Clause 1. — (Certain Acts to be made permanent.)

– in the House of Commons at on 23 November 1931.

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

4.0 p.m.

Photo of Mr Arthur Samuel Mr Arthur Samuel , Farnham

May I have the attention of the Financial Secretary to the Treasury for a moment? This Bill becomes necessary every year. It is one of the most unsatisfactory elements in our procedure. It is well known to all old Members here. When I look at Clause 1, I see in the second line the words "the Acts mentioned," and I doubt very much whether any of our new Members know what those Acts are and what they propose. We are going to discuss this Clause without the full knowledge of what the Acts mean. We are referred to the First Schedule. I remember, in 1929, when Mr. Pethick-Lawrence was Financial Secretary, he promised that we should have a White Paper. I think that when the promise was made my hon. and gallant Friend the present Financial Secretary was sitting next to me on the Front Bench opposite, and he took part in extracting that promise. I do not want to press my hon. and gallant Friend too far, but this year we have 20 Acts under this Bill, whereas there were only 15 when we discussed a similar Bill last year, and we should, at any rate, like to know the reason for the increase. Why have we not had the White Paper which was promised in 1929 to explain the effects of each Act and why the Acts are being continued permanently or temporarily? For example, when we turn to the Acts dealt with under Clause 1, we find: The Courts (Emergency Powers) Act, 1914. So far as it relates to orders made by any court before the thirty-first day of August, nineteen hundred and twenty-two. We ought to have some explanation as to whether any of those Orders are still running, and we should feel a little happier if we could be assured by the Government that they have come to the conclusion that it is time we abolished war period legislation. The Financial Secretary will remember that both he and I protested in 1929 about the Emergency Powers Act, and we then said that we wanted to know why it should be kept in. Therefore, on this Clause I ask why we have not received a White Paper, and whether the Treasury intends to carry out the promise given in 1929? If it does not propose to carry out the promise, how can it defend itself in view of the fact that we have five Acts more than last year? I hope I may be allowed to put another question or two when we get further on in the Bill. I believe that when I was Financial Secretary we had certainly one sitting of the Select Committee which went into the list, and I think that the Select Committee which looks through these Acts and says which should be taken out and which should be made permanent, sits every three years. Therefore, it ought to sit in 1931. Has it sat lately, and when was the paper circulated showing its decisions?

Photo of Mr Walter Elliot Mr Walter Elliot , Glasgow Kelvingrove

I think that my hon. Friend and predecessor has every reason to compliment himself upon the persistence of his desire for further information about this Statute, and about the enactments which are there renewed. I think that he will find all the information which he desires in the report of the Select Committee. In particular he referred to the Courts (Emergency Powers) Act, 1914. If he will look on page 6 of that report, he will see the subject matter, and a short observation of the Government Department concerned, and for the benefit of new Members, to whom my hon. Friend referred, if they make use of this report of the Select Committee on the Expiring Laws, they will be able to get the effect of the enactments which are being discussed. It will be seen that the Lord Chancellor's Department requires that the Courts (Emergency Powers) Act should be made permanent, and it is in accordance with that desire that in Clause 1 we ask the House to make permanent this Act among others.

My hon. Friend raised the question of the sittings of the Select Committee: I think that from time to time it will be necessary for such committees to revise this Act, but I think that the committee on this occasion did useful service, and has, I think, brought the House quite up-to-date with the Statute as it is at present presented. If there are any further points upon which my hon. Friend wishes specific information, I shall be glad to give it myself if I can, or, if not, to refer him to the responsible Minister. My hon. Friend asked if further papers will be laid, but I would point out that there is this full report of the committee which he himself has in his hands.

Photo of Mr Arthur Samuel Mr Arthur Samuel , Farnham

The paper to which my hon. Friend refers is all right up to a point, but as the report only comes out every three years, I think that we should get into the habit of having a White Paper from the Treasury on this Expiring Laws Bill whenever there is no report such as that of the Select Committee to which my hon. and gallant Friend refers. So far as this year is concerned, perhaps the committee's report does go far enough, but I think that on future occasions we shall have to press him, as he and I pressed when not in office, for a White Paper in those years when we do not get the Select Committee's report.

Photo of Mr Walter Elliot Mr Walter Elliot , Glasgow Kelvingrove

I shall be very glad to convey the request of my hon. Friend to the responsible department, but I think he will admit that on this occasion the report brings the House fully up-to-date with the information.

Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.

Clauses 2 (Certain Acts to be continued temporarily), 3 (Amending enactments) and 4 (Short title, and application to Northern Ireland) ordered to stand part of the Bill.

First Schedule (Enactments made permanent) agreed to.