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Lords Chamber

Volume 116: debated on Tuesday 21 May 1940

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House Of Lords

Tuesday, 21st May, 1940.

The House met at four of the clock, The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.

The Lord Chancellor

My Lords, I have to acquaint the House that His Majesty has been pleased to create the Right Honourable Sir John Allsebrook Simon, Lord Chancellor of that part of Great Britain and Ireland called Great Britain, a Peer of this Realm, by the title of Viscount Simon of Stackpole Elidor in the county of Pembroke.

His Lordship, having retired to robe—Was (in the usual manner) introduced.

Agricultural Wages (Regulation) (Scotland) Bill

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.

4.25 p.m.

My Lords, the Bill which I will ask your Lordships to read a second time is a corollary of legislation of 1937 dealing with the question of agricultural wages in Scotland. This is not, strictly speaking, a war measure; it is a development of a process which has been going on in Scotland some little time, but a development due in part to war conditions. Your Lordships will probably remember that the Act of 1937 established eleven agricultural wages committees which had power to fix minimum rates of wages. Power was given to the Secretary of State for Scotland to direct that any decision at which the committees arrived should be considered, but he had no further power, and the power of direction contained in Section 6 was never in fact used. The Act did not give the Central Board power to review local committees' decisions. It was thought that local conditions were best known to the local committees, and that they could best be left to look after the interests of the agricultural workers within their districts. But local conditions have now perhaps taken a secondary place in this matter, in a day when subsidies, grants, and fixed prices on a national basis tend to emphasize national considerations and facts. It has been thought desirable to do what this proposes—namely, to give the Board the last word in the matter.

Therefore, if this Bill passes, the Board will be in a position to intervene and, subject to an opportunity which will be given to the committee to reconsider and justify their decision, the Board will have the last voice. Of course the Board will be in a position to take notice of local conditions, both in the particular district affected and also in other districts. I hope your Lordships will think that this is an advance upon the Act of 1937. I am happy to tell your Lordships that farmers and workers have been consulted through their proper bodies, and, though I cannot say that the Bill represents all that either party might desire, it at any rate represents the largest common measure of agreement between the bodies representative of the farmers and the farm workers. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a .—( Viscount Caldecote.)

4.28 p.m.

My Lords, it will be within your Lordships' recollection that, when the comparable English Bill was before this House, I invited the Government to empower the Central Board to define what the wages related to. At that time I was not successful in persuading the Government to take that course. Of course I am not speaking now, I understand, as a member of the Opposition, but I am representing what I am quite sure is a good point, and I hope that now that many of my friends have joined His Majesty's Government we may perhaps have a little more influence in persuading them to take that point of view. The point is very simple. The Central Board can prescribe a minimum wage and can overrule the local committees. The suggestion I made—and I am quite sure it is a sound suggestion—is that the Central Board should have power to take into account the hours that are to be worked for those wages. Unless they can prescribe a working week, they will be prescribing wages so to say, in vacuo. When a farmer is paying a certain amount of money to a workman, it is perfectly logical that he should be informed what he is going to get for it—namely, how many hours of work. As I read this, the Central Board will not have power to prescribe, we will say, a standard working week in terms of hours. I am quite sure that that necessity will arise within twelve months of the establishment of the Board. It will necessarily arise the first time that the question has to be decided. Therefore I hope that the noble Viscount will himself be good enough to give consideration to this simple point, and perhaps be able to accept some form of Amendment in the Committee stage.

The noble Lord's point will certainly receive consideration. I think I remember his making the suggestion on a former occasion. I will see that it has the consideration which it no doubt deserves as coming from the noble Lord.

On Question, Bill read 2a , and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

Marriage (Scotland) (Emergency Provisions) Bill Hl

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.

4.32 p.m.

My Lords, this is a small Bill which follows a provision made in the last war to deal with the difficulty which may confront two people, one of whom is on war service, and who desire to contract a regular marriage after notice given to the registrar. The necessity for this Bill arises from the coming into operation of the Marriage (Scotland) Act of last year, which will have the effect of bringing to an end, when it is brought into operation, the irregular marriages generally known as "Gretna Green marriages." There are certain formalities which have to be observed in connection with marriages other than irregular marriages. Each of the parties must have resided in Scotland in a particular place for a period of fifteen days before notice of the marriage is given, and seven further clear days must elapse after the giving of the notice before the necessary certificate to enable the marriage to take place can be issued. Your Lordships will readily see that this may cause hardship at a time like this when there are members of His Majesty's Forces who are unable to satisfy these conditions and to wait for the time to pass. It is therefore proposed that in the case of an intended marriage where one of the parties is a member of the Forces (including not only members of His Majesty's Forces strictly so called, but also auxiliaries, including nurses and fishermen or merchant seamen) notice may be given on the strength of the residence qualification of the other party and the certificate may be issued twenty-four hours after the giving of the notice. I hope your Lordships will think that this will meet the circumstances of the case after July 1 next, from which date it is proposed to bring the Marriage (Scotland) Act into operation. I therefore beg to move that the Bill be read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a .—( Viscount Caldecote.)

4.34 p.m.

My Lords, my noble friends do not propose to offer any opposition to the passing of this Bill, which is a war measure designed to be of assistance in a very difficult period. We recognise that difficulties of this kind will arise, and this Bill is designed to make them as few as possible. We should like therefore, to give it our support. One purpose of my rising to-day is to offer, on behalf of my noble friends and myself, to the Lord Chancellor our very sincere and hearty congratulations. Some of us have been his colleagues in another place for many years. We have frequently differed from him but never quarrelled with him, and personally I have always received from him exceptional kindness and generosity. I congratulate the noble Viscount further in that he inherits the position of Lord Chancellor at a time when Party acerbities are somewhat softened, and that, I am sure, will make his task all the more agreeable to him. My noble friends will offer to him any support that it is in their power to give in the responsible position which he has assumed.

On Question, Bill read 2a , and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

War Charities Bill Hl

House in Committee (according to Order): Bill reported without amendment.

Evidence And Powers Ofattorney Bill Hl

Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.

4.37 p.m.

My Lords, in moving the Third Reading of this Bill I should like to say that on the Committee stage of the Bill no changes were made, and there was consequently no Report stage. A closer examination of its text has revealed two or three small imperfections which had better be changed before the Bill leaves your Lordships' House. They are hardly more than matters of drafting, and I think it is the practice of your Lordships' House, if such a case arises, to make these changes after the Third Reading has been adopted. I therefore beg to move now that the Bill be read a third time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a .—( The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Bill read 3a .

Clause 2:

Proof in criminal proceedings of documents intercepted in post.

(2) In this Section—

  • (a) the expression "authorised examiner" means a person authorised by or on behalf of His Majesty to examine postal packets which have been despatched by post;
  • (b) the expression "authorised photographer" means a person authorised as aforesaid to photograph such postal packets as aforesaid;
  • (c) the expression "competent officer" means a person holding any such appointment in any such Government Department concerned with the examination of postal packets as may be specified in an Order of His Majesty in Council;
  • moved, in paragraph (a) of subsection (2), after "examine," to insert "(whether within or without the United Kingdom)." The noble and learned Viscount said: My Lords, the Amendments all have to do with Clause 2 of the Bill, and they are designed to make quite sure that the authority which that clause exercises shall be available whether the letter or document which has been stopped in the post or by the censorship has been so stopped or examined inside the Kingdom or outside the Kingdom. The first three Amendments are really of a very similar character, but I think I had better none the less move them seriatim.

    Amendment moved—

    Page 3, line 4, after ("examine") insert ("(whether within or without the United Kingdom)")—(The Lord Chancellor.)

    On Question, Amendment agreed to.

    moved, in paragraph (b) of subsection (2), after "photograph," to insert "(whether within or without the United Kingdom)."The noble and learned Viscount said: My Lords, this Amendment, in the same way, provides that if the photograph is taken outside the Kingdom the Act will apply just as if it had been taken inside the Kingdom.

    Amendment moved—

    Page 3, line 8, after ("photograph") insert ("(whether within or without the United Kingdom)").—(The Lord Chancellor.)

    On Question, Amendment agreed to.

    Amendment moved—

    Page 3, line 10, leave out from ("appointment") to ("concerned") in line 11 and insert ("or office (whether within or without the United Kingdom)").—(The Lord Chancellor.)

    On Question, Amendment agreed to.

    moved to add to the clause:

    "(3) His Majesty may by Order in Council direct that the foregoing provisions of this section shall extend, with such exceptions, adaptations and modifications, if any, as may be specified in the Order, to the Isle of Man, any of the Channel Islands, any Colony, any British Protectorate, or any territory in respect of which a Mandate on behalf of the League of Nations has been accepted by His Majesty and is being exercised by His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom."

    The noble and learned Viscount said: My Lords, you will see that if we are going to provide a simple procedure in the case of a document which has been intercepted in the post in respect of which criminal proceedings are being taken it would be the height of absurdity if it were limited to cases which arise entirely in the United Kingdom. This new subsection therefore enables the operation of the clause to be extended by Order in Council to cases arising far off, say, at Aden, so that a letter intercepted there may be certified by a competent officer and received in evidence in criminal proceedings in this country and in any other Colony or territory to which the clause is applied by the Order.

    Amendment moved—

    Page 3, line 20, at end insert the said new subsection.—(The Lord Chancellor.)

    On Question, Amendment agreed to.

    Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.

    House Of Lords Offices

    Order of the Day for the consideration of the Third Report from the Select Committee read.

    The Committee reported as follows:


    The Committee resolved that the House of Lords Offices Committee should exercise financial control over the Custodian Staff.


    The Committee sanctioned a pension and additional allowance under the Superannuation Act, 1909.,to Joseph Henry Philip, Second Principal Doorkeeper, who retires on 2nd June, after 22 years' completed service.


    The Committee sanctioned the appointment of a doorkeeper to fill one of the existing vacancies.

    4.42 p.m.

    My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend the Lord Chairman, I beg to move that this Report be now considered.

    Moved, That the Report be now considered.—( Lord Stanmore.)

    On Question, Motion agreed to.

    My Lords, I do not think your Lordships will wish me to deal with this Report at any length. The only matter of any importance is the first item, which regularises the conditions of financial control over the Custodian Staff. The other items relate to routine business. I beg to move that the Report be now agreed to.

    Moved, That the Report be agreed to.—( Lord Stanmore.)

    On Question, Motion agreed to.

    Business Of The House

    4.43 p.m.

    My Lords, I beg to ask the noble and learned Viscount, the Leader of the House, whom I should like, on behalf of my noble friends most heartily to congratulate on his new position, if he can give the House any information respecting business.

    My Lords, it is proposed that the House should meet to-morrow and Thursday when, as your Lordships will have observed, there are Motions on the Paper, but perhaps I may take this opportunity of saying that there are two Bills which His Majesty's Government are anxious to secure as soon as possible. One is the Treachery Bill, which has been already printed and circulated in another place. I am proposing to make arrangements for the circulation of copies of this Bill, in order that your Lordships may have as full an opportunity as possible of considering its provisions, and to attach to it a slip saying that your Lordships will be asked to pass this measure through all its stages on Thursday, assuming that it has passed its stages in another place to-morrow.

    The other Bill which I may be allowed to mention is a Bill to amend the National Service (Armed Forces) Act. This is in connection with the formation of the Local Defence Volunteer Force. The Bill will only be introduced in another place to-morrow, but as soon as a copy is available I would propose that it should be printed and circulated to your Lordships for the same purpose of receiving your Lordships' consideration and securing its passage on Thursday through all its stages. I am a little reluctant to make these demands upon your Lordships for exceptional forbearance on the first occasion upon which I have the honour to appear in my present capacity. Perhaps I may be allowed to assure your Lordships of my earnest desire at all times to give the fullest consideration to the rights of your Lordships, and to see that your Lordships have the fullest opportunities of considering those measures which will be brought before you for consideration. May I add a personal word of thanks to my noble friend opposite for his kind words?

    House adjourned at fourteen minutes before five o'clock.

    From Minutes Of May 21

    Christchurch Corporation Bill

    Newcastle-Upon-Tyne Andgateshead Gas Bill

    Brought from the Commons; read 1a , and referred to the Examiners.

    Northallerton Urban District Council Bill Hl

    Returned from the Commons, agreed to, with Amendments: the said Amendments considered, and agreed to.

    Motor Vehicles (Gas-Propelled Vehicles) (Variation Of Speed Limit) Regulations,1940

    Regulations, dated 4th March, 1940, made by the Minister of Transport under the Road Traffic Act, 1930, and laid before the House on the 13th instant, referred to the Special Orders Committee.