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Clause 18—(Savings)

Volume 529: debated on Tuesday 29 June 1954

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

I beg to move, in page 14, line 3, to leave out:

"at the commencement of this Act,"
and to insert:
"on the twenty-ninth day of June, nineteen hundred and fifty-four."
Perhaps at the same time I may deal with the next Amendment in page 14, line 7.

These Amendments are necessary in order to preserve—

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. We on the back benches are in a fog. Are we having some more manuscript Amendments? Which Amendment is the hon. Gentleman moving?

The Amendment which the hon. Gentleman is moving is the one to page 14, line 3.

I am informed that the Amendment to page 15, line 18, is in consequence—

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Do I understand that you are not going to call the Amendment to page 3, line 25, to insert paragraph (c), and are we to discuss at all the Amendment to page 15, line 18?

It seems that there is an error in printing on the Order Paper. On my Order Paper the Amendment to page 15, line 18, is printed before the Amendment to page 14, line 3, but it is necessary to proceed in the order of the pages in the Bill. That is why I called the Amendment to page 14, line 3, before the one in page 15. We shall come to page 15 later.

Does this mean that the Government are deliberately misprinting the Order Paper? Does it mean that their inefficiency is now going into the Stationery Office? May I ask whether we shall have an opportunity of discussing the Amendment to page 3, line 25?

That Amendment was not selected. It was debated in Committee and there was a Division upon it. Has the hon. Member the Under-Secretary finished moving his Amendment?

Further to the point of order. The point of order, as I understand it, is this, that an Amendment appears on the Order Paper at page 15 followed by an Amendment at page 14. I respectfully submit that we must follow the order of the Amendments as they appear on the Order Paper, and that having proceeded to page 15, we cannot thereafter go back to page 14.

The hon. and learned Member is, I am afraid, wrong over that. The order in which the Amendments are discussed is governed by the order of the pages in the Bill.

These two Amendments which I am moving, in page 14, lines 3 and 7, are on the same point, and, with the permission of the House, I should like to discuss them together. These Amendments are necessary in order to preserve the original intention of subsections (2) and (3), should this Bill by any chance not come into force before the date of de-control, as now appears possible. The intention of the subsection is to secure that slaughterhouses in operation during the control period should be continued without further formalities by way of making application for licences, but that slaughterhouses not in operation under control can re-open only if registered under the Bill.

In its present form, the Clause assumes that the Bill will be in force before decontrol takes effect. That seems unlikely, and these Amendments ensure that the benefits of the subsection are available only to slaughterhouses in operation on a date shortly before the end of control. The date of 29th June is chosen because the Ministry of Food will cease to use slaughterhouses on 1st July and we wish to be sure that this original intention of the subsection will be carried out if the Bill does not become law before decontrol takes place.

The Joint Under-Secretary will remember that when we discussed this matter in Committee I congratulated him on his lucidity and brevity. I am afraid I cannot congratulate him on his lucidity tonight. I can only assume that he is tired, but could he tell me if I am right in the assumption that the Bill as originally drafted was amended in Committee on the very point he has raised tonight and he is now re-amending it back to the original form?

I gather from the nods of the Joint Under-Secretary that I am right in that assumption. Although he was not so lucid tonight as he was recently, I am glad to have understood the purport of this Amendment. What is the position? Surely we are entitled to some explanation from the Government. They had one view a few weeks ago when we had Second Reading and another view a few weeks ago when we were in Committee upstairs. Now they come back and say, "We have another view tonight." Does not this action show that the Government are bungling and making a mess of it? Decontrol comes into effect this week-end—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Surely the jubilant hon. Members who welcome that are disturbed that the Government do not know where they really are and are anticipating that decontrol may come without the Bill being an Act and that steps may be taken which will put people at risk. It is really preposterous for a Government to slip in manuscript Amendments like this. I invite information whether there are to be any more, as there are still a few more Clauses.

We had one date a few weeks ago, another a few days ago and another date is in mind now. That is a reason for adjourning consideration of this Bill so that it can be considered more leisurely. If we could give the right hon. and gallant Gentleman and his advisers an opportunity to think about this matter further we could know what they have in mind, but, in the absence of any clear thinking and inability to make up their minds, it means that, as the butchers say, there is a very real risk that there might be chaos in the next few weeks. It will be quite clear if there is chaos—which we on this side of the House want to avoid as much as anyone—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh"]. Surely all those hon. Gentlemen who have paid any attention to the progress of this Bill will agree that the Opposition has done everything possible to expedite its progress. In fact, we have wasted a lot of time tonight, because we have been obliged to complain of the dilatory conduct of the Government—the Government which is under the dictates of the 1922 Committee.

12.30 a.m.

No doubt this Bill had first to be discussed by the 1922 Committee before further progress could be made. I do not know what handling the Joint Under-Secretary got upstairs last week, but I have invited the hon. Gentleman to inform me why he has had to put down this Amendment saying, "I was wrong when I advised the Committee." He has advanced no reason for being wrong, so I can only assume that he was told by the 1922 Committee that the Government should examine it and stick by the date in the Bill. That is what they have done—exposed the Joint Under-Secretary and made him a laughing stock. That is probably their purpose—probably they want to pillory the Joint Under-Secretary. Probably it was because I congratulated him on his lucidity in Committee that the 1922 Committee struck. If so, I apologise to him, but surely we have come to a sorry pass—

We have come to a sorry pass when Parliamentary courtesies react to the disadvantage of Junior Ministers. I very much sympathise with the Joint Under-Secretary in the position in which he finds himself, and fully understand why he was unable to be as lucid tonight as when he advised the Committee to take the opposite course when this Bill was in Standing Committee.

I am not surprised—[Interruption]. I shall be surprised if some hon. Gentlemen take their courage in their hands and go home. But I am not surprised that the Joint Under-Secretary has been handed this job. Some of us during the Second Reading debate and some of my hon. Friends on the Standing Committee did indicate that the words of the Bill were actually anticipated—

As my hon. Friend is an expert butcher, could he take a cut off the Joint Parliamentary Secretary?

I was on the point of saying that, during the course of the Second Reading debate—[Interruption].

I cannot hear what the hon. Gentleman is saying.

I was saying that during the course of the Second Reading debate many hon. Members on this side of the House and many of my hon. Friends in the Standing Committee later, pointed out that it would be necessary for local authorities to anticipate the will of Parliament, and I am suggesting that in the Amendments we are now considering there is the further effort to anticipate the will of Parliament. It may well be, if this Bill should fail to get its Third Reading and get on to the Statute Book by getting the Royal Assent, that slaughterhouses will be opened next Monday before the Bill is actually passed into law. I am suggesting that this is very sharp practice on behalf of the Government.

Some time ago, during the passage of the Raw Cotton Commission Bill, the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade was compelled to apologise to the House and to introduce special legislation to cover himself because certain compensations had been paid out before the Bill became law. The House had to give special permission for that compensation to be legalised. This miserable Government are following that type of action with this Bill. It is less than nine weeks since we had the Second Reading. The result of the Government's miserable haste to get back to what they call freedom, the freedom of the jungle, has meant that in those nine weeks, except for a few days in Standing Committee, Members of this House have not considered the Bill. Now, within four days of the coming into operation of the Bill, we are discussing late at night an Amendment to protect the Government in case action has to be taken with regard to slaughterhouses before the Bill is passed.

This is a deplorable situation, I gather from one or two sentences uttered by the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland that he has some more manuscript Amendments. I am sure that he indicated that and then stopped in the middle of what he was saying. Are we to do a little anticipating and anticipate that in a few moments—

Thank you, Sir Charles. I shall probably deal with the manuscript Amendments if and when they appear, and I am sure that my hon. Friends will also do so. The only fair thing that the Government can do is to postpone discussion of the Bill, postpone its operation and show some courtesy to the House.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In page 14, line 7, leave out from "which," to "shall," in line 8, and insert:

"were in use as a slaughterhouse by virtue of that licence on the twenty-ninth day of June, nineteen hundred and fifty-four."—[Mr. Snadden.]