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Orders Of The Day

Volume 639: debated on Wednesday 3 May 1961

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Republic Of South Africa (Temporary Provisions) Bill

Considered in Committee [ Progress, 1st May].

[Sir GORDON TOUCHE in the Chair]

Clause 1—(Operation Of Existing Law In Relation To South Africa)

3.38 p.m.

I beg to move, in page 1, line 11, after the first "law" to insert:

"other than the Visiting Forces (British Commonwealth) Act, 1933, and the Visiting Forces Act, 1952".
I am glad to see that, as the result of pressure which some of us put on the Government at a late hour on Monday, they decided that it was better that we should continue discussion on this Bill today. As a result, we now have the pleasure of the presence of the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, who, apparently, was otherwise engaged on the last occasion. I do not complain about that; I merely say that it is nice to have him with us today.

There is a number, although not very many, of South African Army and, I think, Air Force personnel training in this country. They come under the Visiting Forces Act, 1952. We are told that they are training for a number of different tasks, but principally as parachutists. In answer to a Question on 30th March, 1960, the Secretary of State for Air said:
"About 30 officers and 60 airmen of the South African Air Force have received training in Royal Air Force establishments during the past five years. None is receiving training at present."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th March, 1960; Vol. 620, c.142.]
We were told by the Secretary of State for War, on 9th November last year, that
"During the past year seven South African officers and three other ranks have attended Army courses in the United Kingdom and British Army of the Rhine, in addition to those who are being trained at the Royal Air Force Parachute School…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th November, 1960; Vol. 629, c.56.]
Those men are being trained for some purpose and it is interesting to consider what that purpose might be. It might be for the assistance which South Africans would give in the event of a global war. It is understandable that they might give assistance in that way, but apparently that is not the case, because Mr. Erasmus, the former South African Minister of Defence, said in Pretoria, on 2nd December:
"The most important thing remaining for the South African defence force in the foreseeable future is to guard against subversive activities and terrorism of the kind that has arisen in Algeria…"
That means that these men are being trained for that purpose and if any confirmation of that is needed, it was given by Mr. Fouche, the present South African Minister of Defence, who said:
"In the past, when the rôle of the South African forces was mainly to give support to South Africa's allies…"
certain conditions and considerations prevailed. Today, apparently, the situation is different and that is not the main rôle of the South African forces. Their main rôle is assisting the police in keeping law and order in South Africa.

It is not right that these men should be trained in this country and should be given the protection of the Visiting Forecs Act if they are to be engaged in activities of that kind when they return and if the training which they get here is to be used for that purpose.

We therefore feel that the Bill should be amended so that the Visiting Forces Act does not apply to South Africa. We hope that the Minister will explain to us a little more how many South African forces are training here, what they are doing, what protection is given to them, and whether he will consider not applying that Act to them. This is a perfectly simple Amendment and would cause the right hon. Gentleman no difficulty and it could be done without the Commonwealth Relations Office having to undergo all the travail and trouble of pursuing facts about South Africa which it ought to have known before, but which it did not know, as we discovered the other night. I hope that the Secretary of State will tell us what he can do to help in this very difficult situation.

It might be helpful to the Committee if I say something about the two Acts which the Amendment mentions. The first is the Visiting Forces (British Commonwealth) Act, 1933, and the second is the Visiting Forces Act, 1952. The purpose of the first is to apply British Service discipline to indidividual members of Commonwealth forces serving with British Services, or with British Service establishments. At present, there are only 33 members of South African forces here on training courses, or for other purposes, and it is desirable that British military codes of discipline should continue to apply to them.

Earlier in our discussions, reference was made to paratroopers training here. There are no South African paratroopers now under training in this country and we have not made arrangements to take any more. The Act also makes useful provision for dealing with powers of command and discipline when Commonwealth units are serving together at sea, for instance.

The Visiting Forces Act, 1952, repealed some parts of the 1933 Act, but purposely left the provisions to which I have just referred. That Act deals with the problem of forces, as opposed to individuals, when visiting this country. It is not affected by the Bill, because, like the British Nationality Act, it mentions Commonwealth countries by name and not by reference to membership of the Commonwealth. It also refers to foreign countries, if designated for that purpose by Order in Council.

As the right hon. Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Dugdale) reminded the Committee, we have defence arrangements with South Africa which we entered because they were mutually advantageous to us, and to our allies in N.A.T.O. Those arrangements, like all other arrangements which we have made with South Africa, will have to be reviewed, always bearing in mind the need to safeguard central British interests. I can say that that review has already begun.

My right hon. Friend is fully seized of the right hon. Gentleman's point of view, but to withdraw the application of the 1933 code would be to prejudge the result of the review upon which we are now engaged, which would not be advisable in this case any more than in all the other matters, of which many are contentious. They will have to be reviewed and are, therefore, covered by the Bill. For those reasons, I earnestly hope that the right hon. Gentleman will see fit to withdraw the Amendment.

3.45 p.m.

We have recently had a series of speeches from Ministers of the Union of South Africa, warning of the danger and difficulties in South Africa and insisting upon the strengthening of military forces to deal with internal problems within South Africa, or, as one Minister put it, problems which might arise from invasions such as that which has taken place from the Congo into Angola.

If difficulties of that kind arise, there will be conflicts between the Government and the African population of the Union, or with African supporters from outside the territory. I would like an assurance that during the year of standstill any treaty which we have with the Union will not be used to strengthen the forces of the Union in any internal struggle with the African people.

I appreciate that my second point is more difficult and that, in some senses, I shall be speaking for myself rather than for the whole of my party. We are in a dilemma in the whole problem of defence in the Continent of Africa. The Under-Secretary said that our military arrangements with the Union Government were of mutual benefit and of value to N.A.T.O. But we must balance any military advantages against the reluctance of the African people of those territories to be involved in military commitments of that kind. The sweep of opinion in the Continent of Africa is towards neutralism and to be free from N.A.T.O. and from Western commitments.

We must be careful, even in the case of the Union of South Africa, to judge between the advantage of any military arrangements there and the degree of resistance which those arrangements will arouse in the majority of the population in South Africa, which is now disfranchised, but which is fundamentally opposed, as are other African peoples, to being committed to military arrangements which may be of value to us and to N.A.T.O., but against the tide of opinion in Africa.

To the Secretary of State, now on the Front Bench, to whom I would say a word of welcome back from his mission to Sierra Leone, I say that we must be very careful indeed, in any defence arrangements which are made with the Union of South Africa, to ensure that they do not have the effect opposite to that intended and actually weaken our position.

There must be very few hon. Members in the Committee, though I see one or two faces dotted about in one place or another, who were here in this Chamber and actually spoke when the original Visiting Forces (British Commonwealth) Act—Bill, as it then was—was discussed here in 1933. I was one of those, and I remember the feelings which were expressed then about the proposal that some special treatment should be afforded to visiting forces from the Commonwealth. The whole atmosphere then was that the Commonwealth was at that time acting and was likely to act in the foreseeable future with one mind in dealing with its military forces, and for that reason special provisions, privileges—call them what you will—were introduced and were generally acceptable.

It is a very different situation today with regard to South Africa. We have heard from my right hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Dugdale) how the purposes for which the South African forces are likely to be used have been stated by Ministers in South Africa. I suppose that nobody would think that this Committee would approve of giving support to the forces of South Africa which were to be used primarily, if not entirely, for the purposes stated by those South African Ministers. That brings into effect now a situation totally different from the situation which was ruling at the time when the original Bill was introduced.

I appreciate the point which was made by the Joint Under-Secretary of State that these two Acts, the 1933 Act and the 1952 Act, are in different classes in that the former one would be affected by the Bill whereas the second would not, but I submit to the right hon. Gentleman, who may be replying finally upon this matter, that it is exceedingly important that we should do nothing at all in this Committee which would seek to give support to the policies which are being carried out in South Africa by the South African Nationalist Government.

Since the hon. Gentleman is right that the 1952 Act is not within the purview of the Bill, I submit to the Minister that he should consider taking the first Act out of the purview of the Bill, because I am sure that he will agree that it is important that we should do right in this matter—that we should do it demonstrably, and that the whole of Africa should see that we are determined to take every step we can to dissociate ourselves, in a perfectly friendly manner, from the policies of apartheid which are being carried out by the Nationalist Government of South Africa.

In a few words I, too, support what has been said from this side of the Committee. I do not think that public opinion in this country would take very kindly to any facilities being provided by the United Kingdom to the Armed Forces of the Union of South Africa in any way, particularly in view of the fact that Ministers have made clear in the Union during the past few weeks that their forces are to be used mainly for internal order, which is tantamount to saying that they intend to use military might to the full to suppress the three-quarters of the population which is opposed to apartheid.

The opinion of the British public on this issue—and this concerns both sides of this Committee, in which, upon this, there is no division—is very strong indeed, and we want a clear assurance from the Secretary of State that there will be no question of any assistance being given to South African defence forces in these circumstances.

There is a further question which I should like to have clarified, and it refers to the position of the High Commission Territories and the defence arrangements with the Union. Are we to understand that the review, which the Joint Undersecretary of State has already told us will be carried out, includes a review of the radar and other defence arrangements in Bechuanaland, Basutoland and Swaziland?

I ask the Minister specifically whether we shall make clear to the Union authorities that no transit facilities across Bechuanaland will be allow to Union troops travelling to the mandated area of the South-West where the Union authorities, in defiance of the United Nations, are carrying out the policies of apartheid. I am sure both sides of the Committee condemn the activities in which they are engaged. They do use facilities through Bechuanaland to move their troops into that mandated territory. I hope that when he replies to this short debate the Secretary of State will make it quite clear that those facilities will no longer be allowed.

I want, first, to clear up with the Government the point raised by the Joint Under-Secretary of State and raised again by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Brigg (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu). That is the question of the 1952 Act. The Under-Secretary of State said that the 1952 Act did not come into the purview of the Bill.

The hon. Gentleman keeps saying to us that sort of thing about this, that or the other Act, and it seems to me that he is in a complete muddle about the application of the Bill. We felt this during the earlier proceedings of the Committee on the Bill, when we got no satisfaction whatever from him about the Nationality Acts. We hope that now, since he has been reinforced by his right hon. Friend, we can get at least this matter clear, because it is important as a matter of order, apart from any other considerations.

This Clause says quite plainly that
"all existing law which operates as law of, or of any part of, the United Kingdom shall, unless provision to the contrary is made by an authority having power to alter that law, have the same operation in relation to the Republic of South Africa…as it would have had…if the Union had not become a Republic and had continued to be a member of the Commonwealth."
That means that the Bill applies to all law of the United Kingdom Parliament which deals with the relationships between this country and the Union of South Africa, so we are perfectly entitled to raise these matters and discuss them thoroughly. I think that the hon. Gentleman was trying to draw a distinction between those Acts of the United Kingdom which would automatically lapse if the Bill were not passed and other Acts, but all those Acts come within the purview of the Bill and we are fully entitled to ask questions about them.

4.0 p.m.

I hope that the Secretary of State will go a great deal further than did the Under-Secretary, to whom we are grateful for giving hon. Members some of the factual background material to this Act, but that explanation did not take into account the reason for our tabling this Amendment. The main reason for our tabling it is to obtain from the Government assurances concerning their behaviour on defence arrangements between this country and the Union of South Africa during the standstill period. We received no such assurances from the Under-Secretary, and thus we are seeking them from the Secretary of State.

Some of the points on which we are seeking clarification have already been made by my hon. Friends. The Undersecretary has stated that there are no paratroopers from South Africa at present receiving training in Britain, but, he told us, there were 33 South African Service men here. Can the Secretary of State give a clearer indication of how these 33 Service men are being employed, so that we can make up our minds whether their employment involves the kind of help that we should or should not be giving? My hon. Friends and I draw a sharp distinction between the kind of defence co-operation which is right for the time being, and the type of co-operation that would be considered to be normal between the two countries and in our joint interest.

My hon. Friend the Member for Slough (Mr. Brockway) expressed his own view on this subject, and I agree with him that when the final form of government in South Africa becomes more democratic, we shall have to discuss with the Union Government, in the light of their policies, what defence arrangements can be arrived at between our two countries. It may be that a Union Government of the future may have a neutralist policy. If that happens, we will have to respect their view and operate from the standpoint that neutralist countries in Africa and Asia have an important rôle to play in preserving the peace of the world. In the meantime, we are entitled to know what defence arrangements will be made with the Government of the Union of South Africa.

We are equally entitled to know, and to be assured, that, whatever form of defence co-operation takes place, that co-operation will not lead to Britain helping the Union Government to forward their own police policies. We require a firm assurance from the Government that during the standstill period—however long it may last—there will be no training offered in this country to any South African forces that would result in that training being used for internal policies of apartheid being imposed by military force.

We also require assurances that during this period of standstill no military supplies will be provided to South Africa if there is the slightest chance of those supplies being used for similar military purposes. On the Second Reading of the Bill, I question the Government on this specific point. I asked them to make sure that in the event of violence breaking out during this standstill period, it could not possibly be said that British military supplies were being used by the South African Government to enforce their policies by means of military power.

A further point arises, and this was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stonehouse). We want a firm assurance that the British Government will not, during the standstill period, offer transit facilities to South African forces through the High Commission Territories to reach the mandated territory of South-West Africa. In this connection, I must draw the Government's attention to what seems to be an astonishing Section of the 1933 Act. The Section may have been understandable at the time the Act was passed, but in present-day circumstances it requires attention by the Government.

I refer to Section 6, in which paragraph (a) says that visiting forces under the Visiting Forces (British Commonwealth) Act, 1933, shall apply
"in relation to any territory in respect of which a mandate on behalf of the League of Nations is being exercised by His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom as if that territory were for the time being a colony;"
The implication of that provision is very serious in relation to the whole position of South-West Africa at the present time. Hon. Members on both sides of the Committee hold the view that South-West Africa is a United Nations mandated territory, that the Union of South Africa is in breach of its mandate there, and that the Union has annexed the territory in defiance of the request of the United Nations.

My hon. Friends and I have over a long period been seeking that the British Government should take a more active rôle in the United Nations to ensure that South Africa's annexation of South-West Africa should not be recognised. Yet we find in the Act of 1933, in respect of defence arrangements, a statutory provision that Her Majesty's Government shall treat South-West Africa as though it were part of the territory of the Union of South Africa. In view of that, we want Her Majesty's Government's comments on that Section of the 1933 Act. If the Government say that it is impossible to amend the present Bill to give the assurances we require, they must make it clear that, during the standstill period, there will be no transit facilities offered to the Union of South Africa to use military force in the mandated territory of South West Africa in support of the Union Government's policy of apartheid.

I must make it clear that, on this point, we require from the Government more than just a legalistic explanation of the position. We want details of the Government's proposals. My hon. Friends and I accept, in all these Amendments, the position adopted by the Secretary of State in his speech during the Second Reading of the Bill—the position that South Africa's departure from the Commonwealth cannot mean that relationships will remain as they were previously, or that it will appear that South Africa is still a member.

My hon. Friends and I fear that the period of negotiation may be misunderstood in other parts of the Commonwealth, and by non-Commonwealth countries, to mean that there is not to be a definite change in our relationship with South Africa. It is important not only that the Government should make a change, but that they should show, openly, that a change is being made. During this period of negotiation, the issues of defence should receive special attention, and the least the Government can do in the circumstances is to give the assurances that we are seeking.

On one issue, we are adamant, that during the standstill period the British Government will not provide the kind of defence co-operation that might lead to the military imposition of the policies of apartheid.

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Dugdale) referred to my absence on Monday night. I was, in fact in an aeroplane somewhere over the Sahara—and that accounts for my absence from the House. I am glad, however, to have this opportunity of taking part in the resumed debate on the Bill.

Various hon. Members have raised a number of points and I will try to deal with them as best I can. The hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. G. M. Thomson) raised the question of the application of the Bill to the 1952 Act, and complained that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary was "muddle-minded" about this matter. I can assure hon. Members that the Parliamentary Secretary was perfectly correct in what he said. The Bill does not affect the application of the 1952 Act. [Interruption.] Does the hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) wish to intervene?

I thank the Minister for giving the explanation he gave about his absence, which is perfectly acceptable.

We were interested to find how many important Acts were not affected by the Bill. That seems to throw some light on the lack of necessity for having a twelvemonths standstill period.

I do not know whether the hon. Lady was present during my speech on Second Reading. I then gave a list of a considerable number of Acts which were affected and which would cease to have effect on 31st May in respect of South Africa if the Bill were not passed. I know that hon. Members opposite do not like this, but I made it clear that the Bill is a fairly pedestrian affair and does not deal with some of the main issues of policy which interested hon. Members. They have been very ingenious in managing to speak on these matters, but they are not directly connected with the Bill.

The purpose of the Bill is to ensure that Acts applying to South Africa which would cease to apply on 31st May will continue to apply for a period of one year while we are considering the issues involved. Any Act which refers to South Africa by name, and which applies to South Africa by reason of the fact that South Africa is mentioned in it by name, will not cease to have effect because South Africa becomes a Republic, or leaves the Commonwealth. Those Acts, therefore, will continue in force after 31st May unless some action is taken by the House of Commons to repeal or amend them.

Matters covered by these Acts and other Measures will be within the scope of our general review of policy in relation to South Africa, but no legislation is needed at this stage. At the end of the standstill period, which is more likely to be less than a year, the Government will introduce legislation which will cover not only the matters with which this Bill is concerned, but all matters where a change in the law is desirable. At the moment, we are concerned only with holding the position in respect of those Acts of Parliament which will cease to have effect if we do not take this action at the moment.

Our difficulty is that in his speech on Second Reading the right hon. Gentleman gave a list of Acts which would be affected by the Bill. We then took the view that they were pedestrian, but we have found in the course of discussion that a considerable number of other Acts are affected. We find now that one of the defence Acts comes under the Bill. We find that the Fugitive Offenders Act comes under it and that statutory powers for arrangements for Imperial Preference come under it. When we find that the Bill covers all these matters we find that it goes very much wider than the pedestrian steps which the right hon. Gentleman took.

I do not think that any great issues of policy arise. I hope that I shall be forgiven by the Chair if I try to elucidate the position. This might be helpful. We could have tried in these few weeks to make up our minds about all the numerous issues raised by these various Acts and have tried to rush through some legislation, but I do not think that we could have done a very satisfactory job. Consultations are involved with South Africa on reciprocal rights and relations, and we would have had to have consultations with a great many territories which are affected. As a practical step, it would not have been sensible to try to rush things through.

Another method would have been to pick and choose. To say, "This we want to change. We will settle on that and this and leave the others for discussion." I think that that would have been an untidy arrangement. We took the view that we should have a blanket arrangement which would ensure a standstill on all legislation affecting South Africa while we had a look at the whole picture and then presented to Parliament a Bill incorporating all the changes that seemed necessary. Whatever the view taken about the issues involved, the Amendment now before the Committee would mean picking out this or that item.

I think that we ought to get on, but if it is an important point I will give way.

4.15 p.m.

The question of transit through High Commission Territories is obviously not affected at the moment. There is no firm commitment of any kind, but we are interested in transit through South African territory just as the South Africans are interested in transit through ours. There are no radar instruments in the High Commission Territories and, therefore, that point does not arise.

I quite understand the point raised by the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway) about feelings on the question of Africa and defence agreements, but I think that there is a realisation awakening in Africa that some of these arrangements are perhaps to the advantage not only of countries outside Africa, but of countries in Africa itself. It is in the nature of things that the fact that there are defence agreements discourages other countries from interfering or threatening to interfere in African affairs.

The defence agreements comprise one of the relationships with South Africa which will be included within the scope of the review, but it would be very difficult to come to any conclusions about that in a hurry. All our defensive arrangements with South Africa are of mutual benefit. They are of benefit to us as well as to South Africa, and to South Africa as well as to us, and I doubt whether we will want to brush all these things lightly aside.

There is no police training going on in this country for the South African police. The hon. and learned Member for Brigg (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu) said that few hon. Members were present in 1933 when the Visiting Forces (British Commonwealth) Act was passed. I thought that the hon. and learned Member was about to refer to 1909 when the South Africa Act was passed. I think that it was my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) who introduced that into the House.

The purpose of the Visiting Forces Act is to apply British Service discipline to individual members of Commonwealth forces serving with British forces or in British Service establishments in this country. As long as there are these people serving with or attached to our military establishments here, it is very much in our interests that they should be under a proper code of military discipline. As has been said, there are about 33 members of the South African forces here on training courses and it is desirable that they should be under the same discipline as others have been hitherto.

I have dealt as far as I could with most of the points raised, but all these matters will be included in the review which we are undertaking and we do not think that it would be right or sensible to try to prejudge aspects of that review in advance.

On this side of the Committee, we have recognised, in respect of trade, that an agreement fairly negotiated between two parties to their mutual advantage would not be one to which we would object. Our attitude on defence matters is precisely the same. We readily concede that a defence agreement entered into with the Union of South Africa after it has become an independent country, provided that this is clearly to our advantage as well as to South Africa's and is well and thoroughly negotiated with an eye to the advantage to this country and without regard to internal circumstances in South Africa, might be necessary. As my right hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Dugdale) said when introducing the Amendment, we can just conceive circumstances of what he called a global war in which wider and more general interests than those of racial segregation might have to prevail.

Having said that, I am still very disappointed that the Minister did not go further to meet the point of view which we have expressed. The subject has been debated very moderately and quietly with no extravagant or absurd suggestions. When we have questioned them in the past about various occurrences in South Africa, the Government have frequently said that certain matters are the internal affair of South Africa. In defence matters we do not want to be mixed up in internal affairs in South Africa.

Unhappily, we cannot prevent the South African Government from repressing their own population if they wish to do so, but we can make a definite and clear statement that we shall not help to do that in any way. We are bound to raise the question when we realise that in the acts of repression which were deplored on both sides of the House, which took place at Sharpeville and Langa, military equipment manufactured in this country was used.

We blame nobody for that, because it had been supplied before any threat of that kind was apparent, but surely it is reasonable and sensible, now that we know the situation in South Africa and that such incidents of civil war—because they are no less than that—may take place, for the right hon. Gentleman to say that there will be non-intervention on our part. Non-intervention is a phrase with rather unhappy associations, but why should it not be used in this case?

We are bound to refer to these matters not merely because they occurred at the time of Sharpeville and Langa, but because there are reports in South African newspapers about new developments. Referring to the new Defence Bill which was introduced there, the Johannesburg Star of 25th February said:
"It facilitates the swift call-up of the defence forces either for war or, what is the obvious intention, the prevention or suppression of internal disorder."
That was in a South African newspaper. We all knew clearly that the purpose of the new Defence Act was suppression. We know that trouble has been going on in Pondoland. The people of Transkei have passed a resolution in their council demanding independence. That might well lead to civil war in Transkei.

We have the possibility of this within the period of a year, and we are asking that no fresh British equipment should be sent in that period and no assistance given to South African troops who may be engaged in civil war in Transkei or Pondoland or elsewhere by training people in this country. That is all that we are asking.

We are certainly not asking—at any rate, that was not my purpose in putting my name to the Amendment—that no defence agreement should be negotiated. As we said many times during the earlier stages of the Bill, we want negotiations. All we ask for is a more forthcoming statement from the right hon. Gentleman that he intends to see that the fears which have been expressed on this side of the Committee are completely met. Let him say, "You need have no fears of this kind. It is not our intention in any way to support South Africa in repressive activities. We realise that the whole of the British people would dislike that intensely. We ourselves dislike it very much and we have no intention whatever of helping them". Cannot we have such an assurance? The one word "Yes" would do to that kind of approach to the problem.

In view of the right hon. Gentleman's assurance that no more paratroopers are coming to this country, which is a very important assurance, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I beg to move, in page 1, line 12, to leave out from "shall" to "have" in line 13.

The Amendment proposes to leave out the following words:
"unless provision to the contrary is made by an authority having power to alter that law".
I want to ask my right hon. Friend some questions about this somewhat unusual form of words. Subsection (1) provides, as we discussed on the last Amendment, for a standstill on all existing United Kingdom law. It goes on to say that there shall be this standstill unless some "authority having power to alter that law" provides otherwise.

In United Kingdom law I have found no authority and no precedent for this form of words, which is highly unusual. After all, we pass a law in the House and often we repeal a law, and Ministers introduce Amendments or Motions for repeal, but the authority is with Parliament. In this case, we are not saying that Parliament shall change the law, but that it shall be done by some authority having this power "to alter that law". We should not leave this part of the Bill without clear assurance that there is nothing in this form of words which in any way diminishes the responsibility or authority of Parliament.

There have been two precedents for this very unhappy tragedy of South Africa's forced withdrawal from the Commonwealth. The first is the Burma Independence Act, 1947. In that Act we dealt with preferences, which are very different from statute law, and there was a provision that the Act should be amended in due course by an Order in Council. In that Act we made specific provision that Parliament would have the power to pray against such an Order in Council. In that Act, which dealt not with statute law, as does this Bill, but with preferences, Parliament's position was preserved.

The nearest analogy to this form of words is to be found in the Ireland Act, 1949. There, a form of words not unlike this is used to deal not with a problem of United Kingdom law, with which we are dealing in subsection (1), but with the law in Colonies, Protectorates or Trust Territories, such as we are dealing with in subsection (3). But in that case we have not quite this form of words, because in Section 3 (2) of the Ireland Act, 1949, the words were "until"—not "unless"—
"provision to the contrary is made by Parliament or by some other authority having power in that behalf."
That was a provision dealing, first, not with United Kingdom law as we deal with it here; not with the countermanding of Parliament's authority, as we are here; but with subordinate territories, putting a time limit on the effect of that Ireland Act, 1949, if that subordinate territory wished later to make a change.

4.30 p.m.

The effect of these words must be directed not to subsection (1) of this Bill, but to subsection (3), which deals with the subordinate territories. If I am wrong, this part of what I am saying is beyond the point, but I think that it must have that effect. If that is so, there are two problems here. There is the problem of a territory which has a Constitution, which does not require the authority of Parliament to change that part of the Constitution. If that is so, surely it is far better for us not to deal with that in the Bill, but if, by its Constitution, it has the force of authority to act without the necessity for Parliament, it is quite clearly outside the Bill.

If, on the other hand, it is a territory that requires the assent of an Act of Parliament to any decision which it takes, then I would suggest to my right hon. Friend that that ought to come back to Parliament before that territory counter-orders a standstill Order which Parliament is making. If I am right in this hazard that this Bill does not mean what it says, as drafted, these words
"unless provision to the contrary"
have got out of their context and ought not to be in subsection (1), but ought to be in subsection (3).

I suggest that both require drafting amendment before they are passed. Further, the word ought not to be "unless", but "until", as in the case of the Northern Ireland Act. I have some doubts myself whether we in Parliament, in a matter like this, should hand over our authority, with which we are empowered, completely.

When the Minister is replying, I should like him to try to explain how he envisages this Clause to work. I have a feeling that it would be much better that it should be given a calm and dispassionate period of thirteen months during which both sides, with the best will in the world, should try to make the most harmonious end to this unhappy tragedy. After all, the people who are affected by this Measure, as my right hon. Friend mentioned in the Second Reading debate, are people for whom all of us on both sides of this Committee have a great affection. They are men whose whole personal lives will be adrift until these problems are finally settled, and if they are not settled their lives will be jeopardised. They are the doctors, the dentists and all other professional men—the key men—and they are the very men who so dislike apartheid.

We want this calm and dispassionate approach to the problem, and I think that it would be very unfortunate if words such as these which I am seeking to delete proved to be one of the ways in which these professional men felt that, under the authority of Parliament, they were being treated in different parts of the country differently at different times.

For these reasons, I hope that my right hon. Friend will consider these words very carefully. This is a Bill of constitutional importance, and it appears to me that many people who read this phrase which I have read out will misunderstand its purpose. It may well be that in some parts of my interpretaion of it I myself have misunderstood it. I therefore hope that my right hon. Friend will consider carefully this form of words, and that, if he finds some of the implications which I have mentioned, will withdraw the phrase or alter it at a later stage.

I am interested that my right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) should have had his attention drawn to this phrase in the Bill, because when I first read the Bill, as drafted, I, also, was a little uncertain about this phrase; and I did not allow it to go into the Bill until I was fully satisfied that it was necessary and proper.

My right hon. Friend has asked for an assurance that these words do not involve any derogation of the authority or status of Parliament. That was just the point about which I was concerned. I can assure my right hon. Friend that that is, in fact, so; I give him the assurance for which he asks, and I will explain why. He said that this is a somewhat unusual form of words, and that there was no precedent for them. Though he seems to have done a certain amount of research on the subject, he did not go so far as to look at the Acts passed on India, Pakistan and Ghana becoming Republics. All these Acts contained precisely this phrase, and for reasons which I will explain.

This Bill applies to all laws, Orders in Council, Regulations and other law-making instruments of the United Kingdom and all British Colonies, Protectorates and Trust Territories. This phrase is mainly concerned, as my right hon. Friend himself recognised, not with laws which have effect here in this country primarily, but with laws which have effect in overseas territories. In the case of laws, as distinct from Orders in Council Regulations, and so forth, the authority referred to in the words proposed to be left out would normally be the legislature or other law-making authority of the dependent territory concerned. In the case of Orders in Council or other instruments, the authority would be the Queen in Council, or a Governor in Council, as the case may be, or any authority empowered to make Orders and Regulations.

The words which it is proposed to leave out have been inserted to allow dependent territories to modify the provisions of the Bill in respect of laws—and this is the point I want to emphasise—which are within their own legislative competence. Considering that some of these territories have reached an advanced stage of self-government, we think that it is constitutionally right and proper to leave them this discretion.

That is the explanation which I can give to my right hon. Friend, and I hope that with that assurance he will be content not to press the Amendment.

There is one outstanding point which I should like to raise. My right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) asked whether, assuming that this provision is appropriate at all, it is appropriately placed in subsection (1), which deals with existing law which operates in any part of the United Kingdom. Subsection (3) applies to the Colonies and Protectorates, but, of course, according to the ordinary canons of construction, if this provision is in subsection (1) we have to find some application for it within the actual ambit of that subsection; that is to say, so far as it relates to the law of the United Kingdom.

If there is no application as far as it relates to the law of the United Kingdom as distinct from the Colonies—and that is what I apprehend my right hon. Friend's answer to mean—it would seem that in subsection (1) there is no effect of these words and the phrase should not be placed in subsection (1).

I know that these matters are a little technical. Perhaps my right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton would not wish to press our right hon. Friend to give a definitive answer to this point now from the point of view of the drafting and whether the phrase is correctly placed in that subsection. However, in the light of what has been said and of the expert advice that he is in a position to obtain, perhaps he could consider that.

Even if my right hon. Friend does not press me, I should like to give an answer now. What I said earlier was that, in the main, I do not say it is absolutely 100 per cent., this phrase will, in practice, apply only to laws of independent territories. I do not think that there is any derogation of the authority of Parliament in doing what we have done in the Bill. It is what we do in regard to the United Kingdom. When Parliament passes a law which gives a power to some other authority—possibly to the Queen in Council or to the Minister by Regulation—to bring the application of that Act in part or in whole to an end or to modify it in any way. There is no reason why we should then seek to take away from the Queen in Council, for example, the powers to amend the Act which were given by Parliament after due consideration.

This is the effect. We are leaving as far as possible intact the Act as passed by Parliament. If Parliament thought it right to leave that discretion to some other law-making authority, whether the Queen in Council or to some colonial authority, we see no particular reason why we should in this Measure alter that provision.

I feel a great deal of sympathy for what has been said by the right hon. Member for Thirk and Malton (Mr. Turton) and the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith). The answer which the Secretary of State has given was, I believe, intended to satisfy them, but I wonder whether it really satisfies them on the question of derogation from the rights of Parliament.

The Secretary of State explained that if Parliament has given power to an inferior authority to Parliament to legislate in a given case there is no reason why the same authority should not be allowed to amend its legislation at a subsequent date. But surely that is not the point. The point is that we are legislating in this Bill. It is the Bill which causes a standstill to come into operation which would be effected by the subservient authority if it were permitted to amend legislation at a later stage.

If we did what the hon. and learned Member has suggested we would not be producing a standstill. The standstill does not mean that everything has to go on for a year. It means that everything will be exactly the same as if South Africa had not left the Commonwealth. If an Act which exists today provides that an authority outside Parliament has power to amend that Act, then the standstill should leave the position as it is, namely, leave that power to amend. Otherwise, it would not be a standstill, but an amendment of the Act. It would retain the Act in force in a different form. I think that when the hon. and learned Member considers that further he will see that it is a sound argument.

4.45 p.m.

Could my right hon. Friend explain how an Order in Council could be amended without coming to Parliament?

There are all sorts of powers, as my right hon. Friend knows, given by Parliament for action to be taken by Order in Council or Regulations in regard to many matters. Whether the Order has to be laid on the Table does not affect this Bill as we have it before Parliament today. We do not say, in the Bill, that if there is the provision that such an Order must be laid on the Table of the House that is amended. All we are doing is to keep everything as it is today with such powers of amendment as exist today for a period of a year.

What my right hon. Friend is saying is that if there is an Order in Council or Statutory Instrument subject to a defined degree of Parliamentary procedure that defined degree of Parliamentary procedure will still operate no more and no less in accordance with his interpretation of the meaning of the subsection?

I hope that I am not being unduly obtuse, but surely the Bill provides a standstill, in certain instances, on laws brought into operation by authorities subservient to this House. If those subservient authorities are allowed to alter their laws after we have said that there will be a standstill it is a derogation from the powers of this House.

I do not think that we want to pursue this matter very much. I tried to make it clear. We are no longer saying that no law in South Africa shall be changed for a year, but that those laws shall not cease automatically to have effect by reason of South Africa leaving the Commonwealth. I do not know that there is one, but suppose there were a law which said that until 1st September, 1961, South African citizens should have certain rights. This Bill would not extend the application of that Act for another nine months after that. That Act would come to an end on 1st September, 1961, as already provided. This is not a standstill in the sense that we are rigidly extending everything for one year.

What we are doing is to see that laws do not automatically cease to have effect by reason of South Africa's departure from the Commonwealth on 31st May. I hope that hon. Members will consider this, but perhaps we need not discuss it further now.

The Secretary of State may be right in saying that we have pursued this matter long enough, but I am not satisfied that we are very near to the quarry. For all I know, the legal gentlemen of the Privy Council, or the legal gentlemen who have had such long experience—longer than the rest of us—of this particular subject for legislation may understand it, but with every respect to the rest of my colleagues present, I should make a heavy bet against every one of them understanding it. I do not believe that this matter has been understood. I believe it to be the duty of Ministers to make sure that it is understood before they ask us to leave it.

No doubt my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is right about his precedents, but, again with respect to the draftsmen, for all I know to the contrary, this form of words:
"unless provision to the contrary is made by an authority having power to alter that law,"—
that is to say, a provision in the passive and a negative provision—may be inevitable, but ordinary hon. Members should always be suspicious of provisos in that sort of form. We have been given ample reason for supposing that competent lawyers may find the proviso unintelligible. It seems that from the point of view of the Committee in general this is an unintelligible proviso. I think that my right hon. Friend ought to give us some assurance that this will be fully considered. I think, quite honestly, that we ought to have present on the Report stage a Law Officer whom we can cross-examine on this point.

I do not wish to take up the time of the Committee on this, but, like the hon. Member for Carlton (Sir K. Pickthorn), I now find the matter much more incomprehensible than I had judged it to be before the right hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) moved his Amendment.

The Visiting Forces (British Commonwealth) Act, 1933, is full of provisions for Her Majesty, by Order in Council, doing a wide variety of things, such as giving exemptions from impositions under the Naval Discipline Act and the Army Act, and making arrangements for the relationships of visiting forces to the civil power and for the relationship of the Act to the Colonies. Is it possible, under the provisions of this Bill, for changes to be made in the operation of that Act—which is relevant to our discussions—without coming before the House of Commons? I would like an assurance about that.

Another point mentioned by the Secretary of State puzzled me. He said that if enactments relating to Britain and South Africa expired during the next twelve months, their date of expiry would not be affected by the Bill. Reading the Bill in one way, that seems to be so, but reading it in another way, it seems that all existing law is extended for one year from 31st May, 1961. We need legal clarification on that point.

May I add to the general confusion by asking the Secretary of State how his explanation of this sentence in subsection (1) fits in with the exceptions listed in subsection (3)? I understand that dependent territories have provisions in their own laws affecting their relationships with South Africa, and that it is within their competence to amend those provisions. The purpose of this sentence in subsection (1), to which attention has been drawn, is to continue to reserve to them that competence, but would not that be invalidated by subsection (3), which appears arbitrarily to apply to these territories the continuation of the existing relationships between them and South Africa?

The Secretary of State may say that subsection (1) merely continues the status quo, namely, the power of these territories, if that power already exists, to amend their own relationships with South Africa. If that is so, why is subsection (3) in the Bill? I hope that my obscurity is no worse than anyone else's, but it would help if he could throw some light on the matter.

I do not want to anticipate the debate on subsection (3), to which various amendments have been tabled, but the subsections of this Clause should be read together.

I must confess that I do not like the wording of this Bill, and I said so to my advisers. Personally, I would have rewritten the whole thing, but for the fact that it follows exactly the precedents of earlier laws dealing with the same problem, and it is a bad principle for Parliament to pass laws dealing with the same matter in the same way but using different words on different occasions. That is the only reason that I can give for this Bill being so difficult, but I am told that the lawyers understand it very well. I have studied it, and am satisfied that it means what we all want it to mean.

The hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. G. M. Thomson) sought clarification on one point. He is not correct in saying that this Bill keeps all laws which apply to South Africa unchanged for one year. Subsection (1) says that during this period of one year everything shall remain as though South Africa had not left the Commonwealth and had not become a Republic. If, as I have already mentioned, some legislation is due automatically to come to an end during that year, it will come to an end, and nothing will affect that.

My right hon. Friend is so disarming when he says that he does not like his own Bill that I am tempted to help him in every way that I can, but I must confess that I do not really think that he has met the points I made in moving the Amendment. Like the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle), I still do not understand some of the points involved. I do not understand why this form of words is not in subsection (3) rather than in subsection (1). I hope that this short debate will give my right hon. Friend the opportunity to mull over it before the next stage of the Bill comes. I hope that he will then produce a Bill which he likes a little bit better. In that hope, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I beg to move, in page 1, line 19, at the end to insert:

Provided that any enactment or statutory instrument in force or coming into force in the United Kingdom, being an enactment or statutory instrument which authorises or empowers trustees to invest in stock issued by a government shall no longer have effect in relation to stock issued after the passing of this Act by the Republic of South Africa.
This Amendment aims at removing a facility which the South African Government enjoy at present as a member of the Commonwealth but which they would not have were South Africa a foreign country. The facility can be removed simply and without any difficulty or complications. I see no reason why it should not be removed.

The facility is that they can borrow money more cheaply than if South African loans were not considered to be trustee stock. South African loans are considered as trustee stock and, as a result, trustees can take them up and invest money held by them on trust in South African stock. The number of people, therefore, who can and want to invest in South African stock is greater than it would be otherwise.

If this class of stock were wiped off the trustee list, no persons holding trust funds would be able to invest in South African stock. That means, as I have said, that the South African Government would be unable from now onwards to borrow money comparatively cheaply—and if this Amendment is not passed they might well use this next year to borrow large sums. I would certainly advise them to do so, and any sensible financier would borrow large sums at the lower rate of interest which he will probably be able to have during this coming year if my Amendment is not accepted.

I do not propose to touch past trustee stock. If people have, in the past, invested in South African stock, and they still hold that stock, it will remain as trustee stock if my Amendment is accepted. The proposal is that, in future, no South African Government should be able to borrow money with the advantage of coming under the Trustee Act, 1925, which is the Act that allows South Africa stock to be trustee stock.

As we all know, the Government of South Africa are very sensitive about their financial position. At one time they found that large sums of money were being withdrawn after Sharpeville and after the general feeling of horror which South African action aroused. They were considerably shaken by this withdrawal. If not, perhaps, the Government, certainly many of the most powerful financiers in South Africa were shaken.

My Amendment, if accepted, would do a great deal of good in bringing to the notice of the South African people that, by their own volition, they are no longer to be considered part of the Commonwealth, by showing them what this means in terms of borrowing money. I hope, therefore, that it will be possible to have in this Bill a Clause saying that the Consolidation Act shall no longer apply to South Africa. I see no difficulty in that. It would appear to be a simple operation. I hope that the Secretary of State will consider it. He has said that the object of the Bill is simple and straightforward. It deals mainly with simple matters, legislative matters, many of which could have been perfectly easily changed had the right hon. Gentleman so desired to do, such as the Dentists Act and others. I hope that he will look on this as something in that category which could be left out of his standstill legislation and, as a result, the people of South Africa, the financiers of South Africa, will realise what it means for South Africa to leave the Commonwealth.

5.0 p.m.

I should like to support the idea behind the Amendment moved by the right hon. Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Dugdale), but not for the reasons he stated. At present, the House of Commons is considering the Trustee Investment's Bill, which will considerably widen the powers of trustees. It may well be a desirable thing that the list of narrower-range trustee securities as defined in that Bill should be small. Therefore I think that the proposal advanced by the right hon. Gentleman is quite attractive, but I do not think it at all attractive in the context of this Bill.

I wish to support his idea, but not his method. I think that he might well achieve his object by moving an Amendment to the Trustee Investments Bill, which would have the same financial effect, but without this rather peculiar moralising effect which the right hon. Gentlemen has suggested.

I share the view expressed by the hon. Member for Maidstone (Mr. J. Wells) that this is not the Bill in which to make such an Amendment. An Amendment of this kind could be moved during the Committee stage of the Trustees Investments Bill, which is now being considered, if certain hon. Members—and I am not one of them—feel that such a change should be made.

As I have said before, and as I hope all hon. Members know, opinion is acutely divided in South Africa. The decision to set up a republic was passed by an extremely narrow majority; there is a substantial volume of opinion there against apartheid. I look forward to the day when South Africa will come back to the Commonwealth. Therefore, I do not want to put anything into a Bill which appears to make that contingency more remote. In my view, this Amendment would be regarded as an additional slap in the eye for our friends in the Union who want, if they can, to remain as near as possible to the old country.

As I understand it, South Africa will remain in the sterling area, which is something we should bear in mind before introducing such prohibitions against investment, not by ordinary investors, or speculators, but by trustees. They know their job as well as anybody. Under the Trustee Investments Bill trustees will to a certain extent be confined in what they can do which is one of the objections to that Bill. I do not want to go into the matter now, but all sorts of regulations are laid down in the Bill which many trustees will find difficult to understand without legal assistance. For that reason alone I think that if an Amendment of this kind is to be made it should be made in that Bill. It would be quite wrong to add a provision to this Bill which some people might consider an insult.

I wish to speak in a similar vein to the right hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall). With respect to the right hon. Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Dugdale), I think that to accept this Amendment would be a hasty and ill-advised step. This Bill is described as

"a standstill Measure designed to maintain unchanged the laws governing the relationship between the United Kingdom (and dependencies) and South Africa for a period of one year…"
Yet, by moving this Amendment, the right hon. Gentleman is choosing to make a significant change very hastily.

As I suggested in a speech on an earlier Amendment, I think we should use the standstill period to ponder very carefully on the relationship between this country and South Africa in these new circumstances. It would be most unwise for use to decide at once what that relationship should be. I do not wish to be unfair to the right hon. Member for West Bromwich, but the whole tone of his approach to this problem seems to indicate that he wishes to treat the Union of South Africa worse than any country in the world. He wishes to behave towards the Union in a different way from the attitude of this country to any other country in the world.

I said that I wanted to treat South Africa as a foreign country. South Africa has elected to be a foreign country, and I wish to treat her as a foreign country.

With respect to the right hon. Gentleman, that is what I do not want to do. South Africa is not a foreign country. There are a million or more people in South Africa who are British by descent. If that means nothing to the right hon. Member for West Bromwich, I hope that it means something to hon. Members on this side of the Committee and also to hon. Members opposite. I believe that it means something to the right hon. Member for Colne Valley, as he has shown by the speeches which he has made on the subject.

I wish to make clear to the right hon. Member for West Bromwich that I am not suggesting that any of us who take the line I am now taking wish to forget certain aspects of South African policy in recent years. But are not there many other countries in the world whose policies might have been objected to by this country at some period in history? Are not there many countries in the world whose policies, to such a fortunate democratic country as this, would prove objectionable?

As was said by the right hon. Member for Colne Valley, the decision to leave the Commonwealth was taken by a very small majority and it may not prove an irrevocable decision. It may be that the policies of the South African Government which have led to this result may not commend themselves to the European population in South Africa in the future. But if we wish to make those policies attractive to people of European descent in South Africa, surely the best way to do so would be to take this hasty and seemingly bitter action. If we wish to force the people of South Africa behind their Government, we could do it in no better way than that which the right hon. Gentleman suggests by his Amendment, which I hope on reflection he will decide not to press. It might have most unfortunate consequences which the right hon. Gentleman would not like.

During the Committee stage discussions on this Bill on Monday, I noticed that in most of the speeches from hon. Members opposite there emerged this same mood of self-deprecation and self-condemnation about the South African situation as has been expressed by the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower).

Let us remind ourselves that it was not this country which expelled South Africa from the Commonwealth. It was the South African Government who of their own volition decided to break the links with the Crown and declare themselves a Republic against the indignant protests of the million-and-a-half people who took the contrary view and whose views have been ridden roughshod over by the Nationalist Government who have relentlessly pursued a line of policy completely insensitive to the point of view of those people and without any kind of suspicion of conciliation towards that admittedly strong point of view. In fact, during the fiercest period of the application of harsh emergency laws some of the leaders of that point of view were incarcerated for many months without trial.

When it came to the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference, there was no lack of conciliation on the part of the British Government. Indeed, for months, even for years, some of us have had occasion to castigate Her Majesty's Government for providing a shield and shelter for South Africa at the United Nations. Time and again Motions were tabled from this side of the House condemning the Government for their policy, and for the British Government to be condemned now for bitterness and severity in this matter seems to me a most grotesque form of penance, uncalled for by the situation. The South African Government have deliberately taken this course, and they cannot now have their cake politically inside South Africa—bitter as the taste will prove to be as the months go by—and eat it.

Hon. Gentlemen opposite are doing less than justice to their Government in this matter. Happily, for once, I am glad to find myself in support of the Government. The attitude of hon. Gentlemen opposite will give no aid and comfort to those who are resisting these extreme Nationalist apartheid policies in South Africa. On the contrary, we well know that the majority of South Africans who take an anti-apartheid point of view have been delighted by the action of the British Government, and delighted by the consequences of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference in so far as they have brought the South African Government face to face with the inevitable consequences of their policies which have so gravely outraged the common law of the Commonwealth, its binding force, or what ought to be its binding force, and it is high time that this mood of self-depreciation and self-abuse stopped.

I would not have intervened had it not been for the rather extraordinary observations of the hon. and learned Member. He twice charged my hon. Friend the Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) with what he called self-deprecation, which I took to be a verbal slip for self-depreciation.

Then the hon. and learned Gentleman used a word inapt to describe what was his apparent meaning. Further, in the course of his observations it appeared that it was the Government whom he associated with my hon. Friend's strictures about taking up a bitter and vindictive attitude. But it was not the Government who were the target of my hon. Friend's proper criticism. It was the right hon. Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Dugdale), and it is within the recollection of those who have taken part in these proceedings that his consistent attitude has been, if not vindictive—I do not want to use any harsh words—at any rate to put on the Notice Paper Amendments seeking to increase the severity to the Union of the consequences of its withdrawal.

As the hon. and learned Member for West Ham, South said, it is true that the withdrawal followed from the South African Government's own motion, but in the light of the known facts it is also clear that they proposed to withdraw because they felt that they were compelled to do so. What we are concerned with in this Bill is simply this standstill arrangement to allow us, as my hon. Friend properly said, to think out what our attitude should be, not in haste, but in regard to the effect on our country, the effect on the Commonwealth as a whole, and the effect on the Union of South Africa particularly because it contains so many people to whom the doctrine of apartheid is also repugnant and who, if their wishes had been followed, would have remained in their previous relationship with the Commonwealth and would not have wished South Africa to become a Republic, in which case, of course, the matter would never have come before the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference.

The hon. and learned Member for West Ham, North, with less logic than one would expect from such an ornament of the legal profession, suggests that we should treat a country worse by reason of the fact that there is a substantial minority opposed to the opinions which one does not like.

5.15 p.m.

I am not suggesting that they should be treated worse. I am suggesting that they should be treated as a foreign power. That is all. No more, and no less.

I am referring to the observations in the earlier part of the hon. and learned Gentleman's speech when he pointed out that there was this substantial minority against becoming a republic, and he appeared, at any rate to me, to pray that in aid as a reason why we should now be more severe towards the Union of South Africa. With respect, the logical deduction would have been precisely the opposite.

If there are—and we know there are—a large minority of people there who would not wish to be a republic and who would not wish to follow the racial policies of which we disapprove, surely that would be a reason for not seeking to heap Pelion on Ossa, not trying to make more severe the measures in regard to South Africa. It was that which I felt was so illogical, and uncharacteristically so, in the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman, and it is a point of view which should not commend itself either to the good sense or to the humanity of the Committee.

I must resist the temptation to follow the right hon. Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Dugdale) down the path of political argument and denunciation which he followed. I must do so in this context because the right hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall) and my hon. Friend the Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) in a reasoned, calm, and sensible way, counselled us to be cautious.

It might be for the convenience of the Committee if I said something about the present position which the Bill should preserve—subject, of course, to any enactments which we may pass in the next few months.

Under the Trustee Act, 1925, those trustees who do not have wider powers under the instruments setting up their trusts may invest in securities issued by Commonwealth or Colonial Governments, provided that these are registered under the Colonial Stock Acts, and the conditions laid down by the United Kingdom Treasury are observed. Down the years the South African Government have observed these conditions, and their stocks are therefore a permissible investment for trustees under the 1925 Act.

The effect of the right hon. Gentleman's Amendment would be to take South African Government stocks out of the reach of trustees unless their trust instruments give them wider powers of investment than are provided under the 1925 Act.

The Amendment refers to future stock and not to past stock. That is the important point.

It was clear from the right hon. Gentleman's speech that he did not really understand the delicacy of the position. What I am endeavouring to do is to describe to the Committee—and many hon. Members understand this already—what exactly is involved in the Amendment. The effect of the Amendment will be to take South African Government stocks out of the reach of trustees unless their trust instruments give them wider powers of investment than are provided under the 1925 Act.

The whole purpose of the Bill which we are now considering is to provide a maximum period of twelve months within which we can consider the very many detailed legislative provisions made necessary by South Africa ceasing to be a member of the Commonwealth. That objective is not going to be reached if we insert specific provisions in the Bill, as the right hon. Gentleman is now asking us to do, excluding particular items of legislation from its scope. We see no advantage in that whatsoever. In fact, we should be doing precisely what it is the object of the Bill to avoid doing, namely, making up our minds on particular items without an adequate period for consideration both of these items themselves and of how they fit together in the wider picture.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone (Mr. J. Wells) reminded us, hon. Members will be aware that there is a Trustee Investments Bill now in Standing Committee upstairs. I understand that it has twelve Clauses, and I am informed that the Standing Committee has reached Clause 6. This Trustee Investments Bill radically reforms the whole law relating to investments by trustees. I am advised that if the Bill were enacted by 31st May, which is extremely unlikely, the present Bill would apply; that is to say, whatever the Trustee Investments Bill provides would have the force of law as far as South Africa is concerned up to 31st May, 1962. But if, as appears much more likely, the other Bill is not passed before 31st May, then the present Bill will not apply to it. I can say that, in that event, the Government will consider introducing an Amendment which will bring the Trustee Investments Bill under the umbrella of this Bill.

I do not know and thus cannot say what eventually will be decided in respect of South African Government stocks, whether they will be allowed to continue to be eligible for investment by trustees or whether they will be excluded from the field of securities in which trustees, whose powers are governed by legislation, may invest. I cannot say, and I do not believe that it will be wise for the Committee to try to reach any final conclusion this afternoon. In fact, the advice of the right hon. Member for Colne Valley, of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) and of my hon. Friend the Member for Barry was sound, and I commend it to the Committee.

It will be wise to leave the matter to be dealt with when we consider the permanent legislation which will be required to deal with the whole body of law before the end of the standstill period. In the meantime, I have no doubt that hon. Members serving on the Standing Committee upstairs, my right hon. Friend and all those present in this Committee will take due note of what has been said. I hope, therefore, that the right hon. Member for West Bromwich, having gathered the sense of the Committee in the way in which I have certainly gathered it, will feel that it would be right to withdraw his Amendment.

I think that a good deal of the earlier debate on this Amendment was very much misconceived by some hon. Members who seemed to forget that the trustee Acts are put on the Statute Book by Parliament to safeguard the interests of trusts in this country. They talk about a slap in the eye for our friends in the Union, but the real danger, if no amendment in the law is made, is that South Africa will be able to borrow money from trustees in this country. The beneficiaries of trusts in this country might be very badly used by the trustees investing in South African stocks which, obviously, in the present state of South Africa cannot be a very sound investment when there are rumours of rebellion and demands for independence inside the territory and when a defence Act is being passed shortly for the purpose of what is called maintaining law and order, but which really means suppressing the natural desire of human beings to express themselves and to demand their human rights.

Surely South African Government stock is hardly a suitable stock in which we could accept responsibility for advising trustees in this country to place money intended for the beneficiaries of those trusts. It seemed to me, therefore, that much of the argument was all at sea. Hon. Members seemed to think that, in some way, we were trying to injure the interests of someone in South Africa. Not at all. My right hon. Friend's Amendment is directed to the purpose of trying to help and safeguard the interests of beneficiaries of trusts in this country.

I think that the Under-Secretary of State has cleared up the matter very considerably by what he has said. He indicated that it might well be that those considering the Trustee Investments Bill in Committee at present ought to have regard to the danger that the South African Government might now in their very difficult financial position seek to issue stocks and to invite applications from trustees in this country for stocks which really are very unsafe investments.

At the moment, South Africa is undoubtedly in severe economic difficulties, as everyone knows who reads the financial Press at all. The suggestion made by the Under-Secretary of State, as I understand it, is that the appropriate instrument for making an alteration to safeguard the interests of the beneficiaries of trusts in this country would be the Trustee Investments Bill and that the place to put that forward would be in the Committee which is now considering it, where the value of South African trustee stocks issued after South Africa becomes a Republic could be thoroughly assessed in comparison with other stocks.

I do not quite understand this. Supposing that the Trustee Investments Bill now in Committee were altered in order to leave out South African Government stock if it came into operation before this consolidation Act about which I am speaking has been altered, in other words, while the standstill Bill is law, can we be certain that any alteration made under the Trustee Investments Bill will really become a law?

I need hardly tell my right hon. Friend that I am unable to answer that question. I must rely on the Government, who have their legal advisers available to them to give the proper answer to that question.

I was about to conclude by suggesting to my right hon. Friend that he should press for some clarification that this would be the way out. I am all in sympathy with his purpose of protecting the beneficiaries of trust in this country and of trustees in this country from being misled into investing in stocks whose future is very much in doubt. I am all in favour of and have sympathy with what my right hon. Friend has said, but I would ask him seriously to consider, and perhaps to press for further clarification, whether this is the appropriate point at which to achieve our aim.

Did not I hear the Under-Secretary of State say that the Government were proposing to put down an Amendment to the Trustee Investments Bill on Report, or later on?

As in Committee we can all speak as often as we like, may I suggest to my hon. Friend that he can address his question to the Under-Secretary of State in that Committee?

I happen to be the Chairman of the Committee dealing with the Bill, but I am not in a position to make a report to this Committee on where we are with it. I thought that I heard the Under-Secretary of State say that the Government were going to put down an Amendment to the Trustee Investments Bill either on Report or when the Bill goes to another place.

The point was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Maid-stone (Mr. J. Wells) and I said that we would consider introducing an Amendment which would bring the Trustee Investments Bill under the umbrella of this

Division No. 155.]


[5.31 p.m.

Ainsley, WilliamGordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.Mackie, John
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)Gourlay, HarryMcLeavy, Frank
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)Grey, CharlesMacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)
Awbery, StanGriffiths, David (Rother Valley)Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)
Bacon, Miss AliceGriffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)Mallalieu, J.P.W. (Huddersfield, E.)
Baxter, William (Stirlingshire, W.)Griffiths, W. (Exchange)Manuel, A. C.
Bence, Cyril (Dunbartonshire, E.)Gunter, RayMapp, Charles
Benson, Sir GeorgeHamilton, William (west Fife)Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.
Blyton, WilliamHannan, WilliamMarsh, Richard
Boardman, H.Hart, Mrs. JudithMason, Roy
Bowden, Herbert W. (Leics, S. W.)Hayman, F. H.Mellish, R. J.
Boyden, JamesHealey, DenisMendelson, J. J.
Brookway, A. FennerHenderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur (RwlyRegis)Millan, Bruce
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.Herbison, Miss MargaretMilne, Edward J.
Brown, Thomas (Ince)Hewitson, Capt. M.Mitchison, G. R.
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)Hill, J. (Midlothian)Monslow, Walter
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)Hilton, A. V.Moody, A. S.
Callaghan, JamesHolman, PercyMorris, John
Castle, Mrs. BarbaraHoughton, DouglasMort, D. L.
Chapman, DonaldHowell, Charles A. (B'ham, Perry Bar)Moyle, Arthur
Colliok, PercyHowell, Denis (B'ham, Small Heath)Neal, Harold
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)Hoy, James H.Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip (Derby, S.)
Crosland, AnthonyHughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)Oliver, G. H.
Crossman, R. H. S.Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)Oswald, Thomas
Cullen, Mrs. AliceHughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)Owen, Will
Darling, GeorgeHunter, A. E.Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)Hynd, H. (Accrington)Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)
Davies, Harold (Leek)Hynd, John (Attercliffe)Peart, Frederick
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)Pentland, Norman
Deer, GeorgeIrving, Sydney (Dartford)Popplewell, Ernest
Delargy, HughJay, Rt. Hon. DouglasPrentice, R. E.
Dempsey, JamesJohnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)
Diamond, JohnJones, Rt. Hn. A. Creech (Wakefield)Probert, Arthur
Dodds, NormanJones, Dan (Burnley)Proctor, W. T.
Donnelly, DesmondJones, Elwyn (West Ham, S.)Pursey, Cmdr. Harry
Driberg, TomJones, Jack (Rotherham)Randall, Harry
Dugdale, Rt. Hon. JohnJones, T. W. (Merioneth)Rankin, John
Ede, Rt. Hon. C.Kelley, RichardRedhead, E. C.
Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)Kenyon, CliffordRoberts, Albert (Normanton)
Edwards, Robert (Bilston)Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Edwards, walter (Stepney)Lee, Frederick (Newton)Robertson, J. (Paisley)
Evans, AlbertLewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)
Finch, HaroldLipton, MarcusRoss, William
Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)Logan, DavidRoyle, Charles (Salford, West)
Forman, J. C.Loughlin, CharlesShinwell, Rt. Hon. E.
Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)Mabon, Dr. J. DicksonShort, Edward
Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. HughMcCann, JohnSilverman, Julius (Aston)
Galpern, Sir MyerMacColl, JamesSilverman, Sydney (Nelson)
George, LadyMeganLloyd (Crmrthn)McKay, John (Wallsend)Skeffington, Arthur
Ginsburg, DavidSlater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)

Bill. I feel that there is no need to go beyond that, because, after all, the answer to the point which the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Marquand) was making is that in any case the House, ultimately, will have an opportunity for dealing with the matter in the consolidated measure that we must introduce before the end of the standstill period. It would be unwise for us to tie our hands here this, afternoon. The general sense of what has been said by the Committee has been understood by my right hon. Friend and myself.

5.30 p.m.

Question put, That those words be there inserted:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 183, Noes 264.

Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)Taylor, John (West Lothian)Willey, Frederick
Small, WilliamThomas, George (Cardiff, W.)Williams, D. J. (Neath)
Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)Thompson, Dr. Alan (Dunfermline)Williams, Ll. (Abertillery)
Sorensen, R. W.Thomson, G. M. (Dundee, E.)Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)
Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir FrankTimmons, JohnWillis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)
Spriggs, LeslieTomney, FrankWilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Stewart, Michael (Fulham)Warbey, WilliamWoodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Vauxhall)Weitzman, DavidWoof, Robert
Swingler, StephenWells, Percy (Faversham)Yates, Victor (Ladywood)
Sylvester, GeorgeWhite, Mrs. EireneZilliacus, K.
Symonds, J. B.Whitlock, William
Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)Wilkins, W. A.TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Mr. Lawson and Mr. Rogers.


Agnew, Sir PeterFarr, JohnLitchfield, Capt. John
Aitken, W. T.Fell, AnthonyLloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'dfield)
Allason, JamesFinlay, GraemeLloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)
Arbuthnot, JohnFisher, NigelLongden, Gilbert
Atkins, HumphreyFoster, JohnLoveys, Walter H.
Balniel, LordFraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh
Barber, AnthonyFreeth, DenzilMcAdden, Stephen
Barlow, Sir JohnGalbraith, Hon. T. G. D.McLaughlin, Mrs. Patricia
Barter, JohnGammans, LadyMacleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.)
Baxter, Sir Beverley (Southgate)Gardner, EdwardMacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty)
Beamish, Col. Sir TuftonGlover, Sir DouglasMcMaster, Stanley R.
Bell, RonaldGlyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham)Maddan, Martin
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos & Fhm)Goodhart, PhilipMaginnis, John E.
Berkeley, HumphryGoodhew, VictorMaitland, Sir John
Bevins, Rt. Hon. Reginald (Toxteth)Gough, FrederickManningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.
Bidgood, John C.Gower, RaymondMarkham, Major Sir Frank
Biggs-Davison, JohnGrant, Rt. Hon. WilliamMarples, Rt. Hon. Ernest
Birch, Rt. Hon. NigelGreen, AlanMarshall, Douglas
Bishop, F. P.Gresham Cooke, R.Marten, Neil
Black, Sir CyrilGrimond, J.Mathew, Robert (Honiton)
Bossom, CliveGrimston, Sir RobertMatthews, Gordon (Meriden)
Bourne-Arton, A.Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.Maudling, Rt. Hon. Reginald
Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan)Hall, John (Wycombe)Mawby, Ray
Box, DonaldHamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.
Braine, BernardHarris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.)Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.
Brewis, JohnHarris, Reader (Heston)Mills, Stratton
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col-SirWalterHarrison, Brian (Maldon)Montgomery, Fergus
Brooke, Rt. Hon. HenryHarrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)More, Jasper (Ludlow)
Brown, Alan, (Tottenham)Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)Morrison, John
Bullard, DenysHarvie Anderson, MissMott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles
Bullus, Wing Commander EricHenderson, John (Cathcart)Nabarro, Gerald
Burden, F. A.Henderson-Stewart, Sir JamesNicholson, Sir Godfrey
Butcher, Sir HerbertHendry, ForbesNoble, Michael
Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A. (Saffron Walden)Hiley, JosephNugent, Sir Richard
Carr, Compton (Barons Court)Hill, Dr. Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)Oakshott, Sir Hendrie
Carr, Robert (Mitcham)Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)Orr, Capt. L. P. S.
Cary, Sir RobertHinchingbrooke, ViscountOsborn, John (Hallam)
Channon, H. P. G.Hirst, GeoffreyPage, John (Harrow, West)
Chataway, ChristopherHobson, JohnPage, Graham (Crosby)
Chichester-Clark, R.Hocking, Philip N.Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale)
Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)Holland, PhilipPartridge, E.
Clarke, Brig, Terence (Portsmth, W.)Hollingworth, JohnPearson, Frank (Clitheroe)
Cleaver, LeonardHopkins, AlanPeel, John
Cole, NormanHornby, R. P.Percival, Ian
Collard, RichardHornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. PatriciaPeyton, John
Cooke, RobertHoward, Hon. G. R. (St. Ives)Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth
Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.Howard, John (Southampton, Test)Pike, Miss Mervyn
Cordle, JohnHughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)Pilkington, Sir Richard
Costain, A. P.Hughes-Young, MichaelPitman, I. J.
Coulson, J. M.Hurd, Sir AnthonyPitt, Miss Edith
Craddock, Sir BeresfordHutchison, Michael ClarkPott, Percivall
Critchley, JulianIremonger, T. L.Price, David (Eastleigh)
Crosthwalte-Eyre, Col. O. E.Jackson, JohnPrior, J. M. L.
Cunningham, KnoxJames, DavidPrior-Palmer, Brig. Sir Otho
Currie, G. B. H.Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)Proudfoot, Wilfred
Dalkeith, Earl ofJennings, J. C.Pym, Francis
Dance, JamesJohnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)Quennell, Miss J. M.
Digby, Simon WingfieldJohnson, Eric (Blackley)Rawlinson, Peter
Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M.Johnson Smith, GeoffreyRedmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin
Doughty, CharlesJoseph, Sir KeithRees, Hugh
Drayson, G. B.Kerans, Cdr. J. S.Renton, David
Duncan, Sir JamesKerby, Capt. HenryRidley, Hon. Nicholas
Eden, JohnKirk, PeterRidsdale, Julian
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)Kitson, TimothyRoberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)
Elliott, R. W. (Nwcstle-upon-Tyne, N.)Langford-Holt, J.Roots, William
Emery, PeterLeather, E. H. C.Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard
Emmet, Hon. Mrs. EvelynLeavey, J. A.Russell, Ronald
Errington, Sir EricLilley, F. J. P.Sandys, Rt. Hon. Duncan
Erroll, Rt. Hon. F. J.Lindsay, MartinScott-Hopkins, James
Farey-Jones, F. W.Linstead, Sir HughSeymour, Leslie

Sharples, RichardTeeling, WilliamWalker, Peter
Shaw, M.Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir Derek
Shepherd, WilliamThomas, Peter (Conway)Ward, Dame Irene
Skeet, T. H. H.Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)Watkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold
Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'rd & Chiswick)Thornton-Kemsley, Sir ColinWells, John (Maidstone)
Smithers, PeterTiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)Whitelaw, William
Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood)Tilney, John (Wavertree)Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Spearman, Sir AlexanderTurner, ColinWills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
Speir, RupertTurton, Rt. Hon. R. H.Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Stevens, GeoffreyTweedsmuir, LadyWise, A. R.
Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolmvan Straubenzee, W. R.Wood, Rt. Hon. Richard
Studholme, Sir HenryVane, W. M. F.Woodhouse, C. M.
Summers, Sir Spencer (Aylesbury)Vaughan-Morgan, Sir JohnWoodnutt, Mark
Sumner, Donald (Orpington)Vickers, Miss JoanWoollam, John
Talbot, John E.Vosper, Rt. Hon. DennisWorsley, Marcus
Tapsell, PeterWade, DonaldYates, William (The Wrekin)
Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Taylor, Edwin (Bolton, E.)Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Taylor, W. J. (Bradford, N.)Walder, DavidMr. Gibson-Watt and
Mr. Gordon Campbell.

I beg to move, in page 2, line 5, after "Kingdom", to insert:

"only with the consent of the Legislative Assembly or other duly constituted authority of Southern Rhodesia or any colony, protectorate or United Kingdom trust territory".
This Amendment is a very reasonable one, as I think the Secretary of State will agree. It provides that any existing arrangements between Colonies and Protectorates on the one hand and the Union of South Africa on the other should not be continued, as a result of this Measure, without their consent. I am heartened in moving the Amendment because the Secretary of State, in the debate on 24th April, when dealing with the problems that arise from the exodus of South Africa from the Commonwealth, said:
"These matters will not only need to be studied here in London, but will have to be fully discussed with the Government of the Union. Colonial Governments will also be affected, and will need to be consulted."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th April, 1961; Vol. 639, c.103.]
The Amendment would give statutory effect to that obligation.

It is a little difficult to move the Amendment, because it is difficult to understand what the subsection means. I hope that the Secretary of State will throw a great are of light on it. I am not clear about its scope. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman is clearer about it than I am, because its obscurity is enhanced by the obscurity of subsection (2), which says that:
"'existing law' means any Act of Parliament or other enactment or instrument whatsoever, and any rule of law…"
Perhaps some of our legal colleagues can help us in this matter, but I am at a loss to understand what is meant by "any rule of law". This definition of "existing law" means that the statutory or other relationships between the Colonies, Protectorates and United Kingdom Trust Territories on the one hand and the Union of South Africa on the other will be continued by the unilateral act of this House and will commit those territories to the continuance of relationships which, in view of South Africa's exodus from the Commonwealth, they may no longer wish to continue.

Does the subsection include all the defence arrangements or trade agreements concluded between these Colonies and Protectorates and the Union of South Africa? If it does, is it not quite wrong that this provision should be continued for twelve months in the new situation following the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference, unless those territories give their consent to such continuance? As the Secretary of State said earlier, in reply to the Amendment moved by the right hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton), the House always recognises that our dependent territories pass laws which are within their competence to pass and which may deal with some of the matters which are before us this afternoon, and also recognises their right to amend those laws, and presumably to alter those relationships, even if the House wishes to continue the direct relationships which exist between the United Kingdom and the Union of South Africa.

5.45 p.m.

I was interested to hear the Secretary of State make this point because, when I put my name to the Amendment, I had very much in mind the fact that when I was a delegate to the United Nations Assembly on behalf of the Labour Government in 1949 I had the job, in Committee 3 of the General Assembly, of putting our Government's point of view on certain important Conventions which were before that Committee. I remember in particular the work I had to do on the Convention on Prostitution—one with which this country was in sympathy but which, in the end, we refused to sign because we could not get the other United Nations delegates to let us include what was called the Colonial Application Clause, the purpose of which is to make it clear that, even in the case of dependent non-self-governing territories of our Commonwealth, we have always taken the line that although they are not independent or even completely self-governing they are none the less on the road to self-government, and that it has always been a point of policy of United Kingdom Governments to give them as great a freedom of decision as possible on matters affecting their internal affairs.

Part of the Colonial Application Clause which we moved, and which we could not get the majority of the General Assembly to accept, ran as follows:
"Each party to this Convention agrees to take as soon as possible the necessary steps to extend the application of this Convention to such Territories"—
that is, those for whose international relationships we remain responsible—
"subject where necessary for constitutional reasons to the consent of the Governments of such Territories".
We had a very long discussion in the General Assembly, trying to point out to the rest of the members that this was not an attempt by the United Kingdom Government to evade their obligations but rather an insistence on the principle, which was of very great importance to us, that it was not right to commit these countries by our acts in fields which might be considered to lie within their domestic jurisdiction and choice.

It therefore seems to me that this present Amendment is very much in keeping with that tradition, and with the spirit of the Colonial Application Clause. It would clearly be intolerable if, by the passing of this Bill, the House of Commons were to impose upon newly self-governing countries like Tanganyika, or even on non-self-governing countries like Kenya and Uganda, the continuance of existing relationships with South Africa which they might wish to change now that South Africa is no longer a member of the Commonwealth.

That might be a point of considerable substance. We know that one of the decisive factors leading to South Africa's exit from the Commonwealth was the very clear and emphatic stand taken by Mr. Julius Nyerere, newly the Prime Minister of Tanganyika, who, before the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference met, made it quite clear that if South Africa were to continue to be a member of the Commonwealth, Tanganyika, on reaching independence, would very seriously have to consider whether she could remain in it.

That shows that the territories referred to in the subsection may have very strong individual approaches to this new situation, and it would clearly be contrary to all our traditions in our relationships with them to impose this standstill upon them. The Secretary of State may say—and here we get into the deep waters of the obscurity we have endured in regard to an earlier Amendment—that the mysterious wording in subsection (1)
"…unless provision to the contrary is made by an authority having power to alter that law…"
covers this point, because he has explained to his right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton that this sentence was inserted in order to allow dependent territories to amend provisions in laws within their own competence.

If that is so, however, surely subsection (1), as it stands, contradicts subsection (3). There is a very alarming obscurity in the Bill as it stands—a Bill of which the Secretary of State himself has said that he does not at all like the wording. I would suggest to him that if he cannot give some assurance rather more clear in its terms and comforting in its substance than that which he gave on subsection (1), we must clarify the position by including the words suggested in the Amendment.

At the very least, there can be no harm in it if the sentence in subsection (1) means what the right hon. Gentleman earlier told us it did mean. My Amendment has, at least, the virtue of being put in simple and clear language. For that reason, I hope that the Secretary of State will be in sympathy with its purpose and, being in sympathy with it, will put everyone's fears and suspicions a rest by accepting it.

The Committee will agree that this Amendment could be of great importance to the territories which the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) has in mind. As the hon. Lady will agree, she has in mind, predominantly and almost entirely, the Protectorates, Colonies and Trust Territories in the Continent of Africa, and I should have thought that the effect of incorporating these words could be most undesirable.

The purpose of this Measure, according to the Explanatory Memorandum, is
"…to maintain unchanged the laws governing the relationship between the United Kingdom…and South Africa…"
I hope that either my right hon. Friend ox my hon. Friend will correct me if I am wrong, but I understand that if we do not pass this temporary provision Bill then upon the coming into being of the South African Republic there would be no relationship between this country and South Africa, or between the Colonies and Protectorates in South Africa and the Union, other than that of foreign countries.

The hon. Lady will have noticed that in our previous discussions there has been on both sides an awareness that the new relationship between this country and South Africa cannot be easily settled. Many speakers have said that we should ponder and consider that relationship with great care before arriving at lasting and final decisions. With great respect, I should have thought that even greater care should be taken in deciding the ultimate relationship between our Protectorates and Colonies in Africa and the Union.

The hon. Lady will be aware that the relationship between some of these Colonial Territories and Protectorates and the Union is a very peculiar one, a very delicate one. The nationals or inhabitants of the Protectorates habitually go to the Union in search of employment. She may think that to be undesirable. She may think it much more desirable that they should not do so. The fact remains that they have done so for a very long time, and continue to do so, and that if the possibility of their moving easily into the Union were withheld it could inflict great harm upon those people themselves. It could be most injurious to their standard of living.

This movement is not confined to the Protectorates—to the people in places like Swaziland. It extends even to people in Nyasaland, who sometimes go right into the heart of the Union to find temporary employment. I therefore respectfully submit that where there is such an involved and delicate relationship as this, we need just as long—if not longer—for our consideration of what relationship should subsist between those territories and the Union as we do to consider the relationships between this country and the Union.

I believe that in matters of law it has usually been the prerogative of the United Kingdom Parliament to retain conduct of foreign affairs, at any rate until the country attains self-governing status. In other words, though a country may in its administration and institutions be self-governing, until it attains all the powers of self-government the power of entering into relationships with other countries, and so on, has always constitutionally been retained in the United Kingdom Parliament.

That is even more the case when we consider territories which the Bill describes as being Protectorates or Trust Territories. In those cases, very obviously, the duty to make arrangements for diplomatic representation, to enter into treaties and so on with foreign countries rests very firmly upon this Government—

6.0 p.m.

Is not the hon. Gentleman overlooking the fact that the subsection deals with existing laws which operate as the laws of those territories?

But those laws differ in the way in which they have been enacted according to the territory in which they apply. In some cases they have been passed merely by the edict of a governor representing this country in the territory. In other cases they have been enacted by a partially representative assembly and confirmed by the Governor under prerogative powers. In other cases they have been passed, as in Southern Rhodesia, by a Government who have virtually enjoyed self-government since 1923 but in respect of whose foreign affairs this Parliament has retained ultimate responsibility. Thus, there is a great variety of legal enactments passed in different ways in these territories.

Nevertheless, in matters of foreign affairs and diplomatic representation the relationship between these territories and the Union of South Africa, which will, in effect, be a foreign country, will obviously continue to remain firmly the responsibility of this Parliament until those territories themselves attain self-government.

In supplementation of my earlier remarks, I should have thought that, constitutionally, the Amendment would be not merely undesirable but contrary to our whole constitutional background and our rules of law. I hope that, on reflection, the hon. Lady will feel that the Amendment—no doubt she had very good intentions—could effect very great harm indeed, and not least to those territories to which she has referred and probably, above all, to the people of the Protectorates and Trust Territories themselves.

Before I direct myself to the argument to which I have just listened with interest, I should like to say a word to the Secretary of State. I hope very much that he will say that the Government accept the Amendment. My hope springs from his attitude and speeches while he has been in Sierra Leone. Those speeches have been welcomed very sincerely by all hon. Members. The particular speech which seemed to me to have a direct effect upon the Amendment was the one in which he dealt with defence arrangements for Sierra Leone. It was very Liberal, very democratic and very generous. He told Sierra Leone "We do not want to impose on you any defence arrangements. If there are to be any defence arrangements between us, it must be through the spontaneous good will of the people of Sierra Leone; it must be by their consent and agreement." That speech, which I so much welcomed, represents the spirit of the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle).

As I understand it, the Clause arises from the fact that not only are there treaties between the Government of the United Kingdom and the Union of South Africa, but Her Majesty's Government in their capacity as a colonial Power have also involved the Colonial Territories, Trust Territories and Protectorates in treaties and arrangements with the Union of South Africa, and the Clause provides that these treaties and arrangements, so far as they affect the Colonies, Protectorates and Trust Territories, shall apply to them as well as to the United Kingdom and South Africa.

My hon. Friend's Amendment suggests that in the case of the Colonial Territories the Bill should not apply except with the consent of the legislatures of those territories. The hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) has argued that that would be harmful to the territories themselves and that it would be a precedent which would be tearing up constitutional law as we have known it, because even self-governing territories do not control their foreign affairs.

I want to look at some of the Colonial Territories in relation to the Bill. I do not think that our consideration should be limited to the territories which are in the Continent of Africa, but I will deal first of all with those territories.

Yesterday Tanganyika obtained the status of full self-government. Mr. Julius Nyerere, who was its Chief Minister, became recognised as Prime Minister. As my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn has said, the opinion expressed by Mr. Nyerere in relation to South Africa had a considerable influence on the decision which was reached at the Prime Ministers' Conference which led to the withdrawal of the Union of South Africa from the Commonwealth. Before the end of this year Tanganyika will be an independent territory. Yet here we are today, with Tanganyika yesterday becoming fully self-governing and in December becoming absolutely independent, saying in this Bill that any treaties which affect Tanganyika in relation to the Union of South Africa shall continue to have the power of law for a maximum of a year, whatever the opinion of the legislature and the Prime Minister and whatever, in December, the independent Government of Tanganyika may decide. That is an absolutely impossible attitude for us to adopt if we pay any attention to democratic principles.

Let us look at the West Indies. They become independent next year. They have shown that they take as strong a view about apartheid in the Union of South Africa as Tanganyika does. Yet here is this Parliament, which recognises the right of Jamaica to self-government under Prime Minister Norman Manley, which recognises the rights of Trinidad and so on, and which says, "Next year you become completely independent and a part of the Commonwealth", nevertheless saying, despite their dislike of South Africa and their resolutions supporting the idea of an economic boycott of South Africa, "We are going to carry in the British House of Commons a Measure which means that for one year your country must maintain any treaties and arrangements relating to South Africa which were imposed before you had self-government".

Will the hon. Gentleman address himself to the territories whose nationals go to South Africa to find work? That is the nub of the problem.

I have an Amendment dealing with Nyasaland which very directly affects that matter.

I do not wish to detain the Committee too long. I will merely say that the arguments which I have advanced in the case of Tanganyika in Africa and Jamaica in the Caribbean apply also to Singapore in Asia. It was the Government of Malaya who took the initiative a year ago on this issue in the Prime Ministers' Conference—and, if anything, the Government of Singapore is more to the Left than the Government of Malaya. That very fact indicates that as Singapore is moving towards its independence, it would regard almost as an insult that this Parliament should say that treaties and arrangements should continue to operate between it and the Union of South Africa when the Union of South Africa has been excluded from the Commonwealth.

I take the next group of territories—I am trying to be brief—which seem to be directly affected. They are the High Commission Territories—Bechuanaland, Basutoland and Swaziland. I think that all of us rejoice that during this last year Basutoland has established a Legislature and Bechuanaland is going to do so. The relationship of these territories on the edge of South Africa, in one case surrounded by South African territory, to South Africa itself, is of first importance—perhaps of greater importance than the relationship of any territory.

I say to the House that when we think of that relationship and the uncertainties of these territories, the uncertainties indicated in the Second Reading debate as to whether our representative in the Union is to be an Ambassador or not or will be a High Commissioner for those territories—when we consider all the difficulties, surely we are right in saying that before this Parliament lays it down that treaties or arrangements covering these territories shall have a standstill of one year, their Legislatures should, in the first instance, be consulted.

Finally, I deal with a third group of territories—territories which include Nyasaland, to which the hon. Member for Barry has referred, a group of territories which already have African majorities. From Nyasaland large numbers of Nyasas go to the Union of South Africa. Again I say that their legislatures should have the right to decide. Their legislatures are very closely affected. The very fact that so many in Nyasaland are employed in the Union of South Africa strengthens the view that the legislature of Nyasaland should have the opportunity to declare its views upon these matters.

I end on the constitutional argument which the hon. Member has put forward with force. I recognise it. I believe that what we have to recognise is that the tempo of events in the Continent of Africa and the Colonial Territories today is so great that if we put up legal barriers to their expression and to democracy, if we say in the House that we have the right to lay down what is good for them without consultation with their legislatures, we shall find that they will sweep past us and we shall not be able to control them.

For these reasons, if the hon. Member for Barry will forgive me, I reject the arguments he put forward, and I hope very much that the Committee will accept the Amendment.

6.15 p.m.

I want to make one observation and I apologise to my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway) for not being in the Chamber when he began his speech. I had another engagement which I had to keep. As I understood it, some of his arguments were based on the fact that Singapore and other parts of the Commonwealth may presently achieve independence. They would not come under the Bill. Surely, it applies only to the state of the law as it will be at 31st May, 1961. Therefore, if I may say so with great respect, some of the arguments which my hon. Friend so powerfully adduced would not apply. When he replies, perhaps the Minister will deal with that point because it is a real one that is worrying many people.

I hope that the Minister, when he replies, will accept the Amendment or will say that he is willing to accept something very much like it if he wishes to rewrite it from the point of view of its legal wording. We are optimistic that he will give a sympathetic response because of his answer to his right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) at an earlier stage, when he indicated that one reason for the somewhat peculiar form of words in subsection (1) was to give the maximum amount of flexibility and a loose rein to the Colonial Territories which had achieved varying degrees of self-government. We very much welcome that comment from him, despite our doubts about the legal position of the phrase. We welcome it because, if I may say so to the right hon. Gentleman, it seems to be very much in harmony with some of the things he has been saying since he came to his present office. We welcome the emphasis which he has put on consultation with various parts of the Commonwealth and it is in that spirit that this Amendment is moved from this side of the Committee.

I plead with hon. Members opposite to give this Amendment a warmer welcome than it has had from the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower). In general, the doubts which have come from the other side of the Committee about our Amendments have been about the effect that they would have on South African opinion. We have been told that some of our Amendments were vindictive or an unnecessary slap in the face for South Africa. No one can say that about this Amendment. Whether it is inserted or not, it is hardly likely to be considered offensive or otherwise to the Union of South Africa.

If the Amendment were not to be accepted, or if it were not to be made plain that the sense of the Amendment was included in the terms of the Bill, it would be a slap in the face for the Colonial Territories for which we are responsible and on whose good relations we very much depend. It is very important, I think, that this Amendment, or something like it, should be included in the Bill in the interests of good relations with the Colonial Territories, some of which are now very close to full independence.

Hon. Members opposite should recognise that in some of these territories feelings about the racial policies of the present South African Government go even deeper than the feeling which exists in the House of Commons. The Committee will remember the embarrassment which was caused when certain leading politicians from British Guiana who were over here for constitutional conferences became involved in incidents in London in connection with anti-apartheid demonstrations outside South Africa House. It was a vivid indication of the strength of feeling which exists on this issue in most of the Colonial Territories. We who desire good relations with these Colonial Territories in their advance towards self-government should take full account of it.

Reference has been made by hon. Members to the position in Tanganyika. It is perhaps the model held up these days of peaceful progress towards democratic independence. Mr. Julius Nyerere is one of the most respected of African nationalist leaders. The Committee will remember the very powerful intervention which he made in the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference, although he was not himself a member of it. I think that the Secretary of State might very well admit privately, if not publicly, that one of the most powerful arguments advanced during the discussions at that Conference was not delivered inside Lancaster House but was made in an article written by Mr. Nyerere in the Observer during the course of it.

I will remind the Secretary of State of the view of the new Prime Minister of Tanganyika about our relationships and the relationships of his country to the Union of South Africa. This is what he said:
"The apartheid policies now being practised in the Union of South Africa are a daily affront to this belief in individual human dignity. They are also a constantly reiterated insult to our own dignity as Africans, about which we cannot be expected to remain indifferent and which could inflame our own passions if not otherwise dealt with."
Mr. Nyerere went on to say—I ask the Committee to heed these words—
"If we are to succeed in building up a good society in our country"—
the whole House of Commons wishes that effort to succeed—
"we must therefore make our detestation of the South African system apparent in every action. The Tanganyika Government cannot afford to have any relations with the South African Government, and it must, within the bounds of international law, lend support to those who struggle against the system of apartheid".
That is a very clear indication of the kind of view held in Tanganyika, and I think that in this case Mr. Nyerere may well be taken to be speaking for leaders of nationalist opinion in many countries among our dependent Colonies.

My hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway) referred to the West Indies. Many of the individual territories of the West Indies have a very high degree of internal self-government, and the West Indies Federation, as we all know, is moving very close to full independence. We should do nothing in the House of Commons which would make that passage to full independence any more difficult. It is well known that many of the West Indian Governments take a much stronger view about economic relations with the Union of South Africa than we do in this country. On the whole, opinion in this country in regard to a boycott of South African goods in that this is a matter for the conscience of the individual shopper. In the West Indies there have been official boycotts carried on with Government support, boycotts which have had a very noticeable effect on trade between the Union of South Africa and the West Indies. I saw figures recently which showed that trade had dropped, I think, by about one-fifth during the first eight months of last year.

One should consider also the position of countries like Malta and Singapore. Purely from the point of view of the self-interest of Her Majesty's Government, I should have thought that they had enough difficulties in Malta without taking action in this country in relation to Malta's trading relations with South Africa which might inflame nationalist opinion there. The same is true of Singapore, having regard to the many difficulties of the Singapore Government in achieving a stable form of self-government there.

The argument of the hon. Member for Barry was that Her Majesty's Government ought for the time being to retain power here to dictate to the Colonial Governments and to make sure that their policies conformed with the wishes of Her Majesty's Government.

What I was suggesting was that in regard to the relationships between those territories and the Union there was an even greater case for having time to consider such difficult questions than there was in regard to our relationships with South Africa. That is all I said.

I shall come to that point in the hon. Member's argument in a moment. If he examines the record in due course, he will see, I think, that he plainly indicated that he regarded is as desirable that Her Majesty's Government should retain the power to dictate to these Colonial Governments and make them conform with the legislative desires of Her Majesty's Government during the present period.

No. All I said was that for constitutional reasons that was bound to be the case because, once South Africa left the Commonwealth, the prerogative power in regard to foreign affairs, and so on, would rest firmly on Her Majesty's Government for all territories except those which are self-governing.

It was precisely that point in the hon. Member's argument which I wanted to meet because I felt that in some ways my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough conceded a strength to that point in his argument which it did not really have. It is true, of course, that in the final resort, until full independence, Her Majesty's Government retain residuary powers in respect of the foreign relations of Colonial Territories. Nevertheless, I think that the hon. Member may not be aware of the degree to which several Colonial Territories have so advanced towards self-government that they have taken over a certain amount of responsibility for their own foreign relations.

I mentioned earlier the West Indies. One of the powers vested in the present Federal Government of the West Indies Federation, with their limited degree of independence, is, in fact, a substantial measure of responsibility for foreign relations. This has given rise to one of the difficulties in dealing with the problem of United States bases in the West Indies during the last few months. Further, Her Majesty's Government's proposals for constitutional advance in Malta included, as I recall them, a condominium between Her Majesty's Government and the Maltese Government over both defence and external relations. In practice, we in this country have conceded a very marked degree of responsibility for external relations to several Colonial Territories approaching independence.

It would be most unfortunate if the effect of the Bill, in the somewhat difficult circumstances which give rise to it, were that Her Majesty's Government turned the wheels backwards in relation to the territories we are considering. It is very important that we carry the Colonial Territories with us during the period of negotiations. To do so may cause embarrassment from time to time, but I think that the Secretary of State might feel that, in some cases, if the Colonial Territories take a line different from ours in regard to immediate relationships with the Union of South Africa that might strengthen the Government's hands in their negotiations with the Union of South Africa.

In any case, I think it is important in these discussions to remember our own interests in this country. Sometimes in the debates which have taken place certain hon. Members opposite have been so suspicious of our motives on this side that they have been inclined to put the interests of the South African Government before the real interests of this country.

In this case, the real interests of this country lie in maintaining the closest and best possible relations with our own Colonial Territories in advancing them smoothly towards self-government as quickly as may be. There is a real danger that, because of the complications of our present relationships with South Africa, something might happen which would inflame relationships between Britain and, say, the West Indies or Tanganyika over the South African issue. It is in order to avoid that danger that we have put down the Amendment. We attach a great deal of weight to it, and we hope that the Secretary of State will give it his sympathetic consideration.

6.30 p.m.

The hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) said that she was not clear what subsection (3) means. Without using legal language, I would say that, in general terms, it means that the Bill applies to all colonial laws with the exception of laws which can be amended by the Legislature of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland or the Legislature of Southern Rhodesia. The hon. Lady also said that she thought that subsection (1) contradicted subsection (3) and that subsection (3) contradicted subsection (1). That is not the case. The effect of subsection (3) is to apply subsection (1), with its qualifying words which we discussed earlier, to colonial and other dependent territories. Therefore, subsection (3) cannot contradict subsection (1). All that it does is to apply subsection (1) to colonial and dependent territories.

That is also my answer to the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. G. M. Thomson), who said that we were dictating to Colonial Territories. We are not dictating. We discussed at some length this curious phrase which was the subject of an Amendment by my right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton).

I was not accusing the right hon. Gentleman of dictating. I hope that he will live up to his reputation for not dictating. I was dealing with what I thought were the arguments of his hon. Friend the Member for Barry (Mr. Gower).

I understood the hon. Gentleman to mean that, if the Bill were not amended in the sense that he asks, it would have the effect of dictating to the Colonial Territories what their attitude towards South Africa should be. That was the argument I was seeking to answer. If that was not what he intended, I will not pursue the point any further.

The hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway) and the hon. Member for Dundee, East referred to the position in Tanganyika. However, they referred to it only as an example, but a very topical example, for the simple reason that Tanganyika will become independent during this 12 months' standstill period. The hon. Members' arguments were answered to some extent by the right hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall), who explained quite correctly, that United Kingdom laws do not apply to territories which have achieved independence. To put it more correctly, perhaps, I would say that, while United Kingdom laws will continue to apply to countries which have achieved independence, they are free to amend those laws. There is an arrangement for continuity. Laws which are already in existence do not disappear overnight. The moment a country achieves independence it is no longer subject to legislation by this Parlament in Westminster, and therefore it can amend any laws which have been passed and which apply to it before its independence.

My hon. Friend the Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) was helpful in the explanation which he gave about the general constitutional position. I think that he clarified a number of points which had been raised earlier.

I have not. I was about to deal with some of the hon. Gentleman's remarks. I made it clear that, under subsection (1), Tanganyika will have power to amend its own domestic laws.

No; now. Any other Colonial Territory will also have power to amend its own domestic laws. We discussed this provision earlier. What we are concerned with is laws passed by the United Kingdom Parliament which have effect in overseas territories.

My attention has been drawn to the fact that hon. Members have referred to Singapore. The Bill does not apply to Singapore because it is no longer a Colony. I think that that deals with that point.

The only point which requires explanation concerns the application of United Kingdom laws to overseas territories. Any domestic laws of overseas territorities can be amended by the law-making body which made the laws. That has been made clear earlier in the debate. The purpose of subsection (3) is to make clear that the standstill arrangement applies to all laws, orders, and so forth, not only in the United Kingdom, but also in the dependent overseas territories—subject to what I have already said, namely, that those who have made the laws can amend them. But it will apply to them in the first place. This is a matter of convenience, because some of these territories have Legislatures which are not planning to meet for a number of months. There would be a curious situation if the law lapsed and was then brought into effect again in September, or some such date. We should have a great deal of confusion.

There are, however, certain exceptions which are specified in paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) of subsection (3). I summarised them a moment ago in explaining the general meaning of the subsection to the hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn.

I do not understand the purpose which led the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Marquand) and his hon. Friends to table, not only this Amendment, but the following three Amendments to leave out paragraphs (a), (b) and (c). They do not seem to be consistent with one another. I expected the hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn to explain the reason for the Amendments. They would deny to the authorities in Rhodesia and Nyasaland the right to decide that the standstill arrangements should not apply, not only to the United Kingdom laws, but to their own domestic laws. The Amendment which has been moved does not seem to be in keeping with the other three Amendments.

May I clear up the apparent inconsistency for the right hon. Gentleman? We tabled the last three Amendments in order to discover what was the legal position. Frankly, we did not understand it and we were seeking information. They are not, in a sense, related to the political arguments attached to the Amendment which we are discussing.

I am glad to hear that. In view of that explanation, I hope that the last three Amendments will not be moved.

I will not pursue that point.

The effect of the Amendment is to give to an independent territory the right to decide that the Bill in its entirety, including the United Kingdom laws, should not apply to it. There has been a certain amount of discussion about the status and position of this Parliament and its right to legislate. It seems to me that it would be wholly contrary to constitutional usage to provide that an Act of Parliament which applies to a dependent territory shall not come into force except with the consent of that territory. It would be a completely revolutionary departure from the practice which has been adopted in the past, and I am sure that a change of that kind should not be effected merely in a rather haphazard way, as the result of an Amendment to a subsection of a Bill of this kind.

From our earlier debate I do not believe that it would be the general wish of the Committee to make a constitutional change of that kind. This suggestion was strongly resisted by my right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton from this side and by the hon. and learned Member for Brigg (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu) from the party opposite.

As I have explained in connection with the Amendment of my right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton, we are allowing colonial authorities discretion to decide whether they wish not to apply the standstill to all or any of their own domestic laws and regulations. The effect of the Bill will be to apply the standstill to them until such time as they decide—as they will have the right to do—to alter that, and to pass a law in their territories which will have the effect of nullifying the standstill. In this event, in so far as their laws would not apply to South Africa after she leaves the Commonwealth, from the time that the new law is passed in the Colonial Territories concerned, their domestic laws and regulations would cease to apply to South Africa.

On the other hand, we are not, and rightly not, giving these Colonial Territories discretion to decide not to apply the standstill to United Kingdom laws which extend to them. Great confusion and uncertainty would be created if United Kingdom laws such as the Merchant Shipping Act, which defines the status of British ships all over the world, were to have effect in some of our dependent territories and not in others. I hope that, with the explanation which I have given, hon. Members opposite will feel that what we are doing is reasonable and that we are not trying to dictate to these territories overseas and that in the circumstances hon. Members opposite will not press the Amendment.

The Committee is grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his explanation. He said earlier that he did not like his own Bill very much. We now see why. It is strangely drafted in parts and I hope we may be forgiven for not having been able clearly to understand precisely what was meant by some of this language. That was why we put down, as my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East (Mr. G. M. Thomson) explained, three Amendments which were intended only to be probing Amendments to try to elucidate the mystery.

The right hon. Gentleman's assurance about the right of these various territories to continue to amend and alter their own laws if they so wish is, to my mind, quite satisfactory. I hope we may take it that during the period of the year, the right hon. Gentleman will, whenever the necessity may arise or wherever it may seem to be useful and helpful, consult these independent or semi-independent countries of the Commonwealth and keep closely in touch with them during the course of negotiations, so that those negotiations may be carried out in a spirit which would be satisfactory to them as well. In all the circumstances, my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) would be well advised not to press the Amendment.

In view of the Secretary of State's explanation, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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

At an earlier stage in our deliberations, I gave notice that on this Motion I would raise again a question which was referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway) on a specific Amendment. I had the idea—I may have been wrong—that, possibly, my hon. Friend cause the Under-Secretary of State a little by surprise when at that point he raised the question of one of the laws which is affected by the Bill, namely, the Fugitive Offenders Act, 1881. That is a Statute which provides, in effect, for extradition processes between States of the Commonwealth.

6.45 p.m.

Nobody has any objection to extradition processes as such. From time to time, there are criminals who escape from one State to another, and on application by the State in which they are alleged to have committed their crime they may be sent back to be tried according to the laws of their own country. This applies between us and most countries in the world, but the Fugitive Offenders Act applies to our relationships in this respect of the law of extradition with Commonwealth countries.

I am no expert, but, as far as I can judge, in itself the law appears to be quite reasonable; but the Order in Council made in 1913 applying the Act of 1881 specifically to Southern Africa has caused considerable embarrassment, as I know from experience of negotiations from time to time with the right hon. Gentleman. The special arrangements in regard to Southern Africa lay down provisions for the return of "natives born south of the Sahara" and make what are literally discriminatory arrangements. I will not attempt now to go into all the detail about this. I suggest, however, that these matters clearly have to be reviewed. They are already antiquated and out of date and in the new situation where South Africa withdraws from the Commonwealth, new extradition procedures of some kind will clearly have to be arranged and the objectionable features in the 1913 Order in Council should surely be removed. In our view, the simple way—

I am sorry to interrupt, but I hope that we will not have a debate on the Motion "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," and a repetition of that debate on Third Reading, because the whole of the Bill is really contained in Clause 1. I thought that it would be for the benefit of the Committee if I were to make that point now.

Yes, Mr. Blackburn. I am well aware that when we come to Third Reading, we will be confined entirely to what is within the Bill.

We are also confined now entirely to what is in the Bill, because the Bill is simply Clause 1.

I am sorry not to have taken the point more quickly. I appreciate that we are concerned here with what is in the Bill and with one of the major features of it. If I may pursue discussion regarding the Fugitive Offenders Act, which is definitely affected by the Bill, I have no desire to take up the time of the House when we reach Third Reading.

As long as the present law regarding fugitive offenders remains, we were assured by the Under-Secretary of State the other night that, where Her Majesty has responsibility, it will be administered as hitherto: that is to say, it will be administered in the High Commission Territories on the previous practice of a continued refusal to return political offenders if a request for their return has been made by the Union of South Africa.

What we are somewhat anxious about is how far that refusal can be maintained without any alteration in the 1913 Order in Council in respect to the offences laid down under the Prevention of Communism Act in South Africa. In general, the Under-Secretary of State gave us reassurances which went a long way to allay our anxieties, but he did sound, if I may say so, so well satisfied with the existing administration of the law, the existing treatment of cases when they go before the courts of the High Commission Territories, that we could not help wondering whether the Government's intention in the negotiations is to secure some radical alteration.

It is all very well to say that no anxiety need be caused, that in these last 18 months or so the law has been carefully administered, that no one has been guilty or accused of a political offence, that if anyone were in jeopardy or danger there could be an appeal to the courts. This is an opportunity when the Government are entering into new negotiations to see that that law is brought up to date and that these peculiar provisions for special treatment for what are called "natives" should now disappear. There should be, surely, in these matters, no discrimination at all between persons of different race. There should be and can be an Act governing extradition, but it should no longer be discriminatory or appear to be discriminatory in any way between persons of different race and colour. Is that the general objective of the Government in the negotiations they are entering into?

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman did give some assurances about another and a hard look at the provisions of the Nationality Act. I hope that that examination will be directed in some way to alleviating the position of any refugees who may leave South Africa and who may come to this country. We do not want in any way to encourage a flood of refugees into the High Commission Territories or into the United Kingdom, but there have been numbers of refugees, as the hon. Gentleman knows, and we have approached him from time to time on behalf of some of them. We may have to do so again. We trust that we may take it that, though there is no desire to encourage a new wave of refugees, if events should turn out so unfortunately that more refugees come, they will be treated inside the High Commission Territories with the utmost care and attention, that every effort will be made to succour them and relieve them from their distress, and that no obstacle will be placed in their way if they can find their way out of the High Commission Territories into Tanganyika or the United Kingdom.

I share my right hon. Friend's anxiety about the effect the Clause has on continuing in force the Fugitive Offenders Act, 1881. Obviously we do not want to put any difficulties in the way of the extradition from the High Commission Territories of real criminals who manage to escape there from South Africa, but as the law now stands it can enable the South African Government to apply to the High Commission Territories for the apprehension and return of a fugitive from South Africa to the High Commission Territories on the ground, for instance, of the commission of various offences against the apartheid laws.

The test is the commission of an offence punishable by up to 13 months' imprisonment or more, and some of those laws carry penalties of that kind and, indeed, more severe penalties than that. Thus the offence of high treason is within the ambit of the Fugitive Offenders Act, quite apart from the South African legislation which my right hon. Friend has referred to.

It is perfectly true, as the Joint Undersecretary of State said on Monday night, that the courts of the High Commission Territories have taken a rather tough view about these applications from South Africa and have made very good use indeed of the powers and grounds for refusal which exist in Section 19 of the Fugitive Offenders Act, but it is by no means certain that the courts will always be able to do so. It is right to emphasise that it is a matter for the courts and it is not, therefore, possible for directions to be given to the courts as to how they should perform their duties.

I should have thought that there was a good case, at any rate during this interim period, for resolving the difficulty by amending the 1913 Order in Council which applied the Fugitive Offenders Act to the High Commission Territories, so that it shall not apply to any political offence or to treason, and so that for there to be any backing of a warrant for a fugitive offender the offence must be both an offence in the territory from which the offender has run and in the territory to which he has run. That would exclude the apartheid laws from the ambit of this machinery of a kind of extradition.

As the Fugitive Offenders Act now stands—and it is to be extended in force for a period of up to one year—there is no need for the offence in question to be against the law in the two territories, namely, South Africa and the High Commission Territories, and it is quite enough that the offence is an offence against the law of South Africa alone.

I have reason to think that power to amend the Order in Council as I have suggested flows from Section 17 of the Fugitive Offenders Act, and that the amendment would be a not very difficult or complicated piece of machinery to bring into force. It would put beyond a peradventure the question that any political refugee who has escaped to the High Commission Territories shall be immune there from the risk of extradition. The effect of the kind of Order in Council amendment which I have suggested would be to bring the law on fugitive offenders between the Union of South Africa and the High Commission Territories into line with the Extradition Act, 1870, for foreign countries.

This is not a fanciful or a frivolous matter, but a matter causing a great deal of concern to the political refugees who are now in the High Commission Territories. I hope that the Government will be able to give sympathetic consideration to this suggestion.

I want only to ask my right hon. Friend one very simple, straightforward question of a rather parochial nature. Can he please give us some assurance about the position of British civil servants who are South African citizens, South African nationals, who are proud of their nationality and who are at the same time anxious to continue their employment in the British Civil Service? I am aware of a number of such people. I know it is only a very small number, but they are most anxious to have an assurance that their employment will be continued and that they will not have to renounce their nationality of which they are extremely proud.

7.0 p.m.

I have listened with a good deal of sympathy to the points made, with great restraint, about the Fugitive Offenders Act, and I can give the House a general assurance that while I do not think that there is any cause for anxiety at the moment we recognise that this is essentially one of those matters which will have to be looked at carefully, and I have no doubt that some different arrangement will have to be made. Exactly what form it will take, I cannot say. It may take the form of a more normal extradition treaty between two countries. I am sure the Committee will realise that it would be intolerable to allow all arrangements for extradition to lapse between territories which have no policed boundaries of any kind. Naturally, to do that would be a gift to criminals. Whatever views we hold about apartheid, we certainly would not wish to allow a free movement of that kind, without any possibility of attaching people who commit genuine crimes.

On the other hand, it is no one's wish to see the British system of law courts become an instrument for applying racial policies with which we are all in complete disagreement. That has not happened in the past, and I see no reason why during the standstill there should be any change in the procedure or in the effect of existing laws.

My hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone (Mr. J. Wells) raised a different question on which I can give some assurance which I hope will be reasonably satisfactory to him. But I would prefer my hon. Friend to put down a Question, when I should be happy to give him a considered answer. I am anxious not to raise a new issue at this stage, which is, of course, outside the scope of the Bill, and if I attempted to discuss the matter I should no doubt be called to order. I hope hon. Members will realise that if this point is not answered in considerable detail, any comment I make would not be useful to those whose careers and positions are affected.

So far as Clause 1 is concerned—and Clause 1 represents the whole Bill—the purpose of it is simply what it says, to keep things as they are while we examine all the issues and consider what changes, if any, need to be made in these various laws. This Bill has no political significance or policy content. It is purely an administrative Measure to win time during which we can consider what should be the policies which should govern these various measures which will be affected by South Africa's leaving the Commonwealth.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Preamble agreed to.

Bill reported, without Amendment

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

7.4 p.m.

Everything that should be said about this Bill has already been said and this is, as we have been reminded, a short Bill. I welcome the Measure and, although it has not been drafted in the form which the Secretary of State would have liked, it will achieve the purpose we have in mind. Hon. Members on this side of the House have moved a number of Amendments affecting legitimate fears on various aspects of the Bill, and I trust that those fears have now been allayed.

Some hon. Members will remember Field Marshal Smuts, and it is a great tragedy for South Africa that he, and many other statesmen like him and who fought as he did, have passed away. We hope that in the years to come other statesmen of his calibre will appear on the scene.

As I have said in our earlier discussions on the Bill, the present Government will not remain in power indefinnitely, and we sincerely hope that the policies which they now follow will also pass away. I hope the Bill, and the negotiations which will follow it when it becomes an Act, will go some way towards South Africa re-entering the Commonwealth. While we all regret the need for this Measure, we realise its importance, and we look forward to the time when the old feeling of friendship and community that has existed for so many years between our two countries will be renewed. If we in this House can do anything to hasten that time, that will be the desire of all hon. Members.

I cannot forget that South Africa is becoming a Republic by a very narrow margin and that 55,000 makes all the difference between that country leaving the Commonwealth and remaining in it, and I am positive that a substantial number of people in South Africa dislike the Union Government's present policy as much as we in this country dislike it. Let us remember that South Africa is not and can never be regarded as a foreign country, since many of her people are of British birth. Many of them still look to Britain as being their home, and I hope that in the years to come, as circumstances change, South Africa will return to the Commonwealth, for the Commonwealth is the greatest thing the world has ever seen.

It would be wrong if the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall) were not echoed from this side of the House. As the right hon. Gentleman said, South Africa can never be looked upon as being a foreign country. For 300 years there has been co-operation between our two countries and that cannot be lightly cast aside by what some people think were fallacious acts of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference.

Many bonds join our countries—bonds of trade, sentiment, investment, defence and a general overlapping of interests, and the majority of hon. Members look forward to the moment when South Africa will re-enter the Commonwealth. In looking forward to that time, we urge the Government to heal any outstanding wounds and to curb any bitterness that may have existed. That is a more positive task than that of setting asunder, which we are doing today.

7.9 p.m.

We have already had a wide discussion on the Bill, both on Second Reading and at the Committee stage, and I propose to confine myself merely to observing that this is a simple Measure designed for a specific and limited purpose, the form of which follows precedents with which the House is familiar.

The effect of the Bill is simply that certain United Kingdom laws should continue to apply for a maximum of twelve months in relation to South Africa, even after she leaves the Commonwealth. The Government feel that they must have time, not merely to look at the whole body of law affected, but to take stock of the whole position regarding our future relations with the Republic of South Africa. The reason for the Bill was put in a nutshell by my right hon. Friend a moment ago. It is "to win time".

I can assure the House that my right hon. Friend and his colleagues will reach their decisions as soon as they possibly can. As has been made clear repeatedly in the course of the debate, it is not just a question of deciding upon consequential alterations to our laws. Some of the other changes which we wish to make will most certainly involve the South African Government and it may well be that when the two Governments have come to agreement legislation will also be necessary in South Africa. These are matters which are not solely under our control and we cannot forecast precisely how long discussions upon them should take.

I must emphasise, too, that we should not ignore the fact that in all this the rights and interests of individuals in this country and in South Africa are liable to be affected. It is surely unthinkable that people in this country or in the High Commission Territories or elsewhere in territories under our jurisdiction should be prejudiced or disadvantaged by our terminating the existing provisions without proper consideration.

My right hon. Friend has taken careful note of the views expressed in the debate, including, if I may delicately venture the observation, some which are only indirectly concerned with the content of the Bill. I should also like to express on behalf of my right hon. Friend and myself our appreciation to the House of the constructive and helpful way in which it has facilitated the passage of the Bill. May I say that although this has been described as a standstill Bill that does not mean that we are standing still. Rather, I would say, as in the words of Sir Francis Bacon in his famous essay on "Despatch":
"We do but stay a little, that we may make an end the sooner."
which is, perhaps, the appropriate note upon which to end our discussion.

7.13 p.m.

I shall fulfil entirely the undertaking which I gave the Chairman of our Committee that I would not prolong the proceedings at this stage. The Joint Under-Secretary has said quite rightly that the Bill is to provide for a period of study and negotiation. The Secretary of State will have the responsibility of making those studies and entering those negotiations. I am sure that in doing so he will have an eye to the interests and well-being of the vast majority of South African subjects. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will bear ever in mind what their situation is and what their best interests require.

At the same time, I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will exercise during the course of the negotiations not only the patience which we have seen him exhibit at other times but the firmness and the realistic approach to difficult problems of which he is capable. I am sure that he will enter into the negotiations, which we on this side of the House agree are necessary though we are sorry that they are to take quite so long, in the spirit not of the old Commonwealth or of dominion over palm and pine but of the new Commonwealth which he is now helping to create.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.

Rating And Valuation Bill

Order for consideration, as amended ( in the Standing Committee), read.

Motion made, and Question proposed,

That the Bill be re-committed to a Committee of the whole House in respect of the Amendments to Clause 2, page 2, line 15, standing on the Notice Paper in the name of Mr. Mitchison.—[Mr. Mitchison.]

Question amended, by adding, at the end:

"and in respect of the new Clause (Amendment of s. 3 of Valuation for Rating Act, 1953), standing on the Notice Paper in the name of Mr. Mark Woodnutt".—[Mr. Woodnutt.]
"and in respect of the new Clauses (Rating of Gas Boards), (Rating of Electricity Boards) and (Rating of British Transport Commission), standing on the Notice Paper in the name of Mr. Frederic Harris ".—[Mr. F. Harris.]
"and in respect of the Amendment to Clause 1, page 1, line 12, and the two Amendments to Clause 3, page 2, line 34, standing on the Notice Paper in the name of Mr. Paul Williams",—[Mr. P. Williams.]

7.15 p.m.

On a point of order. I understand, having approached the Table, that two new Clauses which I had put down for consideration on Report have been ruled out of order on the ground that in some circumstances they might lead to a charge on the Revenue. Before you put the main Question on Recommittal, I should like to know, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, whether you would give some Ruling or guidance on the criteria which apply here, because obviously it has been a difficult case and I have found it a little unpredictable, in the sense of knowing just exactly where the dividing line should come.

I am sorry I cannot help the hon. Member. This is Mr. Speaker's decision.

I was asking you that, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, because it seems as though many Amendments to the Bill had been considered as possibly raising a charge, although some had not been so considered. In view of that, I wonder whether you would accept a manuscript Amendment to the Recommittal Motion in respect of the two new Clauses that stand in my name.

Main Question, as amended, put and agreed to.

Bill immediately considered in Committee.

[Sir GORDON TOUCHE in the Chair]

Clause 1—(Rating Of Industrial And Freight-Transport Hereditaments)

I beg to move, in page 1, line 12, at the end to insert:

Provided that this section shall not apply to shipbuilding yards, that is to say, any premises in which any ships are made, finished or repaired, and premises used primarily for the manufacture of marine main propelling machinery therefor. For the purposes of this section, "ships" shall not include any ship which is of a gross tonnage (ascertained in accordance with the Merchant Shipping Acts 1894 to 1958), of less than eighty tons.
The object of the Amendment is very straightforward, but the aim is to exempt industrial hereditaments in the shipbuilding industry from the abolition of the present 50 per cent. derating which is due to come into effect in about 1963. The exemption would be statutory and there would be no Ministerial discretion. I should like to draw the attention of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government to the fact that there is a certain degree of rigidity in the Bill which allows no discretion or variation in these matters and which withdraws concessions which have by common usage come to be of considerable value to certain industries such as shipbuilding which from time to time pass through periods of depression, distress or difficulty.

My right hon. Friend must know that over recent months there have been repeated exhortations by the Government about the need to export. The point has also been made repeatedly by Ministers that the shipping and shipbuilding industries need to do more to help themselves. Many of these exhortations are very little more than that, for in the case of the shipbuilding industry—and I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) is here to sustain me in this matter—large improvements have been and are being made. When we compare our shipbuilding industry with those abroad we must realise that there is often a penalty for success. The penalty for our success in winning the war has placed our competitors abroad at a tremendous advantage in that in Germany and Japan yards were able to be repaired, rebuilt and sustained out of funds coming largely from North America. Our shipbuilding yards, in order to survive at all, had to develop old property in difficult circumstances in an era when competition was increasing and when the funds available for development were small because of the high-tax economy in which we live.

This has brought us to the present position in which, in general, I think that British shipbuilding is reasonably competitive with the industry abroad. There are difficulties of credit facilities, to which no doubt my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Croydon, North-East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett) will be paying attention before, during and after the debate. But these is also a particular point in relation to the Bill. The shipping industry is passing through a period, which might well be prolonged, of difficulty because of the intense competition which it meets from abroad. There are difficulties over subsidies, over support of one sort or another and over credit facilities. The revaluation of their property will often be at an enhanced value as a result of the improvement which has been made not only in self-defence and in the search for efficiency but at the exhortation of the Government. This is the moment—this moment of difficulty—which is chosen to end derating, which is one of the main supports and sources of sustenance of the shipping industry. On the one hand, the Government are exhorting industry to be efficient, to cut its costs to the bone and to become as competitive as possible. Yet with another hand the Government, through another Ministry, are slapping on costs as an addition to the basic costs of industrial undertakings.

Hon. Members say that help should be given to the shipbuilding industry. What does it profit to help an industry if at the same time we are removing advantages which it enjoys? It seems to me that the most immediate help which the Government could give to the shipbuilding industry, which is likely to face a very long period of difficulty and depression, is to concede the principle of the Amendment.

May I give one or two small examples of how the ending of derating will affect shipyards? I do not think that the Committee expects me to name the firm which I have in mind, but I have here a letter from which I will read limited extracts. It is from a shipbuilder who has spent a considerable amount of money in recent years in developing his yard. He writes:
"Prior to 1958 the total amount which this firm paid in local rates had a negligible effect on the price of a ship. Following the modernisation of the yard we had a revaluation at a net annual value of £31,000. At present this gives us a rateable value of £15,500 approximately, as 50 per cent. derating applies. In other words, we pay about £14,000 per annum in rates. If one calculates at the rate of four ships a year from this yard, it amounts to £3,500 per ship, which in itself is quite sufficient to cause the losing of an order in the highly competitive situation in which we find ourselves today."
That is the situation before revaluation. Clearly this figure could severely affect the position of the shipbuilding yards. The letter continues:
"In the event of the 50 per cent. derating being discontinued, the amount of rates we would have to pay would be very substantially increased, which would again reduce our ability to compete with Continental yards."
This is the moment at which the Government, with one Ministry exhorting shipbuilding to become more efficient, decide to impose, through another Minister, added costs which cannot be passed on to the customer. The consequence of the ending of derating can only be to increase the likelihood of a failure to gain orders abroad or even at home, to increase the chance of unemployment and to add a burden to shipbuilding at a time when it is the least able to bear it.

I could quote further examples of how the ending of derating will hurt and perhaps kill some shipyards, but no doubt my right hon. Friend has seen the statement by the Shipbuilding Conference which was printed in The Times yesterday. One passage of the statement reads:
"One firm on the Clyde, after having spent millions on modernisation now faces an increase in rates from £9,000 now to £100,000 in 1963."
That is not solely due to derating; it is the combined effect of revaluation and the ending of derating.

I urge my right hon. Friend to consider this matter most seriously, as no doubt he has done. I regret that a later Amendment which I put down, which was wider than this Amendment, will not be called. It sought to give discretionary power to the Minister to derate depressed industries. I should like to urge that course on the Minister.

We are, however, restricted to this Amendment, and I urge him to realise that there is a contradiction in Government policy. The Prime Minister and the Minister of Transport have urged greater efficiency and the reduction of costs on the shipbuilding industry. No doubt the new Minister charged with the responsibility for shipping and shipbuilding will also urge this, and perhaps Government help will be given to shipbuilding in due course. At a time when the Government are doing this, it is surely nonsensical, and economic folly and madness, to be heaping on costs which cannot be passed on to the consumer. All that will happen is that the consumer will drift away through the fog over the horizon.

I urge my right hon. Friend seriously to consider accepting the Amendment, which may well be the sole sharp and quick way of helping British shipbuilding to survive the immediate problem which it faces.

I should like to associate myself with everything which was said by the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. P. Williams). That of itself is a remarkable thing for me to do, but I agree so wholeheartedly with what he said on this occasion that I do not apologise, as a Scottish Member, for speaking on an English and Welsh Bill. Perhaps we Scottish Members do not do it often enough. I pay rates in both England and Scotland and have some entitlement to speak. Whatever is done in the Bill will be reflected in the rating and valuation position in Scotland. The hon. Member for Sunderland, South was good enough to quote an example from the Clyde, and I therefore do not feel out of tune with the Committee in speaking to the Amendment.

I imagine that the first argument which will be advanced against the Amendment is that no one ought to have an exemption. The argument will be that if there is any need to help an industry it ought to be given by some other means and there ought to be equity in treatment of rating and valuation for every industry in the country. No doubt that is an argument which the Minister will use. I retort by saying that we do not do this with agriculture. This principle of equity is not applied to agricultural hereditaments. The argument therefore cannot be advanced on the principle that we apply the same valuation to everybody and that we must help industries in some other way than through rating. This argument is breached immediately by the Government's own admission that we must treat a certain industry differently for rating and valuation.

7.30 p.m.

The reason that consideration was originally given to industry as a whole was the pre-war slump. The plea which has been made today by the shipbuilding industry, which I do not regard as a special pleading for favours in order to make large profits, is that the industry is facing a very difficult situation which is not of its own making and that it needs Government help. That help is not forthcoming. Admittedly, a Shipbuilding Advisory Committee has been set up, which has made some recommendations to put before the Chancellor, and no doubt the Cabinet will come to some conclusion about them some day. The point is that it must be very soon.

I understand that this Bill will apply—and this is what will happen if the hon. Gentleman's Amendment is not accepted—in 1963. These will be the years of crisis for this industry. Hon. Members need not take my word for that. If they read the Advisory Committee's Report, they will find the precise details of the estimated target for the industry and what can reasonably be expected in the future. This is a Government Committee, not a committee acting on behalf of the industry—not an industrial, vested interest committee.

The Report says that the industry is now producing 1·4 million tons a year, but in the critical years from 1965 to 1970, the figure will fall to an average of ·9 million tons. It shows further, and this is why I think it is important for a Scottish voice to be heard here, that this will be particularly bad in Scotland and Northern Ireland. I therefore come to the rescue of English hon. Members, following the Biblical principle which the Scots have often taught, that one should always cast one's bread upon the waters, particularly when the tide is coming in. I cast my bread on an English Bill in the hope that it may bring later, on the tide, a Scottish Bill.

This matter is agitating many shipbuilders in Scotland, and they are already asking the Secretary of State for Scotland to give consideration to it. This industry is in this difficult position now, not in ten years' time, and that, I think, is the force of the argument. The Minister might reasonably say that he was quite willing to accept this as a temporary expedient, and as part of the Government assistance, in order to get over this difficult time. He may well say that he is willing to concede this Amendment at this juncture, but that, when the shipbuilding situation has cleared up, he will bring in an amending Bill; in other words, that he is not willing to make the concession permanent. One should admit that that would be a perfectly fair answer, but something has to be done, and the only alternative that I can see is that the Minister will tell us something which we thought we should hear on Monday, and expect to hear very soon. It is that the Government now have a plan for the shipbuilding industry and that they have adopted various suggestions in the Departmental Committee's Report to such a degree that this kind of exemption from derating is now unnecessary.

I cannot see any other way of arguing that, and I look forward to hearing the usually agile Minister of Housing and Local Government giving us the answers to these questions. He is not, strictly speaking, in the local government field tonight, because he is intervening in the industrial future of a very great industry, a very proud industry, which has done a very great deal for this country. Apart from the views of those hon. Members who represent shipbuilding constituencies, there are many hon. Members who are proud of the achievements of the shipbuilding industry. This country cannot afford to harm this industry.

This is not a dying industry but an industry in a crisis, and it is up to this Committee to try its best to help it. That is why I hope that the Minister will look upon this Amendment favourably, and not as special pleading for vested interests, with hon. Members arguing with the reflexes of Pavlov's dog. We are genuinely arguing a national cause.

I want to add a few words to what my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Paul Williams) has said. I do not think that there is the slightest doubt that the shipbuilding industry has a very difficult time ahead. The tramp section, the coastal section and the tanker section of the shipping industry are extremely depressed, and, from all I know of it, I do not think the liner section is a great deal better. Thinking only in terms of orders which may come from British shipowners, the outlook for the shipbuilder is extremely black.

I appreciate, of course, as I think every hon. Member of the Committee appreciates, the great difficulty of giving exceptional treatment to one industry. It may be not too difficult to find other industries, though perhaps not of equal importance to the shipbuilding industry, which are equally depressed or have an equally depressing outlook, and it may make a hole in the purpose of the Bill we are considering if exceptional treatment is meted out to shipbuilders. There is another fear, which I think is relevant to the Amendment before the Committee, which I should like to express, particularly as my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, North-East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett) is now sitting in his newly-won position on the Front Bench, and I add my congratulations to him on his new office.

It is that, in an effort to help the British shipbuilder, and perhaps even the British shipowner, the Government may be persuaded that it would be a good thing to help British owners to scrap existing vessels and to build new ones. I very much hope that the Government will not proceed in accordance with that suggestion. If that process were to be continued—and it has been in operation in the past—the logical conclusion would be to scrap all British merchant ships for the common benefit of the shipowners of all nations other than British owners.

The original suggestion made some years ago was to scrap two and to build one. It is nearly as bad to scrap one and to build one, but it is much better to scrap one and to build twenty, or, indeed, to scrap none at all. I appreciate the difficulty of the Government in regard to accepting this Amendment, but the situation in which the shipbuilding industry is now is, in my view, so difficult that it deserves careful consideration by the Government.

I cannot claim to speak with a constituency interest in this matter, but I believe, as one interested in the shipbuilding industry, that there is a danger that the provisions of this Bill will fall particularly harshly upon it. For that reason, I ask my right hon. Friend to give special consideration to the Amendment.

We all know that the industry is going through a very difficult time. There was a time when I wore out a good deal of shoe leather going round the various shipbuilding yards of the United Kingdom, including Scotland. My chief recollection of those visits relates to how much shoe leather I did wear out, what a long way round it was and how large, of necessity, these establishments are. I am not aware of the exact way in which rates will be fixed, but I imagine that the size of the yards will cause them to attract a very much higher share of rates than would otherwise be the case. Indeed, although these yards are large, they have a disadvantage which many of our foreign competitors have not, in that they were laid down many years ago. There is now only one major yard which has been laid down since the First World War, whereas our competitors in Japan and Germany have been able to rebuild their yards from scratch, on the basis of a much more economic use of land. Consequently, the very old-fashioned layout of these yards will, at the same time, attract a higher amount of rates to them.

There is the further point that in modern methods of construction and prefabrication, it has been found necessary to abandon a number of the old slipways, and not use all of them. Here again, rates will be attracted to certain yards which are not now fully economic or fully in use. I hope that my right hon. Friend wil realise this difficultyl. It is difficult to make special pleading for any particular industry, because, as the hon. Member for Greenock (Dr. Dickson Mabon) pointed out, the order books are getting low, and these additional rates will come into effect in 1963, the very year in which the orders on the books will be running out. I hope that my right hon. Friend will bear in mind these considerations of general national policy when addressing himself to the Amendment.

I wish to add my support to this Amendment which has been so fully and ably moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. P. Williams). I do not want to go over the various points he made, but I shall follow a line of my own. I think it most unfortunate that we should be discussing this Rating and Valuation Bill without having had a proper and full discussion of the plight of the British shipbuilding and ship-repairing industry.

We are always looking at problems out of their general plan and context. As has been admirably said by some of my hon. Friends and by the hon. Member for Greenock (Dr. Dickson Mabon), it is very difficult for the Minister of Housing and Local Government to have to deal with this problem when we have not discussed the whole issue. Except for the North Atlantic Shipping Bill, we have not heard of the proposals the Government have in mind to deal with the problems of shipbuilding and ship-repairing.

Various comments have been made by people connected with the shipbuilding industry, and I want to add one more. The more we build up the case, even if we cannot get any promise from my right hon. Friend, the better it should be. I add my congratulations to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Croydon, North-East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett) on his new appointment. I hope he will be able to put forward to the various departments concerned the anxieties felt by those of us representing areas connected with shipbuilding and ship-repairing.

I want to express myself forcefully. It is most unfortunate that we should have to deal with this matter only a weekend and a couple of days since my hon. and gallant Friend was appointed. I should have felt much happier if he had had more time in his office. I have great faith in him and take much pleasure in thinking of him arguing with the Minister of Transport. I think I know who would come out on top. It is regrettable that he has so recently come to the Department that he has not had time to see the various Ministers. I wonder whether he has been able even to have a discussion with my right hon. Friend on this important Amendment.

I want to add this comment from an important firm on the Tyne about its difficulty in obtaining new shipbuilding orders. It is the well known firm of John Readhead & Sons. The chairman and managing director has stated that his firm has been eliminating all profit from its tenders for ships in an effort to get jobs for employees. The chairman and managing director, Mr. Harold Towers, said:
"In fact, we have been quoting below out-cost."
He said that after the launch from the yard of the 12,800 tons deadweight cargo liner "Gorjistan" for the Strick Line, London. He went on to say:
"We have been trying desperately to find new work for delivery in 1962 and 1963. So far, with the exception of one ship, we have been unsuccessful and indeed unfortunate. Continuity of employment, we know, is vital and for this reason alone, and particularly when we have so many loyal employees, we will go on with our earnest endeavours to secure more work."
That reinforces the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South, that during the period in which shipbuilding yards have been fully employed they have had the benefit of derating. Just when they are going into a very difficult period they have to face this new proposal.

7.45 p.m.

I am not blaming my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government. He has to look at the whole proposition from the point of view of rating and valuation. My complaint against the Government is that there are so many Ministers concerned with the problems of shipbuilding, ship-repairing and shipping that we never get a coordinated policy. We move from one situation to another and there are relatively few hon. Members who have these interests in mind or who can speak for these interests. We argue and talk and have reports about these problems. I wonder whether all the reports which have been issued are to be of any use if we do not have a statement on policy before we part with this Bill. It is deplorable that Her Majesty's Government should allow this great industry to be confronted with the implications of this Bill without our having had an opportunity of discussing the situation the industry faces.

The Minister of Transport has had many reports. He flits from flower to flower, or twig to twig, but we can never pin him down. For a very long time we have been asking for someone to be appointed to deal with these problems because we felt that the Minister of Transport was over-loaded. Then, much to our pleasure, we had the appointment of my hon. and gallant Friend. I think he ought to have been appointed a Minister of State. Then he would have been in a senior position. He has not had time to discuss the details and implications of this Bill. I doubt whether he has had an opportunity of discussing problems of shipbuilders with the Shipbuilding Employers' Federation, the Shipbuilding Conference, the trade unions and the industry. He may have had a word in the privacy of the Ministerial room with my right hon. Friend, but he has not had an opportunity of getting the problem put before the Cabinet. This is a Cabinet problem, because it is all part of the great difficulty in which the industry finds itself.

I am not going into the detail, which has been dealt with admirably already. I wish to put on record that I do not think this industry should have to meet increased costs in an area when we are entering into the greatest competition the country has known for many years. I do not know what the Minister of Housing and Local Government can suggest. As the hon. Member for Greenock said, this Bill does not apply to agriculture. But, of course, we all know that there are far too many hon. Members representing agricultural interests in this House.

I have great faith in Conservative Members when they know the problems involved. My hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, West (Mr. Wingfield Digby) represents an agricultural area and in his Ministerial capacity learned something about shipbuilding and repairing. Therefore, when he comes to our support we have added force to the case we are putting to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government. Government action depends on how many supporters there are for a case. I believe it is because nothing has been done about agriculture in this Bill that this blow has been aimed at shipbuilding and repairing.

I say nothing more about that matter, and I expect that everybody will be extremely relieved. I hope that by tomorrow, when we ask my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House for a debate on shipbuilding and repairing—which would also bring into line the problem of this aspect of the industry—my hon. Friend the new Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport will have had a chance of seeing the Leader of the House and explaining to him how we feel about this matter, so that we can then get on with trying to look at this industry in a wide picture and not just through one small aspect which it is difficult to know how to deal with.

Hon. Members have been commendably brief in their remarks, and I will follow their example. There is not much that I can add to the admirable speech with which my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. P. Williams) moved his Amendment. On the other hand, it is right that somebody should speak for Merseyside—the Cheshire side. The other day I wrote to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government, enclosing a letter from the head of our great shipyard which has built some of the finest British ships. It is true, as other hon. Members have said, that this industry is going through a difficult time for a variety of reasons, one of them being the competition from abroad which is artifically subsidised, as we heard in last Monday's debate.

While it may be true that there may be other ways in which, to some extent, this great industry can be helped, and that there are ways in which it can and should help itself, we should not, in this time of great difficulty, needlessly make things more complicated and difficult for it. At a time when it must face the new valuations and the re-rating of industry, it is at the receiving end of a serious double-barrelled shot.

I fully recognise my right hon Friend's difficulties. I hope that he will feel able to look very closely at what is an extremely grave problem, and will, if he can, in consultation with the new Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport—whose appointment I also welcome wholeheartedly—try to do something to alleviate the quite serious blow in this Bill at one of our greatest industries.

I will be very brief. I have the greatest sympathy with what has been said by my hon. Friends, particularly as I have a large shipbuilding yard in my constituency, which is going through precisely the same difficulties as the yards in their constituencies.

Nevertheless, I do not think that the method proposed in this Amendment is the way in which the industry should be helped. I have two main reasons for that view. First, we are trying to bring all rateable values on to a current basis, and if we made an exception of the shipbuilding industry it would mean that domestic ratepayers in these areas would bear a higher share of the rate burden than ratepayers in other areas. That would not be right. It would mean that the industry would be subsidised by ratepayers in certain areas.

Let us be clear about the use of words. The removal of a financial burden cannot possibly be interpreted as a subsidy.

In this case, it can, because it would mean that domestic ratepayers in shipbuilding areas would be paying more rates than they would have been had things been left as they are now in the Bill.

My second reason may take away some of the fears of my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. P. Williams). When this Bill becomes law, I do not think that it will mean that industry will pay more in rates than it is paying now, because the increase in the assessments on domestic properties is likely to be trebled, the increase on commercial properties will be 25 per cent. or more, and the increase on assessments for industry will be doubled. That means—according to calculations I and several other people have made—that, because of the different weighting of these different types of rateable properties, it is more likely than not that the rates actually payable by industry will remain the same.

I do not think, therefore, that the shipbuilding industry is correct in expecting that it will have to pay more rates. It is true that its assessments will go up, but the total rates that it will pay will probably remain approximately the same as now.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government
(Sir Keith Joseph)

My hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. P. Williams) moved his Amendment in a vigorous and eloquent speech, in which he told us something of the background of the problems of the shipbuilding industry. It has been followed by a series of pungent, short and effective speeches from a number of my hon. Friends, and from the hon. Member for Greenock (Dr. Dickson Mabon), who already knows that this Bill does not deal with Scotland so that I cannot go into detail about the position on the Clyde.

All my hon. Friends recognised, by the presence of my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, North-East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett), the new Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport, that the special interest of this industry in rating is by no means under-estimated. My hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) said that he could not have had much time yet in which to master the problems of the industry. I can assure her that he has had plenty of time to talk to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government and to me about this industry's rating problems.

I shall first deal with the Amendment in its technical form. I can thus clear it out of the way and then get on with the substance of the case. Technically, the Amendment is faulty because it does not remove the repeal by the Fifth Schedule of this Bill of Section 68 of the 1929 Act, which caused the derating of industry. The proviso, therefore, even if the Amendment were passed, would have no effect. Of course, if the Amendment were accepted it could be accepted in principle and revised in detail.

The purpose of the Amendment is that the shipbuilding industry should benefit by derating by 50 per cent. in 1963 and after.

8.0 p.m.

The speeches made upon the Amendment have been based on a view of what the Bill is doing which I hope to be able to persuade all hon. Members is a misapprehension. All those who have spoken, except for my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. Woodnutt), spoke of the shipbuilding industry—and, indeed, all industry—as being likely to suffer a serious increase in rate burden as a result of the Bill. I must try to explain to them that this is not so. Until we know much more about the shift of the rate burden between the different classes of ratepayer we cannot tell what the general result of the Bill will be in detail, but we can tell something about the substance.

At the moment, the domestic ratepayer, who contributes about 48 per cent. of the total rates paid, is valued upon a 1939 basis. By previous legislation, he will be valued at current value after 1963, but because the impact of a change of valuation of 24 years—from 1939 to 1963—might otherwise be unduly hard on him, the Bill contains certain alleviating measures, especially a power in my right hon. Friend to derate domestic rates between 1963 and 1968. So much for the domestic ratepayer. For him there will be a 24-year jump in valuation, mitigated only by the derating power in the hands of my right hon. Friend. He bears 48 per cent. of the rate burden at the moment.

A further 41 per cent. of that burden is borne by commercial and other ratepayers—in respect of shops, offices, hotels, etc.—who are assessed on 1956 values and who, in 1963, will fall to be assessed on 1963 values. They will, therefore, suffer a jump in valuation of seven years, as compared with the jump of 24 years in respect of domestic householders. But under the 1957 Act the commercial ratepayers get the benefit of a 20 per cent. derating, which, also under that Act, ends in 1963.

I now come to the last broad class of ratepayer, namely, industry, which at the moment bears 11 per cent. of the rate burden, valued on 1956 values—which will jump to 1963 values in 1963—and which receives the benefit of a 50 per cent. derating, that benefit being ended by Clause 1, which the Amendment seeks to alter.

It is only when one has combined all the separate threads that one can possibly begin to estimate what will be the Bill's result in 1963 in respect of any class of ratepayer. In his Second Reading speech my right hon. Friend sought to estimate what the results would be. At that time he estimated that if industry were not rerated the result of all the other factors would be that industry's share of the rate burden in 1963 would be halved, because of the rise in valuation of domestic, commercial and other properties, whose share of the rate burden is 89 per cent. as compared with only 11 per cent. for industry. But after taking into account the rerating of industry, that is, the removal of the 50 per cent. derating the broad result would be that industry would continue to bear, after 1963, about the same share of the rate burden as it does at present.

There are a number of unknown factors that make this estimate a very rough one. One is the extent to which the values of industrial property have altered since 1956. But there will have to be some very sharp increases in the rateable values of the yards—and this at a time when everybody knows that shipbuilders are taking a gloomy view of their prospects—to justify anything like the pessimistic forecasts of the effect of revaluation.

My right hon. Friend is advised that if it is established that there is a recession in the shipbuilding industry, or in any part of it, such as to affect the amount which may reasonably be expected to be secured for the hereditaments which it occupies, that is taken into account in the valuation of those hereditaments. There are other unknown factors, such as the movement in the rental values of other classes of property, and the extent to which houses are to be derated.

Despite these unknowns, it is difficult to conceive of circumstances in which shipbuilders' rates will increase as much as they fear. A number of my hon. Friends have referred to the penalty—as they regard it—of increased rates on improvements carried out by shipyards. It is true that to the extent that plant of shipyards is rateable—and by no means all such plant is rateable—the rateable value will rise, but that is the whole basis of our rating system, and there is a compensating offset, because my right hon. Friend is advised that if, through the improvement of their equipment, smaller slipways and dry docks become redundant, the shipyard as a whole may be given, on that account, and for that part of its equipment, smaller or even nil values. All this has to be taken into account.

I repeat that the main purpose of the Bill, as my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Wight has explained and other hon. Members have acknowledged, is to return to the principle of basing rates on full current values, mitigated only by the derating power to ease the impact on the householder. No one likes paying rates, but it is being a little illogical to represent them, as several of my hon. Friends have, as being the last straw on the back of the shipyards. Shipbuilders have to make use of all sorts of materials and services, and I do not expect that they receive those services and materials free, or even at cut rates, just because they are temporarily in distress. Why, therefore, should they expect to receive local government services at cut rates?

What my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Wight said is true; if industry, including the shipyards, is not rerated in 1963, the burden on householders and commerce will be to that extent increased. If, instead of industry as a whole, only the shipbuilding yards are allowed to preserve their present derating, the rest of industry will share with householders and commerce the co-relative increase in the rate burden. Hon. Members should bear in mind the fact that whereas, on the whole, industry and commerce set their rates off against tax, the householder, who bears by far the highest share of any class of ratepayers, has to pay his rates out of taxed income. It is not for me to say whether the shipbuilding industry should seek help from the Government, but I must assert that the view of my right hon. Friend and the Government is that rate relief is not a desirable way in which an industry in distress should be helped.

I am also confident that when 1963 comes the gloomy forecasts of a much increased share of the rate burden falling either on industry as a whole or on the shipbuilding industry in particular will be disproved. My right hon. Friend accepts that any increase in rates is unwelcome, but he regrets that he can recommend the Committee neither to abandon the rerating of industry nor to discriminate, for rating purposes, between one industry and another.

I do not wish to detain the Committee for more than a moment, in order to add a footnote to certain observations that have just been addressed to the Committee by the Parliamentary Secretary. He said quite logically—and having been a member of the Standing Committee I understand the position—that, even when the 100 per cent. liability for rates was attached to the industries concerned, in the final analysis, when all the arithmetic had been done in the town hall and elsewhere, they may find that they would not have to pay in rates a sum very different from that which they were paying before the change was made.

If that be true, the corollary to that revelation, if I may so call it, is that if the addition of a 50 per cent. rate liability will not mean a greater cash liability to industry, obviously the small owner-occupiers of domestic hereditaments will be faced with an increased rate to compensate for the 50 per cent. which has not been collected from industry.

I am not making these remarks with the intention of being hostile to the claims which have been made by hon. Members on both sides on behalf of an industry which is in a special difficulty, but I share the view expressed by the Parliamentary Secretary, that, if there is to be some special relief, this is not the way to give it because it can be given only by placing on domestic householders—and particularly on the owner-occupier who has bought his house with the help of a mortgage—an increased rate liability of 200 per cent. or 300 per cent. This increase could not be cushioned by the special powers which the Minister is taking to himself.

These powers have nothing to do with the merits of the case. This cushion which the Minister is seeking to include in the Bill is not being provided for the economic reasons which have been stated. It is purely a political cushion to enable the Government to get over the next election, because, when the full impact of revaluation on the 1963 basis is realised by the ordinary householders, there will be such an outcry that even this Government will not be able to stand it.

I have no desire to be called to order by the Chair. I trust, Sir Samuel, that you will be tolerant. I was perhaps straying from the path of virtue, and hon. Members know that I would not wilfully do that. Nevertheless, these are cogent considerations. If I am to be asked to pass judgment and perhaps to vote on a proposition which gives a special concession to a particular industry, I want to know who will pay for that concession. Surely it is cogent to point out that if this concession is given it will have to be paid for by the domestic householder, the shopkeeper, and people on small fixed incomes.

The hon. Gentleman has raised an important point. May I pose a question about the domestic householder? If families were unemployed because there were no shipyards to employ them, their position would be worse than if we gave the concession to the shipyards and kept them in employment.

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her intervention. All those who think responsibly about the duty they have undertaken are concerned to ensure that nothing they do artificially creates unemployment or makes industry less able to compete in the markets of the world, but it has been admitted by leading spokesmen of the Government that industrial derating can no longer be justified and that many of the big industries have had the advantage of a 50 per cent. rate relief for too long. After the war there were periods when the shipbuilding industry became active and revved itself up and did a tremendous amount of work which we all admired. At that time the industry received concessions in rates which it did not need. It is only since the industry has run into more difficult times that these arguments have been put forward.

Subject to the reservations I have made, I agree with the Parliamentary Secretary. If this special relief is to be given to the shipbuilding industry, it must not be at the expense of the domestic householder and the occupier of other premises. The people in Sunderland, Newcastle and Merseyside must not be penalised to help the shipbuilding industry. That would not be right. Subject to that, I have a good deal of good will for the purpose behind the Amendment, but this is not the way to do it.

8.15 p.m.

I will not detain the Committee much longer. I believe that we have received just about the answer we expected. My hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) put her finger on one of the most important problems in relation to the shipbuilding industry. Over the years the Government have always faced the problem piecemeal. Technocratic answers which may be logical and correct on the Bill, and which may be satisfactory in one sense, leave us with the running sore of the problem in the shipbuilding industry.

My hon. Friend said that derating was no longer the appropriate way to deal with this. It would be more satisfactory if the Government could tell us what is the suitable method of dealing with this problem. One is fobbed off with piecemeal legislation such as the Bill we are considering. This type of legislation permanently harms the shipbuilding industry and does nothing to remedy its problems.

The Minister said that the effect of revaluation on the domestic rate was unknown. How, then, can he say with confidence that this will not be the sort of thing which will savage the shipbuilding industry in 1963? If revaluation adds no burden, surely the ending of derating adds a burden? This must add to the sum total of rates paid by the yards.

This piecemeal facing of the problem of the shipbuilding industry leaves me, and I think most of my hon. Friends who are interested in the Amendment, profoundly disturbed about the future. We are not happy about the Government's approach, and because of that I cannot withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment negatived.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 2—(Power To Reduce Rateable Value Of Dwelling-Houses, Etc, For Purposes Of First Future Lists)

I beg to move, in page 2, line 15, at the end, to insert:

(3) (a) The Minister shall so exercise his powers under this section that the domestic share of rateable value in England and Wales shall not exceed six-fifths of the present domestic share in England and Wales and that the domestic share of rateable value in any area shall not exceed five-fourths of the present domestic share in that area;
(b) in this subsection "area" means an administrative county or county borough; the expression "domestic share of rateable value" means a fraction, of which the numerator is the rateable value of all such hereditaments as are mentioned in subsection (1) of this section and the denominator is the sum of the rateable value of all hereditaments and of the values of property on which a contribution is paid in lieu of rates; and the expression "present domestic share" means the domestic share of rateable value in accordance with the valuation lists in force on the rate of the passing of this Act.
We have long pressed for the complete rating of industry as a whole and we welcome the Clause. Indeed, we regard it as overdue, but it raises questions as between industry on the one hand and the grouping of ratepayers, which includes shops and offices, on the other hand, and lastly the domestic ratepayer.

In replying to the debate on the last Amendment, the Parliamentary Secretary gave us the present position. I do not want to repeat what he said, but I must point out that the increase is estimated by the right hon. Gentleman not to increase industry's share of the burden. I agree that there is a great deal of uncertainty about this. There is bound to be when one is dealing with increases in values even over a period of six years between 1957 and 1963. It will be a rather shorter period, actually, since the lists will be prepared before them.

Subject to that, however, industry will not have to bear a larger share of the burden. Shops and offices, too, will be dealt with in the light of the rise in values since 1957; accordingly, from that point of view they will, no doubt, have some increase but not as much as those who, like domestic householders, will be dealt with on the basis of the difference between before the war and now. For shops it counterbalances that to some extent. The increase which they will have to bear is merely the removal of the 20 per cent. concession given to them a few years ago as against the removal of the 50 per cent. concession which industry has had for some time.

I think it is, therefore, fair to say that shops and offices will have to bear rather more of the total rateable value, but it is also fair to say that the people who will have to bear the brunt and full weight of the burden, the "severe jolt" as the right hon. Gentleman twice described it on Second Reading, will be the domestic householders. It is fair to add to that, as the Parliamentary Secretary pointed out in the last debate, that domestic householders cannot deduct the rates they pay from business expenses as both industry and shops are entitled to do. There is no doubt, therefore, that on the basis of the law as it is at present, and including for the purposes of this discussion the Clause to which the Committee has just agreed, the person who will have incomparably the heaviest share of the burden will be the domestic householder.

No Government other than a Government composed of insensitive lunatics could possibly let that position remain, and even the present Government have found it necessary to provide in Clause 2 what the right hon. Gentleman calls a "cushion". I think that his picture is of the domestic householder being let down with a bump and he himself providing the "cushion" to make the fall rather easier.

We have had objections to this way of doing it, and one of our main objections is that the "cushion" is left entirely at the right hon. Gentleman's discretion. He is allowed to free domestic householders, either in the country as a whole or in parts of the country to different degrees, from whatever he thinks fit to relieve them in connection with the rate burden. He may relieve the domestic householder of 90 per cent. of it or of 10 or 20 per cent. of it. We do not know. The right hon. Gentleman is entitled to do all that. The only indication that we have had about what the Minister proposes to do in the matter was given to us, curiously enough, not by the right hon. Gentleman but by the Parliamentary Secretary, who purported to quote what I think, in fact, his right hon. Friend had never said. Still, we can presume, I suppose, that they both got it out of the same notes, and, therefore, what is good enough for one is good enough for the other.

In column 508 of the OFFICIAL REPORT for 30th November, 1960, the Parliamentary Secretary said:
"My right hon. Friend said that the Government would not find it tolerable to allow an increase in the share of the rates falling on the householders because of the revaluation of the order of one-third. "—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th November, 1960; Vol. 631, c.508.]
That was promptly met by a comment by my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart), who said that he was never quite sure what the phrase "of the order of" will mean when it comes to the point, a comment with which I agree. However, substantially we were told that the kind of increase which the right hon. Gentleman had in mind was to allow up to one-third of the total as against the domestic householder.

What always happens in these cases happened today. We have seen a very good instance of it. Industry, which is entitled to set off its rate burden against its tax burden, complains about the incidence of rates, but when one comes to look at it one finds that rates are a far smaller share of the turnover or, indeed, the profits of industry than they are in relation to the small domestic householder. I suggest that from the point of view of the small domestic householder rates are a very hard tax indeed. They bear on him more heavily than they do on the large householder, and they bear on both of them more heavily than they do on industry or offices. The result is the curious one that when the rates come to be paid the offices of the Prudential or one of the large joint stock banks will get off better from this change, just as the business of I.C.I. or Unilever will get off better than the ordinary householder, and particularly the small householder.

What may be said against that is, "No doubt rates are from many points of view objectionable, but can you suggest a better alternative?" I will not go into that at any length on this Amendment, but it is clear that that comment may be made. I think that it is sufficient if on this Amendment I remind the Committee that the Opposition divided on Second Reading on a reasoned Amendment which mentioned the inequitable burden on domestic ratepayers—which is exactly what I have been talking about—and declined to proceed further until a full inquiry had been made into the financial relationship between central and local government under modern conditions.

On this Amendment I cannot develop that, but I can put it more shortly. If the inevitable result of the Government's proposal is that the domestic householder has to bear a jolt of this character subject only to a "cushion" the softness and the efficiency of which depend entirely on the judgment of the Minister who is responsible for the Rent Act, then the rating change is not particularly good. I must rub this in a little further yet. What is happening to the domestic householder is partly a matter of the form that the relief takes in this Bill and partly a matter of what has been going on in the way of house values and the rates upon which these rating values are based. Of course, one can take only—as the right hon. Gentleman has told us again and again, usually when asking for a postponement of the valuation lists—the rents of uncontrolled and, in that sense, free houses. If anybody looks round London today, they will find that there has been, exactly as one would expect, a very sharp rise indeed in rents, purchase prices and, therefore, the prospective rateable values of the houses. The reason is that, to start with, the whole market has been allowed to slip upwards partly because of the removal of rent control and partly because of the provisions about compensation in full to local authorities—I have no objection to that—not being accompanied by any provision for ensuring that local authorities get betterment.

8.30 p.m.

The result is that under this Government land and, with it, houses have gone up and up in value, particularly in the Metropolis and in the other large towns. That has been added to by a number of other factors all connected with Government policy. One, for instance, is that instead of providing enough houses through council building to make good the real shortage that there is in these large towns, the Government have succeeded in roughly halving the rate of building council houses in the last five or six years and have encouraged the building of houses for sale and, to a very limited extent, indeed, for letting by private enterprise.

Since the rents so obtained depend very largely on the rates of interest current at the time, both the housing policy of the Government and the financial policy of higher rates of interest have all played their part in pushing up the value of houses. All this will come back on the domestic ratepayer when he is called upon to bear the jolt of the change between pre-war and present-day conditions.

It is, of course, in recognition of that being a certainty, although the amount of it may not be a certainty, that the Government have felt bound to introduce Clause 2. But I repeat that the Government have left it to the Minister who is personally responsible as a Minister for a good many of these acts of policy. He forms part of the Government which bears a very grave responsibility for the whole picture, as it now affects the domestic ratepayer. They have, in short, queered the pitch for him concerning rating assessments.

In these circumstances, we on this side of the Committee are not prepared to leave this matter entirely to the arbitrary descretion—for it is uncontrolled except by an affirmative Resolution being required—of the right hon. Gentleman. I say "arbitrary" because we can be realists about affirmative Resolutions. They are, no doubt, a very good way of making clear what the Government propose, but the Government would resign if they were defeated on an affirmative Resolution. The Whips are on and there is no Amendment possible. In fact and in practice, whatever the constitutional theory may be, the extent and efficacy of it will depend entirely on the right hon. Gentleman's judgment of the position.

The object of the Amendment is to give the domestic ratepayers a limit, and the limit must be given by limiting their share of the total rate burden. I say that because if we were merely engaged in limiting the amount, a county borough, for instance, could double the rateable value over a given area, and if it did not want any more money for public purposes it could then halve the poundage, and the result would be the same.

When we come to consider shares this is another matter. If we look at the way the shares have worked we see yet another reason why the domestic ratepayer needs protection. Let us compare two areas, one consisting almost entirely of domestic premises, a large residential town which probably returns a Tory Member, the other a town where many people are living because their work is there and where also there is a considerable number of factories, offices and the like.

In the former town the Bill will not make much difference. The domestic ratepayer's share has always been so large, because there are no factories and few shops, that it makes little odds. The same applies in the residential suburbs. In the other place the full effect of the Bill will be that, though industry will bear a little more and though, no doubt, shops and offices will have some increase, the domestic ratepayer will take the really severe jolt, as the right hon. Gentleman calls it.

In the circumstances, it is perfectly clear that those who are concerned with our industrial constituencies are particularly anxious to see that the domestic ratepayer there is not hard hit by the change while the domestic ratepayer in Bournemouth or some other happy and wealthy centre gets off with little or no increase. The operation of the Bill in that respect will be unfair. Again, it is all a matter of the right hon. Gentleman's discretion. He may make distinctions between one area and another. He is not bound to make any, and he is not restricted in the distinctions he makes.

In the circumstances, we say that to increase the domestic householder's share by one-fifth is ample at the moment. We do not say that that should be done—quite the opposite—but we say that that is the limit of what should be done. The domestic ratepayer ought not to be obliged to carry any greater share of the burden than that. We say, too, that as regard particular areas where there may have to be some provision and a larger increase might otherwise be involved, there ought not to be more than a one-quarter increase.

What I have just said is the purport of paragraph (a) of the new subsection which we desire to insert, that is to say, that the domestic share of rateable value in the country as a whole is not to exceed six-fifths of the present domestic share, and that the domestic share in any area is not to exceed five-fourths.

The following paragraph merely defines the words used. It defines particularly the
"domestice share of rateable value"
and it defines it in the form of a fraction. It looks fiercer than it is. I think we all know what is intended by the expression "domestic share of rate burden". On 29th November, in a Written Answer, the right hon. Gentleman set out in column 29 and 30 of the OFFICIAL REPORT the most recent figures showing how rateable value is divided. One finds that dwellings will account for just about 47½ per cent. of the amount expected to be receive in rates in the year 1960–61. Adding one-fifth to that, householders would then carry rather more than half the total burden.

Rates are a bad tax, for the reasons I have indicated. They are a regressive tax. They come down on the small householder, the small person of fixed income of whom we hear sometimes from hon. Members opposite. Those are the people who will suffer. In view of what has happened during recent years about housing, house values and land values, is it right in a Bill of this kind to leave the protection of the domestic householder entirely to Ministerial discretion? If that is all that the Government can do, then there must be something wrong either, as I believe, with the whole system—I think that it needs examining—or with the steps which are being taken.

The Minister goes round the country saying that it is not he who has made things difficult for the domestic ratepayer. He is St. George in shining armour come to rescue him from the dragon of existing legislation. Technically, he is perfectly right. Practically, he is talking complete nonsense, if he will excuse my saying so, because no Government in their senses could possibly have left the present position without trying to give some protection to the domestic householder. All that we are saying is that that protection, up to the amounts that we suggest, should be certain and that, if a discretion is the only way of dealing with the matter, then it must be exercised in such a way that it will afford some real assistance.

I ask hon. Members to remember one thing. Their constituents, like mine, probably come to see them from time to time to grumble about a rating assessment or the rates which they are paying. How many of those constituents really know that they are being assessed on a hypothetical 1939 value? I occasionally ask them. My experience is that they never know. The result of the Bill will be that the jolt to them will be exceptionally severe. I agree that there is a certain logical consistency in that.

People will say, "It is the council which has done it again". In Measure after Measure the right hon. Gentleman has so managed things—whether on purpose or by happy accident I cannot say—that the councils are blamed for Government policy. It is said that there are not enough council houses and that the rents are too high. But what about the rate of interest which the councils have to pay? The Government will be responsible if they do not ensure in this Measure that the domestic householder gets at least a modicum of protection.

The local councils, not the Government, will be blamed, particularly in areas where the severe jolt will be felt most acutely, namely, in industrial areas which have Labour-controlled councils and which are represented by my hon. Friends. It is not right that that should be so. If this is all that the Government can do, in spite of all the criticisms that I have made, then they should at least ensure that the protection is not purely discretionary but that there is, as we propose, a reasonable minimum of security.

The Minister is asking for a very wide discretion. While I have no doubt that it is his intention and desire to exercise this discretion wisely and properly, I think that it is our duty to examine it with some care.

The Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary have said on more than one occasion that the Government intend that the principle of current values shall underlie the rating system in future. I have some doubt as to whether it will work out in that way. We have had various calculations about what the effect would be on domestic householders if there were no derating. I believe that it has been suggested that the liability of the domestic ratepayer would be trebled. For instance, if a local authority's expenditure remained unchanged, the sum of £25 which a ratepayer was paying would rise to £75, which is a very substantial increase.

8.45 p.m.

I am obliged to the hon. and learned Gentleman. Therefore, the Minister is asking for power to make regulations at his discretion for a period of five years in order to defer the jolt—and it will obviously be a substantial and serious jolt for the domestic ratepayer.

I understand that it is the intention of the Government to limit this increased burden falling upon the domestic householder to 30 per cent. or so. In that event, it seems to follow that at the end of the five-year period the domestic householder is liable to be faced with a substantial increase. As we approach the end of the five-year period, there will be increasing pressure for a further similar Order. We shall be told that the precedent has been established—at least one cannot deny that a precedent is being established—by the Clause giving the Minister power to deal with the particular position of the domestic householder by means of an Order.

I recognise that anybody criticising this is liable to be asked what one would do. I have proposed that there should be a pilot survey and valuation based upon site value rating in order to compare it with the existing method of arriving at liability to rates. Obviously, it would be out of order to pursue that. I merely say in passing that if that comparison were made, one interesting conclusion that would follow is that the average rate liability of domestic householders would be considerably less. Figures from other countries bear that out.

That would be the case without any derating regulation. It would be a permanent solution, and that is one of the merits. However, I am obviously not able to pursue that. I merely say that I am in favour of some radical reform of a long-term nature which would overcome the necessity or the case for dealing with this kind of problem by means of Orders and regulations. In the meantime, however, the House of Commons is faced with this dilemma. The Minister obviously does not wish to have his hands tied. I imagine that that is what he will say. On the other hand, the House of Commons has a duty to retain the right to decide so far as possible within its own hands. We have a duty to lay down a maximum to enable the House to retain that degree of control.

I believe that when the application of the principle of current values is fully understood there will be a great outcry. It may be that this outcry will be postponed for the period of five years. That rather depends upon the extent of the derating, but it is only postponing the evil day. I envisage a long vista of Orders and regulations following from the precedent that is now being set.

I recognise that we are in a difficulty. I do not want to damn the Amendment with faint praise. I consider it the best solution that could be put forward. I advocate it, however, primarily because it is a way of retaining within the hands of the House of Commons some control over the extent of the derating that is made necessary by Government legislation. For those reasons, I feel bound to support the Amendment.

The Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs
(Mr. Henry Brooke)

In all our previous proceedings on this Bill the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) has never spoken of me so generously as to liken me to St. George. I am grateful, and I shall refrain from making any further identification of himself. Even so, I recognise that he is in line with the Government in wishing that any additional burden which may fall on householders by the revaluation in 1963 shall not be of so heavy a character as to be unbearable. We are at one on that. The only question is, what is the right method by which to proceed?

The hon. Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Wade) has said, very fairly, that this is a difficult matter. He likes the general idea of the Amendment, I fancy, but at the same time he recognises that it is not an ideal way of proceeding and that it would in itself cause certain difficulties.

I said on behalf of the Government at an earlier stage of the Bill that the Government would regard an overall 33 per cent. increase in the share to be borne by the householder of the total rate burden as unacceptable. I note that the hon. and learned Gentleman in this Amendment has kept his figures somewhat below that.

If the Amendment were accepted certain consequences would flow. It would cut across a suggestion which I made, and which I thought received a good deal of support and good will in the Standing Committee, that we should try to avoid having a great many different percentages of derating in the different counties and county boroughs. This Amendment provides, if I understand it aright, that in the case of no county or county borough shall the domestic share rise by more than 25 per cent.

If the valuation figures, when we see them in draft, indicate a wide variety of increases in the domestic share in the many different counties and county boroughs, it may be necessary to invoke the Order-making power so as to impose a wide variety of different percentages of derating on to the different counties and county boroughs in order to bring them all within the 25 per cent. I think I should carry most hon. Members with me if I were to hope that it may not be necessary to fix different percentages of derating for different areas. The less we find that that is necessary the better. This Amendment, though, is really rigid, and it would mean that even if it were going to be one tiny fraction over a 25 per cent. increase in any county or county borough then a special further percentage of derating would be necessary.

That is not the whole story.

These percentages in both cases are maxima. They are not fixed amounts. I should have thought that if the right hon. Gentleman wanted a wide discrepancy he could still have got it by treating them as maxima.

I thought, from other points made by the hon. and learned Member for Kettering that he wanted to ensure as equitable an arrangement as possible between the domestic ratepayers in different areas of the country. I was simply making the point that to avoid exceeding that 25 per cent. limit for any area, even by a tiny fraction, might result in our having to vary the percentage of derating in different cases.

The derating Order will need to be made in the early months of 1962. It would be impossible to insert all the figures in the lists unless the Order were submitted to Parliament early in the year, and approved by the House, and then they would be available to be inserted in the lists.

That means that we have to take these decisions twelve months ahead on figures which give general guidance, but which cannot be definitive and final. Yet, if this Amendment were carried, the Government, in the use of their Order-making power, would be bound by Statute. We have to make absolutely certain that in no case would the effect of the Order, twelve months subsequently, be to leave the increase in the share more than 20 per cent. over the country as a whole, or more than 25 per cent. in any particular area. That being so, it would be necessary to leave a wide margin of safety, because I do not know what we should do if it were discovered, in April of 1963, that there had been a breach of the Statute by an Order made twelve months earlier.

I make that point because, whereas it might seem to the Committee that these percentage increases—20per cent. in one case and 25 per cent. in another—are reasonable figures, in drafting an Order and submitting it to Parliament the Government would obviously have to provide that wide margin of safety, seeing that they were acting on preliminary and provisional figures, in order to be absolutely certain that when the valuations were complete and the new system came into force in 1963, there would be no breach of the Statute.

I do not necessarily say that all these things make it impossible, but they make it considerably more complicated, and they are almost certain to lead to a greater number of different percentages of derating in different parts of the country, just when most people would say that if we can keep to one percentage of derating everywhere—or, perhaps, one, two or three different percentages at the most—that would be best.

These are not just technical objections but have particular weight when it is remembered that the decision by the Minister to lay an Order, and the decision of the House to approve it or otherwise, has to be taken long before the definite figures are available. In these circumstances, I cannot advise the Committee to accept the Amendment. This is a variant of other Amendments which the hon. and learned Member for Kettering moved persuasively in the Standing Committee.

It may be the best one. That is not for me to judge. For the reasons I have given, I cannot advise the Committee to accept the Amendment because I do not think that it would be in the general interest of the country for the Government to write anything so rigid as this into the Bill.

9.0 p.m.

I did not have the opportunity of serving on the Standing Committee which dealt with the Bill, but I hear that the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Wade) compared the Minister with St. George. We all remember that the dragon was killed.

I think that is obvious. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) said that ordinary householders would pay over 50 per cent. of the amount expected to be received from rates in 1960–61 and very large numbers of people, particularly those on fixed income, would suffer. Hon. Members opposite claim that those are the people whom they want to protect. The Minister has said that there will be a high percentage increase in some areas and a low percentage increase in others, but he would like to fix a percentage of between 20 per cent. and 25 per cent. over the country as a whole.

Why has the Minister at this juncture provided for these percentages? Why did he not go the full distance in the first place? Is he now saying that because of the block grant he will make it only 25 per cent. for each year but will make the figure cumulative and will get all his money back in the end? These provisions are unjust to the ordinary householder who contributes by far the larger share. It would be unfair to blame the local authorities for something which the Minister is imposing upon them at a time when he is not prepared to shoulder his responsibilities in this respect.

The Committee may be anxious to reach a decision on the Amendment before long, but it will not take me long to demonstrate that the reasons given by the Minister for rejecting it carry no conviction. We all agree that it is necessary to have some power for the temporary derating of domestic properties, otherwise when the important date comes the domestic ratepayer will have a nasty shock. Secondly, we also all agree that the amount of that derating must in equity vary from area to area. Broadly speaking, if an area is almost 100 per cent. domestic properties it would not suffer so much, but in an area where there is a considerable amount of industrial property the domestic ratepayer would suffer a great deal. Consequently, the power of temporary derating ought to be exercised in different degrees from one area to another.

Let us consider why that is important. In his argument against the Amendment the Minister looked at it far too much from the point of view of an administrator and far too little from the point of view of the person who has to pay the rates. What matters to the domestic ratepayer is this question: "For every £1 I pay now, how much shall I have to pay when the effect of this legislation is felt?" What equity requires is that if in one area the domestic ratepayer is paying 25s. for every 20s. he used to pay, it should not be the case that in other areas he is having to pay very much more than 25s. for every 20s. he used to pay. We want the relation between the future domestic share, to use the language of the Amendment, and the present domestic share to be as alike as possible throughout the country and to have as little variation from one area to another as possible.

The Minister rightly pointed out that if we want that result we should have to have a fairly wide and frequent variation in the percentage of derating. From his point of view as an administrator he wants as few different percentages of derating as possible because that is what is convenient for the administration of the Bill. But we pass Bills for the benefit not of administrators but of the general public, and what matters to the general public is that the ratepayers in one area shall not be subjected to a very much greater shook than the ratepayers in another area.

That is the merit of the Amendment. Although it might require the Minister to have a greater number of percentages of derating than he would otherwise have, it will give a lesser difference in the effect on the ratepayers between one area and another. The Minister nods his head in agreement. I hope that we may hear from him in a different sense before the end of the discussion from the sense in which he has argued previously. There is nothing in his argument about trying to have as few different percentages of derating as possible. That looks at the position from the bureaucratic rather than from the public-spirited point of view.

His other argument may seem at first sight to have a little more substance. He said that he has to make these orders about 12 months before the events to which they relate, and that the calculation must therefore be made and a decision taken as to the percentages which are to be put in without certainty as to how they will work out. He said that in order to comply with the Amendment he would have to leave himself a considerable margin. If it were true that it is inevitable that the Minister must make orders 12 months before the effect is known, I can see that that would be a difficulty for him, but why is he in that position? It is because in Committee he obstinately resisted an Amendment which would have given him power by subsequent orders to vary or revoke orders made under the Clause.

If in the first place he made an order which he thought would be right and would comply with the Amendment, and then a little nearer the date found that the appropriate percentage was such that his order would not comply with the terms of the Amendment, he could solve the problem quite easily by making another order amending that which he had previously made. Nobody would be subjected to uncertainty because, looking at the Amendment, which would then be part of the Bill, everyone would know what was the ultimate result for the domestic ratepayer which would be achieved. All that the Minister would have to vary would be the necessary mechanism in derating percentages in order to effect that result. The Minister could do that quite easily if he had power to vary or revoke orders made under the Clause by subsequent orders, and the fact that he has no such power is entirely his on fault, because we asked him in Committee to give himself that power and he would not do so. Even yet, it is not too late. There are further opportunities to amend this Bill. Differing opinions are held as to the value of another place, but, at least, it can be used as a place where Amendments can be made when Ministers see the light at the eleventh hour.

Finally, we on this bench are very glad of support by the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Wade), and it seems to me that the Minister quite

Division No. 156.]


[9.13 p.m.

Abse, LeoDavies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)Gooch, E. G.
Ainsley, WilliamDavies, S. O. (Merthyr)Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)Deer, GeorgeGourlay, Harry
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)de Freitas, GeoffreyGrey, Charles
Awbery, StanDelargy, HughGriffiths, David (Rother Valley)
Bacon, Miss AlicaDempsey, JamesGriffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)
Bence, Cyril (Dunbartonshire, E.)Diamond, JohnGrimond, J.
Benson, Sir GeorgeDodds, NormanGunter, Ray
Blyton, WilliamDonnelly, DesmondHale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)
Boardman, H.Driberg, TomHamilton, William (West Fife)
Bowden, Herbert W. (Leics, S. W.)Ede, Rt. Hon. C.Hannan, William
Bowen, Roderio (Cardigan)Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)Hart, Mrs. Judith
Bowles, FrankEdwards, Robert (Bilston)Hayman, F. H.
Boyden, JamesEdwards, Walter (Stepney)Henderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur (RwlyRegis)
Brockway, A. FennerEvans, AlbertHerbison, Miss Margaret
Brown, Thomas (Ince)Finch, HaroldHill, J. (Midlothian)
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)Fletcher, EricHilton, A. V.
Castle, Mrs. BarbaraFoot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)Holman, Percy
Collick, PercyForman, J. C.Holt, Arthur
Corbet, Mrs. FredaFraser, Thomas (Hamilton)Houghton, Douglas
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. HughHowell, Denis (B'ham, Small Heath)
Crossman, R. H. S.George, LadyMeganLloyd (Crmrthn)Hoy, James H.
Cullen, Mrs. AliceGinsburg, DavidHughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)

failed to grasp the purport of his remarks. The Minister said that the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West did not regard the Amendment as ideal, and went on to say that the hon. Member did not regard it as the best way of doing it, but I do not think that is quite right. The reason why the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West did not regard this Amendment as ideal was that he thought the whole problem ought to be tackled in a more drastic manner, and that we cannot do at this stage of the Bill, but, within the ambit of the Bill as it now is, I do not think the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West was suggesting that the results which we want to achieve could be achieved in any better way than my hon. and learned Friend's Amendment.

Therefore, with the support of my hon. and right hon. Friends, and fortified with the support of the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West and his hon. Friends, we shall feel it necessary to test the opinion of the Committee, unless, as I hope, from the facial significations of the Minister earlier, he intends to change his mind. I see that the hopes of repentance that appeared earlier are now dwindling, and, if that is so, after any other hon. Members who wish to address the Committee on this point have done so, we shall feel it necessary to record our judgment on the Minister's obstinacy on this matter.

Question put, That those words be there inserted:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 164, Noes 224.

Hunter, A. E.Moyle, ArthurStewart, Michael (Fulham)
Hynd, H. (Accrington)Neal, HaroldStones, William
Hynd, John (Attercliffe)Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip (Derby, S.)Swingler, Stephen
Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)Oliver, G. H.Sylvester, George
Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)Owen, WillSymonds, J. B.
Jones, Rt. Hn. A. Creech (Wakefield)Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Jones, Dan (Burnley)Parker, JohnTaylor, John (West Lothian)
Jones, Elwyn (West Ham, S.)Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)
Jones, Jack (Rotherham)Peart, FrederickThomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)
Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)Pentland, NormanThompson, Dr. Alan (Dunfermline)
Kelley, RichardPrentice, R. E.Thomson, G. M. (Dundee, E.)
Kenyon, CliffordPrice, J. T. (Westhoughton)Timmons, John
Lawson, GeorgeProbert, ArthurTomney, Frank
Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)Proctor, W. T.Wade, Donald
Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)Pursey, Cmdr. HarryWarbey, William
Lipton, MarcusRandall, HarryWeitzman, David
Logan, DavidRedhead, E. C.Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Loughlin, CharlesRoberts, Albert (Normanton)White, Mrs. Eirene
Mabon, Dr. J. DicksonRoberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)Willey, Frederick
MacColl, JamesRobertson, J. (Paisley)Williams, D. J. (Neath)
McKay, John (Wallsend)Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)Williams, Ll. (Abertillery)
Mackie, JohnRogers, G. H. R. (Kensington, N.)Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
McLeavy, FrankRoss, WilliamWilliams, W. R. (Openshaw)
MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)Short, EdwardWillis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)
Manuel, A. C.Silverman, Julius (Aston)Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Mapp, CharlesSkeffington, ArthurWoodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Mason, RoySlater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)Woof, Robert
Mendelson, J. J.Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)Yates, Victor (Ladywood)
Millan, BruceSmall, WilliamZilllacus, K.
Mitchison, G. R.Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)
Monslow, WalterSnow, JulianTELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Morris, JohnSoskice, Rt. Hon. Sir FrankMr. Charles A. Howell and
Mort, D. L.Spriggs, LeslieMr. McCann.


Agnew, Sir PeterDigby, Simon WingfieldHutchison, Michael Clark
Aitken, W. T.Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M.Iremonger, T. L.
Allason, JamesDoughty, CharlesJackson, John
Arbuthnot, JohnDuncan, Sir JamesJames, David
Atkins, HumphreyEden, JohnJennings, J. C.
Balniel, LordElliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)
Barber, AnthonyElliott, R. W. (Nwcstle-upon-Tyne, N.)Johnson, Eric (Blackley)
Barlow, Sir JohnEmmet, Hon. Mrs. EvelynJohnson Smith, Geoffrey
Barter, JohnErrington, Sir EricJones, Rt. Hn. Aubrey (Hall Green)
Baxter, Sir Beverley (Southgate)Farey-Jones, F. W.Joseph, Sir Keith
Beamish, Col. Sir TuftonFell, AnthonyKerans, Cdr. J. S.
Berkeley, HumphryFinlay, GraemeKerby, Capt. Henry
Bevins, Rt. Hon. Reginald (Toxteth)Fisher, NigelKirk, Peter
Bingham, R. M.Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)Kitson, Timothy
Birch, Rt. Hon. NigelGibson-Watt, DavidLeavey, J. A.
Bishop, F. P.Glover, Sir DouglasLeburn, Gilmour
Bossom, CliveGlyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham)Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry
Bourne-Arton, A.Goodhart, PhilipLilley, F. J. P.
Box, DonaldGough, FrederickLindsay, Martin
Boyle, Sir EdwardGower, RaymondLinstead, Sir Hugh
Braine, BernardGrant, Rt. Hon. WilliamLitchfield, Capt. John
Brewis, JohnGreen, AlanLongden, Gilbert
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir WalterGresham Cooke, R.Loveys, Walter H.
Brooke, Rt. Hon. HenryGrosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh
Browne, Percy (Torrington)Hall, John (Wycombe)McAdden, Stephen
Bullard, DenysHamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)McLaughlin, Mrs. Patricia
Burden, F. A.Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.)MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty)
Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)Harris, Reader (Heston)McMaster, Stanley R.
Carr, Compton (Barons Court)Harrison, Brian (Maldon)Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Harold (Bromley)
Carr, Robert (Mitcham)Harvie Anderson, MissMaddan, Martin
Cary, Sir RobertHeald, Rt. Hon. Sir LionelMaltland, Sir John
Channon, H. P. G.Henderson, John (Cathcart)Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.
Chataway, ChristopherHenderson-Stewart, Sir JamesMarkham, Major Sir Frank
Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)Hendry, ForbesMarlowe, Anthony
Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)Hiley, JosephMarples, Rt. Hon. Ernest
Cleaver, LeonardHill, Dr. Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)Marshall, Douglas
Cooper, A. E.Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)Mathew, Robert (Honiton)
Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.Hirst, GeoffreyMatthews, Gordon (Meriden)
Costain, A. P.Hobson, JohnMawby, Ray
Coulson, J. M.Hooking, Philip N.Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.
Courtney, Cdr. AnthonyHolland, PhilipMaydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.
Craddock, Sir BeresfordHollingworth, JohnMills, Stratton
Critchley, JulianHornby, R. P.Montgomery, Fergus
Crosthwalte-Eyre, Col. O. E.Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. PatriciaMore, Jasper (Ludlow)
Crowder, F. PHoward, Hon. G. R. (St. Ives)Morrison, John
Cunningham, KnoxHughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral JohnMott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles
Curran, CharlesHughes-Young, MichaelNabarro, Gerald
Deedes, W. F.Hulbert, Sir NormanNicholson, Sir Godfrey
de Ferranti, BasilHurd, Sir AnthonyNoble, Michael

Nugent, Sir RichardRussell, RonaldTurton, Rt. Hon. R. H.
Oakshott, Sir HendrieScott-Hopkins, JamesTweedsmuir, Lady
Orr, Capt. L. P. S.Seymour, Leslievan Straubenzee, W. R.
Osborn, John (Hallam)Sharples, RichardVane, W. M. F.
Page, John (Harrow, West)Shaw, M.Vaughan-Morgan, Sir John
Page, Graham (Crosby)Skeet, T. H. H.Vosper, Rt. Hon. Dennis
Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale)Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'rd & Chiswick)Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)Smithers, PeterWalder, David
Peel, JohnSmyth, Brig, Sir John (Norwood)Walker, Peter
Percival, IanSpearman, Sir AlexanderWard, Dame Irene
Peyton, JohnSpeir, RupertWatts, James
Pickthorn, Sir KennethStevens, GeoffreyWells, John (Maidstone)
Pike, Miss MervynSteward, Harold (Stockport, S.)Whitelaw, William
Pilkington, Sir RichardStoddart-Scott, Col. Sir MalcolmWilliams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Pott, PercivallStudholme, Sir HenryWills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
Prior, J. M. L.Summers, Sir Spencer (Aylesbury)Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Prior-Palmer, Brig, Sir OthoSumner, Donald (Orpington)Wise, A. R.
Pym, FrancisTalbot, John E.Wood, Rt. Hon. Richard
Quennell, Miss J. M.Taylor, Edwin (Bolton, E.)Woodhouse, C. M.
Ramsden, JamesTaylor, W. J. (Bradford, N.)Woodnutt, Mark
Rawlinson, PeterTeeling, WilliamWoollam, John
Redmayne, Rt. Hon. MartinThatcher, Mrs. MargaretWorsley, Marcus
Rees, HughThomas, Leslie (Canterbury)Yates, William (The Wrekin)
Renton, DavidThomas, Peter (Conway)
Ridsdale, JulianThompson, Kenneth (Walton)TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Roots, WilliamThornton-Kemsley, Sir ColinColonel J. H. Harrison and
Ropner, Col. Sir LeonardTiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)Mr. Chichester-Clark.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

New Clause—(Amendment Of S 3 Of Valuation For Rating Act, 1953)

Subsection (2) of section three of the Valuation for Rating Act, 1953, shall have effect as if the words "substantially the whole" were deemed to apply where either—

  • (a) four or more bedrooms; or
  • (b) sleeping accommodation for eight or more persons; or
  • (c) more than half the available accommodation is ordinarily available for letting.—[Mr. Woodnutt.]
  • Brought up, and read the First time.

    I beg to move, That the Clause be read a Second time.

    The purpose of the Clause is not to extend the scope of subsection (2) of Section 3 of the Valuation for Rating Act, 1953, but clearly to define precisely what the Section means. The purpose is not to change the definition of a dwelling house, but clearly to define what a boarding house is. Section 3 (2) of the Act reads:
    "For the purposes of this Act a hereditament which is used for the letting of rooms singly for residential purposes shall be deemed not to be used for the purposes of a private dwelling or private dwellings if the whole, or substantially the whole, of the available accommodation is used for such lettings; but save as aforesaid a hereditament shall not be deemed for the purposes of this Act to be used otherwise than wholly for the purposes of a private dwelling or private dwellings by reason that one or more rooms therein are let for residential purposes."
    I have no fault to find with the second part of that subsection. It is clearly the intention that, even if a dwelling house has two or three rooms let as a regular arrangement, it can still be assessed as a dwelling house. I would not wish to change that. I would not wish anybody using his property for this purpose to be assessed on any other basis than the present one. Neither would it be my wish to have a different basis of assessment where the whole of the hereditament is let for short periods as furnished holiday accommodation. But I wish to make sure that a property which is being used as a boarding house—as a business—is assessed as a business and not as a private dwelling. It is clearly the intention of the 1953 Act that that should be the case. The trouble is that the words:
    "the whole or substantially the whole"
    are interpreted in different ways by different valuation officers and different lands tribunals.

    If we substitute for those words the words contained in the proposed Clause there will be no doubt what a boarding house is, because the definition is precise. In this connection I should like to quote two cases which illustrate the unfortunate anomalies that are now being created because of this difference in interpretation of the existing definition. Both cases were in 1958. The first was Buckley v. Tudge—a valuation officer—in which it was held that six out of nine units of available accommodation was "substantially the whole", and the property was assessed as a business. The second was Willington v. Woodward—another valuation officer—in which it was held that five out of seven units of available accommodation was not "substantially the whole". Clearly that is ridiculous, because five out of seven is a higher proportion than six out of nine. These anomalies should be removed by means of a more precise definition.

    It is clearly not fair, and it was certainly not the intention of the 1953 Act, that two identical businesses being run as boarding houses should be differently assessed—one as a private house and the other as a business. In the areas where this is happening not only is it unfair as between two boarding house proprietors; it is not fair on the domestic ratepayer, who then has to bear a higher proportion of the total rate burden, and upon the local authorities, who suffer a loss of rate income.

    There is one other aspect of the matter. Local authorities have no power of inspection by their local health departments to ensure that there is compliance with the regulations regarding health and hygiene if a property is a private dwelling. It is not fair, and it is not reasonable, for two different businesses operating in the same manner to be treated differently in that respect. I am informed by the British Hotels and Restaurants Association that anomalies of this nature are very widespread. In one resort where an extensive investigation was recently carried out it was found that businesses accommodating from ten to as many as thirty people were assessed as private dwellings. That is clearly not right.

    It might be wondered why I have chosen this definition. In fact, the reference to four or more bedrooms is taken from the Report of the Catering Wages Commission to the Minister of Labour on the establishment of a wages board for unlicensed residential hotels. When the Minister was later defining the scope of the wages boards it was he who added the words "or accommodating eight persons." I have taken the figure of 50 per cent. because I believe that if a building is being used to the extent of more than 50 per cent. for letting it is clearly a business. If this definition is satisfactory for the Catering Wages Act it should also be satisfactory for rating purposes.

    9.30 p.m.

    I should like to quote the Master of the Rolls in the case of Walls v. Peak, a Bournemouth case heard in the Court of Appeal on 25th March, 1960. In that case it was ruled by the Master of the Rolls that seven out of eleven letting rooms was not substantially the whole. The Master of the Rolls said:
    "This case raised a question of the construction of Section 3 of the Valuation for Rating Act, 1953, which has left me with a most unhappy feeling that the Parliamentary intention in the end may have been defeated."
    I agree with the Master of the Rolls. Twenty-one of my hon. Friends also agree because they have added their names to the Amendment. The British Hotels and Restaurants Association agrees, and so do the vast majority of local authorities. I hope that my right hon. Friend will also agree, and accept the Amendment.

    I support the proposed Clause, and I want to impress on the Committee the strong feeling which exists on this subject among bona fide hoteliers. I have been amazed at the pertinacity with which they have presented their case to me and to some of my hon. Friends. Their case adds up to a real sense of injustice among many of them.

    In an earlier discussion, the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) referred to my constituency as being both happy and healthy. I do not know so much about healthy, but it is certainly a happy constituency, and it is so largely because we cater annually for about 800,000 resident holiday makers. In fact, in Bournemouth we have more overall accommodation than in any other seaside resort. It is for that reason that hoteliers in my constituency feel particularly strongly on this issue.

    The issue is simply stated. It is that there are many businesses carried on today in premises which are rated as private residences. I underline what my hon. Friend said. We are not trying to get at the small person. We are not trying to stop the small person in a university town who takes in one or two students from time to time. We are not trying to stop the person who during the peak seasonal period may let a couple of rooms to help tide her over. We are not trying to get at the part-time person.

    We are concerned about the people who have a business and do a number of things, such as advertise in local papers that they can accommodate ten, twenty or thirty visitors in their premises; display signs outside their door to the effect that it is a guest house; and invite applications for rooms overnight.

    There is an example of that in the official guide to Bournemouth. I will not mention the name, because I do not want to draw the attention of anybody outside the Committee to the name of this establishment. The advertisement takes up half a page in the official guide. The people who are advertising are members of the local hotels association. They can accommodate a substantial number of residents throughout the year but the premises are nevertheless rated as private premises. It does not add up and make sense. These people are carrying on a business, and they should be treated as business people. That is the sum total of what we are trying to bring to the attention of the Committee this evening.

    My hon. Friend quoted a number of examples, one of the most notorious of which was the Bournemouth case which the Bournemouth valuation officer took to court. He lost the case, unfortunately, because it was said that seven rooms let out of eleven did not constitute substantially the whole of the building.

    I appreciate full well that the Minister or the Parliamentary Secretary may share the view expressed in the journal, Income Tax and Rating, in April, 1960. They may take the line that, in the light of the forthcoming changes, by 1963 this will not be such a big problem and that by 1968 it will have diminished further and the situation will not be anything like so serious. They may equally say that whatever definition is given will give rise to further litigation and anomalies and that there will always be the marginal case which will be the subject of dispute. I do not doubt that the latter may well be so, but there are good grounds for improving on the definition which is at present contemplated and which has been in force for the last four or five years.

    But I do not accept the argument, if this is to be the case, that by 1963 or 1968 onwards the position will not be anything like so drastic. It is true that for rating purposes they will all be on current values whether they are bona fide business premises or regarded as private residences. But there still remains the fact that some will be treated as businesses, and their profitability will be taken into account, and the starting point will be slightly different in the eyes of the valuation officer. If in any case it is a business, why should it not be recognised as such and recognised for all the purposes and not just for the purposes of getting custom and clients? So I hope that my right hon. Friend will feel inclined to give serious consideration to our case.

    Having studied the proposed Clause with some care, I accept straight away that it may not fully meet the case that we have in mind. I accept that it might be possible to shoot holes in the drafting. If that is so, I hope that that will not be used by the Parliamentary Secretary as an argument for doing nothing in this direction. If what I have suggested is the case, I hope he will seriously consider what use he can make of another place in bringing forward another new Clause of this kind.

    I stress again that this matter is considered by the hotel industry to be of the greatest possible importance, and that the industry itself is of the greatest possible importance to our economy and that we ought in justice to it to recognise its views on the matter.

    I cannot agree with the proposed Clause, though I appreciate the difficulties which it seeks to overcome. As my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. Woodnutt) has said, a number of different decisions have been reached by the courts about the exact proportion of a house which may or may not be let vis-à-vis the owner in this respect. Our difficulty here is the three definitions which are given—"four or more bedrooms let", "sleeping accommodation for eight or more persons", or "50 per cent. of the total accommodation let".

    Here we refer to letting four rooms separately, or four units, whereas if we let four separate flats that might represent four times the accommodation. It does not add up. I consider that the definition should specify the total proportion of the whole house which the owner-occupier uses for himself, and that the judgment should not be on the basis of the number of persons accommodated or the exact units into which the owner-occupier chooses to divide the accommodation. One might well have four persons in a single room, or one might well let it as one flat.

    Although I agree that there is an anomaly in the law, I cannot support the proposed Clause. My view is that we should go for a definite proportion of the whole house and also leave it to a certain extent to the rating authorities to decide whether in an individual case accommodation is being occupied as a private house or as a business.

    It pains me to have to tell my hon. Friends, who speak with such emphasis and vigour on the subject, that the proposed Clause does not achieve what they set out to achieve.

    I will deal first with the technical background. I make no apology, because the subject is important to so many people, for dealing with it at some length. I shall then come to what is behind the proposed Clause and deal with that.

    Concealed here under the general name of a lodging house of one sort or another are three quite different categories of premises. First, there is the open, avowed boarding house. I would say in passing that a boarding house needs planning permission. A boarding house has, I suppose, two main features in that it takes not only single people but families and provides some amount of board. A boarding house is not a dwelling house within the meaning of the 1953 Act, so it is quite untouched by the Clause. Indeed, it was not the intention of the Clause to alter the position concerning the open and avowed boarding house.

    A boarding house is now a commercial hereditament for rating purposes and at the moment it gets 20 per cent. derating. That extent of derating will end in 1963.

    The second category is the dwelling-house, the owner of which lets one or more rooms to lodgers. Such a house is still a dwelling house for rating purposes, even if one or more rooms are let for residential purposes. This arises, as my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. Woodnutt) indicated, as a result of the second half of Section 3 (2) of the Valuation for Rating Act, 1953. It states:
    "…a hereditament shall not be deemed for the purposes of this Act to be used otherwise than wholly for the purposes of a private dwelling or private dwellings by reason that one or more rooms therein are let for residential purposes.
    A dwelling house is at the moment still valued for rating purposes on the 1939 basis, and in 1963 it will revert to current value, but it will benefit for a period of five years from any derating power exercised by my right hon. Friend. Of course, I accept, as the mover of the Clause stressed, that no one wants to prejudice the position of the ordinary householder who takes in a lodger or two. That is understood. My hon. Friends were quite right to stress that the country needs more and more householders willing to take in lodgers from universities, colleges of advanced technology, technical colleges and the like.

    But it is suggested that some families, particularly in seaside resorts, squeeze themselves into one, two or three rooms during the holiday season and take visitors into the other rooms, deliberately competing with boarding houses, although their houses are still valued for rating as dwelling houses at 1939 values.

    I must emphasise to my hon. Friends that the Clause does not touch any such cases. They are confusing the first half of Section 3 (2) of the Act, which applies to a quite different category of dwelling, with the second half of that subsection.

    The fact is that the first half of subsection (2) in which occur the words
    "…substantially the whole…"
    which my hon. Friends seek to define, is limited to governing the case of the letting of rooms
    "singly for residential purposes."
    That is a different hereditament in terms of rating from a boarding house where the rooms are not let only singly and not let only for residential purposes. The rooms are let sometimes singly, sometimes in groups, sometimes for single people and sometimes for families and let not only for residential purposes but with board. There is a clear distinction.

    Section 3 (6) states:

    "In this Section references to the letting of rooms are references to the letting thereof by way of a tenancy or of a licence, and either with or without board…"

    9.45 p.m.

    Yes, but that does not alter the fact that the first part of subsection (2) does not refer to any sort of hereditament other than the one where the letting of rooms occurs singly for residential purposes, and that, I am advised, cannot cover boarding houses.

    The sort of premises it does cover are, in fact, premises of the third variety, namely, the flatlet house, the house divided into what are almost self-contained flatlets each being let singly for residential purposes. It is the flatlet house and the flatlet house alone which would be affected by the new Clause if it were accepted.

    I am much obliged to my hon. Friend for giving way again. I am sure that he knows more about this than I do, but the cases I quoted related to boarding houses.

    I know that this is very confusing, and I have now to explain to the Committee that the interpretation of this subsection has caused a very great deal of confusion in the past. Even the pundits in the Valuation Office at one time were disposed to regard the proportion of rooms devoted to bed and breakfast or board residence as a valid test of whether a hereditament was a boarding house or dwelling house even in the case of houses in holiday areas. This view appears to have been approved by decisions of the Lands Tribunal, but, after a review of their practice—this is, I am sorry to say the trump with which I am obliged to defeat my hon. Friend's intervention—following the decision of the Court of Appeal in the case of Walls v. Peak, the Valuation Office concluded that the first part of Section 3 (2), to which the new Clause relates, is not in any way relevant except in relation to the flatlet house. I am advised that, as the law now stands, the new Clause would affect only the flatlet house, and, of course, the flatlet house is not the target.

    I am sure that the Committee will not wish me to go into great detail about Walls v. Peak, but I will say that to take premises out of the class of dwelling-house for rating purposes and put them into the class of flatlets, it is necessary under Section 3 (2) for the whole or substantially the whole of the accommodation available to be let singly. As my hon. Friend explained, Walls v. Peak decided that seven rooms out of eleven was not substantially the whole, and it decided also that accommodation retained for the proprietor's own use had to be counted in the calculation.

    The Government are not discontented with the position as it was left by Walls v. Peak. Broadly, the Government's intention in this part of the 1953 Act was to distinguish between those people who, as it were, were trading in rooms and those who still occupied their own houses and used their houses mainly for their own occupation while making use of some rooms for letting. The decision in Walls v. Peak is, therefore, broadly in line with the Government's aim.

    As my hon. Friend the Member for Clapham (Dr. Alan Glyn) feared, and as my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, West (Mr. Eden) said was not at all his intention, the new Clause if passed would cause to be treated as a flatlet house and not a dwelling-house—and therefore cause to be treated at present substantially more severely for rating purposes—a house of only, say, three bedrooms and one living room and kitchen, owned, perhaps—I do not want to pile on the agony—by a widow who let three rooms singly to lodgers. I know that that is not the intention of my hon. Friends, but that is what this proposal would do. It would cause serious damage all over the country and would do nothing about boarding houses or houses competing with boarding houses. I therefore hope that the Amendment will not be pressed.

    So much for the technicalities. I now come to the substance of the complaint that there are—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] It was a sufficiently confused situation to justify an explanation. I now wish to deal with the substance of the complaint. My hon. Friend says, and I do not doubt it, that there are dwelling houses still retaining the rating advantages of dwelling houses which are competing with boarding houses. My hon. Friends say that the boundary line between the two categories should be better drawn. I can only agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Clapham and with the fears expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, West that any movement of the boundary line would only cause another crop, probably equally as large, of anomalies and be equally unjust.

    There is a number of questions which anyone seeking to redraw the boundary line would have to answer. Should the dwelling house lose its domestic valuation because a family of guests is taken in? Should it make any difference whether the guests are relatives of the owners of the house? Should the motive of the letting make any difference? If a family depends on the letting for its income, should that move a dwelling house into the commercial category? If so, does that mean that, if a wife lets a room on a bed and breakfast basis in order to earn pin money for herself, the house should remain rated on a domestic basis? What would happen to a house the owner of which accepts lodgers only in the holiday season? Would the owner have to prove the house's domestic status by not taking lodgers at any other time of the year? What would happen to the house which accepts visitors only after the height of the holiday season? Decisions on all these questions would have to be made if we sought to make a distinction between boarding houses and dwelling houses and we would be bound to create fresh hardships and anomalies.

    Although the outcry of the British Hotels and Restaurants Association may be strident at the moment, the outcry from all over the country if we changed the definition and inadvertently penalised people who are letting their rooms for all sorts of good and reasonable purposes would be infinitely more serious and just as justified.

    I come to the last part of what I have to say. As my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, West guessed, the difference between the rating treatment of houses and boarding houses—that is, the difference in treatment between domestic hereditaments and commercial hereditaments—will have dwindled by 1963 and practically have disappeared by 1968 when any derating under Clause 2 will be finished. If it is said that between 1963 and 1968 the harm could still be serious, then I must remind my hon. Friends that in 1963 the power in the ratepayer to challenge the valuation of a hereditament other than his own will revive. At the moment, that power has been temporarily extinguished, but in 1963 it will revive. Therefore, after that date anyone thinking that a dwelling house should be rated as a boarding house will be able to draw the attention of the valuation officer to what is alleged is going on.

    Finally, I deal with the claim that, even after 1968, there will remain a gap in assessment between the boarding house on the one hand and the dwelling-house of equal size that is said to be surreptitiously competing with the boarding house on the other. At that time they will both be valued on a current basis and neither will benefit from any derating. However, it is said that there may still be a gap. I acknowledge that this may still be true to some extent. The valuation officer must estimate the rent which a hypothetical tenant would be prepared to pay for the hereditament if it were vacant and available for letting. Any factor influencing the hypothetical tenancy must be taken into account—for example, whether the house could be used as a boarding house without the need to get planning permission. If planning permission had not been already obtained it would turn on the general question whether the proposed use constituted a material change of use. That would depend, among other things, on for what length of time and to what extent the hereditament had been used for boarders.

    It is not therefore possible to give a general answer to this question. It all depends on the facts of the individual case. But again I say that it will be open to the third party ratepayer to challenge the valuation on any hereditament if he thinks that someone is getting away with it.

    To summarise all these different technical points, my answer to my hon. Friends is that any redefinition of boundary between boarding house and dwelling house would cause a fresh batch of anomalies and might raise much injustice in every town, especially university towns, as well as in seaside resorts. Secondly, the importance of the rating gap between domestic and commercial premises—in this case, between the dwelling house and the dwelling house operating surreptitiously in competition with the boarding house—will dwindle by 1963 and practically disappear by 1968.

    Thirdly, after 1963 the citizen will once again have the right to challenge any valuation of premises other than his own, as well as his own, which he thinks is wrong. Finally, the Amendment does not touch the question of substance. It would penalise heavily at random a large number of houses all over the country that were not competing in any way with boarding houses, and I very much hope that it will be withdrawn.

    I gather that the Parliamentary Secretary does not like the proposed Clause. I merely call his attention to one other anomaly. I think I am right in saying that a boarding house, one room of which is occupied as the proprietor's dwelling, is a dwelling for the purposes of rent control.

    On behalf of my hon. Friends and myself who proposed the Clause, I should like to thank my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary for the great trouble to which he has gone in answering at such length. I appreciate most of the difficulties that he has pointed out, but I still think that there are bad anomalies where, obviously, somebody is running a large property as a business and it is being assessed as a dwelling-house. I appreciate that it is difficult to do anything about it, but I hope that my hon. Friend will look at this problem and try, probably over the next year or two, to think of a way of dealing with it. In the circumstances, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.

    Motion and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

    New Clause—(Rating Of Gas Boards)

    (1) In respect of any rate period beginning after the thirty-first day of March, nineteen hundred and sixty-three, a Gas Board shall, notwithstanding anything in subsection (2) of section six of the Rating and Valuation (Miscellaneous Provisions), Act, 1955, be liable to be rated in respect of any administrative offices occupied by the Board substantially for purposes concerning gas supplied outside the rating area in which the offices are situated; and accordingly any such offices shall be rated for any such period and shall be included in the valuation list in force during any such period for the rating area in which the offices are situated and in every rate made for any such period by the rating authority for that area.
    (2) The rating of offices under the foregoing subsection shall be a "substantial change of circumstances" within the meaning of subsection (5) of section eleven of the Local Government Act, 1958.—[Mr. F. Harris.]

    Brought up, and read the First time.

    I beg to move, That the Clause be read a Second time.

    I think it would be convenient to discuss at the same time the following two new Clauses, also in the name of the hon. Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. F. Harris)—(Rating of Electricity Boards.) and (Rating of British Transport Commission.).

    In introducing the three new Clauses, I ask for the patience of the Committee, because they are rather complicated. They cover very difficult matter. Their purpose is to draw the attention of the Committee to what the Croydon authority and myself feel to be the need for a change in the existing law so that the administrative offices occupied by gas and electricity undertakings and the Transport Commission and used in respect of their activities outside the rating area in which these offices are situated shall be separately rateable, as properties occupied by private industry and commerce are today.

    Some properties, principally the showrooms, occupied by these boards, and some properties, principally houses and hotels, occupied by the Transport Commission, are separately rateable. In general, however, properties belonging to these three types of undertaking are rated under special arrangements. These special arrangements can, unfortunately, react upon local authorities such as the county borough of Croydon. The new Clauses would remove the anomaly and provide for separate rateability of these administrative offices of these three types of undertaking occupied substantially for purposes concerned with functions—

    It being Ten o'clock, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to report Progress and ask leave to sit again.

    Committee report Progress.

    Business Of The House

    Motion made, and Question put,

    That the Proceedings on Government Business be exempted, at this day's Sitting, from

    Division No. 157.]


    [10.0 p.m.

    Agnew, Sir PeterHall, John (Wycombe)Partridge, E.
    Aitken, W. T.Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)
    Allason, JamesHarris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.)Peel, John
    Atkins, HumphreyHarris, Reader (Heston)Percival, Ian
    Balniel, LordHarrison, Brian (Maldon)Peyton, John
    Barber, AnthonyHarrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)Pilkington, Sir Richard
    Barter, JohnHarvie Anderson, MissPott, Percivall
    Baxter, Sir Beverley (Southgate)Henderson-Stewart, Sir JamesPrior, J. M. L.
    Beamish, Col. Sir TuftonHendry, ForbesPrior-Palmer, Brig. Sir Otho
    Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)Hiley, JosephPym, Francis
    Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos & Fhm)Hill, Dr. Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)Quennell, Miss J. M.
    Berkeley, HumphryHill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)Rawlinson, Peter
    Biggs-Davison, JonnHirst, GeoffreyRedmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin
    Bingham, R. M.Hobson, JohnRees, Hugh
    Birch, Rt. Hon. NigelHooking, Philip N.Renton, David
    Bishop, F. P.Holland, PhilipRidley, Hon. Nicholas
    Bossom, CliveHollingworth, JohnRidsdale, Julian
    Bourne-Arton, A.Holt, ArthurRoots, William
    Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan)Hornby, R. P.Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard
    Box, DonaldHornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. PatriciaRussell, Ronald
    Boyle, Sir EdwardHoward, Hon. G. R. (St. Ives)Scott-Hopkins, James
    Brewis, JohnHughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral JohnSeymour, Leslie
    Brooke, Rt. Hon. HenryHughes-Young, MichaelSharpies, Richard
    Browne, Percy (Torrington)Hulbert, Sir NormanShaw, M.
    Bryan, PaulHurd, Sir AnthonySkeet, T. H. H.
    Bullard, DenysHutchison, Michael ClarkSmith, Dudley (Br'ntf'rd & Chiswick)
    Burden, F. A.Iremonger, T. L.Smithers, Peter
    Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)Jackson, JohnSpearman, Sir Alexander
    Carr, Compton (Barons Court)James, DavidSpeir, Rupert
    Carr, Robert (Mitcham)Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)Stanley, Hon. Richard
    Cary, Sir RobertJohnson, Eric (Blackley)Stevens, Geoffrey
    Channon, H. P. G.Johnson Smith, GeoffreySteward, Harold (Stockport, S.)
    Chataway, ChristopherJones, Rt. Hn. Aubrey (Hall Green)Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm
    Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)Joseph, Sir KeithStudholme, Sir Henry
    Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)Kerans, Cdr. J. S.Summers, Sir Spencer (Aylesbury)
    Cleaver, LeonardKirk, PeterSumner, Donald (Orpington)
    Cooper, A. E.Kitson, TimothyTalbot, John E.
    Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.Langford-Holt, J.Taylor, Edwin (Bolton, E.)
    Costain, A. P.Leavey, J. A.Taylor, W. J. (Bradford, N.)
    Coulson, J. M.Leburn, GilmourTeeling, William
    Courtney, Cdr. AnthonyLegge-Bourke, Sir HarryThomas, Leslie (Canterbury)
    Craddock, Sir BeresfordLilley, F. J. P.Thomas, Peter (Conway)
    Critchley, JulianLindsay, MartinThompson, Kenneth (Walton)
    Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.Litchfield, Capt. JohnThornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin
    Crowder, F. P.Longden, GilbertTiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)
    Cunningham, KnoxLoveys, Walter H.Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.
    Curran, CharlesLucas-Tooth, Sir HughTweedsmuir, Lady
    Deedes, W. F.McLaughlin, Mrs. Patriciavan Straubenzee, W. R.
    de Ferranti, BasilMacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty)Vane, W. M. F.
    Digby, Simon WingfieldMcMaster, Stanley R.Vaughan-Morgan, Sir John
    Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M.Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Harold (Bromley)Vosper, Rt. Hon. Dennis
    Doughty, CharlesMaddan, MartinWade, Donald
    Duncan, Sir JamesMaitland, Sir JohnWakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
    Eden, JohnManningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.Walder, David
    Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)Markham, Major Sir FrankWalker, Peter
    Elliott, R. W. (Nwcstle-upon-Tyne, N.)Marlowe, AnthonyWard, Dame Irene
    Emmet, Hon. Mrs. EvelynMatthews, Gordon (Meriden)Watts, James
    Errington, Sir EricMawby, RayWells, John (Maidstone)
    Farey-Jones, F. W.Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.Whitelaw, William
    Farr, JohnMaydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.Williams, Dudley (Exeter)
    Finlay, GraemeMills, StrattonWilliams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
    Fisher, NigelMontgomery, FergusWilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
    Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)More, Jasper (Ludlow)Wise, A. R.
    Glover, Sir DouglasMott-Radclyffe, Sir CharlesWood, Rt. Hon. Richard
    Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham)Nabarro, GeraldWoodhouse, C. M.
    Goodhart, PhilipNicholson, Sir GodfreyWoodnutt, Mark
    Gough, FrederickNoble, MichaelWoollam, John
    Gower, RaymondNugent, Sir RichardWorsley, Marcus
    Grant, Rt. Hon. WilliamOakshott, Sir HendrieYates, William (The Wrekin)
    Green, AlanOsborn, John (Hallam)
    Gresham Cooke, R.Page, John (Harrow, West)TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
    Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.Page, Graham (Crosby)Mr. Gibson-Watt and
    Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale)Mr. Chichester-Clark.

    the provisions of Standing Order No. 1 (Sittings of the House).—[ Mr. H. Brooke.]

    The House divided: Ayes 214, Noes 146.


    Abse, LeoHale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)Pentland, Norman
    Ainsley, WilliamHamilton, William (West Fife)Prentice, R. E.
    Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)Hannan, WilliamPrice, J. T. (Westhoughton)
    Alien, Scholefield (Crewe)Hart, Mrs. JudithProbert, Arthur
    Arbuthnot, JohnHayman, F. H.Proctor, W. T.
    Awbery, StanHerbison, Miss MargaretRandall, Harry
    Bacon, Miss AliceHill, J. (Midlothian)Redhead, E. C.
    Bence, Cyril (Dunbartonshire, E.)Hilton, A. V.Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
    Blyton, WilliamHolman, PercyRobertson, J. (Paisley)
    Boardman, H.Houghton, DouglasRobinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)
    Bowden, Herbert W. (Leics, S. W.)Howell, Denis (B'ham, Small Heath)Rogers, G. H. R. (Kensington, N.)
    Bowles, FrankHoy, James H.Ross, William
    Boyden, JamesHughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)Short, Edward
    Brockway, A. FennerHunter, A. E.Silverman, Julius (Aston)
    Brown, Thomas (Ince)Hynd, H. (Accrington)Skeffington, Arthur
    Castle, Mrs. BarbaraHynd, John (Attercliffe)Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)
    Cliffe, MichaelJohnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)
    Collick, PercyJones, Rt. Hn. A. Creech (Wakefield)Small, William
    Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)Jones, Dan (Burnley)Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)
    Crossman, R. H. S.Jones, Elwyn (West Ham, S.)Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
    Cullen, Mrs. AliceJones, Jack (Rotherham)Spriggs, Leslie
    Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)Stewart, Michael (Fulham)
    Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)Kelley, RichardStonehouse, John
    Deer, GeorgeKenyon, CliffordStones, William
    de Freitas, GeoffreyLangford-Holt, J.Swingler, Stephen
    Delargy, HughLawson, GeorgeSylvester, George
    Dempsey, JamesLee, Frederick (Newton)Symonds, J. B.
    Diamond, JohnLee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
    Donnelly, DesmondLever, L. M. (Ardwick)Taylor, John (West Lothian)
    Driberg, TomLogan, DavidThomas, George (Cardiff, W.)
    Ede, Rt. Hon. C.Loughlin, CharlesThomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)
    Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)Mabon, Dr. J. DicksonThompson, Dr. Alan (Dunfermline)
    Edwards, Robert (Bilston)MacColl, JamesTimmons, John
    Edwards, Walter (Stepney)McKay, John (Wallsend)Warbey, William
    Evans, AlbertMackie, JohnWeitzman, David
    Finch, HaroldMacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
    Fletcher, EricManuel, A. C.White, Mrs. Eirene
    Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)Mapp, CharlesWhitlock, William
    Forman, J. C.Mason, RoyWilley, Frederick
    Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)Mendelson, J. J.Williams, Ll. (Abertillery)
    Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. HughMillan, BruceWilliams, W. R. (Openshaw)
    Galpern, Sir MyerMitchison, G. R.Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
    George, LadyMeganLloyd (Crmrthn)Morris, JohnWillis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)
    Ginsburg, DavidMoyle, ArthurWilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
    Gooch, E. G.Neal, HaroldWoodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
    Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip (Derby, S.)Woof, Robert
    Gourlay, HarryOliver, G. H.Yates, Victor (Ladywood)
    Grey, CharlesOwen, Will
    Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)Parker, JohnTELLERS FOR THE NOES:
    Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)Peart, FrederickMr. Charles A. Howell and
    Mr. McCann

    Rating And Valuation Bill (Recommitted)

    Again considered in Committee.

    I was saying that the Clauses which I am advocating would remove the anomaly to which I referred and would provide for the separate rate-ability of the administrative offices of these three undertakings. The Clauses will take effect from 1st April, 1963, when the new valuation list comes into force. The first of the new Clauses deals with the gas boards. Until 1955 the law relating to gas undertakings came under the genral rating law and they were assessed on the annual rental value calculated on the basis of annual profit. [Interruption.] The new method of valuation—

    Order. It is very difficult to hear what the hon. Member is saying.

    The new method of valuation was provided for under the Rating and Valuation (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1955, with the subsequent amendments in the Local Government Act, 1958. Arising from those Acts, dwelling houses and showrooms occupied by the gas boards were rated the same as ordinary commercial properties, but other properties belonging to the gas boards and comprising by far the vast majority of their properties are rated under special arrangement.

    The present position is that the rateable value of the gas boards, not related to the actual properties occupied except for the houses and showrooms which they possess and the gas mains and premises directly concerned with the supply of gas to consumers and offices in which actual payments for gas are made, are rated in accordance with a formula which takes into account the gas manufactured or sold in an area. But if in a rating area a board occupies premises for purposes not directly concerned with the increase of the amount of gas manufactured in that area or the amount of gas supplied to the area, the local authority receives no payment by way of rates which can be specifically related to those properties.

    The South-Eastern Gas Board has concentrated its offices in Croydon. The offices cover not only Croydon but other rating areas and the Croydon Corporation receives no extra payment at all by way of rates for those offices which would have been rateable at approximately £8,000 a year if ordinary ratepayers had been involved. The new proposal need not add an additional burden on the gas board because the first new Clause authorises the Minister to reduce the basic total of rateable values for a board by the rateable value of the offices which are being separately rated. If the power were exercised it would mean that basically there would be an apportionment between the rating areas in respect of gas supply and manufacture, but the rating authorities which had these administrative offices in them would benefit by the separate assessment of those offices.

    10.15 p.m.

    The second new Clause deals with electricity boards. Until electricity was nationalised, all electricity industrial undertakings were valued on a profits basis, but the Local Government Act, 1948, laid down that at 1st April, 1948, payments to be made yearly by the British Electricity Authority would be of a fixed amount, subsequently adjusted annually and divided amongst the local authorities in proportion to the values of the respective areas. There were subsequent minor changes in the Local Government Act, 1958. The Electricity Act, 1957, made changes in the organisation of the industry. The Electricity Council was set up to co-ordinate the work of the boards and the Central Electricity Generating Board was set up to provide electricity in bulk to the area boards for distribution.

    The Local Government Act, 1958, introduced new rating provisions by which the premises occupied by the Electricity Council as showrooms were still assessed under the general rating law. The bulk of the boards' activities, and therefore the greater part of the premises which they occupy, are concerned with the generating and supply of electricity, and these premises had artificial values arrived at under very complicated provisions contained in the Second Schedule of the Local Government Act, 1958.

    The present position of electricity undertakings is that premises occupied by the Electricity Council—dwelling houses and showrooms so occupied—are assessed under the present ordinary law but no other premises occupied by the electricity boards are so specifically rated, and the payments to the rating authorities by way of rates for generating stations are apportioned between the rating authorities. These apportionments make no allowance for the fact that the administrative offices of the electricity boards may tend to be concentrated in particular rating areas although their activities are often for the benefit of a much wider area.

    We have concentrated in Croydon the Croydon and West Kent Sub-Area Headquarters of the South Eastern Electricity Board, and these headquarters cover towns far afield, such as Purley, Caterham, Coulsdon, Godstone, Sanderstead and Warlingham. In equity, therefore, Croydon authority should benefit by this concentration in the same way as if these offices had been occupied by ordinary ratepayers. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

    The last new Clause is about the British Transport Commission. Before nationalisation all railways were rated under a general rating law on a profits basis, but each railway company was assessed as a whole and the valuations were undertaken by the railway assessment authority and not by the individual rating authority. After nationalisation the Local Government Act, 1948, provided that property occupied by the British Transport Commission was exempt from rates and, instead, payments for the benefit of the local authorities were to be made. I must stress that dwelling houses, hotels and places of public refreshment which were occupied by the Commission continued to be rated in the ordinary way, as did railway-owned property which the railways let out. It should be remembered that properties occupied in respect of road transport, sea transport and harbours still remained rateable.

    For the railway properties, the British Transport Commission paid each year a sum which is apportioned amongst the authorities in accordance with their various areas. The county borough received the whole of the amount so apportioned, but in the case of district councils they received one-third and two-thirds went to the county council. But these payments are in no way related to the actual value of the railway property occupied by the Commission in any area. As such, it can react very unfairly indeed on those local authorities with similar annual values, but having, in respect of their areas, totally dissimilar amounts of railway property.

    Here again, I would instance to the Committee that in Croydon the British Transport Commission occupies fourteen railway stations, several goods yards, a marshalling yard, extensive engine sheds and other works, but the average annual payment which Croydon has received has been as low as £17,982. Over and above this, the Commission has now arranged tenancies of an extensive new office block which has just been built in the town for itself and also for a ticket agency, and under the present law the Croydon Corporation does not receive a single extra penny contribution to the rates from the Commission because of the occupation of these premises. If these modern offices were being occupied by ordinary ratepayers and not by this nationalised industry, we in Croydon would receive additional rates to the extent of £15,000 a year.

    My new Clause enables the Minister to vary the amount of the payment made annually by the Commission for the benefit of all the authorities, and thus in this way offices in respect of which the Commission would, under my new Clause, have been liable, would be rated in the general way. I expect that the Minister may take the view that the Association of Municipal Corporations is not in direct support of this new Clause, but if that is so, I should like to make the point that I have seen a minute of 26th April, when this matter was discussed in response to a request made to it by the Croydon authority. In it, it stated:
    "While recognising that there is a case for the separate rating of administrative offices of gas and electricity undertakings, we still do not feel that an Amendment of this Bill is warranted."
    Certainly, the Association recognises the case.

    I conclude by saying that in these three instances which I have given of gas and electricity undertakings and the British Transport Commission, we in Croydon lose at present about £40,000 a year in rate contributions, and it does not matter how one thinks of that, it is the fact that that additional burden must be carried by all the other Croydon ratepayers, even our own domestic ratepayers. I think that an anomaly of this kind is extremely unfair, and that the Government should take the earliest opportunity to put the matter right.

    One might foresee that officials may take the line that it is a tremendous task to rectify the matter, but, after all, there was a precedent for it, because it was done in regard to the showrooms. I feel that this matter should be tackled as quickly as possible. From our point of view, this is a problem which will not get any less, because blocks of offices are being put up in Croydon and are being let to organisations of this kind on 21-year leases, and, obviously, there can be additional occupation later on. The rates generally will continue to go up. No one can stop that, because of the additional demands being put on the town, and this will be an ever-increasing amount which will be lost to the Croydon authority, and, therefore, the burden will be carried more and more by the other ratepayers.

    I beg of the Minister, when dealing with this matter, to realise that we in Croydon—and I am sure it applies to many other towns throughout the country—have a real case to submit to him, and we sincerely hope that this anomaly can be rectified at a very early date.

    I rise to support my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. F. Harris). I think I may claim that I initiated this argument six years ago in concert with my right hon. Friend the present Minister of Health shortly before he became Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. It sprang from the fact that in Worcestershire a small local authority, the Stourport-on-Severn Urban District Council—small, not very rich and not very important in the national field, but important because it is in my constituency—discovered that an electricity showroom in High Street, Stourport, although notionally assessed to rates, did not yield any rating revenue to the local authority. As that showroom was selling substantial numbers of electrical appliances in competition with private enterprise shops in the area, all of which were required to pay rates, it seemed to be an inequitable burden placed on other commercial ratepayers that a nationalised industry shop should escape the rate burden altogether.

    The present Minister of Health and I got this matter put right, but only within the narrow context of showrooms. All the arguments which apply to the showrooms of nationalised industries or similar establishments apply equally to administrative centres such as large blocks of offices. For example, within half a mile of the House of Commons is a huge administrative centre being erected for Shell. Will Shell pay rates to the local authority in whose area the new Shell building is situate? Of course it will. It will be rated there, but, if it were an electricity headquarters of a nationalised industry, the local authority in whose area that electricity headquarters or block of offices was situated would get no benefit at all from the rates. The rating valuation for the new administrative centre would be taken into the whole of the electricity hereditaments for England and Wales and then an apportionment would be made to the local authority in whose area the administrative headquarters was situated.

    I am glad to see my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government nodding agreement. That is precisely the position, but my right hon. Friend is a member of the Cabinet and within collective responsibility and Conservative policy we have said over and over again that we are going to operate these nationalised industries as commercial organisations. Why should there be this invidious distinction between the manner in which Shell pays rates for administrative headquarters to the local authority in which the building is situated and—one law for that and one for municipal headquarters—a nationalised industry, the Central Electricity Generating Board, half a mile down the Thames, goes free? In our Conservative philosophy we do not recognise any difference in the operational arrangement of these industries. We say nationalised industries should be operated on the same commercial scale as privately-owned industries.

    In the case of these administrative headquarters, it is singularly unjust. I quote from the Midlands, where I have greater knowledge than, for example, in Croydon. The Midlands Electricity Board has its headquarters at Mucklows Hill, now part of the Borough of Halesowen, slightly to the west of the City of Birmingham. At those headquarters are carried out all the administrative functions and arrangements for the whole Midlands Electricity Board and millions and millions of purchasers of electricity throughout the area. On that premise it is then argued that that large adminstrative headquarters pays a notional sum in rates to a pool and that from that pool is distributed the notional sum of money to all the local authorities in the area, but no local authority has any means at all of challenging whether the sum received from the pool is, in fact, correct or otherwise.

    10.30 p.m.

    I claim, on the analogy of the Shell building on the Thames, that the rates for the Mucklows Hill headquarters of the Midlands Electricity Board should properly be paid to the Borough of Halesowen, this being the rating authority in whose area this administrative headquarters is situate.

    Then there are these administrative offices in the sub-areas at Evesham, Worcester and Kidderminster. But again the rates are not paid by those administrative offices to the local authority. There is the same notional assessment, notional apportionment and notional distribution, and it is all exceedingly unjust.

    There are three types of electricity hereditament. They are, respectively, generating stations—the largest and the most valuable hereditament in the industry—administrative centres such as electricity offices, and showrooms. We have dealt with showrooms. We seek in these new Clauses to deal with administrative offices. I hope that in due course we are going to deal—although it would be out of order for me to talk about them this evening—with power stations. There the spread of the revenue from rates over such a large area detrimentally affects in the most acute form small local authorities which happen circumstantially to have major electricity or other nationalised industrial hereditaments in the particular area of that authority.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, North-West talked of his constituency in the County Borough of Croydon losing a revenue of £40,000 from the electricity authority in a single year. I do not wish to better his arguments in that way, but if he would care to carry out an examination of the loss of rating revenue in Stourport-on-Severn, which is only a fraction of the size of Croydon, he would find that the loss of rates is far more acute, due to the fact that in that local authority area there is a large and valuable electricity hereditament in the form of twin power stations, the rates of which, notionally applied, are spread on a national scale and only a tiny part of those rates goes—

    Order. I hope the hon. Member realises that the subject of power stations does not arise on this Clause.

    Yes, Sir Gordon; I said earlier that I recognised that it would be out of order to refer to electricity power stations. It was only a passing reference.

    This matter has been raised by the hon. Member for Farnworth (Mr. Thornton) and by my hon. Friend the Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Leather), who has Portishead in his constituency, who experience exactly equal circumstances.

    My plea, therefore, to my right hon. Friend is that if it is the policy of the Government to conduct nationalised industries on a commercial basis—if that is our philosophy—it is surely just and reasonable that all hereditaments owned by the nationalised industries should pay rates on a scale, on a basis and in accord with principles accepted as applicable to private enterprise industries, and that there should not be this invidious distinction between the Shell building half a mile away from here paying rates on a commercial scale, and the Central Electricity Generating Board half a mile down the river paying rates through a national pool on an entirely different basis, and thereby yielding little or no financial benefit to that local authority in which this large administrative centre or block of offices is situate.

    That is the case in principle. I hope that my right hon. Friend, if he does not reply tonight by accepting this Clause, will at least make appropriately sympathetic noises in my direction and give a promise that he will consider Amendments in another place.

    I want to make two short comments. The first is that the rating of these offices of nationalised industries, which has been discussed before in conjunction with other legislation, is not a question of how much the total to be paid by these nationalised industries is, but who is to get the rateable value of these offices.

    To listen to the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) one would suppose that these industries, because they are nationalised, pay less rates. I do not believe that to be the case. This question, in the last resort, resolves itself into a dispute between those local authorities who happen to have these offices in their areas and those who have not. If that raises any question of Conservative principle, it is one which eludes me—but then, so does most of Conservative philosophy.

    The hon. and learned Member misunderstands me—perhaps deliberately. I said—and he will not agree with this—that the philosophy of the Conservative Party is that nationalised industries should be conducted on a commercial basis. That is not his philosophy, but it is mine, and if they are to be conducted on that basis then they must pay the same rates as a commercial, private enterprise undertaking.

    Of course, they are in the difficulty that they cannot get a subsidy like the Cunard Company. I do not know whether that raises any deep question of Conservative philosophy either, and the short point here has nothing whatever to do with what the hon. Member says it is connected with. I am not deliberately misrepresenting him. I am merely telling him to mend the error of his ways.

    Apparently the hon. Member says that the total paid by these bodies is less than it should be, whereas there is no question whatever here of the total. There is a question as to which of the local authorities concerned shall get what part of the total, and that question lies between Croydon and some of the places with unpronounceable names which he mentioned—

    —on the one hand and a number of local authorities on the other.

    I hope that the Minister will be able to answer my second point. It seems to me that the very complicated legislation, in connection with railways on the one hand and the cost of electricity undertakings on the other, may need revision. I do not want to go into it in detail, but the hon. Member for Kidderminster, in the more sensible part of his speech—it was the part which was out of order—mentioned something about which, as he rightly said, my hon. Friend the Member for Farnworth (Mr. Thornton) was also concerned.

    Since it is out of order, I had better not even say what it was, but I expect that the Minister will remember it, and I hope that he will be able to assure us that steps are being taken to look at this legislation as a whole, and that those steps will not be distracted by the irrelevancies of the hon. Member for Kidderminster, who looks simply at the rather small point about offices. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will look at the general working of the scheme and, in particular—if I may mention it at the last moment—the older gas and electricity undertakings.

    I would not seek to compete with my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) in the making of noises, but I hope that he and my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. F. Harris) will forgive me if, at twenty minutes to eleven, I do not deliver my well-known three-hour lecture giving an historical account of the manner in which we arrive at the rateable values of the gas and electricity industries and the payments in lieu of rates made in respect of the railways and canals.

    I listened with great interest to the speeches of both my hon. Friends, and I at once accept that there is a problem here. It is a difficult one, and, if I may say so with respect, it is rather more difficult than the speeches of my hon. Friends revealed. But there is no getting away from the fact that it would be hard to defend the present arrangements as perfect from every point of view.

    The truth, as far as I know, is that the formulae methods of assessing the contributions of these nationalised industries to local expenses were adopted because the statutory provisions governing their trading made it virtually impossible to continue to assess the various undertakings by the profits method. The fact that there are special statutory provisions applying to these industries singles them out from the Shell Company or other great industrial undertakings. Moreover, their very extensiveness would have made apportionment of any total value an extremely difficult and contentious task.

    This whole question was raised—I remember it well—while the Local Government Bill of 1958 was going through the House, and I should like to tell the Committee that it came up in the course of the deliberations of the working party which I set up before the Bill now before the Committee. At that stage, no endeavour was made to bring the nationalised boards into the Bill. That point was not reached because, in fact, the discussions in the working party did not go very far. I think I am at liberty to say that there was fairly general agreement that at that stage the matter should not be pursued further.

    We must bear in mind that it is only since April, 1959, that the present arrangements in respect of gas and electricity have been operating in just this form, and it seemed a bit early to have a review. The local authority associations were represented on that working party, and they could certainly have pursued the matter further had they so wished. Nobody from my Department deterred them in any way. But there appeared to be a general feeling that it was too early to go much further into the matter at that stage.

    I would mention, if I can do so without getting out of order, that those short discussions in the working party threw up the fact that if one was going to examine specifically the case of administrative offices of nationalised undertakings then there were certain other classes of property of the undertakings which might be worthy of special consideration, such, for example, as railway engineering workshops.

    The industries themselves were not brought into these discussions because it was known that they almost certainly regard the singling out of offices as a retrograde step, and as nobody wished to press the matter further there seemed to be no particular reason to invite them to join the discussions. Their case was certainly not prejudiced in that way.

    What lies behind this trio of new Clauses is, as I read them, the thought that there are certain properties which are for purposes outside the rating area. Of course, a great many of the properties of the nationalised boards would fulfil that description—railway lines, pylons and all sorts of things—but they could not be so easily valued for rating purposes.

    This is property that falls into a category which, if it were not occupied by one of these nationalised undertakings, could be valued for rating purposes upon an ordinary basis. I well appreciate that my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, North-West and the ratepayers of Croydon generally feel that Croydon has been particularly unlucky, in that it has certain buildings which it would not be difficult to assess for rating purposes, and on which the borough council would be able to draw full rates on the normal basis if they were not occupied by one of these bodies.

    10.45 p.m.

    The fact remains that if we were to accept the idea that is inherent in these three new Clauses we would, in fairness, have to look at the effect it would have on the rest of the undertakings and upon their rateable value. The new Clauses make provision for the adjustment of rateable value of the rest of the undertaking, but whereas my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster mentioned certain cases—to which I must not refer specifically—in respect of which he said that the present arrangements detrimentally affected a certain rating area in the most acute form, I must advise him that if the new Clauses were accepted as they stand we would find ourselves detrimentally affecting a great many rating areas, particularly those which contained parts of the nationalised railway system, because although the total rateable value of the gas and electricity industries is fairly large, it is common knowledge that the British Transport Commission is not at present a highly profitable undertaking, and the total amount paid by way of rates by the Commission under the present formula is tiny compared with the great amount of property which the Commission occupies.

    Under the terms of one of the new Clauses the full commercial rateable value of the administrative offices of the Commission would be taken out of that total valuation of the one undertaking, and surprisingly little would be left, and that would have to be spread over the whole railway system—

    With great respect, my right hon. Friend has got my argument completely wrong. I do not want to increase or diminish in any way the rates paid by any one of these nationalised industries. All the new Clauses ask for is that the rates derived from an administrative centre or block of offices in a certain place shall go to the rating authority in whose area that administrative centre is situated. That does not raise or lower the total rates of the nationalised industry concerned.

    My hon. Friend has got the logic of my argument wrong. If I understand the new Clauses correctly, if we take X as the total rateable value of one of these nationalised undertakings and Y as the total rateable value, on an ordinary commercial basis, of the various administrative offices that would be caught by the new Clauses, they contemplate that the rateable value of the whole of the rest of the undertaking minus the administrative offices, would be X-Y. All I am saying is that although X-Y in the case of the gas and electricity industries would be quite a substantial sum, in the case of the British Transport Commission it would be surprisingly small, especially when spread out over all the other rating areas which would rightly claim a share in the matter.

    These matters must be carefully considered. I am sure my hon. Friends appreciate that it would not be right to make a fundamental change like this late one evening, without the most exact study of all the results that would follow. I agree that it is a subject which at the right time should be pursued further, and I submit that the most appropriate time to look at it again would be when we know what the 1963 valuations are, after they have actually come into force. At the moment, it is just over two years since the 1958 Act took effect on gas and electricity. In 1963 we shall have the new valuations of gas and electricity in relation to the valuations of all the other properties of all kinds in the country, and we shall be able to look at it.

    I suggest that at some suitable time after the 1963 valuations have come into effect two years hence an opportunity should be found to look into this and any other weaknesses, or alleged weaknesses, of the formulae.

    That is not fair. This is a very important matter. I give not a fig that it is ten minutes to eleven. One of the purposes of the Bill is to end industrial derating within the forseeable future. Will the end of industrial derating apply equally to private enterprise industrial hereditaments as to the industrial hereditaments of nationalised industries? That has a vital bearing on the amount of revenue which local authorities will receive, and it is directly connected with the administrative centres and offices referred to in these proposed Clauses.

    I am not going to wait until 1963 for that, because after 1963 there will have to be new legislation to bring nationalised industries on to a par with private enterprise, and that would be 1965, in the lifetime of the next Parliament, if I am here at all.

    If my hon. Friend is not going to wait until then, I am afraid that he and I have to quarrel because I do not see my way to recommending Parliament to amend the present Bill to fulfil what he desires.

    I am making what seems to me to be a practical and sensible offer, that is, that when we have got the 1963 valuations we can look at the whole picture, by working party or otherwise, to review the weaknesses and the alleged weaknesses. I was not suggesting that all the weaknesses were alleged weaknesses. I was saying that I recognised that there are some weaknesses, and I think it is likely that all the parties concerned, on either side, may seek to draw attention to other weaknesses they allege. I am suggesting that they could all go, as it were, into the pot together.

    As I understand it, there will be a degree of derating which will continue to apply to the nationalised industries. This is rather out of keeping with the remarks made earlier about shipbuilding and the end of derating there. Surely these things do not tie up at the moment?

    I assure my hon. Friend that he has it wrong. It is not the case that the nationalised industries will get some uncovenanted benefit here. I am saying that when we have the 1963 valuation lists in force we can have a thorough up-to-date examination made on the current facts and figures of all these difficulties which have emerged, and further difficulties which may by then have emerged in the working of the formulae. It will be the individual local authorities, the local authority associations, the nationalised boards, and anybody else, who will have an opportunity at that stage to make their criticisms and their suggestions, and they can all be looked at together.

    That, I think, is a practical way of approaching the matter. I confess, frankly, that I do not here and now see an easy way of finding a solution that will be fair to all concerned, but I am ready to accept that more work needs to be done on this, and I submit to the Committee that the appropriate time to do that will be after 1st April, 1963, when the new valuation lists are in force.

    I am sure that my right hon. Friend will forgive me if I say that, unfortunately, he does not give me a great deal of comfort by what he has just said, certainly so far as the Croydon ratepayers are concerned. He obviously recognises that we have a really good case. What applies to Croydon must apply to many other towns. It may apply to Guildford at the present moment. This is a problem of only £40,000 at the moment in Croydon, but that is equal to 2d. in the £ in the Croydon rates which the ratepayers as a whole, notably the domestic ratepayers, have to meet.

    The Minister kindly says "After 1963 we will have another look at the matter." But I cannot see what his difficulty, basically, is, because there was a precedent, surely, in Section 10 of the Local Government Act, 1958, which provided for showrooms occupied by gas boards to be rated separately. If the Minister recognises that Croydon and other towns are in this difficulty, why cannot we have a simple Measure to put the matter right, as I have suggested in the three Clauses?

    In Croydon we are fast developing new office sites in a very big way. This is widely commented upon, certainly in the south of England. Unfortunately for us in some respects—in others, of course, we gain—along come the gas and electricity undertakings or the British Transport Commission and take large office blocks in these new buildings, and by their so doing we automatically lose some £40,00.

    I agree; my hon. Friend no doubt has a better case in his own district, but at the moment I am concerned with the Croydon ratepayers. Believe me, they are very touchy on the point, and rightly so.

    Contrary to what the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary have said from time to time, I firmly believe that the rates will go on up and up. I cannot see that stopping. Therefore, this is a bigger problem than we all seem to want to face up to at the moment. This is a real tax. If we put Income Tax anomalies right, why should we not put right anomalies in the rating tax? This comes out of the pockets of everybody. At least twice a year, some 13 million people pay rates, and this is a very direct burden on them.

    Surely the fair thing to do is to face up to the problem. The Minister—this applies to the officials in many ways—will not tackle the problem. Of course the A.M.C. is not fully on our side because so many other authorities might lose just a little in the adjustment. I can see that point; but why should Croydon subsidise all the other local authorities?

    It is not fair, surely. If we are progressive enough to put up new buildings and offices in Croydon, why should we let them to the detriment of the Croydon ratepayers? Why should business houses pay their full whack of the rates when this situation is allowed to apply?

    I appreciate that the Minister says "We will look at it", but I honestly ask him to bear in mind that many hon. Members do not take very much interest in rating because it is a very complicated subject and it is sometimes very difficult to put these arguments over. But it is quite unfair and unrealistic that we do not face up to the facts of the case. I ask my right hon. Friend to bear in mind that we in Croydon honestly feel very strongly about this, and I invite him to come to Croydon and talk to our ratepayers and find that out for himself.

    I am not for a moment questioning that the ratepayers of Croydon feel that they have a legitimate grievance. I am addressing myself to the three new Clauses that my hon. Friend has put on the Order Paper, and in the course of my remarks I had to add that if they were accepted—this is certainly so in the case of the third, relating to the British Transport Commission—all the other rating areas which had Transport Commission hereditaments within their boundaries would find themselves most unfairly treated by the operation of my hon. Friend's proposals. [Interruption.] Yes, most unfairly. I say that because they will be taking out of the total value of the undertaking certain large blocks and leaving in the remainder an unfairly small portion. Therefore, it is not possible to do justice by accepting any of the three proposed new Clauses, but, at what will be the most suitable time, this whole matter will be looked at afresh.

    11.0 p.m.

    I am sorry to take up the time of the Committee, but my right hon. Friend now says, with respect, that everyone recognises the fairness of the case in these new Clauses and that the principle is accepted. Cannot they, therefore, be redrafted? Apparently they cannot and instead he turns to the Croydon ratepayers and says, in effect, "Well, after 1963, when the valuation lists come out again, we will have another look". How much longer have we to wait? I have been in this House for thirteen years, and it seems that we have got to wait twenty before there is even the prospect of anything being done.

    So far as the British Transport Commission is concerned, am I not right in saying—and this partly answered the point which was made about shipping—that the Commission enjoys a considerable measure of derating? I say that because when the assessment was brought down from 75 to 50 per cent. for business premises the Commission, I am given to understand, was not so adjusted in its valuations; and that is the position still. Therefore, it enjoys a considerable measure of derating.