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Orders Of The Day

Volume 643: debated on Wednesday 28 June 1961

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Housing Bill

As amended (in the Standing Committee and on recommittal), further considered.

Clause 30—(Application Of S 29 And Restriction On Contracting Out)

3.45 p.m.

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

I beg to move, in page 29, line 40 to leave out from "the" to "being" in line 41 and to insert "passing of this Act".

I think that it would be for the convenience of the House if we considered, at the same time, the remaining three Amendments on the Notice Paper, the first in the name of the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) in line 40, to leave out from "the" to "being" in line 41 and to insert:

"eighth day of November, nineteen hundred and sixty"
and the other two in the name of the Minister, in page 30, line 21, to leave out "on or" and in line 21, to leave out from "the" to "would" in line 22 and to insert "passing of this Act".

Indeed, in the case of the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart), I would have to ask the House to do that, because there is no way of saving it, so it will have to be so discussed.

That would be convenient, Mr. Speaker. The other two Government Amendments are consequential upon the one which I have moved.

In the early hours of this morning we made a number of Amendments to Clause 29, and the question at issue now is simply and solely the date at which Clause 29 should come into effect. We had some discussion of this in Standing Committee and it was argued both ways, some hon. Members wishing to insert an earlier date than the date of introduction of the Bill—which is the date in the Bill at the moment—and others suggesting that it was virtually impossible for anyone who was professionally engaged in these matters to inform himself instantly and precisely the moment the Bill was published, and at once to see that everything he did, or everything he advised his clients to do, was in accordance with that.

In Standing Committee, I expressed the view that we should stick to the date in the Bill. Indeed, I argued both against hon. Members opposite and against my hon. Friends who sought to influence me in one way or the other. But I did say—and other hon. Members made reference to it—that it would be unreasonable to make the date of coming into operation of Clause 29 the date of the original introduction of the Bill if, before the Bill actually passed into law, we amended the Clause.

It may not be unreasonable to expect solicitors and others to obtain copies of Bills immediately they are issued, and, if they see that a particular Clause is to come into operation on the date of presentation of the Bill, to act accordingly and to assume that the Bill will not be amended. But no one, however clever or politically far-sighted, can possibly be expected to anticipate whether Parliament will make Amendments to the Bill before it becomes law, still less what those Amendments will be.

The reason why I am moving this Amendment is because the Amendments which the House agreed to last night will shift the dividing line of the landlord's responsibility and the tenant's responsibility away from where it stood, or appeared to stand, in the Bill as first published. That being so, it seems to the Government that it is not possible to support the proposition that Clause 29 should come into operation from the date when the Bill was first introduced, bearing in mind that the Clause 29 which will pass into law will be materially different from the Clause 29 which was presented to Parliament and was read in the original Bill by solicitors, landlords, tenants and others. The Amendments which we made last night had certain effects which could not have been foreseen either from anything that I said at the beginning of the Session or by reading the terms of the Bill.

Those Amendments, made it perfectly clear for the first time that objects like baths and washbasins would be deemed to be within the landlord's responsibility and, therefore, would be caught, so to speak, by the restrictive provisions of Clause 29. Furthermore, the Amendments made it clear that a landlord would be specifically responsible for all heating installations, whether they were for heating rooms or heating water, that is to say, domestic boilers and geysers and other fixed gas or electric water heaters, radiators and built-in electric fires.

From neither my words in the debate at the beginning of the Session, nor from the Bill as it stands, could it be deduced that those would necessarily be deemed to be the landlord's responsibilities when the Bill left the House, and, in due course, when it received the Royal Assent.

I have been extremely anxious not to make this legislation retrospective, but to bring it into force at the earliest possible time. Having carefully considered it, I came to the conclusion that we would be leaving ourselves open to a legitimate charge that we were legislating retrospectively if we brought into operation from a date in February a Clause whose final form nobody could possibly have seen before a date at the end of June.

It is for that reason and that reason only that the Government have decided to move this series of Amendments which will cause Clause 29 to operate not from the date of presentation of the Bill, in February, but from the date when it receives the Royal Assent. Fortunately, so far as I can tell, the insertion of the date in February brought to a full stop the practice, which was going on in a few quarters, of seeking to put what I call responsibilities for permanent repairs of a structural or major kind on to the short-term tenant. That has stopped and I do not see that there is perceptible risk of it starting again when everybody knows that this new Clause 29, which is capable of further amendment in another place—who can tell?—

None of us can be absolutely certain about what will happen between now and the time when the Bill reaches the Statute Book.

I concluded that the risk of that malpractice starting up again in that short intervening period would be negligible and would certainly be outweighed by the serious charge of deception which could be brought against Parliament it we sought to make effective from a date in February a Clause whose final form could not have been anticipated until a date in June.

Nothing more lies behind the series of Amendments. If we had not amended Clause 29, I would have resisted Amendments on Report to shift the date either forwards or backwards, but, having amended the Clause on Report, the Government are quite clear that the proper and right thing to do is to make Clause 29 operate from the date of the passing of the Bill.

The Minister has argued legalistically in support of this Amendment. This is a matter which has to be treated more widely than that, and considered not only on the basis of legalism but on the basis of justice and public policy. The whole question arises from the fact that agreements between landlords and tenants have been made in recent years and have been of a kind which ought never to have been made, agreements shifting the responsibility for major repairs on to the tenants even when there is a short-term lease.

Our objection, and the Minister's objection, to agreements of that kind is, first, that they are unfair, and, secondly, that they are bad for the property, because it must be known to any landlord who makes such agreements that the probable result is that the repairs will never get done. This was an evil in that it was an injustice to persons and an injury to property. It was an evil which arose directly from the Rent Act, 1957, because landlords were able to get these unreasonable agreements signed because of the enormous bargaining power which was put into their hands when rents were decontrolled in the present state of demand and supply of housing accommodation. We all know that that is so and in this Clause and all the discussions around it we have all been engaged in trying to pick up and repair the crockery which the Minister himself smashed when he piloted the Rent Act through the House.

We drew the Minister's attention to this evil last autumn, when many of my hon. Friends and I waged a campaign about the second outburst of Rent Act evils which occurred when the three-year agreements made in 1957 began to run out. Of all the evils resulting from the Rent Act which we then drew to his attention, only this produced an impression on him. The result of that impression was that he clearly warned landlords in his speech in the debate on the Gracious Speech on 8th November that legislation of this kind would be introduced. It is in the light of those facts that we have to ask ourselves, as these agreements are to be prohibited in future, how far back that prohibition should date.

We argued in Committee—and it still seems reasonable—that the prohibition should go back to the origin of the evil, to the date of the passing of the Rent Act itself. These agreements came into existence because Parliament, on the Minister's advice, passed an Act which allowed a social evil to grow up. The landlords who took advantage of that situation were inflicting an injury on their tenants and on the country, because of the effects on the state and upkeep of property. It was something which ought never to have been allowed and Parliament ought now to take the opportunity to repair as much of the damage as it can. That is why we argued in Committee that the date of the prohibition should go back to 1957, to the date of the Rent Act itself.

As we expected, the Government resisted that Amendment—I say no more about that now—and we were thus obviously prevented from raising that identical question on Report. Let us consider the alternatives which now lie before us. Another date to which the prohibition might be put back is that which the Minister himself recommended in the first place-16th February, the date of the publication of the Bill.

The reason for dating it so far back should be obvious enough to anyone who is aware of the problem. If a Bill is introduced on 16th February containing a prohibition of this kind, and the prohibition does not become operative until July or August, inescapably there is a rush by landlords to draw up as many agreements of this kind as they can before Parliament finally prevents them. Because of their bargaining power under the Rent Act they are in a position to carry through just such a rush.

4.0 p.m.

The Minister knows about what is called creeping decontrol, the fact that whenever a new tenancy arises with an uncontrolled tenancy the landlord is in a position to impose on the tenant an agreement of this kind. I do not suppose that a day passes without a tenant facing a demand of this kind. It is a case of, "If you want a roof over your head, sign an agreement which everyone knows is unjust, which is bad for the property, and which, in a month or two, Parliament will forbid".

The Minister says that his information is that since the Bill was published in February attempts to make agreements of this kind have stopped. How can he know that? What is the source of information from which an extraordinarily general negative statement of that kind can be derived? Is he so certain that advantage will not be taken of the remaining stages of the Bill to redouble the rush to put through agreements of this kind?

The case for dating this prohibition back to at least 16th February was unanswerable, as the Minister knew very well when he put the date in the Bill originally. He also knew that it was unanswerable when he argued against the Amendment moved by his hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page), in Committee upstairs. Why has the Minister changed his mind? This was really the substance of his speech. He said, "I have changed my mind. I will allow agreements of this kind to go on being made until the Act is on the Statute Book because we have changed the nature of the Clause. We have altered the definition of what may or may not be allowed in the agreement".

Let us consider the nature of those changes. First, I had better clear up one point. I said in Committee upstairs that if we made changes in Clause 29 which took us further than the general idea of placing on landlords responsibilities which, in common sense, belonged to them, then there would be a case for not making the provisions retrospective. Perhaps I might quote what I said so that there can be no mistake about it. I said:
"Suppose Parliament makes further alterations in Clause 29. I have been arguing—I think correctly—that everybody likely to be concerned had good reason to know that the law was being altered in a way that would put the responsibility for major repairs in short leases where it properly belongs—on the landlord. Everyone knew that general proposition.
So far, in the wording of Clause 29 or in any Amendment to it that might be made, we have been within the ambit of that general proposition. If it were now proposed to make changes in Clause 29 which would go much further than that and put upon the landlord obligations which nobody who had studied the paragraph in the Queen's Speech or the remarks of the Minister could reasonably have supposed them to imply, there would be a case; provisions of that kind ought not to come into force until the Bill was passed into law. While, however, Clause 29 remains within the ambit of that general proposition which I have enunciated—the general proposition that the responsibility for major repairs in short leases should lie on the landlord—nobody can complain that that should come into force at least from the time when the Bill was published."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee D, 13th June, 1961; c. 990–1.]
I stand by every word of what I said there, and no changes made or proposed to be made in Clause 29 have taken us outside the ambit of that general proposition. When one considers the changes which have been made, one finds that they amount to no more than this, that they spell out rather more precisely what was clearly implied, though in less precise language, in the original wording of Clause 29.

There are two points on which it might be suggested that there has been a change. One is the specific inclusion of an appliance for space heating and water heating. Let us be quite clear about this. This does not apply to any movable appliances which may belong to the tenant and which he can pick up and take away when he goes. It does not apply to a portable electric fire. It applies, as the Minister said, to such things as the geyser and the radiator—in effect, permanent parts of the house. Is the Minister or anyone else going to say that those things would not reasonably be understood to be within the meaning of the words "principal installations"?

That is all that has happened. It has been spelt out for anyone who might choose to be awkward that the words "principal installations" when applied to heating mean what any reasonable person would have supposed them to mean. We cannot imagine that any landlord can complain and say, "When I read what the Minister said in November, and when I saw the Bill, I had no idea that it was wrong to make the tenant responsible for anything that might happen to the heating system or to the radiators". That is one change.

What is the other? When one sorts out the complexity of the Amendments, it amounts to no more than this, that it is now made clear that the landlord is to be responsible for wash-basins, sinks and baths. And why not? I would have thought that one's bath was a principal installation in the house. If anyone suggests that a sink is not a principal installation, he should try living for a time in a dwelling without a sink.

That is the sum total of the changes. That is all the justification the Minister can show for going back on the argument he put before the Committee upstairs, and giving landlords two or three months more in which to bully tenants into making unjust agreements. The Minister says that if we do not give them that opportunity we shall be practising deception. What right has any landlord who tries to put an agreement of this kind on his tenant to talk about being deceived? He who seeks equity must do equity. I wonder whether there is to be found anywhere a landlord who has been thrusting this agreement on to his tenant who would be impudent enough to come forward and say, "I have been deceived. I thought that I was to be allowed to go on injuring the country's stock of property and oppressing my tenant for another three months, but now it is not to be allowed". Is that the sort of plea to which the House is being asked to listen?

We ought to notice what the Minister said when he gave his reasons for rejecting an Amendment substantially the same as the one he is now defending. He was resisting the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Crosby. He said:
"A statement in quite general terms was made in the Gracious Speech in November. This Bill was introduced in February. The proposition here—the proposition which I hope the Committee will uphold—is that these Clauses of the Bill should come into operation from the date of publication because it would be wrong to offer an invitation to those concerned with these matters to put into a lease or contract something—provided that it was done before the Bill reached the Statute Book—of which Parliament was in process of expressing its disapproval."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee D, 13th June, 1961; c. 994.]
That is exactly the invitation that the Minister is now offering them. The hon. Member for Crosby has had his way.

At the close of one of the many meetings of the Standing Committee I remember engaging in a casual conversation with some of my hon. Friends, the subject of which was whether we could have a worse Minister of Housing and Local Government than the right hon. Gentleman. He will be gratified to know that, in the light of what we had heard and seen in Committee, I took the view that we could; we might have the hon. Member for Crosby. I now recognise that those of my hon. Friends who argued that when it came to the point there was not all that difference were quite right. We find the Minister's surrender graciously acknowledged by his hon. Friend the Member for Crosby, who has put his name to the Minister's Amendment. Indeed, the scholarly lips of the Parliamentary Secretary are spelling the words non tali auxilio, which I can best translate as "Spare us from our friends."

Does not the hon. Member agree that that, whatever the merits of his case, it is highly undesirable that Parliament should pass retrospective legislation?

I do not think that the hon. Member has grasped the point. We pass retrospective legislation—in the sense that it achieves retrospection—every year, when we allow decisions made on Budget day to have the force of law from that moment, and do not enact them on the Statute Book until months later.

Does not the hon. Member agree that that is a generally accepted exception, whereas this is a specific instance where we are trying to alter retrospectively one aspect of the law?

No. If the hon. Member will study the Bill he will see that those parts which relate to subsidy provisions arrange that they shall apply to housing projects on which local authorities shall have entered before 16th February, despite the fact that the Bill is not yet on the Statute Book. Those arrangements which give legal effect to provisions from the date of the announcement of the Budget, the ones referring to subsidies in the Bill, and this one, as originally justified by the Minister, are made for the very good reason that if we do not make them we are creating a public mischief, because we allow people to obtain an advantage out of doing something which is anti-social during the months in which the Bill is being passed into law. That was the argument accepted by the Minister. He does not stand where the hon. Member for Clapham (Dr. Glyn) is endeavouring to stand on this point.

That brings me to my Amendment, which we are also discussing. That Amendment would back-date the provision to 8th November, 1960, and I shall show shortly why I choose that date. I refer to it at this point because I think that the Minister's own arguments in Committee show why we ought not to allow or encourage a rush to make agreements between the date when people could reasonably have known what was coming and the date when the Bill will be on the Statute Book. If we accept that principle, surely it takes us back to the day on which the Minister made a clear and unequivocal announcement for any landlord interested in the matter—and any landlord ought to have been interested in the matter—to see and to understand. If we do not back-date it, as the Amendment suggests, to 8th November last, we shall have been conniving in the rush of those agreements that have been going on through these months.

Shrortly before the debate began my hon. Friend the Member for Feltham (Mr. Hunter), who, I hope, may catch your eye during the course of the debate, Mr. Speaker, drew my attention to a letter he had received from his local authority. That authority, in the course of executing its public health duties, found that there was a proliferation of these agreements which put the responsibility for major repairs upon the tenant in the case of a short lease, with the result that property was not being repaired at all, and an ever heavier burden was falling on the public authority trying to discharge its public health duties. We urge the necessity for the House to clear itself of any connivance in that sort of thing—any sharing of the guilt which belongs to landlords who have made that kind of agreement.

I took the 8th November particularly, rather than the day on which the terms of the Gracious Speech became known, because it was on 8th November that the Minister himself pronounced on the matter. In the OFFICIAL REPORT for that day the Minister describes the provision as arising in connection with the kind of agreement which would put on to the tenant responsibility for major repairs, even when the lease is short. He said:
"In the ordinary case a tenant who is holding on a short-term tenancy ought not to be asked to take on that sort of responsibility. No responsible landlord who took an interest in his property would ever ask that. Not only would it be quite unfair for him to do so, but he would know that the repairs would not get done."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th November, 1960; Vol. 629, c. 865.]
That is true—and it is as true now as it was when the Minister said it.

If we accept the Minister's Amendment, which is a surrender to the hon. Member for Crosby, and rejects our Amendment, we shall, as the Minister said in Committee, be doing something that would be wrong and, as he said on 8th November, we shall be doing it for the benefit of unreasonable and unfair landlords.

4.15 p.m.

I want to comment on the Amendment standing in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart), and to give it my full support. My hon. Friend has put very clearly the point raised with me by my local council. The correspondence that I have received from the Feltham Urban District Council informs me that the council made representations to the Minister that the Housing Bill should be suitably amended so as to provide that landlords of property should be responsible for the repairs of such property which is the subject of a lease or tenancy agreement prior to 16th February, 1961.

A letter was sent to the Ministry on 27th June, setting out the council's representations, which are the result of a report by its chief public health inspector to its public health committee, on the question of what action should be taken in respect of repairs to property when tenants are responsible for the repairs, including, on occasions, external and structural repairs, as well as other matters. The council appreciates that the position has to some extent been covered by the provisions of Clause 29, but it feels that these could be extended to leases or tenancy agreements prior to 16th February.

This is a very important matter to many tenants who recently, have signed agreements making them responsible for outside repairs, structural alterations and major repair work. I do not think that it was the Minister's intention that tenants should be faced with the responsibility for the outside repair of property, including the repair of roofs, etc., and for structural alterations in short-term leases, or tenancy agreements. Therefore, I hope that he will consider the matter.

Surely there is a loophole here. We all know the heartbreaking job that many people have in trying to find accommodation, and as the Bill will not receive the Royal Assent before a waiting period there may well be many people who, in their search for houses and flats, may be forced to sign a three-year agreement or tenancy lease in which they undertake to carry out outside structural alterations which should be the landlord's responsibility.

These agreements are being made every day. Therefore, the period which may elapse before the Bill receives the Royal Assent is very important, and I support the Feltham Urban District Council's request that Section 29 should be extended to agreements or tenancy agreements prior to 16th February, 1961. The public health inspector's action in drawing the attention of the Feltham Urban District Council's Public Health Committee to the state of some of these properties was responsible for the council making representations to the Ministry.

The Minister is aware of the struggle of people seeking accommodation. Between now and the Bill becoming law they will be forced to sign short leases or agreements which will render them liable to be faced with heavy charges for work which ought to be carried out by the landlord. Many tenants do not have the opportunity of legal advice and it is the duty of this House to protect them.

I give this Amendment my full support, and I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham for the courageous manner in which he has raised this matter today.

I feel that I would be failing in my duty to my constituents if I did not take this opportunity of expressing my amazement and disgust at the attitude of the Minister in this matter. Those are strong words, and I use them advisedly. It is sometimes said of lawyers that they can state the case on both sides equally well. But when they state a case they are not stating their own case. They are merely mouthpieces for their clients, putting their client's case in the best possible way.

However, I find it exceedingly distasteful when a politician expresses in Committee a very strong view on a certain matter and then in a short time completely throws that view overboard and adopts the opposite. I really am amazed and, as I said, I find it very distasteful.

That is what the Minister has done. I know that he has endeavoured to protect himself by talking about an amendment to Clause 29, but my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) illustrated quite clearly that there is no question whatever of any substantial amendment to Clause 29. One may well be forgiven for thinking and deducing from the attitude of the Minister that he has had pressure exerted upon him from certain quarters and has, therefore, given in as he has done.

The Gracious Speech on 1st November said quite clearly:
"A Bill will be introduced to amend the law relating to the respective responsibility for repairs as between landlords and tenants on short-term tenancies."
In the debate that followed the Gracious Speech the Minister made certain remarks which have been quoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham and which I need not repeat. But I remind the House that the statement in the Queen's Speech followed repeated complaints by hon. Members on this side of the House about the harsh terms relating to repairs that were imposed by landlords upon tenants on short-term tenancies. That was followed by a warning from the Minister about unscrupulous landlords and the steps that he would take.

Any reasonable person would, therefore, have understood that there was pending legislation that would impose upon landlords a responsibility for repairs in the case of short-term tenancies. It may be that the precise terms were not stated in the Gracious Speech, but obviously, to say the least, a reference was intended to the obligation Do repair the structure and the external parts of the house and matters of that kind.

It was, therefore, no surprise when Clause 30 appeared in the Bill. What was a surprise, however, was that Clause 30 contained the date of liability as from 16th February, 1961. When one remembers that long before that tenants were at the mercy of landlords, when one remembers the harsh terms that were often imposed and also the condemnation made by the Minister himself with regard to such matters, one would have thought that he would have sought at as early a date as possible to undo the mischief which he himself created by his Rent Act, and that at least the date would have been, as my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham proposes, 8th November, 1960. But the Minister did not do this.

The hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) moved in the Committee an Amendment to substitute the words:
"The date upon which this Act shall come into force"—
very much on the same lines as the Amendment which the Minister has moved today.

I have read carefully the debate which took place in the Committee and there is not the slightest doubt—I am sure the Minister cannot dispute it—that he refuted the argument put forward by the hon. Member for Crosby in no uncertain way. He said quite definitely that he could not accept that position. He said it was quite unfair that anyone should take advantage of this period, so to speak. Indeed, he rested himself upon the fact that the only way in which he could possibly consider any change in his attitude would be if there was a substantial amendment to the terms of Clause 29.

The Minister, having said that, having completely rejected the suggestion made by the hon. Member for Crosby, now comes to the House and, by specious argument, attempts to show that he is justified in his change of attitude because there has been a change in the wording of Clause 29. I do not want to go into this in great detail; I do not want to repeat what my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham has said, but it is absurd for the Minister to say that there has been any substantial amendment of the terms of Clause 29.

Is the Minister going to suggest that because of the words "wash-basins and heating" there has been a substantial change in the obligation upon the landlord? It is sheer nonsense. The obligation upon the landlord was clear, and all we have had has been some slight alterations which lie well within the ambit of the words in Clause 29. I cannot for the life of me believe in the sincerity of the statement that the position has been altered because of a substantial amendment of the obligation imposed by Clause 29. In my view, the Minister is just eating his words, the words he used in Committee. I do not wonder that sometimes the ordinary person thinks that the ways of a politician are somewhat curious.

4.30 p.m.

By this Amendment the Minister is giving an opportunity to unscrupulous landlords to take advantage of the period between now and the date of the passing of this Act to place onerous obligations on tenants and to get away with it. It is no good the Minister saying that it is only a short period and that no one is likely to do it. We know very well that if an unscrupulous landlord has the opportunity of doing this sort of thing—and can do it quite legally and in a sense at the invitation of the Minister—he will do it. The Minister opens the door in that way to any bare-faced act of that kind on the part of the landlord.

I think that it was argued by the hon. Member for Crosby that if a landlord imposes terms the tenant can refuse, but that is sheer rubbish. The bargaining is unequal. The tenant is in his home where he may have been for many years and he finds the greatest difficulty in getting other accommodation. He has to submit to the demands of the landlord. He is at the mercy of the landlord in that way. I repeat that I consider this matter disgraceful. I think that the Minister behaved badly in the way he has acted. I hope that the House will recognise how disgraceful it is by rejecting his Amendment. I only wish that it was in order to accept the Amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham.

I wish to detain the House a few minutes to consider this matter, because I regard it as one of some gravity and importance. To some extent the good faith of the Minister is involved.

My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Stoke Newington and Hackney, North (Mr. Weitzman) said that he doubted the sincerity of the Minister when he made his statement at the Dispatch Box today. I share those doubts. I hope that before we pass this Amendment the Minister will answer the doubts which have been expressed. I want to examine very carefully the process of change which took place in the mind of the Minister. There is no doubt that he has made a complete reversal of the policy he gave out to the House and the country in March last.

On this matter the right hon. Gentleman has turned completely over. He told the House on 27th March, when dealing with Clauses 29 and 30:
"… there is the point of timing."
That is what this is all about, whether the provisions should operate as from 16th February last, or from the passing of the Bill. That is the point on which the Minister has changed his mind, the question of timing.

The right hon. Gentleman went on to say:
"These provisions will apply to leases granted after the date of the introduction of this Bill."
That was his first statement, which was clearly made and no one could doubt what he intended. The provisions of Clauses 29 and 30 were to operate as from 16th February last. Then the Minister went on:
"I do not like retrospective legislation."
Many of us share that dislike.

The hon. Member for Clapham (Dr. Alan Glyn) said today that he thought it wrong in principle to legislate retrospectively. We agree with him, but on this particular matter the Minister had accepted the need in the circumstances for retrospective legislation. We are not now dealing with whether or not we should legislate retrospectively, but with the Minister's change of front. The Minister accepted on 27th March that retrospective legislation on this matter was necessary and justified because of the havoc which landlords were creating among defenceless tenants.

The Minister continued:
"and I do not believe that the mischief at which this is aimed is so widespread that it would be right to go back beyond that date."
That date was 16th February, but the Minister made it clear to the country and the House that he intended to stamp on these people whom he has described in lurid language.

The Minister added:
"But … I do not intend to give unscrupulous landlords a chance to make mischief between the date of publication of the Bill and the date when it comes into force."—[OFFICIAL, REPORT, 27th March, 1961; Vol. 637, c. 976.]
That was the Minister's case on Second Reading and the country and the House accepted it. Hon. Members on both sides accepted it. The Minister had decided to deal with these people. He has told hon. Members at various times that these people are acting anti-socially and that he would like to deal with them. On 27th March he gave the pledge to the country and the House that he would deal with them and that would be as from the date of the introduction of the Bill.

The next stage was when the Bill went to Standing Committee and the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) moved his Amendment in almost identical terms to the Amendment on the Notice Paper today in the name of the right hon. Gentleman. There is the link-up. I have said that I doubt the good faith of the Minister on this matter. I hope that he will remove my doubt before this discussion ends. He seems to have given in to the hon. Member for Crosby and possibly to the Property Owners' Association. There are interests in this House directly connected with that Association. Subject to any further explanation the Minister might give, it seems on the face of it that he has collapsed under pressure from vested interests who deal in property speculation.

The Minister rejected out of hand the Amendment moved in Committee by the hon. Member for Crosby. He would have nothing to do with it, but today he used these words as his excuse for his change of position. In rejecting the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Crosby in Standing Committee, the Minister said:
"Were substantial alterations to be made to the Clause at a later stage of the Bill, the question of date would, in fairness to all concerned, have to be re-examined."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee D, 13th June, 1961; c. 997.]
The right hon. Gentleman relied on that statement made in Standing Committee when trying today to present his case for a change of date. He quoted his words, but left out the word "substantial". He quoted himself in Standing Committee and said "if changes were made." Actually, the words used in Standing Committee referred to "substantial" changes. We have to see whether substantial changes have been made in this Clause.

My hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) dealt with this. He took the Amendments which have been made to the Clause one by one. I think that he made it quite clear that the Amendments so far made were merely Amendments of drafting and redefinition. Instead of leaving in a general phrase about fittings, the Minister has amended the Clause to specify those fittings. That is about as far as the Amendments have gone. There have been no substantial changes in this Clause to justify him saying that he can change his mind about the date.

I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman realises that not only to this House, but to the country and to poor people who cannot defend themselves against unscrupulous landlords, and also to the Press generally, he owes an explanation. In the light of his first statement on the matter, I very much doubt whether he is acting as a Minister should act in such a situation.

I want to deal with the point at which the Minister changed his mind, because to me it is a very vital point, and I agree that the good name of the Minister is at stake. In the Clause that we amended in Committee we wrote in certain details about what was or was not essential to leases of tenancy. I remember that we wrote in something about fire and tempest, and so on. That, however, is pure detail. We did, however, dispose of the Clause, and the Minister, like the other members of the Committee, was at that time knowledgeable of the changes that had been effected in Clause 29.

If the Minister, as the executive officer, as it were, at that time was not completely in possesion of the changes that had been made and which he quite rightly felt would be ultimately incorporated in the Act, why at that stage did he than proceed to say:
"Were substantial alterations to be made to the Clause at a later stage to the Bill, the question of date would, in fairness to all concerned, have to be re-examined."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee D, 13th June, 1961; c. 997.]
The Bill at that time had already taken shape. I shall not enter into the argument whether there have been major or minor alterations. I am trying to get at the mind of the Minister. Having seen the alterations take place, I addressed myself at that time to whether major alterations had been made. The Committee had no information at all that the Minister had been influenced in any way from his earlier position. I am very surprised to see on the Amendment Paper the words which we are asked to put into the Bill today. My views about this are quite obvious. Apart from the merits of the matter, I feel that the Minister should, in terms of justice and equity, come forward with a fuller explanation in order to clear himself and give us more convincing information on why he has changed his mind.

I was not a member of the Standing Committee. Obviously, I cannot be expected to have followed all the details and the activities of the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page). I have, however, sat on similar Committees and I realise what happens. In many cases there is obviously pressure from people who are interested in property, who openly state their interest, and property owners' associations have had and undoubtedly always will have an effect on the Minister of the time who is dealing with housing.

The point to which I want particularly to draw attention is this. I have no doubt that the Minister will remember the deputation of London Members of Parliament, which he courteously received, during the passing of the Rent Act, when we talked about the operation of the three years' agreement. He will, no doubt, remember that his attention was drawn to many cases of owners of property forcing tenants to accept certain responsibilities. Many of the tenants were elderly people who did not understand the ramifications of the law, did not understand leases, had never had necessity to consider the implications of words in leases, and who were faced with a three years' agreement. In my own constituency I found that landlords were endeavouring to pass on to tenants responsibility even for defective drainage.

4.45 p.m.

The Minister, I remember quite distinctly, asked us to let him have details of such cases that may have arisen in our constituencies. I am not saying that the Minister was submerged by a large number of cases as bad as those I am picturing this afternoon. I can say that such cases did arise and are still arising. I still meet constituents whose three-year agreements, have expired and who are now having to face the implications of further agreements. I ask the Minister to realise that he is not dealing with people who can command the best legal brains to advise them. I as a Member of Parliament have to be very careful in advising my constituents to ensure that I do not impinge on the domain of my legal friends, both in the House and outside. I am, however, convinced that there are still many people, particularly in the London boroughs, who are suffering as a consequence of the imposition of the responsibility for repairs which I do not believe were even visualised by the Minister.

What is the Minister doing now, after the speeches which he made and which we applauded when he drew attention to the fact that in his view landlords generally were not so bad as I believe they are, but had to admit that there were unscrupulous people, and drew the attention of the country to the fact that these people were operating in this important sphere? He said then that he would take action against them. What has happened? While he was then considering the possibility of it being illegal to inflict these responsibilities upon existing tenants, he now, by this proposal, is making it legal for landlords to do that until the proposed Act becomes operative.

Constituents come to me and say, "We have had a month's notice to quit. The landlords say that we have to be responsible for the whole of the repairs, responsible for combined drainage, because the public health service authority has served a notice on us, we, the tenants, have to undertake the repair and maintenance of all these things" The Minister is saying today that provided it is done before the Bill becomes an Act of Parliament it is perfectly legal for the landlord to make those demands.

I am surprise at the hon. Member for Clapham (Dr. Alan Glyn), who represents a London constituency and who must be faced with some of these implications, talking about retrospective legislation. What has that to do with it? This arises mainly from the action of the Government through the Rent Act, 1957.

I am not in the least suggesting that these excessive demands should continue: in fact, that is exactly what the Bill is designed to stop. All I am saying is that I disapprove of retrospective legislation, or, in other words, having to vitiate a large number of contracts made between the time of the introduction of the Bill and its becoming law. Generally, on the merits of the case, we are all agreed that excessive demands should be removed, and that is one of the things that we are trying to do.

All I can say to the hon. Member is that apparently he takes the view that however bad it is for a certain Act to be carried out, so long as we state a specific date for it, it is quite all right. In my view, the Minister made his view quite clear in the Gracious Speech and even before the Gracious Speech was made. When he met the deputation he quite agreed that this was something which the landlord should not be allowed to do.

I suggest that after the Minister's speeches, after the introduction of the Bill, after the Gracious Speech and statements that the Minister would put matters right, the right hon. Gentleman should remember that many people will suffer as a consequence of what he is doing. On the other hand, the insertion of the date which my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) has proposed would not necessarily harm the property owners. I should like to do a lot more to them. However, in the interests of decency, the date proposed by my hon. Friend should be inserted in order to give some protection to those who are forced to live in property owned by others.

I rise to draw attention to the ingratitude of the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page). He has secured one of the most tremendous victories gained in this Parliament. He was handsomely turned down by the right hon. Gentleman in Committee. In fact, he said that he withdrew his Amendment only out of a sense of chivalry towards my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) so that my hon. Friend's Amendment could be voted on rather than his own. Now, the hon. Member for Crosby has in the most offensive and patronising way shown that he acquiesces in the Amendment moved by the Minister by putting his name to the Amendment so that, if the Minister had said that he wished not to move the Amendment himself, the hon. Member for Crosby could even then have saved the victory. It just proves what an adroit Parliamentarian he is, but he might at least have shown gratitude and expressed his thanks in the most effusive way to the Minister for having belatedly none the less certainly accepted his view.

In the circumstances, I am not inclined to say anything hard about the Minister. The treatment he has received from the hon. Member for Crosby and the way in which the Notice Paper has expressed the contempt the hon. Member has for him is, I think, a sufficient indication that, in the end, evil deeds do not go unpunished.

I am one of the victims of what we are discussing. I have a three-year agreement. The time came when it ended and I had to face the fact that, if I did not agree with what the landlord wanted, I should have to put myself to the inconvenience of moving. The increased rent was substantial, and some other things happened as well. One knows that, in the circumstances of today, most people are in a disadvantageous position when arguing with the landlord about these matters. The scriptural injunction to agree with one's adversary while he is on the way with one ought not lightly to be overlooked. There are hundreds of poor people who will, as a result of the Government Amendment now before us, be put in an indefensible position although, by his action in Committee, the Minister appeared to give them a safeguard.

I am not sure where the argument about retrospective legislation comes in. Today, we are doing something retrospectively which alters the position of poor people. Very rarely in the history of the House of Commons in the conflict between poor tenants and landlords have the poor tenants received much consideration. History is to repeat itself today.

I should like to vote for the Amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham, but, of course, as Mr. Speaker carefully explained, we shall not have that opportunity because, no announcement having been made from the Government Front Bench, and the hon. and gallant Member for Eye (Sir H. Harrison) being on the alert, we may rest assured that the Minister's Amendment will be carried. Therefore, I shall not have the opportunity of supporting my hon. Friend. I hope at least to be able to show my disapproval of the policy of the Minister and the ingratitude of the hon. Member for Crosby by voting against the Amendment to which they have jointly put their names.

Since the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) has so misinterpreted my action, I rise to put on record my gratitude to my right hon. Friend for this Amendment.

On this Clause, hon. Members opposite have stood with haloes round their heads. I ask them to recollect that the first complaint, as far as I remember, about landlords imposing structural repair covenants on tenants came from myself in Standing Committee on the Landlord and Tenant (Temporary Provisions) Bill in 1958. It had not been mentioned before in the House or in Committee.

I myself mentioned it in the House on the introduction of a Private Member's Bill before the Landlord and Tenant (Temporary Provisions) Bill was thought of. I was not the only Member on this side of the House to raise the matter.

If it was on a Private Member's Bill, I withdraw what I said. My recollection is that it was raised by me first on a Public Bill in the Standing Committee. I recollect pleading then that something could or should be done about the imposition of structural repair covenants on tenants. I was satisfied that the terms of the Landlord and Tenant (Temporary Provisions) Bill gave some relief to tenants in such cases.

My objection is in no way to the relief of the tenant from a structural repair or exterior repair Clause such as Clause 29. My objection to Clause 30 as it stood, dating back to February, was that this was a form of legislation by Queen's Speech or legislation by Ministerial announcement. We were told in argument in support of that date that everyone ought to have known about it from the Queen's Speech, everyone ought to have known from what the Minister had said in the House, and everyone ought to have known from the Second Reading debate on the Bill. But that is not the way to legislate.

The hon. and learned Member for Stoke Newington and Hackney, North (Mr. Weitzman) referred to the Budget. Of course, everyone knows about the Budget. Everyone reads about the Budget. Are we not taking a great conceit to ourselves if we think that everyone reads a Housing Bill when it is published, that every professional man reads it and knows how to change the covenants in the leases he may be drawing in his office? In the Chamber now there are one or two practising solicitors. The sort of picture which the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) drew of the negotiation of leases during the past few months is so unreal as to be fantastic and ridiculous. We know in practice how leases are negotiated and discussed, how the terms of leases go to and fro between the parties and are eventually settled on the basis of the rent being paid.

Is not the hon. Member aware that the three-year agreements about which we are talking are sent out by estate agents on behalf of property owners? It is not a matter of solicitor and solicitor but of estate agent to tenant, saying, "Unless …".

It is not those three-year agreements that we are talking about here. I join with the hon. Member in condemning three-year agreements of that kind. I condemned the way in which they were made at the time of, or shortly after, the passage of the Rent Act. I condemned them in the House and in Committee because they were imposing too heavy a covenant on tenants. What we are talking about is not those three-year agreements but any agreement made since February last or, as in the terms of the Amendment of the hon. Member for Fulham, since November last. There has been no such spate of pressure by landlords during that period as there was after the Rent Act. There has been no need for retrospective legislation—I use that word advisedly—in these cases. It would be altering agreements which have been made since 16th February last with no real justification for so doing.

5.0 p.m.

My objection to the Clause as it stands is not about the merits of whether a covenant should be imposed on a tenant, but because I object to legislation by threat or legislation by announcement in this House to impose an obligation on a person before it is law. We should wait until we know what the Clause states. It has already been altered several times. Therefore, how could anyone on 16th February or 8th November last know to what covenant in his lease he was being bound? The Clause was altered in Committee and by my right hon. Friend's Amendments yesterday. It may well be altered in another place. We must be definite in the obligations which we impose. We can only be definite at the time of the passing of the Measure.

I have delayed rising because I assumed that we should have some kind of speech from either the Minister or from the Parliamentary Secretary. Some pretty grave insinuations have been made about the right hon. Gentleman and his handling of this matter. I should have thought that he would want to deal with the charge which has been made. It is a quite clear charge, namely, that he has been bullied into surrendering and eating the words which he used in Committee.

At least the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) is consistent. He always took the view that it was wrong to anti-date the coming into force of these provisions, however the Bill was amended. But it was after Amendments had been made in Standing Committee that the Minister made the statement which has been quoted, that only in the case of major amendment would it be desirable to bring in later the provisions proposed in the original drafting of the Bill.

We were inclined to feel that the Minister would be bullied in this way by the hon. Member for Crosby, since we all know the fiendish influence which the hon. Gentleman has over him. The Minister will remember that, in commenting on what my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Loughlin) said, I stated:
"I hope my hon. Friend will allow me to say that I have had more experience of the Minister than he has, and the danger is that he is inclined to accept Amendments from the hon. Member for Crosby. That is very dangerous."—[OFFICIAL, REPORT, Standing Committee D, 25th April, 1961; c. 289.]
We begged and pleaded with the right hon. Gentleman to stiffen his backbone a little and not to give way. We thought that we had won the day.

The hon. Gentleman will recollect our sitting here for several hours last night, when my right hon. Friend refused to accept at least half-a-dozen of my Amendments.

Unhappily, there is still another place. We do not know what will happen in the time before the Bill comes back here. We thought that we had surmounted all obstacles when we got this Clause through the Committee, but we were wrong.

It seems to me that there are only two views that can be taken of this. Looking at the matter impartially, no one can seriously believe that the Amendments which have been made to elucidate the definitions amount to a sufficient alteration of the Bill to warrant the postponement of its coming into operation. We may believe that the right hon. Gentleman always intended to give way, that he left the door slightly open in the speech which he made in Committee and then looked round to find an amendment which would give him an excuse for escaping. That is a view which can reasonably be held. I am inclined not to believe it.

I am inclined to believe that there is a more complicated and difficult problem which we have to consider, namely, the Minister's subconscious. He was uneasy and unhappy the whole time. He found himself out of tune with the hon. Member for Crosby. He found himself producing something which was hostile to landlords. He had an uncomfortable feeling that something was wrong somewhere, but he could not see where. By some strange movement of his subconscious there suddenly came the idea, "If I amend the Bill, there will be a get-out". I do not think he actually said that. It was something which was operating in the extraordinary and complex chasm which is the right hon. Gentleman's subconscious.

The hon. Member for Clapham (Dr. Alan Glyn) will, I am sure, appreciate that this is not a question of ordinary negotiation of an agreement between a willing tenant and a willing landlord in order to try to reach a reasonable assessment of their relative rights and obligations in the free play of the market and that therefore the Legislature should not interfere by retrospection. That is not this position at all, because we have the right hon. Gentleman's own statement that the proposals against which this Clause legislates are unreasonable and unfair. That is what he said in his speech on the Address way back in November. It has been known since November that that is the view which any respectable and responsible landlord would take, because the right hon. Gentleman said it.

It is quite possible—and the hon. Member for Crosby made this point—that it is unfair to professional men who cannot be expected to know what Parliament is thinking until it is incorporated in an Act. Is that really so? Surely if a person is in the business of dealing in property and making agreements and advising clients on property matters he ought to know about a statement on Government policy for the Session made by the Minister responsible for such matters. This was not a chance aside tossed out in the course of a debate in Committee. This was a statement made by the Minister on behalf of the Government at the time of the debate on the Address. There could not be a more clear-cut and formal occasion for a statement of Government policy than that.

I should have thought that there was as obligation on a professional man to make himself acquainted with what was proposed in legislation altering the rights of landlords and tenants during this Session and to advise his clients accordingly. I do not think the danger is that professional advisers did not know. The danger is that they jolly well did know. Many of them have advised tenants to take advantage of this legislation to improve their position.

As the Minister himself said, we are dealing with provisions which no reasonable tenant would be asked to bear by a reasonable landlord. That is the definition of what is in the Clause. Therefore, what has happened is that we are dealing with a situation in which, under pressure to overtop the balance in favour of the landlord created by the Rent Act, the tenant has had no opportunity of making a free decision.

If ever there was a wily bird to negotiate with, it was my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede). If I were a landlord, I should not like to do battle with him. However, he has had to admit that, faced with the stark realities of the situation in which he found himself, he could do nothing but yield. That is the kind of situation in which many tenants have found themselves.

For the right hon. Gentleman to have put a date in the Bill and then subsequently, and at this late stage, to alter the date, hits at the reputable landlord. The really reputable landlord would not have put this into the lease at all, but there are some who are midway who would have put it in, but as soon as they realised that it had been disapproved by the Minister they would have realised that it was not regarded as the right kind of thing to do and they would not have put it in the lease. There are some people, presumably, who have been quietly waiting, and they are now going to have a matter of weeks—I do not know how many weeks—before the Bill receives the Royal Assent. It will be a good many weeks, judging by the chaos and mess in which Government business is at the moment. At any rate, it will not be done quickly, but will take time.

The right hon. Gentleman said that we should not know what this would be like by the time it is finished with in another place, and that the Bill may take some time for its consideration before it comes back here. In all that time, there is a clear invitation by the right hon. Gentleman to the landlords and their professional advisers that they should stick in as tough a repairing clause in the lease as they can and try to get the whole thing tied up for a period up to seven years. If they can do that, they will be safe, but if they wait, they will be caught. Could there be a clearer invitation by the Government to landlords to use their bargaining power in an extortionate way? Could there be a clearer invitation by the Government that these landlords are doing something which the Government regard as unreasonable and unfair, and they are anxious to stop, but, out of deference to the pressure put upon them by the hon. Member for Crosby in this mysterious way—which we on this side of the House could never quite understand—they are allowing the landlords to complete the job before the Bill finally receives the Royal Assent?

What is this secret influence? This is a position which we are constantly

Division No. 228.]


[5.13 p.m.

Abse, LeoBraddock, Mrs. E. M.Crosland, Anthony
Ainsley, WilliamBrockway, A. FormerCrossman, R. H. S.
Albu, AustenBrown, Alan (Tottenham)Cullen, Mrs. Alice
Allaun, Frank (Satford, E.)Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)Darling, George
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)Davies, Harold (Leek)
Awbery, StanButler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)Davies, Ifor (Gower)
Bacon, Miss AliceCallaghan, JamesDavies, S. O. (Merthyr)
Benson, Sir GeorgeCastle, Mrs. BarbaraDeer, George
Blyton, WilliamChetwynd, GeorgeDodds, Norman
Boardman, H.Cliffe, MichaelDonnelly, Desmond
Bowden, Herbert W. (Leics, S.W.)Corbet, Mrs. FredaDriberg, Tom
Bowles, FrankCraddock, George (Bradford, S.)Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John
Boyden, JamesCronin. JohnEde, Rt. Hon. C.

coming up against time and time again in legislation, and it will make an interesting thesis for an independent research student in political history in years to come to write, rather as Professor Douglas Cole did about Place. Somebody will discover the hon. Member for Crosby and will rewrite history in terms of the hideous and monstrous influence he had on the progress of social reform in this country.

It will be longer than a page in history; it will be a doctor's thesis.

This is a shameful and disgraceful exhibition on the Minister's part. He has gone back on what was a clear indication of policy expressed in the Queen's Speech, and enshrined in the original draft of the Bill. He has gone back on it and has virtually made the Clause valueless, because he is now giving the people so long in which to get their ill-gotten gains by using their economic power until there will not be any need to have the Clause in the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman, from his Olympian heights, tells us that it is not being used, and that there is no sign of it happening. How can the Minister possibly know what is going on in the musty confines of solicitors' offices? How can he know what leases are being drafted at the moment? He cannot possibly know that. That is the kind of Olympian statement which he makes when he is in a jam, hoping to convince people that he has knowledge which, in fact, he has not got.

Question put, That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill:—

The House divided: Ayes 165, Noes 246.

Edwards, Robert (Bilston)Lipton, MarcusRoberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Edwards, Walter (Stepney)Loughlin, CharlesRobinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)
Evans, AlbertMcCann, JohnRogers, G. H. R. (Kensington, N.)
Fletcher, EricMacColl, JamesRoss, William
Foot, Dingle (Ipswich)McInnes, JamesRoyle, Charles (Salford, West)
Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)McKay, John (Wallsend)Shimwell, Rt. Hon. E.
Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)McLeavey, FrankShort, Edward
Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. HughMacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)Silverman, Julius (Aston)
Galpern, Sir MyerMallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)
George, Lady Megan Lloyd (Crmrthn)Manuel, A. C.Skeffington, Arthur
Greenwood, AnthonyMapp, CharlesSlater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)
Grey, CharlesMarsh, RichardSlater, Joseph (Sedgefield)
Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)Mason, RoySmith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)
Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)Mayhew, ChristopherSorensen, R. W.
Gunter, RayMellish, R. J.Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)Mendelson, J. J.Steele, Thomas
Hamilton, William (west Fife)Milne, Edward J.Stewart, Michael (Fulham)
Hannan, WilliamMitchison, G. R.Stones, William
Hart, Mrs. JudithMonslow, WalterStrachey, Rt. Hon. John
Healey, DenisMoody, A. S.Strauss, Rt. Hon. G. R. (Vauxhall)
Henderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur (Rwly Regis)Mort, D, L.Swain, Thomas
Herbison, Miss MargaretMoyle, ArthurSylvester, George
Holman, PercyMulley, FrederickSymonds, J. B,
Houghton, DouglasNeal, HaroldTaylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)Oliver, G. H.Thornton, Ernest
Hunter, A. E.Oram, A. E.Wainwright, Edwin
Hynd, H. (Accrington)Owen, WillWarbey, William
Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)Paget, R. T.Watkins, Tudor
Irving, Sydney (Dartford)Pannell, Charles (Leeds, w.)Weitzman, David
Jay, Rt. Hon. DouglasParker, JohnWhite, Mrs. Eirene
Jeger, GeorgeParkin, B. T.Wilkins, W. A.
Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)Pavitt, LaurenceWilley, Frederick
Jones, Rt. Hn. A. Creech(Wakefield)Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)Williams, D. J. (Neath)
Jones, Jack (Rotherham)Peart, FrederickWilliams, LI. (Abertillery)
Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)Pentland, NormanWilliams, W. R. (Openshaw)
Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)Popplewell, ErnestWillis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)
Kelley, RichardPrentice, R. E.Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huvton)
Kenyon, CliffordPrice, J. T. (Westhoughton)Winterbottom, R. E.
Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.Probert, ArthurWoof, Robert
King, Dr. HoraceProotor, W. T.Zilliacus, K.
Lee, Frederick (Newton)Randall, Harry
Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)Rankin, JohnTELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)Rhodes, H.Mr. John Taylor and Mr. Lawson.


Agnew, Sir PeterCampbell, Sir David (Belfast, S.)Fletcher-Cooke, Charles
Aitken, W. T.Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)Foster, John
Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.)Carr, Compton (Barons Court)Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)
Allason, JamesCarr, Robert (Mitcham)Clover, Sir Douglas
Arbuthnot, JohnCary, Sir RobertGlyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham)
Ashton, Sir HubertChannon, H. P. G.Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.)
Atkins, HumphreyChataway, ChristopherGodber, J. B.
Barber, AnthonyChichester-Clark, R.Gower, Raymond
Barlow, Sir JohnClark, Henry (Antrim, U.)Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R.
Batsford, BrianClark, William (Nottingham, S.)Gresham Cooke, P.
Baxter, Sir Beverley (Southgate)Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)Gurden, Harold
Beamish, Col. Sir TuftonCleaver, LeonardHall, John (Wycombe)
Bell, RonaldCooke, RobertHamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)
Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)Cooper-Key, Sir NeillHarris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos & Fhm)Cordeaux, Lt-Col. J. K.Harrison, Brian (Maldon)
Berkeley, HumphryCorfield, F. V.Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)
Bevins, Rt. Hon. ReginaldCostain, A. P.Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)
Bidgood, John C.Courtney, Cdr. AnthonyHarvie Anderson, Miss
Biggs-Davison, JohnCraddock, Sir BeresfordHastings, Stephen
Bingham, R. M.Critchley, JulianHay, John
Birch, Rt. Hon. NigelCunningham, KnoxHeald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel
Bishop, F. P.Currie, G. B. H.Henderson-Stewart, Sir James
Bossom, Clived'Avigdor-Goldsmld, Sir HenryHicks Beach, Maj. W.
Bourne-Anton, Ferranti, BasilHiley, Joseph
Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan)Digby, Simon WingfieldHill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe)
Box, DonaldDonaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M.Hinchingbrooke, Viscount
Boyle, Sir EdwardDoughty, CharlesHirst, Geoffrey
Braine, Bernarddu Cann, EdwardHocking, Philip N.
Brewis, JohnDuncan, Sir JamesHolland, Philip
Bromley-Davenport, Lt. -Col. Sir WalterDuthie, Sir WilliamHolt, Arthur
Brooke, Rt. Hon. HenryEden, JohnHopkins, Alan
Brooman-White, R.Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)Hornby, R. P.
Browne, Percy (Torrington)Elliott, R. W. (Nwcstle-upon-Tyne, N.)Howard, Hon. G. R. (St. Ives)
Bryan, PaulEmery, PeterHoward, John (Southampton, Test)
Buck, AntonyEmmet, Hon. Mrs. EvelynHughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral John
Bullus, Wing Commander EricFarr, JohnHughes-Young, Michael
Burden, F. A.Fell, AnthonyHulbert, Sir Norman
Butcher, Sir HerbertFinlay, GraemeHurd, Sir Anthony
Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A. (Saffron Walden)Fisher, NigelIremonger, T. L.

Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)Oakshott, Sir HendrieSmithers, Peter
Jackson, JohnOrr, Capt. L. P. S.Spearman, Sir Alexander
James, DavidOsborn, John (Hallam)Speir, Rupert
Johnson, Or. Donald (Carlisle)Page, John (Harrow, West)Stanley, Hon Richard
Johnson, Eric (Blackley)Page, Graham (Crosby)Stevens, Geoffrey
Johnson Smith, GeoffreyPanned, Norman (Kirkdale)Stodart, J. A.
Jones, Rt. Hn. Aubrey (Hall Green)Partridge, E.Storey, Sir Samuel
Joseph, Sir KeithPearson, Frank (Clitheroe)Studholme, Sir Henry
Kaberry, Sir DonaldPeel, JohnSummers, Sir Spencer (Aylesbury)
Kerans, Cdr. J. S.Peyton, JohnTapsell, Peter
Kerby, Capt. HenryPick thorn, Sir KennethTaylor, Edwin (Bolton, E.)
Kerr, Sir HamiltonPike, Miss MervynTaylor, W. J. (Bradford, N.)
Kershaw, AnthonyPilkington, Sir RichardTeeling, William
Kitson, TimothyPitman, Sir JamesTemple, John M.
Lancaster, Col. C. G.Pitt, Miss EdithThatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Leavey, J. A.Powell, Rt. Hon. J. EnochThomas, Leslie (Canterbury)
Legge-Bourke, Sir HarryPrice, David (Eastleigh)Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)
Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)Prior-Palmer, Brig. Sir OthoThorpe, Jeremy
Linstead, Sir HughProfumo, Rt. Hon. JohnTurner, Colin
Litchfield, Capt. JohnProudfoot, WilfredTurton, Rt. Hon. R. H.
Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)Pym, FrancisTweedsmuir, Lady
Longbottom, CharlesQuennell, Miss J. M.van Straubenzee, W. R.
Longden, GilbertRamsden, JamesVaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hon. Sir John
Loveys, Walter H.Redmayne, Rt. Hon. MartinVosper, Rt Hon. Dennis
Lucas-Tooth, Sir HughRees, HughWade, Donald
McAdden, StephenRees-Davies, W. R.Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
McLaren, MartinRonton, DavidWalder, David
McLaughlin, Mrs. PatriciaRidley, Hon. NicholasWalker, Peter
Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)Ridsdale, JulianWail, Patrick
Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)Rippon, GeoffreyWard, Dame Irene
Maddan, MartinRoberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)Warkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold
Markham, Major Sir PrankRobertson, Sir D. (C'thn's & S'th'ld)Wells, John (Maidstone)
Marshall, DouglasRobson Brown, Sir WilliamWilliams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Marten, NeilRodgers, John (Sevenoaks)Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
Marhew, Robert (Honiton)Roots, WilliamWilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Matthews, Gordon (Meriden)Ropner, Col. Sir LeonardWise, A. R.
Mawby, RayRoyle, Anthony (Richmond, Surrey)Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.Russets, RonaldWoodhouse, C. M.
Maydon, Lt-Cmdr. S. L. CScott-Hopkins, JamesWoollam, John
Mills, StratumSharples, RichardWorsley, Marcus
More, Jasper (Ludlow)Shaw, M.Yates, William (The Wrekin)
Morrison, JohnSimon, Rt. Hon. Sir Jocelyn
Nabarro, GeraldSkeet, T. H. N.TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Noble, MichaelSmith, Dudley (Br'ntf'rd & Chiswick)Mr. Gibson-Watt and
Mr. Whitelaw.

Proposed words there inserted in the Bill.

Further Amendments made: In page 30, line 21, leave out "on or".

In page 30, line 21, leave out from "the" to "would" in line 22 and insert "passing of this Act".—[ Mr. H. Brooke.]

5.25 p.m.

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

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

As the House will be aware, the Bill was very amply studied in no less than 22 sittings of the Standing Committee, and hon. Members will probably wish to know what changes were made during that Committee stage. Naturally, a great deal of time was spent on Part I of the Bill, which covers the changes in subsidy arrangements, and also a certain number of changes connected with housing associations. The Committee considered at length the Government's policy of redeploying the subsidies and the widening of the purposes of subsidies so as to cover the general needs of local authorities where those general needs can be shown to be necessary.

The Committee also considered very fully the resources test, which is enshrined in Part I, by which a local authority will receive either the higher or the lower level of subsidy; receiving the higher level of subsidy as soon as its financial resources justify the help of the taxpayer. Another subject that was studied with great attention by the Standing Committee was the power given by the Bill to my right hon. Friend's successors, after a lapse of not less than ten years and if there is in the future a sufficient change in the rent-paying capacity of the tenants, to cause a decrease or, indeed, an abolition of the subsidy connected with a house built under this Bill. A good deal of attention was also given to the unchanged subsidies provided for high buildings and for expensive sites, and to the increased subsidy arrangements for town development and overspill. In none of this part of the Bill, however, did the Committee make any alterations.

I now come to the next major feature of Part I of the Bill, that is connected with housing associations. Although there was a good deal of constructive criticism, there was a general welcome from both sides of the Committee to the encouragement the Government propose to give by this Bill to the work of housing associations. As the House will be aware, the Government see a growing part for these associations to play, both in supplementing the housing work of the local authorities and in complementing it.

In complementing that work, the Government propose to make available to housing associations a sum of £25 million in loans, through the Exchequer, as a pump-priming operation to increase the number of houses built for letting and to provide houses for that purpose on a non-subsidised basis, bath for their own sake, and also to lead the way for private enterprise back into this important housing field. Here, again, despite a great deal of careful scrutiny, no changes of any consequence were made by the Standing Committee.

Coming now to Part II of the Bill, I have a very different story to tell. In Part II, the Government are really breaking new ground by giving to local authorities stringent new powers with which to deal with one of the evils of the social situation of today—the multiple-occupation of houses. Although this occurs largely only into the great cities, it is a scourge where it does occur, and there was unity in the Standing Committee in the purpose of, as far as possible, eliminating it.

The attack on multiple occupation takes the form of providing local authorities with the power to impose on any house—with, of course, ample powers of appeal—a management code which will carry with it the regulations that my right hon. Friend is empowered by the Bill to make. Local authorities are also given power to require the owners of such houses, or the other people concerned with such houses, to carry out works, to make good any deficiencies in listed amenities in the houses and, in default of action by the person on wham the notice is served, to carry out the works. Additional strong powers are thus given to local authorities to abate overcrowding.

All these powers were combed carefully in the Committee, and although there were differences in detail there was, as I say, a general welcome to what my right hon. Friend has proposed. There were no radical changes made at that stage to this part. As to the powers, I think there will he general agreement that they were much improved and strengthened by the attention given to them in the Committee, and I will tell the House of a few of those changes.

First of all, the test for making a management order on a house which is being badly managed has been put on a more realistic basis. It no longer rests on whether the house in its existing state is unsuitable for the number of households or individuals occupying it. Instead, the test is quite simply whether the condition of the house, irrespective of whether or not there is technical overcrowding, is so bad that it is clear that a failure of management has occurred. This is a matter which should be readily capable of proof, particularly having regard to the minimum standards of management which will be laid down in the regulation to be made under Clause 13.

A second significant change made in Committee was that tenement blocks with shared lavatories and washing facilities have been brought within the Bill. The original purpose was to deal only with those houses intended for single family occupation which are now in multi-occupation, but, of course, the discussion in Committee convinced my right hon. Friend that a tenement block designed far the sharing of washing and sanitary facilities still used in the way for which it was designed may be just as squalid as a large, one-family house now in use by several.

A third change made in Committee was one that resulted from keen interest on both sides, namely, when my right hon. Friend as he always intended to do, undertook to introduce a new Clause, which he did, in fact, introduce at a later stage, to give local authorities power to require that proper provision should be made in houses in multi-occupation for escape from fire.

A fourth important change was that instead of leaving the abatement of overcrowding, as originally inserted in the Bill, on a standfast basis, that is, giving local authorities simple powers to ensure that the conditions in a multi-occupied and overcrowded house do not get worse, an Amendment was made by my right hon. Friend giving local authorities power actually to reduce the overcrowding without in any way leading to any danger of a family or individual being made homeless. This is achieved by giving the local authority power to forbid the occupant or owner of such a house from increasing the number of occupants when any individual occupant or occupants leave an overcrowded house. The power, therefore, is converted from a standfast to what has been described as a "rundown" power, and this is a great strengthening of this part of the Bill.

The powers of entry for local authorities were increased by an Amendment in Committee. A very useful Amendment was made to give local authorities power to require the occupants of overcrowded houses to state how many people are living in a house at any one time, thus overcoming one of the difficulties of this whole subject, that a house can be said to be overcrowded and yet, because of the elusive nature of the people concerned, cannot be proved without this sort of help to be overcrowded. There have been a number of smaller changes, notably of a drafting character, with which I will not weary the House.

The House will wish to know that during the Committee stage my right hon. Friend volunteered that he would after a due period of time be requiring a report from local authorities regarding how this part of the Bill has worked out. In Part III of the Bill there were no alterations or changes in improvement grants, but there was a substantial recasting of Clause 29 which describes the repairing and maintenance obligations to be put on landlords in short leases. This Clause has been considerably recast and it is hoped that the obscurities from which it suffered and for which it was criticised have disappeared.

We have made it clear that the landlord is responsible for the bath, washing facilities and sink as well as for the lavatory. We have also made it clear that he is responsible for fixed equipment for the heating of rooms or water. How much difference the revision has made is difficult to say, because the original Clause was ambiguous, and much depends on what its effect was thought to be. But on any reading of the Clause as revised there is little doubt that the changes made have put on landlords new obligations not present before, and, therefore, it was thought that it would be unfair to give the Clause any retrospective effect. It will apply only after the date of the Royal Assent.

There were a number of changes made to Clause 30. The most important change was, perhaps, that we have made sure that Clause 29 will apply to lettings of agricultural cottages. The Bill has emerged from the Committee considerably strengthened and improved. It is a Measure which reshapes subsidies so as to concentrate the taxpayers' help where it is most needed. The Bill will encourage some useful growth in the work of the housing associations and my right hon. Friend hopes that co-operative housing activities will be much strengthened in this country. Strong new powers are given to local authorities against multi-occupation. Several changes have been made in the improvement grant system. In short, this is a valuable Bill which I heartily commend to the House.

5.36 p.m.

We have a rule on Third Reading that one discusses what is in the Bill and not what might be in it or what one hoped would be in it. The effect of that rule is to make it comparatively easy to deliver brief speeches on Third Reading. This Bill is not, of course, a major contribution to the housing situation. We pointed that out on Second Reading. Indeed, it was the reason why we put down a reasoned Amendment to the Bill on Second Reading. But now, of course, on Third Reading, we have to consider it as it is.

As the small boy said when asked what he thought of the pudding, "It was all right, what there was of it." There is plenty of the Bill, such as it is, plenty of it in the sense that it covers a good deal of paper and required, owing to its complexity, a good deal of time to discuss. It makes some useful additions to the housing policy, but its general effect and scope are not, as I shall show, all that wide or all that useful.

Let us take Part I of the Bill, which is concerned with the readjustment, or, as the Parliamentary Secretary said, the redevelopment of subsidies. That, of course, is its limitation and its defect. If one wants to make a major contribution to the housing problem one has to think in terms of increases of subsidy. This is playing around with the same limited assistance from the Exchequer, and that is why, in the present housing situation, it cannot have more than a very limited effect. Indeed, in so far as one can point to certain areas or certain categories of house where one can say that the Bill helps, that is bound to be balanced by other areas and other categories of house where one has to say that the Bill hinders.

We cannot really make a major contribution to the housing policy if we are not prepared to reconsider the amount of subsidy and not prepared to do something about the burden of interest rates on local authorities, or about the price and the use of land. The Bill makes no contribution in either of these fields. I may remark that from the general financial climate at present it looks as though the rate of interest will soon provide an additional headache for local authorities, and that some of what is done to help certain authorities in the Bill may possibly be rubbed out by changes in the rate of interest before the Bill is actually on the Statute Book. That illustrates the limitations of a Measure of this kind.

It is true that what is called the readjustment or redeployment of the subsidies will help certain local authorities. Now that we have got to the point where we cannot amend the Bill any further we are obliged to notice that fact and not be anxious to delay its passage. None the less, the readjustment as arranged in the Bill still involves certain quite noticeable injustices. In the first place, it provides for a rate of subsidy of £24 for some authorities and £8 for others. That is the broad general picture.

There are, I know, the special provisions of the First Schedule. But, in the main, it is a question of some authorities getting £24 per dwelling and of others getting £8. There is no provision for any intermediate figure. That was one of the real illustrations of Government obstinacy when we were trying to improve the Bill, the insistence that there should only be these two rates—£8, and the other figure which is three times that amount.

The test by which it is determined whether an authority should get £8 or £24 for each dwelling it puts up is so devised that one is bound to get some authorities whose circumstances are, for practical purposes, the same. One authority, by a difference of a few pounds in the mathematics of the Bill, will get only £8, while its neighbour will get £24. That cannot really be justified and it is a pity that it is still unavoidable in the Bill, unless the Government again turn up the arguments advanced in Committee and make use of the opportunities of another place to put the matter right.

Another injustice is that although the Minister has tried to relate the rates of subsidy to what he calls the "resources of the authority", he has not really succeeded in relating it not only to their resources but to the tasks before them. An excellent argument was put forward in a moving speech in Committee by my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Short), who pointed out that his authority was not likely to do very well under the Bill, although it had a very heavy slum problem and an equally heavy problem of providing houses for the elderly.

What the Bill says, in effect, to any authority that has a specially large slum problem or a large problem of housing elderly people is, "We shall look solely at your resources. Have your ratepayers enough resources to deal with this problem themselves, even at the lower rate of help from the Exchequer?" My hon. Friends and I are convinced that this is the wrong approach. The existence of slums in Newcastle, Birmingham, London, or wherever it may be is not merely a problem for the ratepayers of those areas. It is a national disgrace which the whole nation—all of our citizens as ratepayers—should be helping to remedy. If, therefore, one is redeploying the subsidy, one of the questions that should be asked is, "What help are we giving to those authorities which have a specially heavy slum problem?"

The same is true about the housing of the elderly. We all realise that the number of old people is growing, but that need not, one hopes, with the advance of help from the health services, mean an increase in the number of decrepit old people. We hope that they will enjoy better health than did the old people of earlier generations. But they create a special housing problem, especially when they are living by themselves, their children having grown up and probably married.

That creates a number of problems that local housing authorities must face and it should be regarded, once again, as a national problem. But in approaching it, one should seriously consider the size of the share of the problem that has to be faced by a particular local authority, because the size of the share varies considerably between one authority and another. This, to my hon. Friends and me, is an injustice which is still contained in the Bill.

There was also one specialised but, as I still think, quite sharp injustice done to certain Welsh authorities which have very low rateable values as a result of the complicated operation of certain parts of the First Schedule to the Bill. I will not attempt to weary the House by repeating the arguments I deployed in Committee on this matter. I re-read my arguments and was impressed, as one always is when reading one's own prose, with their cogency and lucidity and style. I still do not see why it makes sense that any Bill which claims to proportion subsidy to need should have an arrangement which causes some authorities to get less help because they are poor. That is what happens as a result of that Schedule. What the Minister said, in effect, was, "They can get out of their difficulties by hurrying up and building more houses"—but the whole trouble is that their limited resources make it difficult for them to do that.

There is another injustice that should be of particular interest to hon. Gentlemen opposite who were complaining, at the end of the Report stage, that my hon. Friends and I believed in retrospective legislation. The Bill puts a local authority in the position where it is told, "You can build houses in the years starting from the first one after this Bill comes into operation. You shall be provided with the subsidy, of £24 if you are lucky and of £8 if you are not lucky. We know that you will have to make your plans in the hope that you will get that housing subsidy for a term of sixty years. But, of course, it is possible that after ten years the Minister will say that he is not going to pay you another penny on your houses."

It is not much consolation to tell them, "We are warning you in advance that that may happen", because that makes their uncertainty all the more grave. We believe that this device for the retrospective cutting of subsidies is profoundly undesirable. Our view is strengthened when one considers the arguments by which such cuts are justified. We are told that the Minister should have power to cut subsidies because the income of the ratepayers and of the council tenants may go up. The idea is that the moment that they become better off the Government are planning to place a heavier burden either on the rates or on the council tenants, or on both.

What does that mean? No one knows exactly by how much the total national income will increase during the next ten years, or how that increase will be divided among those who work for wages, those who earn salaries and those who get their income from property. I notice that in a recent Answer to my right hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, North (Mr Jay) it was stated that in recent years profits have been increasing at about four times the rate at which wages have been increasing.

I wonder whether that pattern will continue? I do not know. But what we are providing for in the Bill is that if there is any likelihood of the wages of people who live in council houses increasing, then we shall do something to counteract that. It is a deliberate twist, as it were, in the distribution of wealth, to the disadvantage of the wage earner. It is not very much good the Chancellor lecturing wage earners on the duties of restraint in wage demands, if this is the kind of Bill that the Minister of Housing and Local Government puts through the House.

The only other point I shall make in connection with Part I of the Bill is on the Clauses dealing with housing associations, where my hon. Friends and I are glad that the Government agreed to accept the view, put forward strongly by my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl), that, while it is quite proper to make loans of public money to housing associations, they should not be made at a rate more favourable than the loans made available to local authorities. I am glad to see that provision in the Bill.

Let me deal with Part III first. By sticking to their own view in the debate which we concluded at the end of the Report stage, the Government have now created a situation in which we are obliged to hope that the Bill will reach the Statute Book as soon as possible, because there is no way of stopping the abuses at which Part III is aimed except by the Bill becoming law as quickly as it can. I need not argue Part III any further.

Part II of the Bill was the most interesting part to discuss during the Committee stage. I agree that it is desirable that local authorities should have the powers which are given to them by the provisions of Part II to deal with what is called in the Bill houses in multiple occupation. In practical terms that means houses originally intended for one family and now occupied by several, to be distinguished from tenements or blocks of flats.

It is useful for local authorities to have power to deal with the abuses arising from the bad management of these houses. But do not let us deceive ourselves about what is the scope of the Bill. The Bill does not mean that the local authority has a general power or even a general duty to deal with all houses of that kind in its locality. The Bill proceeds by what one may call a method of pick-and-choose. A local authority, relying on such knowledge as it collects, will pick out this house and that house in multiple occupation, and so on; presumably beginning with those which, from local knowledge, it judges to be the most serious examples of mismanagement.

This is a very limited approach to what in some areas is quite a large problem. I am glad to see that the hon. and gallant Member for Nottingham, Central (Lieut.-Colonel Cordeaux) is with us for the last stages of the Bill because, with hon. Members on this side of the House, he urged that we ought to compile a full register of houses in multiple occupation so that a local authority would be able to view its problem as a whole. The Bill does not do that, more is the pity. However, we are to have one kind of register. Where local authorities have decided that they have found a house to which it is necessary to give their special care and attention, a code of management, for which the Bill provides, is to be applied to that house. Local authorities are to keep registers of the proprietors or persons responsible for houses of that kind.

Such people will have what was called by my hon. Friend the Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin) a certificate of mismanagement. It will be officially recorded that these people do not manage their property well. In the reference libraries as a companion volume to "Burke's Landed Gentry" we shall have "Brooke's Propertied Cads"; an anti-social register, as one might call it, in which one may look up the names of persons who have managed their property so badly that a local authority has had to use its powers under the Bill. I think that sooner or later the Minister will have to adopt the idea of a general registration of houses in multiple occupation.

As the Parliamentary Secretary said, we improved this part of the Bill during our Committee stage discussions. I think that I am entitled to use the word "we" as meaning mainly my hon. Friends rather than the Committee as a whole, because, with a few exceptions, a profound silence descended on the Government benches during most of the long and many sittings of the Standing Committee. I am glad to see that the Bill now embodies an improved definition of what is a mismanaged house, and an extension of the idea from houses in multiple occupation to certain tenements blocks. We associate that improvement with the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South-West (Mr. A. Evans). There is the power of entry to see that the code of management is properly enforced and we shall associate that with the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes.

The improved rules about precautions against fire we shall associate with the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Paddington, North and the discussion on the provision for requiring the names of persons with these houses, in order to make effective the provisions against overcrowding, we shall associate with my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Reynolds). There is the Bill, such as—

:Has not my hon. Friend failed to mention the part played by the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart)?

:My hon. Friend is very kind. My recollection is that so much of my energies were taken up pointing out the defects in the Bill, owing to Government drafting, that I had to leave most of the suggestions for positive improvement to my hon. Friends.

There is the Bill, such as we have been able to make it, and we are of opinion that we should now speed it on its way to another place.

5.56 p.m.

In my few remarks I shall deal exclusively with Part II of the Bill, because that is the only part with which I have been actively concerned. First, I should like to offer my sincere congratulations to my right hon. Friend on the effort which he has made in Part II of the Bill to tackle a very difficult problem. As always happens on these occasions, there are hon. Members on both sides of the House who would have been happier had my right hon. Friend felt able to adopt certain alterations to the Bill during the Committee stage, which, in fact, he did not feel able to do. However, I am convinced that, as it stands, the Bill will be able to do the job for which it is intended, to deal with the evil of the multi-occupational slums, although, of course, from now on the question of whether it will be used to do that job successfully will not rest with my right hon. Friend, but with other people.

For me it was a most encouraging and stimulating experience to serve on the Standing Committee which dealt with this Bill, where all hon. Members serving on that Committee were determined to achieve the same end and convinced of the importance of doing so. No one realises more than myself the vital importance of making Part II of the Bill work successfully. I claim no credit for that. It would be strange were it otherwise. Not merely is this evil of multi-occupational slums rampant in Nottingham; not merely are these slums concentrated mostly in my own division, but I myself have lived for over six years in one of the areas there where these multi-occupational slums have spread and flourished.

In that time I have seen the social life of the district poisoned and racial relations envenomed. In that time I have seen old-established inhabitants leave their houses one by one, when they have been able to do so, and sell the property And who buys their houses? In most cases they have been bought by the very sharks who are running this racket. Because it is such a profitable racket they are able to offer far higher prices than anybody else. As the whole neighbourhood has sunk deeper and deeper into the morass of slumdom and these older long-established inhabitants have left, those who could not afford to leave or could not do so for other reasons have had to stay on, with increasing bitterness in their hearts watching the value of their property go down and down and their own living conditions become more and more miserable. I believe that if the provisions of this Bill are resolutely carried out we can to a large extent put a stop to the spread of this rot. I believe that with this Bill we may reclaim a large number of these recently-formed slums into decent houses and that we can make life a little more bearable for the unfortunate tenants on whom these parasites have been inriching themselves for far too long.

After 22 sittings and nearly sixty hours in Standing Committee on the Bill, followed by our session of ten and a half hours in the House yesterday until 2 a.m., I expect that most hon. Members will be glad to have a rest from this Bill for a while, but we ought to remember that the most important work in connection with the Bill will shortly be starting. My right hon. Friend and my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, and I am sure the two hon. Members who lead for the Opposition on this Bill, will not agree with me if I suggest that it is comparatively easy to get a Bill like this on to the Statute Book, but at least it is considerably easier than making it work once it is there. The job of making it work will fall principally on the local authorities.

The people who will have to do the main work will no doubt be the medical officers of health, the public health inspectors, the officers of estate departments and similar officers. Local councillors, too, have a job to do here because they are the people who know, or ought to know, where these houses exist. The same applies to hon. Members where these evils exist in their constituencies. After all, if people like ourselves do not let the authorities know where these houses are and make sure that action is taken, nobody else will.

The Bill will not work unless all of us concerned in those areas are determined to see that it works. My right hon. Friend has forged the weapon. It will soon be in our hands. It will then be up to all of us—Members for the constituencies, councillors, local government officials and the magistrates—to use that weapon effectively and ruthlessly.

6.3 p.m.

:Like the hon. and gallant Member for Nottingham, Central (Lieut.-Colonel Cordeaux), after so many sittings in Standing Committee and our session yesterday I am glad that we have reached the point at which the Bill goes to another place. I do not follow the hon. and gallant Member completely in his contribution, but I echo his hope that the provisions relating to houses in multi-occupation will effectively deal with the gradually deteriorating areas in so many towns and cities. As a result of the abuse by a very small percentage of landlords, many areas which hitherto have been very good residential areas have gradually deteriorated into slums. I hope that the provisions of that part of the Bill will deal adequately with that problem.

On Third Reading we are restricted to the contents of the Bill, and irrespective of whether it will be our responsibility as councillors and hon. Members, as the hon. and gallant Member suggested, to bring these houses to the notice of local authorities, the provisions of the Bill will not be fully effective because of the difficulties arising out of the lack of registration.

Commenting briefly on Part I, my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) said that this was not a major housing Measure, but repeatedly the Minister has told us that he intended it to be a major housing measure. Frankly, I do not think that it will make a major contribution to the solution of the country's housing problem. The basic fact that the annual growth of subsidy is to remain the same even though, to use the Parliamentary Secretary's term, the subsidy has been "redeployed", will militate against a solution of the housing problem.

We do not know precisely which local authorities will benefit from the increased subsidies and which will not, The formula is so complicated that it is very difficult to say precisely what will take place under it. But one thing is certain:most local authorities will have to introduce forms of differential rent schemes which may well have a bad effect on housing under local authorities through, out the country. There is much talk about taxpayers' money being spent and about the necessity to prove a local authority's need if subsidies are to be paid. That is a new departure for the Government, because they have been paying subsidies constantly without any question of need.

I fear that the Bill is likely to produce a situation in which local authority housing estates cease to be the mixed communities which they are at present. Even without the Bill there has been a constant drive to ensure that people who are earning reasonably high wages move out of council houses. As a result of the application of Part I of the Bill, many local authorities will try to ensure that council house tenants are only those who can afford no more than council house rents. This would be a major departure for evil, because our council house estates ought to be mixed communities. There ought to be no segregation, and there ought to be a free interchange of ideas and standards within that council estate.

I have never fallen for the idea that because a council house tenant has a motor car there is something wrong with him being a council tenant. I should like to see most council house tenants have motor cars. I would rather they spent their money on their families than in other ways. I do not think that we shall see anything as a result of the Bill other than an extension of differential rent schemes which are likely to be inequitable to the council house tenants who have to face substantial increases in rents.

I want to make a brief reference to the power the Minister has taken to by-pass local authorities on the question of housing associations. Housing associations, which have done a very good job in supplementing local authority housing, have hitherto worked harmoniously with local authorities. At no time has the Minister suggested that any local authority has had difficulty with housing associations or that housing associations have had difficulty with local authorities.

Housing associations which have hitherto worked harmoniously with local authorities will now be able to by-pass local authorities and approach the Minister direct. The Minister will be able to give his consent to housing association projects, whether the local authority concerned wants them or not. If ever there was an instance of the man in Whitehall knowing best, this is it. On no occasion has the Minister claimed that there has been the slightest divergence of opinion between local authorities and housing associations. We pressed him on this continually in Committee. He has resisted all attempts to see reason, because he believes that the man in Whitehall knows best. This attitude comes odd indeed from a representative of the party which constantly jibed at hon. Members of my party when we were in office about the Minister knowing best.

This is one of the nasty features of the Bill. This, and the fact that under the Bill local authorities cannot possibly project their plans ahead, are perhaps the two major defects in the Bill. The Minister—not necessarily this one, but a future Minister—may decide to abolish or reduce the subsidies. This will result in many local authorities having great difficulty in deciding on their future plans. If I were chairman of a local authority housing committee, I should be very careful indeed before committing the authority to any plan projected ahead, because it will not be possible for the authority to be certain of the future total cost and the economic rents it will have to charge.

The Bill is good in parts: it is like the parson's egg. I do not think that it will have a very good reception from anyone in any part of the community. I only hope that what good there is in the Bill will come forth as quickly as possible.

6.15 p.m.

:The hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Loughlin) said that he did not think that the Bill would provide a permanent solution to the housing problem. I am very much inclined to agree with him in that. He spoke of the insecurity from which local authorities will suffer. I disagree with him there. If local authorities have sufficient funds of their own at the end of ten years, the subsidies reduce. What matters is whether the money is available, whether it comes from the local authority or from the Exchequer.

I have two things in common with the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart). First, he and I both represent constituencies which have one of the most appalling housing problems in London. Secondly, I agree to a large extent with what he said today. I will be as careful as he was not to diverge, in a Third Reading speech, from what is in the Bill.

I look upon the Bill as a very useful tidying-up Measure to improve conditions and standards throughout the country. As my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Nottingham Central (Lieut.-Colonel Cordeaux) said, I am sure that with the co-operation of local authorities there will be a great improvement in housing conditions. However, I do not believe that the Bill tackles the problem which exists in our larger cities. We have improved standards, but we have not got sufficient finance to build the housing which is required in the large cities.

I welcome Clause 7. It will help housing associations, which are doing such a very good job. I am glad that my right hon. Friend has recognised this and is prepared to help them. Clause 29 has given rise to a certain amount of criticism. Both sides of the House will join in condemning the practice of landlords in demanding excessive terms from their tenants, but we should be very careful when legislating. We should not allow a state of affairs to develop in which the Gracious Speech, a statement by an hon. Member or by a Minister, or even what is said in Committee, is taken as law. We are here to produce the law. I entirely agree with my right hon. Friend that it would he very wrong for us to endeavour to legislate retrospectively. There are many evils in the law of the land which we wish to cure, but we should think very carefully before legislating retrospectively.

Clause 14 deals with standards. I am very happy to welcome this Clause and the benefits which will accrue from it. Clause 5 deals with multi-storey blocks. This is where I departed from my right hon. Friend's line of thought yesterday. Anybody who lives in London or any other large city knows that there is only one way to cure the housing problem. There is only one way to provide the necessary facilities—the play space and other facilities, such as garage and ancillary accommodation, which the modern world demands. It is a national problem in the large cities. It is a problem which is almost beyond the scope of county councils and borough councils.

There is the problem of overcrowding and housing the elderly in London. It is no use the Government hiding behind local authorities and saying that it is their job to provide the necessary accommodation. Parliament is paramount. The Government are responsible for ensuring that decent accommodation is provided in the shortest possible time. Like many Members on both sides of the House, I am deeply appalled by the conditions in which my constituents are compelled to live, fifteen years after the war. Many people say that it is because they do not look around for accommodation. In some cases, that is the fact, but in the majority of cases the accommodation simply does not exist. That is why yesterday, on Clause 5, I departed from my right hon. Friend's line of thought, because I believe that in the Bill we have failed utterly to do one thing: that is, to tackle the main housing problem in the cities and in the overcrowed areas. We have not gone as far as we should in the Bill.

As far as it stands, I welcome the Bill. I am sure that it will produce an amelioration of housing conditions. I reiterate, however, that I do not believe that the Government have tackled the housing problem in the cities with sufficient force and energy. I hope that it will not be long before some other methods are used, even if it means Government subsidies to provide the accommodation in the cities, so that we may no longer be ashamed of the centre of our own city.

6.21 p.m.

:The Government have now become adept at bringing in Bills which contain one or two microscopic pieces of meat between two large slices of dry bread. This is one such Bill. By putting those tiny pieces of meat under a magnifying glass, the Government are able to persuade themselves and some of their friends that they have made a major contribution to one of the great problems of our time. The tragedy is that while these Bills are brought in with a great deal of publicity, and a great flourish of trumpets, these social problems continue to increase and, in many cases, become acute. I am sorry that this Bill, to which we are giving a Third Reading tonight, is not, as the hon. Member for Clapham (Dr. Alan Glyn) indicated, more of a major Measure to deal with the acute problem of housing.

After all the discussions we have had in Committee and in the House on the Bill, I wonder whether the Minister can really be satisfied with the provision which he is making in Clause 4 concerning the differential rate of subsidy. It seems to me obvious that if we have a higher rate and a lower rate of subsidy it will be natural for local authorities who get only the lower rate of subsidy to feel that they will be quite justified in not building more council houses. H we have a higher rate of subsidy, it is inevitable that those who get the higher rate will feel that they are the ones to whom the Minister is looking to do the building. Those who get the lower rate will feel justified in not building.

This is not a criticism of local authorities. I am myself a member of a local authority, with a personal responsibility for slum clearance, housing and redevelopment. I know the good work which local authorities are doing, even under the difficulties which they now experience. The Minister's subsidy provision will, however, lead inevitably to a decline in council house building of all kinds. Although some local authorities will get a £24 subsidy, there is a limit to the number of building sites which they can obtain. They are having great difficulty in competing with private enterprise for the limited number of sites available. They have great difficulty in meeting the high cost and the Minister is doing nothing to help them to redevelop the already developed central areas at a higher density, which might be one solution of their problem.

Therefore, it seems to me inevitable, whichever way one looks at it, that there will be less council house building of all kinds for old people, slum clearance and general need, for families suffering from tuberculosis, families with large numbers of children and families who are living in acute conditions of overcrowding.

There is the further point, which the Minister has not faced, of the effect upon local authorities of the power which he takes to himself in Clause 2 either to withdraw or to reduce subsidies. As my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Loughlin) said, housing committees, looking to the future and being aware of that power of the Minister, will hesitate before committing themselves to building schemes. I hope that that will not be so, but, being realistic and knowing that Housing Bills tend to set the trend for housing for several years ahead until another Bill comes along, it seems to me inevitable that that will be its effect on council house building generally.

There was considerable discussion in Committee about Clause 7, concerning housing associations and exactly how the Clause would operate. I have looked again at the OFFICIAL REPORT of Our discussions in Committee and what has been said by the Minister, and I am still not clear exactly what the Clause will do and what the Minister intends by it. Even at this late stage of the Bill, I hope that he will be able to give attention to this point.

In spite of all that the Minister said in the White Paper and on Second Reading, there is nothing in the Bill to promote co-operative associations m housing associations by which tenants co-operatively own and manage their own houses or flats. What there is in the Bill, in Clause 7, is provision for the Minister to advance the sum of £25 million to housing associations. It was not at all clear from our discussions in Committee what kind of housing associations the Minister had in mind.

Neither was it clear what form those advances will take. If they are to be advances on mortgage, I would point out to the Minister that housing associations generally do not find difficulty in getting mortgage money. Their difficulty is in getting initial working capital. This will apply particularly to housing associations which are housing associations of tenants. I should like the Minister to clarify this point.

Has the Minister considered that his professed aim of the promotion of cooperative housing associations will be impossible unless some of the £25 million is available to those associations to buy land and to initiate building schemes? I say that with emphasis, because on Second Reading the Minister referred to private builders being interested in housing associations. His reference to private builders immediately followed a reference to co-operative housing associations.

I was puzzled why private builders, who are in business not for philanthropic reasons, but as businessmen, should be interested in co-operative housing associations. I could not see in any way why they should promote these co-operative associations of tenants as I understand them. I therefore would be glad if the Minister would clarify how he expects co-operative tenants' associations to develop as a result of what he proposes to do under Clause 7. As I read it, I cannot see that the Clause will be of any great assistance to them.

My last point relates to the tenor of the Bill concerning the making good of defects in property, improvement grants and generally putting into a better state of repair, where the Bill enables this to be done, existing properties which are defective in various respects. Here again, bearing in mind that the Bill will set the trend for a considerable time ahead, I would ask the Minister whether he has considered the effect that this will have on slowing down the tendency there may be on the part of local authorities to tackle their problems of redevelopment. I asked the Minister yesterday, on an Amendment, and I ask him again, at this stage, to consider very carefully what the effect of this part of the Bill will be on that, and to bring in as quickly as he can some proposals for encouraging redevelopment where redevelopment ought to take place.

I hope that the Bill will not be what one of its critics called it, merely a rearrangement of the same old tired flowers in the jam jar. I hope that there are a few new flowers in the jam jar which will be useful to local authorities and to co-operative housing associations and to all who are passionately concerned with the housing of the people of this country. Because I hope that, I do, in a very limited fashion, welcome the Bill, but because I am afraid that there is very little new in it and very little of importance in it, I hope that the Minister, in asking us to give the Bill its Third Reading, will very quickly have second thoughts about the housing situation in the country and bring in a much more substantial Measure to deal with the problems of housing with which, I believe, the hon. Members who have spoken today are so very rightly concerned.

6.31 p.m.

:I have been searching round in my mind to try to find something nice to say with which to begin my speech on the Third Reading of the Bill, and I think that I have found it in saying that I thank the right hon. Gentleman for having drafted a Money Resolution which enabled us to explore almost all the points which arise on the Bill. I think that the only exception to that was the question which concerned my hon. Friends on the improvement grants, but that, I do not think, was a wilful tightening of the Money Resolution. I think it was simply that the right hon. Gentleman got involved in the interstices of our procedure, so that we were unable to explore that fully in Committee. On the whole, however, I think that we were able to look at most of the main questions which arose on the Bill.

We were able to consider the subsidies. I think that this Bill will disappoint many people. Most local authorities expected that there would be a widespread provision of subsidies for general housing need. This Bill is the abandonment of the limited subsidies on slum clearance and overspill, but there is, of course, as there always is, a catch. It all depends on the right hon. Gentleman's approving the dwellings, and I suspect that a number of local authorities which thought that they would be allowed to indulge in housing for general need will find that, in fact, because of the working of the approval of the Ministry, they will not be allowed to do it.

The other major criticism and corn-plaint which I have about the subsidy provisions is the break Clause which is now introduced for the first time. The Minister can break his agreement to pay subsidy at the end of ten years. It is quite true that when we were discussing this in Committee upstairs the Minister endeavoured to imply that it did not really matter at all, that it was of very little financial significance. I do not believe that he would have gone to all the trouble he did to get it into the Bill were it not for the fact that it was to have some financial bearing, and I think that he has created a very difficult problem indeed for local authorities and their financial advisers, who now cannot be sure over what period they will receive subsidy. They incur certain obligations for paying off loans over a period of years, but then they are not able to say that they are certain of getting subsidy for a comparable period, and I think that, although no doubt it appeals to the Minister because it gives him that extra flexibility, he has done an injury to local government by putting it in and that the advantages are nowhere near to equalling the uncertainty which is caused.

I think also that it is a criticism of this Bill that it adds one more incursion into higher mathematics in local government. Yesterday I compared trying to understand housing legislative provisions with some of the problems presented by colonial constitutions. Nowadays one has to be equipped with higher mathematics to move at all in the field of local government. There is the most complicated formula dealing with grants. Nobody knows until he does some very difficult sums, most of the terms of which he does not know until too late, what grants he is going to get. Now no local authority will be clear what subsidy it will get. Conflicting views have been expressed time and again by different local authorities, and in Committee by representatives of different constituencies, whether they will qualify for the full £24 subsidy or whether it will be cut down to the £8 subsidy.

All that uncertainty is not good for local government or for housing planning and does not encourage the local authority to look ahead and try to plan housing for the future, and that, I would have thought, is a very grave weakness in the Bill. It is not encouraging really careful planning and looking ahead.

Again, on Part II of the Bill, which deals with the houses in multiple occupation, I have never hidden the fact that I am doubtful about how valuable its provisions will be. There has been a great deal of blowing of trumpets welcoming them as a new deal for enabling some of the social problems facing us to be treated. I still hope that is right, but I am doubtful about it.

I have two main reasons for my doubt. The first is that the Bill is extremely weak for the initiation of proceedings, finding out where abuses are taking place. As I said yesterday, I think that the local authorities which have these problems to face will be able to deal with a few bad cases which may immediately occur to them, but when it comes to searching for and finding the bad cases in the future their powers of inspection, their powers of entry, are not adequate, and I am afraid that the result will be—as has so often happened in the past, as happened with public health enforcement, and as happened with the enforcement of the repairs provisions in housing legislation—that this Bill's provisions dealing with management will turn out to be a dead letter, simply because local authorities have not got the powers to enforce them. I think that the Minister should give local authorities more power to deal with the bogus companies, the people who continually change their addresses.

One weakness in the Bill is enforcement of the cost of doing the work. There are useful provisions here for enabling a local authority to make a charge for some of the costs of improvement done to a house, but I feel that the provisions are inadequate to help meet some of the day to day problems which present themselves to local councils.

However, although that is my feeling, and although I feel that we are really trying to restore the position which was thrown away in 1954 when the byelaws were abolished, nevertheless, I certainly welcome them and hope that they will be successful. I hope that the effect of the provisions will be, as the hon. and gallant Member for Nottingham, Central (Lieut.-Colonel Cordeaux) said, to deal with the social problem which everybody recognises and everybody wants to tackle. We all agree on that, and I personally hope that the Minister will take a very strong initiative in issuing a circular which will in considerable detail explain these powers to local authorities, explain to local authorities how they can use these powers and carry out the functions. He has promised us that when the code of management is prepared he will allow us to see it and will consult with the local authority associations about it. It is important that it should be a practical and thorough code and it is certainly important that the right hon. Gentleman should do that.

I can only say to the right hon. Gentleman that I wish him good fortune in this tremendous job which this part of the Bill presents. I wish that he had taken more advice. I think that he ought to have listened to the advice offered to him in a genuine desire to improve the Bill and based on the experience of people who have had to tackle the problems, like the public health inspectors and members of local authorities. I am sure that later he and some of the tenants will regret that he has not been as flexible in these matters as he should have been.

We, however, welcome the Bill as it is. We hope that it will be successful and I am sure that I speak for everyone on this side of the House in saying that in our constituencies and in whatever connection we have with local authorities we shall want to give the Bill full scope to succeed in its job. A great deal of work has been done on the Bill but a great deal of it has been frustrating work. It is always a tiresome business if week after week we put up proposals and make suggestions for improving the Bill and we draft Amendments and at the end we feel that a wonderful opportunity has been missed.

If only the Government had shown more flexibility, many of the difficulties could have been avoided. I hope that I shall be proved to be wrong but I have not much optimism. I am afraid that the responsibility will lie with the right hon. Gentleman, because I do not think that he has given the local authorities enough discretion and flexibility to do the job that he is asking them to do.

6.43 p.m.

There seems to be some inconsistency between the hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) and the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. Stewart), because the hon. Member for Widnes said that it had been a frustrating experience to have all the Opposition's Amendments turned down and the hon. Member for Fulham laid stress on the fact that "we", meaning the Opposition, had greatly improved Part II of the Bill in Committee. Personally, I think that we all improved Part II in Committee and I want to express at the outset my gratitude to the House and, in particular, to the hon. Members who served on the Standing Committee for their co-operation in that long work on the Bill.

I hope that it will not be taken amiss, or will in any way embarrass them, if if I refer to the hon. Member for Fulham and the hon. Member for Widnes, because I should like to say that I thought that their opposition right throughout our proceedings was constantly vigorous and always fair. The comprehensiveness of the speech of the hon. Member for Fulham in this Third Reading debate today testifies to the immense amount of study he gave to the Bill and to his part in leading the Opposition on it.

I find that barbed personal pleasantries are apt to fall from the lips of the hon. Member for Widnes, but we must all stand up to that kind of thing; and as Minister of Housing and Local Government I have endured worse. I should like to single out one of my hon. Friends who served in Standing Committee, and that is my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Nottingham, Central (Lieut.-Colonel Cordeaux). By common consent he added a great deal to our knowledge and wisdom by the use he made of his experience in the great City of Nottingham.

There, as much as anywhere, I shall be following with keen interest the progress that the local authority finds it possible to make in dealing with the conditions which he described in that city where, as he rightly said—and it does not only apply there—social life has been poisoned by some of the happenings and we need, in his own phrase, to reclaim these areas that have gone downhill.

I would couple with my hon. and gallant Friend the hon. Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin), because although he has said some rather nasty things against me in the course of debate I have not the slightest doubt of his sincerity and his deep interest in these matters. It may be that we can agree to differ on some things, but respect each other for our mutual desire, in our own ways, to try to clean up some of the squalid burrows. I hope that, finally, I may express my own thanks to my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary. It is not for me to praise him as a party man, but I hope that I am entitled to say that when he serves on Standing Committee hon. Members on both sides gain by the clarity and lucidity and courtesy of his speeches.

I know, also, that the whole House will wish me to express thanks to the many civil servants and the parliamentary draftsmen who have been concerned with the Bill because they too, each in their own way, have been serving the House of Commons. Local authorities and their associations have also played a part in framing the Bill. I look to the local authorities to have a great part in implementing it, and also to the housing associations.

If, in this short time, I do not deal in detail with the points raised by the hon. Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Butler), I assure her that I am already in touch with the National Federation of Housing Associations about these matters. I shall be anxious when the Bill reaches the Statute Book to give much more detailed guidance on the part which, I hope, housing associations will play.

With particular reference to co-operative housing associations, I hope that the hon. Lady will not mind my saying that the very essence of them is that they are co-operative. They spring up by themselves. They are not created by Governments or local authorities. I entirely agree with the hon. Lady that further guidance will be needed on the manner in which they can play their part.

In spite of what has been said, I believe that we have succeeded in stilling the fears of local authorities about Clause 2 (4). If not, let me say again that there is no thought whatever in the Government's mind of using that subsection in a way that would stultify the work or embarrass the finances of local authorities. The subsection will not be used unless a situation arises in which a subsidy on the houses in question will genuinely no longer be needed.

The hon. Member for Fulham criticised the Bill in that there are only two rates of subsidy and not any interim ones. The Government considered the possibility of having some scale but, frankly, I believe that these arrangements are already sufficiently complicated and I doubt whether we should have improved them or made it easier for local authorities if we had introduced additional scales. Had we done so I think that we should have been more likely to increase than to reduce the sort of marginal anomaly to which the hon. Gentleman called attention in his speech and which we discussed in the Standing Committee in relation to one or two Welsh authorities.

The hon. Member for Fulham asserted—wishing, I know, to refute what I said in moving the Second Reading of the Bill—that the Bill was no major contribution to housing progress. We shall see. We shall all have to submit ourselves to the test of results here. At any rate, I can say that the Bill breaks fresh ground in more directions than one.

First, the Bill introduces a fundamental change in the subsidy system by making subsidy henceforth depend upon the actual or potential financial resources of the local authorities. I am grateful to the local authorities and the local authority associations for the calm and reasonable way in which they have received that radical change and shown that, whether individually they like it or not, they are all ready to try it out and seek to work it.

Secondly, the Bill breaks fresh ground in a direction which I have already mentioned. It gives local authorities not only strengthened powers, but same powers which are wholly new to deal with the squalid conditions in houses occupied by several families. Here again, the proof of the pudding will be in the eating. I am not speaking of the "pudding" to which the hon. Member for Fulham referred. What I am speaking about is what should concern us all—the sort of lives our fellow-citizens have to live in some of the places where they find themselves.

My own impression is that as the years go on, and local authorities vigorously implement the powers in Part II of the Bill, the health visitors, the home nurses, the public health inspectors and the social workers, who all gain experience in such conditions, will not seek to dismiss Part II as of no account. I believe that if the local authorities use wisely and tirelessly the new powers which they are given we shall gradually see an improvement and gradually the squalor which is a disgrace to the country will disappear until it is gone for ever.

The hon. Member for Widnes has told me frequently in the course of our proceedings on the Bill that the Government's legislative programme is in a muddle. I would only say that today we are giving a Third Reading to a Bill which implements a whole range of proposals in a comprehensive White Paper published a bare four-and-a-half months ago.

No Bill will, of itself, secure enough good homes for everybody. Please do not let my hon. Friend the Member for Clapham (Dr. Alan Glyn) think that he is embarrassing me by the kind of speech which he made today. Not a bit. He is helping me. We want that kind of pressure. We want that kind of constructive criticism. We want, above all, people reminding the country that housing problems are not cured by Acts of Parliament. An Act is only the beginning. All we can do here is to frame the legislative skeleton. It must be given flesh and blood by local authorities, housing associations, builders and people of vigour and good will who care about the unhappy conditions in which still far too many people are having to live in my hon. Friend's constituency and mine and elsewhere in the big cities.

Do not let my hon. Friend or anybody else imagine that I think that the Bill is the last word on housing. I believe that housing policy has to evolve from year to year and decade to decade, and that from time to time Parliament must make fresh legislative provision for the needs that lie immediately ahead. I am sure that in the next Parliament there will be another Housing Bill—and I hope that it will be as comprehensive a one as this—to meet the needs of that day.

But, as I have said, to secure enough good homes for everybody depends on the vigorous determination of builders, architects, planners, local authorities, housing associations—everybody. We must get the legislative framework right. No Minister of Housing and no one who cares about the housing situation must ever forget that we have 3⅔million houses in England and Wales which are now more than eighty years old. The limelight is so often focused on the slums or the squalid houses in multi-occupation, or on some other feature, but at the back of it all we have that immense mass of older houses which have progressively to be replaced. That is one reason, and only one, why we must contemplate for years a big housing programme.

If I may revert to the White Paper, which is, in a sense, the father of the Bill, we have said there—and I reassert it—that during these last sixteen years there has been an immense improvement in the housing situation. The census figures which have just come out testify to that.

But again, as the White Paper says, and as I am not afraid to repeat in the House of Commons, it is not yet enough. There are still serious housing shortages in some areas. There remains some terribly bad housing. I should like hon. Members in their own constituencies, if they feel that there are housing conditions which are not being adequately tackled by the local authority or are not sufficiently known to the Minister of Housing, to take action themselves and expose them and bring all the pressure they can to bear on the local authority or otherwise to speed up action, bearing in mind that no local authority and no Minister can do everything at one time. All must be phased.

In the Bill we have implemented proposals in the White Paper which, as stated there, should give fresh impetus to solve the housing and slum clearance problems of big towns and cities, speed up building for old people, start a drive against overcrowding and squalid conditions in houses in multi-occupation, help local authorities which are in genuine difficulty about completing their housing tasks, point the way to a new development in building to let, and hasten the modernising of thousands of older houses.

These and the continued high rate of new building are the prime needs of the next few years. My concern as Minister is to give an unceasing lead: to get about and see for myself: to prod where prods are required and to praise where praise is earned: and, above all, with the backing of the House of Commons, to get those prime needs met. Housing Bills are not concerned with inanimate units; they are concerned with men, women and children and, above all, homes.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.

European Common Market

7.1 p.m.

I beg to move,

That this House, being gravely concerned at the pressure to make this country enter a European common market and the consequent threat to subject its independence, its membership of the Commonwealth and its right and power to plan its economy in its own way, to a political union with Germany, France, Italy and Benelux, as well as at the threat to the survival of the Commonwealth inherent in these proposals, urges Her Majesty's Government not to enter into any negotiations concerning such entry until expressly empowered so to do by a conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers and by this House.

It might be convenient if I indicate now that, of the Amendments to the Motion, I intend to call that standing in the name of the hon. Member for Hertfordshire, South-West (Mr. Longden) and other hon. Members, and none of the others. The Amendment is, in line I, to leave out from "House" to the end and to add:

"conscious of the threat to the Free World inherent in the present divisions of Europe, would support Her Maejsty's Government in entering into negotiation with the European Economic Community after consultation with the members of the Commonwealth, and with due regard to the interests of British agriculture and of the European Free Trade Association".

I have the leave of the House to move this Motion by reason of the fact that, on 13th June, I was successful in the Ballot for Motions in private Members' time. The House will forgive a personal reference. This is the second time in my nearly twenty-six years' membership of the House that I have been so fortunate.

It happened to me the first time when I had been a Member only three or four months, and on that occasion I moved a Motion about the plight of Lancashire, to which, also, there was an Amendment, and I like to remember that I carried it to a Division and nearly succeeded in defeating the Government. There were 97 votes on one side and 93 on the other. In those days I convinced myself, rightly or wrongly, that I would have defeated the Government of the day if half my hon. Friends had not been away from the House attending a reception at the Soviet Embassy. Where the majority of my right hon. and hon. Friends are on this occasion it would be idle to speculate, and I would not impute to their absence any motive induced by any improper source to embarrass the proper use of private Members' time.

I chose this Motion because it has always seemed to me that, although it is not the only function which private Members might perform if they are lucky in the Ballot, it is, nevertheless, one of the most important that the occasion may be used, and on suitable occasions should be used, for important questions of national, and, indeed, of international policy for which neither the Government of the day nor the official Opposition are ready, no doubt for good and sufficient reasons, to find time.

On this occasion there was no doubt about the importance which was attached to the subject of my Motion. I cannot do better than to quote the Prime Minister, who said, on 13th June:
"I think that both parties are broadly agreed that these are very grave issues for the future of our country and the world, and that we must try to think about them objectively to see if we can find a solution."
Later, he said:
"I think that the mood of the House as a whole is that this is a very serious and almost solemn question that we have to consider."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th June, 1961; Vol. 642, c. 209.]
If that is so, it was perhaps a pity that we did not have, in a more official way, the opportunity to consider this solemn and important question, and I hope, therefore, that the House will bear with me if I offer it in, I hope, not too long a speech the opportunity of considering it tonight and of coming to a decision.

When I say a decision, I am not pretending for a moment that this is the proper time or the proper occasion for deciding whether this country shall or shall not become one of those countries in Europe which accept the provisions of the Treaty of Rome, or for coming to any decision in substance at all. There are some matters which are common to all of us in the House. One I have already referred to—the historic and fundamentally important nature of the decision, whether to join or not to join, that we ultimately take. I think that we are all agreed about that.

Then, I think that we are all agreed about something else. Certainly, the Prime Minister was perfectly clear about it. It is that in no circumstances would any hon. Member, as I understand it, be prepared to sign the Treaty of Rome as it stands, without amendment, without modification, or without safeguards. I think that there is no doubt that that is common ground.

:The hon. Member will understand, I am sure, that I cannot give way to interruptions without taking too great a share of what must necessarily be a short debate.

When I say "sign the Treaty of Rome", I mean to enter into association with the European Economic Community on the unamended lines set out in the Treaty now. There is nobody who is in favour of doing that.

Then there is a third proposition which I also claim to be common ground. Certainly, if there are differences about this, as there may well be, they are not differences between the Government Front Bench and me. This proposition is that not merely ought we not at this moment to decide to join, with or without amendment, but at this moment we should not decide even to negotiate to see whether suitable amendments or suitable safeguards or suitable conditions can be arrived at. The Prime Minister was very clear about this and I venture to quote him again. Time after time during this exchange of questions he returned to this point.

The right hon. Gentleman said:
"The question is exactly what is meant by' before decisions are taken'. There is first a decision to negotiate, and then, much later, a decision, as a result of negotiations, to see whether any satisfactory arrangements can be made."
Then, later, he said:
"The first thing is to get these Commonwealth discussions before any further discussions between ourselves and the members of the Six."
A little later still, he said:
"The only decision now is whether or not to enter into negotiations which may or may not be successful"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th June, 1961; Vol 642, c. 205–7.]
I have borne all that in mind in framing my Motion. I do not pretend—it would be idle to pretend, because nobody would believe me if I attempted it—that my Motion does not indicate a personal view, a personal view which, in due course, I shall shortly defend. But the operative part of my Motion does not invite the House to agree, even in principle, to join or not to join the Common Market. It says only that before any decision is taken—which the Prime Minister says has not yet been taken—to enter into negotiation which may produce a constructive and favourable result or may not, and after which alone we may decide to enter or not to enter, before there is a decision to negotiate on behalf of the United Kingdom and inevitably, also, on behalf of the British Commonwealth, the Government must make sure that they have the authority to negotiate from those on whose behalf they are seeking to negotiate.

That is a very reasonable proposition and it is a proposition which could command the support of everyone, whether his inclinations are to be in favour of the Common Market, or not to be in favour of it. No one can deny—this, again, is one of the things which I claim always to have been common ground—that this decision of historical importance is a decision of historical importance for the United Kingdom and also for the Commonwealth and for a number of other people on whose behalf the Government are not entitled to negotiate.

If the future of our country and the confederation of countries which is mow the Commonwealth are fundamentally at stake, if it is important to both whether we take the right or wrong decision, it cannot be too extravagant a proposition, too cautious a line, to say that we should first make sure before we enter upon any negotiations that the people who are to be affected by their result wish us to negotiate.

That brings me to the Amendments. I studied them to see which, if any, was in contradiction with that proposition. I could find none. The Amendment which you have indicated that you intend to call, Mr. Speaker, says:
"conscious of the threat to the Free World inherent in the present divisions of Europe, would support Her Majesty's Government in entering into negotiation with the European Economic Community after consultation with the members of the Commonwealth, and with due regard to the interests of British agriculture and of the European Free Trade Association".
Although that Amendment arrives at its conclusion by a road very different from mine and in conflict with it, nevertheless it accepts the conditions precedent for which I am pleading—that there should be the authority of the House and that there should be prior consultations and, presumably agreements, with the Commonwealth before the negotiations start. That is my Motion. It may be said that it is arrived at for different reasons. No doubt it is, but I hope that the House will accept the proposition that it is no derogation to the proposition that two and two make four that it is accepted by many people who do not agree about anything else.

If it is conceded that one cannot negotiate with any authority, that one cannot negotiate with any effect, or make the negotiation real or acceptable, unless it is clear that one is negotiating with the authority and with the leave and with the permission of those on whose behalf one is negotiating, that is the first Amendment. I hope that, having heard that explanation, the hon. Member for Hertfordshire, South-West (Mr. Longden), although he will be called to move it, may feel that it is not worth while to move his Amendment. He can undoubtedly say that he wants us eventually to go in, just as I shall say that at present I do not accept that we ought to go in. What he cannot say, because his Amendment is in defiance of it, is that we ought to negotiate without first giving the Government the authority of those on whose behalf they seek to negotiate.

I say nothing about the Amendment of the hon. Members who sit immediately behind me, on the Liberal Bench. They want Her Majesty's Government just to negotiate, but even they are accepting the first half of my Motion and giving the Government the authority to negotiate. Their Amendment urges
Her Majesty's Government to negotiate for United Kingdom membership of the European Economic Community".
Apparently they do not care, so far as we are to judge from the wording of their Amendment, whether the Commonwealth wants us to go in or whether it does not. They do not care about our agriculture. They do not care about our standard of living. They have nothing to say about our right to control our own affairs. They have nothing to say about our planning our own economy.

All they say is, "Go in and negotiate". Negotiate about what? Nothing is laid down. They do not say, "Get authority. They do not try to find out whether anybody wants us to negotiate or for what we are to negotiate and they do not decide what we want to get out of the negotiations. All that, they say, is immaterial. They say, "Just go and negotiate". I feel sure that even if you called their Amendment, Mr. Speaker, hon. Members on the Liberal Bench would not seriously contend that.

Then I come to the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Stechford (Mr. Roy Jenkins): This is like the first Amendment. It seeks to
"leave out from first 'the' to end and add 'political and economic isolation facing this country if it remains out of the European Community, and with the corresponding threat to Great Britain's future influence, standard of living and ability to assist the development of the Commonwealth'"—
and, conscious of all that—
"urges Her Majesty's Government to seek early discussion with the Commonwealth Prime Ministers"—
this is wonderful—
"and approval from this House for negotiating full United Kingdom membership of the European Economic Community".

My hon. Friend wants the negotiations to take place and he wants them to be successful. He believes, for the reasons which he gives, that it would be a good thing. But, as much as I do, he says, in effect, that there should be no negotiation until the House has given approval and until the Commonwealth has given approval. Why in the world, in those circumstances, he wanted to put an Amendment on the Order Paper, instead of merely making a speech in support of our going in, I do not know.

I do not give every member of the Commonwealth the right to veto, which my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) specifically does.

:I will not take up time answering points like that. There is not a word about veto in my Motion, nor does it say that the conference of Prime Ministers of the Commonwealth must be unanimous. This is a fantasy which my hon. Friend has read into the Motion to give him some semblance of justification for having put his Amendment down, which otherwise he would not have had. It is clear that in the substantive part of it he believes, as I believe, and as I am sure we all believe, that if we are to negotiate with effect we had better negotiate with the authority of the beneficiaries of the negotiation.

What in the world does
"political and economic isolation facing this country if it remains out of the European Community"
mean? For my part, I would not be afraid of the word "isolation" [Laughter.]—in the sense that my hon. Friend means. I remember when this country was last isolated. We were last isolated in June, 1940, and for the rest of that year.

:It was described by the then Prime Minister as this country's finest hour, and I believe that it was. If it had really been the truth that a united Europe was the overwhelming consideration, the overriding factor which we had to decide to justify, whether we remained isolated or not, in June, 1940, we had a united Europe, and it was the determination of this country that we should bring it to an end as soon as possible; and we did bring it to an end.

Suppose we did not go in. We would be isolated with Sweden, and Norway, and Denmark, and Austria, and Switzerland—[HON. MEMBERS: "And Portugal."]—and Portugal, and India, and Australia, and Canada, but not with South Africa any more. That is not isolation. There is no isolation involved here.

One is not isolated from Europe because one does not join France and Germany and Italy. It is a great illusion to suppose that the great dream of European unity which all of us in our time have found so fascinating and attractive is to be achieved by the European Economic Community. Nonsense. The European Economic Community is a step away from the unity of Europe. It is a step towards the perpetuation of division in Europe. It is inspired not by economic considerations, but by political considerations, and by political considerations which few hon. Members in this House would support if they got down to understanding them properly.

Why is it that Sweden, and Austria, and Switzerland, would not, and could not, follow us into this Common Market, this so-called European Community? It is because they feel that their neutrality would be prejudiced and embarrassed if they came in. There can be no true unity of Europe in circumstances in which a nation cannot feel that it can join without committing itself to one side or the other in our dangerous, distracted world.

European unity even on economic grounds requires much more than Italy and Germany and France, even if we throw in Holland and Belgium. It requires much more even if we were to concede the impossible that the Scandinavian countries would come in too. There can be no economic unity without Central Europe. How does one do it on any basis not solely inspired by the narrower political considerations if one really wants a wide area of common citizenship, free movement of people, the breaking down of customs barriers, and all the other things which would be necessary to make an economically viable large market comparable with the Soviet Union, on the one hand, or the United States of America, on the other, without including Central European markets? It is a fantastic notion to suppose it.

I invite the House to consider what we risk by going into this "phoney" gerrymandering of bits of Europe in the name of a United States of Europe or a common European Community. My right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) had something to say the other day about the dangers to the Commonwealth, and was greeted by the Prime Minister with what I thought was an unworthy sneer, only to be explained, if not justified, by the depth to which my right hon. Friend had pierced his skin.

I do not know whether the Prime Minister would like to rewrite any of the New Testament parables, but it would make a very different story if, when the prodigal son returned repentent and of a new mind, his father greeted him not with the fatted calf, but with a jeer. I should have thought that even if it were true that hon. Members on this side of the House had, in the past, taken the wrong view about the British Commonwealth, and were now taking the right view, this would be a thing to be welcomed and not sneered at from the other side of the House. I am surprised that the Prime Minister, even momentarily, should allow himself to be betrayed into any other behaviour, but there is no foundation for the charge that was made.

It is quite true that this party, from its inception—as, indeed, the Liberal Party through most of its career—has been very critical and will remain very critical and sometimes bitterly ashamed of some of the things that have been done in our name and in the name of the Empire—and, indeed, of the Commonwealth.

But we are moving from that. We are moving from it fast. I hope that no one will mind if I say that on the other side of the House there are some who are still fighting a bitter rearguard action to prevent the kind of improvement that makes us now support the British Commonwealth when, formerly, we were critical of it. The tide of history is against them. We have a long way to go and a lot to achieve. But, by and large, the British Commonwealth of Nations remains almost the only and quite the best free association of free peoples acting together for peace throughout the world.

It has some colour bars left. We are trying to get rid of those. We have even gone so far as to deny membership to one powerful and wealthy former member of the Commonwealth because its standards of human rights were such that we thought them not compatible with the general view that the Commonwealth was meant to serve. But, on the whole, has history a better example to show of Empire changing over into a free partnership of peoples? This remains the heart of it: a little colour bar; no racial bars; no veto; no Supreme Council; no binding obligations of a legal or constitutional nature—and yet a solidity and stability that have borne all the heavy tests of the twentieth century and, if we leave it undisturbed, will bear more.

Does anybody suppose that we do not risk an undermining or an impairment of that great historic achievement by the kind of association that is recommended here? Of course we risk it. There may be ways of avoiding it, or of overcoming it, or of reconciling the two things. It may at some time be right to negotiate for such a reconciliation. All I am asking the House to decide tonight is that if we negotiate we should negotiate with the authority of our Commonwealth partners—we should consult them, and consult this House.

When we have the agreement of both to begin negotiations, then let us negotiate, and good luck go with us. But do not let us, in this conjuncture of events and on this historic and solemn issue, as the Prime Minister described it, slip in by the back door, sneak in by an unauthorised negotiation of which we are told nothing. Let us do it with our eyes open, having made up our minds, having weighed the pros and cons, and having come to a clear decision. Then let us tell our Government and representatives to go in and negotiate on our behalf.

But until then let us not negotiate. Let us insist that the Government go very cautiously indeed, and that they hold their conference and obtain the consent of the Commonwealth countries in an adequate way and then get the authority of the House of Commons. Until then, let them do nothing. I invite all quarters of the House to support me in that proposition.

7.35 p.m.

beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:

"conscious of the threat to the Free World inherent in the present divisions of Europe, would support Her Majesty's Government in entering into negotiation with the European Economic Community after consultation with the members of the Commonwealth, and with due regard to the interests of British agriculture and of the European Free Trade Association".
I ought to explain to those who are as uninitiated as I was when I put down the Amendment that we have not been able to amend the title of the Motion or the first line and a half, so that the Motion, as amended, would still call attention to the danger of our entering the Common Market. That is somewhat ironic, because one of our objects in putting down the Amendment was to eliminate any reference to the danger alluded to by the hon. Member.

Milton must have foreseen this evening when he wrote, in "Paradise Regained":
"Ye see our danger on the utmost edge Of hazard, which admits no long debate."
That we can debate the subject at all, albeit for only three hours, is thanks to the private enterprise of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman). I, for one, am grateful to him for that, and also for the manner in which he moved this Motion, with his usual eloquence, wit and clarity. For it is an issue which, as he says, the Prime Minister has described as one of the two most momentous of those which face our country today.

Nevertheless, I ask the hon. Member not to press his Motion to a Division this evening. The Commonwealth is being consulted. It is not our constitutional practice for the Executive to consult the House of Commons before they come to a decision. It is after the Executive come to a decision that they bring it before the House for approval. It must he obvious to everybody that at the moment there are some differences of approach to this issue. That is illustrated by the fact that some 40 other hon. Members have put their names to no fewer than five different Amendments. Few Motions can have collected between the sheets of the Order Paper so many strange bedfellows.

In spite of the number of Amendments, I believe that opinion in this House—although not yet fully formed—can be divided into three groups. First, as the hon. Member has said, there are those who would sign the Treaty of Rome as it stands. They—including the whole of the Liberal Party—can probably be numbered on the fingers of one hand. Secondly, there are those who would have nothing more to do with continental Europe than we have at present and who would pin their hopes for our economic expansion, and therefore for our political security, solely upon the Commonwealth of Nations. I hope that I shall not set the cat among the pigeons and disturb the even tenor of this debate when I say that I was surprised to see among that group the lion of Chigwell lying down with the lamb of Easington.

Thirdly, there are those—and I include myself among them—who believe that we should long since have taken the opportunity offered by Article 237 of the Treaty to any European State, and sought to negotiate terms upon which we could enter the Community to the mutual advantage of ourselves, the Commonwealth, our E.F.T.A. partners and the Six.

I would remind the House of what Article 237 says. I find that outside the House few people who so freely express opinions on this issue have seen so much as the outside of the Treaty of Rome. In this House, of course, it is only necessary for me to remind hon. Members that Article 237 reads as follows:
"The conditions of admission, and the amendments to this Treaty necessitated thereby, shall be the subject of an agreement between the Member States and the applicant State."
So that amendments to enable the accession of other European States were envisaged from the very outset. Professor Hallstein said in Hamburg only last month that there is
"no suggestion that Britain was being asked to make a complete surrender to the terms of the Treaty."
It is true that in considering any application the Council must act by means of a unanimous vote, that is to say that any member of the Six may veto any application. Whether any of them would do so in our case will never be resolved unless and until we can bring ourselves to negotiate. Where I venture to disagree with Her Majesty's Government is that if, after negotiation, one of the Six were to veto our application we should be in any worse position than we are now. I think that we should be in a better position, for the certainty that one avenue was closed might spur us to explore others, such as bringing the whole of E.F.T.A. into the Commonwealth more resolutely.

If we were to go into the European Community on whatever terms, some businesses would gain and some would lose. So they will if we stay out. The chairman of I.C.I. said at the annual general meeting last month:

"There is every indication that … these markets"—
he was referring to the European markets—
"will give that security and resilience in our exports as a whole, which would be absent if we had too great a concentration on the Commonwealth and the Americas".
But it is impossible to assess the precise effects on any business, or upon the Commonwealth, until we know the terms upon which we would go in.

The main point, the point which I particularly wish to stress, is that this matter is not solely—here I agree with the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne—nor even chiefly, a matter of £ s. d. We in the West, particularly in Europe, have created a civilisation upon foundations laid long ago in Greece, Rome and in Palestine. We like to live subject to laws whose purpose is to prevent liberty from becoming licence and which are passed by elected representatives of the people and not at the whim of any one man or of an oligarchy. That civilisation and that way of life are today openly threatened by Communism. No attempt it made to hide the threat and it should not frighten us. On the contrary, it should make us the more determined that all our policy must be shaped to withstand it.

I do not believe that Europe—and that includes us—is pulling its weight in this stupendous struggle. Its present division, now economic but potentially also political, is, as our Amendment says, a threat to the free world, or as I would prefer to say, to the Atlantic Alliance. I agree with Mr. James Reston's recent comment in the New York Times that
"the Alliance is out of balance mainly because Europe is not doing what it could do … and that partly is because it has abdicated; and partly because the United States has been willing to carry the load long after Europe was able to do much more in its own defence."
How much longer will the United States be willing to do it? That is why I support the fundamental objective of the Rome Treaty, namely,
"to establish the foundations of an ever closing union among the European peoples."
All of those peoples; we are one of them and that is why I believe that the dangers prophesied in this Motion are nothing compared with the actual danger of a rift in the unity and therefore in the strength of the Western Alliance.

May I remind the House why we cannot sign the Treaty of Rome as it stands and of the obstacles which have to be overcome before we could conceivably enter the European community; and may I deal with them—there are four—in the ascending order of difficulty?

First, the free trade association between the Seven or the Eight. I believe that if the obstacles which prevented us from joining the Community could be overcome, it should not prove too difficult to bring in our partners either as full members or, in the case of those who are neutral, by inclination or treaty, in a mutually acceptable association. At any rate, we are bound in honour not to leave them out on a limb.

Secondly, there is our agriculture. In our 1959 General Election Manifesto my party gave a pledge
"that the long-term assurances to agriculture contained in the 1957 Act will continue for the lifetime of the next Parliament."
That is to say at the latest until October, 1964. But it is unlikely, as I think everybody would agree, that the Six will have agreed upon their "common agricultural policy" much before that date, or have begun to implement it. And after that date it is likely that in any case we should have to devise some other method of maintaining "a healthy and prosperous agriculture" in these islands.

Certainly we could all agree to collaborate in attaining the declared objects of the common agricultural policy of the Six which are to increase productivity, ensure a fair standard of living for the agricultural population, stabilise markets, guarantee regular supplies and ensure reasonable prices.

Thirdly, there is the Commonwealth. In one of the earliest White Papers on this question—Cmd. 72 of February, 1957—it is stated that:
"Her Majesty's Government could not contemplate entering arrangements which would make it impossible for the United Kingdom to treat imports from the Commonwealth at least as favourably as those from Europe."
That, so far as I know, remains the Government's policy. And rightly so. For no European, however impatient with Britain's hesitation, could expect her to discriminate against imports from her colonial territories. The question is, therefore, can we negotiate similar terms for our associated overseas territories to those which the Six—or those of the Six which have them, four of them—have done for theirs? If we can, the Commonwealth will be strengthened and not weakened by our doing so.

It does no service to the Commonwealth to pretend that it is something which it is not, and I cannot but think that we have at least as much in common with the ancient nations of continental Europe as we have with some members of the new Commonwealth. I am as proud as anyone in this House of our achievement in having led so many divers races and creeds through the paths of peace and justice to sovereign independence. But, except for our remaining Colonies, our work is done, and we have been gracefully thanked by those who have benefited from it. From now on we may influence by our example; we can no longer command their allegiance. If anyone is tempted to forget that the nations of the Commonwealth are independent, I recommend him to study the behaviour of some of the new members at the United Nations.

Let me say this before I leave the subject of the Commonwealth. In 1959 a Study Conference, organised by Chatham House, was held at Palmerston, New Zealand. Sixty delegates came there from fifteen countries and my right hon. Friend the present Minister of Aviation chaired the Economic Sub-Committee. It was then agreed that the Governments of all the Commonwealth countries should urgently consider conducting joint negotiations with the European group because the only alternative was that each must, sooner or later, negotiate with it separately, and therefore on a weaker wicket.

Surely that was the sensible and obvious thing to have done. But conference after conference of Prime and other Ministers have taken place since then and nothing has been done. A fortnight ago I asked my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister why he, somewhat cavalierly, dismissed the concept as having been totally unrealistic. But to those outside it seemed more likely that the Government were then, and until quite recently, drifting rudderless upon a sea of indecision. Now it is to be hoped that they have plotted a course and that they will, as soon as possible, take this House and the country into their confidence.

Lastly there is the question of sovereignty. Although the Treaty of Rome says nothing about Federation we all know that much closer ties are the aim of its signatories. Professor Hallstein has said:
"What we have built up is essentially political in character, and its trend is to expand further and further into the political sphere."
The question is how much further? M. Monnet says:
"It is too early to predict."
But could we not, and should we not, have a say in the shape of things to come? We shall not if we stay on the sidelines. Surely we could at least agree with President de Gaulle that:
"Of course the nations must not cease to be themselves; and the path to be followed must be that of organised co-operation between States while waiting to achieve, perhaps, an imposing confederation."
"Organised co-operation" between all those states but do not leave to others the defence of freedom is the least we must aim at and we are far from having it now. It will mean some abrogation of sovereignty, though less perhaps than that we should have to surrender in a treaty of general and complete disarmament. I am ready to face that. Are Her Majesty's Government? It is difficult to tell from their many delphic utterances. I could quote countless extracts from speeches by my right hon. Friends dating from the days when the Prime Minister and half the Cabinet— when out of office—crusaded for a United Europe. Here are a few of the more recent:
"Our purpose is a united Europe and we accept the need for some political organisation as an element in this unity."
That was the present Chancellor of the Exchequer in this House last July.

"We need unity—a wider unity transcending traditional barriers: unity of purpose, of method, of organisation."
That was my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in Boston in April.

"Britain in Europe could contribute more to the Commonwealth than Britain out of Europe."
My right hon. and noble Friend the Foreign Secretary in Chicago this month. While in the Treaty which forms Western European Union we undertook as one of its signatories
"to promote the unity and encourage the progressive integration of Europe"
whatever that word means. The only thing I know about it is that it is the opposite of disintegration. Even my hon. Friend the Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison), who is in his place, began a letter to The Times on 2nd June with these words:
"We favour unity with Continental Europe and regret British failures to take the initiative"
—which is only a summary of this Amendment. But what does "unity" mean in all these contexts? If it means anything at all it must surely mean that Her Majesty's Government could declare that, subject to the successful outcome of negotiations covering the Commonwealth, E.F.T.A. and agriculture, they will join the Community.

The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne has mentioned some of the drawbacks and what he calls the dangers. I should like to suggest a few different lines of thought in concluding my speech. The voice of Europe in the councils of the West will soon be the voice of the Community. Ought we not to be part of that Community so as to strengthen and modulate that voice? I am certain that to play a leading part in Europe need be in no way incompatible with our rôle as head of the Commonwealth and that Commonwealth trade would benefit. I am certain that we shall not be able to aid our developing territories, either with money or trade, nearly so effectively if at all if we stay out of Europe.

If as some Jeremiahs in the Press seem to think we cannot compete with continental competition in our home markets, how do they think our exports are to fare in continental markets, or how are we to compete with continental exports in world markets, if we stay out? And it is possible that our biennial crises which no Chancellor can cure and the root cause of which is that these islands can never be self-supporting, may not recur if we were part of a domestic market of 250 million people.

I am quite sure that of any agreement which may ultimately be reached we shall be able to paraphrase Oliver Goldsmith's remark about his "Vicar of Wakefield":
"There are an hundred beauties in this work and an hundred things may be said to prove them blemishes".
But where does the balance of advantage lie? The anti-Europeans, if I may call them so, seem to me to have very little faith in their own country. It is necessary to change our habits of thinking in the confident knowledge that change can be our ally. The days of Sir William Gilbert and Mr. Rudyard Kipling, glorious as they were, are over, and we live in a world as different from theirs as theirs was from that of the Elizabethans.

7.56 p.m.

With the general direction of the argument of the hon. Member for Hertfordshire, South-West (Mr. Long-den) and with many of his points, I find myself in fairly close agreement, although I would not quite share his confidence about the skill on which the Government are steering us between these three difficulties of British agriculture, the Commonwealth and E.F.T.A., at least one of which is entirely of our own creation.

However, I should like to turn primarily to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne Mr. S. Silverman). Towards the end of his speech, I thought he put some of the objections to our going into Europe with great force and great oratorical effect. I was sorry that in the earlier part of his speech he indulged in what I thought a lot of periphrastic chop logic in an effort to show that the Motion and my Amendment on the Paper meant the same. They do not mean the same, for they represent two entirely different approaches of Britain to Europe. We should face that and not try to prove that there is a unity of approach on some purely procedural question.

I hesitate to interrupt my hon. Friend, but what I said about the similarity was only said about the operative part of the Motion and the Amendment. I conceded, as I could scarcely conceal, that the approaches were fundamentally different.

My hon. Friend devoted a great part of his speech to saying that he could not understand why I and others had put our names to this Amendment because apparently the Motion and the Amendment led to the same conclusion, but I say that they lead to an entirely different approach. I think my hon. Friend made clear in his Motion and by his speech that there are three objections to Britain's going into Europe. All three of these objections are to a large extent common to what I would call the nostalgic Imperialist isolationists on both sides of the House. I think the element of nostalgia in my hon. Friend's approach came out most clearly in a most effective part—rhetorically—of his speech when he asked why we should fear isolation, were we not last isolated at Dunkirk? If that approach to the sixties and seventies is not dangerously nostalgic, I do not know what is. The Dunkirk spirit as a recipe for action in 1940 was all very well, but as a cushion for complacency in 1961 it is an extreme national danger. And did we welcome being put in that position in 1940? Why were we put in it? It was because of what had happened in Europe in the previous ten years and which we in Britain had failed to influence. That created the extremely dangerous position for us.

I was surprised when my hon. Friend then switched from a summoning up of the Dunkirk spirit to a summoning up of the absolute importance of neutrality from the point of view of this country by asking how we could possibly go into this European Community when neutrals like Sweden, Switzerland and Austria felt that they could not go into it without impairing their neutrality. My hon. Friend rather boxed the compass between these two arguments. I do not know what my hon. Friend thinks Sweden and Switzerland were doing when he was so proud of our position in 1940; and I do not think that he can urge the spirit of Dunkirk and the advantages of neutrality upon us at one and the same time. Three objections emerge from the Motion.

Germany was fighting against us. One of the reasons why we should go into Europe is that I do not want to see again the division in Europe which has precipitated three wars in the last 100 years. French rapprochment with Germany makes it less likely than ever before. I cannot dismiss this as a light or unimportant achievement so easily as some hon. Members are apparently able to do.

Three fundamental objections emerge from the Motion and from a large part of the speech of my hon. Friend. The first is that echoed by some hon. Members opposite, that by going in we should be sacrificing the Commonwealth and choosing Europe instead of the Commonwealth when we ought to choose the Commonwealth. I think that this argument, as it is constantly put, presents an entirely false choice. This came out very clearly by my hon. Friend's extraordinarily loose use of the words "Commonwealth confederation" on one occasion and on another occasion "Federation of Commonwealth Nations". Does my hon. Friend believe that the Commonwealth is a confederation or a federation? It cannot be both, and in my view it is neither.

I corrected the use of the word at once. It was a slip of the tongue and I said instead an association, a partnership of free nations.

I accept, of course, the correction of my hon. Friend, but he used the term twice. The important thing, however, is not who said what but the substance of the point.

The substance of the point is that the Commonwealth offers no such alternative to a fairly tight grouping as Europe offers at the present time. So far as I know, no one in the Commonwealth wants this or has advocated it. The Commonwealth, I believe, is unsuitable on a great number of counts to be a tight, economic or political unity. I do not believe that anyone in the Commonwealth believes that it should be. Indeed, the tendency in recent years, initiated to a large extent by Whitehall, but I think welcomed and encouraged outside in other parts of the Commonwealth, has been towards a far looser economic unity than there was ten years ago. Certainly there has been no closer movement towards political unity.

Will the hon. Gentleman explain to the House why he thinks that it is necessary for us to enter into a tight economic community.

I am coming to that. I am saying that the choice which the noble Lord and his allies, like the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne, present to the House on this issue of either going into a tight union with the Commonwealth or with Europe is in fact a false choice, and that no such opportunity exists in the case of the Commonwealth. Indeed, if there were an opportunity to go into a tight union with the Commonwealth, I wonder what many of the present opponents going into Europe and the present upholders of Commonwealth unity would say about it. I wonder what the Daily Express, which has been carrying out an extraordinary programme of misrepresentation hardly paralleled in the history of British journalism, would say about what really is happening in Europe. It is an extraordinary misrepresentation of simple facts. I wonder what the Daily Express, which is so worried about the effects of the Southern Italian standard of living upon us, would say if we were to merge ourselves into a tight union with Ghana or Malaya or India. The proposition is one from which most hon. Members opposite who share this point of view would recoil immediately.

In talking about the Commonwealth in this context, I ask people like the noble Lord and my hon. Friend, from their rather different points of view, which Commonwealth they have in mind. Do they mean the old white Commonwealth, or do they mean the new coloured Commonwealth—because there is a sharp distinction between those two Commonweaths in their attitude to Britain's relations with Europe? It is the old white Commonwealth, primarily New Zealand, and to a much lesser extent Australia and Canada, who are opposed to Britain's joining Europe; and Australia and Canada have not been particularly concerned about our economic interests in the past when they have wished to move away from us. It is the white Commonwealth which is primarily opposed to this move. The new Commonwealth, for extremely good reasons, is primarily interested in Britain as a source of capital and is at least open-minded on this issue—and some important countries are positively in favour of Britain going into Europe.

The new Commonwealth, as I say, is primarily interested in Britain and other countries as a source of capital. Whoever doubts that should look at the speed with which the emergent African nations are opening up missions in Bonn at present. Secondly, they are interested in Britain and Europe as a growing market—my hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton (Mr. Albu) made this point very powerfully in a meeting the other day—for simpler manufactured goods. If we want to assist the developing Commonwealth in the long run we must be prepared to take increasing numbers of simpler manufactured goods, even though that may make difficulty for some of our industries. Surely it would be very much better for us to have the whole of Western Europe helping us in sharing that necessary burden than that we should attempt to do it all on our own, or even that we should not do it at all.

I think that the Commonwealth objection is founded on a fundamental misconception, first of all about the nature of the Commonwealth, and secondly about the true desires of people in the Commonwealth, particularly in the new developing Commonwealth countries.

I turn to the second objection which emerges in many speeches which are put forward. It is that we do not want to get mixed up with possibly unstable political régimes in Europe. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne would add "reactionary régimes", although I am not sure whether the noble Lord would go with him all the way about that.

Is the word "reactionary" objectionable to my hon. Friend? Does he want to unite with Germany's Adenauer and with de Gaulle?

I certainly do not find that Dr. Adenauer or President de Gaulle are my ideal politicians, but nor, for that matter, do I find the Prime Minister my ideal politician. [HON. MEMBERS: "Or Diefenbaker."] Nor do I see the clear Socialist point between remaining insulated from Dr. Adenauer and President de Gaulle and going in fully with Mr. Diefenbaker, Mr. Menzies and Mr. Holyoake. The picture is not as simple as my hon. Friend and some others like to see it. Nevertheless, the view is put forward that these are unstable and possibly reactionary régimes in Europe. I would say several things on this. First, do not let us underestimate the degree of economic planning in Europe. I feel that France, in particular, has made more success of economic planning than many of my hon. Friends realise. She has been more successful in that respect than we have been in this country for a long time. If we could have an economic plan working as effectively as the French, that would be a very great step towards social and economic progress in this country.

But even if those régimes are unstable, even if France nearly had a civil war the other day and if Germany has a pretty murky political history, what follows? Does it follow that in those circumstances we should turn our back on Europe, believing in this way that by preserving our own little corner of sovereignty we can contract out of the difficulties of Europe? I am amazed that anyone who has lived through two world wars, through the history of Europe since 1914, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) has, can believe that this is a sensible or feasible proposition. It seems to me to show an extraordinary lack of both historical and geographical perspective.

Our sovereignty has been impaired overwhelmingly, and the pattern of all our lives has been affected by what has happened in Western Europe during the last fifty years. If we have this greater political facility and this greater political knowledge—and I hope that we shall not be too self-righteous about it—it would be both more sensible and right for us to go into Europe and to contribute these qualities as far as we can, rather than standing outside, self-righteously trying to preserve our little corner of sovereignty.

I turn to the third objection, which is one of sovereignty. I think that the surrender of sovereignty involved in signing the Rome Treaty, however it is signed, whether immediately or after long negotiations with many special protocols, can be greatly exaggerated. No doubt some surrender of sovereignty is involved. No doubt to the extent that Europe is a success and that we contribute to its being a success and have our say in how it shall be developed, that surrender of sovereignty may increase in the future. But I cannot altogether understand the position of some of my hon. Friends who appear to believe in world government as an objective which we must seek—and world government is certainly in the Labour Party's programme at present—but who recoil at even the limited amount of surrender of sovereignty which is involved in becoming part of a European economy.

Does it not occur to my hon. Friend that the principle of world government is based on world unity, whereas that of the Common Market is based on world division?

I doubt whether I share many of the premises on which my hon. Friend advanced that argument—whether what is happening in Western Europe is desirable. But the sovereignty argument is not about whether we in Britain, as a British Conservative Party or a British Labour Party, should be prepared to give up sovereignty to this body or that body. When people advance an argument about its affecting our ability to determine our own destiny, to plan things exactly as we want to plan them, and to determine our own policies, that is an argument which is not affected by whether we are giving up sovereignty to a world authority or to a more limited authority.

It does not affect the issue from the point of view whether this is a step which one ought to be willing to take. It is an argument only if one wishes to put the objections and the advantages in balance. But I have heard a great number of arguments put forward to say that we cannot countenance any interference with our ability to order our lives as we like in our own way in this country.

There is all the difference in the world between saying that we are willing to give up a measure of sovereignty for a particular purpose in some circumstances to some people, and what my hon. Friend proposes. It does not necessarily follow that we should be ready to give it up to anybody at any time.

There is all the difference in the world between making general statements that one is willing in some remote eventuality to give up sovereignty to a body which does not exist and being prepared to do something practical about it in the immediate future. I agree that there is a very great difference. Those who merely talk largely about giving up sovereignty and yet recoil from doing it in practice are working themselves into a false position.

I am not surprised that there is an alliance between my hon. Friend, the noble Lord and the hon. Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison) on this sort of thing. I always thought that the Suez Group and the extreme unilateral approach are the reverse sides of the same coin. They are both based on a greatly exaggerated view of Britain's importance in the world, and that is an extremely dangerous view for us to hold. It is by far the best thing that we should recognise our true position in the world, that we should contribute what we can to this great new movement which is growing up in Europe, and that at the same time we should get what we badly need—an injection of dynamism into our rather stagnant economy in this country. I hope that the Government will move towards Europe a great deal more decisively than they have yet shown any sign of doing.

8.17 p.m.

I, too, am grateful to the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) for raising this subject tonight. Now that he is a leader of an independent party he is performing the useful function of a Parliamentary minicab.

This subject has been under-debated in the House, and perhaps for good reasons we have tended to approach it from the wrong end. This is a very big argument indeed, and one cannot knock down a big argument with a small argument. We have tended, first, to look at some of the minor objections—for example, the tomato interests. The tomatoes interest is a perfectly respectable and good interest; but tomatoes by themselves could not be a sufficient argument for not entering the Common Market.

Next, there is the question of whether it will put up the cost of our food. Mr. Colin Clark has calculated that joining the Common Market might have the effect of putting up the cost of living by ·9 of one point. One single major wage settlement would have a larger effect upon the cost of living in this country. That kind of argument, therefore, is on a small scale.

What I want to do this evening is to try to consider the big arguments—some of the positive big arguments. There are many people answering negatively. I want to try to put the positive argument for joining the Common Market as well as to answer the arguments against it.

It is worth while thinking why it was that the Six signed the Rome Treaty. I believe that the answer is this. They saw and understood that a change of scale had come about in world affairs. At the beginning of this century no one would have contradicted anyone who said that Western Europe was the centre of the world. It was here that the inventions were made and the institutions were conceived which led to the great society, and it was here that military and economic power resided. Relatively, that position was bound to decline to a certain extent. America was being developed at a tremendous pace and Russia had already started industrialising. Nevertheless, as late as 1939 it was possible for a single country in Western Europe, Germany, to fight once again for the hegemony of Europe and hence have a dominant position in the world, just as France and Spain had done before. She failed, as they had done, but the point is that it was still possible for one country in old Europe to struggle for hegemony.

Surely these dreams have faded. They are dead. With modern weapons they are a nonsense. Modern atomic weapons give the advantage to those countries with distance and dispersion on their side. It would be utterly impossible for a single country in Western Europe, with its population crowded together into a relatively small space, to challenge the world as countries in Western Europe have challenged it in the past. And not to believe that is to write oneself down as an old gunboat type or worse.

The Six saw this change of scale very clearly. They saw that it would be utterly absurd for them to carry on their quarrels. They had fought each other often enough in the past, but they then had something to gain by doing so. Now there could be no point in fighting each other, when the chance of hegemony had gone. What they wanted to do by getting together as much as they could and by abolishing the criss-cross of tariffs was to get their affairs so mixed up that war between each other would be not only unthinkable but utterly impossible, as indeed to us war is impossible between England, Scotland and Wales. It may sometimes be thinkable, but it is quite impossible.

The other day I read again some words spoken by my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) at Zurich, in 1946. He said:
"I am now going to say something that will astonish you. The first step in the recreation of the European family must be the partnership of France and Germany."
It may have astonished his audience then, but is has happened.

This change of scale is true for us, too. In the old days we used to say that the integrity and independence of the Low Countries were vital to us. Surely the whole of Western Europe is now our "Low Countries". The scale has changed. It is because this unity of Europe is so vital to our defence that Communists are solidly both against the Common Market and against our joining it. The change of scale has not meant that Europe is necessarily safer. It has meant that the countries in Europe cannot threaten each other, but they are still being threatened by Russian Communism, Russia being the only country in Europe with both the will and the power to subvert Western Europe.

The scale has changed. This applies to weapons and to economics. I must give one example, though it is not altogether happy, it is very apt. We are often told that we ought to be going into space research and doing more with rockets, etc. I calculate that next year America will spend £2,600 million—pounds not dollars—on space research and missiles. That is £1,000 million more than we spend on the whole of our defence. Before the war a Spitfire cost £5,000. This is one illustration of how the change of scale operates everywhere.

The same is true in economic affairs. The expense of research is rapidly increasing all the time, and large research projects can be sustained only by a big market. Factories and plants tend to get larger all the time. The advantages of specialisation are unquestionably increasing. Size has a dynamic of its own. The Six are fairly well placed in the not too distant future to surpass the production of goods and services which is now America's. They may well surpass America in this respect in the not too distant future. This has a snowball effect, because the more rapidly they grow the more new processes will go there. More capital will flow in. I believe that it will go on faster and faster.

If we joined the Six, there would be a community with a population a good deal larger than that of Russia or America. It would be a community occupying the fairest part of the surface of the earth. It would be a community comprising the most intelligent, the most inventive and the most hardworking populations in the world. It would be a community well able to defend itself against the menace in Europe. Further, this country, with the added strength that membership of this community would give her, would be far better able to help the Commonwealth and far better able to do the most important thing of all, namely, to supply capital and know-how to under-developed countries. This is not so very fanciful or chimerical. We can see what is happening in Europe today. There is nothing fanciful about it. We should think very carefully before we cast aside the advantages which we might have by joining. So much for the positive case.

I turn now to consider the position if we do not join. In the economic field we should be deprived of the advantage of size and the greater market. Capital would tend to flow more and more to the Community and not here. We should lose a great deal in that way, but there is something more important than that. This country needs an external stimulus. What we want here is a good shake up. I resigned from the Government because I thought that the policy of my colleagues meant that they would slob on in the old way. Slob on in the old way they did, with the usual and inevitable results.

We cannot supply the stimulus. We need an external stimulus. So does the Labour Party. I see today that it has produced another policy. The right hon. Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson) has produced his "Four Year Plan" in the New Statesman. They are both hopelessly absurd. The figures in the plan of the right hon. Member for Huyton are pathetically dishonest. One would never expect them to be honest but one would sometimes expect them not to be pathetically dishonest. There is simply no future in that sort of thing. Typically enough, the right hon. Member for Huyton has now assumed on this issue his favourite pose of the little plastic bulldog.

If we do not join, the disadvantages will not be confined to economic affairs. As the House knows, the foreign policy of the Six is increasingly concerted between themselves. We are apt to be presented with a fait accompli. If we do not join, we shall not be able to rely upon our special position with the United States, which has been so valuable to us. I do not see that we can rely on that continuing. It will go on for a certain time. There is so much good faith between the Ministers of both countries and so much good faith and affection between officials on both sides that it will go on for quite a time, but as the relative power of the Six and ourselves changes so will our special position with the United States tend to decline.

Therefore, there are very strong arguments in favour of our joining. Many people say, "We agree, but what about the Commonwealth?" I do not want to shirk this issue in any way. There are two strands to the Commonwealth argument. The first, which I deeply respect, is that we are part of a family. We bear affection and loyalty to each other and we do not want to do anything to hurt or damage a member of the family.

The second argument, which is really a reversion to the dreams of Joseph Chamberlain at the beginning of the century, and which still turns up in the oddest quarters, is the idea that we can live off our own. It is the idea that by having closer union with the Commonwealth we can be economically self-sufficient. The argument of family affection I deeply sympathise with, and I deeply respect. But when we see some of the gnarled old Imperialists like the hon. Members for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun), Wednesbury (Mr. Stone-house) and Penistone (Mr. Mendelson)—when we see these types climbing on the bandwagon—it makes one feel ever so slightly sick.

We talk about "the Commonwealth" There is hardly anything more difficult to generalise about than the Commonwealth—this loose association of nations, of many different races, different colours, different religions, pursuing very different economic policies and very different foreign policies. It is very difficult to generalise about it, but there is one generalisation which I think is fair. In so far as the Commonwealth is held together, the essential link is the strength of the mother country, and the strength of the mother country in Europe. The Commonwealth was won in Europe and it was kept in Europe. If we cease to be a strong country, and cease to be a market and a source of capital, the threads that bind the Commonwealth to the central link are bound to disintegrate and break.

Therefore, the strength of this country, as I see it, is the one essential link which can hold the Commonwealth together, and which can provide for its survival, which I deeply want to see, because, in the future, and several hon. Members have said this, the one thing more important than anything else in holding the Commonwealth together is the provision of capital. That will not be too easy. The Joseph Chamberlain policy is not too easy.

The deficit on current account of the rest of the sterling area was £699 million last year. In this country, we had a current account deficit of £344 million, so that it is not so easy to live off our own. Take India. Suppose that we were earning the surplus which the Treasury think we ought to earn, and that instead of a deficit of £344 million we had a surplus of £450 million. And if out of that surplus, we lent, gave away and invested all that it was prudent to do, and supposing that we gave away or lent the whole of that sum to India, leaving nothing for other Commonwealth countries, or oil and other interests, it would still be only part of what India says she requires annually for her third five-year plan.

The vast majority of the Commonwealth countries are masters in their own houses, and it has been pointed out that they did not always do things that entirely suit us. They put quotas on our goods for balance of payments reasons. They impose tremendous taxation on many of our plantation companies, for example. One reason why our investments abroad yield small return is that the taxation is confiscatory and it is very often impossible to remit what is left.

We have seen Canada virtually abrogating the Commonwealth Shipping Agreement without, as far as I know, prior consultation. They are masters in their own houses, and we are glad that it should be so, but, surely, the corollary of that is that we should be masters in our own house, particularly when we believe that what we are doing is in the interests of the Commonwealth.

I wish to say one last word on the question of sovereignty and independence. The question is, sovereign and independent for what? It is very easy, I think, to mistake the realities of power for its vanities, but, if we examine it, we find that it is no good being independent unless we can do something with our independence. I suppose that the most independent man in the world is a tramp, and yet few mothers and fathers advise their children to become tramps. I am not saying that this country is in danger of becoming a tramp, but we are in danger of getting out of the main stream and getting into a backwater, of mistaking memories for hopes.

and of just sitting back and saying that it is quite all right because we are independent.

My noble Friend the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) reminds me of Cato in the Senate at Utica:

"Like Cato, give his little senate laws,
And sit attentive to his own applause."
We are in danger, all of us, of being Catos in this matter.

No one, of course, can know what will happen. We are in a fairly dangerous position and any conceivable course we can take is beset with risks, but in grave affairs one must wager. It is not optional. I believe that we have got to the end of one road and have to take a new one. I believe that the best road to take is the road towards the Common Market, and I hope that we shall take it.

8.35 p.m.

I am very well aware that I am intruding on private Members' time, so I will try to make my remarks very short. For that reason, I do not wish to spend time in dealing with some of the scorching wit of the right hon. Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch). It is the first occasion that I remember upon which he has referred to the reasons for his resignation from the Government, five years ago. We are now told that he left the Government because he felt that they were going to "slob on" in th same old way. He kept very quiet about it at the time, and I suggest that he had a duty to the nation to declare his objection to the Government's policy of drift and slobbing on, as he put it, at the time, because we are now paying the price for the indecision of his own Government in recent years.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) on his fortune in the Ballot and on his selection for this discussion of such a topical subject, although I am sure that he would agree that it is not the most convenient time for the Government nor, I venture to say, is it the most suitable occasion for the House to be discussing this subject. I wish to deal with the Motion and, if I may, offer to the House a few remarks which, I feel sure, will find general acceptance on this side.

The operative part of the Motion relates to procedure, although the Preamble scarcely conceals an underlying hostility to entering into negotiation at all which by no means all hon. Members would share. The Motion asks the House to urge Her Majesty's Government not to negotiate
"… until expressly empowered so to do by a conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers and by this House."
My hon. Friend's speech left no doubt at all that he is against entering into negotiations at the present time with or without the express consent of a conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers.

We on these benches have asked the Government to convene a meeting of Commonwealth Prime Ministers. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition pressed the Prime Minister to do that, but the right hon. Gentleman answered that although he did not rule it out he believed that the visits of Ministers to Commonwealth countries, which have now begun, would be better to start with. I think that the whole House will want some firmer assurances on consultation with the Commonwealth than we have so far had, but whether this House could ever bind itself and Her Majesty's Government not to enter into certain negotiations unless
"… expressly empowered so to do by a conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers …"
is a very different matter.

Many hon. Members on both sides, devoted supporters of the Commonwealth as we may be, could not lightly concede to a conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers the right to veto a step that we in Britain might believe was necessary to our survival as a prosperous trading nation. My hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne said that there was no veto in the Motion. But surely a veto is implied if the Motion says that we shall not do something unless empowered so to do by a conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers?

Many hon. Members would want much more time to debate that far-reaching proposal alone than will be available this evening. Indeed, many hon. Members on both sides of the House would sharply challenge the very premise on which that proposal rests in the Motion. As to the approval of this House, although we are now in closer touch with what the Government are doing, we are by no means fully informed, and a more suitable occasion for the House to express its views may come after the wandering Ministers return home.

There are five Amendments to the Motion, each with differing points of view and each with influential support. Each of these shades of opinion can claim the consideration of the House. It would be unreasonable for the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne or for hon. Members whose names appear on the Amendments to expect the House to reach a conclusion after only three hours' debate on a matter of such importance, for each deeply stirs all sorts of emotions and convictions. Whatever Milton may have said, this debate will not be long enough to reach a conclusion on the matter before us.

I join with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Hertfordshire, South-West (Mr. Longden) in asking the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne not to press his Motion tonight, for it would be better for the House to suspend its judgment for a while on the substantive part of the Motion. However, hon. Members are entitled to receive more information in this short debate and it is that request that I am putting to the Minister who, I understand, will intervene a little later. After all, the Government—through the Lord Privy Seal—started this great debate. They aroused the burning curiosity of the nation and of the world as to what the Government are really doing; and that is what everyone wants to know.

May I, briefly, retrace the Government's steps to see how they have got to where they are, or to where many of us are led to believe they are? After the rather pessimistic speech of the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, who was then the Foreign Secretary, on 25th July, last year, the Prime Minister and the then Foreign Secretary went to Bonn. A little later the Lord Privy Seal went to Rome. After that there seemed to be some fresh impulse behind the desire for closer European unity, but from where that impulse came—from the Government or from countries in the European Economic Community—has never really been clear.

However, the situation changed and prospects of a settlement seemed to improve, or so it was said at the time. Mention was made of this development at the meeting of the Commonwealth Finance Ministers in September of last year. Then we had a debate in this House on 4th November, last year, on the initiative of the Leader of the Liberal Party. We were then told that explorations were going on and talks were taking place, but that they were informal and confidential. The Lord Privy Seal hoped that the House would not expect him to say much about them on that occasion.

Then, on the 17th of last month, came the Lord Privy Seal's dramatic and unexpected intervention in a general debate on foreign affairs which set the world talking. We were then wondering whether we were on the brink of negotiations or whether, in the words of the witty correspondent of The Guardian, we were "on the brink of the brink." But whatever it was, that speech was the signal for perturbation to be publicly expressed throughout the Commonwealth. On that occasion, it seems to me, the Minister probably said too much to preserve the essential conditions of exploratory talks, because they are now neither informal nor confidential. And he said too little to allay fears and remove doubts and uncertainties about the course that the Government would pursue.

No doubt suspicions have been spread abroad that the Government are concealing their real intentions. The reactions of Commonwealth Ministers and Mr. Diefenbaker's call for a Commonwealth conference appear to be the reason why the Government decided to send senior Ministers on tour to Commonwealth countries, but it is still not clear what they have gone there to do. Are these travelling Ministers salesmen, negotiators, or merely explorers? We are entitled to know a little more clearly what mission these Ministers are setting out upon. Have they gone to listen, or have they gone to do all the talking? If they have gone to consult, what have they gone to consult about?

Although assurances have been given by Ministers about taking the Commonwealth into full consultation, nevertheless Canada is worried, New Zealand is very worried, Australia has her anxieties, and the West Indies are deeply concerned. I suggest that we must not overlook the position of the West Indies, in view of their long and close association which has bound them to the British economy. It looked, in the first instance, as though the West Indies had been overlooked in fixing the itinerary of the wandering Ministers, but I am sure that the House is relieved to know that the noble Lord, Lord Perth is going there now.

What is being explored? Another question is: where do explorations end and negotiations begin, whether with the Commonwealth or with the Six? It is also pertinent to ask what chance there is of successful negotiations when Ministers have shown all too clearly that, in their opinion, Britain will be negotiating from a sense of failing strength to go on as we are.

It is of importance to note the remarks which were made by the Foreign Secretary in another place on 21st June, when, in a general dissertation on the importance of a stronger Britain to the Commonwealth, he said:
"… we must ask ourselves—and the Commonwealth, too, must join in asking this question most seriously—whether we can afford to be excluded from this European market which is expanding so rapidly and offering so many opportunities. Not only that: in passing we should look at and face the question as to whether there is, indeed, any other way—any other comparable way—in which the United Kingdom can increase its wealth so that it may consume the maximum amount of Commonwealth goods and may export the maximum amount of capital to the Commonwealth. Where else can we find the earnings on the necessary scale?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 21st June, 1961; Vol. 232, c. 624–5.]
If the perils of staying out are as great as Ministers imply, or are even saying openly, are not the Government weakening our negotiating position?

If Ministers say, "Can we afford to be excluded?", clearly implying that we cannot, what confidence can the world have in our future if we find, after all, that we cannot go in? This is the most worrying part of the present situation. To persuade the British people and the Commonwealth to agree to negotiations, we have to scare them, apparently, with the consequences of not doing so. The world will then take our pessimism at its face value if we finally stay out and it will make us less and not more welcome to those with whom we have to negotiate.

I believe most strongly that to stress the likely damaging consequences of staying out is the worst possible argument for going in. Also, which of all the reasons given in the past for not joining will be less of an obstacle now than previously? That is what we want to know. If, as the Lord Privy Seal says, there must be give and take, what are we prepared to give? We have had all the reasons for not joining the Six. We had them from the President of the Board of Trade in 1959, and they have been repeated frequently since—the difficulty of accepting the system of majority voting to settle our commercial policy with the whole world, the difficulty of abolishing Commonwealth free entry, the problem of home agriculture and the problem of political integration.

The President of the Board of Trade said on 12th February, 1959, that we must be absolute realists about what signing the Rome Treaty would involve for us. I think that we are entitled to ask whether those difficulties are any less real today.

It would assist the House if the hon. Gentleman would say on which side of the argument he himself is.

The right hon. Gentleman must judge for himself. What I am doing is putting before the House some observations, first, upon the Motion which is before the House and, secondly, upon the present situation. There has been no comment on the present situation. We have had discussions about whether we should go in or stay out, but what I am dealing with is the critical situation created by the actions of the Government today. That is the most important matter before the House at this moment.

Since some time in 1960 we have had reiterated the well-known problems in the way of our joining the Common Market, and as recently as last month the Lord Privy Seal repeated them and gave firm assurances upon them. It seems to me that in this short debate we are entitled to examine the propositions which were put to us and the possibilities which were outlined by the Lord Privy Seal in the debate on 17th and 18th May. The right hon. Gentleman then said that there was now evidence of a desire throughout the Six that we should reach a settlement. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in a speech to the E.F.T.A. Ministers two days ago, said that there were signs of a more forthcoming spirit.

One of the courses open to us is to accede to the Treaty of Rome as it stands. We are told by the Lord Privy Seal that that is what France would prefer us to do, and others as well. But right hon. and hon. Gentlemen have been asserting very clearly that this is not what we should do. Another possibility would be to try to make an economic arrangement between the Seven and the Six, each retaining identity. We were told that that did not commend itself to the Six.

Another possibility which has been mentioned is that the United Kingdom and other members of E.F.T.A., not as a group but individually, should make some form of association with the Community. The Lord Privy Seal was noncommittal about that. I think that there are grounds for believing that what Her Majesty's Government are seeking to do is to establish contact between E.F.T.A. countries and the Six individually so that they may find some sort of accommodation with the Six, separately, not jointly, but none of them deserting the others.

It will be an extremely delicate operation to get agreement between the several countries of the Seven and the Six. I think that we are entering an extremely difficult period of negotiation if that is the basis upon which the Government propose to approach the matter.

We have been told that we shall not desert our E.F.T.A. partners. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, only yesterday, said that if some members sought solutions of their own independently of their partners, that would be deplorable. There again, there is, I think, uncertainty as to what the Government intend to do.

So I come to this final point. The Lord Privy Seal has reiterated and reaffirmed not only the problems, but the pledges which the Government are prepared to give: first, to safeguard British agriculture; secondly, full consultation with the Commonwealth before we decide on the course to follow; and, thirdly, that the interests of our E.F.T.A. partners must be safeguarded and that they are being kept informed.

What is the House to make of this? What does the House think the Government are up to? When the Minister of State replies he should tell us more. He was asked earlier to take us and the country more into his confidence. This gives him the opportunity of doing so. There must be some purpose behind what the Government are doing. What is that purpose? What have the Government made up their minds to do which they are concealing from the country and, possibly, from the Commonwealth at present? That is a question on which some light should be thrown, even in this short debate.

8.55 p.m.

I wish to intervene for only a very few minutes, because I realise that the debate is essentially a back bench affair and, knowing as I do that a large number of hon. Members wish to take part, it would be wrong for me to be more than brief. But I want to reply briefly to one or two points made by the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) and to one or two other matters that have been raised.

I listened with care to the hon. Member for Sowerby's speech. He accused the Government of not being forthcoming about this, but I must admit that when he sat down I was as wise as when he got up about where he and the party opposite stand on this matter. I am as entitled as he is to ask that he should clarify his position.

I remind the House that the Government's position up to this moment was stated fully by my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal in his speeches to the House on 17th and 18th May. That was the position taken, and, in direct reply to the hon. Member for Sowerby's last point, I say that there is no definite position which has been taken. There is nothing that the Government are holding back from the House or the country. The position is abundantly clear and has been stated many times—we are continuing with our discussions and seeking to find a basis. That is what we are still doing.

Can the hon. Gentleman say, then, from the Prime Minister's speeches, when and in what conditions he will decide whether to negotiate or not?

I am about to deal with the position that we will have got to after discussions and after my right hon. Friends come back from the Commonwealth, if the hon. Member will bear with me for a moment. Certainly, at this moment, we are not in a position to take the matter further. Last week, my noble Friend also addressed himself very much to a number of the aspects concerning the Commonwealth, and I cannot usefully add much to that tonight.

It is clear so far that we have had, at least up to the speech of the hon. Member for Sowerby, a very vigorous and free flowing debate on both sides. I cannot say that I would endorse all the things said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch) at one stage of his remarks, but I think that some most interesting points have been raised on both sides. I only repeat that at the moment the Government have taken no decision. We are continuing the discussions which we have set in train to see whether it is possible to establish the basis on which negotiations can profitably go forward.

The hon. Member for Sowerby referred to the speech of my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 25th July last year, and called it a pessimistic speech. I would have said that it was rather a sober appreciation of the position as it then obtained. The hon. Member asked how further things developed. Of course, it was the initiative of Chancellor Adenauer in inviting my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to Bonn which started a fresh cycle of discussions last August, and they have continued right through up to the present time.

Discussions with our E.F.T.A. colleagues have also been close and continuous, and have been going on this very week at the Ministerial Council meeting here in London. We have maintained the very closest contact with our E.F.T.A. colleagues all along, and they have fully understood the point of view which we have put forward and have known exactly where we have got to in our discussions with the Six.

But it is with the Commonwealth aspect that the Motion largely concerns itself. I am very glad to note the concern which the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) expresses for the future health and stability of the Commonwealth. He said something about the Prodigal Son. I would be only too happy to welcome him back as the Prodigal Son in this matter, and any of his hon. Friends, too.

In that case, the hon. Member is not entitled to the fatted calf. He cannot have it both ways. He has forfeited his right and I need not pursue the matter further. For whatever reason he may express his views, he may be sure that they are views which will always command a ready response from both the Government and hon. Members on this side of the House.

I remind the House that we have maintained the closest consultation with our Commonwealth colleagues on the whole of this problem ever since our consideration of a closer association with Europe began, not only of late, but first in our discussions for a Free Trade Area, then with discussions on E.F.T.A., and subsequently these more recent developments in the E.E.C.

The visits on which three of my right hon. Friends are now engaged are a further manifestation of this close consultation. In the light of the outcome of those discussions, Her Majesty's Government will obviously be considering what the next step will be. It would be quite premature for me to speculate on it tonight. The hon. Member for Sowerby repeatedly asked me to say where we went from there. We must see what the outcome of the discussions is. My right hon. Friends have not gone to our Commonwealth colleagues merely to tell them of a fait accompli, but to discuss with them and find a basis, in the light of our latest discussions on the Continent, on which we can take the matter further.

Are these discussions going on with the Commonwealth members purely economic discussions, dealing simply with questions of trade and tariffs, or is there any consideration of the political effect on the Commonwealth as a whole? If the political effect on the Commonwealth as a whole is being considered, does not the hon. Gentleman recognise the necessity of having a round-table conference of Prime Ministers of the Commonwealth? Would that not keep the discussions together, instead of having merely three commercial travellers from this country picking off members of the Commonwealth one by one?

That is a very poor way to put it. This is not a question of commercial travellers picking off members of the Commonwealth one by one. The discussions are on the problems affecting the economies of the different Commonwealth countries and they all have different problems which have to be confronted. It is no good lumping the Commonwealth together and saying that the problems of all the member countries are the same. They vary enormously and any association which we might have would have a different impact on each of them. It is not helpful, at this stage, to suggest having round-table discussions.

Of course they have, but the Commonwealth countries are perfectly well able to have them discussed and we have full discussions on a Commonwealth basis. That is a perfectly sound and proper way to proceed if we want to make progress in the matter.

Is my hon. Friend saying that Mr. Diefenbaker's suggestions were not very helpful?

I did not say that at all. I said that at this moment of time the best way to make progress was in these discussions with individual members of the Commonwealth. The Prime Minister was quite clear. He did not rule out at a later stage discussions such as have been suggested. Neither Mr. Diefenbaker nor anyone else need feel that we have not taken full account, as indeed they know we have, of all the points that they have put forward, and are putting forward.

When one considers the real economic problems which confront the Commonwealth, one finds that they vary considerably. One has to consider temperate foodstuffs such as wheat, butter, lamb, and other products of that nature which are produced by different Commonwealth countries, and for which different arrangements may have to be made. I do not want to go into that further. As I said, I wanted to speak for only a few minutes, but it is right to remind the House of those points.

I agreed with my right hon. Friend the Member for Flint, West when he said that the Commonwealth was held together by the strength of the Mother Country. That is an essential factor which we must consider in regard to any arrangements we make in relation to the Common Market.

Dealing with the point about Commonwealth co-operation on the economic side, does my hon. Friend agree that what was said by the Prime Minister is all right as far as it goes, but that it does not go far enough? We need an undertaking that after the commercial travellers' visit, or whatever one may call it, has taken place, there will be a Prime Ministers' conference.

A Prime Ministers' conference has been held whenever necessary. We may be sure that if the Prime Ministers concerned wanted a conference one could take place, and indeed would. I am not excluding that. I am saying that it would be improper for me to say tonight that one would be convenient. One does not know the position of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers. I do not think that it would be helpful to follow this further now. Surely we ought to allow the Ministers concerned to return to this country and report on their discussions before we decide on the next stage.

The only other matter that I wish to consider is the question of sovereignty, which also bulks large in the Motion. I believe that, here again, a lot of formless fears have been generated on this subject. On this, I will say three things. First, that we in this country have, in these post-war years, accepted certain important limitations on our sovereignty, and of some at least of these I have always understood that the hon. Member and his hon. Friends were in favour—for instance, the United Nations. O.E.C.C., which has now merged into O.E.C.D., W.E.U. and N.A.T.O., which together, while providing for our defence in Europe, have meant some derogation of sovereignty. The concept, therefore, of some loss of sovereignty is one which this country has been able to accept in these particular spheres.

Secondly, anyone who reads the Treaty of Rome throughout will see that such loss of sovereignty as is proposed is related solely to the fulfilling of the basic aims of the Community as set out in Article 2, and expanded in Article 3. It is related, in the main, to the control of trade arrangements as they would affect our relations within the community and outside, and to certain clearly defined and limited matters having a strict bearing on this.

It is certainly going too far to describe the Community as at present set out as a political unit in the terms in which that phrase is generally understood, and as used in this Motion. Any extension of the powers of the Treaty of Rome in the political, or, indeed, any other, field, would have to be brought about by unanimous vote, and if we were members of the community then, clearly, we would have a definite say in the direction in which developments might take place.

Suppose we were outvoted? My hon. Friend says that we will have a say in what happens. If it were a minority say and we were outvoted, what would be our position? Suppose all the other parties decided to move forward to political federation. Would we be committed to go with them, or, if we wished, to dissociate ourselves; what would be our position in regard to membership of the Economic Community?

Any extension beyond the existing terms would require a unanimous vote. If we were one of the members, we would have the power of veto. There is no question of a majority vote. We would have the power, just as other members would have the power, to prevent extensions in that way.

Thirdly, those who fear dramatic loss of sovereignty should remember the States that are at present comprised in the Community. Is there any indication that they want to lose or merge completely their individuality? I see no sign of it at present. My noble Friend dealt with this matter last week in his speech in another place, and I do not propose to expand upon it, but I hope that those who fear this issue of sovereignty will consider the very limited extent to which it is involved, and the real safeguards that there would be if we did choose to go in.

The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne made a very persuasive speech, in which he sought to obtain support from my hon. Friends—

From everybody, of course, but, in particular from my hon. Friends. His speech was directed to the question of the right of the Commonwealth to full consultation. Of course, we accept their right to full consultation. But the hon. Member did not convey in his speech what he sought to convey in his Motion. The Motion went a great deal further than his speech, because the Motion prejudges the issue. The Motion speaks of our being

"gravely concerned at the … threat to … independence"
"at the threats to the survival of the Commonwealth inherent in the proposals".

I am trying to draw a proper distinction between the Motion and the hon. Member's speech. I hope that hon. Members will bear with me. The phrases in which the Motion is couched show the hon. Member's fear. I am merely making the point that the Motion seemed to go a great deal further than his speech. His speech was based largely on the need for full consultations.

I thought that I made it quite clear that the operative part of my Motion could be acceptable to everybody, whether he was in favour or against our going in, in principle, whereas I thought it fair to the House that I should indicate my own view. I did that in the Motion and I did that in my speech.

The implications of the Motion as set down on the Order Paper are fairly clear. However, I do not wish to pursue the matter further. It is quite clear that other hon. Members are very anxious to take part in the debate, but I felt it necessary to make one or two comments upon some of the things that have been said. The Government will take careful note of all the comments made in the debate, as they must do on such a vital issue. It is desirable that we should have a debate and a very full discussion of this matter. It is for that reason that I welcome the fact that a debate has taken place, although I cannot recommend the House to accept the Motion.

9.12 p.m.

Although I disagree fundamentally with the speech of the right hon. Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch) and reject unreservedly the views expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Stechford (Mr. Roy Jenkins), at any rate I extend full credit to them for their forthrightness. They know what they want. They have made up their minds. There are no reservations or qualifications in them. They want to liquidate the British Commonwealth. That is what they said. They produced a variety of arguments which seemed to indicate some hestitation, but in the end they abandoned the idea of this country being able to pay its way, to conduct its agricultural system efficiently and effectively, and all the rest.

Many derisory comments have been made about the strange alignments that have occurred in the course of this controversy. References were made to my support of the Commonwealth. I must tell hon. Members, most of whom were not in this House before the last war, or, for that matter, during the war—and they may have been absent for quite proper reasons—that they are unacquainted with the views expressed by hon. Members on this side, especially by myself, on the subject of the Commonwealth. And so more particularly because of the Prime Minister's jibe the other afternoon—which was quite unworthy of the right hon. Gentleman—I should like to direct attention to the terms of a Motion moved in this House eighteen years ago. I should like to read it.

"That the United Kingdom should do its utmost by close co-operation and regard for the different points of view of the nations of the Commonwealth to preserve in time of peace the unity of purpose and sentiment which has held them together in time of war."
I was responsible for initiating the debate and moving that Motion. Moreover, I should not be at all surprised to find that I have a longer membership of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association than any hon. Member at present in the House. Many years ago, when it was by no means fashionable in the Labour Party to uphold what was called at that time the Empire, which has now merged in the Commonwealth, I expressed an affection for the Commonwealth not only on grounds of sentiment but because of the economic ties which I regarded at that time—and still do—as essential for the well-being of the whole Commonwealth.

It is remarkable that in this debate those who have ventured to express an opinion in support of the Common Market and have, by implication, derided the effectiveness of the Commonwealth, have overlooked the volume of trade passing between the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth countries and the volume of trade passing between the United Kingdom and the six countries represented in the Common Market. Because of that I shall venture to give the figures. It is just as well that the House should have them.

In 1959, we imported more than three times the amount from the Commonwealth than we did from the Six. In 1960, we imported rather more than this amount. In 1959, we exported about four times more to the Commonwealth than we sent to the countries of the Six. In 1960, we did rather better than in 1959.

May I ask my right hon. Friend one question to get the figures accurate? Will not he agree that our exports to the Commonwealth—I am not making an argument, but if we are to have figures let us have them correctly—are dwindling and that our exports to European countries are increasing?

There may very well be some diminution in the volume of trade passing between this country and the various Commonwealth countries at the present time. But I gave the last available figures, the figures extracted from the Board of Trade Journal. If my hon. Friend wants the actual figures, I can give them, because they are very interesting.

In 1959, the Commonwealth imports were more than £1,600 million and to Europe £558 million. There is a remarkable variation. Regarding exports, and, of course, exports are particularly important, the exports to the Commonwealth countries were £1,400 million against £465 million to the Six. Let us get down to realities. Let us get down to brass tacks. It is all very well to talk about sentiment and affection but, after all, we have to speak in terms of trade. To talk in this airy-fairy fashion about the Commonwealth not being so important as it once was, which, after all, was the implication of what my hon. Friend has just interjected, is simply beside the point.

I do not want to argue along economic lines in this matter. I leave that to the economists. Incidentally, I remind some of my older hon. Friends that way back before the war we were discussing the Ottawa Preferences. I was appointed by the Labour Party as chairman of the then Ottawa Committee, and I made the acquaintance for the first time of a young economist who was a member of that Committee, although he was not then a member of this House, the present Leader of the Opposition. The Labour Party was in favour of preference as long as it was understood that it would not increase the cost of living in this country, and neither did it. I am as much in favour now of preferential treatment among the Commonwealth countries as I was at that time.

I say that only in passing, and I make a further observation in passing. I understand the need in the present situation for some economic co-ordination among the countries of Europe—and, indeed, among the countries of the world—but that is not the primary objective of the Treaty of Rome. It is all very well to say that it does not deal with the political aspects, but let us hear what those in authority have to say about it. There is, for example, one gentleman, whose name I shall give so that there can be no doubt about his credentials, Baron Snoy, one of the principal negotiators of the Rome Treaty, the Common Market and Euratom. He said it is a fact that the fundamental objective of the Rome Treaty, the aim which ensured the support of the people in the Parliaments of the Six countries, has always been the progressive creation of a minimum of political unity in their countries. The Common Market of the Six is inconceivable in any other perspective.

Of course, that is so; they cannot deny it. The Liberal Party agree that we ought to abandon our sovereignty and join with the Six. What is the good of talking of political unity in Europe when even the two Germanys cannot unite? Let us stop talking about political unity in face of that acute division in Europe. What is the actual purpose behind it? I think the right hon. Member for Flint, West let the cat out of the bag. The purpose is to continue the division in Europe. On the one hand we have what is called free Europe—that is the expression used by some of those who support entry to the Common Market and the political community—and on the other hand there is Communist Europe. I can see the result of that in the course of a few years.

To those who talk, as my hon. Friend the Member for Stechford did when he derided my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) about his support and Labour Party support of world government, I venture to say that is a false analogy. It is possible to project the idea of world government, although I can see almost insurmountable difficulties in achieving that aim, but there is no comparison between the ideal of a world government and the project of political unity in one part of Europe which is a provocation to the rest of Europe and will lead us into disaster before we are very much older.

I certainly did not deride the idea of world government. I very much support it. I think it perfectly possible to argue, although I do not share the argument, against going into Western Europe because one does not like the grouping in Western Europe, but I do not think it wise to argue against going in because we must preserve sovereignty and still to say we are in favour of world government.

It is unnecessary to tell me or any other hon. Member giving consideration to what is happening and has been happening in the world since the last war that of course we must abandon some part of our sovereignty. We have handed over some part of it to the United Nations, although I am bound to say they have not handled it very well. We have handed over authority to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, and it is as weak as it can be. Of course, in the course of time, we shall have to abandon some part of our sovereignty, but there is a real distinction between handing over some part of our authority to some international organisation and going lock, stock and barrel into the Common Market, knowing quite well that there is political instability in France, in Belgium, and in Germany because of the division between the two Germanys. That would become a provocation to the rest of Europe.

I want to deal with what I believe is at the bottom of the whole trouble. I am bound to say of two speakers, one an hon. Member opposite and the other on the Front Bench on this side of the House, that I do not know what they spoke for. I can understand those who say that we are for the Common Market and those who say that we are against the Common Market. It reminds me of the mugwump, the person who sat on a fence with his mug on the one side and his wump on the other.

What are the Government doing? Only two years ago there was a General Election and the Government won a glorious victory. They were as bombastic as they could be. A few months later, the Prime Minister said, to use the vernacular, which I do not like doing, but which I have to use for the purpose of the argument, "We have never had it so good." We were told that the standard of living was good and that everything in the garden was lovely. Now we are told that there is something wrong with the balance of payments, something wrong with the £ sterling, that there is the possibility of deflation, another credit squeeze is in prospect, and that our agriculture is in a chaotic and shocking condition. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Let me point out that only the other day the Minister of Agriculture at the Dispatch Box indulged by implication in a piece of intimidation—in fact harsh blackmail—when he said to the farming community, "Either you go into the Common Market and take all the advantages or you lose your deficiency payments."

The right hon. Gentle-man is being unfair. My right hon. Friend never said that or anything approaching it. The right hon. Gentleman may indulge in a certain amount of poetic licence, but that is going much too far.

It was implied not only by the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Agriculture but by the hon. Member for Guildford (Sir R. Nugent), who was formerly Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture—he is not present and I do not complain about that—that the deficiency payments would disappear entirely unless we went into the Common Market and obtained the benefits of their agricultural system.

The Rome Treaty has been in operation for four years, but not one speaker in this debate who upholds the Common Market concept has demonstrated that any benefits have accrued to any of the Six countries. The farmers in France are having a revolt. In Belgium the coal industry is in a more chaotic condition that ever before, and in a far worse condition than the coal industry in this country. In Italy there is a vast amount of unemployment. Of course, Italy will benefit as a result of the provisions of the Rome Treaty and the free movement of workers. What a glorious prospect for the workers of this country. "Keep the coloured workers out and let the Italian workers in": is that the idea?

The same comment applies to tariffs. Let German goods into this country free of tariff but keep Indian and other Commonwealth goods out by imposing a high tariff, or at any rate a tariff which is likely to make things more difficult for them. That is the proposal.

The Government are in a difficulty and are looking for an escape route. This is a way out for the Government. But if they find things so difficult they can plan our resources more wisely or adopt the addendum proposed by my hon. Friends and myself—which asks that we should further the economic development of the Commonwealth with what provision of capital we can supply. I remember some years ago that the late Sir Albert Braithwaite, with other members of the Commonwealth Unity section of the Tory Party, and many others who supported his point of view, expressed the opinion that if we could raise £300 million in order to provide the beginning of a fund to develop the Commonwealth countries, we could exploit their resources. At the same time we should exploit resources here, planning and organising. What is wrong with the Government? They think that this country is played out when in fact the Government are played out.

There has been derisory comment about the alignment in the House today. I am not ashamed of it. Even if I have to tell my party that I do not agree with them, I would rather support principles which are in the interests of the country and of the Commonwealth. I hope that other hon. Members will do the same. A little more courage on the part of hon. Members and on the part of the Government would do no harm.

I believe that much of this inspiration has come from the United States. The United States has not always been—

I am grateful to the right hon. Member for giving way. There is no foundation in what he says. The impetus has certainly not come from America.

Where has the inspiration come from? We know quite well that President Kennedy wants a unified Europe.

These interjections are enough to shake anybody's faith. I heard my hon. Friend's still, small voice.

It was a still small voice because my right hon. Friend is speaking so loudly that nobody can hear him.

I dismiss my hon. Friend. I regard him as of no importance. Put him on the Front Bench.

I do not deny the difficulties of the Commonwealth. This country, too, is confronted with economic difficulties. But there is a way out.

We have been told that there is a strange alignment between some of my hon. Friends who hold the extreme left-wing view and some hon. Members opposite who are regarded as the extreme right wing of the Tory Party—and that is saying something! But is it not a good thing occasionally that we should cut across the party view in order to establish first principles? That is what counts. I do not care who challenges me on this issue: I am for the Commonwealth. I am for New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and India, too. Why not? There is much to be done for India, and I do not think that the exploited, illiterate and poverty-stricken masses of India will gain much from the Six. They are much more likely to gain from the United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth partners. I uphold the Commonwealth concept. I say to the Government, "Do not try any tricks". I gather from a vast correspondence in the last couple of weeks or so that there are many Tories in the country who are only wishing for the opportunity to tell the Prime Minister where to get off. We shall support them to the best of our ability.

9.35 p.m.

Like the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell), I am for the Commonwealth, but I shall not follow him throughout his remarks because, if I do, I shall not be able to sit down and allow the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. M. Foot) to get in, as is desired. It is a maxim of Tory democracy to "Trust the people". I tell the Government frankly that as I move around among my constituents I find them hungry for a British lead in world affairs. They are in the same doubt as I am about what the Government are after. They are perplexed by the lack of a coherent principle of European policy.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Minister of State on his promotion, but I regret to say that I did not find his speech helpful or enlightening. My hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) tabled a Question today to the Lord Privy Seal which was not reached. He asked the Government if they would submit any agreements in this connection to Parliament before ratification. I ask the Government this further question. If Parliament is not sitting and it comes to the point of such agreements, will the Government support an application for the recall of Parliament?

The Motion in the name of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) and the Amendment bearing my name refer to "pressure"—pressure and propaganda aimed at hustling this country into a common market, the logical outcome of which is common currency and common government. My hon. Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, South-West (Mr. Longden) rightly speaks in his Amendment of the interests of the agricultural community. I would add to that the interests of horticulturists. If we let them down, it will not be just a question of this Government going into Europe. I fear that it will be a question of this Government going into opposition.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, South-West mentioned our partners in E.F.T.A., with whom we have old and historic ties of friendship and to whom we might well extend honorary membership of the Commonwealth. There has been great concern amongst them. I am glad that the Government have stated that they are not to be let down. My hon. Friend referred to consultation with the Commonwealth, which can mean a great deal or nothing at all. I am not impressed by this hectic helter-skelter globe-trot. I wish that Her Majesty's Government had responded more favourably and that the Minister of State had not spoken so loftily of the wish of the Prime Minister of Canada, Mr. Diefenbaker, and other Commonwealth statesmen for a full conference on this great matter.

In some quarters it seems as if the Commonwealth has just become a difficulty, a problem. Yesterday, the Daily Herald had an article on the Common Market headed, "Problem of the Commonwealth". The Commonwealth is not just a bunch of tiresome relations and grown-up wards. The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne spoke of our being isolated in 1940. We are inclined to speak with pride of how, when all our European allies were struck down, we fought on alone. But that is not true. We did not light on alone. A united Commonwealth, spread throughout the world, fought on until first Russia was attacked, and then the United States of America. German war lords, and a German lance-corporal, have taken it for granted, as some people at this moment take it for granted, that the Commonwealth has no solidarity and means nothing. Twice Germany thought to her cost that the Commonwealth would not rally to an effete and ageing lion.

Now for what my hon. Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, South-West said about my letter to The Times newspaper, in which I said that I support European unity. I do, and I support an association between Europe and the Commonwealth. I believe that the Commonwealth shares the soul of Europe, the most creative of all the continents. But the Commonwealth is a partnership of sovereign nations, and I believe that the only sound European order will be based upon the sovereignty of the European nations—on that national principle which Europe has given the world.

This question of sovereignty is being obscured. Sometimes the nice phrase "institutional question" is used. The Minister of State said there were important Imitations of our sovereignty in our membership of the United Nations, but this is to confuse the issue, because the Charter of the United Nations upholds the sovereignty of all the members of that organisation. Some say we have surrendered sovereignty to N.A.T.O., but the purpose of N.A.T.O. is to defend the sovereignty of its members, and the Stockholm Convention would never have been passed, and certainly would not have received the association of Finland, if it did not uphold absolutely the sovereignty of the signatories.

It is said that the Treaty of Rome may not be exactly all we like but that we can sign it and then, perhaps, we shall be able to change it to suit us. The Treaty of Rome, as it stands, according to the statements of the leaders of the Six, is the only basis upon which they are ready to negotiate. We hear often about many escape clauses in the Treaty, but I know one anti-escape clause, Article 240, which says:
"This Treaty shall be concluded for an unlimited period."
Of all those who have told me that we can go in and shape the Community to suit our national purposes, none has ever said to me that we can go in on any other terms than on the acceptance of what is said in Article 3 about "a common Customs tariff" and "a common commercial policy towards third countries". It would split the Tory Party were we to bind, beneath the votes or veto of a foreign or supra-national agency, our liberty to arrange our trade with Australia, India or any Commonwealth realm or republic.

Sir Roy Welensky has recently said that it may well be that the entry of Britain into the Common Market would do irreparable damage to the whole Commonwealth structure. I agree very much with the right hon. Member for Easington, and I respectfully disagree with my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, when the former said that the clue to all this mystery can be found on the other side of the Atlantic. When we debated foreign affairs, the Lord Privy Seal said—and it seemed to be a matter for high gratification—that President Kennedy was prepared to accept additional discrimination against American exports, provided that it was in the cause of the political unity of Europe. Have Her Majesty's Government ever asked President Kennedy if he would be sufficiently indulgent to new discrimination by the Commonwealth countries against American exports, as conducive to the unity of the Commonwealth of Nations and, therefore, to the prosperity of the world? The consistent and persistent American policy has been by financial discrimination to dissolve the Commonwealth as a trading system and to organise the allies and client States of the U.S.A. in an Atlantic Community and a Pacific Community linked in Washington.

We notice that the Canadian Broadcasting Commission has recently been talking of plans for a Pacific Common Market containing Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and in the manner of Anzus, excluding the United Kingdom. The President of the New Zealand Meat Producers, Mr. John Ormond, has invited President Kennedy to offer the Dominion compensatory trading opportunities to become part of a buffer State. Is it Britain's destiny to be federated in a buffer State of Western Europe?

The late John Foster Dulles in 1950 wrote a book called "War on Peace?" In it he said:
"The United States now has the opportunity to bring about peacefully what ought to be done—"
that is, European integration:
"but will not be done unless there is friendly but firm outside pressure. The United States can and should take that opportunity and exert that pressure. We have the right to do that because at Europe's request we have made a tremendous investment in Western Europe."
We are moving into a period of danger in Europe, and I welcome the firm statement made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister yesterday about Berlin. The threat to the Allied position there must be met with constancy and unity. I think that is part of the motive of the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, South-West. But to destroy the identity and independence, and to decry as "narrow nationalism"—the favourite phrase—the patriotic spirit of the nations of Europe and of the Commonwealth is in my view to sap their resistance to Communism, which shrewdly poses as the champion of national sovereignty.

I do not know what the Prime Minister said to President Kennedy at that last meeting in Washington, but I hope that he will take advantage of what my right hon. Friend the Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch) described as our special position with the United States to assert the right of our country and the Commonwealth to exist, and for our nations to make reciprocal arrangements one with the other, and then reciprocal arrangements with Continental Europe. It is always easy to find reasons why now is not the time to make a stand. It was like that in the 'thirties.

And so, in conclusion, I commend to the Government and the House some words which I hope will appeal to the latter-day Whigs below the Gangway apposite. They were uttered by one of the founders of the Fourth Party, Sir Henry Drummond-Wolff who, in 1878, when, as today, there was a Russian threat to our European and our Eastern positions, said:
"Where are the remains of Lord Palmerston? Find them for me, so that I may present his backbone to the nation."

9.49 p.m.

Nobody who has listened to this debate will suggest that it was improper or ill-advised that we should have had the debate and, therfore, I think that everyone will congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) on having introduced this subject. Moreover, we will have the opportunity, I trust, of a vote. This will be the first opportunity that the House will have had to express its views by its vote, which is the proper procedure.

It might, indeed, be argued that if my hon. Friend's Motion were rejected, this might be the last opportunity for the House to have a chance of expressing its view by vote, because if the House, by rejecting the Motion, were to say that it did not want the House of Commons to have the right to empower the Government to enter into any negotiations, if they are to enter into them, or if the House of Commons were to say that it did not want the negotiations to be made legitimate, or be examined or prepared by a Commonwealth conference, the House would be saying that it did not want either procedure, and I should have thought that that would be extremely dangerous.

There may be another advantage from the debate. It may even be that we shall influence the Government's decision. That might be something of a novelty; for a debate in the House of Commons to influence the Government's decisions—but I hope that it would not be a constitutional outrage.

Some people say that the Prime Minister has already made up his mind on this subject. Others say that this accusation is incredible. I do not presume to judge the question. Indeed, if the Prime Minister has reached firm conclusions on deciding to enter the Common Market, then at least the rest of us can take some satisfaction from remembering the Prime Minister's most notable quality—his resilience. It may be said of him, as it was said of someone else, that one he has firmly and irrevocably made up his mind, no power on earth can prevent him from changing it. Whatever views we may have about that quality, I hope that this debate will be of some value in that respect.

The Prime Minister's view has changed, or it appears to have changed, slightly for the better. I recall the answer which the Prime Minister gave to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davidson), in which he said that he did not think that it would be desirable to have a Commonwealth conference. It was not necessary at all, the Prime Minister said. Indeed, there was no proposal then for sending the commercial travellers around.

But something has changed the Prime Minister's mind. Possibly it was the announcement by Mr. Diefenbaker that he wanted a full Commonwealth conference. That proposal for such a conference was welcomed in almost every Commonwealth country. I would have thought—whatever we think about the Commonwealth, or about its future—that it would be reassuring for other members of the Commonwealth for this House to pass a Motion saying that no decisive action will be taken until there has been a full Commonwealth conference on the subject.

What is it that the Commonwealth countries fear? It is true that they do not all share the same fears, but it was wrong of my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Stechford (Mr. Roy Jenkins) to have said that it was solely the white members of the Commonwealth who were concerned about the matter. My hon. Friend could not have read the protest made last week by Dr. Eric Williams, the Prime Minister of Trinidad. Apparently the Government had also forgotten about the West Indies. Dr. Williams said that what he would very much prefer would be a full Prime Ministers' Commonwealth conference at which the West Indies would be represented, even though they have not achieved full independence.

What is it that they fear? What they fear from the establishment of the Common Market is the effect of the common external tariff which will be set up. We hear a great deal about free trade inside the area, but little about the common external tariff which the European coun tries are to establish. To the hon. Members of the Liberal Party, I would say that that is not Cobdenism but a bastard form of Cobdenism, for it is setting up a huge barrier against the rest of the world.

A few days ago Professor Meade wrote in the "Three Bank Review" about this part of the Common Market question. He said:
"At a time like the present, with increased hopes that the British Commonwealth can become more and more a club of real association between developed and underdeveloped countries"—
I know that there may be differences of opinion about this but it is a hope that is shared by many of us—
"from all parts of the world, it would be particularly unfortunate if the United Kingdom changed from insisting on letting in Indian manufactures free and taxing German manufactures to letting in German manufactures free and imposing a common European tariff on Indian manufactures".

Surely the hon. Member realises that no hon. Member more than his hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) has been more concerned in keeping textiles from the Commonwealth out of this country.

That was such a trivial intervention that it does not appear to have any relation to the argument. Hon. Members of the Liberal Party are in favour of establishing a heavy external tariff around the Common Market countries. Although this is mentioned in the Treaty of Rome, and although it is of paramount importance to the whole idea, we are told that we shall later be able to do away with it, or that the common external tariff would be able to be reduced. Or, if we get inside it, it is said we may be able to alter it when we get there.

Thus to remove one of the main purposes of the operation is like a man saying that he wants to become a member of the Carlton Club, but in order to avoid difficulties and the opprobrium which this might arouse among his friends, he intends later to turn it into a Left-wing coffee house. Instead of the portrait painted by the right hon. Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch) of this wonderful new European paradise, what it will be is an economic Zollverein, a European Zollverein against the under-developed areas of the world. It seems to me a peculiarly strange course to take when the primary concern of this House and of the country should be to develop the economic relations between the developed and under-developed areas of the world.

I should like to say a few words about the issue of sovereignty and the political implications. Here, there is as great a conflict of testimony as there has been in the whole debate. The Foreign Secretary, in another place in a debate on the Common Market, tried to suggest that this was a very subordinate problem and he was not worried about it at all. On the other hand, Lord Gladwyn, an expert on the matter, said that it was the most important, and Professor Hall-stein, who knows even more about it than Lord Gladwyn because he runs it, said, "We are not in business at all. We are in politics." Which is correct?

The excuse that the Minister made today was that we do not have to worry about the political implications very much because we shall always be able to help settle those matters later and we will not be committed to very much. If we went into the Common Market with that kind of attitude it would do more damage to our relations with Europe than anything else. With this concept of going into the Common Market not accepting in our hearts what the founders accepted and believing that if and when we get there we shall use our position instead to thwart the purposes of the founders of European co-operation, we shall not assist in establishing good relations with European countries. If we want to make Albion seem perfidious, that is the way to do it.

In other words, what we should do is to have the courage to recognise that we have still great associations with other countries that we can develop. We have not attempted to do it on anything like the scale that we should have done. Why are we so despondent? This debate reminds me more than ever of the debate in 1945 on the American Loan. We had both Front Benches uneasy, but agreeing to the proposition. We had all the blessing of all the experts for the great free trade convertible world that the Loan and its provisions would bring. That mirage entranced the Liberal Party, which was the most enthusiastic about the proposition.

The whole thing was blessed by Lord Keynes. All the experts and economists said, "Yes, that is what you have to do." And the whole thing collapsed in two years. The whole convertibility idea did not work. The operation collapsed because in fact what we did then was to turn our backs on the possibility of what we could rebuild. I hope that we shall not make the same mistake again if we go into the Common Market. Let us agree that this House and the British Commonwealth should make the real decision. If we say that the Commonwealth should not make the decision, we should by that act itself have destroyed that great institution.

9.59 p.m.

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

I cannot accept the Motion. My reason is that I have not been able to get round to calling one representative even on each point of view on the Order Paper.

In the speech by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. M. Foot) we have had some very gross misrepresentations indeed.

It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.

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. 229.]


[10.0 p.m.

Agnew, Sir PeterGurden, HaroldPitman, Sir James
Allason, JamesHall, John (Wycombe)Prior-Palmer, Brig. Sir Otho
Atkins, HumphreyHamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)Proudfoot, Wilfred
Balniel, LordHarrison, Brian (Maldon)pym, Francis
Baxter, Sir Beverley (Southgate)Harvie Anderson, MissQuennell, Miss J. M.
Bingham, R. M.Hay, JohnRamsden, James
Birch, Rt. Hon. NigelHeald, Rt. Hon. Sir LionelRedmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin
Bishop, F. P.Hiley, JosephRees, Hugh
Bourne-Alton, A.Hill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe)Ronton, David
Box, DonaldHirst, GeoffreyRidley, Hon. Nicholas
Boyle, Sir EdwardHobson, JohnRoberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)
Braine, BernardHocking, Philip N.Roots, William
Brooman-White, R.Holland, PhilipRopner, Col. Sir Leonard
Browne, Percy (Torrington)Hornby, R. P.Russell, Ronald
Bryan, PaulHoward, John (Southampton, Test)Sharpies, Richard
Buck, AntonyHughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral JohnShaw, M.
Butler, Rt.Hn.R.A.(Saffron Walden)Hughes-Young, MichaelSimon, Rt. Hon. Sir Jocelyn
Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)Hurd, Sir AnthonySkeet, T. H. H.
Carr, Robert (Mitcham)Hutchison, Michael ClarkSmith, Dudley (Br'ntf'rd & Chiswick)
Cary, Sir RobertIremonger, T. L.Smithers, Peter
Chataway, ChristopherJames, DavidSpearman, Sir Alexander
Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)Johnson, Eric (Blackley)Speir, Rupert
Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth,W.)Johnson-Smith, GeoffreyStevens, Geoffrey
Cooper, A. E.Joseph, Sir KeithStodart, J. A.
Cooper-Key, Sir NeilKaberry, Sir DonaldStorey, Sir Samuel
Cordle, JohnKershaw, AnthonyStudholme, Sir Henry
Corfield, F. V.Kitson, TimothySumner, Donald (Orpington)
Curran, CharlesLewis, Kenneth (Rutland)Talbot, John E.
Currie, G. B. H.Linstead, Sir HughTemple, John M.
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir HenryLitchfield, Capt. JohnThatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Deedes, W. F.Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)Turner, Colin
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)Longden, GilbertTurton, Rt. Hon. R. H.
Elliott,R.W. (Nwcstle-upon-Tyne,N.)Loveys, Walter H.van Straubenzee, W. R.
Emery, PeterLucas-Tooth, Sir HughVaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hon. Sir John
Emmet, Hon. Mrs. EvelynMcLaren, MartinVickers, Miss Joan
Errington, Sir EricMcLaughlin, Mrs. PatriciaWakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Farr, JohnMacpherson, Niall (Dumfries)Walder, David
Finlay, GraemeMaddan, MartinWalker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir Derek
Fletcher-Cooke, CharlesMathew, Robert (Honiton)Wall, Patrick
Foster, JohnMatthews, Gordon (Meriden)Ward, Dame Irene
Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)Mawby, RayWells, John (Maidstone)
Gammans, LadyMaxwell-Hyslop, R. J.Whitelaw, William
Gibson-Watt, DavidMills, StrattonWills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
Glover, Sir DouglasMore, Jasper (Ludlow)Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham)Noble, MichaelWolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.)Oakshott, Sir HendrieWoodhouse, C. M.
Godber, J. B.Osborn, John (Hallam)Worsley, Marcus
Gower, RaymondPannell, Norman (Kirkdale)Yates, William (The Wrekin)
Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R.Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)
Green, AlanPeel, JohnTELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Gresham Cooke, R.Percival, IanColonel Sir Harwood Harrison and
Mr. Chichester-Clark.


Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)Foot, Dingle (Ipswich)Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Awbery, StanHughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn
Baird, JohnJones, Dan (Burnley)Warbey, William
Bowles, FrankLee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)Williams, D. J. (Neath)
Brockway, A. FennerMonslow, WalterZilliacus, K.
Castle, Mrs. BarbaraNeat, Harold
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)Pavitt, LaurenceTELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Davies, Harold (Leek)Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.Mr. Sydney Silverman and
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)Mr. Michael Foot.
Driberg, TomSmith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)

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

The House divided: Ayes 150, Noes 25.

Crown Estate Bill

Order for Second Reading read.

10.10 p.m.

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

I have it in Command from the Queen to acquaint the House that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the Bill, has consented to place Her interests so far as they are affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.

This Bill stems originally from the Report of the Committee on Crown Lands in 1955. That Committee reported in Cmd. 9483. In it Sir Malcolm Trustram Eve and his colleagues recommended that the Commissioners of Crown Lands should be replaced by a board of trustees with a substantial measure of independence, and that the Crown Lands Acts should be revised and consolidated. The Committee's recommendations were accepted, and, as a first step, the present Crown Estate Commissioners were appointed under the Crown Estate Act, 1956.

But, like their predecessors, they have had to discharge their duty of managing the Crown Estate within the confines of the existing Crown Lands Act, a considerable and rather complex body of Statutes extending from 1829 to 1936. The Commissioners were asked to consider their powers and duties under the Acts. This they have done—a considerable task—and the Bill is the result.

The main purpose of the Bill, as I have said, is to complete the reorganisation of the Crown Estates. The 1956 Act constituted the Crown Estate Commissioners as a board of up to eight members appointed by Her Majesty and reporting annually to Her Majesty and to Parliament and subject to direction by the appropriate Ministers, who at present are my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and myself, These arrangements, which are reenacted in the Bill, have worked well, The Commissioners have carried out their responsibilities skilfully and wisely, and I am sure that the House would want me to express appreciation of the services rendered by Sir Malcolm Trustram Eve and his fellow Commissioners from various walks of life.

The Commissioners have been hampered in the management of the Crown Estate by restrictions on their powers imposed by the existing Crown Lands Acts, and the Government considered it essential that they be given the fullest possible opportunity of maintaining and enhancing the capital and income of the estate. A good example of the current restrictions which hamper the Commissioners is that only in limited cases can they include rent review clauses in leases.

The Bill repeals the existing Acts which sought to lay down in detail how the Crown Estate should be managed. Instead, it gives the Commissioners the general authority to manage the Crown Estate on behalf of the Crown and it frees them from detailed Treasury control over their management. Nevertheless, it makes this possibly desirable measure of freedom subject to a number of limitations, or restrictions, which in effect account for the first five Clauses of the Bill.

In Clause 1, the Commissioners are made subject not only to the directions of the appropriate Minister, but also to a general Statutory duty,
"while maintaining the Crown Estate as an estate in land… to maintain and enhance its value and the return obtained from it, but with due regard to the requirements of good management."
This is the first time that the duty of the Crown Estate Commissioners has been put in statutory form. It was one of the recommendations of the Committee on Crown Lands that that should be done.

In Clause 2, the Commissioners are required to report annually to Her Majesty and to Parliament, as at present, to keep proper accounts and to distinguish in those accounts between capital and income, and to submit their accounts to the Comptroller and Auditor-General for audit and laying before Parliament.

They are also required to supply the Treasury with all the information that it requires. In practice they will do this mainly by providing the Treasury annually with a forward programme, including estimates of expenditure and revenue and a statement of their general policy. All this accords with present procedure, and in fact we are giving the present procedure statutory effect.

Clause 3 contains particular provisions on a number of important points of management. In general, the Commissioners are not to dispose of land except for the best consideration that can be reasonably obtained in the circumstances of each case. This is broadly similar to existing requirements, but in its present form it is a little wider than their present powers.

The general rule about obtaining the best consideration is relaxed in certain special cases. The most important of these are in Clause 4, under which grants may be made, in the interests of the Crown Estate, for certain public or charitable purposes, and Clause 5 which defines the Commissioners' special duties in regard to the management of the Windsor Estate to which I shall come in a moment. The Windsor Estate comprises Windsor Park and Forest, but not Windsor Castle.

Clause 5 provides for the continuation of the general policy of preserving the present character of the Windsor Estate as a Royal Park and Forest. Except for the limited powers in subsection (3), to which I shall refer in a moment, the Commissioners will have no power to sell or exchange any land forming part of the Windsor Estate, although under subsection (2) they may grant leases for forestry or agriculture or other purposes that are not prejudicial to their general duty of maintaining the character of the Estate.

Under Clause 5 (3) an express power is given to enable the Crown Estate Commissioners to sell or make an exchange of land in Windsor Forest, but not in Windsor Park; an exchange of land needed in the public interest for development purposes, provided that they have, or can acquire, other adjacent land not less in area which can suitably be added to Windsor Forest instead. The need for taking any such land out of Windsor Forest will have to be certified by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government. The Commissioners will have to be satisfied about the suitability of the alternative arrangements that they were able to make. This Clause arises out of a specific instance. It arises in connection with the extension of the new town of Bracknell which was the subject of a recent public inquiry, and the provision now proposed will enable suitable action to be taken should it be thought to be in the public interest to use part of Windsor Forest for this purpose.

Clause 5 also continues the restrictions on the Crown Estate Commissioners so that they may not dispose of any houses on the Crown Estate that are in use as Grace and Favour residences. The financial terms of any arrangements in regard to such houses will be subject to the approval of the Treasury.

Clause 6 repeats certain existing provisions giving the Commissioners power to make regulations for land of the Crown Estate open to the public.

Clause 7 deals with the powers of the Minister of Works in Regent's Park. As the House will know, most of that park has been under the management of the Minister of Works and his predecessors the Commissioners of Works since 1851. But a small part of it is in the Crown Estate, and the land occupied by the Zoological Society of London is divided between the two. Clause 7 puts all the land occupied by the Zoo under the management of the Minister of Works, and gives him power to grant suitable leases to the Zoological Society on terms to be approved by the Treasury. It is thought that this is a sensible tidying up arrangement of the present position.

The other provisions of the Bill are also designed to tidy up the position with regard to existing Acts and to deal with the consequences of the repeal of the present Crown Lands Acts.

The only other point to which I ought perhaps to draw attention is that the First Schedule continues the arrangements whereby the salaries of the Crown Estate Commissioners and the expenses of their office are defrayed out of monies provided by Parliament and are borne on Votes. None of the provisions in the Bill will impose fresh burdens on Voted monies.

I hope that the House will accept the Bill as a useful Measure which will assist the Crown Estate Commissioners in managing the Crown Estate to the best advantage so far as concerns both the capital and the income, and which will simplify and improve the statutory provisions under which they operate.

10.20 p.m.

I rise as usual not to quarrel with a single word that the Chancellor has uttered. I am here to give him my fullest support. At one stage, however, he omitted to tell us what consultations he had with the Duke of Windsor before disposing of this land, and I must draw the attention of the House to another omission by the right hon. and learned Gentleman. I have a constituency interest in this matter. Although the Bill consolidates the general legislation regarding the Crown Estate and makes things very much simpler in respect of Crown land, there is another kind of Crown property which is not referred to specifically in the Bill but which is a very important asset and concerns the general development of our economy, namely, the seabed—the Crown property between the high-water mark and the three-mile limit throughout the United Kingdom.

I was quite unaware of the implications of this until some developments took place in my constituency which showed me how important it could be. As the Chancellor knows, some time ago the Government embarked upon a programme to develop the port of Milford Haven as a major oil port. The project had the general support of the Government, and a speech was made in its favour by the Prime Minister. In general, there was universal applause for it. Then it ran into difficulty over the sea bed.

The undertakers were proposing to build piers in the area. The two large oil companies—British Petroleum and Esso—both had to go to the Crown Estate Commissioners to seek permission to put their piers on the sea bed below the high-water mark. I understand that in the past the normal practice has been for the Commissioners to give long-term leases of about 99 years to the proposing undertakers in order to enable them to build their piers.

Rents were arrived at which were considered to be fair. A good example is the installation at Fawley, whose rent is about £1,000 a year for 99 years in respect of the piers going out over the Crown land on the sea bed. It was assumed that the same rates would apply for Milford Haven, until the arrival of Sir Malcolm Trustram Eve, as the First Crown Estate Commissioner. I noted the applause for Sir Malcolm Trustram Eve given by the Chancellor, but I do not share this fixation with Eve. He caused me a good deal of trouble when this development took place in my constituency. Instead of the £1,000-a-year rental he began by asking £50,000 a year for each pier. This was an extraordinary figure. He then proceeded to ask for even more. He suggested a royalty in respect of every barrel of oil handled, which would have raised the figure to over £100,000 a year in view of the tonnage of oil to be handled. It meant that all developments of this nature suddenly became uneconomic.

It also raised other problems of principle for any country which, like Britain, has to import a large proportion of its raw materials over piers or docksides when they come in from abroad, and which has to send out its exports over the same docks or piers. Once this principle was applied successfully at Milford Haven it could well mean that all the ports in the United Kingdom could be made subject to the same principle, and a new form of taxation could have been established. This could have been a very serious matter for the whole of our industrial economy.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman may say that this did not happen so far as the country was concerned and it is a marginal point. In fact, it could have happened. In the case of Milford Haven, I had to make representations to the then Minister of Transport, now the Minister of Defence, and to the then Minister of Power, now the Paymaster-General, and the matter had to go to a very high level before it was finally determined that these rents were far too high to be charged as a practical proposition. Instructions had to be given by the Government to the Crown Estate Commissioners to come to some more satisfactory arrangement.

It was at the same time announced by the Government that a Departmental Committee would be set up to go into the whole question of these sea bed rentals in such cases. I asked one or two Questions of the Home Secretary —in the days when he was the Lord Privy Seal and in that capacity was answerable to the House on this matter —about what was happening. The right hon. Gentleman informed me that it was not the practice of the Government to disclose the workings of Departmental Committees. Whether the Government were going to disclose that or not, nothing transpired. There is absolutely no information as to what is the intention of the Government or the position of any proposed industrial undertaker faced with a similar problem in the future.

The Milford Haven rent was resolved, after hard bargaining, at £6,000 a year. But that is neither here nor there, the main principle remains. It arises from the fact that when the Crown Estate Commissioners are dealing with property on land, they do not possess monopoly value except in relation to limited areas. There is always the general principle of the free market to apply to the valuation as some sort of yardstick, in order to judge what should be the appropriate figure to charge. But when it comes to the valuation of the sea bed, the Crown Estate Commissioners are in a complete monopoly position. The ordinary market values no longer apply. It is impossible to determine the actual value of the sea bed until something is put on it. All that can be done is to say to the would-be developer, "What is it worth to you?" Anyone in the position of a monopoly holder can charge a blackmail rent. This is the seriousness of the position.

I should not complain if this matter, which could be a significant tax on the imports and exports to and from the country, were to be determined as a matter of high Government policy. It might be that the right hon. and learned Gentleman would say in another Budget that this should be done. Let us say for the sake of argument that the right hon. and learned Gentleman thought it would be a desirable thing. There would be Ministerial responsibility in the taking of that decision and the House would be responsible for endorsing or rejecting it.

Because of this flaw in the existing legislation, it is possible for a relatively junior member of the hierarchy to determine what is a very significant change in our approach to the rates which the Crown Estates Commissioners should charge. At Milford Haven the whole future development of the area and the port was held up and put in jeopardy as the result of a decision taken by someone who would not be answerable to the House. The Minister had no authority for taking any steps except in a very heavy-handed fashion by giving a Cabinet directive to this official.

It is a very serious matter. It stems from two points. The first is that there is nothing in the Bill to determine the method of valuation for the sea bed which should be adopted. I think that there should be. Secondly, there is nothing in the Bill to determine any form of arbitration if the Crown Estate Commissioners should ask what may be an excessive rent. I submit that these two loopholes should be closed and that we should have that assurance from the Government spokesman before we give the Bill a Second Reading.

10.30 p.m.

It is a peculiar but none the less pleasant experience to find myself about 90 per cent. in support of my right hon. and learned Friend and 100 per cent. in support of the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly). The hon. Member raised this as a constituency matter. I represent one of the few constituencies in the United Kingdom which has no interest in the foreshore or sea bed. But this is a very serious point. Most hon. Members include within their constituencies a part of the foreshore or sea bed. I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the House will agree that this is necessary legislation and that in general it is a good Bill which should be supported, but I should like to support the hon. Member for Pembroke in the point which he properly and lucidly explained, and perhaps to elaborate it.

I can perhaps relieve my hon. Friend's mind and that of the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly) by dealing with this point. I omitted it from my original speech. The practice is for the district valuer to act in negotiating the consideration for the granting of an easement or a licence, or indeed in connection with a sale. I have had discussions on the matter, and I am fully aware of the validity of the points made. I assure hon. Members that the district valuer will be under instructions not to include any element of monopoly value of the foreshore or sea bed in his valuation. That will meet the point.

I am obliged to the right hon. and learned Gentleman. Perhaps later he will make a statement about the general principles of valuation as they apply to this, because I have always thought that valuation was not a science but could best be described as an art.

I do not know whether the hon. Member for Pembroke or my right hon. and learned Friend is intervening in my speech. I am grateful to my right hon. and learned Friend for his intervention. He knows that I have had correspondence with him on behalf of British Petroleum—which, incidentally, has the Government as one of its shareholders. This might raise the difficult point of the Government being, so to speak, on both sides of the fence.

I am grateful to him for saying that this point has been noted, although I am not at all happy about his explanation. I wonder whether it goes far enough. I think that there should be a more independent form of valuation than that to which he has referred. The experience mentioned by the hon. Member for Pembroke causes apprehension. When a valuation is put forward on one side which throws up a rent of about £50,000 a year and on the other side there is an independent valuation showing a rent of £1,000 a year, the difference is far too marked. Particularly in this case of a Crown Estate, it is important for Parliament to have an independent valuation.

I assure you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that I shall not speak for more than two or three minutes, but I point out that for hundreds of years Parliament has fought against the power of the Crown whereas this Bill puts power into the hands of the Crown which should not be there. I know that that is rather a far-fetched argument, but I ask my right hon. and learned Friend, before the Committee stage, to consider giving a more independent view to the question of valuation.

The hon. Member for Pembroke touched on another point which my right hon. and learned Friend did not mention. There is no right of appeal under Clause 1 (5). The subsection says:
"The validity of transactions entered into by the Commissioners shall not be called in question on any suggestion of their not having acted in accordance with the provisions of this Act."
My right hon. and learned Friend should assure the House that he will look at that again. There should be some provision for arbitration so that, if there is a difference of opinion, independent opinion can be sought. There have been differences of opinion. In this debate the hon. Member for Pembroke and I are referring only to cases relating to oil companies, but cases can arise throughout the whole length of the foreshore.

There should be provision for independent valuation. There should also be some recourse to arbitration if the Crown Commissioners and the independent tenant cannot come to terms. If my right hon. and learned Friend will give me assurances on those points, I shall be very pleased to have made this short intervention.

10.36 p.m.

The House has had a busy day. During the early part of our sitting we dealt with the last stages of a Bill directed at one of the most intractable problems of our home politics, namely housing. Our later discussions were concerned with the international aspects of our future. I cannot but admire the effrontery of the Government, who introduce at this late hour a Bill of such profound constitutional and philosophic importance as this. However, we are all feeling very energetic and anxious to help the Government complete their legislative programme. I quite understand the importance of the Government getting this through. We shall all be able to cooperate, particularly since Bills of this constitutional importance are sent to a Committee of the whole House.

I regret to say that I rise to oppose the Bill. I do so on very profound grounds. I appreciate the intention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer rather to soft-pedal in his speech some of its underlying implications. It looks like an honest little Bill to tidy up the powers of the Commissioners of Crown Lands and sweep away oddments of obsolete legislation. I do not want to see the Commissioners of Crown Lands charged with the duty of administering those lands on the principles which at present apply. They have applied for only a short time in our history.

It would be a mistake in a Bill of this symbolic nature to ask the Commissioners to behave like other landlords. It would be a great mistake to sweep away what remains in our Constitution and Statutes of the mediaeval doctrine of stewardship in relation to land, which has been so steadily eroded during the 19th and early 20th centuries. That is why I want to make my protest now.

As the right hon. and learned Gentleman said, the Bill is founded on the Report of the Committee on Crown Lands. Indeed, the Chancellor spoke as though he were ready to accept all the recommendations of the Committee. I will start by referring to some aspects of the Report. The first important thing is to note what the Committee says in its first sentence, when defining Crown estate:
"Crown lands are a large holding of rural and urban property."
Most of the properties are held as an investment. A few are held because they are ancient hereditary possessions of the Sovereign. It would be a mistake, therefore, to suppose that this is a little survival of mediaeval times of the job of administering a few oddments of property. On the contrary, it is quite a living, dynamic proposition that the Crown should own and administer lands.

When one looks at Table 3 in the last Appendix of the Report, it is indeed interesting to observe how much of the present Crown property has, in fact, been purchased. I will not read out all the Table—it runs to two or three pages—but in county after county one sees the dates. The first on which my eye rests is Somerset—three properties; one purchased in 1952, another in 1950, and one in 1944. There is Warwick—, land purchased in 1934. The old lands are quite a minority amongst these properties.

I suppose that on this side we would like to see that extended, and since the Chancellor is here in person I will tell him how much we would like to see it extended by the inclusion of any land that he collects instead of death duties, because in this day and age the habit of taking death duties and spending them as though they were current year's revenue is quite disastrous and immoral —or perhaps unethical is the better word—in the sense that it means that we are doing something with which we reproach other people who own houses—living on the capital instead of maintaining and sustaining it. If the Chancellor felt able to get over that very bad habit of putting his death duty revenue above instead of below the line he would meet some of the difficulties mentioned by the Committee in the Report, or at least one of them.

The Report goes on:
"Government expenditure is voted by Parliament. It would be a breach of Parliamentary control if the government spent the surplus income from the Crown Estate instead of paying it into the Exchequer."
There is reference to the Regent's Park terraces, where, I suppose, someone accused the Government of living cheaply in offices which were, in fact, Crown lands, but I wonder whether this doctrine that we never have hypothecated taxation in this country is really to be sustained for ever.

I wonder whether it would not be a great help in the long run if we could find a way out of that. I know that the Financial Secretary is very devoted to that doctrine—I have heard him expound it—but it does not always apply. Nobody has complained that direct revenue and profits obtained by municipalities have been used directly in relief of rates. There are other opportunities, and it is really one of the nice things about the British constitutional way of life that we do manage to keep alive at the same time a series of evolving systems which gives us a chance to make empirical decisions when we have to make legislative changes. The Committee obviously felt uneasy about this, and I would have hoped that the Chancellor would not rubber-stamp and underwrite that entirely.

The next thing that worries me with the Report is the selection of the responsible Minister. It states:
"We understand that it would be proper for us to suggest some of the considerations which should be borne in mind in selecting the Minister or Ministers to be responsible for the board to Parliament."
Then follows the most extraordinary sentence:
"We feel that the selected Minister ought not to be any Minister with a special interest as Minister in the use or control of land. This recommendation, if accepted, would exclude any Minister of agriculture, works, housing or town and country planning.…"
I have no doubt that the Committee had admirable reasons for making that statement, but it is surely one that we should challenge in this House. It is a most extraordinary doctrine that the Minister responsible for administration of Crown lands should be one who knows nothing about the problems of land from the community's point of view. The Minister of Housing and Local Government, who is responsible for town and country planning, is specifically excluded. That is the main burden of my complaint about the Bill and my complaint about the attitude to the present system of land owning by hon. Gentlemen opposite as reflected in the Government's legislation —the fact that they consistently exclude from their considerations the rights of the community as a whole and the necessity for the comprehensive planning of the country's economy which must be based on the proper use of the country's land.

We have this odd situation. One does not often start by looking at the last page of a Bill, but on the cover of this Bill we see that the Bill is presented by Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer—fair enough—and is supported by Mr. Secretary Butler. I am not quite clear whether he is the one or whether it is the Secretary of State for Scotland who is later referred to in the Bill as the "Secretary of State". But the names of Mr. Henry Brooke and Mr. Christopher Soames appear on the Bill as indicating that the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs and the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food signed their own Ministerial death warrant as far as this Bill is concerned. They are saying, in effect, "We agree with the proposition that we ought not to have any say in the administration of Crown lands." I suggest that on an issue of principle that is really a very important matter indeed. Of course, that is why in the very next paragraph the Committee is puzzled, when it is dealing with definitions of duties, by the conflict, as it states:
"The lack of a clear statutory duty has made it more difficult to weigh their duties as trustees against claims of conformity with Government policy. These duties should now be written into statute."
But the Government have only written half of them into Statute. They have specifically excluded the other half. That is why certain important problems have been left unconsidered by the Government. The Committee came to what appeared to be a competent, efficient and technical Report and the Government thought that it would do, but in Appendix A of the Report the Committee gave a list of the organisations which it consulted. The Committee had fifteen meetings only. It said in the Report that it knew nothing about the Crown Estate when it started the job. The following are the people whom the Committee consulted: The Agricultural Land Commission, The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the Church Commissioners, the Duchy of Cornwall, the Duchy of Lancaster, the Forestry Commission, the Inland Revenue Valuation Office, the Ministry of Works, the National Trust, the Scottish Office, the Treasury, the Country Landowners' Association, the Scottish Landowners' Federation, and several more bodies. The Committee had no advice on planning or about the general responsibilities to the community of a land owner. That is what, I think, causes the fundamental defects of the Bill as it stands.

I now turn to the Bill. I will skip the Explanatory Memorandum because the Chancellor of the Exchequer has already dealt with it. We see how in the Clauses the draftsmen picked up the recommendations of the Committee. We see in Clause 2 that they dealt with the question of the reports and accounts of the Commissioners. I have dealt with the point, but I hope that the Chancellor may have something to say about it in reply.

I was hoping that the Secretary of State for Scotland was going to reply as he is the other Minister involved.

Of course, if that should be the case we shall have a very interesting discussion before the night is out on the history of land ownership in the United Kingdom, because Scottish hon. Members also will have a few things to say about the principle of clan ownership of land now twisted into the methods used by the modern land speculators. Certainly I shall look forward to a reply on those grounds.

The most serious and dangerous point of all is in Clause 3 (1)—the Clause headed "General provisions as to course of management," which states:
"Save as provided by the following provisions of this Act, the Commissioners shall not sell, lease or otherwise dispose of any land of the Crown Estate, or any right or privilege over or in relation to any such land, except for the best consideration in money or money's worth which in their opinion can reasonably be obtained, having regard to all the circumstances of the case."
This is advice that they must have got from other trustees. But the notion of absolute ownership of land in the opinion of trustees is one that has done more harm than a great deal of the activities of the small sharks and speculators who infest our cities and whose predatory hands are laid on houses here, there and everywhere in order to invest.

This doctrine, that one must get the last halfpenny as a trustee, leaves out the silent partner to every contract for the use of land, and that is the community as a whole. That partner was always present in the Middle Ages and in the earlier Statutes that are being repealed. It was a question of temporary stewardship and responsibility to the community, but somehow or other things have got to the stage where the community is left out.

That is what is fundamentally wrong with the Housing Bill which we were discussing earlier today. It is the people who follow these rules and who, in fact, aggravate the social problems which I —and, I grant, many of them—are as anxious as I am to solve.

I have said some things about the Church Commissioners, and I am usually misunderstood. But I will try again now. Here is a clear case of the most eminent, responsible and conscientious people who are given the task of administering an estate of land for the benefit of the trust which appointed them—and that is not the community which lives on that particular land. They have, by the terms of their appointment and status, no obligation whatever to consult or to pay any attention to the needs of the local authority and the community. That is what leads to the sort of thing that broke in the Lintang scandal. It is true, whatever the public read about the Lin-tang scandal, that a couple of chaps were sent off the field for a minor infringement of the rules.

But that was not the main issue. The game goes on. The Church Commissioners, within their own powers, sold an estate for £500,001—and that is in Mr. Neville Faulks' Report on the Jasper group of companies—to some respectable people, one of whom was the Lord Mayor of London at the time. That estate became worth, in current prices, more than double that figure. It was only in the later stages, when someone was over-stretching their resources, that the manoeuver collapsed.

The sale of land in circumstances such as that is a scandal, because it is doing violence to the existing use of the land. It amounts to a change of user, and that is what we have suffered from so much in London; there has been change of user to the detriment of the chances for ordinary people.

In the next subsection it is laid down that the Commissioners ought not to have the opportunity to grant a lease of more than a hundred years. I would have thought that they would have tried to get some new principle into this. I do not suppose I am conceited, but I would present the case in a non-party way, because after all, there have been many people in many political parties—and the Chancellor of the Exchequer has belonged to at least two—who have honestly tried to cope with this problem of how the community can avoid the situation where it has got to buy part of the value which it itself has put into the land. It is a problem that has been discussed from John Stuart Mill and Henry George onward.

Towards the end of the war there were commissions on the subject, and advice was given to Parliament. The Labour Party adopted various attitudes. Sometimes they are in favour of the nationalisation of land and sometimes they are not—it depends upon what has been thought to be a reasonable alternative. It is the same problem of solving the unearned income of the value of land. They get tied up in some kind of machinery that does not work.

I would have thought, therefore, that this would be an opportunity to give the Crown Commissioners the right to come in on the use of the land at the point of impact which matters most—and that is the change of use of the land. That would leave out of consideration rewards which are or ought to be offered to people with ingenious ideas, payment for work done, and all that sort of thing. The simple background to the urge to get back into public ownership land which was once publicly owned is surely concentrated on the one point that it is only the existence of the community which has created the increased value, and that it ought not to go to some speculator without the community having a chance to get it back.

I would have thought that hon. Members opposite would not disagree with that and would at least in their exposition on this Bill show that they had thought about it and were aware of it, because I have always found in political discussions that the one thing, if one has a noisy meeting, that will get serious consideration is the challenge: "What is your remedy for what you know to be a weakness in the system—this accumulation of values which the individual has not created?" I am not here talking about values created by one's own productive work or ingenuity, but values socially created.

This question of the increase in land values has reached appalling proportions and threatens to engulf any reasonable proposals for an improvement on the methods of planning. I did read in one newspaper this morning of a situation in Chelsea which gives an interesting challenge. The rector of the parish has a garden of two-and-a-half acres, and he has been offered £450,000 for that garden. It is a pretty heavy responsibility for him and the Church Commissioners to decide whether they ought to sell to the developers or not. One of the characters in this little drama is Earl Cadogan, who, apparently, according to the newspaper, has a say in the matter. His position in regard to the estate as a whole and the community as a whole gives him the job of deciding whether the transaction shall take place.

I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman is suggesting that Earl Cadogan is a Crown Estate Commissioner. If so, I think he is mistaken.

I am sorry if I am so unclear in my desire not to take up too much time. What I am suggesting is that there is no power in the Bill—and no one was consulted about this while the Committee was drawing up its Report—to reintroduce the element of stewardship and duty to the community which is embodied in the ancient feudal duties of Earl Cadogan. We have a situation where the old feudal landowner still has more social responsibilities than the rector or the Church Commissioners —because, owing to the terms of their trust, they have to do otherwise—or than the Crown Commissioners would have under the powers in this Bill. I think there ought to be some such representative of the community in these matters.

In case the Solicitor-General thinks that I am getting a dig in at the Church Commissioners or Earl Cadogan, perhaps I might tell the story of the Acton Labour Party headquarters. Shortly after the end of the war, the Acton Labour Party scraped the barrel, passed the hat round and raised £1,500 with Which it bought a plot of land.

I am advised that Acton Labour Party's headquarters also is not part of the Crown Estate.

I appreciate what the right hon. and learned Gentleman says. The House will appreciate that I have only just come into the Chair. I have heard the hon. Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin) for a minute or two. I am sure that he will try to keep within the bounds of order on the Second Reading of this Bill.

With great respect, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, it should not be difficult to keep within the rules of order on the Second Reading of a Bill which is concerned with nothing less than the way in which the Crown itself should discharge its responsibilities as an owner of land. That opens up a very wide field indeed. It was not my intention to attempt to cover the whole of that field.

What I am talking about at the moment is Clause 3 (1) of the Bill, which proposes to impose upon the Crown Commissioners a narrow trusteeship altogether out of tune with hundreds of years of tradition in this country, altogether out of tune with their previous duties and altogether out of tune with the present requirements of the community.

I had given two examples of the way in which the honourable discharge of the duties of a trustee would result in damage to the interests of the community as a whole because there was no element of community planning in the transfer of the use of the land, and, lest I should be suspected of prejudice, I was about to balance that by quoting a third case where trustees were involved in the sale of land—trustees on exactly the same terms as the Bill will impose upon the Crown Commissioners. It will not take long, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and it is, I submit, relevant.

The trustees of the £1,200 worth of property had an offer to sell for £12,000. They were greatly interested and were disposed to that sell. They were beginning to take steps to sell when a solicitor advised them that they were trustees for a certain purpose and that it was their duty to get the last halfpenny for the purpose. He told them, "If you sell for £12,000 without the most careful investigation you might be sued for dereliction of duty. You had better put it up to tender."

A little anxious, that is what they did, and they got £42,000 for the property. Whether there are more noughts or less at the end, there is the same problem everywhere in the country in land prices. This is not the moment to invest the Crown itself with the characteristics of the ordinary trustee of land. That is why I submit that the Bill should have been presented in a very different spirit, and should have included some recognition of the right of another Minister to be consulted and of the community itself to be considered. There should also be provision for re-entry of the Crown rights at the point of change of use of the land, so that it would be possible to revise the terms.

The Solicitor-General will correct me if I am wrong, but I do not think that the word "freehold" means what many laymen think it means, that one owns the land absolutely and may do with it exactly what one likes. I think it merely means that one does not pay a rent for it and that one can use it for a certain purpose for which it was granted.

I do not think that the elements of stewardship and duty have been removed from the Statute Book yet. Since there are not less than seven pages—I hope I shall not be provoked into dealing with all of them—going into great detail on the repeal of enactments described as obsolete; this is a bad moment to try to remove what has been a stewardship in the use of land. There should be the right to re-enter on the question of the use of the land when there is a change of ownership. That would have been better than a vaguely uneasy feeling that this should be granted for 100 years or so.

Passing quickly through the Bill and coming to Clause 4, we find there there is a concession to the notion of charity, but there is no notion of responsibility to the community which is not in need. Clause 4 gives the Commissioners power to make concessions for public or charitable purposes or to dispose of land
"…without consideration or for such consideration as they think fit…".
That proviso would have been extremely useful to Ananias and Sapphira some years ago, but it is too late for that, although one sees the point. But the notion of charity to the community and the notion of responsibility to the welfare state, in the modern view, is not merely concerned with those who are desperate and without means of support.

There is a list of the provisions of this kind. The rubric of Clause 5 is
"Special provisions as to particular properties".
I take it that these are the provisions mentioned by the right hon. and learned Gentleman for "Grace and Favour" residences. I am glad to see it in. I suppose that the Government have put it in merely out of respect for the Royal Prerogative, and I am sorry about that because nobody supposes that the descendants of those frugal-minded people, Queen Victoria and King Edward VII, are unable to provide for some of their distant relatives. Nobody supposes that it is necessary for Parliament to make provision of this kind. If provision of this kind is made, it is because we like it that way. It is because the country as a whole likes the trappings and traditions of the Monarchy as symbolic—symbolic of what? It must be symbolic of something.

Gossip columns often mention the death of some very old, distant relative of a czar or emperor, with a very complicated noble name from one of these Grace and Favour residences. It would be very easy to make fun of that as out-dated. The people who live there were sent there because in their day and generation they had done in the public service quietly what they had been asked to do. They may not have been that hard up, but they were not in the strictly money-making class. I am very glad that in the provisions of the Bill they are to be left alone.

But I wish that this were really symbolic and not just a survival from the day when the Crown's duty was to provide for the needy. These old dears in the Grace and Favour residences are there, as I have said, because they and their husbands and relatives did what was asked of them in their day and generation. There are thousands of my constituents in Paddington who have done no more and no less than that, and I wish that we were able to revive the system of owning land in such a way that they would not be harried out of their dwellings in their old age. I would like to see that symbolic survival re-recognised as an obligation of the community as a whole.

These are important matters of principle, and I hope that some of them will find their way into Amendment form in Committee so that the Government's views can be tested. However, I am tempted by the Third Schedule which repeals spent or obsolete enactments. There are many things in those Acts which I do not want swept away. The Government want to sweep them away and to change this ancient constitution into one of pure moneymaking, and I do not like that.

The Government have already swept away one Act by the 1956 Act and are reintroducing it in the Bill. I wish that some of the things which they propose to sweep away could be re-enacted. Certainly Ordinatio Foreste in the 34th year of the reign of Edward I bears rereading before it goes into the dustbin. They put the Government's point of view in the Preamble in those days. It is very interesting to read some of the feelings that motivated his late Majesty:
"While we behold the imperfection of human weakness, and weight with attentive consideration the burthens far and wide diffused that lie upon our shoulders, we are indeed inwardly tormented with divers compunctions, tossed about by the waves of divers thoughts, and are frequently troubled, passing sleepless nights…."
How many sleepless nights has the Chancellor spent while considering the Bill? Who passes the sleepless nights now? A lot of people, in all parties, when they are trying to tackle this question of land ownership.

It is good stuff. It goes on:
"hesitating in our inmost soul about what ought to be done, what to be held, or what ought to be persecuted…. Truly among all the things which rest upon our care and anxiety, about this chiefly is our mind busied without intermission, that we may prepare the pleasantness of ease and quiet for our subjects dwelling in our realm, in whose quiet we have rest, and in their tranquillity we are inwardly cherished with the odours of satisfaction amidst the flowers of hoped for peace."
Why do not the Government say that that should be the job of the Commissioners, as it used to be? There is no reference to their duties to the Crown's subjects. But here we are, in 1306, with a better recognition of their duties towards human beings than we have today. Philosophically, mediaeval Christendom was miles ahead of the lot that rules our lives today.

Edward I was not just an airy-fairy idealist. He went on to say:
"We have indeed learned, from the information of our faithful servants and the frequent cries of the oppressed, whereby we are disturbed with excessive commotion of mind, that the people of the said realm are, by the officers of our forests, miserably oppressed, impoverished, and troubled with many wrongs, being every where molested."
That is a bit which the Solicitor-General does not intend to repeal. Since he can reintroduce the provisions of the 1956 Act I suggest that he should put this back into the Preamble of the Bill. It is jolly good stuff. Edward goes into details about the way in which some of these chaps have been surcharging the forests. Chapter 4 is what he does not intend to repeal. It concerns the punishment of foresters surcharging the forests, and Edward says that they should be dealt with at the swanimote. It is a great pity that the swanimote is not here today to deal with them. But the Bill advocates the direct opposite; it says that the Commissioners must molest the people and surcharge them and get the last halfpenny from the land.

The next bit comes under Edward II. Unfortunately we repealed that in 1956. It provided that the rector should not cut down trees in the churchyard. That might have helped the Chelsea situation. It goes on to say:
"The King shall have the custody of the lands of natural fools, taking the profits of them without waste or destruction, and shall find them their necessaries, of whose fee soever the lands be holden; and after the death of such idiots he shall render it to the right heirs."
That is not a bad idea. I submit that the natural fools in this community of ours are those—and I say this in all solemnity—who cannot see that upon this issue of whether we solve the problem of the landowner and the moneylender—the two characters who do no productive work, but depend upon collecting for themselves a value which the community has created—depends whether we can get the next stage of the social revolution by consent.

Let us not imagine that people who come to this country to admire out ancient institutions will be impressed if they see a steady failing to cope with this problem of land ownership, which results in a steady augmenting of the burden of rent and interest upon the poorest sections of the community. This is an issue which stretches further than the housing problem of this country. It reaches out into international affairs. That is the problem and challenge of co-existence. Co-existence and world peace do not depend upon some frozen status quo. It depends on a competition between different parts of the world to see which part can realise human dignity and human quality in the best way.

After all these years of experience of an evolving democracy, with an empiricism in our attitude to those problems which means that we have many devices and methods in operation in parallel, surely we should be able to contrive a device to solve this problem. That is why I regard it as not only lazy-minded and reactionary but positively doing a disservice to the cause of democracy if the Government at this late hour of the night try to pass as a Bill of little importance this Bill which tries to crystallise the views of the old 19th, century owners of land and to destroy all the traditions of stewardship and responsibility to the community which can still be found in our ancient statutes and traditions. That is why I oppose the Bill.

11.22 p.m.

I do not intend to follow the hon. Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin) into the polemics of the evils of land legislation, but on another occasion I should like to hear his views on the catastrophic fall in the value of land in countries such as Kenya.

I want briefly to follow up the point made by the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly) and reinforced by my hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Mr. Gough). There is no doubt, as my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor said, that the Bill gives the Commissioners an enhanced and stronger duty to increase the value of the Crown Estate, particularly in Clause 1 (3), which mentions not only requiring the highest rents but also increasing the capital value. It goes far beyond the Act of 1927 in this respect, and in my submission, as regards the foreshore, and the foreshore only, it is a totally wrong conception.

My right hon. and learned Friend intervened to say that the district valuer would be asked in all cases to settle a value either for a purchase price or for rent for the amount of foreshore which might have to be given or taken by a development. But in the case of Milford Haven Harbour I understand that no district valuer was brought in and that the negotiations were carried out directly between the Commissioners and the oil company concerned. As the hon. Member for Pembroke said, agreement was not reached, and it has still not been reached.

If the district valuer is to have instructions of this sort, surely it ought to be written into the Bill. I am surprised that the Government have not mentioned this process of the valuation of the foreshore in the Bill. I suppose that the reason they have not done so is that it is impossible to give a yardstick for what a piece of foreshore is worth. The use to which it can be put, its position and hundreds of other factors enter into it. It has no value on the market because the foreshore is held entirely by a virtual monopoly; it is held by the Crown. The effect of Clause 1 (3) will be to force the Commissioners to extract from anybody who wishes to use or develop or rent a piece of the foreshore the maximum which they can get, the greatest amount which the traffic will yield, so to speak. That is a totally unfair conception of how one should charge for land. A field is not let for the maximum which could in any circumstances be obtained. If it is let to a farmer, the rent will be only £2 or £3 an acre. If it is let to a factory owner, the rent may be thousands of pounds an acre.

This does not affect oil companies only. Shipowners, owners of dry docks and other docking installations, anybody who has to have a harbour or installation for the receipt of ships and goods from the sea, may be affected. I have been affected in the case of a deep jetty in a shipyard. I helped to construct it. The land which had to be taken from the Commissioners was charged for, but the land which was reclaimed for the foreshore was of no value and therefore no money was paid in return. This is ridiculous.

What I want to see in the Bill is a basis of valuation for foreshore. It may be said that the price of the foreshore should be related to the price of the nearest adjacent dry land. Perhaps it should be 30 per cent., 50 per cent. or 100 per cent, of the value of that land. Some yardstick should be stated as to what a fair valuation of the foreshore is. There should be some procedure whereby an independent body can consider this question. The district valuer is sometimes not as independent as he might be. I hope that the Government will table an Amendment not only to provide some yardstick of valuation, but also to provide a procedure outside the Government machinery to enable the foreshore to be dealt with in a fair and reasonable manner. The foreshore has over many centuries been available to all to use for their pleasures. It would be a disaster if this right should in any way be infringed. It would be a great mistake if industrial undertakings because of excessive charges were prevented in any way from choosing the most efficacious means of carrying out their business.

11.27 p.m.

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley), I apologise for detaining the House at this late hour. I hope that my hon. Friend will acquit me of discourtesy if I do not follow him in the point he mentioned, which was first raised by the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly).

My constituency is probably the most affected initially by one of the provisions of the Bill, which is why I want to detain the House for a few minutes. Since we have no sea water anywhere in my constituency, I am unable to comment in any intelligible way upon the point made by my hon. Friend. I am particularly interested in the important power contained in Clause 5 (3). I thank my right hon. and learned Friend for bringing the Bill forward. This is of vital importance to what I regard as one of the most interesting social experiments in this country at present, namely the overspill new town.

I am sorry that the hon. Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin) is no longer in the Chamber. I very much regret the attitude he adopted. I am pleased to welcome many of his constituents as my own. In the fair countryside of Berkshire we turn them from the way he would like to have them vote into the way more acceptable to me. The Minister of Housing and Local Govern-melt recently held an inquiry. He has decided that the new town of Bracknell shall be increased in size. Immediately adjoining the new town are Crown lands. I have been involved for many months in lengthy arguments on the legal aspects. The simple fact is that the Commissioners, whose bona fides I do not in any way question, have up to the moment said that the legal position is that their land is inalienable. However well disposed they are, they cannot make it available for public purposes such as the extension of the new town. This Bill puts that right and is, therefore, most anxiously awaited by all shades of opinion. In this matter, I am supported on a wholly non-party basis by those who are anxious to see the increase and improvement in the new town, and we shall be watching with great anxiety the decision of the House tonight.

Quite frankly, although the arguments are complex and interesting—and I, perhaps, by training, have the advantage of being able to understand some of them—I am by no means satisfied that the legal position hitherto taken up by the Commissioners has been right, and I have some sympathy with the view expressed by the hon. Member for Pembroke in his dealings with the Commissioners. I think that they have been very hard landlords. I say that without any criticism of their very distinguished chairman. I believe that both the Church Estates and the Crown Estates are singularly fortunate that a man of his distinction and drive is at their head, but I do wish that up to now he had found it possible to advise his colleagues in a rather more lenient way in my area.

I want to serve a friendly notice on my own Front Bench—and let it be said that I do not for a moment expect my right hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General to deal with this point at all in his reply, because it is comparative detail—that in Committee I shall seek at least to question one of the provisions in subsection (3) of Clause 5. There, as the House will see, the Crown Commissioners not only have to be satisfied
"… by a certificate of the Minister of Housing and Local Government that land in Windsor Forest which forms part of the Windsor Estate is in the public interest required for development …"
but must also, contrary to any other landlord in the country, be satisfied that the land so acquired can be suitably replaced. Why should this be so? Why should we single out this one estate owner, al present the one estate owner in the country who is able, as it were, to cock a snook at the Government of the day and say the land cannot be compulsorily purchased? We still keep the Commissioners in the privileged position, which no other estate owner can have, to require that the land taken from them shall be suitably replaced in kind.

I repeat that I have no intention to try to detain the House at this late hour on what is a comparatively detailed point, but only want, in a friendly way, to serve notice that I, at any rate, have my eye on it, and shall seek to go into it in very much greater detail at the appropriate stage. For the reasons I gave when the hon. Member for Paddington, North had, regrettably, to be out of the Chamber, I earnestly commend the Bill to the House, and very much hope that it will be given a Second Reading.

11.34 p.m.

We do not propose to divide against this Bill—and not only for the reason that occurs to the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor-General. We regard it as a Bill that is unimaginative and one that could carry a great deal more than it does. As far as it goes, it is largely a re-enactment of the even larger volume of somewhat aged legislation, traces of which one finds here and there. For instance, the power to make contribution

"… for purposes of any hospital, infirmary or cemetery, or for other purposes tending to the welfare of persons residing or employed on any such land"
dates just a little bit. The distinction between a hospital and an infirmary is not as clear as it used to be, and the contribution to welfare made by a cemetery is a little more in doubt than it was in those days. But a great deal of it is that. As regards the rest of it, it provides machinery for carrying out the Report of the Eve Committee and supplements, of course, the 1956 Act. When that Act was in Committee as a Bill I remember very well moving an Amendment of meet the point which, with a picturesque wealth of detail, my hon. Friend the Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin) has developed tonight.

The point about the present Bill is that the function of the Commissioners is simply the managing and turning to account land and other property rights and interests, and it contains, as the Chancellor explained for the first time, a statement of their general duty which is purely one to maintain and enhance the value of what they hold and the return obtained from it, but with due regard to the requirements of good management.

This is public land, and since 1760—that is 200 years ago—it has regularly, at the commencement of each reign, been handed over to the public by the sovereign. What happens, of course, to its revenue is that the net surplus every year is handed to the Exchequer. This is nationalised land in the fullest sense of the word. It has become so by an historical process, but that is what it is now.

We on this side of the House are not content, and we were not content when the first Bill was introduced, to see no more than that as a definition of the duties of those who have to deal with land belonging to the public. We do not expect any more from this Government. We do not expect any more as a sequel to the 1956 Act, which was similarly insufficient. But surely nowadays we might recognise even in legislation of this kind that the responsibilities of a land owner, and a very considerable land owner, go a great deal beyond the mere question of looking after the profits and the enhancement of the capital which the land represents.

The amount involved is very considerable. The receipts in the last published year were very nearly £3 million from rents, and over £2 million of that came from property in London. It is the policy of the Commissioners to increase the property in London and that property includes, for instance, three housing estates. One of them, curiously enough, was part of a larger area acquired from the Marquess of Salisbury for the erection of a penitentiary but which was not required for that purpose. I do not know who was supposed to go into the penitentiary or on what grounds it was found that it was not required—a very interesting matter of history. Be that as it may, the three housing estates are still there and the responsibility which a housing estate certainly involves, and, of course, the usual London difficulty of having to choose between development by way of offices and development by way of houses. All that is removed from the responsibility of the Commissioners. They are simply charged in the most general terms with the duties of what one would call the conventional good landlord.

We do not think that that is enough. I agree, if the point is raised, that the difficulty is to know how to enforce a responsibility of that kind nowadays. It is sought to be done by giving Ministers powers of direction. Of course, it is not a very satisfactory way of dealing with the matter. The Ministers in question have varied from the Lord Privy Seal to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Secretary of State for Scotland is always included, though one would not think so because no Scottish Minister has been present today.

What is wanted in a matter of this sort, in the handling of public land—and I think also in attending to other matters which it would be out of order for me to go into today—is some sort of land commission to deal with the land of the country. I suggested, when the 1956 Act was going through the House, that the Commissioners should, at any rate, have subcommittees or be divided in some way according to the geographical areas covered by the property. It was not a very good arrangement to have Commissioners dealing with urban land and with rural land, and it is not a good idea, having regard to the character of the properties involved, when one looks at them, to have the same Commissioners to deal with both English and Scottish properties.

I was told at that time by the right hon. Gentleman who is now the Minister of Housing and Local Government, who was then the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, that this was a matter that would be examined. But I notice in the Commissioners' Report that a good deal of their work appears to be divided into sub-commissions of some kind. We can go into this subject at length in Committee and I shall say no more about it now.

Concerning the powers of investment of the Commissioners, they are only given what one might call savings bank powers in this Bill. It was a recommendation of the Eve Committee that they should be given the powers of trustees, but that has not been carried out. We shall have to go into the reasons why the Government have taken the retrograde step they have in disregarding that recommendation.

This is a point that has been raised in other connections with regard to people concerned with the National Debt Commissioners in another Bill now before the House. The National Debt Commissioners have greater power to facilitate the lending of public money in undated securities than any other body of men. They have not met for 40 or 50 years and, therefore, one cannot hold them responsible. That is just as well, for they are a distinguished body of persons and all their work is done by the Treasury—and the Treasury seems to be the worst possible judge of its own investments. That Department might take a lesson from the Church Commissioners, who do it much better.

In the matter of foreshores, I must declare an interest. I pay these Commissioners 2s. 6d. a year for the privilege of removing seaweed from the foreshore and putting it on the land. If the Minister appears to be looking at me in a rather puzzled way about this, I can assure him that if he goes to the West Coast he will find that farmers are doing this regularly and it is excellent for the purpose. I shall be glad to show the right hon. and learned Gentleman how it is done. It is a small and, perhaps, trivial case, but the ownership of the foreshore is a most absurd thing for the Crown Land Commissioners to have and to cling to nowadays.

I can illustrate this by another instance. We are constantly having trouble on the foreshore with oil refuse from ships. Who is responsible for that? What are the Land Commissioners doing about it? The last time I raised this matter I caused a shock of horror to appear on the face of the Law Officer, and the matter passed. It is not right that the Crown Land Commissioners continue with this absolute power over the foreshore. I am not think only of my own seaweed, but of a lot of other things.

If one looks at the position of the public in this connection, the situation is even less clear. One hon. Member said today that the public have the right to go on to the foreshore and amuse themselves there. They certainly have not got that right in England—and their right is doubtful in Scotland. The only people who actually have that right are the fishermen going about their business. The law about this is absurd. Surely the right people to deal with foreshore questions are the local authorities. They ought to deal with it. But the amount involved is quite substantial and wants careful consideration.

On the question of payment, raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Paddington, North and the question of arbitration, I dissent from the view that the district valuer is a prejudiced person who stands for one side more than the other. I think he should be relied on to give a fair valuation, as he has to do between a local authority and someone who is buying and selling. But there should be some such provision in the Bill itself. I noticed that the Chancellor did not tell us that the same execessive payment was made on the advice of the district valuer. It seems in the case in question to have been brought in afterwards. There is a case there, obviously, for some possibility of valuation of that kind when dealing with what is at present a monopoly.

This Bill is a comparatively simple effort, in spite of the length of the Clauses in it. It re-enacts legislation. It misses an opportunity, of course, but it is the sort of opportunity that I would never expect this Government to go anywhere near taking, and for that reason we shall not oppose it but shall have comments to make in Committee.

The hon. Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin) invited me to engage in a general disquisition on land use and to follow him into the delectations of John Stuart Mill and Henry George. I do not think he really expected me to do that, and I do not propose to do it. The hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) went further and invited me to deal with Scottish land law. Like jesting Pilate, he has not waited for an answer, and even if he had he would not have got one because I am incapable of doing so.

I propose to deal with the matters on which most of the speeches have turned, and that is the general duty of the Commissioners, and, in particular, its repercussion on the foreshore, and the grace and favour residences, which is a separate point.

First of all, as the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) said, we are concerned here with the property of the Sovereign which is surrendered at the beginning of each reign, and the revenue becomes then public revenue. It is the revenue which is used to go some way towards maintaining our social services and all the other welfare, defence, and other payments of the Crown. It is for that reason that the Commissioners are charged to try to run the estate profitably. But in addition to that, they are expressly charged to have due regard to the requirements of good management. In other words, they have got to act as a good and responsible landlord, considering also their duty to their tenants. That is the general duty laid down in Clause 1 (3). But in Clause 3 (1) they are given general provisions as to their course of management, and that starts:
"Save as provided by the following provisions of this Act, …"
Turning to the following provision in Clause 4, one sees at once that the case put by the hon. Member for Paddington, North that the Commissioners are not permitted to have regard to public interest is completely belied by the terms of the Bill. They are expressly charged in that sense. It is not only those who are in need. Under the Clause the commissioners can have regard to the purposes of any public or local authority, construction of roads, docks and so on, and providing, enlarging or improving churches and places of religious worship, schools, libraries, communal facilities for recreation and so on; in other words, a whole host of public purposes.

But the main duty, quite clearly, is to sell or lease or otherwise dispose of the estate for the best consideration that they can reasonably get. But in that respect they have to have regard to all the circumstances of the case. That brings me directly on to their method of dealing with the foreshore.

All the matters to which the right hon. and learned Gentleman refers follow these words:

"For the development, improvement, or general benefit of any land of the Crown Estate".
They are simply means of carrying out the general duty which is stated in Clause 1.

That is precisely the concept of stewardship which the hon. Gentleman opposite invoked. As I say, over and above that they can have regard to all the circumstances of the case. That is very well illustrated by the way that the district valuer is charged to consider the foreshore and sea bed.

The circumstances which the district valuer is charged to consider are these. First of all, quite obviously, there are the normal forces of supply and demand—how much demand there is for an easement across, say, the foreshore. But quite apart from the question of what it will fetch in the market, they are under instruction to have regard to the purpose for which the use is required, and, therefore, the district valuers will take into account whether the easement is required for a commercial purpose or a public purpose—for example, the running of a sewer across the foreshore out to sea, and that is one of the circumstances of the case which would be covered by the terms of Clause 3, and it would mean that a rack rent would not be demanded.

In addition, as my right hon. and learned Friend said, the district valuer is expressly charged with discounting the monopoly value of the foreshore or sea bed. I hope that that really meets the point put so clearly by the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly) and developed by my hon. Friends the Member for Horsham (Mr. Gough) and the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley).

No. The words in the Bill are

"having regard to all the circumstances of the case."
I am now telling the House how the Commissioners consider that they should interpret those words with reference to the foreshore and sea bed. It is an administrative practice of theirs, and will be, that the monopoly value of the foreshore and sea bed is discounted; in other words, they will not be able to exact a monopoly price for their easement even in the case of a commercial user.

Can my right hon. and learned Friend tell us where in the Bill this reference to the district valuer appears? I have not seen it.

There is no reference in the Bill to a district valuer. That is, in fact, the way the price is arrived at in the event of a dispute. It is referred to the district valuer. I agree with the hon. and learned Member for Kettering that the district valuer does his very best to produce a fair valuation in these circumstances. In addition to that, the Commissioners will have their own valuers, and so do, presumably, the potential users.

I am still not quite clear about this. In the Milford case it was the chief Crown Estate Commissioner who conducted the negotiations. Does this mean that the Government are laying it down that the district valuer will, in future, act for the Crown Estate Commissioners?

Yes. I am dealing with the practice as it is proposed to develop it and as I also understand that it is already in use.

If the hon. Member will allow me to deal with this, he will find that I can answer his question and much time will be saved. I was going on to deal specifically with the Milford case.

The Commissioners never formally asked for more than £10,000 a year. It is true that at one stage a figure of £60,000 —not £100,000—a year was worked out on the basis of royalties on the tonnage of oil handled, but that basis was not adopted. After discussion with the oil companies, agreements were made for a provisional rent of £6,000 a year and for the final amount to be determined at not less than £1,000 a year and not more than £10,000 a year, and that if there was no agreement on that final amount the matter would be referred to arbitration in the light of the basis of valuation I have just indicated.

Is it contended that this demand for £60,000 was made in accordance with the practice which the Solicitor-General has stated? Or is it agreed that that was not in accordance with that practice? If it was not, was it in accordance with the language of this Bill?

I do not think it is right to say that a figure of £60,000 was demanded. It was mentioned but it was not a formal demand. It was not in the light of the practice which I have just indicated—which I think was worked out as a result of the strenuous protests of the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly). The practice I have indicated is in accordance with the terms of the Bill.

I am thoroughly muddled about this. As I understood my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the district valuer would first of all intervene and he would decide what was the proper amount to pay. Now I gather from my right hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General that the rent is first decided upon by the Crown Commissioners and then the district values comes in as a kind of valuer. Is there further arbitration after that?

The Solicitor-General