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Commons Chamber

Volume 530: debated on Friday 16 July 1954

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House Of Commons

Friday, 16th July, 1954

The House met at Eleven o'clock


[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Private Business


Lords Amendments considered, and agreed to.


Read a Second time and committed.

Orders Of The Day

Isle Of Man (Customs) Bill

Order for Second Reading read.

11.6 a.m.

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

This Bill, with which the House has been familiar at this time of year for a good many years, is introduced in the normal way to give effect to resolutions of the Isle of Man Assembly, the Tynwald, relating to changes in Customs Duties and also to continue the existing Isle of Man Customs Duties. The main features of the Bill ought perhaps to be mentioned on Second Reading.

Clause 1 provides similar Customs Duties to those operating in the United Kingdom on sugar, molasses, glucose and saccharin, commodities which hitherto have been free of duty in the island but which are now subject to duty. These duties fall under the common purse arrangements with which I am sure the House is familiar, and the result of these, so far as we can estimate, will be that the island revenue will benefit to the extent of £19,000 per annum.

The other provisions of Clauses 1 and 2 are consequential on that main decision. They bring in provisions similar to those applicable in the United Kingdom in respect of those duties and apply for their purpose a number of the Sections of our own Customs and Excise Act, 1952.

Clause 3 imposes duties on dried fruits similar to those in the United Kingdom. Hitherto in the Isle of Man dried fruits, except plums and raisins, have been free of duty. This also falls under the common purse arrangement, and the best estimate I can give is an additional sum to the revenue of £400 per annum.

Clause 4 deals with chicory along the same lines as under Clause 3 of our own Finance Bill, The only exception is that there is no provision here for drawback on the grounds that chicory is not an Isle of Man export. Clause 5 continues the existing duties which are on the annual basis. With one exception to which I shall refer in a moment, these duties are in accordance with the resolutions of the Tynwald, which were carried at different times since April in accordance with the normal procedure.

The exception is Clause 2 which, as I explained to the House, makes provisions consequential upon the decision to impose duties on sugar and similar commodities on the United Kingdom basis. It is necessary to include these provisions in order that the traders in the Isle of Man in these commodities should get the advantage of drawback subject to the same control as exists for our traders in the United Kingdom. This provision is not embodied in a Tynwald resolution, but is inserted after discussion with, and with the concurrence of, the Attorney-General of the Isle of Man.

I have observed that there is on the Order Paper what is, I believe, technically described as a reasoned Amendment. It would certainly not be in order for me to comment on it, not least because I do not know whether it will be called; but perhaps I should none the less be in order, following what I said on the Bill two years ago, in saying a word about the possibility of future changes in the procedure under which this Bill is introduced.

The matter of constitutional and other relations with the Isle of Man is largely one for my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary. My right hon. and learned Friend has in the last few days seen a deputation from the island who have been discussing with him not only general constitutional questions, which are quite outside the scope of the Bill, but also such matters as the possibility of providing that future resolutions of Tynwald imposing Customs Duties should not require confirmation by an Act of this House.

Although no formal agreement has been reached, I understand that discussions with the deputation on this point have reached an advanced stage. But the deputation from the island has now to report back to Tynwald and will, I understand, do so when Tynwald reassembles in October. I do not therefore know what the position will be when the next Bill in this present series would normally be due next year, although no occupant of my office would be altogether honest if he did not express a personal hope that this procedure might be modified in some way so as to lighten his particular share in it.

Obviously, the deputation, which, I understand, has had very successful discussions, will report back to Tynwald, and we must see what the island authorities say. What I have said so far, however, is a sufficient indication of the lines and objectives upon which we are working, and the House will know that on previous occasions I have expressed certain doubts about the merits of the curious, though long-standing, procedure under which we operate. One thing, however, is clear. It would be wholly wrong to affect these discussions by anything that was tantamount to a threat to cut off a portion of the island revenue. I have no doubt that the Amendment is put down so that these general issues may be raised, but I hope—and I believe I am expressing the view of both sides of the House—that no one would seriously wish to deprive the island of a proportion of its revenue, particularly in the circumstances of the discussions which have been taking place.

As I have indicated, broad general responsibility for our relations with the island rests with my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary. The House will be glad to see present this morning the hon. Baronet the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, who, if questions of this nature are raised and are found to be within the purview of the Bill, will at a later stage seek to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, to deal with them. I mention that because it seems to me that the object of placing this reasoned Amendment on the Order Paper must be to raise such issues of that sort, and it is no doubt more appropriate that that aspect of them, if they are raised, should be dealt with by a Minister of the Department concerned with these discussions.

So far as the Bill is concerned, its purpose, as I have tried to explain, is to continue existing Customs Duties and to impose the additional Customs Duties to which I have referred and so to continue to provide in this respect for the revenues of the island.

The right hon. Gentleman has told us the effect of Clause 4. Would he like to inform the House what the net effect of the changes in revenue will be in the Isle of Man during the coming year?

I gave £19,000 for the sugar duties in Clauses 1 and 2 and £400 for dried fruits under Clause 3. I do not think that the change in respect of chicory is likely to make any appreciable difference. Therefore, as far as we can estimate, the effect of the changes will be to increase the island revenues by £19,400.

11.15 a.m.

We can all congratulate the Financial Secretary on his dealing not only with the Bill but with those constitutional changes in regard to the Isle of Man which have interested hon. Members on both sides of the House. Some of my hon. Friends and I originally set down a Motion rather wider than the Amendment now standing in our names because we thought that it might be convenient to seek an opportunity on this Bill to discuss the whole ambit of the arrangements, but on reflection we thought that possibly it was neither right nor proper to take a Bill such as the Customs Bill to go to such a wide extent. Therefore, the House will excuse me if I confine myself rather more strictly to the financial aspects of the matter and to the essential issue that this House votes taxes over the spending of which it has no control.

Before I come to that aspect, however, I think that the whole House will be with me when a congratulate the right hon. Gentleman and the Leader of the House in putting down this important Measure as first Order and giving us an opportunity of having a full discussion on what is in its way a very important matter.

Hon. Members on both sides will remember the speech made by the present Leader of the House on the Third Reading of the Bill in 1946, when he corn-pained rather bitterly that the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself was not present to conduct the Measure through the House. But in this case we have a Financial Secretary who has every bit as great ability as the Chancellor, and therefore I do not in any sense repeat the criticism. Had it been my right hon. Friend the Member for Come Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall), whom I now see on the Front Bench, no doubt the right hon. Gentleman would not have complained. He was complaining that these legal matters were dealt with by the then Attorney-General.

Be that as it may, we were all glad that in the course of that speech the right hon. Gentleman said, so far as I can recall it from memory, that he felt that this was a very important matter and that when he was himself Financial Secretary to the Treasury he had always been present throughout the whole of the debates on the Isle of Man (Customs) Bill in order to deal with the issues which arose.

We also had taking part in that same debate the hon. Gentleman who is now Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department. Indeed, it may well be that that was the first step which he took towards that office which he holds now with such distinction. If I might make an appeal to hon. Gentlemen opposite who are possessed with some slight ambition, I would say that this might be a good debate to enter in to show their knowledge of matters appertaining to the Home Office—because, of course, the Isle of Man is one of those strange and curious responsibilities of the Home Office, and the able speech which the Joint Under-Secretary delivered at that time showed even at that early stage how fitted he was for the great office that he was to occupy at a later stage.

There is another reason why it is peculiarly appropriate that we should be discussing this Bill at this time. We are in a sense, I suppose, in the closing epoch of the administration of the Prime Minister. The great landmark—I shall refer to the report in greater detail—in the history of the Isle of Man is the Report on the Inquiry into the Isle of Man Constitution which was set up at the direct instigation and with the vigorous support of the Prime Minister when he was Home Secretary in 1911. It is unfortunate that no really full report hats been presented to Parliament in regard to the affairs of the Isle of Man since the date of the right hon. Gentleman's Report.

Unfortunately, as the House will later see, some of the financial suggestions then made have not been altogether fully carried into effect, and it would not be a bad thing if the House looked again, not in too great a detail, at the Report of the Prime Minister, when Home Secretary in 1909, and considered whether or not we should not adopt some of the proposals which seem to me to have been left rather in the air.

I am sure everyone in the House is glad to see present my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), because when he was Home Secretary, although there was no report, as in the case of the Prime Minister—a Report which was not implemented—there were, without a report, a great number of reforms in regard to the financial and other procedures of the Isle of Man inaugurated by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields. I am sure that in discussing the whole Customs procedure of the Isle of Man it would be proper for me to say a word which, I am sure, will be echoed on both sides of the House in praise of the Governorship of Air Vice-Marshal Sir Geoffrey Bromet, who was one of the great reforming Governors of the Isle of Man. He produced the system of executive council which has transformed the financial approach by Tynwald to these financial questions, and which has paved the way for the reforms which the right hon. Gentleman has just mentioned.

The crux of the whole issue which is before us is that the Isle of Man, indeed rather like Northern Ireland, is an area for which we in this House are in fact largely financially responsible, and therefore what degree of financial control ought we to exercise over the spending of the money? That is the real crux of what we have to discuss, and it seems to me that this Bill, in its present form, is a highly unsatisfactory measure of approach.

As hon. Members on both sides of the House will know, the Prime Minister was forced into the act which he was forced into by the conduct of Tynwald, or rather not so much by the conduct of Tynwald as the conduct of the House of Keys, which refused to vote the resolution which originally brought into force the annual Customs Act, and, because the House of Keys refused to vote supplies, there was set on foot a train of circumstances which resulted in reforms very beneficial to the Isle of Man.

The question before the House is whether this House ought not to take, in an opposite direction, exactly the same steps, and, by refusing to pass this annual Customs Bill, put certain pressure on the Government to carry out financial reforms of a similar nature. I think there is a great deal to be said for the argument of the Financial Secretary that, in circumstances such as these, when negotiations are going on, we should not on the one hand attempt, by such a drastic action as that, to impose a threat.

On the other hand, I think the House might well consider, when the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department replies and deals with the various arguments which I know hon. Members on all sides of the House wish to put on these matters, whether the basis of the negotiations is such that we should or should not apply such a threat. In my view, it is better that we should discuss the matter and not press it to a Division, but that is a matter for my hon. and right hon. Friends on the Front Bench after they have heard what has been said in reply by the Joint Under-Secretary.

One of the great difficulties about the Isle of Man is that of course the original so-called Imperial contribution, which is the only sum of money which by law comes to this country, is a sum which was calculated, not on the basis of the services which this country renders to the Isle of Man, but what it cost the Government of the late Prime Minister, Mr. Pitt, to buy out the interest of the Duke of Atholl. The House will recall that the last proprietor of the Isle of Man, the Duke of Atholl, sold his rights for what was afterwards thought by the Atholl family to have been a ridiculously low sum, and for a long period of time there was considerable dispute.

A Select Committee in 1805 had voted against any further increase, but in the end, for some reason which has always been obscure, the Government of Mr. Pitt, despite both the advice of the Select Committee and a number of votes of the House on the subject, nevertheless decided that this was one of the occasions on which, despite the views of the House of Commons, the Government's view was that it was proper to give an increase.

The Duke of Atholl's family was awarded a sum of close on £500,000 altogether, with an annuity on the revenues of the island of £2,000, and in order to fund this debt it was suggested that the Isle of Man should pay a sum of £10,000. Therefore, the sum of £10,000 is based on an actual calculation of what it cost to pay off the Duke of Atholl and has nothing whatever to do with the services which this country performs for the Isle of Man.

The present difficulties, from the Isle of Man's point of view, arise from this original act, known in the Isle of Man as the act of revestment, a return to the Crown of the Isle of Man, which was held at that time for the payment, I think I am right in saying, of only two falcons at the Coronation by the Derby family, then by the Duke of Atholl. After its return to the Crown, as pointed out in the financial section of the Report of the then Home Secretary, the present Prime Minister, there was a period in which this House had direct financial control over the supplies voted to the Isle of Man. The expenditure of the Isle of Man was subjected, in exactly the same way as the expenditure of this country, to Parliamentary scrutiny. The difficulty was that it did not receive very adequate Parliamentary scrutiny because the Isle of Man has on no occasion been represented in this House.

Therefore, we have reached the point of the second great sheet 'anchor of the Isle of Man. The first great step is the revestment. The next great step is the Customs Act, 1866. It is upon that Act and its provisions that this Bill is based. I ought to call the attention of the House—I will not detain the House for more than a few moments in doing so—to the Report of the Committee on the Constitution of the Isle of Man, the Committee which I have mentioned, appointed by the present Prime Minister when he was Home Secretary, and of which the late Lord MacDonnell was the chairman—a very distinguished Committee.

Dealing with this question of the control of finances of the Isle of Man, the Committee reported, in paragraphs 33 and 34, as follows:
"It seems to us that the competency of His Majesty's Government is complete and unquestionable to prevent by means of the Lieut.-Governor's veto any expenditure it deems objectionable, and to direct through the same medium any expenditure to be made which it thinks fit to make.
But while this is, in our opinion, a correct statement of the existing law as to the ultimate control over the Insular finances, it is obvious that a strict enforcement of the letter of the law would reduce self-government in the Island to a nullity. If we abstain from recommending an alteration of the law in this connection, we do so only because we believe that adequate financial freedom can be secured to the Island by executive action without legislation. We regard both the Government's veto on expenditure and its statutory power of directing expenditure to be made, as emergency powers which should only be used at a crisis, and we are glad to learn that no use was made of them during the constitutional deadlock of last Spring, when the difficulty as to the grant of supply was finally overcome by discussion."
Therefore we have the position in which Parliament has no say, but the executive, in theory at any rate, has an absolute say. And while Parliament, on the one hand, has no say, neither, in legal theory, has Tynwald. From our point of view that is a somewhat unsatisfactory situation, and one which this House might take an opportunity to examine to see if we can achieve some better arrangement.

If I give figures which were given to the House by the Home Secretary they will elucidate the problem. My hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) asked the Home Secretary what was the contribution per head to national defence from people in the United Kingdom and people in the Isle of Man, respectively. The figures, given on 24th March, 1954, were £32 4s. con tributed per head in the United Kingdom for defence, while the contribution of the Isle of Man, taking into account not only the £10,000 paid, but other sums paid in other forms which I will explain in a moment—

Which are held in a suspense account. But assuming these sums which are held go to the British Treasury, nevertheless the contribution per head from the Isle of Man would only be £1 14s. per head. On the face of it, that seems a great disparity, and one which should not exist. But it would be very unfair on the Isle of Man if we took that view, because equal disparities may well exist in other places. If, for example, we take the case of a crofter county in Scotland, we might find that there is an equal disparity in the contribution paid towards defence. But when figures of that sort exist—

Would my hon. and learned Friend tell the House what is the contribution of Northern Ireland?

Order. I am sure that the whole House would be glad to share in the erudition of the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing), but I am a little doubtful about how far all this is relevant to this Customs Bill. We cannot discuss on a Bill for Customs and Excise matters of great constitutional changes. The Bill is put forward on the basis of the existing constitutional relations, and I think that the hon. and learned Member must keep a little closer to the present day.

I appreciate perfectly what you are saying, Mr. Speaker. I was proposing at the end of my speech to seek to move the Amendment on the Order Paper standing in the name of myself and my hon. Friends and I was hoping that you were allowing me to address myself to that. The gravamen of it is, that while we provide the greater part of the revenue of the Isle of Man, Parliament has no control over the expenditure of the sums which are voted. Perhaps I was deflected for a moment from the argument, which is that the Isle of Man, quite rightly and properly, devotes a considerable amount to advertising the island. But supposing Parliament were to say, "This is a time in which everything must be sacrificed to national defence. You must cut your sums devoted to advertising, and if you do not we shall not provide you with the revenue which enables you to secure them."

I am saying that this House ought to consider whether this method should be used to secure that end; if we should proceed by what obviously has to be a somewhat roundabout way—in an almost 17th Century fashion—by denying supplies to the Isle of Man in order to secure that grievances are redressed, if they exist. I was calling attention to the Question of my hon. Friend, which shows that if one looks at the matter baldly, there appears to be a great disparity between the Isle of Man and this country. But I do not think it fair to make a comparison quite in that form, and therefore I welcomed the intervention of my hon. Friend the Member for Accrington (Mr. H. Hynd) because, of course, there are other parts of the United Kingdom where there is an even greater disparity—and I leave it at that point.

The difficulty in which we find ourselves over this Customs Bill is that, as was said in opening by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, and as all hon. Members will be well aware, the sums paid from the Isle of Man are paid under what is called a common purse arrangement; that is to say, the taxation we vote here is not Customs Duties which are collected in the Isle of Man. They are Customs Duties assessed by officers paid by this House and they are taken from the people in the United Kingdom. The greater part of the goods entering the Isle of Man never pay duty charged where they enter the island.

What exists in this Bill is a notional arrangement. It is said that not only are there so many people living in the Isle of Man, but there are so many visitors; and one takes an average of the inhabitants and the visitors, and upon that basis one decides how much the particular goods admitted to the United Kingdom will have been used in fact in the Isle of Man.

Upon that basis is worked out what are the sums of money which should be paid to the Isle of Man. Once we pay, once we agree to a certain level of Customs Duties here, the problem for the Isle of Man is only how much are they to pay to make up the balance. The higher we raise the Isle of Man customs duties—and these are duties paid not only by the people of the Isle of Man but by visitors to the island from this country—the lower in consequence need be the rate of Income Tax on the Isle of Man. Were we to increase Purchase Tax here very considerably, a situation would result in which the Isle of Man need not charge income tax at all.

Obviously, that is a second aspect of the matter which requires examination by this House. It is undesirable that the Isle of Man, or indeed the Channel Islands and other areas round this country, should be places where people, who are not natives of those islands can go to live to secure the benefits of low Income Tax rates. One thing we do not want to do is to provide so much money by means of Customs revenue as to make it possible for the Isle of Man to provide a "funk hole" for a lot of people who go there merely to escape our own taxation.

That is one reason why it is important that this House should have some control over the expenditure of the money concerned. There is no objection at all to increasing our taxation if the sums concerned are being apportioned for some particular social service in the Isle of Man of which we approve. But there would be great disadvantage in this House agreeing to an increase in taxation if the money was spent merely on lowering the Income Tax rate on the Isle of Man, and so enabling the place to be used as a kind of "funk hole."

I do not think that is so. I think that there are a great number of important social services which it is desirable and necessary should be dealt with in the Isle of Man. The question before the House is whether, in the absence of any control, either by the Tynwald or by this House, over the expenditure of the money in the last resort, that we have the best possible form in which we can deal with the matter. One of the great difficulties in this whole matter is that the finances of the Isle of Man are of a highly primitive nature. There does not exist, as is the case in this country, a Consolidated Fund account.

If one looks at Section 8 of the Act of 1866, one sees that the amounts from various taxes are apportioned for various purposes. I think I am right in saying that it is only possible to pay old-age pensions on the Isle of Man out of the Income Tax fund. They cannot be paid out of the Customs fund and that is a good argument for raising the rate of Income Tax on the Isle of Man. It may be a very good argument for lowering the Customs in order to force a raising of the Income Tax.

I will give the House a small example and explain one of the difficulties which the Isle of Man into any channel they present system. It is that the expenditure which we are now asked to approve is to a large degree fixed. Before any surplus can be paid to the Isle of Man it is necessary to pay a number of sums which have been fixed from time immemorial. One example, which hon. Members may think to be a foolish one, is, in my opinion, indicative of the whole problem.

In the Act of 1767 there was provision made for the payment out of the Civil List, which is guaranteed by the Customs, of the salary of the Admiral of the Herring Fleet and the salary of the Vice-Admiral of the Herring Fleet. These two sums were placed at £5 for the Admiral and £3 for the Vice-Admiral.

In 1911 the question was raised as to how the salaries were to be paid, and the answer was that it was absolutely essential that the Comptroller of Customs should pay them. He had the responsibility. The matter could not be left to the Tynwald. All they could do was to see that the appointments were made. I think that the appointments are made by the High Bailiff. The offices are now vacant, I might mention for the benefit of some hon. Members, though whether they would be offices of profit under the Crown I do not know.

These are two offices which obviously are paid too low a salary to attract any admiral of modern calibre. Nevertheless, there is no regulation in regard to the matter. It may well be that these two offices were originally part of a scheme for the encouragement of the herring fishery in the Isle of Man. At that time the herring fishery was the great staple of the Isle of Man. It was part of a general policy of subsidy that these two officials should exist to look after the industry. They were paid on a part-time basis, and I suppose that the remuneration was considered satisfactory in those days.

The Report of the 1911 Commission says in paragraph 73:
"The once great fleet of Manx fishing boats is now reduced to about 250 boats giving employment to less than 1,000 men and boys. There is a strong feeling in the Island that the Government should do something to revive and stimulate this industry, utilising for the purpose some of the large balance now lying in the Accumulated Fund."
There once again was a typical example of how the Government could have done something, had the matter been fully discussed, to stimulate the Manx fishing industry. It is tragic to think that in 1911 they talked of the fleet being reduced to 250 vessels employing less than 1,000 men and boys, when the latest figures show that only 122 boats are engaged in the industry.

I must say that I genuinely fail to see the connection between what the hon. and learned Member is saying and the Bill which is before the House, or even his own Amendment.

The argument put before the Commission when dealing with the financial position of the Isle of Man was that the revenues obtained from the Customs and the reserve revenues were applied in specific ways by the Government which did not take the steps which should have been taken to direct those revenues into certain channels.

This House can, through its pressure on the Executive, direct the revenues of the Isle of Man is up against under the so desire. A resolution of the Tynwald has to receive both the approval of the House of Keys and of the Legislative Council, of which there is a permanent Government majority even without counting the Bishop of Sodor and Man who is a Government appointee though perhaps of another type. Therefore, we have a direct responsibility.

The point about which I am complaining is that there are needs of various kinds which have not been subject to Parliamentary discussion. We have not directed the finances into channels which would best benefit the people of the Isle of Man. I was illustrating that by quoting the 1911 Report in which it was said that more money should have been directed by the Government into the fishing industry which had got into a very low state.

On the hon. and learned Member's argument I suppose that he could bring forward instances from the whole life of the Isle of Man. Surely that could not be right on a Customs Bill. The hon. and learned Member is entitled to advance a proposition and to cite an example in support of it, but we really cannot have a debate on a Customs Bill turning into a general discussion of the affairs of the Isle of Man. I do not see how that could be done.

Mr. Speaker, we fully realise that we cannot roam the whole world on this Bill. Nevertheless, it appears to me that this is the only occasion in the Parliamentary year when the Isle of Man can be discussed. If that is so, perhaps we might be allowed to go a little outside the Bill to discuss the whole position as it should be discussed in this House.

It is very largely a question of degree. I did not interrupt the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) in many of the interesting parts of his speech because I thought that they were relevant, but if the matter is carried beyond a certain point we begin then to thwart our purpose and to turn discussion on a Customs Bill into a general discussion on the Isle of Man. Hon. Members must observe moderation in the territory over which they roam in a matter of this sort.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department in this country is the Member of the Privy Council responsible to this House for the way in which the Isle of Man is administered. I was hoping that my hon. and learned Friend would have come even more up to date in dealing with the difficulties that arise when the Lieutenant Governor, who is the mouth piece of the Secretary of State in the Isle of Man, has to take very strong action to ensure that what we would regard as a just use of these moneys is in fact made. Although perhaps it is fortunate for the time of the House that the matter does not often arise in the form in which my hon. and learned Friend is raising it today, it would appear that the House has responsibility for the control of the Secretary of State and the Lieutenant-Governor in the exercise of their functions. It is not undesirable that on occasion there should be a pretty meticulous examination of their powers and the way they use them.

All that is no doubt very true, and no doubt there are opportunities when matters relating to the Isle of Man may be discussed. My difficulty is that this is a Bill—we are on the Second Reading of it—dealing with Customs and Excise. While I think that a certain amount of what the hon. and learned Member has been saying is relevant, I ask the House to remember that it is a Bill which we are discussing and to come to the present day and not to roam too widely over the whole field of administration, for that would be out of order on Second Reading.

I merely chose one example, Mr. Speaker, and did not by any means wish to roam over the whole field of general administration. I merely took the one example to show that if the control of this House over expenditure and the way sums were voted in the past had been properly exercised the situation which has arisen would not have occurred. From the passage in the Commission's Report to which I called the attention of the House just now it is obvious that it was thought that funds should be devoted to the encouragement of the fishing fleet.

When you interrupted me, Mr. Speaker, I was about to give present-day figures to show that the funds were not devoted until too late and that the situation is now a very bad one. There are now only 122 boats engaged in the Manx fishing industry, and of those 89 are Scottish and 30 cone from Northern Ireland and only three boats are Manx. Out of the 702 people now engaged in the Manx fishing trade, only 18 are inhabitants of the island.

In 1911 it was said that if more funds were devoted to it the fishing industry could be built up, and since then the House seems never to have taken the opportunity to discuss the matter. The House ought at this stage to inquire into the matter and see whether there has been failure to use such powers as we have to refuse to vote taxation for the Island until such time as the Tynwald has made what we believe to be suitable reforms.

I do not want to do an injustice to the Tynwald and the Isle of Man administration because the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries—we have not a Parliamentary Secretary for Fisheries—is under some constitutional arrangement which I do not quite understand, in charge of the Isle of Man fishing industry and considerable grants are now paid to the Tynwald. This illustrates the absence of the degree of pressure which there should have been from this House to secure reforms.

One of the difficulties about the Isle of Man is that, while the control of finance exists in the Government, it does not exist in this House. It might have been all right if measures had been left to the House of Keys, but if the Government could have been called to account—constitutionally, the Government cannot be called to account in any other way except through raising the matter on the annual Bill, so far as I can see—it might well not have indulged in vetoing legislation of the House of Keys of a progressive nature which was put forward for a long time in the past.

I will take three examples of this type of legislation from Appendix VII of the Report of the Commission. On one occasion an old-age pensions Bill was vetoed. In view of the presence here of my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields, it is interesting to note that in 1907 the Government vetoed a progressive Measure relating to the use of excessive numbers of vehicles at elections. On no fewer than three occasions, the Government vetoed a Bill designed to abolish the tied house in the Isle of Man. These are examples of the type of progressive legislation which was vetoed by the other house at Tynwald, the Legislative Council, a body which is nominated. I will not develop that any further because it is going a little wide.

We ought to consider whether we ourselves are devoting sufficient money to the Isle of Man. It may be that the Imperial contribution that we exact at the moment ought not to be accepted in view of the level of taxable capacity of the Isle of Man. If we took the balance on any one county in England we might find that, rightly, the wealthier counties were subsidising the less wealthy counties. There is no reason why we should continue to take this sum because of a bargain with the Duke of Athol) a century and a half ago.

Also, if we have a further investigation into how the money is spent, we might well say that we will not grant a particular tax if the money is spent in a certain way. I will mention one small point only. There is in the Isle of Man a system—it may be a very suitable one, but it is paid for out of the Customs Revenue which we are now voting—of subsidising the private building of houses. Anyone there can obtain out of Customs Revenue a subsidy for a private house. It may be undesirable to increase taxes to make more funds available to subsidise the private building of houses.

If one combines the lower Income Tax with the subsidy to private building, in a way one encourages the taxation funk-hole arrangement which I am sure is not desired in the islands surrounding the United Kingdom. Their position depends really on the development of native industries, of which the tourist industry is one. The Isle of Man does not exist as a place to which people or companies can go for the purpose of tax evasion. We should ensure that the revenues which we vote for the Isle of Man are not used directly or indirectly for such purposes.

I am sorry to have wearied you, Mr. Speaker, and the House so long on this issue. There is one final point which I wish to make. The financial control exercised through this Parliament in regard to the Isle of Man is typical of the financial control exercised by the British Parliament in respect of all sorts of other small islands, such as the West Indies. It is particular important that the House should on occasion devote some time to ascertaining whether the plans are valuable and workable or whether we ought to use the long experience which we have of the Isle of Man for devising some other plans which do not only apply to the Isle of Man but have a far wider and more important application through the whole of the Colonial Commonwealth.

The Financial Secretary said in his speech that he hoped there would be some negotiations which might result in relinquishing entirely this control which we exercise at the moment. I think there is a great deal to be said for such a course, but only if there is adequate substitution of a democratic form of control in the Isle of Man, and that is why I took the opportunity to refer earlier in my speech to the work of the late Governor, Air Vice-Marshal Sir Geoffrey Bromet, because he established in the Island an Executive Council which is an organisation of the heads of the various boards of Tynwald.

I think the hon. and learned Member is getting far away from the Bill in continuing to talk about constitutional arrangements in the Isle of Man.

I appreciate that, but I am attempting to keep within the rules of order and reply to the arguments of the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, who said he hoped that this would be the last of these Bills, and that there would be arrangements by which it would not be necessary for us to vote these sums. All I was trying to do was to indicate the sort of circumstances in which, in my view, we would accept such an eventuality.

I do not think the remarks of the Financial Secretary permit the hon. and learned Member to discuss the constitution of the Isle of Man. The right hon. Gentleman did mention these arrangements in a word or two of narrative background, but that does not entitle the hon. and learned Member to bring in a discussion of the whole constitution. That would be out of order.

If I may then bring in just a word of narrative background, may I say that the existence of the Executive Council, on which the heads of the boards of Tynwald are represented, which can, in fact, form financial policy, is an excellent arrangement, but what I have considerable doubt about is the present arrangement, in which both these Finance Committees, both of the Legislative Council and of Tynwald, should have to approve every type of financial resolution. The approval by the Executive Council is in fact approval by nominees who are not removable by the Government of the day, because the majority of the members of the Finance Committee of the Executive Council consists of deemsters, bishops and various officials who, though nominated, are not removable if there is a change of government with a change of complexion as to how the finances of the Isle of Man should be administered.

I hope that, in the discussions which take place, there will be an opportunity to indicate that hon. Members on this side of the House would welcome control by the House because it is elected, and not continue with a system which places in the hands of nominees not removable by the Government of the day the power of making such financial provisions as may be considered desirable for the Island.

I submit that this annual Bill is one that we should avoid if possible. Having discussed the matter on many occasions, the difficulty about it is this. When the question of the Isle of Man finances comes up, we are in a very difficult position in trying to discuss it at all, and it would be much better if the time available for that discussion was spent, not on an annual Bill like this, but on constitutional questions involving not only the Isle of Man but elsewhere.

I beg to move, to leave out from "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:
"this House declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill which, while providing the greater part of the revenues of the Isle of Man, does not permit Parliamentary control over the expenditure of the sums voted by Parliament."

12.4 p.m.

I beg to second the Amendment.

I can assure my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) that I shall not endeavour to follow him in what he has just said. I admire his erudition, but I feel rather like a juror when counsel is addressing the bench. However, I shall take the opportunity of studying what he said on this occasion, with the gloss which will no doubt be put upon it by my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale). I agree with my hon. and learned Friend in saying that we have long since reached the stage when this matter should be properly discussed and the Government must make some alteration of the present arrangement.

I happen to have no close knowledge of the constitution and financial arrangements of the Isle of Man. In fact, when I was younger and more energetic, I used to go to the Lakes twice a year. I always used to climb Great Gable to see whether I could see the Isle of Man. If I could, I would say "It will be fine tomorrow," though I do not think that I ever saw it unless it was enshrouded in mist and fog. That remains my position about the difficult constitutional position regarding the island.

It is most unfortunate that we have never had an opportunity in recent years fully to discuss the constitutional position and the financial position affecting the Isle of Man. I have read very carefully the earlier speeches of my hon. and learned Friend and my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West, as well as those of other hon. Members who took part in the debate a couple of years ago.

In passing, if I might express one mild word of criticism, I think it was unfortunate that the debate took place on the Committee stage of the Bill. I appreciate very much the desire of my hon. Friends to expedite the business of the Government, and I am sure it was also appreciated on the Government benches, but it was unfortunate that many interesting matters were raised then and there was no proper opportunity of fully discussing them. On that occasion, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury was most helpful, but the difficulty about this matter is that the Financial Secretary is always helpful in the debate, but does nothing about it afterwards.

I was most surprised to hear that there has been discussion with representatives from the Isle of Man within the last few days, but I am also aware that my hon. and learned Friend put down his Amendment for the rejection of this Bill also within the last few days. I am sorry that at this moment the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department has left the Front Bench. I have a great respect for the Home Department, but I think we are becoming most disturbed by the somnolence of that Department, which appears only to take action as a result of things said or done by this side of the House.

I want to take up a matter raised in the previous debate. The Financial Secretary said on a previous occasion that this is not a party matter, but an all-party matter. I want to discuss a matter first raised by an hon. Member who is not with us this morning, and who probably takes a different view than we do of the sessional allowance. The hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Erroll) raised the question of the form of the accounts. I never saw the accounts on that occasion, and I have not seen the present ones, for a reason which I shall explain in a moment.

The argument which I understood the hon. Gentleman to put before us was that proper accounts should be submitted in time for the debate on this Measure, but the device of providing dummy accounts was resorted to. When the hon. Gentleman objected to the dummy accounts, the Government of the day decided that the best solution to the problem would be to have no accounts at all. As the situation stands now, I do not know which is preferable—dummy accounts or no accounts at all. On the previous occasion the Financial Secretary was asked about it, when it was suggested that it was a most unsatisfactory position and that something should really be done about it. I now wish to quote from the OFFICIAL REPORT what the Financial Secretary said:
"The duties imposed by the Act of last year, or a number of them, will lapse on 1st August."
I mention that because the same argument applies today, and unless we allow the Second Reading there will be the same difficulties. The Financial Secretary went on:
"It is consequently necessary, if the duties are not to lapse and the whole revenues of the island to be endangered, that this Bill should not only be introduced but passed into law by the end of this month."
We are in the same position today. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say:
"Therefore, however disadvantageous hon. Members may find the inter-action of the dates of the Bill and of the accounts, that is the existing situation which we have found;… it is essential that the Bill should be dealt with before the accounts are presented on the dates for which the late Administration were responsible."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd July, 1952; Vol. 504, c. 467–8.]
In other words, he was saying: "I am very interested in what is being said but I am unfortunately in the position that I cannot do anything about it. It is an argument the validity of which I do not deny, but here I am in a difficult position." The Financial Secretary is in that difficult position again.

In fairness to the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, it ought to be said that, following sound principles, he provided some provisional accounts. There is a great deal to be said against the form in which he provided them but at least he had the courtesy to do so. We should all like to thank him for it, and I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) will say it for us.

I not only thank the Financial Secretary but I will apologise for saying by inference that the Financial Secretary had not done anything about it.

Let me say, to get the matter clear, that as a result of the discussion on the previous occasion arrangements have been made this year, as last year, to place a copy of the provisional, unaudited accounts for the year ended 31st March, in the Library. They are in the Library at this moment.

We are much obliged to the Financial Secretary for that information. I was going on, and I still think I should proceed in the matter, to point out what the Financial Secretary went on to say on the previous occasion on this point. He said:

"I do not propose to argue for a moment that the present timing of the Bill and the accounts is satisfactory."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th July. 1952; Vol. 504, c. 941.]
In spite of what he said, does the Financial Secretary still rest on that argument? Surely, what he has done is to say: "I am governed by something which is unsatisfactory, but I have taken the most satisfactory steps that I can in that unsatisfactory position." I am sure that the impression conveyed to hon. Members who were here at the earlier discussion was that he was going to deal with the matter structurally and basically and to see that it was put right. It was not to be a matter just for an expedient. I hope that is still the view of the Financial Secretary, and that he is not going to ask the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department to tell us that that is all that can be done. We want a much more radical and basic solution than that.

I want to deal with this question of the Library. On a basic, constitutional issue, of the Executive raising revenue and seeking the approval of this House, it is not sufficient to say: "Oh, well, there are accounts in the Library for hon. Members who choose to obtain them." They should be available not only to ourselves but to those who are responsible for our being here. I should have thought it went to the essence of our constitutional doctrine that, in all questions when the Executive resort to powers to raise finance, the necessary information should be made available to all Her Majesty's subjects.

I feel very strongly that it is not good enough to say "Oh, they are in the Library." I wanted to get some papers in the Library on this matter within the last day or two. What chance have I had? Every time I looked into the Library I saw my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hornchurch and my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West examining such papers as there were. Yesterday my right hon. Friend the Member for Fulham, West (Dr. Summerskill) was asking for a paper—it had nothing to do with the Isle of Man—which had been deposited in the Library. She was horrified to find that she would not have an opportunity to take it away and examine it over the weekend. Fortunately, I had been supplied with this paper, and I let her have it.

It is not good enough for the Executive to say: "We have put these papers in the Library and you can look at them there." The facilities in the Library are adequate to enable hon. Members to examine them, but it is not good enough for the Executive to say that by sticking them into a pigeon-hole in the Library there is information available on the ground on which they base their action of raising taxation.

On a second matter, which has not been dealt with by the Financial Secretary or by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hornchurch, I am in a certain amount of doubt. It is the question of the Tynwald resolutions. On the earlier occasion, there was a great deal said about these resolutions being a mystery. No one knew what they were or where they were. The Financial Secretary placed his argument rather higher than he did about the accounts. He said: "They are not available, but no hon. Members asked for them. If I had had information that they were wanted I would have put them into the Library too." This information ought to be put before the House.

Why can we not have an explanatory and financial memorandum accompanying the Bill? I remember that when I served on the Select Committee on Statutory Instruments we secured the introduction of an explanatory memorandum on the Statutory Instrument. Admittedly, now one has to look at the Statutory Instrument to find out what the financial and explanatory memorandum means. However, when the Executive come to raise taxation we should put on them the burden of giving us four-squarely on the face of the document what they are doing, why they are doing it and how much money they are seeking to obtain.

That applies particularly to a matter on which trying to find out what a Measure is all about has become an annual event. At this late stage we are told that we must get the Bill by the end of the month. When the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department gets up to reply, I hope that he will have been advised by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury that this is a concession he well might make. This matter, again, was discussed on the previous occasion. The Financial Secretary said:
"The Tynwald sits in public, and as I understand, the only reason the texts of the resolutions was not provided on this occasion, as on other occasions in the past when similar Bills have been debated, is the simple one that no hon. Gentleman has ever asked for them. If any hon. Gentleman had asked, I would have provided them."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th July, 1952; Vol. 504; c. 937.]
That quotation bears out what I have just said as being the attitude of the Financial Secretary on that occasion. He has not said anything at all about it on this occasion. I know his unfailing courtesy. I know that he is an excellent House of Commons man, and that if I had mentioned it to him he would have given us the explanation. But this attitude of the Executive is completely wrong. The Financial Secretary should have said: "Here we are, raising taxation. We know that the duty of the Executive in this matter has always been to give all the information available and make sure that it will be accessible to all those back benchers who are assiduous about their duty." The least we can expect from the Financial Secretary is that steps will be taken to ensure that in future all the information is made available.

I now turn to a third argument raised on the previous occasion, which was the matter to which the Financial Secretary made reference this morning. No doubt provoked by the prospects of being tackled by my hon. and learned Friend and by my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West, he decided that the Government should see representatives from the Isle of Man and start the discussions.

I would remind the House that when we discussed this matter a couple of years ago, the Financial Secretary made it quite clear that the Government were not altogether satisfied about the background to our discussions, to which the hon, and learned Member for Hornchurch referred with such great erudition. Indeed, I think the Financial Secretary has endorsed the view he took then by the action he revealed this morning. Two years ago, the right hon. Gentleman said that there really should be discussions with representatives of the Isle of Man to see whether some improvement could be made. He then said:
"I think I may be allowed to say one thing on the general background."—
Of course, he was so allowed because we were most anxious that he should do so—
"Reference was made again and again—the reference to this Clause was perhaps a trifle tenuous—to negotiations which began some years ago. The position is that these discussions are still proceeding, and it would be highly inconvenient if I entered into any expression of opinion on the precise relationship of financial matters between the island and the United Kingdom. Some delicate negotiations, with a long background of recognition of the rights of the island have been proceeding, and it is not very easy to go into details on the objectives for which one is driving."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd July, 1952; Vol. 504, c. 469.]
That was very interesting and very encouraging, and it happened two years ago. We now find that very little has happened since then. But this week, as I say, impelled by the action taken by my hon. and learned Friend and by other hon. Members on this side of the House, the Home Office is discussing these very important, intricate, complex, difficult matters with representatives of the Isle of Man.

I could call in support other similar references made in the previous debate, but I will not refer further to the OFFICIAL REPORT except to say that it was made abundantly clear by the Financial Secretary that discussions were to proceed, and that they had been proceeding for some time. As my hon. and learned Friend indicated, it would not be altogether fair, in view of the previous intervention of the Financial Secretary, to say that nothing at all has been done.

But I think that we all thought two years ago that these discussions were going to terminate in something welcome both to us and to those who live in the Isle of Man. It would be unfair to allege that nothing at all has been done. On 27th November, 1952, in a written answer, the Home Secretary said:
"There has been much useful exploratory discussions, but there are still one or two matters of importance on which agreement has to be reached. I hope to discuss these with a delegation from Tynwald in due course."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th November, 1952; Vol. 508, c. 81.]
This referred to the financial position of the Isle of Man.

I had no idea at that time that the delegation was going to arrive two years later. I remember reading this among the written answers. I understood from it that all was well, but, in fact, all was not well. There was a further written answer given to my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West on 21st July, 1953, with which, apparently, he was so satisfied that he left the matter last year, and now we are driven to pursue it again this year. I will leave my hon. Friend to deal with that reply.

The point I am making is that there is very little evidence of anything being done, but such evidence as was given gave those interested in the matter the impression that we could very soon expect a satisfactory solution to the difficulties. Now we have had a very unsatisfactory statement by the Financial Secretary to the effect that discussions are going on very nicely, that we should pass this Bill and then forget all about it until the matter comes up again next year. That is not fair, and is the worst way of negotiating matters affecting constitutional questions. I hope that, with the spur of this debate today, the Joint Under-Secretary of State will impress. upon his right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary the need to make sure that the hope which the Financial Secretary has held out today will bring an end to these discussions.

There are a few particular points affecting the Bill which again arise from the previous debate. I apologise for raising these matters again, but they ought to be dealt with. I think that we have been most tolerant in waiting two years to see what happens. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West is fully seized of the facts, but I personally fail to understand the basis of the calculation of the fiscal population. I have tried to understand the reason for this, and have failed to do so.

I understood from my hon. Friend that this depends upon the number of holidaymakers. I should not be at all surprised if the policy of this Government was to deter people from Lancashire going to the Isle of Man. This may impair its financial resources. Whether that is a fact or not, is a matter to be ascertained, but I certainly think that if this Government remain in office their policy will deter holiday-makers and affect the finances of the Isle of Man.

Another factor has been mentioned by my hon. and learned Friend, and that is the important question of Income Tax. I think that my hon. Friend will agree that the figure which he gave to the House two years ago was 4s. in the E. The latest figure which I have been able to obtain from my researches is 5s. We ought to be told which figure is correct. Perhaps both are correct.

On a point of order. May I make the situation clear, Mr. Speaker? Through this Bill we are giving to the Isle of Man £2 million a year and are taking back from them £10,000. That is a completely unfair way of putting it, because the Isle of Man has to bear its own charges covering the £2 million. Surely, we are entitled to discuss the fact that the Isle of Man, in fixing its revenue, bases its low rate of tax on the fact that the people from Lancashire help to bear these taxes. We are not giving the Isle of Man the right to collect Customs. We collect them ourselves and fix an arbitrary figure. I respectfully submit that it is relevant, and that before we agree to this Bill we are entitled to consider that the island is attracting from this country people who go to live there, who escape British taxation and who have a lower rate of taxation on the island.

I am aware of that, because it has been said several times, but the point which I was trying to put to the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) is that in a Customs Bill of a general nature we could not go into the question of Income Tax in any detail.

I am obliged to you, Mr. Speaker, and to my hon. Friend for effectively making the point which I myself was about to make. He made it with greater dialectical skill than I should have have been able to command. I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, that I was going no further than to say that obviously the finances of the Isle of Man are affected, that Income Tax is affected as part of the whole and that the size of the part determines the size of the remainder. Obviously Income Tax may be affected by the provisions which we are discussing, and I hope that within your Ruling the Joint Under-Secretary of State will be able to deal with the point when he replies.

Another point which I will mention only briefly, because it has been mentioned in the debate and there is no need for me to traverse the ground again, is that we should pay attention to the social purpose to which the money raised is put. The Joint Under-Secretary of State will have a note of that point and I hope he will deal with it in his reply. I merely indicate that the point is taken not only by my hon. and learned Friend but also by other hon. Members on this side of the House.

Other matters about the island were allowed in the previous discussions and therefore were in order, but I do not feel that they would be helpful today. Personally, I cannot see the relevance to our discussion of the Bill of the fact that one can walk only 10 miles in any direction in the Isle of Man and that if Rutland were surrounded by water it would be in a similar position to the Isle of Man. Those were points raised previously by my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West, who may speak later in the debate, and I am sorry that he has left his place, because I was seeking to indicate that I hoped he would not pursue the points again this morning, if, Mr. Speaker, he catches your eye.

By putting down the Amendment, we have made it clear once again that this is an unsatisfactory situation. It is not much solace to be assured by the Government that they recognise it to be unsatisfactory and that some day they will do something about it. As I have already said, there is nothing worse than to open discussions and then do nothing. Thanks to the initiative of my hon. Friends, the discussions have been renewed. I hope that on this occasion they will be pressed to a successful conclusion.

I had intended to deal with several other matters, because I have been provided with the Manx Year Book, which deals with the factual side of the Customs Duties. The differences between some of the Customs Duties in the Isle of Man and those in this country constitute a factor which I had not realised until I saw the book but which perhaps explains some of the holiday traffic to the Isle of Man. These are matters which should be fully explained to us, because I assumed that some of the matters in the Bill are those where there is a differential Customs Duty.

These, no doubt, are points which will be pursued by other hon. Members, I hope from both sides of the House, because, as clearly indicated on the previous occasion, this is a non-party matter. We all want to see these discussions reach a successful conclusion. I hope that we are not obliged to press the Amendment to a Division and that we shall have the comfort of an assurance from the Joint Under-Secretary of State that this will be the last of this type of legislation. I hope that these complex and difficult problems will be resolved to the satisfaction not only of this Parliament but of everyone in the Isle of Man.

12.35 p.m

One event has happened, since the discussion two years ago, which has not been referred to—the Parliamentary delegation, consisting of hon. Members from both sides of the House, which went to the Isle of Man at this time last year. It would be very ungracious of the House if someone from that delegation did not express the delegation's thanks for the entertainment and for the great instruction which it received on all the matters which have so far been raised during today's debate and which were raised in the debate two years ago.

It would be pleasant to go at great length into the extremely interesting historical, constitutional and financial matters which have been mentioned and which are involved in the relations between the House and the Isle of Man, but it seems to me that the answer is this: although the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) has made some play with the length of the negotiations, I do not think anybody who has been there and has talked with Members of all political parties and with the leaders in the Isle of Man can fail to realise that there is no consensus of opinion in the Isle of Man, just as I doubt whether there is any great consensus of opinion as yet in the House. These are very difficult negotiations to conduct and I am not in the least surprised that they are being spread over several months.

Nevertheless, I join in the hope that some arrangement will be made and that our next debate on these constitutional and financial relations will be on proposals which have been agreed between the Government in this country, the Tynwald, and the Government of the Isle of Man. It seems to me that that would be an appropriate occasion on which to go into all these matters.

I gather that the Amendment is a demonstration in force and nothing more. If it were carried, the Isle of Man would collapse on 1st August and the thousands from Lancashire who will no doubt be over there would no doubt have a great deal to say about Her Majesty's Opposition in that respect. Indeed, that might be a great advantage to the Government.

The outstanding problem which all of us found when we were over there last year was that of employment for males in the Isle of Man. The great holiday traffic from Lancashire and elsewhere gives a great deal of employment for women but the island is rapidly becoming a rival of part of the Highlands in the way in which it is losing its young male population.

The essential problem for the Isle of Man is that it should try to retain inside the island a larger proportion of its young males, who are now going abroad. The fishing industry is no longer what it was. It was hoped that a certain number of industries might come to the island and one of the hopes was that some of the Customs Duties—in particular those on sugar and molasses—might enable industries to be established in the Isle of Man for the making of sweets and goods of that nature, by virtue of the fact that it would be possible for those who established the industries there to obtain their raw materials more cheaply than in other countries in Europe. It was hoped that it would be possible to establish industries on the island which would provide local employment.

I am suspicious of Clauses 1 and 2 of this Bill. I am not quite clear whether their effect will not be to increase the Customs charges on sugar and molasses going into the Isle of Man. It makes me anxious either that those proposals, which were far-reaching and might have given great employment, have failed, or that they may make it more difficult for those industries to be established and to flourish. The thing that comforts me is, as the Financial Secretary told us, that this Bill would never have been introduced without Tynwald itself having passed the resolutions on which it is based, and therefore the matter must have been discussed and approved by Tynwald. I do not think there can be any question about that.

If either now or at a later stage one of Her Majesty's Ministers could give us some assurance as to how this Bill affects the one great problem of the Isle of Man—that is, the difficulty in employing their young males—I personally should be grateful. Otherwise, I hope that the House will quickly allow the Bill to be passed and that the Isle of Man shall know that it is going to be allowed to continue in existence after 1st August.

Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman deal with the problem which seems to us to be important—the fact that the Legislative Council, which is nominated, has an equal opportunity, through its Finance Committee, of blocking any such proposals? When he talks of Tynwald, he is not only talking of the House of Keys; he is talking of a nominated body as well, and this House has no means of knowing whether the finance side of the Legislative Council has approved the Measure. I do not know whether the right hon. and learned Gentleman could add anything to what he has said.

12.42 p.m.

I support this Amendment. As I understand the rather Ruritanian set-up in the Isle of Man, we are engaged today in giving a Second Reading to a Bill which makes a financial arrangement amounting to some £2 million in favour of that island. As I understand it, the Isle of Man is a part of the United Kingdom, and by this financial arrangement the United Kingdom is, in effect, saying that we are going to make a disposition of about £2 million to this part of the United Kingdom.

I ought to confess at the start that it is rather difficult for a Scottish Member to approach any question relating to the Isle of Man quite dispassionately, because I am told that there is in the Isle of Man a Measure outlawing all Scotsmen, which has never been repealed, and any Scotsman who goes to the Isle of Man is legally an outlaw. This seems a rather ungracious way to treat a nation which provides a very large part of the Isle of Man's holiday traffic and which every July descends on the Isle of Man and spends 'there with the customary profligacy of the Scots.

I was most interested in the remarks of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) when he pointed out the financial difficulties involved in this Bill in connection with herring fishing. The right hon. and learned Member for Kensington, South (Sir P. Spens) raised the same point. My hon. and learned Friend reminded us that there are two vacant posts in the Isle of Man—Admiral of the Herring Fleet and Vice-Admiral of the Herring Fleet. He told us that a great proportion of the fishing boats in the Isle of Man are Scottish herring boats, and I think that we might perhaps nominate the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Sir R. Boothby) as Admiral of the Herring Fleet and my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) as Vice-Admiral of the Herring Fleet.

This Bill raises very important constitutional questions for this House, quite apart from the question of the Isle of Man's own constitution, and I think we are entitled to have a good deal more information on this matter than appears to have been customary. I should like the Financial Secretary or the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department to give us some of the information which has been requested. We are making an arrangement for a sum of about £2 million to be paid to the Isle of Man's finances. I should like to know exactly what the sum is going to be during the coming year.

The Financial Secretary has told us what specific items are likely to be increased. It would be most helpful to us in forming a decision on these matters if we knew what the sum was, and if we could be told what proportion of the Isle of Man's own national finances the sum coming from the Customs Bill will actually be. The last figures that I have show that this Customs Bill provides about two-thirds of the national finances of the Isle of Man, and in fact the Customs charges provide twice as much revenue from the Isle of Man as their Income Tax does.

I am sure the House would like to know what the financial picture is—how much of the Isle of Man revenue is coming through the medium of this Bill and how much comes from other sources, and in particular—because it is of interest to the citizens of this country—how much is raised from Income Tax.

According to the latest figures given in the Isle of Man Year Book, four times as much revenue comes from Customs as from Income Tax.

I am much obliged to my hon. Friend. I think it is a pity, though, that this House should have to be informed by the researches of back benchers and should not have that information available in the normal papers of the House or from Members of the Government at the Dispatch Box.

There are some other points of information in relation to this financial question that I should like to raise. I understand that in the past, out of the money that has come from the Customs revenue to the Isle of Man, a certain proportion of it has been reserved by the Governor of the Isle of Man for the purpose of providing for the police and the Civil Service. I understand that that part of the money was never at any time in the past under the control of the Isle of Man's own Legislature. I should like to know whether that position still holds.

I should like to know whether the consultative cabinet, which was set up, I think, in 1946, exercises control over all the expenditure of the Isle of Man or whether the police and the Civil Service are still directly controlled financially by the Governor and, therefore, I take it, by the Treasury in this country. If that is so, I think it raises important questions in relation to the rights of this House, because the money is being spent on our behalf, and it is highly unsatisfactory if this money is being disposed of by a method which is not under Parliamentary control either in the Isle of Man or here.

I should like to hear from the Government exactly what the financial machinery is for the utilisation of all the money that is given by means of this Bill. Is it a fact that the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Isle of Man is the Governor of the Isle of Man? Does he still operate as Chancellor of the Exchequer, and if so, what sort of consultation does he enter into within the Isle of Man with respect to the disposal of the country's finances?

How is this consultative cabinet composed? Is it a representative body? Are its financial decisions binding on the Governor? What happens in the case of a dispute? These are some of the delicate questions which are the subject of negotiations that have been going on for a long time and it would be helpful if we could have more information from the Government during this debate.

The present situation seems to me highly unsatisfactory. Personally, I am fond of old customs and do not like to see a drab uniformity. I enjoy reading about the colour of the Tynwald ceremonies, and I should look forward to witnessing them. I have no desire to eliminate anything like that, but it is important in these days that, while we preserve our traditional ceremonies, we should make sure that the substance behind them is in accord with present day ideas.

The Isle of Man is, in effect, part of the United Kingdom: and its citizens are part of this country. A large number of its residents are citizens who have spent their earning life within the United Kingdom and it is matter of concern that there should be a financial arrangement under which, say, the citizens of Lancashire, some of them former constituents of the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale), should be able to go over to the Isle of Man and, in effect, to enjoy a subsidy from the Exchequer of greatly reduced Income Tax; indeed, that they should be able to enjoy what amounts to a double subsidy, because if they go to the Isle of Man they can enjoy the reduced rate of Income Tax and at the same time enjoy also—

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, could we have your guidance? While we all must admire the ingenious filibustering methods by which hon. Gentlemen opposite are seeking to prevent a later Measure coming before us, could we not have your protection? There is a later Bill called the Pests Bill which means a great deal to the relief of animal suffering throughout this country. Millions of our fellow subjects are deeply interested in that Measure. Surely there must be some method by which you can afford protection to animals as well as to hon. Members of this House?

Before you reply to the hon. Gentleman, Mr. Speaker, if I heard him correctly, he described the speeches of my hon. Friends as filibustering. That is not only a reflection on their speeches, which I am sure you will agree were very much to the point, but also on your conduct in the Chair.

Order, order. Filibustering is another of those American expressions which have come into the House. I understand that it means obstruction. As a matter of order, it is not out of order for one side to charge the other with obstruction. In fact, it has several times been ruled in order. As regards the point made by the hon. Member for Ayr (Sir T. Moore). I have listened to the debate with great interest and, while I have to protect the rights of the House as a whole. I have also to protect the rights of the minority and to make sure that, unless speeches are out of order, they are allowed to proceed. I have heard nothing this morning that enables me to do anything if I am to protect the rights of the minority.

Following that point of order. Mr. Speaker, on several occasions you have had to check hon. Members opposite who were speaking. I have been here through most of the debate and I have noticed a marked repetition of argument in the three speeches made so far. Surely that is out of order?

I have to guide the debate according to the rules of relevance and it is not always easy, but I have done my best. I was listening carefully to what the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. G. M. Thomson) was saying when this interruption took place. I have heard before the argument which he was beginning to put before us. My memory is sufficiently good to say that I have heard it more than once.

In order that there may be no misunderstanding, would it not be proper for you to mention to the hon. Member for Ayr (Sir T. Moore) that, had the Government considered the animal kingdom to be more important than the inhabitants of the Isle of Man, they could have put the Pests Bill first and the Isle of Man Bill second?

That does not arise on this matter. Hon. Members of this House must try to co-operate with each other.

Is it not a fact that the Pests Bill is rather finely drawn in some directions?

This debate has nothing to do with the Pests Bill. We are discussing the Isle of Man (Customs) Bill.

May I say, in extenuation of any repetition, that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Horn-church (Mr. Bing) covered the ground so exhaustively that it is difficult for the rest of us to make our own views felt in the matter without repeating some of the material that he used. However, I should like sincerely to assure you and the House, Sir, that we are speaking on this Bill because we feel that it is important and not because we feel that the Pests Bill is not important, as I hope I may be able to convince the hon. Member for Ayr when the Pests Bill finally comes before this House.

What I was saying before the interruption was that we on this side of me House feel concern about the financial arrangements that exist between this Parliament and the Isle of Man, and that one of the reasons for that concern is the double subsidy which seems to exist for citizens of this country who finally make themselves residents of the Isle of Man. They are subsidised in terms of Income Tax and also in terms of private housing—

With respect, Sir, I am trying to draw my remarks quickly to a close. We in Scotland often feel a certain longing for Home Rule but, after having examined the relationship existing between this Parliament and the Isle of Man, I am sure that none of us in Scotland would like to see existing between Scotland and this Parliament that relationship which this Bill helps to operate.

My hon. and learned Friend pointed out that it was unfair to compare the finances of the Isle of Man directly with the finances of the United Kingdom as a whole. He said there were many areas, such as the crofting counties, where that comparison would not apply. I would point out, however, that the citizens of the crofting counties, or of any other special area of the United Kingdom, pay the United Kingdom rate of Income Tax according to their ability to pay. My own conclusion is that the general financial relationship between this Parliament and the Isle of Man needs an overhaul, and I hope that the negotiations going on will proceed more quickly than they have done in the past, and that when we consider these matters again next year, we shall face a new and rather more defensible situation.

12.59 p.m.

There are more than 50,000 inhabitants of the Isle of Man and they are not directly represented in this House. Nevertheless, as it demonstrated in this Bill, we have a responsibility for their financial affairs. It may be that in time the proposal made by the hon. Member for Ayr (Sir T. Moore), who has now disappeared, will be carried into effect—I see that the hon. Gentleman has arrived back. I was saying that no doubt his proposal that the affairs of the Isle of Man should fall away from this House may come into effect in time.

What I attempted to point out was that there are many millions of our fellow subjects who are deeply interested in the results of the Pests Bill, in view of the alleviation of animal suffering which it would bring about. I hope the hon. Gentleman will bear that point in mind when he is concluding his remarks.

I hope the hon. Gentleman will bear in mind that this House has a responsibility for the 50,000 citizens of the Isle of Man and the many thousands who go there as visitors. If at any time the hon. Member's constituency is under discussion, I hope he will not mind if someone intervenes and says that there are millions of citizens concerned and that their affairs should be discussed. So long as this House is responsible for the Isle of Man, we must watch its interests, and there is only one day in the Parliamentary calendar when it is possible to discuss that responsibility. Therefore, it is right that some hon. Members should deal with the question.

The opening remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Financial Secretary bear that out, and we naturally welcome his remarks indicating that the long-drawn-out negotiations with the representatives of the Isle of Man will bring a new constitutional structure. That it has de veloped to a certain point is, I believe, to the credit of hon. Members who have raised the issues of the Isle of Man in this House. The Financial Secretary will agree that it is only as a result of discussions in this House, and mostly on Bills of this sort, that these negotiations have developed.

Although we know that the Financial Secretary is most scrupulous in what he says, I am sure that he will understand that our enthusiasm for his declaration is tempered by our recollections of what was said two years ago. My hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) reminded the House earlier that the Financial Secretary used almost the same words two years ago. He referred to delicate negotiations with the representatives of the Isle of Man and of the fact that nothing definite could be said about the state of the negotiations. Hon. Members might think from what the Financial Secretary has said that in the very near future some new proposals will emerge from these negotiations. I am sure the Financial Secretary will understand when we say that it is unsatisfactory that these negotiations should continue for many years whilst Members of this House, who have to pass this Bill year by year, are kept in the dark about the proposals that are being made.

I think the House welcomed the intervention of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Kensington, South (Sir P. Spens). I am sure that what he said very definitely supported the request which has been made from time to time for the laying of a White Paper which would outline the new constitutional proposals being considered by Her Majesty's Government with the representatives of the Isle of Man. I should like the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department to assure us that before the House goes into the Summer Recess either an announcement will be made or a White Paper will be laid about these constitutional proposals which could mean that a Bill of this nature will not be brought before the House again.

This Bill is an example of taxation without representation and mostly without information. As I have said, there is nobody here representing the Isle of Man. It may well be that there could be a House of Commons in which not one Member had ever visited the Isle of Man. There is no guarantee that any Member knows anything about the affairs of the island at all, but we have to take a certain responsibility for its finances. Nevertheless, when this Bill is annually produced, again this year no White Paper is laid in order to describe the policies that are connected with the levying of these Customs Duties.

I should like to ask the Joint Under-Secretary of State whether we could not, within the next few months or on the next occasion when a similar Bill is presented, have a White Paper describing the constitutional relationship and the financial proposals that are now under discussion about the budgetary affairs of the island. We have been told that this year the accounts for the Isle of Man Customs have been placed in the Library. I have here the papers which have been laid in the Library, but there is one thing missing from them, and it is the one thing which some of my hon. Friends have repeatedly requested in the past—an analysis of how these duties actually bear upon the citizens of the Isle of Man. That information was asked for two years ago. We wanted it to see what was the incidence of this taxation upon the people of the island compared with the people of the rest of the United Kingdom.

We also wanted it because of a comment which had been made by the Isle of Man Constitution Committee in its Report as far back as the year 1911, where in paragraph 53 under the heading of "Treasury Requirements with regard to Budgets" the Constitution Committee said:
"These are two circumstances which render the Manx revenues precarious. In the first place, they depend very largely on the Customs Duties derived from articles consumed by visitors to the Island. A slight change not only in the prosperity of Lancashire and Yorkshire, which mostly supplies the visitors, but in the habits of those counties with regard to holidays, which will affect the flow of visitors to the Island, would exercise a serious effect on the Insular budget. In the second place, the Insular Tariff is in practice closely connected with that of the United Kingdom, and must vary with variations in the British Tariff. In cases where the duties levied in the two countries stand originally at the same figure, a decrease in the English Tariff is generally followed by a similar decrease in the Isle of Man. In so far as this is so, the Insular Revenues are liable to be diminished at any time owing to circumstances beyond the control of the Island."
What these researches of the Committee showed was that this House has never at any time been informed of what was actually the financial state of the island itself, what the island would be capable of raising in taxation, and what its sources of revenue could be if it happened that self-government, including control of its own finances, were granted. That is the state of affairs in 1954, because the accounts which have been provided and which deal with the receipts from Customs Duties and so on do not distinguish in any way between what was paid by the holiday visitors from Lancashire and Yorkshire or anywhere else and the contribution to the island's finances by its citizens.

So we still do not know what are the financial potentialities of the island, and when Her Majesty's Government carry on discussions with representatives of the Isle of Man, perhaps discussing new financial proposals or new financial relationships, we are left in the dark about what the position of the island might be if the connection with the mainland were completely severed.

We have another important question of policy to consider—the relationships in the revenues of the Isle of Man between direct and indirect taxation. As some hon. Members have said, the Bill is promoted to provide the main part of the revenues of the island, which come from these Customs Duties. My latest figures show that in 1952 the total receipts in revenue of the Isle of Man were £2,900,000, of which the Customs revenue was £2,100,000. This indicates the very important part which the Bill plays in the provision of revenue for the island.

Perhaps my hon. Friend is slightly wrong in his figures. According to figures which I have, the total receipts from Customs Duties in 1952–53 were £1,873,000 out of a total income of £2,700,000.

My hon. and gallant Friend may have later figures from another source. All I can say is that I extracted mine last night from the latest Isle of Man Year Book in the Library.

I do not think it is contested that the revenue from these Customs Duties forms the major portion of the revenue at the disposal of the Isle of Man Government. That indicates a great distinction between the Isle of Man and the United Kingdom Governments, for it shows that the Isle of Man gets the overwhelming proportion of its revenue from indirect taxation, whereas the Chancellor of the Exchequer told the House only recently, and with some pride when challenged by some of my hon. Friends, that the United Kingdom Government get more than half of their revenue from direct taxation.

One of the things, therefore, that we must consider is whether it is right and proper that the Isle of Man's revenue should be raised mostly by this peculiar means of indirect taxation whereas the general policy of the United Kingdom Government is to raise more than 50 per cent. of their revenue by taxes on incomes. On 15th June, during the Committee stage of the Finance Bill, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, speaking of the United Kingdom Government finances, said:
"It happens that the indirect taxation proposals for 1954–55 amount to 42 per cent. of the total tax revenue and direct taxation to 58 per cent…"—[OFFICIAL. REPORT, 15th June. 1954; Vol. 528, c. 1815.]
That is to say, in the latest proposals of the Chancellor of the Exchequer of this Tory, Government, 58 per cent. of the revenue is raised by direct taxation and 42 per cent. by indirect taxation. An analysis of the revenue of the Isle of Man, however, shows a completely contrary position, and we are entitled to consider whether that is a satisfactory arrangement either to the citizens who live in the Isle of Man or in the relationship between Her Majesty's Government and the Isle of Man.

It is often said that this arrangement has been all right hithero because in a number of resolutions passed by Tynwald the various parts of this Bill are supported by the representatives of the people of the Isle of Man. There are, however, two objections to that. First, the proceedings of Tynwald are not available to this House, which has the last word; that is an unsatisfactory feature. A second objection is that the proceedings of Tynwald are obviously conditioned in general by the policy of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in this country. That is shown by reference to Clause 4, which deals with chicory, ft is clear that whatever Tynwald might or might not want to do, it is conditioned by what is decided by the Chancellor of the Exchequer when presenting his Budget proposals. Therefore, the Bill is largely a creation of the United Kingdom Government, but the expenditure for which we raise this revenue is not controlled by the House save in so far as the Governor in the Isle of Man exercises a veto. That, in a nutshell, is the unsatisfactory constitutional position which has been under discussion for more than two years.

I regard it as highly unsatisfactory that in the Isle of Man the standard rate of Income Tax is 5s. 0d. in the £ and that the whole system of direct taxation is entirely different from that of the rest of the United Kingdom. On the first £500 of taxable income, tax is levied at the rate of 2s. 6d. in the £, on the second £500 at the rate of 3s. 4d. and on the third £500 at the rate of 4s. 2d. in the £. Only at the level of £1,500 of taxable income does one reach the standard rate of 5s. 0d.

I do not think that that arises on this Customs Bill.

I merely wish to illustrate that the direct taxation on the Isle of Man, in rates of both Income Tax and Surtax, is much lower than in the rest of the United Kingdom. Whereas in the rest of the United Kingdom we have promoted a policy of highly graduated and progressive Income Tax to provide more than half of the revenue for the Government, this has not been done in the Isle of Man. Perhaps it has not been done because of the lack of taxable incomes. On the other hand, a large portion of the indirect taxation is levied to provide this revenue in support of the Isle of Man.

That is contrary to the general tax and financial policy of the United Kingdom Government. Some arrangement ought to be reached whereby either the finances of the Isle of Man are completely under the control of the Island's representatives in an independent way—linked to the House of Commons but entirely under their own control—or this House of Commons, with representation from the Isle of Man, should have control over the whole tax and revenue raising system and over its expenditure.

If the present anomalous state continues in the form in which the Bill is promoted, it inevitably means that certain expenditures which ought to be made in the Isle of Man will be vetoed because there is not the revenue to support them. On the other hand, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) said, the Isle of Man provides for some of those who want to indulge in tax evasion a means of finding a lower rate of direct taxation than is levied on the mainland.

Therefore, I ask that a White Paper should be laid describing the present state of the negotiations between Her Majesty's Government and the Isle of Man. These asurances have been given on a number of occasions, but the House has been provided with no details. I say that with all respect to the Financial Secretary, who we know is assiduous and energetic in providing information to the House. I know, however, that the Financial Secretary, when he was in opposition, would never have accepted these bland assurances about secret negotiations which were given to Members of this House two years ago and again today.

Can we not now have a description not only in more detail of the accounts and finances of the Isle of Man, but what policies are promoted by these accounts; and what constitutional proposals Her Majesty's Government are putting forward to bring to an end the admittedly anomalous state of affairs which is revealed in the annual production of this Bill? I greatly sympathise with the Financial Secretary in his desire to divest himself of responsibility for this Bill. I think it would be a good thing to arrive at a state of affairs whereby these matters are discussed and settled elsewhere. But we cannot go on from year to year raising these questions and merely being given the answer that delicate negotiations are continuing and that the purpose of the Bill is to provide the revenues for the Isle of Man in the meantime.

May we therefore have from the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, who has been absent for some time and has now returned, and who, I presume, will reply to this debate, a clear and definite statement. Will he tell us what are the constitutional proposals which are being made in order to alter the present financial relationship between the United Kingdom and the Isle of Man which might make it unnecessary to present this Measure? The Joint Under-Secretary is occupied in a discussion at the moment with the Financial Secretary. I hope. if I may have his attention for a moment, that he will listen to that point. Will he give a definite answer whether we could, before Parliament rises for the Summer Recess, have a White Paper laid in this House which would give us quite clearly a description of the state of negotiations with the Isle of Man and the proposals being put forward by Her Majesty's Government in the present negotiations for bringing about a more satisfactory financial state of affairs?

1.23 p.m.

This is not the first time on which I have unfortunately found it necessary to address the House on matters connected with the Isle of Man. I hope that if the Government's assurances that something is to be done to clear up the situation are carried out this may possibly be the last occasion on which I shall find it necessary to address the House on such matters.

My hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Swingler) has very rightly referred to the stream of assurances that we have had from Government spokesmen from time to time that the financial relationship between the Isle of Man and the United Kingdom was to be clarified and put on to some permanent and satisfactory basis. We are still without any clear indication as to when that happy state of affairs will be reached, when the various assurances that have been given to us are to be honoured. The Home Secretary, in reply to a Question, on 27th November, 1952, stated:
"There has been much useful exploratory discussion, but there are still one or two matters of importance on which agreement has to be reached. I hope to discuss these with a delegation from Tynwald in due course."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th November, 1952; Vol. 508, c. 81.]
It will be observed that on 27th November, 1952, there were apparently only "one or two matters of importance" on which agreement had to be reached. It seems that either there were more than one or two such matters or that the one or two matters were of such importance that the negotiations have not yet come to a conclusion satisfactory to all the parties concerned.

Reference has been made to the difficulties that stand in the way of hon. Members in their desire to make themselves acquainted with the facts of the situation. The documents supposed to be available in the Library are deposited at a very late date, and the time does not really permit an hon. Member who seeks to discharge his duties conscientiously to acquaint himself as fully as he would like with all the factors in the case.

I refer to the Provisional General Account for 1953–54, which was deposited in the Library only on 5th July—11 days ago—and there are apparently only two copies of this document so deposited for the information of hon. Members. There is a note attached to these documents by a Government official which indicates that that information might be required by hon. Members in connection with the debate on the Isle of Man (Customs) Bill.

The accounts of the Isle of Man are not of such vast magnitude as to make it impossible for them to be deposited in the House of Commons Library by the Treasury or the Home Office at a much earlier date than has been the custom in previous years and as is the case this year.

Furthermore, as my hon. Friend suggests, there is no reason why these documents should not be printed. They are not very extensive in character, and would not add very largely to the bulk of the documents already available to hon. Members in respect of other subjects.

I had an opportunity of examining the Provisional General Account for 1953–54, and that examination prompts me to make the following observations. Apparently the total account, with balances in hand, at the beginning of the year and the end of the year, does not amount to more than £2,494,000. That seems to me to be an additional reason why, in view of the comparative smallness of the figures involved, these accounts should be deposited or available to hon. Members much earlier than is the case at present.

One item which really puzzles me is that included on the income side of these provisional accounts. There occurs this item "Miscellaneous insular receipts." That item amounts to £136,000. There is an interesting, almost suspicious footnote to the account which indicates that out of these miscellaneous insular receipts only £4,248 have been received to date. I consider that this House, which still has a certain financial responsibility in the matter, is entitled to know how it comes about that, out of a total sum of £136,000 from the miscellaneous insular receipts, apparently only £4,248 has been received to date, leaving well over £130,000 in the pockets of unspecified individuals whose identity is not disclosed.

On the expenditure side of these Customs accounts, we see that in the year 1953–54 there is included an item of expenditure entitled, "Contribution to Imperial Exchequer in respect of the year 1952–3." As the House knows, that is the sum of £10,000, the contribution to the Imperial Exchequer for Imperial purposes. I do not understand why it is impossible for the Isle of Man authorities to let us have this small contribution during the financial year in which it accrues and not pay it a long time after it has become due.

There is a further item to which I wish to draw attention and to which I think I am entitled to take even stronger objection. The Home Secretary informed the House on 21st July, 1953, in answer to a Question from my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West:
"Under the Isle of Man Customs, Harbours and Public Purposes Act, 1866, the sum of £10,000 is paid annually into the Consolidated Fund of the United Kingdom out of the insular customs duties collected by the United Kingdom Customs. In 1949 Tynwald resolved to increase this sum for a period of five years in respect of Imperial defence and other common services to an amount equal to 5 per cent. of the principal insular Customs receipts."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st July, 1953; Vol. 518, c. 31.]
Those of us who read that statement accepted it as a step forward, as a more generous appreciation by the people of the Isle of Man of their responsibilities towards the Imperial Exchequer. But when we examine the accounts for 1953–54 we find that the Isle of Man authorities held in suspense for the years 1950–51, 1951–52 and 1952–53 no less a sum than £260,000 which, according to the Home Secretary, the Tynwald had agreed to increase for a period of five years—

I do not know how far it is in order to discuss something that may be voted by the Tynwald. That does not come under this Bill.

My submission to you, Sir, is that these moneys are collected, or become available, out of the Customs revenues of the Isle of Man which we are discussing under this Bill.

I understood that the hon. and gallant Gentleman was dividing his argument into two parts; that there were two sums of money, one due under the Customs, which it would be in order to discuss, and one under a resolution by the Tynwald.

With respect, that is precisely the subject which we are discussing. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury opened the matter by saying that although the Isle of Man were paying only £10,000 to this country per year in exchange for the duties which we are voting under this Bill, by a Resolution of 15th November, 1949, Tynwald had agreed to increase that sum to something like £80,000, and this year £98,000, being 5 per cent. on the very duties we are now voting. In other words, the whole subject we are now discussing, or at least one of the most important subjects we are discussing, is whether there is a fair reciprocity in the assessment of the payment by Tynwald, and if we are justified in granting these duties to the Isle of Man, having regard to the Resolution of 1949. There are many other subjects, but I suggest that that is the central subject.

The central subject seems to me to be the question of entitlement. Any subject of reciprocity may come under that question but the terms of a Resolution by Tynwald would not appear to.

This is out of the customs we are called on to vote. Tynwald has said, "If you give us these customs we will, by Resolution, give you back 5 per cent. after deducting the cost of collection." The figure, assessed on their figures, is roughly £2 million. The cost of collection amounts to £27,000 and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton) is now referring to the 5 per cent. which will come back to this country as the estimated contribution which the Isle of Man should make to our budgetary costs, having regard to the grant which we are making.

The matter of the customs amount is quite clear, but the Resolution of Tynwald does not appear to me to be a matter which we can discuss.

Whether or not the Resolution of Tynwald comes within the discussable jurisdiction of this House, the point I was trying to make—.apparently not very effectively—was that under this Bill we are asked to allow the Isle of Man certain customs revenue. We have been given to understand that out of the customs that we are asked to approve and which we authorise the authorities in the Isle of Man to collect, the United Kingdom Consolidated Fund shall receive a certain amount.

In the Customs Accounts, in the latest available figures deposited in the Library on 5th July last, it is made clear that a sum of £260,000 which has already accrued and become due to the United Kingdom Consolidated Fund, has not yet reached the Treasury.

This sum is still held in the Isle of Man, and in those circumstances it would be legitimate for hon. Members to put forward the proposition that, until these accumulated funds held in suspense by the Isle of Man authorities are transferred to this country, we do not propose to continue to allow the authorities there to collect any more Customs at all. That would be a tenable argument to put forward if, which apparently is not the case, the finances of the United Kingdom were in such a precarious state as to make it necessary that this £260,000 should be paid forthwith. I will not dwell any longer upon that point, but I think it one to which it is legitimate to refer.

The Accountant and Comptroller General who has prepared the accounts to which I referred says that those amounts held in suspense are equivalent to 5 per cent. of the total net duties and the payment to the Imperial Exchequer depends upon—and here I come to the point that you were making a few moments ago Mr. Deputy-Speaker—the passing of an Act in the Tynwald to give effect to the resolution of November, 1949. The point I want to make is that in the statement by the Home Secretary on 21st July, 1953, there was no indication that we should have to wait as long as we have, in fact, been waiting for this money to reach the country. In the meantime, the sum of £10,000 only is being paid and the rest of the money which continues to accumulate—during 1953 and 1954 a further £98,000 has accumulated—is being held in suspense.

My hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Swingler) referred to the inequity as between the financial burdens borne by the citizens of the United Kingdom and the financial and fiscal burdens borne by the citizens of the Isle of Man. In that connection it is appropriate to point out that, again to quote the Home Secretary:
"…the cost of defence borne by the people of the United Kingdom for the year 1952–53…per head of the population is approximately £31 10s. The increased amount payable by the Isle of Man in respect of the year 1952–53 is estimated to be £92,354 which, divided by the population of the Isle of Man, yields a quotient of about £1 14s. per head."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st July, 1953; Vol. 518, c. 31.]
In other words, we are faced with a situation in which the citizens of this country bear a burden in respect of defence which is something like 18 or 19 times as much as that borne by the citizens of the Isle of Man. The Isle of Man is just as much defended as a result of our defence expenditure as any other part of the United Kingdom.

In these circumstances, it is not too much to expect that the obligations which the Isle of Man authorities have to discharge out of the Customs revenues which we are discussing today should be made much more promptly to the advantage of the Exchequer. There are many other points to which reference should be made but other hon. Members wish to take part in the debate. Last year, the equivalent Bill went through "on the nod" on Second Reading, Committee, Report and Third Reading. In the interest of good financial control and the democratic process it is not desirable that the Government should be allowed to think that every year a similar Bill should go through in this way.

Therefore, I suggest that the contributions made by my hon. Friends in their legitimate desire to obtain further information will serve a useful purpose, especially if the Joint Under-Secretary is in a position to give us the satisfaction to which we, as representatives of the taxpayers, are entitled.

1.45 p.m

In winding up the debate—

In what? On a point of order. Do I understand, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that the Joint Under-Secretary is having the impertinence to announce the termination of the debate although several hon. Members rose to their feet to speak? What right has he to assume that he would be permitted to do so?

May I assume that there will be a right of reply from this side of the House?

If the right hon. Gentleman had risen to speak before me, I would not have wished to be called myself. We have not yet had the advantage of the expression of the official Opposition view. Indeed, if the right hon. Gentleman wishes to speak now I will, of course, give way.

May I ask what is the difference between an official and an unofficial Opposition?

I called the Joint Under-Secretary. and after that there cannot be any giving way.

On a point of order. The Joint Under-Secretary referred to the views of the official Opposition. We have been discussing an Amendment for the rejection of the Bill, in the name of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing). I should be grateful if the hon. Gentleman would tell us how he differentiates between the official and the unofficial Opposition and whether it depends upon a Gangway.

I was not seeking to draw a line across the Opposition. I referred to the official views of the Opposition, meaning the views as expressed from the Front Opposition Bench. We have not yet heard them and it would have assisted the House if we could have had them at an earlier stage. I do not complain. I am merely stating a fact.

May I explain that we are ready to speak from this side, but my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) rose and I thought that perhaps it would be much fairer to him if he could speak before I did. I was willing to speak before the Joint Under-Secretary of State.

That may be so, but the right hon. Gentleman did not rise.

I will try to answer the points which have been made without coming into conflict with the Rulings which you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and Mr. Speaker have given from time to time during the debate. The Isle of Man is correctly, and, I think appropriately, described as a Peculiar of the Crown. It is not a part of the United Kingdom and it enjoys a considerable measure of independence.

It has its own Parliament, the Tynwald, and, although I do not wish to go into detail, it might be well to remind the House that that consists of the House of Keys, which is an elected body, and a second chamber called the Legislative Council of which the chairman is the Lieutenant-Governor, who is appointed by the Queen on the advice of the Home Secretary. It has some ex-officio members and some members elected by the House of Keys. Putting it very shortly, that is the constitutional position. This is certainly not an occasion for any general discussion of the constitution and the powers of the Government of the Isle of Man.

Surely in fairness to the House the hon. Gentleman should say that the Lieutenant-Governor has two votes and—

Order. I was on the point of intervening. I thought that the hon. Gentleman had gone quite far enough and should go no further.

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Surely it is rather unfair of the Joint Under-Secretary not to tell the House that there is an official majority in the Legislative Council? That is really the important matter. All the Joint Under-Secretary has done is to say something which is merely misleading.

Further to the point of order. Surely it would be in order for the Joint Under-Secretary to describe any constitutional proposals being considered by the Government which would alter the financial relationship between the United Kingdom and the Isle of Man, including the contents of the Bill?

Further to the point of order. Surely what we are discussing is not merely the contents of the Bill but what may be put into the Bill in Committee. This is the Second Reading.

As long as a matter is relevant to the Bill it may be discussed, but we cannot put the constitution of the Isle of Man into the Bill.

Further to the point of order. Surely, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that is exactly what one can put into the Bill. The Bill is made by virtue of the Isle of Man Customs, Harbours, and General Purposes Act, 1866. The provision Contained therein is that we shall enact in the Bill in the first place the resolutions of the Tynwald Court. The Tynwald Court consists of two halves, which vote separately on propositions put before the Tynwald Court.

Further to the point of order. Twice in the course of considering the Bill the House has been told that negotiations are going on which may alter the financial relationship between the Government and the Isle of Man, but we have not been told what the negotiations are.

My point of order is whether the Joint Under-Secretary is in order, as there has been reference to negotiations, in telling the House what the Government's proposals for the future are.

It is not for me to say what the hon. Gentleman's speech shall contain.

I hate to delay the hon. Gentleman by putting a further point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but it seems to me that the matter under discussion—you were not here when it was moved—is an Amendment which I moved and which was supported by a number of my hon. Friends, which provides:

"That this House declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill which, while providing the greater part of the revenues of the Isle of Man, does not permit Parliamentary control over the expenditure of the sums voted by Parliament."
We want to know whether the Legislative Council which has to approve any financial resolution is controlled directly by the Home Secretary. We want to know whether we have some Parliamentary control. We should like to hear what the Joint Under-Secretary has to say about that.

Further to the point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I notice that in Clause 5 (2) of the Bill there is reference to powers conferred on the Governor to make orders varying or repealing Customs Duties. In substance, the subsection goes on to continue that power. That is a very material provision of the Bill. I submit that the machinery under which those arrangements are made or may in future be made by the Governor may be material, and if it proves that the Home Secretary has in any way to depend on the consent of the Tynwald, that too is material to the subject under discussion.

What relates to the Customs and the arrangements for the collection of the payments of the Customs Duties is relevant, but the constitution of the Tynwald is not relevant.

Further to the point of order. The right hon. and learned Member for Kensington, South (Sir P. Spens) based his qualified approval of a Second Reading being given to the Bill on the ground that he had found out that the Tynwald has passed resolutions approving the duties. The point which I desire to make, and which must be made, is that the Tynwald is more or less constitutionally bound to pass resolutions implementing the Chancellor of the Exchequer's proposals in this House. Otherwise, the Bill would become a nullity and impracticable. Therefore, we are entitled to refer to the present constitution of the Tynwald, to the powers of the Executive Council and to the resolution which they passed approving the duties, which is an essential preliminary to the Bill and which would involve the whole House in a grave constitutional crisis if it were not passed.

I do not believe that we could extend the debate on the Bill on Second Reading to the whole wide issue. It is for the House to hear what the Joint Under-Secretary has to say.

Further to the point of order. It seems to me that the constitutional difficulty that we are in at the moment—it would be most unfortunate if the House were to take up the position—is that it has long been accepted—ever since 1866—that before even the House can discuss the Bill there must be deposited in the Library the resolutions of Tynwald, upon which the Clauses of the Bill are founded, and it has been an understood convention—

On a point of order. I believe, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that a number of the points which hon. Members have raised are, so to speak, within the Ruling which you have given, and I was proposing, so far as they were within that Ruling, to deal with them in the course of my reply. It might shorten the debate if I could proceed with my speech, and if by any chance I overstep the bounds of what is proper, you will no doubt call me to order.

This is certainly not an occasion for a general discussion of the constitution and the powers of the Government of the Isle of Man. On the other hand, the Bill deals with Customs Duties to be levied in the current year in the island, and the Amendment refers to Parliamentary control over the expenditure of the sums involved. It is, therefore, essential that I should state very briefly the background. I have stated how the Parliament of the Isle of Man is made up.

I think it would be right if I dealt very quickly with the broad question of finance by saying that Income Tax, which is, of course, not covered by the Bill, is levied by Tynwald subject to the approval of the Treasury and to an Order-in-Council being made—in other words, to the Royal Assent—and that all other revenue matters, with the exception of Customs, are dealt with similarly. I refer to that, because the collection of Customs is dealt with in a special way, and that is the reason for the Bill being brought forward.

The collection of Customs is governed by the Isle of Man (Customs) Act. The procedure is that the Lieutenant Governor lays the requisite resolutions before Tynwald. If the resolutions are passed by Tynwald, they take effect from the date stated for a period of six months. They lapse at the end of six months unless an Act embodying them is passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom.

In this case certain resolutions have been laid and have been passed by Tynwald, and they are now incorporated in the Bill before the House. It is in order to enable the resolutions to remain effective for a longer period than six months that we are asking the House to pass the Bill. The procedure has some general similarity to another procedure with which we are familiar, the procedure under the Bowles Act—

Could the Joint Under-Secretary, with the permission of the House, give the cost of the police, the Civil Service and the judiciary coming under the resolutions of the Tynwald?

That would be going too far afield. I am trying to give the House a broad picture—

On a point of order. Surely that is a point with which the Amendment deals, for it says:

"…while providing the greater part of the revenues of the Isle of Man, does not permit Parliamentary control over the expenditure of the sums voted by Parliament."
My hon. Friend merely asked how the sums that we are voting were going to be devoted, whether they would be spent in paying the Admiral of the Herring Fleet or what are the ways in which they will be dispensed. Surely we ought to have an answer?

There is control by Parliament over the Votes, but Parliament has no control over the resolutions of the Tynwald.

The machinery is certainly somewhat complicated. It is the result of a compromise, designed, on the one hand, to preserve the independence of the island, and, on the other, to prevent the particular danger of smuggling, which has existed in the past, and it is not only the islanders who are concerned in that direction.

There has been a feeling in the island that the present financial arrangements are not altogether satisfactory, and I think that that feeling has been shared generally by all who are concerned in this matter. There are a great number of difficulties, and hon. Members have drawn attention to some of them. Some are of a fairly minor character; the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) drew attention to difficulties arising over the accounts.

Of course, it is irksome for the Isle of Man Government to have to get Treasury approval in all financial matters, and especially for small items of expenditure which usually go through "on the nod." Discussions with a view to meeting that situation were started a long time ago—

It was in 1944 that they were started. In 1951, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) suggested that Tynwald should send a deputation to discuss the situation in general, and I have no doubt that he remembers the occasion. Shortly after that suggestion was made, there were General Elections both in this country and the Isle of Man, and that in itself caused some delay. However, my right hon. and learned Friend sent a renewal of the invitation, as the House was informed on a previous occasion, shortly after the General Election of 1951.

It cannot be denied that progress has been slow, but I think it is fair to remind the House that these are matters of supreme importance to a small insular community. We may think here that they are not so important, but to those directly affected these are among the most important matters that they have to consider, and it would therefore be wrong to expect them to make up their minds about them over-night. I think it is fair that I should make that point.

It is also fair to point out that this insular community, as is usually the case with all communities of that kind, shows a certain natural caution, of which we ourselves are proud in this country. I am told that there is a saying in the Isle of Man—Traa dy Liooar—and I understand that the meaning of the phrase is "Time enough." I understand that those who visit the island hear that phrase fairly frequently, and perhaps it does indicate the general attitude of the island to life.

I hope the House will agree that negotiations of this kind cannot be hurried. There has been a suggestion that we should put pressure upon the Manx Government to go faster than they really want to go, but I believe that that is undesirable and I do not think we should do so. My right hon. and learned Friend has reminded the Government of the Isle of Man that some time has passed, and in fact that reminder resulted in a deputation coming from Tynwald to meet my right hon. and learned Friend last month. I think it is right to point out that that deputation was arranged and came here before any sort of Amendment to this Bill was put on the Order Paper, and it would not be right for it to be thought that Tynwald has been browbeaten or cajoled by what hon. Members opposite, or indeed anyone in this House have said.

There was a very full and frank discussion on the various problems—and indeed they are manifold—which exist, and a very substantial measure of agreement was reached between the Home Secretary and the deputation from Tynwald. in particular, it was agreed in principle that resolutions of Tynwald imposing Customs Duties in the Isle of Man should not require confirmation by annual Acts of Parliament in the United Kingdom. That has now been agreed in principle between those concerned, but, of course, in order to implement it, legislation will be necessary, both here in Westminster and in the Isle of Man, and that legislation will not be possible until there is agreement over a very much wider field, for reasons which were indicated by the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch and others who have spoken in the debate.

I can tell the House that the examination of outstanding problems is proceeding, and that there are reasonable grounds for hoping that it will be possible fully to satisfy the aspirations of the islanders without prejudice to the interests of the United Kingdom. I think it is right that I should say that any suggestion that the social and public services of the island are not satisfactory is quite unfounded. That has been suggested, and it is right that I should answer the point. The social and public services of the island are in fact closely modelled on those of the United Kingdom, and I believe that, in one or two respects, they can he said to be ahead of ours.

On the question of the negotiations, may I ask the hon. Gentleman whether, in view of the fact that agreement has been reached on a number of points, he is prepared to publish a Paper showing what measure of agreement has now been reached as a result of these protracted negotiations and what problems still remain to be solved?

I do not think that would be a very satisfactory way of carrying on these negotiations. I do not think it would serve any useful purpose. I have said that one very important agreement has been reached, and that we are going ahead and hope to reach complete agreement on all these matters.

Perhaps I may add in this connection that it has been agreed that the question of the Imperial contribution shall be reviewed next year, when the present arrangement expires. That is not a final agreement, but it has been agreed that it will be reviewed then, when the present arrangements come to an end.

I think the House will see that there are two courses open to us. There is either the possibility of voluntary agreement, accepted by both sides, or some imposed arrangement. I need not say more, because everyone in this House will hope and believe that we can come to a satisfactory voluntary agreement. There is certainly good will and there is certainly determination to reach a satisfactory end on both sides, and I hope that the House, by giving a unanimous Second Reading to this Bill, will do something to encourage that process.

rose in his place and claimed to move," That the Question be now put."

Question put, "That the Question be now put."

The House proceeded to a Division—

On a point of order. Is there any precedent. Mr. Speaker, on a Bill which has been described by both Government Front Bench speakers as of constitutional importance, for the Closure to be

Division No. 203.]


[2.10 p.m

Aitken, W. T.Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.Johnson, Eric (Blackley)
Alport, C. J. M.Dugdale, Rt. Hon. Sir T. (Richmond)Jones, A. (Hall Green)
Amory, Rt. Hon. Heathcoat (Tiverton)Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir D. M.Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W
Arbuthnot, JohnEden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West)Kerby, Capt. H. B.
Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.)Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.Kerr, H. W.
Astor, Hon. J. J.Fell, A.Lambert, Hon. G.
Baldwin, A. E.Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. FLegge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport)Fletcher-Cooke, C.Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T.
Bishop, F. P.Fort, R.Linstead, Sir H. N.
Bossom, Sir A. C.Garner-Evans, E. H.Lloyd, Rt. Hon. G. (King's Norton)
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A.Gough, C. F. HLloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)
Boyle, Sir EdwardHarris, Frederic (Croydon, N.)Lookwood, Lt.-Col. J. C.
Braine, B. R.Harris, Reader (Heston)Longden, Gilbert
Braithwaite, Sir GurneyHarrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)Low, A. R. W.
Brooke, Henry (Hampstead)Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macclesfield)Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)
Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. THarvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)
Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.Hay, JohnLucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh
Burden, F. F. A.Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir LionelMaclay, Rt. Hon. John
Butcher, Sir HerbertHeath, EdwardMacleod, Rt. Hon. Iain (Enfield, W)
Campbell, Sir DavidHiggs, J. M. CMaitland, Patrick (Lanark)
Carr, RobertHirst, GeoffreyMarples, A. E.
Cary, Sir RobertHolland-Martin, C. J.Maydon, Lt.-Comdr S. L. C
Channon, H.Hollis, M. C.Medlicott, Brig. F.
Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)Hopkinson, Rt. Hon. HenryMellor, Sir John
Cole, NormanHornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.Monckton, Rt. Hon Sir Walter
Conant, Maj. Sir RogerHoward, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)Moore, Sir Thomas
Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.
Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.Hyde, Lt.-Col. H. M.Nabarro, G. D. N.
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.Hylton-Foster. H. B. HNeave, Airey
Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)Iremonger, T. L.Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.)
Digby, S. WingfieldJenkins, Robert (Dulwich)Nield, Basil (Chester)

accepted before there has been a speech at all from the Front Opposition Bench? Secondly, I respectfully ask you whether you are aware that at least 90 or 100 Members have arrived in the last quarter of an hour. Is it to be understood that an appointment was made in advance with Government supporters, saying that the Closure would be accepted by the Chair?

There is no point of order in that. If the hon. Member has any criticism of the Chair, he should put it down in the proper form of a Motion.

Is there any precedent for the Closure being accepted on a constitutional Measure without permitting the Front Opposition Bench to make any observations at all, particularly as my right hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall) rose to his feet as the Under-Secretary of State sat down, and as Mr. Deputy-Speaker said that there would be an opportunity to continue the debate?

The hon. Member is asking me to search my mind for precedents. It has nothing to do with the Question before the House, which is. "That the Question be now put."

The House divided: Ayes, 146: Noes, 40.

Nugent, G. R. HRobertson, Sir DavidTurner, H. F. L
Nutting, AnthonyRopner, Col. Sir LeonardVene, W. M. F.
O'Neill, Hon. Phelim (Co. Antrim. N)Russell, R. S.Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.
Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. DRyder, Capt. R. E. D.Vosper, D. F.
Orr, Capt L. P. S.Scott, R. DonaldWakefield, Sir Wavell (St. Marylebone)
Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Weston-super-Mare)Shepherd, WilliamWalker-Smith, D. C.
Page, R. G.Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)Wall, Major Patrick
Partridge, E.Smithers, Peter (Winchester)Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)
Perkins, Sir RobertSmithers, Sir Waldron (Orpington)Wellwood, W.
Pitman, L. J.Snadden, W. McN.Williams, Rt. Hon. Charles (Torquay)
Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)Spans, Rt. Hon. Sir P. (Kensington, S.)Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)
Prior-Palmer, Brig O. LStevens, GeoffreyWilliams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Profumo, J. D.Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)William, R. Dudley (Exeter)
Raikes, Sir VictorStrauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)Wills, G.
Redmayne, M.Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. P. L. (Hereford)Wood, Hon. R.
Remnant, Hon. P.Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)
Renton D. L. M.Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W.)TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Ridsdale, J. E.Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N.Mr. Robert Allan and Mr. Legh.
Roberts, Peter (Heeley)Touche, Sir Gordon


Bing, G. H. C.Hynd, H. (Accrington)Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)
Bowen, E. R.Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)
Castle, Mrs. B. A.Jegar, Mrs. LenaSnow, J. W.
Champion, A. J.Jones, Jack (Rotherham)Swingler, S. T.
Davies, Harold (Leek)Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.Taylor, John (West Lothian)
de Freitas, GeoffreyMacColl, J. E.Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)Willey, F. T.
Follick, M.Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)
Grimond, J.Mitchison, G. R.Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Hale, LeslieMorley, R.Younger, Rt. Hon. K.
Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)Pargiter, G. A.
Hastings, S.Parker, JTELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Rowley Regis)Plummer, Sir LeslieMr. James Johnson and
Holman, P.Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)Mr. Wallace.
Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)Reid, William (Camlachie)

Question put, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

On a point of order. Surely, Mr. Speaker, I understood you to accept the Amendment which I moved.

The House has decided the Question, but I should have put it the other way, and I am obliged to the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing). The Question I must put is," That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

On a point of order. Do we understand now that we have accepted both the Bill and the Amendment of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing)?

It is provided by Standing Order 37 that when an Amendment is moved to the Motion for the Second Reading, the Question is put in the form, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question." If that Question is carried in the affirmative, the Bill is declared by the Chair to have been read a Second time without further Question.

With some reluctance, I wish to put another point arising on the Bill. The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department made a very important statement in his winding-up speech, the effect of which was, I gathered, that this is the last Bill of the kind that we shall get. That being so, and as it is a matter that should be further considered, and as in the ordinary course of events we may not be able to discuss it in Committee, I would ask your advice. What other possibilities and what other occasions are there on the Bill when we might discuss in any detail—up to now we have not been able to discuss it in any shape or form—the statement made by the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department?

The right hon. Gentleman ought to consider the matter himself. I think that he can advise himself as well as I can as to what opportunities there are for Parliamentary discussion of this matter. The Bill is fundamentally a Customs Bill. I allowed the discussion to go rather beyond the narrow limits of a Customs Bill on this occasion as it seemed to be the general desire of the House. But now that the Bill has been read a Second Time and there are further stages of it to come, I would not prejudge what would be in order on these further stages. The right hon. Gentleman can consider the matter, and, if he thinks it of sufficient importance, perhaps he will put down a Motion, or perhaps some other opportunity will be sought for discussing the matter further.

Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[ Mr. Redmayne]

Committee upon Monday next.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The final stages of the Bill are all set down for one particular day. I am quite certain, in view of the statements made be, the Joint Under-Secretary, and which the House was unfortunately unable to debate, that hon. Members will wish to put down a Motion on Third Reading. In these circumstances, would it be proper, Mr. Speaker, to have printed in italics on the Order Paper a Motion on Third Reading which would enable us to discuss the statement made by the Joint Under-Secretary and thus give the Government some warning of what hon. Members have in mind in order that the Government may not be taken by surprise when the Third Reading is resisted?

No Motion on the Third Reading would be in order before the Committee stage is concluded. Therefore, I would be anticipating events were I to answer the hon. and learned Gentleman.

Gas And Electricity (Borrowing Powers) Money

Resolution reported,

That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to increase the limits imposed by section thirty-nine of the Electricity Act, 1947, on the amount outstanding in respect of borrowings of the British Electricity Authority and Area Electricity Boards and by section forty-two of the Gas Act, 1948, on the amount outstanding in respect of borrowings of the Gas Council and Area Gas Boards, it is expedient to authorise such increased charges on the Consolidated Fund and payments into the Exchequer under the said Acts of 1947 and 1948 as may, by reason of the Treasury's power under those Acts to give guarantees in connection with the borrowings in question, result from increasing the said limits in the case of the said Act of 1947 from seven hundred million pounds to fourteen hundred million pounds, and in the case of the said Act of 1948 from two hundred and fifty million pounds to four hundred and fifty million pounds.

Resolution read a Second time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."

2.22 p.m.

I am sorry to delay the House on this matter, but I think that this Resolution is so badly drafted and so unclear in its meaning that this is one occasion on which the House ought not to accept the decision of the Committee in the matter.

May I call the attention of the Minister who will no doubt deal with it to the actual wording of the Resolution and invite him to explain to the House exactly what it means, because, with great respect to those hon. Friends of mine who have given this matter considerable thought, we have not been able to make out what it means.

One would normally expect the Minister to speak first, and then for some reply to be made from the Opposition Front Bench. But now, apparently, that such a procedure is considered improper, it falls to a humble back bencher to raise these matters in the first place in order to give the Minister an opportunity of replying. If hon. Members will refer to the text of the Resolution, they will see that it says:
"That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to increase the limits imposed by section thirty-nine of the Electricity Act, 1947"—
That is common form, and then it goes on to say—and this is the part on which I should like some explanation from the hon. Gentleman, because it is most abscure and was not discussed when we dealt with the matter earlier,
"on the amount outstanding in respect of borrowings, of the British Electricity Authority and Area Electricity Boards and by section forty-two of the Gas Act, 1948, on the amount outstanding in respect of borrowings of the Gas Council and Area Gas Boards…"
One of those statements taken by itself is perfectly comprehensible, but when the two are put together in this form, it requires some rather more fuller explanation than we have so far received. It is the duty of this House to be particularly careful in matters of finance, and I should have thought that hon. Gentlemen opposite, having come to power on a policy of economy, would make it clear what money they are asking Parliament to vote. It appears to me that by drafting the Money Resolution in this way it is quite unclear to the House what it is that it is being asked to vote.

The Resolution goes on to say:

"It is expedient to authorise such increased charges on the Consolidated Fund and payments into the Exchequer under the said Acts of 1947 and 1948 as may, by reason of the Treasury's power under those Acts to give guarantees in connection with the borrowings in question…"

To which of those borrowings does it refer? We are, I think, entitled to have some reasonable explanation from the Minister as to the meaning of these words. The Resolution continues:

"results from increasing the said limits in the case of the said Act of 1947 from seven hundred million pounds to fourteen hundred million pounds, and in the case of the said Act of 1948 from two hundred and fifty million pounds to four hundred and fifty million pounds."

On which of those amounts is that outstanding? That is really the question to which it would be valuable if we could have some answer from the Minister. I hope that before we pass from the Report stage of the Financial Resolution we shall have a clear explanation of it from the Minister.

I suggest that it is a very extraordinary thing that after we have spent same time criticising the expenditure of a much smaller amount, we should come to the stage later in the day when the Minister does not think it worth while to rise in order to say something about an expenditure of £900 million.

If I recollect the debate of last Friday correctly, the expenditure was very strongly criticised by the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro), who is, unfortunately, not now in his place to support us in raising this matter.

If I go to my bankers and ask for £500, I am received with a dubiety which, I am told, has nothing to do with my personal integrity, but which is entirely due to instructions received from the Exchequer which says that it is injurious to the finances of the country that overdrafts should be increased or loans made on personal security.

Now we are being asked, without so much as a nod of the head from the Minister, to authorise a grant of £900 million. We are being asked to authorise the raising, by the two great and important authorities, of this extra money. Those of us who have a care for the public exchequer feel that some explanation should be given.

When the right hon. Gentleman rose to move the Second Reading of this Bill, he began with the most lavish tributes to the electricity and gas industries and to the steps that they had taken. He said that a reduction in the use of coal had been effected by this method, and that he hoped, by the granting of these large sums, that still further economies would be effected, while at the same time productivity was expanded. He referred to the fact that in America the increase in the consumption of electricity is about 10 times what it is in this country although America has only a population three times the size of ours. He was strongly in favour of the development of the productive capacity of electricity, both for business and for domestic consumption. He referred specifically to the use of labour-saving appliances in the home as desirable, in addition to the necessity for expanding so that we could increase the productivity of the country. Then, quite suddenly, at the end he announced that he had agreed to appoint a committee to review the whole operation of nationalised electricity and nationalised gas.

It is very extraordinary that the Minister should come forward and say, "I want to double the amount of loans available to both these nationalised industries, and, at the same time, I propose to conduct an inquiry to see that they are being properly run." One would have thought that before being asked to give complete carte blanche for a sum of £900 million, we should be told for what period it is to be borrowed, how far the House could go back on such a decision, when it is expected that the report of the committee will be forthcoming, what is the ambit of the terms of reference of this committee with regard to capital expenditure, and to what extent it will consider the development of the two industries and the amount of capital development that can be absorbed by them.

2.30 p.m.

Until we have that information I suggest that it is premature for the Minister to ask us to consider this Money Resolution—and to have to consider it with no information at all is an affront to the House. We are falling into the habit of finding, day-by-day, Ministers coming to the House who have not read their briefs and who expect things to go through on the nod and appear to have some assurance that business will go through without criticism. I exempt the Minister of Agriculture from that charge; he does not expect business to pass through without criticism, but most Ministers seem to think that they can propose some action and have it accepted without any discussion of any kind.

Surely this is a proposal of great importance. It is intended to cover very many years and it will mean a complete alteration of the planning of our industry as it proceeds. I imagine that the Minister is quite familiar with the report on materials prepared by a committee in America which makes it perfectly clear that a survey of the available raw materials is a vital matter in this connection. The right hon. Gentleman will not suggest, however much he improves the economies made in the use of coal, that he will not need more coal as this capital development goes through. No matter what economies he makes, he will use more coal in the end. From where is that coal to come? Is the right hon. Gentleman taking any steps to recruit more men into the mining industry? Or are we to spend money on these gas and electricity production plans without having arranged for the supply of the necessary fuel? That is the sort of thing which has happened in the past.

I ask the Minister to remember that the House is sitting this afternoon at some inconvenience. Most of us want to get to our constituencies tonight but we are here because we feel that we should not allow the Leader of the House to put on the Order Paper a whole mass of subjects on the assumption that they will be passed on the nod and without discussion. I ask the Minister to tell us what his intentions are with this £950 million, and whether they are honourable. What effect will the appointment of this Committee have upon the development plans which he envisages? Are the development plans to be held up until the Committee has reported or are they to go forward notwithstanding the possibility that the Committee may report against them?

Is it necessary that the House should at the moment vote the whole of this sum, which is to cover many years and which is to be guaranteed by the Treasury, as I understand it, at the cost of the Consolidated Fund? It seems to me that the Minister is taking a very large step in a very small Bill without placing much information before the House and I ask him to give us all the information that he can.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Fuel and Power
(Mr. L. W. Joynson-Hicks)

The hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) has asked for a reply to the questions which he put. If I were to follow him into the complete story which he sought to have disclosed to the House upon the Report stage of the Money Resolution, I am sure that I should be incurring the displeasure of the Chair. The answer to most of his questions were, of course, given on Second Reading of the Bill.

There will be plenty of opportunity during the further consideration of the Bill, in the event of the hon. Member wishing to pursue the matter, for my right hon. Friend or myself to answer the questions which he seeks to pose.

Perhaps I may deal with the main question of the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) who confined himself to the Money Resolution. If the hon. and learned Gentleman studies the wording he will see quite clearly to what it refers. This Money Resolution is the machinery for enabling the Bill itself to be rendered effective. The Treasury guarantee is being increased in order to meet the borrowing powers which will be sanctioned by the Minister, as stated last week, with the approval of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Those powers will be increased from the £700 million contained in the pre vious Act in the case of electricity, that sum having been approximately exhausted, to £1,400 million for the future: and in the case of gas, from the £250 million contained in the previous Act—a sum which is now virtually exhausted—to £450 million for the future. That is all we are doing at the moment. If, at subsequent stages of the Bill, I can help hon. Members, I assure them that I will do so. I have not come unprepared to deal with these points. We are fully desirous of assisting the House in any way in which it requires assistance.

I cannot regard the Parliamentary Secretary's explanation as at all satisfactory. It boils down to this: he said the purpose of the Money Resolution was to provide a sum of money to enable the Bill to which it is attached to be operated. But that answer can be given to any question on any Money Resolution and it is only a little longer and more verbose than the answer which I was given by the Secretary of State for Scotland when I asked him why he was moving a Money Resolution in connection with a Bill in which he was interested.

The Parliamentary Secretary advanced, as an excuse for not dealing with the points put by my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham. West (Mr. Hale), the proposition that on Second Reading of the Bill last Friday all the information which my hon. Friend required was given. But that is not so. If the Parliamentary Secretary will refer to that part of his speech which dealt with the financial aspect of the matter, which he will find reported in columns 2593–4 of the OFFICIAL REPORT for 9th July, 1954, he will see exactly what he said. If I quote his words the House will see how inadequate were both his statement last week and his statement today. The hon. Gentleman said:
"I was asked whether these issues disrupt the money market. The answer is that the issue is not one of £900 million, the overall sum which is referred to in this request for borrowing powers, nor is it even the sum of £500 million to which my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-West referred. It was quite clearly set out by my right hon. Friend, who, when moving the Second Reading of the Bill earlier today, said that if the Bill becomes law
'it will enable me to sanction, with the approval of the Chancellor of the Ex chequer, the raising of such loans within such limits as may then be prescribed, as may be needed in my judgment to finance from time to time the capital works required in the nation's interests.'
That makes it quite dear that there is no question of an uncontrolled sum being thrown on to the market at an unforeseeable time, but that when these public issues are made, they are only made subject to the authorisation of my right hon. Friend and with the approval of the Chancellor of the Exchequer."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th July, 1954; Vol. 529, c. 2593–4.]
That is all the information that we have about this Resolution. The Parliamentary Secretary said it was not a matter of £900 million, not even a matter of £500 million. I suppose that if he were pressed he would move down a little and say that is was not a matter of £400 million, £300 million or £200 million—or where would he stop? The House is being asked to give, through this Money Resolution, an authority to raise such loans from time to time as may be needed in the judgment of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Fuel and Power.

We have not got the faintest idea of the period within which the Minister contemplates having to make use of the authority that this Money Resolution seeks to provide. I can see what happened. He did not expect, when the Leader of the House arranged for this matter to come on the Order Paper today, that he would have to do more than come here and just nod his head. He thought that would be the end of the business. Unfortunately, he has not had time to brief himself. He has not a piece of paper in his possession on the basis of which he can give any information at all. I have never seen a Treasury Bench look so bare of documents and papers as it is at the moment. Surely that entitles me to say that the Ministers have come here unprepared to give any information on this Money Resolution.

For those reasons, I protest in the strongest possible terms against this cavalier treatment of the House. We know that by the decision of the Government, Friday is a non-subsistence day, but nevertheless we are entitled to a little more substantial fare than has been provided for us by the Minister of Fuel and Power and the other representatives of the Government whom we see on the Front Bench this afternoon. The House is entitled to a higher standard of competence and respect from the Government spokesmen, particularly when they want us to give them the power to play around with £900 million. They want to do it on the nod on a Friday afternoon when there are few Members present.

I should like to associate myself with what has been said by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Horn-church (Mr. Bing) and my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale). Even if ours are the only three voices raised in protest against this extraordinary behaviour of the Government, we are justified in taking up the time of the House for a few moments to give vocal expression of our dissatisfaction.

The House is entitled to express its resentment at the offhand way in which the Parliamentary Secretary replied to the questions quite properly put by my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale). I have no doubt that when his chief replies later he will be able to give us some further information.

I associate myself with the questions that have already been put, but I approach this matter from a different angle. I am pleased that the borrowing powers of these bodies are being increased. I believe that the limitation was only applied in the first place because hon. Members opposite were a little scared about the possible success of the nationalised gas and electricity organisations, and they were trying to put some kind of limitation upon their activities. I think that it is a measure of their success that those limitations are now being reduced and that these bodies will have an opportunity to borrow much greater sums of money. To that extent we can regard this Bill as a compliment to the efficiency, initiative and success of these two great nationalised industries.

But there is a phrase in the Bill to the effect that the Treasury may guarantee the redemption or repayment of any interest on any such borrowings. That is something with which the House must concern itself. What protection is there going to be, first of all, to this House, and secondly to these nationalised concerns against some heavy financial calls under that part of the Bill? Whilst not sharing the financial theories of my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Norman Smith), I am a little apprehensive about the way in which the financial people in the City can manipulate these borrowings when they have to take place. It seems to me that there is a danger that when these nationalised bodies find themselves in the position of having to raise some additional capital, they may be forced to do it at a time when the money market declares that they have to pay more interest than they think they ought to pay, and that may result in the House having to find the money for this guarantee. I hope that when the Minister replies he will be able to give us some assurance on that point.

2.45 p.m.

I am delighted to see the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture here. (On the Second Reading the Minister said:

"It is rather interesting to see how during the last year capital investment was spread, particularly in comparison with other industries. Transport and communications—that includes the Post Office—took 11·9 per cent.; manufacturing industries took 23·6 per cent.; other industries took a total of over 10 per cent.; whereas housing…took no less than 27·3 per cent."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th July, 1954; Vol. 529, c. 2594.]
We welcome the extension of housing, but we have to watch the economy. What I object to is the offhanded way in which rural electrification is dealt with, particularly in relation to agriculture. We have had no explanation of the plans of the Government. It is essential—and this is not put forward in any cantankerous or jocular way—in this difficult transitional period to realise that all this talk of defence and protection disappears completely if, in this hydrogen bomb age, with radioactive seas, we cannot produce a modicum of food to keep the country going. A larger proportion of this capital investment should be allocated to rural electrification than is allocated at the moment. I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture to say something about this problem. Apparently, by the way he nods his head—

That is typical of the Conservative way—three years out of date. The real truth is that there is more disturbance in British agriculture today than there has ever been in its history—

Would the hon. Gentleman take the trouble to bring himself up to date by reading the statement which was put out by the British Electricity Authority in the last 48 hours, saying that the remaining 150,000 farms in the United Kingdom not at present electrified will be connected up in eight years, that is, by 1963?

Order. Both hon. Members are out of order. We are now dealing with the Report stage of the Money Resolution. That does not enable hon. Members to go hack over the Second Reading of the Bill.

It is exactly because of that that I did not raise that point. There is one other point which I think would be in order, and it is this. Do the Government think that they have enough capital investment in this hydrogen bomb age? Is the expansion of electricity to be above ground or below ground? If we go on with all this expansion of electrification and with all the apparatus—

This is my final sentence, Mr. Speaker, which I will try to keep in order. I hope that the Government will realise that they may not have enough capital investment for the development of electrification in an island which may be attacked by a hydrogen bomb.

I intervene briefly only because it is time that somebody said a kind word about the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary and because I am sure that my hon. Friends would not wish their criticism to be understood to be personal criticism of the right hon. Gentleman and his Parliamentary Secretary. We all know that the right hon. Gentleman is under savage attack from the 1922 Committee and it is significant that the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) has allowed this attack without saying a word.

We endeavour to raise these matters on Money Resolutions when we can because this Government do not believe planning. They have abandoned planning. The measure of planning is finance and it happens time after time that, when Departments think out schemes, they do not take into account the impact upon the national economy and so they are surprised if anyone suggests that we must look at the size of these things in financial terms and in terms of the national economy.

That is why my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) and my hon. Friends have raised this matter today, and that is why we are getting increasingly alive to the question of the Money Resolution. The party opposite who have spoken a lot of nonsense about economies never raise these points, and Money Resolutions go through without question. They have showed no vigilance on this matter, in spite of what they said at the time of the Election.

My other point is more significant. The critical question is whether the country can afford this capital construction. I hope I have made it clear that we are not especially critical of the right hon. Gentleman, but we are critical of the Government he serves and we intend to remain vigilant about these matters in order to ensure that they are properly thought out in terms of the national development and of what the country can, and ought, to afford.

Question put, and agreed to.

Gas And Electricity (Borrowing Powers) Bill

Considered in Committee.

[Sir CHARLES MACANDREW in the Chair]

Clause 1—(Extension Of Borrowing Powers)

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

2.52 p.m.

A few moments ago I referred to the absence of the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. G. Nabarro). I am glad to see that he is now in his place.

If the hon. Gentleman will allow me to interrupt, I have only taken 10 minutes away from the Chamber for essential sustenance, so his remark is a little invidious.

The presence of the hon. Gentleman has real significance because, in the course of the Second Reading debate, he concluded his speech by saying that he proposed to put down Amendments during the Committee stage of the Bill. It is unfortunate that the hon. Gentleman failed to keep that undertaking from the point of view of those of us who anticipated listening to his Amendments and having a full discussion on them. I suggest that when an hon. Gentleman gives a virtually clear undertaking of that kind, he ought to intimate why he has changed his mind and what were the reasons which induced it.

I will read the hon. Gentleman the words I used. I said:

"Probably in Committee I shall ask that we may consider reducing the sums voted so that there may be more regular Parliamentary accountability and scrutiny as to how these large sums of capital are to be spent."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th July, 1954 Vol. 529, c. 2578.]
Since then my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House has made his important pronouncement about a Standing Committee for controlling these matters of accountability for the nationalised industries, so the hon. Gentleman is completely wrong.

I am grateful for that intervention, because it makes clear the mind of the hon. Gentleman, but at the moment when we were discussing the £700 million he retired from the Chamber for essential sustenance. My only comment on that interruption is his own intervention in column 2569 during the same debate when he, with characteristic modesty, said, "I observed 'absolute drivel'." I am quite sure that he was right.

I am happy that a series of fortuitous circumstances have given us the opportunity of discussing this matter, though I thought there were other matters of constitutional importance to be discussed first. This is a matter of great importance to the economy of the country and it is fortunate that we have ample time at least to open the discussion of it today. We can pursue it on a later occasion.

My hon. Friend the Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) made an important observation when he said that Members for rural constituencies are naturally concerned as to the allocation of electricity for rural development and for the development of our agricultural production. It is also true that those of us who represent industrial constituencies, many of which are still working with old machines and plant and with inadequate supplies, are naturally concerned about electrical development for the production of the basic needs of our towns.

All of us—certainly all those who will travel north by train tonight—are concerned with the vital matter of the electrification of the railways. Here I believe we are lagging behind the industrialised world. Here our railway services are lamentable in the extreme as a result of years of war as well as years of lack of development. I see that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Kidderminster is smiling, probably because he thinks I am criticising a nationalised industry.

On a point of order, Sir Charles. You will recall that the electrification of railways is referred to in the appropriate Section of the Fuel and Power Act, 1945—I repeat 1945—and is subject to regulations made jointly by the Minister of Fuel and the Minister of Transport. As the provisions of Clause 1 of this Bill stem from the financial provisions in the Electricity Act, 1947—I repeat 1947—is it not out of order to refer to matters concerned with the electrification of railways?

We cannot deal with the purposes of other Acts. We can only deal with the problem of why more money is required.

Further to that point of order. Sir Charles. This is for all practical purposes a one-Clause Bill—although some points may arise on Clause 2 about the exclusion of Northern Ireland. The Minister dealt with a number of these matters on Second Reading, but any effective discussion of them was prevented by the Amendment to the Question which was selected. One of those matters was the total volume of electricity available to the country and Mr. Speaker ruled that it would be proper to discuss in Committee the very issues on which I understand my hon. Friend has embarked.

3.0 p.m.

I appreciate that, but might I say that if you look at the debate on Second Reading, which I think you are entitled to do, you will see at column 2527 that an Amendment was moved after there had only been two speeches on the actual issues which were before us. That debate, therefore, was on rather a different issue, the issue of capital expenditure and the control of capital expenditure, which is a wider issue than is contained in this Clause. I think it is perfectly proper to take into consideration in any ruling which you give that the question in Committee is different to the discussion which we had in the House on Second Reading. The House then was concerned with matters which are outside the ambit of the issues with which my hon. Friend is attempting to deal.

I am much obliged, but I do not know that I have been able to derive very much encouragement from either of the interventions that have been made. They have had the unfortunate result of making me forget the point upon which I was about to embark. I shall therefore have to embark upon another.

The Clause which we are now discussing is, as my hon. and learned Friend has said, virtually the whole Bill. It provides:
"The enactments limiting the borrowing powers of the British Electricity Authority and Area Electricity Boards, and of the Gas Council and Area Gas Boards, by reference to the aggregate amounts of stock and loans outstanding shall be amended as follows."
Then follows the increases, in the one case from £700 million to £1,400 million, and in the other from £250 million to £450 million.

I personally have no desire to widen the discussion at all, and I wish to confine myself to a very narrow compass. But, in fairness to those who may follow me, I think that the discussion comes within the ambit of the development programme of the British Electricity Authority and the gas boards. So far as I am concerned, I have no desire to widen it to that extent.

During the Second Reading debate there was some discussion on the question of the electrification of the railways, and that seems to me to be a perfectly corn-patent point for us to discuss before we vote on what, after all, is giving power for the expenditure of £950 million. I think it was the Parliamentary Secretary who said, "Please do not think we are going to splash this straight away. Obviously we are not. It is merely an increase in the limit of our borrowing subject to Treasury guarantee, and please understand that what we are doing is we are pursuing logically and almost inevitably a programme of industrial expansion in which every single project will be subject to the approval of the Minister." I think that is, in essence, what the hon. Gentleman said, and if I am wrong I will be happy to give way so that he can correct me.

The point I am dealing with is the type of project which the Minister is likely to approve. I would have thought that on such a point I could expand my personal views about the Minister and whether he is the sort of man to trust with £950 million of public money to spend. But, in view of the tributes which have been paid to him, I do not want to do that. What we ought to discuss is how this money is to be spent, what are the needs of the consumer, who are the consumers, how we will balance consumption between the personal consumer, to whom the Minister referred, and the industrial consumer, and the national project of development which all that implies.

In this respect, I want to say a few words about the railways, because this is a matter very close to my heart. I have to travel to Oldham tonight and it is not an ideal journey. It means travelling from Euston to Manchester and then changing. If the Minister has not done it in a normal way of things, he ought to try the unhappy experience. I observe an hon. Member opposite smiling, and perhaps he is thinking that here is a Socialist criticising a nationalised industry. But I have often said in this House that I thought the British Transport Commission was the worst of all of the nationalised boards and is very inefficient in many ways.

Of course, the British Transport Commission has to depend upon the amount of money allocated by the Minister on the project approved by the Minister, and also at the moment it is labouring under the misery of having a Conservative Government which is opposed to nationalisation, which is breaking up the industry, which is disintegrating it, and which is, if I might coin a rather dreadful word, "de-co-ordinating" it.

Some weeks ago I travelled fairly extensively by rail in France. I remember 25 years ago we in this country spoke with contempt of the French railways. We used to refer to their accident rate and to the lateness of their trains. I travelled recently, not merely on the main important trains, but third class on the little connecting links, and with the exception of one day when there was a strike these trains were all on time. They were nearly all electrically run.

I travelled up from Provence to Gorge du Tarn, where the electrified railway climbs literally several thousand feet over the mountains and where one is at the height of some of the highest mountains in the Sedan and going at a quite fast speed by the mountain railway. Within a week or two I was using our own railway system to go to the Lake District. When I got up towards Barrow-in-Furness I had to come back 50 or 60 miles, travel round by the coast by the old coal-burning railway, and two hours later arrived back towards where I had started from.

In case my hon. Friend's remarks have given the impression of an unfavourable comparison between our nationalised railways and the French railways, will he make it clear that the French railways also are nationalised?

Of course, I bow to your Ruling, Sir Charles, but it is unfortunate that I am asked a question and am then unable to reply to it. I hope I shall be permitted to say one sentence to my hon. Friend, or I shall be reported in HANSARD as having been asked a question and being wholly unable to answer it.

Perhaps the hon. Member will see his hon. Friend outside the Chamber afterwards.

The millions of readers of HANSARD would in that case be under a complete misapprehension as to the observations I was making. But I do not wish to press the point or to press any points of detail. The general point is that the allocation of a considerable proportion of this development sum to the electrification of the railways is a matter of great importance. Unless we have some indication from the Minister that he has projects of this kind in mind—

On a point of order. I drew your attention earlier, Sir Charles, to the fact that no sums provided under the Bill can in any circumstances be used for railway electrification works. In those circumstances, is it not completely out of order to discuss any aspect of railway electrification?

I am not conversant with the law. I think, however, that it is not out of order, but I may be wrong. Perhaps the Minister can advise me.

The sums provided for in the Bill could not, I understand, be spent directly on railway electrification, but the facilities which could be provided could be used for supplying the power.

That has made it quite clear, although we were not under any misapprehension. When I was talking about domestic consumption I was not under the impression that the British Electricity Authority would provide me with a hair dryer. Indeed, my need for that implement has diminished over the last few years. All that I was suggesting was that the Authority was providing electricity which I could use for that purpose if I so desired. So far as the British railways are concerned, before they can be electrified the electricity must be pro vided, which is precisely the factor which, among others, we are now discussing in this Bill, which provides for the expenditure of several hundred million pounds upon electricity.

The hon. Member for Kidderminster may be in a lighthearted mood today, but this is an important project and one on which the House ought to have the opportunity of careful consideration and a little information. I think I am right in saying that the only railway electrification of any importance that has taken place in Britain since the war—or, indeed, since before the war—is the line from Sheffield to Manchester, which has just been completed.

There is another very important stretch from Liverpool Street to Shenfield, which is probably the best electric line in the world.

I am much obliged; my hon. and learned Friend makes my point.

Let me mention one matter of major importance. In the area of Drigg, in Cumberland, we are now developing an atomic energy plant. It has the worst railway service in the world. The only way of providing an adequate railway service to Drigg is to cut over the mountains to Ulverston. That is the only way, and it has been talked about for years and years. Surely the moment when we are asked to vote £700 million is the moment to ask what is going to happen about a scheme like that? Surely it is the time when we should have assurances from the Minister that that sort of thing is to be considered.

This whole problem of the provision of electricity is a great responsibility of the Minister's. I think we have made it quite clear to him that although we should prefer to have a Socialist Minister handling this important matter we are inclined to prefer him to some extent rather than some of his colleagues whom I will not name. The whole importance of this matter arises in one or two other ways. I did not take part in the discussion of the Electricity Reorganisation (Scotland) Bill. I have no desire to speak too often in the House, and I felt that that was a matter on which the Members more keenly interested should take part. I am surprised to see the hon. Member for Kidderminster agreeing with me be cause Kidderminster is not in Scotland, but the hon. Member spoke at some length.

It will be remembered that we are now dealing in this Bill, as I understand it, with the two southern areas in Scotland and the sum of £70 million which has already been voted. That is my understanding from consideration of the Second Reading—

The provision for Scotland, which would otherwise have been required for the South of Scotland, has been excluded from the Bill.

Then I certainly misunderstood the Minister's statement, unless the Parliamentary Secretary has misunderstood it, in which case the matter can no doubt be put right in another place.

I revert to Lancashire. When we consider electricity needs there are certain other considerations. It is perhaps the major planning problem of our day because the question of industrial power is a vital problem and the question of coal production is also a vital problem. Here again, we come to the essential dilemma which faces us in discussing this matter. The right hon. Gentleman, in his Second Reading speech, referred in some detail to the various purposes from which electricity could be used. Some would mean a great increase in coal consumption: some would mean a diminution in coal consumption. The project of electrifying the railways would clearly mean a diminution in coal consumption. Some additional coal would be required to supply the increased demand for electric current but there would be eliminated the coal which the railways at present consume.

The problem of coal consumption is the vital one which the Minister has to face—it is a grave and difficult problem. The nationalisation of coal has been an outstanding success. The greater production at the coalface has gone up steadily, the provisions for safety have increased and relations in the industry have undoubtedly improved. The question of recruitment remains the problem. I am quite sure the Minister will say that if he could put 100,000 more men in the mines constructively he would be very happy to do so. It would be the biggest contribution to our export trade and industrial prosperity that could be made.

We have to bear in mind, in planning electrical development and investment in electricity, the whole problem of how far we shall be able to maintain or increase coal productivity and the sort of economies which we shall be able to effect. I understood the Minister to say and one of my hon. Friends, I think the hon. Member for Cleveland (Mr. Palmer) in a most interesting and constructive speech on the Second Reading, showed us that economy in the utilisation of coal in relation to electricity and gas had improved very considerably over the years, that we were each year producing more electricity and gas from each unit of coal, and that the confident prophecies of the industrial experts showed that that would certainly steadily increase until about 1960.

3.15 p.m.

That is all to the good. It seems to me, therefore, that we are to have an expenditure on electricity alone of £700 million. However the Minister puts it, and however much he says, "Well, this is not an immediate expenditure," it is clear that it is envisaged that over a period that borrowing power can be reached; and therefore we can have the British Electricity Authority borrowing a grand total of £1,400 million. That is a stupendous figure. We are sometimes inclined in the House to dismiss these astronomical figures too lightly and without sufficient consideration. I frankly admit that I find them beyond my comprehension, particularly when I look at the lodging terms which are now being negotiated.

A sum of £1,400 million may be out, guaranteed by the Treasury, for electrical development. I am sure that in those circumstances the Minister will think fit to give us some indication of the type of balance he desires to provide; the type of balance he intends to produce; how much of it is to be allocated to industrial productivity and the planning of increased production.

I wish to say a word or two about increased production. Speaking, for instance, of the cotton industry, or of the pottery industry, I would emphasise that we are up against a major problem of the gravest possible kind. I do not know quite how we are to get over it. If we are to achieve the maximum productivity in our cotton spinning mills, and in our pottery industry, it means that we must completely re-plan the industry. We must build new towns and lay them out upon a system which would enable us to run our productivity in the same way as other countries, Australia for instance, where there is ample land; instead of the present system in the pottery industry, where a man carries on a plank on his head hundreds of valuable pots upstairs, downstairs, round corners and through foundries, and so on, until he comes to the place where they have to be delivered. Those are problems which the Minister must consider.

I wish now to come to my second point. I have said this before, but not in connection with this Bill, and so I am not repeating myself. Some time ago we had a Committee upstairs which discussed delegated legislation. This is delegated legislation of a different kind. This is not a Statutory Instrument, it is a Bill, but it delegates every power. It takes from this House every power of approval. It does not give to this House any power to reconsider, or at any time to consider measures taken by the Minister to implement the Bill. I had hoped that the hon. Member for Kidderminster would have moved Amendments to improve the financial burden imposed and to provide some measure of Parliamentary control.

It says that we should give general authority here and now, on this Friday afternoon, in a not very thickly attended House, for Ministers to come forward over the years with schemes for which no Parliamentary Bill would be needed. There would be a Treasury minute on the subject, for which there is no form of Parliamentary control, and the thing need never be referred to Parliament at all. A Minister might say, "Yes, we need £100 million for electricity, because we propose to electrify the main-line railway between London and Manchester." Or he might say, "We need £50 million for electricity, because there has been a development in the sale of wireless sets, due to the bastardisation of our television system." Or he might say. I am going to have a new power station built now in this particular area for the development of agriculture"—and so on. In no case need he come to the House and say, "Do you think this is right?" Or, "Do you think that is wrong?" This Bill gives to the Minister almost dictatorial powers, and I suggest that an undertaking should be given to consider the submission of major schemes to the House by Statutory Instrument for consideration and for discussion.

My third point is on the question of gas. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, head] I am flattered to have these manifestations of interest from hon. Gentlemen opposite in this matter which is of some importance. To many of us the suggestion that we hate to spend £250 million on the further development of the gas industry comes as a surprise. Some people have suggested, quite unfairly, that the gas industry is becoming obsolete and that there will be an increasing tendency to use electricity instead. That is not true, but in the debate on Second Reading, too little attention was given to the matter and 95 per cent. of the time was devoted to the discussion of electricity.

I hope that the Minister will be able to tell us what he has in mind and whether or not this is largely a question of the replacement of old plants by new. Many of my hon. Friends want to discuss the more detailed aspects of the problem. We share the views expressed by the hon. Member for Kidderminster on Second Reading. I cannot see how any statement made by the Minister since then has managed to quell his ardour.

My submission is that there are no adequate financial controls. In the circumstances we are all anxious to see help given to the boards of the two great nationalised industries which have done great work in developing these two essential forces of power. Without the existence of these boards full employment could not have been maintained. Between 1946 and 1950 the boards played a large part in the industrial planning of the country. The development of our electrical power was a major achievement of the Labour Government which made possible the continuation of full employment at a time when it was menaced by the coal situation and by the fact that in the years that the locusts ate before the war the Tory Party never envisaged full employment.

We are all anxious to support the Bill, but we say that that support should be given subject to Parliamentary control. Parliament should know how the money is to be spent. Parliament should be informed from time to time what are the plans and the projects to be submitted. The House should have an opportunity to debate the matter in the light of the varying needs of agriculture, industry, the household, and so on, for these essential methods of power.

I would not invite my right hon. Friends to oppose the Bill because, in the main, it is a good Bill, but I express great dubiety whether it ought to be allowed to pass without some measure of control being introduced.

We are all placed under some disadvantage by the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro). We were assured on Second Reading that he intended to put down some Amendments. When he was challenged today he said that he had decided not to do that because the Minister had announced that he was to appoint a committee. However, if one consults the OFFICIAL REPORT one sees that the Minister announced that he was to appoint a Committee at column 1512, while the hon. Member did not make his announcement about his desire—

The hon. and learned Gentleman must have misheard what I said in an intervention. I very clearly referred to the statement made a few days ago by my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal in connection with a Select Committee, accountable to this House, for the nationalised industries—not the committee of inquiry into the British Electricity Authority.

I would draw the attention of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) to the fact that the real point made by the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) was that as a Committee was now to be appointed by the Government it was not necessary to amend the Bill in order to gel better Parliamentary control. However, I would also draw the attention of my hon. and learned Friend to the fact that the statement of the Lord Privy Seal excluded the subjects which have been referred to, because he said that it would be inappropriate for the Committee to consider any matters directly controlled by the Minister of Fuel and Power.

It seems clear from what my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Swingler) has said that the House has been misled by the hon. Member for Kidderminster, who was going to put down an Amendment and then for some reason saw fit not to do so. The only thing about which the House is in doubt is whether this was due to the influence of the Whips or the 1922 Committee. Whichever it was, the hon. Member for Kidderminster, who always strikes but generally is afraid to wound, was absent from the battlefield. The fact that he did not know where he was earlier in the day merely explains why he did not know where he was over this matter.

The intervention of the hon. Member for Kidderminster has helped in that it has revealed the essential difference of view between the Opposition and hon. Members opposite about the Bill and about inquiries generally. The hon. Member said that he was not going to put down an Amendment relating to Parliamentary control because the nationalised industry will be controlled by the Government. The view taken by the Opposition is that the industry of the country as a whole requires to be controlled by the Government. One cannot plan merely for the nationalised section. One cannot deal with a specific sector of the nationalised industry without considering the effect generally. One of the grave disadvantages of the Bill is that the borrowing powers are in no way coordinated, as the Opposition understand it, to the resources of the country as a whole.

A late Member of the House, Mr. Arthur Greenwood, whose death we all lament, once said—it aroused laughter—that pounds, shilling and pence were often meaningless symbols. They are in that it is no use voting money for a certain purpose unless there is available material which can be purchased with that money.

Under these proposals there is to be expansion—it is a very necessary thing—of the capital resources of the electricity and gas industries. Four or five years ago we discussed this matter in relation to some power stations on the Thames. One of the essential materials for power stations is bricks, and one of the reasons the electricity programme was held up for a considerable time was the shortage of bricks.

I do not know whether we shall have a statement from the Minister about the physical resources which will be available. I do not know how many bricks are available at the moment for building power stations. However, I do know that the Hornchurch Urban District Council has more than 2 million bricks on order for building council houses but cannot get delivery of them. If we cannot get bricks for council houses, will the Minister be able to get them for power stations? Will he cut down on the private house-building sector? Will private houses have priority over his power stations? We ought to have answers to these questions before we authorise the borrowing of these large sums of money.

The Opposition are in favour of the principle of making money available, but we are very properly concerned as to whether the materials to be bought with the money will be available. It would be useless and a mockery to pass a Bill to enable borrowing to take place if we could not obtain the raw materials required for the capital development for which purpose the borrowing was authorised.

3.30 p.m.

I hope the Minister will deal with the point in more detail in order to give us some idea of what are the raw materials which will be required for the type of capital development which he has in mind. He could tell us, first of all, how much building material will be required to carry out this programme. The Minister need not be too particular about the details, but we want some general idea of the building facilities that will be required.

Next, will he make certain that the required labour will be available? He began his speech, very properly from the party point of view, by pointing out that more people are engaged in such employment than had ever previously been employed. That is an excellent thing, but when we come to consider the measure of full employment we should remember that we produce an inflationary situation if we insist on capital development without, at the same time, checking some other form of development in order to make sure that we get the capital development which we require.

It is quite clear that we require this capital development in these industries most urgently, and I cannot do better than refer the House to what the Minister himself said during the Second Reading debate. He said:
"I should like to say that on this subject it is indeed a sobering thought that the United States, with three times our population, has an annual increase in electrical consumption 10 times as great as ours."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th July, 1954; Vol. 529, c. 2511.]
That is a continuing situation, and if in fact this great access of power—and the more power we get, the cheaper it is—is available to American industry, we shall soon be in a position in which our industry is unable to compete with that of the United States. Obviously, therefore, we must do all we possibly can to put as much horse-power behind the arm of the man who works in Britain as there is behind the arm of the man who works in America.

I get a little tired of people who say, "Oh, but look what short hours our people work." It is not a question of how short a period people work or, on the other hand, of what wages they are paid, which determines the price of the product; it is the amount of power behind the men who do the work. Nobody works harder or works longer hours than those men who make roads in the Far East and carry on their heads small quantities of earth and stones in wicker baskets. These are the people who excavate in a day's work about one cubic yard of earth, but, provided that one has sufficient horse-power and a modern machine, one can remove in one scoop five cubic metres of earth at a time.

The same point was made by the Minister himself at an earlier stage in his speech, when, describing the difference between the coal industry and the gas, electricity and oil industries, he said:
"The characteristic feature of the coal industry—and I know that the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown) will support me in this—is that on the change of shift at a large mine there are to be seen hundreds of men streaming away from the pithead, whereas when one visits the installations of the other three industries, one is struck by the control system of what I might call the room with the hundred dials. Two or three men are inspecting the elaborate control panels which register the revolutions of the mighty turbines or the flow of hot gases through gigantic retorts."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 9th July,1954: Vol. 529, c. 2508.]

Hon. Members may cheer, but they seem to have failed singularly to act on the implications of the Minister's words.

If those words describe a highly desirable state of affairs, we have a public duty to invest as much in our industries as does the United States. In the coal industry the criticism is not of the men who work in the pits, unless it is the criticism that comes from the less experienced back benchers; it is criticism of the private enterprise which left the coal pits in that sort of state.

I am sorry that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works is not here. I understand that he is in charge of ancient monuments, which have to be preserved, not for industrial purposes, but other purposes. There are immense numbers of gasworks which might be regarded as ancient monuments showing the evils of the monopoly system. Each of them had a franchise for gas in a particular area, and consumers had to take that gas or no gas at all. That was particularly so with such a gasworks as that at Romford.

It is not for me to apportion blame among the capitalists, but the present position may well be due to the failure of the City of London to provide money for the smaller gasworks unless they were prepared to surrender their independence. We all remember the way in which the City of London treated the great steel works in Wales, being in favour of closing it down because it did not pay its full profit over to the shareholders.

I want to get from the Minister some understanding about the capital development involved. From where are we to get our raw materials? That is a controversial way of saying it. Will the Minister tell us when he replies exactly the position in regard to the supply of steel and other materials required for the electrical industry? If the Minister cannot deal with matters of policy—probably nobody on the Government Front Bench is in a position to do that—he can deal with points of detail. How far are the electrical and gas industries directly in competition with the defence programme? Are those industries and the defence programme competing for the same materials, or are there two streams from which they draw? If we considerably increased the development of the gas and electrical industries, would we come into conflict with the defence programme?

When we discussed this matter on Second Reading, the Minister mentioned. I think I am right in saying—I have not found the actual passage in his speech—the three things steel, bricks and machine tools. I may have taken that passage from another very well-informed speech, perhaps from that of the hon. Member for Kidderminster.

What does one need in order to construct a factory or an electricity or gas works? Once one has constructed them, one has to consider the question of what fuel is to be used. In regard to that, the right hon. Gentleman did discuss a number of possibilities about which I think he ought to tell us a little more when he replies. There is an argument for giving this amount of development to the electrical industry, because he said that we are hoping to develop atomic power, and that with such development the electrical network would be used for the distribution of atomic energy.

But with great respect, this begs the whole question that we are up against, because, in the next breath, he said that of course if we develop atomic energy we shall require immense capital expenditure. It is not only the money involved. The Minister is, in fact, saying that he is going to build a larger electrical network because it will be supplied by atomic energy. At the same time, he is saying that this atomic energy plant will itself be in competition with defence for the raw materials which are already in scarce supply.

Before the hon. and learned Gentleman comes to his next point, I would point out that we are really allowed to discuss only what is in the Clause.

With great respect. Sir Charles, I was basing myself on exactly what the Minister was saying on Second Reading.

We are on the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," and we can only discuss what is in the Clause.

The argument advanced by the right hon. Gentleman was, of course, in defence of what was in the Clause because, for all practical purposes, the Clause is the whole of the Bill. The argument which the Minister advanced for requiring to spend this sum of money on the electricity industry was, first, that there would be a development of atomic power, and that because of that we should need to have a larger electrical network. The Minister shakes his head, but that is in fact what he said. He said:

"From the point of view of our discussion today, it is important to realise that the nuclear power stations will be very expensive in their actual construction, although, of course, they will use no conventional fuels and their own fuel costs will probably be reasonably low."
A little earlier he said:
"We should remember, therefore, that in expanding this industry we are preparing the way for atomic power."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 9th July, 1954 Vol. 529, c. 2513.]
So the argument devoted to this Clause was that one of the three reasons for dealing with the matter in this way was the wish to expand atomic energy.

The only point I wanted to put was this point, in view of what the Minister said about the great demand for raw materials for the atomic plant. He apparently thinks that without any sort of control he can provide the necessary raw materials for such a plant, in addition to expanding the electricity and coal industries and meeting the needs of the defence programme at the same time. That is the point which we hope he will answer.

When the Minister came to the development of the gas industry, he raised a very considerable point which I hope he will develop a little further. He said that one of the reasons for expanding the gas industry was that we should use natural gas. In these circumstances, I hope that when he replies he will deal with this aspect of the matter.

Finally, he dealt with the question of the importation of oil fuel. I should have thought that it was more important to concentrate upon the development of the coal industry than to put too much emphasis on the importation of oil. We have been told that we cannot cut defence expenditure, and why should we therefore place ourselves in the position of being dependent upon the importation of oil? I agree that there should be a geological survey to see what oil we can obtain here, but that is a different matter from making ourselves dependent on supplies of oil from outside this country.

3.45 p.m.

The Committee will have gathered that my hon. Friends have a great enthusiasm for the Bill. We welcome the expansion of these industries and congratulate the Minister on having stood up to the back bench opposition from his own party which existed in the House on Second Reading last week.

I am a little disappointed that the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) should be so easily satisfied. As an ex-Leader of the House, I can say that I wish my back benchers had been as ready to accept everything I said as he has been to accept what the Lord Privy Seal said. My life would have been much easier.

I was rather surprised at the support which the hon. Member gave to the proposal for using oil as a fuel for this industry, for I have supported him in his view that to take trolley buses off the roads and replace them by omnibuses might well be disastrous to transport in the event of our being engaged in another war. To put the electrical industry increasingly upon the basis of being fired by imported fuel is so important a deviation from policy and from all the ideas of connecting this matter with defence that I hope the Minister will give it very serious consideration before he goes any further with it.

I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to say something about that in his reply and I also hope that the Government will get the Bill this afternoon because we do not wish to stand in the way of its becoming an Act.

I was not called to the House by telephone today. If the hon. Member wishes me to dilate upon that matter, it might result in the Government not getting the Bill, which from our point of view would be a disaster.

I hope the Minister will have some regard to what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham. West (Mr. Hale) about the power of control after the Bill has been passed.

On Second Reading the Bill was warmly welcomed by the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. Noel-Baker) from the Opposition Front Bench and we are very glad and grateful that the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) has welcomed the principal Clause in Committee.

He asked my right hon. Friend about the importation of oil and the way in which it fits into the General defence scheme. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to focus his attention upon what my right hon. Friend said. My right hon. Friend did not say that arrangements were forthwith being made for turning power stations over to oil burning. He said that arrangements would be made, subject to their being considered satisfactory from various points of view, to enable dual-firing to take place so that the power station in question will be able to operate either upon coal or oil, whichever in the circumstances of the time was the more economic or expedient or satisfactory to work upon. I think that explanation will probably cover the right hon. Gentleman's anxiety.

We have had a remarkably full debate covering a wide variety of points, and the hon. and learned Member for Horn-church (Mr. Bing) has not left me very long in which to reply. But there are certain things which I rather wish to say, particularly in reply to the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) who delivered, strangely enough, a rather violent, slashing and stringent criticism upon the dictatorial powers—that was the expression of which I made a note—which were vested in the Minister, and demanded that, prior to the exercise of these powers, my right hon. Friend should come to the House of Commons to obtain the consent of the House.

But the powers to which he refers are those which were inserted in the 1947 Act by the Government of which he was a supporter. The whole of the hon. Gentleman's virulent attack was really directed to the 1947 Act, because the only things which we are proposing to change in the 1947 Act—and this in substance is the focus of the whole of this Bill—are the two words representing the figures of the borrowing powers.

I am sure the hon. Gentleman will permit me to remind him that we on these benches have always asked for Parliamentary control of nationalised industries, and I have always supported that. For an example of Parliamentary tergiversation, the hon. Gentleman might read his own speech on the Isle of Man Customs Bill, 1946, and compare it with what he supported today.

I thought I made rather a good speech in 1946.

On the subject of railway electrification, I think the position has been made quite clear. It is not my right hon. Friend's responsibility to electrify the railways, nor is the electrification of the railways a subject matter to be dealt with under this Bill. My right hon. Friend's responsibility, so far as this Bill is concerned, is to see that adequate money is available for the provision of current in the event of a decision being taken elsewhere to electrify the railways.

I should like to give some word of explanation, in response to the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch, on the subject of raw materials and so forth. I do not think the hon. and learned Gentleman could have appreciated what my right hon. Friend and I meant on Second Reading when we were referring to the programmes which came to us for review. They are exceedingly detailed, very comprehensive and substantial in every way, and consideration of those programmes must of necessity take into account the possibility of their being carried out. Rut I would draw attention to the fact that we are not at present in such a state of economic stringency as we used to be, and therefore there are not the same shortages as there were.

That brings me to the end of the points to which I have the opportunity to reply. Bearing in mind that this is an overflow debate, with the background of the Second Reading behind it, I hope that the Committee will be good enough to let us have the Bill.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Bill reported without Amendment.