What the Attorney-General has argued about that is very feeble ground on which to rest his case that there will be reciprocity. If he can assure us that the American Government can not only act but will act in this matter, then we shall feel very differently from what we do now. It is very difficult to say that this House should affirm this Order unless there is some real expectation of reciprocity from the actions of the American Government, and I do not think that up to the present there has been any substantial assurance on that matter.
The question of reciprocity under these arrangements is fundamental to the smooth and proper working of the arrangements in operation between the respective countries forming N.A.T.O. There are one or two questions, therefore, that I would put to the Attorney-General, to which I think the House and country are entitled to direct and straight answers.First, can he give an assurance that similar arrangements are in operation in the countries cited in this Order, namely, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, Pakistan, Ceylon, U.S.A., France, Belgium, Norway and the Netherlands? We are dealing here with definite provisions which will become legally operative when passed. I take it that the Government desires, as I am sure we all do, that these arrangements shall be in the nature of a two-way traffic between this country and all the other countries concerned in these N.A.T.O. arrangements. The Government ought to be able to cite similar arrangements in those countries which would be applicable to British forces who may happen to be stationed in those countries. Can the Attorney-General say in what countries of those listed in the Order similar arrangements have been put into operation, or are being put into operation, through the legislative assemblies, and through constitutional channels? There seems to be dispute about what appertains in the U.S.A. Surely quotation of certain statements by members of the United States Government, or Members of the United States Senate or House of Representatives, is not sufficient to give the necessary assurance. The only convincing assurance that there is reciprocity would be quotation of a comparable Act operative in America regarding forces from this country temporarily stationed there. Can the Attorney-General quote similar Orders, similar legislation, operating in America and in the other countries listed in this Draft Order? The Minister has a duty to perform not only to this House, but to the country, and especially to members of the British forces who may be stationed in any of these partner countries, and who may have occasion to exercise their rights. If those rights are not valid in law they are of no practical use or substance.
I would not serve the purpose of the House by a long intervention, and I shall try to be brief; but I am sure hon. Members on both sides agree that this is an extremely important Draft Order. My right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) subjected the Attorney-General to a prospective cross-examination, if I may so describe it, and asked all the pertinent questions on which my hon. Friends would desire to be informed during the course of his Speech. I do not want to repeat them. I am sure that the Attorney-General, in the time which has elapsed since my right hon. Friend sat down, has had time to ponder these questions. I would simply like to underline them.
I have not had much time to consult anyone, as I was told that I must listen to what was being said; but I think I can answer all the questions.
I could talk indefinitely while the right hon. and learned Gentleman ponders, but he thinks he can answer the questions so I hope it will not be necessary. We want to have his answer. We are not just taking time over this. We are concerned about a Measure which vitally affects the lives of large numbers of people in this country.I should like not to go over the ground which has already been covered, but to take one or two points which most acutely concern the ordinary man and woman in the street. The first one arises more strictly under the provisions of the 1952 Act itself. From the point of view of the ordinary person, that which is most surprising and perhaps least pleasing is the fact that an American citizen can, while in this country, commit grave offences and, nevertheless, not be subject to the jurisdiction of our own criminal courts. We are, by long tradition—as are most other countries—used to the concept that our criminal courts have jurisdiction over all the offences committed within our territory. That principle is invaded in very large measure by the provisions of this proposal. I quite understand that the relevant provision of the 1952 Act was made to give effect to Article 7 of the Agreement to which the Home Secretary referred, but the Act simply relates to certain specific offences, which are divided into three categories. The first consists of offences committed by visiting forces personnel while on duty, and all those offences are amenable solely to the jurisdiction of foreign service courts. Then there are offences against other service personnel of the forces to which the offender belongs, and the third category consists of offences against property belonging to the visiting forces concerned. Those last two categories are further qualified in the Schedule to the Act. which sets out a whole catalogue of offences with which they are concerned. They include a very large number of serious offences—murder, rape and that sort of thing. It shocks ordinary persons and is prima facie, surprising to them, that our own criminal courts should not be able to try all persons who, within the jurisdiction of those courts, commit those offences. I presume that the Attorney-General, with the assistance of his advisers, has carefully examined the provisions of Article 7 and compared them with the provisions of Section 3 of the Act of 1952, in order to make certain that the offences covered in that Section are only those which are covered by Article 7 of the Agreement. In other words, does the section of the Act go as far as, but no further than, Article 7 of the Agreement? When the Home Secretary was speaking I ventured to put the question in a generic form, and he gave me an answer for which I am very much obliged. He said that the answer, in general, was "Yes," subject to the existence of minor features which could not be brought exactly within the provisions of the agreement. He said that there were some slight divergencies, not of substance but of detail. Will the Attorney-General devote his mind to a consideration of Article 7—because it is upon that Article that Section 3 depends? I hope he will be able to give us an assurance that a precise comparison has been made so as to ensure that the scope of Section 3 and the scope of Article 7 are, broadly speaking, co-terminous.
I do not think I am quite following the argument of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. This matter was discussed when the Bill was before the House and when Clause 3, as it then was, was passed. It does not arise on the present Order. I cannot say that fresh consideration has been given to the matter, but it was most carefully considered and discussed when the Measure was before the House.
I am obliged to the right hon. and learned Gentleman. He will now have an easy answer to give me. By refreshing his memory he will be able to find whether the answer is yes or no. That is simply what I am asking.We have already raised protests about the Order in which these things are taken, and we submitted to the House that we should be in a position of having a general survey over these innovations, and it is not at all satisfactory to take piecemeal first the Draft Order then an Order under Section 19 and then the Act itself. That is why I have ventured to raise my point when we are considering this Measure, and I hope the right hon. and learned Gentleman will be able to turn up the pages of the debate and call the attention of the House to the precise assurance given then—which I did not find. Closely allied is the question of reciprocity. The right hon. and learned Gentleman was really very touchy with the hon. and learned Member for Horn-church (Mr. Bing). I could not for the life of me see why he should be so personally affected by my hon. and learned Friend's question. I do not want to recapitulate the argument, but may I present to him what seems to be the effect, as I listened. Certainly, while the Home Secretary was speaking I did get the impression that reciprocity was complete. I thought he said that legislation was to be introduced into the United States Congress to give effect to paragraph 8, and that, apart from that, all that was necessary was the Agreement. I was very disturbed indeed to hear the argument advanced by my hon. and learned Friend, who pointed out that there was a very considerable difference of opinion in the United States as to whether or not this reciprocity was possible in terms of American law. Does the Home Secretary wish to interrupt?
It was only on a minor point. I was conferring with my right hon. and learned Friend, and I think the right hon. and learned Gentleman means Article 8; he referred to paragraph 8.
I am very grateful. I hope the Attorney-General will give me as much help as the Home Secretary.Looking at the position as it has developed, the Attorney-General says that Mr. Bedell Smith has expressed one view, and my hon. and learned Friend stated that a contrary view had been expressed by Dr. Barton, who, I understand, is an authority who should carry weight. We are confronted with a conflict of authority. On the one side we have a recognised American jurist, and, on the other side, an American Minister who makes an ex cathedrastatement which may or may not carry weight. Pronouncements, even by Law Officers, cannot bind anyone. They are expressions of opinion, although founded on research, and there is no reason why Mr. Bedell Smith's opinion should be preferred to the contrary view expressed by Dr. Barton. I hope that the Attorney-General will not brush this question of reciprocity on one side as he has done hitherto. I hope he will say that he and his officers have carried out such research as is open to them, and I hope he will not proffer the statement of a Minister of the American Government to the effect that Dr. Barton is wrong. I hope he has taken opinion himself, has made personal research, or taken advice from his officers, and feels confidently that he can assert affirmatively that the terms of the Agreement are by themselves adequate, and other legislation can be introduced if necessary, or if that it is not necessary the simple terms of the Agreement will suffice to bring in the necessary changes in American law to bring about reciprocity. As a matter of history there is actually a provision in the letter written by the Foreign Secretary to the then American Ambassador, annexed to the United States Visiting Forces Act, 1942, saying that there should, if at all possible, be such reciprocity. That was 12 years ago. That Act contains similar provisions to the 1952 Act, though not exactly the same. That Act gave exclusive jurisdiction to American Service courts in this country, and the present Foreign Secretary asked that there should be reciprocal privileges extended to British troops in the United States. I know that there were, and are, few British troops in the United States, but can the right hon. and learned Gentleman tell us whether, during the 12 years which have elapsed since the 1942 Act was passed, during all of which years it has been in operation, there has ever been a case in which a British Service court has prevailed and exercised jurisdiction in the United States in respect of a serious crime, such as the crimes dealt with in Section 3 of the 1952 Act? I hope he will be able to tell us that he has researched into that and can say whether or not it is the case that there have been some examples. If so, my hon. Friends would be much reassured, and it is obvious from the speeches made from this side of the House that they are considerably disturbed, having listened to the interchange between my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hornchurch and the Attorney-General. I put it to him that the matter has been left in a very unsatisfactory state as a result of those exchanges. Now I want to pass to another matter which again is one that particularly impinges upon the life of ordinary people in this country. That is the situation with regard to the driving of road vehicles on our roads by Service personnel of Powers which would be within the purview of this Act. The Home Secretary, in his careful, lucid and courteous exposition of the purposes of this Measure, told us the actual position, but so that I may make perfectly certain, and that those who read this debate may be able to inform themselves, I should be glad if the Attorney-General would check me as I recount what I believe to be the facts as the Home Secretary told them. I understood him to say that when foreign soldiers were driving on duty then the provisions of the Road Traffic Acts which cover careless and dangerous driving would apply to them. But am I right in thinking that they would only be tryable by the courts of the visiting Forces? They would be offences ex hypothesi by the soldier when driving on duty; so that, if one takes a specific example, supposing a civilian is walking along a street here and a foreign soldier carelessly drives on to the pavement and knocks him down, the foriegn soldier being guilty of driving carelessly under that Act would be triable nevertheless by the Service courts of his Forces?
The Attorney-General nods; I am much obliged. If the soldier is driving off duty, am I right in understanding that he is subject to the full provisions of the Road Traffic Acts and then would be triable in our own police courts and courts of quarter sessions?What would be the position with regard to foreign soldiers driving uninsured? As I understand the provisions of this measure, a soldier driving not on duty would commit an offence if he drove uninsured. I think that is so, but perhaps the right hon. and learned Gentleman could ascertain and give an answer later. It is a matter of considerable importance so there should be some sanction against a foreign soldier driving not insured. If driving on duty the provisions as to compulsory insurance would not apply to him, but no doubt his own Service authorities would make the necessary arrangements to see that his driving was covered in respect of third party claims. On a previous occasion, during the debates on the 1952 Act, the Home Secretary gave a very clear statement about the question of claims to be dealt with under Section 9 of the Act. I understand that the position is that a claim against a soldier driving on duty would be dealt with by our own Minister of Defence and would be paid to the amount of any court award and that there would then be reimbursement from the foreign service authority. A claim against a soldier driving not on duty, however, would not be borne by anybody, but the Foreign Claims Commission would have a discretion to make an ex gratiapayment. That, I understand, is the position supposing it turned out that the soldier was driving uninsured. Perhaps the Attorney-General would confirm that this is right? That is a matter of great importance for the ordinary people of the country. As for affiliation orders, for the purposes of clarification, the position is that there again because Sections 144 and 145 of the Army Act are not made applicable to foreign soldiers the result is, I understand from the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary—and I hope that this may be confirmed—that proceedings could be taken against a soldier in respect of an illegitimate child in the ordinary courts of this country, and enforced by the processes of the courts so long as the man is here. But supposing he goes abroad, would the Foreign Claims Commission make any endeavour to see to it that at any rate so long as he remained in the service of the foreign forces, be it American or other forces, he did pay the amount of any payment ordered to be paid by him even though he was abroad? I hope that arrangements could be made in that sense. I rather understood from something that was said when the measure was considered in another place that arrangements would be made for that to be implemented. These are matters which have a great bearing on the people of this country, and I hope that the questions I have addressed will not allure the right hon. and learned Attorney-General from the number of questions addressed to him by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for South Shields.
I see two very distinguished right hon. and learned Gentlemen opposite, and when I conceive of them being cross-examined I cannot help thinking it was being done by a learned gentleman. I was mistaken. I hope the Attorney-General, who has a heavy burden of questions to answer, will give us a reply that will satisfy us, so that we will be able to make up our minds about the attitude we should take on this Order.
I am sure that my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary will be grateful to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) for having put the questions to him clearly, and for having given us general helpful support on the Order. I will try to deal with those questions, but it will involve a little detail.The right hon. Member asked about the land to be acquired under Article 5. I know that the House will not tie me down to an exact figure, because I know that in a matter of this kind it is impossible to do anything but give a particular figure. The House can, I think, take it that, so far as can be seen at the moment, something of the order of 3,000 acres may be needed, and it might be interesting to compare that with the 80,000 acres required by our own forces in this country—and that figure for our requirements has been cut down from 700,000 acres. As for the special constables under Article 6, I appreciate, if I may say so respectfully, that at first sight it might seem that it was contemplated using members of the visiting forces as special constables. That is not so. The intention and in fact the effect of the article is that special constables already employed by the Service Departments should exercise their functions in relation to premises occupied by visiting forces in the same way as they do for the home forces. In addition to that, special constables who are already acting in other capacities will be lent to the visiting forces and used by them. It is only persons nominated by the Service Departments who can be appointed special constables, and there is no intention that the foreign individuals themselves should undertake these duties. With regard to Article 9, the question of rating, the position is exactly the same as in the case of land occupied by the Crown. It is hoped and believed that contributions to rates will be made in the same way as they are made in the case of land occupied by the Crown. There will be no more power to enforce that than in the case of such land, but we have every reason to hope that contributions will made in exactly the same way. The right hon. Member referred to the Schedules and asked, in regard to the Second Schedule, whether there were any additional safeguards which were thought to be required. This has been very carefully considered, and I can assure the right hon. Gentleman from my own knowledge that a great deal of thought has been given to that. As far as we know, the Second Schedule does contain all the safeguards reasonably required. The right hon. Member raised an interesting point, which was also referred to by the hon. Member for Accrington (Mr. H. Hynd), about firearms. I think I can give the assurance wanted. There is the Gun Licence Act of 1870 which provided an exception in favour of any person in the naval, military or volunteer services of Her Majesty or in the constabulary, or other police forces using or carrying any gun in the performance of his duty or when engaged in target practice. It would be necessary to show that these people were acting in the course of their duty, or going to or from target practice. The right hon. Gentleman will also know that there is the Firearms Act, 1937. That contains a definition which covers the Services and would apply correspondingly to the visiting forces. Section 5 of that Act gives the exemption. Members of the visiting forces are placed in the same position as persons in the Services of Her Majesty, or Service men in any of the forces, and the exemption is limited to when they are on duty. The right hon. Gentleman raised a point with regard to paragraph 8 (2) of the Fourth Schedule. That is a general safeguard which ensures that no one is compelled to produce evidence before a court which he could not lawfully be compelled to give before a court of criminal jurisdiction in England. The right hon. Member wanted to know how we would ensure that that was applied. It is not possible to have a nurse in every court to look after anyone giving evidence, and this is rather speculation on my part, but the best way of doing it might be to ask that special instructions should be given to, and great care taken by, those conducting any court to see that these safeguards are applied. That is certainly the way I would advise doing it in our own case. If we were exercising jurisdiction in another country and were likely to have nationals of that country brought up, one would give instructions to those responsible for the conduct of the court to take great care that people are made aware of their rights. That would be the most effective way.
Some of these people may be very unlearned and nervous and not aware of their rights in their own courts. Anyone sitting on a quarter sessions bench knows the way in which from time to time learned counsel will jump up and object to some question being put, which is a complete surprise to the witness, who is about to volunteer something which would completely destroy the case being put before the bench. We all know that one has to be very careful where there will be nobody who actually practises in the British courts in the courtroom when certain points are raised; and if there is likely to be evidence which is in conflict, I suggest that some steps should be taken to draw the attention of the court to the provision which we are now discussing.
We will certainly look into that aspect, but one knows that in the administration of our own law it is sometimes the duty of the court to point out that a witness has certain privileges, and I think that we can probably deal with this in that sort of way.The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Neepsend (Sir F. Soskice), among others, asked about bastardy orders—although he asked about it in a slightly different form. I think that there is no doubt about the position; except, of course, as pointed out, that there has been some doubt in the minds of some people, resulting from an article in the Press, whether these orders were to be made effective outside the jurisdiction of the court. That cannot happen; it cannot be done. All that can be done is to proceed as in the case of our own nationals. Any national of this country ceases to be liable after leaving the country, and becomes liable under such an order only on returning to it. But this question is under consideration and discussion, and, although there is nothing binding, it is hoped that arrangements will be made whereby some persuasion will be applied to those men, if they are liable, in order to try to get something out of them. With regard to the question of our not bringing in this Order until the other one is made, I ought to point out to hon. Members that it would be undesirable to have a vacuum, and, after very careful consideration, we have come to the conclusion that what we have done is the best way of dealing with the matter. If this Order is approved tonight, as I hope it will be, there will be time for those concerned to consider the various administrative actions which have to be taken so that, when the other Orders are brought in—those which have not to be laid before the House—the whole enactment can be brought into operation at the earliest moment. I should tell the House that we have been pressed to bring the Visiting Forces Act, 1952, into operation because it is all-important that we should carry out our international obligations at the earliest possible moment. I hope that I have dealt with all the points raised by the right hon. Gentleman. Then the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) raised several points, and his right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Neepsend said that I had spoken to him in a somewhat heated manner. If I did so, I am bound to say that I must claim that right because, in effect, what the hon. and learned Gentleman was saying was that the United States Under-Secretary of State made statements which were to be regarded as a lot of nonsense. I consider that when we are dealing with N.A.T.O. arrangements, we proceed on the basis that we trust our allies and endeavour to work with them. The Under-Secretary of State in the United States has told us that he is advised that no particular legislation is required for certain purposes. If N.A.T.O. is to work, surely we must accept the word of our friends in the United States, and not say the kind of things which have been said this evening—that no one pays any attention to what he says. I could carry the matter further than I did, though perhaps it was unwise for me to have intervened at all. It was said that I had not proved the case and ought not to have spoken at all, but I thought that I might save time and restrain the hon. and learned Gentleman a little if I recalled his attention to the fact that we were not speaking in the air. Naturally, we have taken advice in this matter. I was asked whether I had given an opinion on this matter, but, as I am not qualified in United States law, that would be a very foolish thing for me to do, and it is not a thing which I should do. I did take the precaution of getting the best possible opinion, from the legal advisers to the American Government, who tell us that there is no doubt that what Mr. Bedell Smith said was said with the greatest possible care and after the greatest possible consideration, and is right. I was enjoined not to read again what was said and so I shall not do so, but in effect it was that Article 7 requires no further legislation in the United States. It can be said that automatically full effect will be given to Article 7. All I can say is that surely if we are to work with our ally, the United States, and we are told that the American Government have been assured by their legal advisers that all that is necessary has been done, it is a difficult way to approach our loyalties under N.A.T.O. if we say that some legal gentleman has given an opinion casting doubt on that.
Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman assure the House that in fact there is now in the United States a legal position existing? He says that no legislation is necessary, but a situation must exist by which the jurisdicton of the United States courts is ousted in favour of a Brtish court-martial in certain circumstances. If so, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman explain why it was said in the American Senate that that position was not only undesirable but impossible under the American Constitution?
I do not propose to undertake the obligation of ex- plaining what was said in the United States Senate.Regarding the other matter, I asked the House to be satisfied that if we enter into an agreement with our friends and allies in the United States, I would prefer to take the view of the legal advisers to the United States Government. The hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mr. I. O. Thomas) asked whether there were similar legal rights in operation in other parts of the Commonwealth. I can tell him that that is so, except in relation to India and Pakistan, where I am assured that if it were necessary and the situation arose, there is no reason to suppose that the necessary legislation could not be obtained without difficulty. With regard to other parts of the Commonwealth, it does exist already.
I also mentioned the European partners in N.A.T.O. Does that apply there?
Yes, it does.Then I come, finally, to the reference by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Neepsend to road vehicles. I can give him the examples, for which he asked. Perhaps the best way of looking at it would be if one took the three classes of accidents which might arise. First of all, if one has a member of the visiting forces in a private car; secondly, a vehicle belonging to the visiting forces being used on duty; and thirdly, a vehicle which belongs to the visiting forces used otherwise than on duty. As regards the first class, the proposed Order in Council will rectify the position that has been causing the trouble, because it brings members of the visiting forces completely into line with citizens of this country: where private cars are concerned, they have to be insured against third-party risk or be liable to criminal prosecution if they are not. They can be sued for damages by a civil action. As regards the second class, vehicles being used on duty, the visiting forces will be brought into line with the position of the home forces, except in this respect, that claims for damages will have to be settled by the Ministry of Defence under Section 9 of the Visiting Forces Act, 1952, instead of by the War Office Claims Commission. Where visiting forces use vehicles otherwise than on duty, the legal position will also be as with the home forces in similar circumstances; that is, as the vehicle is not at the time on duty, it ceases to be exempt from the third-party insurance obligations, and the driver, accordingly, would be committing an offence if he drove without third-party insurance and be liable both to be prosecuted and to be sued for damages in civil action. There was one other matter about which the right hon. and learned Gentleman asked, and that was whether there had ever been a case where British troops had been dealt with by British courts in the United States. I am told there have been, although, unfortunately, there are no records. They were only cases of minor offences. I hope I have dealt with most of the questions that were raised. I am sorry if I interrupted once or twice, but it was only a desire to shorten matters. It does not always bring about that result, but certainly that was my intention, and I hope I have been able to answer most of the points raised.
Question put, and agreed to.
That the Draft Visiting Forces (Application of Law) Order, 1954, a copy of which was laid before this House on 18th March, be approved.
Motion made, and question proposed, "Tat this House do now adjourn."—[ Mr. T. G. D. Galbraith.]
I wish to deal with the question of unemployment areas in general and with the problem of unemployment as it affects my constituency of Anglesey in particular. The creation of Development Areas and the operation of the Distribution of Industries Act, 1945, brought very great benefits to large areas of this country which were neglected before the war. In the six areas designated as Development Areas by the 1945 Act, through the introduction of new industries and the special treatment prescribed by the Act there has been a high level of employment since the end of the war. It warms the heart to think of the change that has taken place, for example, in South Wales when we remember the really desperate plight of that region before the war. I think the House will agree that great credit must go to the Labour Government for the vision and the energy with which they tackled that great problem.But there were other areas which were equally hard hit before the war, and had a high incidence of unemployment, but which were not designated as Development Areas under the 1945 Act. They are generally known as unemployment areas or pockets of unemployment. These unfortunate districts were deprived of the benefits conferred by the 1945 Act. They are not the children of the Act; they are the orphans of the storm, and it has never been made clear exactly what assistance they are entitled to expect if the danger of growing unemployment faces them. The problem in North Wales, where many of these pockets of unemployment exist and where the whole area of Anglesey was regarded as an unemployment area, was carefully considered in 1948 in the Government's White Paper on the Distribution of Industry, which said:
I do not think it was the right verdict, and as far as Anglesey is concerned, I think that events have proved that it was mistaken. The evidence shows quite clearly that the plight of an area such as Anglesey was acute and as serious as the plight of areas which were actually scheduled as Development Areas. Here are some of the figures. In July, 1932, the percentage of the working population unemployed in the six Development Areas was 38 per cent.; in July, 1939, 18 per cent. But from 1932 to 1939 in Anglesey the average figure of unemployment was 40 per cent, of the insured population; in other words, the average unemployment in the County of Anglesey between 1932 and 1939 was far higher than the average for the areas which were, in fact, scheduled as Development Areas, and which received the special benefits from 1945 onwards. It seems to me that all the arguments were in favour of including Anglesey in the 1945 Act. There were obviously chronic causes for the unemployment situation which existed then, and the stimulus of rearmament towards the end of the decade did nothing to cure the situation. It was, in fact, the outbreak of war in September, 1939, which ultimately took the men off the unemployment register, and that is something that we cannot easily forget. I have been forced to the conclusion that to be regarded by the Government as an unemployment area does not mean very much in practice. It is no guarantee whatever that anything positive will be done to improve the position. On 1st April, I asked the President of the Board of Trade a Question about the Government's policy towards unemployment areas as distinct from Development Areas, and he gave me a pleasant but somewhat vague reply. He said:"Careful consideration has been given to the claims of a number of these districts to be scheduled as Development Areas. The Government decided that, as the numbers of unemployed are not much in the aggregate, and as the area is not compact and homogeneous, scheduling under the Distribution of Industry Act, 1945, would not be appropriate as a means of dealing with the problems of these parts of North Wales.
In practice this does not mean very much. Anglesey is not an industrial area in the real sense—although there are a few important industries there—and Government contracts are notoriously elusive. There can be no guarantee about such contracts, as the Parliamentary Secretary knows only too well. The most important factory in the county has worked hard to get a certain contract. I do not want to go into details, lest I should prejudice the issue. The firm has gone to immense trouble to secure the contract. It has drafted blueprints and designs, but it now seems that there is no certainty that it will get the contract. Failure to do so will mean a further rise in unemployment: 300 men will become redundant in the course of time. My complaint is that there is a lack of a really constructive policy to help these unemployment areas out of the trough. In Anglesey about 10 per cent, of the insured population is out of work. This is serious, because, translated into human terms, it means poverty and fear throughout the county of a return to the prewar situation. If 10 per cent, of the insured population of England, Scotland and Wales were out of work, there would be more than 2,300,000 unemployed. That gives an idea of the problem. There would be a national crisis of the first magnitude. Our immediate task in Anglesey is to find work for those who are unemployed, and our long-term problem is to provide full employment. We could not be satisfied with providing this for our present population. We must be able to provide work for the young people leaving school, who number from 500 to 525 yearly. The figure of 10 per cent, which I have mentioned is not a complete figure, since in Anglesey no one works beyond the age of 65. Elsewhere, men over that age are encouraged to work. Even British Railways employ men up to the age of 70 or 75."The policy towards these areas of relatively high unemployment remains unchanged. The Board of Trade do what they can to encourage industrial development, and these areas receive equal consideration with Development Areas when Government orders are placed."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st April, 1954; Vol. 525, c. 2215.]
I do not think the figure of 10 per cent. is right. The actual figure is, I believe, 8.7 per cent.
I think the hon. and learned Gentleman will find that the figure given on 15th March was 9.7 per cent.
8.7 per cent.
The figure given in a Parliamentary reply by the Minister of Labour to my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) was 9.7 per cent. It is a rising figure. It is not a complete figure, because it does not include men over the age of 65 who are prepared to work, and it does not include women who, having failed to obtain employment, have gone off the register and are now at home depending on their parents.I hope to show the House that there is ample room for expansion in Anglesey. We could sustain a population of 75,000 if the work were there. It is interesting to note that our population has increased in recent years. In 1939 the insured population was just short of 8,000; in 1951 it was 10,716; in 1952 it was 12,238, and in 1953 it was 12,867. In 1953, therefore, it was necessary to find jobs for 4,867 more people than in 1939. Let me refer to three localities in the county. At Amlwch and Llangefni there are hard cores of unemployment and there is a difficult problem at Holy head. Five years ago the position at Amlwch was very serious. Then the Associated Ethyl Company built its factory there, and there was also work on water and sewerage schemes, on housing, and on the new comprehensive school. Those works have now been completed, with the result that Amlwch has reverted to its old condition, and the increase in the insured population has offset the employment of the 140 men employed at the Ethyl works. Llangefini is the progressive, administrative centre of the island, but it has no industry. Men have been employed there on the head works of the county water scheme, the new comprehensive school, and on housing. Llangefini Urban District Council has one of the best records for house building in the whole of Great Britain, but there has always been a difficult unemployment problem, and it is now very grave, because the water scheme and the new comprehensive school have been completed. Thirdly, Holyhead has its difficult problem. This really ought not to be, because it has one of the finest harbours in the country, but it is not being used to anything like its full capacity. What is the solution to these difficult problems? I advance the following suggestions. First, the remaining portion of the county water scheme should be completed as soon as possible. In 1943 the Anglesey County Council—and this is one of the most progressive local authorities in the country—promoted a Private Bill for carrying out a comprehensive county water supply scheme. It was a formidable undertaking for a fairly flat island county. It is unique in that the Anglesey County Council is the only county authority in England and Wales which is a water supply authority. This Measure was the precursor of the Rural Water Supplies and Sewerage Act of 1944. The water scheme, which was commenced early in 1947, is divided into two instalments. The first has been virtually completed, and the second is partly completed. In order to supply a network of water supplies to farms and villages the council would like to complete the second instalment and to undertake a large programme of mains extensions. Unhappily, rising costs have compelled it to decide that work on the second instalment and mains extensions must be deferred unless the Ministry of Housing and Local Government is prepared to increase its grant towards the cost of the scheme. I hope that this increase will be forth-coining very soon, so that the council may continue with this vital work, which is of particular importance to Anglesey, where, for a variety of obvious reasons, it has not been possible to have a water scheme on a large scale. Many roads in Anglesey are in a deplorable condition, and the Minister of Transport has been urged to allow the county council to proceed on road improvements on the A.5 trunk road and the Class I roads. I hope that he will give sympathetic consideration to these projects and that the Parliamentary Secretary will talk to him about it and persuade him of its necessity. The Ministry of Housing and Local Government has also been asked to expedite the approval of sewerage schemes submitted by the rural district councils in the county, and to make the maximum grants in order to let them proceed expeditiously with these schemes. These are three suggestions for public works which would help to give employment for an interim period while a more permanent solution of the problem is sought. The hon. and learned Gentleman will appreciate that these public works do not constitute a solution in themselves. What now is to be the long-term policy which would provide us with a real and permanent remedy? First, we need a prosperous agriculture. That is, of course, our basic industry, but it is outside the hon. and learned Gentleman's province, and I do no more than mention it in passing, because the general picture would not be complete without some mention of it. I feel also that much more could be done through forestry. This would provide employment and also make available shelter belts. The county agricultural committee has scheduled over 3,000 acres as being more suitable for afforestation than agricultural work. Then we need more and better facilities to attract residents and visitors. Anglesey is a very beautiful county with one of the most charming coastlines in Britain, if not in Europe, and if the provision of electricity, water, roads and housing which I have mentioned could be accelerated, it might well become a great tourist attraction. The provision of new industries is of primary importance. They are needed particularly in the Llangefni and Amlwch area. What is there in Anglesey to attract industry? I will cite these advantages. The necessary services are at hand. Willing and sufficient labour force is available. All the industrialists who have established works in Anglesey cannot speak too highly of the intelligence and adaptability of the workers. The local authorities are only too willing to help with the provision of houses for key workers. The climate is excellent. During the beginning of this year, when the whole of Britain was ice-and snow-bound, the only county free was the island county of Anglesey. The Irish market is close to hand. Dublin is only a three-hour sea voyage from Holyhead. We are really not too remote from the main centres of population. We are reasonably close to the big conurbations of Lancashire. Clearly what we need is the ability to offer that extra inducement to industrialists. We should be in a position to provide factory building on favourable terms and industrialists should be given priority for contracts and I ask the Minister to look with great care at this suggestion, because the injection of new industry is essential to the county. We have valuable copper deposits at Amlwch which should be worked. I think they are worthy of careful survey. Large-scale modernisation of the port of Holyhead is required, and I have been in touch with the Chairman of the British Transport Commission, Sir Brian Robertson, about this. I have heard from him that a comprehensive scheme has been authorised, including the provision of four new electric transporters which will mean making alterations to the import and export sheds and providing additional sidings. A new 20-ton electric crane has already been installed, and is now in use. Unfortunately, one of the chief factors is the delivery date for the transporters and it will be 18 months before the makers can supply them. I cannot understand why so little use is made of this magnificent port and harbour. If worked to anything like its proper capacity, it would absorb many who are now out of work. Here is a great potential source of employment, and I would ask the Government to inquire most carefully into its manifold possibilities. I hope I am not giving the impression that we are a disappointed, discouraged, plaintive community coming to the Government cap in hand. Nothing is further from the truth. The island county is a progressive, forward-lookin