I beg to move,
That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty in pursuance of Sub-section (1) of section eleven of the Emergency Powers (Defence) Act, 1939, praying that the said Act, as amended by any subsequent enactment, be continued in force for a further period of one year, beginning with the twenty-fourth day of August, nineteen hundred and forty-four.
This Motion for an Address is necessary, as hon. Members are aware, to secure the continuance in force for another year of all the emergency legislation which has been brought into force by means of Defence Regulations, and Orders in Council, since 24th August, 1939. The Emergency Powers (Defence) Act, 1939, was enacted for one year only, but by the Emergency Powers (Defence) Act of 1940, that period was made two years, instead of one year as under the original Act. From year to year, the Act has been continued in force by the procedure laid clown in Section 11 of the Act and I will, if I may, read that Section to the House:
Subject to the provisions of this Section, this Act shall continue in force for a period of one year beginning with the date of the passing of this Act, and shall then expire.
The proviso on which this Motion is based says:
Provided that, if at any time while this Act is in force, an Address is presented to His Majesty by each House of Parliament praying that this Act should be continued in force for a further period of one year from the time at which it would otherwise expire, His Majesty may by Order in Council direct that this Act shall continue in force for that further period.
I read that Sub-section because it has been suggested in some quarters of the Press that, on this occasion, the Motion praying for the continuance of the Act, might be limited to a shorter period of time. I, therefore, point out that the Act itself fixes as one year, the statutory period for which the Act can be continued by means of an Address.
In 1942 this Motion was passed without a Debate. In 1941 it was made a con- venient peg for a Debate initiated by my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend (Sir I. Albery) on the subject of Defence Regulation 18B, and last year it was similarly made a peg upon which to hang a Debate on the very important subject of delegated legislation. We have recently discussed Defence Regulation 18B, and I think my right hon. Friend has given a great deal of satisfaction by his reply to that Debate. On the question of delegated legislation, machinery has been established for a committee to scrutinise it. Therefore those two subjects are not, I think, likely to be raised to-day. No one will oppose this Motion or challenge its necessity. Upon the continuance of the Act depends the whole of the powers, upon which the manhood and the resources of the country have been mobilised for war. It would, therefore, be a work of supererogation on my part, and I should be wasting the time of the House, if I were to press the obvious necessity for the continuance of the Act for another year. This, however, is a proper and suitable occasion for hon. Members to bring forward, so far as they can within the rules of Order, particular aspects of the application of emergency powers in which they are interested, and my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is in his place to reply to any points which hon. Members may raise in that way.
My right hon. Friend has moved the Motion with his usual lucidity, but he certainly has not let the cat out of the bag as to the future, and I am sure the House will want certain further information. On 15th July last year we discussed a similar Motion and my hon. Friend the Member for South-East Essex (Mr. Raikes) raised the point that, when the armistice comes, and during a period when there will be less emergency, though still a state of emergency, it might be advisable to pare down those powers gradually. In reply the Home Secretary said:
At some time there must be a review both from the point of view of hon. Members who wish to abolish the whole of the controls, or as many of them as they can, and from the point of view of other hon. Members who, while they do not wish to preserve them for the sake of preserving them"—
Of course it is not within the power of anyone to preserve them. They are limited to the period of the emergency——
are of the view that it will be necessary for the Government to take hold of our economic life in that period of transition, to protect the interests of the people and the nation as a whole. In principle, therefore, I do not dissent from what the hon. Member for South-East Essex has said, though I make no positive promise, as to making any detailed statement 12 months hence."—[OFFCIAL REPORT, 15th July; Vol. 391, C. 494.]
The situation has changed very considerably in the past year. Twelve months ago peace with Germany seemed somewhat remote. We do not want to be unduly optimistic, but to-day peace, or an armistice, may be just round the corner. No one can tell when it may come—in a month, two months or six months. It is obviously right that we should ask the Government what they intend to do when the armistice comes. I am not quite sure how the statement I have quoted was at variance with the broadcast speech of the Secretary of State for Air on 21st August, 1940, made with the authority, as he said, of the Prime Minister. The right hon. Gentleman on that occasion said:
The Prime Minister has authorised me to give you this message, that it is the intention of His Majesty's Government to preserve in all essentials a free Parliament and a free Press, that all these emergency measures which restrict the liberty of the subject shall disappear with the passing of the emergency, and that all the new offences created by Regulation under the Emergency Powers Act and the extraordinary powers entrusted to the Executive, will vanish with the advent of victory and peace.
I think, perhaps, if one were not too subtle, one could find differences, at least in tone, between what my right hon. Friend said last year and that statement, but I do not want to labour that point. There were certainly some statements last year which looked as if certain Members did not quite realise that this is not a question of any dispute between State control and the individual. This is a case in which this Parliament, for an emergency, has trusted the Government with powers which it never would give in peace time. But those powers were given for an emergency, and for certain specific objects. May I remind the House of what Section r of the principal Act says:
Subject to the provisions of this Section, His Majesty may, by Order in Council, make such Regulations as appear to him to be necessary or expedient for securing the public safety, the defence of the Realm, the maintenance of public order, and the efficient prosecution of any war in which His Majesty may be engaged, and for maintaining sup-
plies and services essential to the health of the community.
Incidentally, these powers are framed in wider terms than the notorious Defence Regulations in the last war. As my right hon. Friend has pointed out, originally the Act was limited to one year, 1940, and was extended to two years. It is made quite clear in the Act that:
Notwithstanding anything in the preceding Sub-section, if His Majesty, by Orders in Council, declares that the emergency that was the occasion of the passing of the Act has come to an end, this Act shall expire at the end of the day on which the Order is expressed to come into operation.
It is perfectly clear that it was passed for an emergency and should come to an end with the end of the emergency. In the last war the Armistice was on 11th November, 1918, but D.O.R.A. was not brought to an end until 21st August, 1921, nearly three years after the end of the war.
There can be no dispute, that during the transitional period a certain number of these Regulations and Orders will require to be continued. There will be a shortage of raw material and so on, and controls will be necessary for that. It may, however, be questioned whether controls should be continued under the present Act, or whether a separate Act should be brought in. When the emergency passes, it will be wrong to continue and to impose Regulations and Orders and by-laws under this Act. That is a matter about which I hope the Home Secretary will have something to say. I have read the objects laid down in the principal Act for the passing of Regulations, and it is sometimes a little difficult, looking at some of the trifling and finicky Orders that have been introduced, to see how they could achieve those objects. One could take the famous bread Regulation, which provides that Vienna bread shall be not less than eight inches in length. There is the austerity clothing Order, and the equally famous one, to which an hon. Gentleman referred recently, namely, the "Tins, Cans, Kegs, Drums, etc.," Order. One finds it a little difficult to understand how such Orders help the "efficient prosecution" of the war. It would be an inspiring sight to see some of the back-room boys, when there has been some glorious exploit of the Services, saying to one another, "Now what can we do for the more efficient prosecution of the war?" and deciding to bring in the "Tins, Cans, Kegs, and Drums" Order. To misquote, one might say, "Oh, Efficiency! what crimes are committed in thy name."
On this occasion it is right, before we continue these powers, to ask the Government to state now, what their intentions are for the future and what they intend to do when the armistice comes. I think all sides of the House will agree that certain of these Regulations must disappear. There may be a difference of opinion as to 18B, as an emergency Regulation, but I do not think any Member would like a man to be put in prison or kept in prison without trial when the war has come to an end, or even after an armistice with Germany. In the White Paper on Unemployment there is a good deal in Paragraph 11 and succeeding paragraphs hinting what the Government intend to do. They point out that factories will require to be transformed and export trade to be renewed and extended. They point out that
The present clothing ration provides roughly one-half of the pre-war consumption of clothing. Supplies of household goods have been greatly reduced. Only about one household in ten can now buy a pair of sheets and one household in five a pair of blankets each year. Only one person in seven can now buy each year a knife, fork or spoon, one person in three a kettle, saucepan or frying pan, one person in four a teapot or jug. The manufacture of carpets, vacuum cleaners, refrigerators and other household appliances is virtually prohibited.
When the armistice comes, people who have been willing to go without household goods will, rightly, begin to press that necessary supplies should, as far as possible, be renewed. What is the Government's attitude with regard to that? There is a concentration of the carpet industry; will that come to an end with the armistice? Our export trade will be vital to our very existence. We must, in fact, export or burst. We must so plan, that our export trade will not be hampered by restrictions, controls and unnecessary regulations. This is a question on which the Government alone can say with authority what should happen. A great many of these Regulations and Orders are inter-locking. I hope that, whatever else the Government do, they will remove all those petty Orders which impose penalties for the merest offences. I hope that my right hon. Friend will be in a position to
say that the finicky Orders will cease at once when the armistice comes. They may have been necessary during the period of emergency, but I do not think the country will be prepared to suffer them when the worst of the emergency has passed.
Incidentally, there is a serious side issue in all this. These Regulations, Orders, by-laws and so on are making this country cease to be the law-abiding country it has been in the past. I do not mean that they are making us criminals, but every Member of the House, and of the public at some time or another, has, unwittingly, committed an offence against the Regulations. If a man feels that, whatever he does, he will commit an offence, then that law-abiding sense, which is characteristic of our race, will disappear. I hope that the Government will eliminate anything which is not absolutely necessary in order to deal with shortages of supplies and so on. There are a great many things which will hinder trade, such as the concentration of industry and order. There are a great many Orders which limit and interfere with the export trade. It is suggested in the White Paper that there are a great many articles we shall require, but that we do not want any unessential industries to be developed in the transitional period. But what is unessential? Household goods can hardly be described as unessential, or even the wireless parts of which so many of us are in need. Some provision will require to be made for this sort of thing. The country has suffered controls, restrictions, Orders and so on for five years. The people have borne them, as my right hon. Friend will agree, with exemplary patience, and they will continue until the victory to bear them with the greatest fortitude and good nature. There is a danger that, in those critical years after the war, when we shall want enterprise and our export trade developed, we may smother enterprise by too many controls and regulations. Nobody denies that some controls and regulations will be necessary, but let them be cut down to the absolute minimum.
I know that the Home Secretary is a true Parliamentarian, and although his voice may falter a little at times, I have always considered that he believes, at heart, in Parliamentary government and in the right of the individual in ordinary times to a fair trial. He does not want to see our people unwittingly committing offences when they have no reason to know that they are doing so. I am sure that he does not want to continue unnecessarily controls and restrictions which will hamper the recovery of this country, or prevent men getting employment when they come back from the Services. It is essential that anything which would interfere with employment should be scrutinised carefully and any Regulations or control that hinder should be removed. These powers were given for an emergency. We hope that the first and most critical emergency, the war with Germany, will be coming to an end within a short time; but whether that will be in one month, three months or six months, it is obvious that, before we continue this Act for another year, we should have some indication of what the Government are going to do. We do not ask the Home Secretary for details, but to give us an outline of the Government's programme for the orderly unwinding of these controls.
On a point of Order. I think it would be convenient to the House if you would give a Ruling, Mr. Speaker, as to the scope of this Debate. The Section under which we are acting reads:
If at any time while this Act is in force, an Address is presented to His Majesty by each House of Parliament praying that this Act should be continued in force for a further period of one year … His Majesty may, by order in Council, direct that this Act shall continue in force for that further period.
I suggest for your consideration that it would clearly not be in Order for us to discuss what may happen after the expiry of that period of one year, and that to ask the Government to declare their policy beyond that time is to expand the scope of the Debate beyond what is in Order. On the other hand, anything that may be done under this Act within the ensuing 12 months, is clearly within the scope of this Debate.
The hon. Member who raised the point of Order has put an impossible question to me. I cannot foretell the future; I do not know what will happen 12 months from now, or whether the Act will be brought to an end before 12 months or after. It seems to me that one cannot lay down a Ruling that nothing can be discussed that is likely to take place after 12 months has passed; therefore I must rule that the Debate may, within reason, consider the future.
I have listened to the hon. Member for North-East Leeds (Mr. Craik Henderson) and the burden of his remarks seemed to be that he wanted to know from the Government what is to happen when the end of the emergency comes. He said that the Act was passed at the time when the emergency occurred; as a matter of fact it was passed before the emergency, that is, the war with Germany had really come. The Government undoubtedly had some prevision there——
Do hon. Members say that, when the war with Germany is over, the emergency will be ended? In this respect we shall have to be careful. While it is true that war with Germany was contemplated when the Act was passed, we are now at war with Japan, and with the satellites that are attached to Germany. We could do no greater disservice to the country than to get the impression that the emergency will be over when we have won the war against Germany—and I join with the hon. Member in hoping that that will be soon. We could do no greater disservice than that to our Allies and particularly to the people of the Commonwealth of Australia and other parts of the Dominions, side by side with whom we are fighting, and who came to our aid so readily and willingly when we were in trouble with Germany and not with Japan. We must be careful. I do not see how the Government can conduct the war successfully against Germany or Japan, unless they have these emergency powers.
It is true that there can and should be some relaxation in restraints on civil and civic liberties when the war against Germany is over and I
feel quite sure that the Government, consisting as it does of Parliamentarians and lovers of liberty, will be willing to make those concessions to the fullest possible extent. The hon. Member said that there had been a great change in the last 12 months, and that is true. There has been a change for the better in our fortunes, but there is no sense in whistling until we are out of the wood, and we are not through the wood yet. I would remind him that great crimes have been committed not only in the name of efficiency but in the name of liberty also, and one of the things about which I am most concerned in this Act is that it provides not only for the efficient prosecution
of any war in which His Majesty may be engaged,
but also for
maintaining supplies and services essential to the life of the community.
I have been perturbed very much recently by what I think must be propaganda—articles in the Press, some by hon. Members on the other side, storming against the controls that we have on at the present time and against this bogy-man, the civil servant. I think that is all leading in one direction, liberty to exploit the people of this country as soon as the war is over. After the last war—and when one has had two wars in a lifetime one can at least remember what happened after the last one—I remember how the cost of living skyrocketed. I am sure that every hon. Member appreciates that, when this war is over, it will not be the end of shortages in this country. Every hon. Member also appreciates the obligations we have undertaken to the liberated countries, and I feel sure we are all equally determined that those obligations shall be honoured. Therefore, in view of the shortages that are bound to exist at the end of the war, and our obligations to other nations when they have been liberated, it seems to me that we will have to go very carefully in the relaxation of certain controls in this country.
Of course the controls have been irksome, they have been hard to bear, but they have not been as hard to bear as the losses of a large number of our people, who have given their sons and their daughters so that we can have our liberty. The controls are very small, compared with those hardships and those sufferings. Also, while the controls have been hard to bear, at least there has been one overriding satisfaction. If the President of the Board of Trade has brought out regulations to which we have objected in regard to clothing, they have ensured that as far as the cloth would go, the people of the country would have a fair share. There have been very irksome controls in regard to food, but what on earth would have happened, if we had not had the controls in food? Might not those who were in a position to purchase to any extent, to say the least, have taken advantage of that, to the detriment of those unable to do so? Therefore, to that extent these controls have been very beneficial.
We boast to-day—do not let us forget it—that the people of this country, by and large, are better fed to-day than they were in the piping days of peace. Why? For two reasons. One is that they have had the purchasing power, on account of higher wages and more employment. That is true; it is undoubtedly the predominant factor. But it is a very regretable thing, in my view, that we should be able to boast that in war-time, in a time of scarcity, in a time of privation, the mass of our people are better fed than they were in peace-time. I am afraid that if these controls go with the ease which the hon. Member for North-East Leeds suggested, we would again have that scarcity for a large class of our people, who would be unable to procure the means to meet their necessities.
I have not the slightest doubt that if the hon. Member and his like had not been in control of the industry of this country, there would never have been a General Strike. It was the misdirection of industry which created it. We had a coal Debate yesterday, I shall not go into that subject, but no Member in this House who represents the coal industry can get up and say that the great reductions imposed on the miners of this country were of the slightest advantage to the coal industry. On the contrary, that course of action put our coal industry down the drain, and left every district in debt. There was an overriding burden of debt. No one can deny that. In conclusion I would only say that our party will support the Motion in the belief that our safety when the war is over, as far as the working classes are, concerned, requires that certain of these Regulations should remain in operation.
I rise to support very briefly the arguments which fell from my hon. Friend the Member for North-East Leeds (Mr. C. Henderson), and very briefly also to comment on those which have fallen from the hon. Member for Morpeth (Mr. R. J. Taylor). There is one quite simple question on which these comments might be hinged, and I hope my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will answer that question when he speaks. Nobody questions for one second the need for the continuation of these Regulations at the present time. Nobody disputes it or would quarrel with it in any way. Nobody will grudge any power which the Executive need in order to defeat our enemies in the field. Everybody also recognises that when our enemies in Europe are defeated, the nature of the emergency will change. I do not say that there will not still be an emergency; there will, but the nature of the emergency will change. We do not know whether there will be an armistice with Germany. There may be nobody with whom to conclude an armistice. A period of great uncertainty may continue in Europe for a long time. Nevertheless, when major operations in the field have come to an end in Europe, I repeat, the nature of the emergency will have changed, and I do not think that at that moment the Government will be justified in carrying on powers which were given to them for a different purpose, without coming to the House and explaining fully the nature of the new emergency and the powers which are required. That is the sole point we wish to make.
Of course, we have to carry on the war with Japan. My hon. Friend opposite need not suppose for a moment that there is any hon. Member on this side who is not determined to see the war with Japan finished as conclusively as the war with Germany and her satellites. In that respect, not a single power will be be- grudged to the Government of this country. But when the war with Japan is the only great operational task left before us, when we are dealing with a Europe, in which organised armies are no longer opposing ours, the situation will be entirely different. What I would ask my right hon. Friend to give us to-day is an undertaking, on behalf of the Government, that when the emergency in Europe comes to an end in that sense, they will come back to Parliament and say, "The emergency has changed. The character of our needs in the new emergency is such-and-such, and we ask Parliament, in consequence, to approve such-and-such powers." We ask for that assurance, which I am sure my right hon. Friend will be prepared to give.
Let me saw a word about what fell from my hon. Friend the Member for Morpeth as to the duties of Parliament. If one were to follow his argument to its conclusion, it would point to this: that the welfare of the people of this country is only to be assured under wartime controls, in fact, that these war-time controls must be perpetuated, in order that the people of this country should be properly fed. I totally disagree with him. I think that the vast majority of the people of this country would totally disagree with him.
My hon. Friend, I think, is rather exaggerating what I said. I said that it was a remarkable thing that we boasted that our people, by and large, were better fed in war-time than they were in peace-time; which was due to the higher earning power, to the controls which ensured equal shares, and to more full employment.
My hon. Friend seems very willing to state premises, but not to draw the obvious conclusion from those premises. That is the position in which many of his hon. Friends find themselves at the present time. We were told yesterday that the miners of this country were not being adequately fed, and certainly, for the sake of those who do some of the hardest work in this country, some of these controls may require to be relaxed at the earliest possible moment. Let me come back to the question of principle, which appears to be at issue between the hon. Gentleman and me. It is the duty of the Executive to come to this House and say that, in order to carry out their duties as a Government, they require such-and-such powers. It is not for Parliament to suggest powers to the Executive: Parliament is the watchdog over the Executive. It is not for Members of Parliament, who bear no responsibility except their responsibility as watchdogs over the Executive, to speak for the Executive, who have plenty of spokesmen of their own, and plenty of patronage to make power more palatable. I feel sure that my right hon. Friend appreciates the strength of the case which I am making, and that he will give me the assurance for which I am asking.
We have had in this Debate already a very significant speech from the hon. Member for Morpeth (Mr. R. J. Taylor). I think it is quite clear from what he said, speaking for his party, that in the struggle to get back our liberties we cannot look for much help from that quarter.
It will be for the electors to judge, at some future time. I should like to associate myself with the speeches which have been made by my hon. Friend the Member for North-East Leeds (Mr. Craik Henderson) and my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg), I must confess that I was surprised and disappointed with the speech of my right hon. Friend the Tinder-Secretary of State. I was expecting a declaration from the Government of what they intended to do with regard to this Act, in future. If my right hon. Friend looks back to the Debate last year, he cannot say that the Government have not been warned. Some of us said—I was not here myself—that on this occasion we would expect a statement, and that, if a statement was not forthcoming, we might have to consider whether we would not press this matter to a Division. I fully agree that the Government are perfectly entitled to ask the House to continue this Act: no one could question its powers, and no one could possibly question the emergency; but we are, I think, in rather a different situation from that which has existed at any time when this Act has been renewed before. It may well be that if this Act is to continue
until 24th August, 1945, it will overlap the period of mortal peril in which alone these immense powers are justified. What has been done here, has been done only to forward the prosecution of the war, where decision and speed in action are essential to victory. But repeated pledges have been made of the restoration of these liberties. Perhaps the most significant was made by the Prime Minister himself, in 1940, when he used these words:
Immense surrenders of their hard-won liberties have been voluntarily made by the British people, in order, in time of war, to preserve better the cause of freedom and fair play. Parliament stands custodian of these surrendered liberties, and its most sacred duty will be to restore them when victory crowns our exertions.
That statement imposed upon Parliament the restoration of these liberties as a sacred trust. If we do not restore them, we shall have committed a breach of faith. Their redemption presents one of the problems of demobilisation at which the country will arrive first, and it intimately concerns the returning soldier. I can speak only for the troops with which for the moment I am associated, the antiaircraft gunners, playing an arduous part in the second Battle of Britain. There is one question that preoccupies them above all else, apart from their military duties: that is, "What sort of Britain are we coming back to?" We can give them, to some extent, an answer about their jobs. Parliament has laid down that the employer, under dire penalties, must restore to a man his economic position. But what about his political liberties? Nothing definite has been said about those as yet. It would not be in Order, I expect, to go into these Regulations in any great detail, but I should like to mention two by way of illustration, both of which intimately affect the returning soldier. The first is the power of direction over the individual, under Regulation 58A. The House knows that
The Minister or any National Service Officer may direct any person to undertake any duties or services which, in the opinion of the Minister or officer, he is capable of performing.
I think that, at some fairly early date, we ought to have a statement on whether this Regulation is to be continued, even in the transition period, because these are very great powers—the direction of the individual. It is the road to serfdom.
The second Regulation also affects the returned soldier, and is a Regulation under which the small man has seen his business and his plant telescoped with those of his rivals. When is he to get his business back? I was talking to a constituent of mine who is in this position, and I asked him whether he had any indication of any kind, when he would get his business back, and he told me "No." He was, as a matter of fact, a civilian, but this is happening to soldiers who are fighting on the Normandy front, in Italy and in Burma, and it really is important that, at an early date—one cannot press for a statement to-day—some declaration should be made on this question. Army demobilisation, after all, is only civil re-mobilisation, and civil re-mobilisation cannot be efficiently undertaken, while the State maintains its stranglehold on so many human activities. In the last war, similar powers were continued long after hostilities had ceased, because the war was not officially over. This time, the situation, I suggest to the House, is more serious, because the grip of the State is far greater than it was then, and also because there is reason to believe that the period between the time when hostilities actually cease in Europe, and the time when a treaty of peace will be made with all the belligerents, is likely to be much longer. I suggest to the Home Secretary, therefore, that, so far as these Regulations are concerned, it cannot be a question of all or none, in the matter of their removal.
Nobody has said anything yet. I am very glad to see that I am carrying my right hon. Friend with me. So far, there is no evidence that the Government in this House recognise it, but I am very puzzled why we have not had a statement from the Government today on this issue, because a declaration has been made by the Government in another place. The Minister of Reconstruction, if I understood him aright, said in another place on 6th July that an official committee had been set up to inquire into what powers could be relinquished during the transition period. Why has that statement not been made in this House? After all, the question of civil liberties is one that peculiarly concerns the House of Commons, and I was at a loss understand why such a statement had not been made here. What is this official committee that is to consider the powers for the transition period? Is it to be a committee of officials? I devoutly hope not. This is a question of the civil liberties of England, and these are not matters to be handled by permanent officials.
I would like to make a concrete proposal to my right hon. Friend. I hope he will be able to announce, to-day, or at an early date, that a committee of Ministers is being set up to inquire what powers can be relinquished in the transition period. We ought to know who is responsible. These Regulations cover a great number of Departments. We ought to know to whom we can address Questions on this matter, and for what Vote in Supply we can ask. There must be a chairman of this committee of Ministers; I suggest that he ought to be a War Cabinet Minister, and also that he ought to be a Member of this House. This seems to be a matter for a great Commoner. I think the House will agree it is one in which we ought to exercise the utmost vigilance. I really do not think the House ought to leave the matter where it is to-day. I hope my hon. Friends and I, if nothing is done, may seek to move an Amendment to the Address on this question. We ought to have a White Paper, setting out the changes that the Government have in mind and the liberties that will be restored during the transition period. No military secrets are involved, and such a White Paper would give point and decision, which are now lacking in the Government declarations.
Mention has been made of Regulation 18B. What position do the Government envisage? Shall we, at the first sign of peace, be able to have back in our midst the hon. and gallant Member for Peebles and Southern (Captain Ramsay), announcing like a dove, that the waters have subsided—or, perhaps, a raven would be the better metaphor? We ought to have some sort of schedule, showing which Regulations are to go first. It is right that the men in the Forces should know. What caused the trouble in the Army after the last war was that they did not understand the plan of demobilisation, and the Prime Minister, I think, points out in his book that, when once it was explained to them what the plan was, they fully accepted it. No doubt, the Government have a plan in this matter, but we want to know what it is. They have given elaborate thought to a great number of questions—to the Gold Standard and to town and country planning—but I would suggest that these Regulations are more important than any of these things. As one of the Members for Bristol, a blitzed city, I do not in the least underestimate the vital importance of building houses, but, where only a relatively small proportion have lost their houses, all have lost their liberties. What we need, I think, is a new Portal house to be the Ark of the Covenant of our liberties until we can rebuild the great Palladium.
So much for the transition period. I am also concerned with the ultimate future. Powers of this kind are a very heady wine to any Executive. I know that there may well be—and we have heard some of them to-day—plausible reasons put forward why these necessary but obnoxious powers should be continued after the war ends. After all, that is what happened in America. Prohibition was a purely war-time measure, but, when the war ceased, it was incorporated in the Constitution. To-day, we live under a system of permits. That is one of the differences between life to-day and life five years ago. So far from an Englishman's home being his castle, he cannot even mend a leak in the roof without a permit. A man without an identity card or a ration book is an outlaw. This conception of permits is fatally easy to take root. It must be eradicated. Tyranny can so easily be clamped on a people by such simple measures. I was re-reading the other day Chesterton's story "The Ball and the Cross" in which the people find themselves enslaved by one simple rule. Everybody had to get themselves certified as sane. If such a permit was not issued, they found themselves in an asylum. The British people, I believe, will not tolerate as a permanent part of their future existence, life under permits. [HON. MEMBERS: "Who is asking for that?"] It is in these Regulations. I believe that the demand that, in the end all shall go, will be irresistible.
We were very active in the first year of the war in limiting the effect of the Emergency Regulations, and it was partly because of that activity that the Prime Minister, in forming his new Govvernment, gave the undertaking. I think there is a danger, in our general dislike of regulations of all sorts under which we are suffering, of confusing the importance of different types of regulation. For my part, it is the undermining of our personal civil liberties which is by far the most important aspect of the matter. These Regulations are of various kinds, ranging from those dealing with the black-out and other matters which are of comparatively little consequence, to those concerned with the censorship of the Press, for instance; I hope that in the general criticism of the Regulations and the general sense of irksomeness which we feel at this stage of the war we shall not lose sight of those broader distinctions.
In the broadcast which the hon. Member referred to, special stress was laid on the restrictions upon the liberty of the subject, and it is those Regulations which, it seems to me, might well go as soon as the war with Germany is over. There are three outstanding ones which have been discussed in this House—18B, 2D and 1AA, the last dealing with meetings and strikes. There are others; but those are groups of regulations which strike at the very roots of the Constitution of this free, democratic country, the regulations which affect the right to strike, the right of freedom from arrest without trial, the right of the courts to overrule the Executive. The ones dealing with censorship undermine the free- dam of speech and freedom of publication which has been an essential basis of this democracy. The right to association in trade unions or in political organisations, the right of workers to strike, if necessary, is a fundamental liberty which was won with great difficulty by the workers of this country. I was frankly astonished when the hon. Member for Morpeth (Mr. R. J. Taylor), speaking on this subject, completely neglected the whole issue. It seemed an astounding thing that a trade unionist should have concentrated on a totally different issue, the question whether we want the regulation of foodstuffs, rationing and so on, which does not come into this matter at all.
I do hope that we shall not confuse the issues. We object to this Parliamentary procedure of legislation by Regulation. We are not, and I beg hon. Members to make the distinction, making a general attack upon the control of industry or on those much wider issues. There can be regulation of industry by Act of Parliament. It may be a good or a bad thing. We had the regulation of imports before the war. The hon. and gallant Member for North Bristol (Captain Bernays) may or may not approve of import quotas, and the regulation of the export and import trade of this country, but what we are objecting to today is the method of regulation under the Emergency Powers Act and, further, the curtailment, the undermining, of our civil liberties which some of the Regulations involve.
Therefore, I would simply like to add my voice to those of others who have asked the Government to make a clear declaration that, while it may be necessary to carry on some Regulations, such as those governing rationing, which may well have to continue for a time after the war, the Regulations dealing with civil liberties, those which give the Executive overruling powers over the courts and over this House and over the individual liberty of the subject, shall go, when the war with Germany ends. About that the broadcast referred to was uncertain. It referred to the emergency. The emergency will certainly continue, and some additional powers may be needed by the Government. It will not be possible for the Government to sweep away all the Regulations dealing with trade and other matters at a stroke. That would be disastrous. It would not be possible, either, to translate into legislation at a moment's notice those controls which they require, but it is possible for them to undertake now, that these other powers of control over free speech, free association and the liberty and freedom of the Press, shall go as soon as we are victorious in Europe.
In the gay little speech with which he opened the Debate my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary for Home Affairs seemed to think we could get through this business with just a few formal remarks on the part of hon. Members, and then go on to the next business in about 20 minutes. He quoted a lot of absolutely vital Regulations—18B for example—and said that because we had debated recently the detention of an hon. and gallant Member of this House he thought hon. Members would agree that it would be unnecessary further to consider 18B. [An HON. MEMBER: "That Debate covered a wider issue."] The main theme of that Debate was the detention of the hon. and gallant Member. I would point out that this is the only official occasion upon which Members of this House have the absolute right to challenge these Regulations; and I think the House would be grossly failing in its duty if it did not have a proper Debate on the subject and I am very glad to see that we are having a proper Debate. It is no use pretending that this Debate is only about the control or the location of industry after this war. There is a fundamental issue which cuts far deeper than food rationing or the control of the location of industry; and that issue is nothing more or less than the liberty of the subject. That is the real issue underlying this Debate, and that is why the House has got to discuss Regulation 18B, and the other Regulations affecting the liberty of the subject. I say to the House that if we abolish personal liberty, and that in principle we have done, then every other liberty is for the time being extinguished. That is what makes this particular issue so absolutely vital. These Regulations continue or extend 18B, 12 (5, a), Article 5a and all the rest—the control over British subjects and friendly aliens with the right of the Executive to put them in prison for an indefinite period without charge or trial.
One thing is out of Order, and that is Regulation 18B, because the House has already come to a decision on that. There is a Resolution on the records, and I can read it if necessary. We cannot go back upon a decision of the House in the same Session. The House has already given its decision on the question, "That this House is of opinion that 18B should be reconsidered with a view to amendment."
I submit that if the Motion before us to-day is rejected, 18B lapses. Whatever earlier decision the House may have taken, we cannot avoid discussing every Defence Regulation, because if we reject this Motion, every Defence Regulation will lapse on 24th August.
I do not accept that view. Regulation 18B having been discussed in detail, and there being a particular decision by the House on that particular Regulation, I think it would be out of Order further to discuss it in this Debate.
May I put one further point, on that point of Order? I speak subject to correction; but in the original Act was not the annual passage of this Motion made a statutory obligation? A statutory obligation was imposed upon the Executive to get the assent of the House of Commons annually to a Motion to be proposed by the Secretary of State; and that is a statutory obligation which, I submit, no other Motion which may have been discussed in the House can possibly over-ride. I would ask my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary if that is not the case. It is his Act.
It is true that if this Prayer was not accepted, all the Regulations would fall, but I still hold that the House having come to a decision on a particular Regulation, that Regulation cannot be discussed again on this occasion.
Further to that point of Order. It is true that on the general question of imprisonment without trial, one particular Regulation has been discussed, but I would submit, with all respect, that these wide and general powers which the Home Secretary exercises would certainly come under review on this occasion.
With the greatest possible respect, and as a matter of information, may I ask, Mr. Speaker, does your Ruling mean that the House, having come to that specific decision regarding the Motion on 18B, is now debarred, until that Motion is rescinded, from ever discussing 18B this Session?
I bow to your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, and simply say that the point I particularly desired to raise today was not the treatment of British subjects under 18B, but the treatment of friendly aliens under Regulation 12 (5A), which I have ascertained from an appropriate authority has been extended by the Regulations that we are discussing to-day. It is really this aspect of the case and the wider implications arising out of it that I wish to discuss. I will, therefore, confine my observations to this class of persons who are imprisoned without charge or trial, and keep clear of Regulation 18B itself. I am not quite clear what are our powers in the matter, but under 12 (5A) there is, admittedly, a kind of legal fraud. We make a deportation order against a friendly alien, to whom we do not happen to take a fancy in this country, and because we cannot execute it, owing to the fact that there is a war on, we substitute penal servitude without charge or trial. This is a serious thing to do. I ask hon. Members to consider what kind of effect this is going to have in the long run upon our reputation for justice and fair-dealing in friendly countries now under German occupation after the war.
A considerable number of citizens of these countries are now suffering imprisonment of this kind; and they do not know why they are there. It is very necessary that the House, in considering these Regulations, should go back to first principles. I would like—and I am only going to deal with the broader application of this—to call the attention of hon. Members on both sides to quite an important document in our constitutional history which is known as Magna Carta. Chapter 39 is well worth quoting. It says:
No free man shall be taken or imprisoned, or disseised, or in any way destroyed, nor will we go upon him nor send upon him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers and by the law of the land.
Chapter 40 says:
To no one will we sell, to no one will we refuse or delay, right or justice.
This has been a dominant feature of our political life and development for centuries past. I would now like to remind hon. Members of the comments of one of the greatest of our constitutional lawyers, Hallam, on these two chapters of Magna Carta. He says:
It is obvious that these words, interpreted by any honest Court of law, convey an ample security for the two main rights of civil society. From the era, therefore, of King John's Charter it must have been a clear principle of our constitution that no man can be detained in prison without trial. Whether courts of justice framed the writ of habeas corpus in conformity to the spirit of this clause, or found it already in their register, it became from that era the right of every subject to demand it. That right, rendered more actively remedial by the Statute of Charles II, but founded upon the broad basis of Magna Carta, is the principal bulwark of English liberty; and if ever temporary circumstances, or the doubtful plea of political necessity, shall lead men to look on its denial with apathy, the most distinguishing characteristic of our Constitution will be effaced.
That is a very important statement.
My hon. Friend is giving us quotations from Magna Carta and so forth, but I would like to remind him, as he is addressing his remarks to the position of aliens and not to British subjects, that, of course, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has the power, in peace-time, to detain aliens pending deportation, and that is under the Aliens Act of 1914 and has nothing whatever to do with the Emergency Powers Act which is before the House to-day.
I do not like to dispute what the right hon. Gentleman says; but I consulted one of the officials of the right hon. Gentleman's own Department, and I find that under the Regulations that we are discussing, the ordinary Aliens Act of 1914 has been considerably extended. All that I would point out to the right hon. Gentleman is, that there is a sharp distinction to be drawn between detaining for a short period an alien pending deportation in peace-time, and keeping him in penal servitude without trial for an indefinite number of years under these Regulations. There is no answer to that. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has always drawn a very sharp distinction between British subjects and aliens so far as the administration of justice in this country is concerned. My submission is that it has been the tradition of this country for centuries past to mete out justice to anybody who seeks shelter within our shores, and that no such distinction should properly be made. Justice is not a thing with which you can play about in that way, and have one form of justice for one individual and another form for another individual. Any individual who comes to this country is entitled to seek and to receive justice; and hitherto he has always got it.
I have been astonished until to-day at the apathy shown by this House on what, I believe, to have been a vital issue during this war, because for a long time only a handful of us have protested on this matter on every possible occasion. We pointed out, three years ago, that these Regulations were rushed through during a supreme emergency; and that they were never intended, or ought never to have been intended, to commit people to penal servitude for an indefinite period, without charge or trial. Nevertheless, that is the purpose for which they have been used. I assert that a substantial number of persons are at present held in prison, and some of them have been held for three or four years, without having any idea why they are there. I do not think that that can very easily be justified. It is difficult to conceive of a more subtle form of mental torture than to keep a man year after year in prison when he is not sure and does not know why he is there.
I further assert that it is quite impossible for hon. Members to exercise any sort of effective control over the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary—who is at once prosecutor, jury, and judge in his own cause as far as these Regulations are concerned. We are not supplied with adequate information to form a judgment of any value, and therefore I do not see what control we can exercise. I have no doubt that the Home Secretary will say, "I am subject to the ultimate authority and control of the House." Yes, in principle; but not as far as individual cases are concerned, because we are not supplied with information on which to form a judgment. What is it we ask for these aliens and British subjects? We ask, first of all, for a charge—the foundation of all justice; secondly, for a legal tribunal, sitting, if necessary, in camera; and thirdly, for the right of the accused to be represented by counsel.
I have made it clear many times that there is an absolute distinction to be drawn between enemy and friendly aliens; and that it is accepted under the principles of international law. If any of us had been in Germany at the outbreak of war, and had not been interned, we would have been uneasy and suspicious and would have wondered why. Of course, the right hon. Gentleman can deal with enemy aliens under Statute law. I am now talking about citizens of friendly Powers, many of whom are our Allies. The Home Secretary has not, in fact, met us on a single point during the last three or four years. He has sent the Law Officers to defend his administration of these Regulations, with arguments which, in the words of the late Lord Atkin,
might have been addressed acceptably to the Court of King's Bench in the time of Charles 1.
He prefers to rely more on his own agents than upon legal tribunals. But are agents invariably reliable? I do not want to raise individual cases in this Debate,—although there is no other opportunity of doing so—because we do not know enough to give a judgment of value, and it is not an appropriate occasion to raise individual cases. But I will tell the House that one friendly alien, in whom I
have for a long time been interested, was recently refused permission to study at a provincial university on the alleged ground that he had not pursued his studies in the past with sufficient zeal. When I made inquiries from the right hon. Gentleman, I received in reply a farrago of nonsense which was quite inaccurate, and was categorically denied by the authorities of the university. It proved that what the agents of the right hon. Gentleman told him was simply untrue. Not to allow a man to study at the university because you do not think that he has been working hard, as if he was at a private school, smacks far too much of the Gestapo. It shows the mentality of the "boss"; and, believe me, the mentality of the boss is one of the things that has to be eradicated after this war. It is by no means confined to that side of the House.
I would point out to the right hon. Gentleman that regulations of this order and severity were not required in the last war; and I venture to suggest that, under the vigilant eye of the late Lord Birkenhead, the security of the Realm was, at no time, in jeopardy at the hands of enemy agents. And I am sure that that great lawyer and great man would never have endangered our civil liberties by demanding extraordinary powers of this character for more than a short period of supreme urgency. The way to deal with traitors is the way Lord Birkenhead dealt with Sir Roger Casement—to bring them to trial.
On a previous occasion, I pointed out that Charles James Fox could scarcely have hoped to survive these Regulations in the Napoleonic wars. On this occasion I would go further and say, having made same slight study of some of the observations of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State in the course of the last war, I think it very doubtful if he would have survived his own administration in this war during the last war.
May 1, in conclusion, remind the House of some very telling observations of that great lawyer the late Lord Justice Clerk Aitchison, who was perhaps one of the greatest criminal lawyers of our time, made to the University of Glasgow Law Society in 1937. He said:
It is to my mind a sound principle that habeas corpus should not be repealed by implication, and that not even the exigencies
of war should sanction a construction so repugnant to fundamental liberty. … The trend of affairs in Europe make a consideration of these things timely and opportune, if not indeed urgent. If crisis should come into the affairs of our own country, security would depend above all upon the maintenance of the fundamental rights of liberty. … I would counsel you, especially those of you who may some day come into public life, to keep a watchful eye upon all legislation which excludes the right of appeal by the subject aggrieved to the Courts of law. The tendency to make a Minister of State the judge in his own cause is a tendency to be watched.
The House may have deduced from my observations that I am opposed to these Regulations. I am opposed to them very strongly indeed. I think that, as long as they are administered in the way they have been, they are something of a stain on our domestic war-time administration which only the passage of years will wholly eradicate. I am opposed to them because they cause a great deal of avoidable suffering in a world where much suffering is unavoidable. Finally, I am opposed to them—and I say this with great sincerity—because they constitute a dangerous challenge and threat to the fundamental principle for which we have taken up arms, which is the preservation of freedom and the maintenance of the law.
It seems to me that the House to-day has not exhibited that fairness which one expects from hon. Members. Granted that the Under-Secretary in his opening speech made no sort of case whatsoever—which I do grant—and that the hon. Member for Morpeth (Mr. R. Taylor) did not in any way strengthen the case for these Regulations, I do not think the attacks upon the Home Secretary for retaining these Regulations are justified by the speeches of hon. Members opposite. One must bear in mind, that with the agreement of hon. Members opposite, Government policy, for the future, has been laid down in very considerable detail, and that policy involves not only the retention of practically all these Regulations—with the possible exception of 18B—but the addition of far more limitations on the liberty of the subject than have ever been contemplated under these Regulations.
To take one point in particular. The House has accepted the suggestion that the Government are to give full employ- ment to all our people. Anyone who has studied these subjects in the least, and has the capacity of thought—which I admit is a very, very rare capacity in these days—must know perfectly well that it is quite impossible to carry out that policy, without a whole series of Regulations such as these, and possibly, as I have suggested, even the extension of such regulations. How can you abolish unemployment unless you can direct, labour? How can you abolish unemployment unless you make strikes illegal? The thing just cannot be done, and it is most unfair for hon. Members opposite, having accepted the policy which necessitates these Regulations, and further similar regulations, then to attack the Government because they propose to continue them. It is not right.
So far as hon. Members of the Labour Party are concerned, I have pointed out an objection from their point of view to the continuance of these Regulations and I now propose to point out a further reason, which they have missed, for continuing them that may appeal perhaps to the Labour Party. It is quite possible that after the next General Election, the Labour Party may find themselves in office. Now if the history of our country follows that of every other country in this respect, we shall find that within a period of about two years, the livelihood, even the food, of the people will be in such a precarious condition that we shall be threatened with a dictatorship. That has been the case in one country after another. A Socialist Government is the necessary prelude to dictatorship. It always has been, because Socialism is a device for living beyond your income. When you have lived beyond your income long enough, you find that to-morrow's dinner will be very precarious, and then a strong man comes along like Lenin, Hitler or Mussolini——
You are making things very difficult for me, Mr. Speaker. I was endeavouring to keep within your Ruling, by taking the whole of the Regulations in bulk, which I presume would be in Order, and not to enter into detail upon any par- ticular Regulation, because it seems to me that what we are discussing is, Shall these Regulations continue or not? Therefore, I put it to you, Sir, that I shall be in Order in giving the reasons for suggesting that these Regulations ought to be continued. Hon. Members opposite have given numerous reasons why they should not be but, as I am supporting the Government, surely I am entitled to the same latitude as those who oppose it, in giving reasons why these Regulations, and not only these Regulations but similar Regulations on a very large scale, ought to remain in force for an indefinite period for the safety of the realm even after the war.
Then shall I be in Order in this, Mr. Speaker? I assume the war will terminate sooner than I had assumed in the first part of my speech, and therefore a Labour Government might be in office for, say, six months before these Regulations terminate. I am inclined to think, judging from experience of a Labour Government in 1929 to 1931, that this time they might produce that state of chaos, whereby they brought the population of this country face to face with starvation, within the short period of six months, instead of the two years which occupied them last time. Therefore I am basing my argument, in order to be within your Ruling, upon the supposition that the Labour Government will come into office, and will have been in office for six months before these Regulations are due to terminate. Now then, what are they going to do if they have not got these powers?
I am afraid I must leave it at that. I will merely say that I think the House of Commons is behaving very unfairly in opposing these Regulations which are an absolute necessity if the Government are to guarantee the employment and the sustenance of the people of this country, as the House has decided.
I am sure that the House has been as delighted as I was with the humour and the badinage of the last speech but it seems to me that this is a serious matter which we are discussing to-day, and that we ought to discuss it with becoming gravity. The form of the Motion before the House is one which gives every hon. Member, in my opinion, no alternative but to vote for it. If the simple issue is "Are we prepared to give the Government power to enforce these Regulations for another twelve months?" there is only one conceivable answer from any Member of any party in this House, and that is, that we must give the Government what they ask for. Therefore, if that were all that was involved in our Debate to-day, I would say that and sit down, but you have ruled, Sir—may I say with great respect, wisely ruled—that in the course of this Debate we may take up the situation that might arise at the end of the war with Germany but before the end of the war with Japan and, even at a cursory glance, the situation that we may have to meet when both of those wars are being fought away from this country in the second or interim period between the end of one war and the end of another.
I find myself agreeing with the whole of the Liberal Party. I feel that when the Government do come to relax these Regulations in any respect, they should first choose those which deal with restrictions upon individual liberty. I do not know whether I am the exception to this, but I must honestly admit that in the course of growing middle-aged, I have come more and more to the view that the most important thing for this country is not what form of social order we may possess—whether it is the capitalist order or the Socialist order. More and more, I feel that any civilisation has to be judged by how far it preserves individual freedom. I think that is much more a matter of mental temper than of economic system. I must confess, as a trade union leader, that I see exactly the same vindictive and repressive instincts sometimes asserting themselves in the organisation of the trade union movement as I see among employers' federations. I do not believe that this regard for liberty is the monopoly of any system, and still less the monopoly of any party in this country.
My view—and I address this to my hon. Friend above the Gangway who, I know, will take it in the right spirit—is that I share his apprehension about the effect of removing certain controls at the end of the war, and I shall argue in a moment that there are some we ought to retain while others go. But I would beg him and the Labour Party to remember what I am now about to say, because, as it does not come from me, it contains a very great deal of truth. David Low, the cartoonist, in the course of conversation with me once said this, and I believe it expresses a tremendous truth, "If any man ever comes to you, either from the Right or from the Left, and promises you economic security on the condition that you first of all abandon personal and political liberty, kick him downstairs; for, if you take economic security on that basis, you probably won't get it but if you don't, you will be in no position whatever to argue about it."
In this respect as in others, the manner is the great matter. With that general observation, may I say this? I am not attacking the Home Secretary here, for in mental temper he is probably one of the best qualified among us to distinguish between necessary and unnecessary regulations. I do not think he is too much tarred with the trade union brush, which may be an asset in this connection. If I may be allowed to stray for half a second, Sir, I would hazard the forecast that the great danger to liberty in Britain does not lie, as far as I can see, in either Tory repression or Communist excess. It lies in an unholy combination between the empoyers' federations and the official trade union movement, exploiting the rest of us who will have no rights left at all. Somebody ought to have said that years ago and I rejoice that the privilege has fallen to me.
If my hon. and gallant Friend has anticipated me, it only adds to the enormous regard I have always had for his very great talents. When we come to the business of regulations, I would like to utter another generalisation. In my view, what was wrong with our pre-war society was that we had the minimum interference with the exploitation of the public, and the maximum interference with the individual personal liberty of the citizen. I should like to see that reversed. I should like to see the maximum interference with the right of anybody to exploit the public, and the minimum interference with our individual idiosyncracies and personal habits. I do not think I want the State to tell me when I can buy cigarettes, or when I can have a drink. I can say that with great freedom because I have given it up completely as the result of a recent fast.
It does not become the inhabitant of one nursing home to cast comments at the inhabitant of another. I want the maximum use of regulations to safeguard the public, and some of these controls that have been in force must be continued for as long ahead as any one of us can see. We do not know how long it will be before there is a plenitude of housing in Britain; until there is, there can be no relaxation of rent restriction. We do not know how long it will be before there is an abundance of food, especially with the complication of feeding Europe; until there is abundance there can be no relaxation or abolition of rationing, for if there were, the sole result would be that those who had money would be able to get what they wanted and the poor would go to the wall. There are many of these restrictions that must endure as long as the original cause that gave rise to them endures, and that cause is scarcity. But there are many others that ought to go, and I must again address myself to my hon. Friend above the Gangway. There are some which ought to go in the interests of the Labour movement no less than in the interests of other sections of this country.
I take a strong view—I did may best to impress it but was unsuccessful at the time, and I am not going to try to re-discuss the issue to-day, about Regulation 1A (a). Do not make any mistake about it, Regulation 1A (a) is an essential part, and one of the first sentiments, in the setup of the corporate State, and I object to that. I do not like 18B, because it can be used not only against Fascists, it can be used against anybody whom the Home Secretary of the day does not like. There is even a remote chance that the Home Secretary of the day might not like me, and that opens up an appalling prospect which this House ought not to contemplate for a moment. There are, as I say, some of these things that ought to go and there are some that ought to stay.
I do not agree with the hon. Member opposite who said that it would be wrong to protract war regulations in order to ensure the future. I think you must have as many regulations as will ensure the future. Lord Birkenhead, who has been quoted to-day, spoke in 1923, in the gravest terms, of how near we had been to social shipwreck in 1921. Does the House remember that? There were two tributes to the closeness of that shave— one from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), and the other from Lord Birkenhead. Do not let us make any bones about it, the boat was dangerously rocked in 1919–20. Does anybody want to see the cost of living go up as it did between 1918 and 1921, from 180 points above the 1914 level, to 276 points, because of the absence of regulations? Does anybody want to see that? No. The horse sense of this is that we must have as much continued regulation as the social well-being of the community necessitates and as little continued interference with individual personal liberty as that on which we can contrive to get along. I believe that is expressing the sentiments of this House.
It is the convention on the Conservative side of the House that all government is bad; it is the convention on this side that all government is good. That side wants less and less, and this side wants more and more. I will now pronounce the truth. It is that there are only two types of government—the good, which has never yet existed, and the bad, which consists in transferring the property of its enemies to the pockets of its supporters. That has always been true, and I see no immediate sign that it is likely to cease within my lifetime. The older I get, the more I hate all totalitarianisms, including Communist ones. If Socialism does not mean any more than a full dinner-pail, a roof over one's head and central heating, well, you can find that in Dartmoor. The kind of Socialism I want to picture is not the Socialism which depends upon making the State all-powerful, either by these Regulations or any other sort. [An HON. MEMBER: "Who does?"] Some trade union elements in this House. I have seen more vindictiveness and more oppressiveness on the part of some trade union leaders in the country I could name than I have seen from any Tory. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Yes, let us be honest. Take discipline on this side of the House, and compare it with that on the other side. What sort of regard have you for Parliamentary democracy, shown by a party, which makes it a penal offence to vote against decisions taken in a private meeting upstairs? That is the negation of Parliamentary democracy, and I agree with the hon. Member opposite who said that what the country needs above all at the moment is more free Members of Parliament, with the emphasis on the word "free." They are only half free on the opposite side, and they are not free at all on this side. Here, where I stand, is the repository of freedom.
I am not attacking the Home Secretary. I sympathise with his deputy to-day, because it is obvious that the good wine is being reserved until the last. The Under-Secretary has not been free to say much to-day, but that is only because the Home Secretary intends, in a large and generous measure, to meet the views of the House when he comes to speak later, and does not want the Under-Secretary to cramp his style by giving away all the good stuff at the beginning. I think the Home Secretary is well qualified to meet the House on this Debate. I have only one doubt. He has an unfortunate ancestry. He is the son of a "copper." If he can get that virus out of his blood, and give his own natural genius full play, I believe that he is well qualified to meet the general sense of the House on the subject of these Regulations, and I express the view that the right attitude for him to adopt is the attitude which, however inadequately, I have tried to express in the course of this Debate.
I will try not to repeat the arguments which have been already used, and I will try very hard not to be unnecessarily controversial, because I think that Ministers are right in thinking that upon this subject critics are in a very tight place. I think it is true, as was said by the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) just now, that it is very nearly absolutely impossible to vote against this Motion. It was nearly absolutely impossible Fast year, and so far as I can tell it will be nearly absolutely impossible next year. So long as we are confronted with the claim that it is necessary for the conduct of the war, or for some post-war problem almost equally difficult, to have the whole of this Act, or none of it, it does become extraordinarily difficult to divide against the Government. I speak with some personal knowledge on this particular aspect of the matter, because I have been critical of this Statute, and the Regulations under it, since it was in draft. I have more than once said that I do not think the House could go on indefinitely allowing the powers, and I do not like stultifying myself by getting up year after year and speaking for a quarter of an hour or 20 minutes and letting the thing go at that.
But I would appeal to the Government and the Ministers concerned to get it into their heads that because they have this unique political power they are under some obligation to us, if they wish us or the electors in the long run really to believe their professions of allegiance to the concepts of liberty. This Government is in a stronger position upon the annual renewal of this Statute than any Government has ever been before on any subject upon which it is technically possible to divide. It is not only so long as a majority of the House thinks that the Government is the best possible Government. It is longer than that. If I were persuaded that the Government had, by the efflux of time, so much deteriorated—as all Governments must, and do deteriorate—that it was to my country's interest to turn this Government out, I think I should have to hesitate for months, or perhaps more than a year, before I began, in whatever insignificant way I could, to try and turn the Government out. Even if one were persuaded that there was a better alternative Government in the wings, one might still believe that the diplomatic and strategic disadvantages of the kind of crisis involved in a serious attempt to turn out the Government would absolutely prohibit that action on the part of patriotic Members. That is the essence of the power which this Government has exercised for well over four years, and I appeal to the Front Bench to believe that unless they show generosity in the exercise of all power of that kind it will be really impossible to give them credit for the good motives they are continually asserting.
I would like to make one comment—I would like to make comments on all the speeches we have heard, but that would weary the House—on the speech made by the hon. Member for Rugby. He thought we on this side of the House were not independent, because we were half tied to a Tory machine, and that those on the opposite side of the House were still less independent, because they were still more tied to a party machine. He thought that freedom was with him and his like alone. I believe that to be a total misunderstanding. Freedom of mind inside parties is the only possible way in which Parliamentary government can support general freedom, and I think he himself demonstrated the matter rather neatly in his speech. He contrived to say something which, I think, would please every elector of Rugby if every elector of Rugby could be persuaded to read his whole speech and to pick the right bits. That is the penalty of independence. You become more dependent upon the lowest common factor, or the highest common multiple, I do not know which, and more dependent on the mere fashion of a few years, than those who belong to permanent organisations. If I may put a finger on his fallacy on this point, I would say that he seemed to be a notable exponent of the current dogma of "assumptionism "—always assuming the most difficult part of your case and hoping that the audience will not notice it. The hon. Member said he was in favour of getting rid of Regulations against liberty, but that he was all for Regulations which tended to provide people with food or clothes, was in favour of as many Regulations as might be necessary for the social improvement of our people. You might as well say that you are in favour of having as many thistles as may be necessary to ensure a good supply of figs. Once you have refused to assume that figs grow on thistles, the argument becomes worthless.
I make no apology for repeating one argument which has been used, but not much to-day, although I have used it on previous occasions. The essence of this matter consists in the climate of opinion. If there were time I could demonstrate that, even amusingly, if the hon. Member for Rugby, himself so grave and solemn, would forgive me for not sticking to that gravity of the occasion which he recommended. I could demonstrate the way in which men's minds have changed in the last four or five years. Yesterday, I came across some letters from the National Council of Civil Liberties, written in 1939, on this subject. Contrast what was said then by them and by those whose names appeared on their notepaper with what was said when Sir Oswald Mosley was released from prison, and you will see how far the climate of opinion has been altered. If the climate of opinion is sufficiently changed, liberty has gone for a generation, and that would be the worst possible of all results, short of subjection by our enemies.
An hon. Member on the Front Bench opposite, now representing the Socialist party, made a speech last year that showed how far the climate of opinion on those benches had altered on those matters and now the hon. Member for Morpeth (Mr. R. J. Taylor), who performed the same function to-day, rather did the same thing. Contrast what they said with what was said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) at the begining of this war on this matter, when he told us that every Member's duty was to make sure that legislation of this sort was not used for purposes other than for those for which it was intended: that was the official view of the party opposite in 1939. My view is that if we were to listen to the arguments we heard from them to-day, that so much of the Regulations under this Statute, and therefore all of the Statute itself, must be preserved in the post-war period; and so long as we allow ourselves to be convinced by the argument that anything that will assist in the provision of food and clothes and houses, either for ourselves or foreigners, must be kept on; we shall have these Regulations clamped upon us for an eternity; because that argument, that given exceptional powers Government can do exceptional good, will always be available, and that argument certainly is not the purpose for which the Act was intended. When it was passed we were told by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield that it was for the purpose for which it was intended, and for no other, that that party accepted it. I beg those opposite, if I may without impertinence; in their own interest to think again again whether they should not take the line that they took in 1939 rather than the line that they have taken in these last two years, perhaps from a slightly excessive virtue, the virtue of sticking to their friends, feeling that the present Home Secretary is rather particularly their friend and that some argument must be put up for him, because no one else to-day, unless they will accept the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson) as an ally, has said a word on their side.
Is the hon. Member really arguing that in the immediate post-war years there is to be allowed an inflation which will send prices sky high, and is nothing to be done to prevent that? What actually is he arguing for? I cannot see.
I hope everyone else in the House has seen. I could repeat it in words of one syllable but I do not believe it to be worth it. As to the red herring of inflation, of course I want to avoid it. I do not understand why the hon. Member always accuses us (a) of owning money and simultaneously (b) of wanting to see money made worthless. For all the reasons in the world, public and private, I, as much as any man, desire to see inflation avoided. It has been controlled, but it has not been and will not be avoided. I want to see everything done to avoid it, but if the hon. Member thinks it can be avoided by issuing Regulations against inflation in a peace-time world——
The hon. Member should let me finish a sentence. I listened to a not inconsiderable speech of his. Inflation in war time has been controlled and limited, but you cannot control and limit it in the same way in peace time if you are to have any freedom of trade and of movement at all. Merely to have enough Regulations will not get us away from inflation.
My right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary over-used the argument about it being necessary to keep all the emergency authority going or none of it; he over-used the argument about the Statute needing a renewal of one year, and not less or more; I quite understand that, but all these things are subject to legislation. About what exactly should be done now I do not know the answer; and I do not apologise for not knowing it; but I am sure that unless we find some answer to it in the next few months, we shall have done a great disservice to liberty. One way would be to have shorter terms, but I am inclined to think that the shorter the term the more easily Governments get it renewed, and the more easily the short term turns into a freehold, perhaps even easier than a long term. I do not think we should help much by having six months instead of a year.
Another possible device is that we might have another Emergency Powers Act passed, not to come into force until a date to be fixed by Order in Council, which might be a much more moderate Act and give much fewer powers. The Government under this present Act have far more powers than they have needed even during the war, and certainly far more than they will need after the war. Another possible move would be a Ministerial Committee on the whole thing, perhaps followed by a Parliamentary Select Committee. At least I am sure that Governments ought not, without giving us more assurance and explanation than they have, to come before us every year and tell us that they must have all this, and that our only alternative is to give them none of it, and thereby stop the whole machinery of the war and force their resignation. I feel quite clear that the House ought not to accept that argument any more, and that we ought now to expect from the Government some indication of how they mean to get away from this state and to get back to the true doctrine of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield, that this Statute should be tolerated only if it were to be used for the purposes for which it was intended and for no other purpose at all.
It is also often argued that these things are necessary in order that the Government should face the immense administra- tive problems of the war. I would ask the Government in all seriousness to consider whether in the long run that is really true. As long as the police and the Public Prosecutor and the rest of them, in order to get rid of me—to take me out of circulation—have really to find out some of the truth about me, so long there is a true motive for them to have a good machinery for finding the truth about me; but the moment they can say, "I do not like that chap's face," or, "I think a man intolerable who walks about London in a blue shirt and therefore he should be imprisoned," there is a tendency, by easing administration too much, not to be really increasing its efficiency, but if you do it for four, five, or six years, what starts by trying to be excessive facilitation of the administrative task may really be contrary to the interests of administration itself. I beg the Government to consider that point.
And there is a connected point. Lenin said, when someone asked him why he did not have a plebiscite, that they were voting with their feet. That was when the Russians were all walking back from the war to their homes. I believe that if the Government are too stiff in holding on to these powers the people will actually vote with their feet. The Government may continue to issue Regulations shifting people from Peterborough to Lanark and from Lanark to Peterborough, and the Minister of Labour may claim that they are efficient because they have shifted 2,000 people, 1,000 each way; that may continue as long as there is a war; but the moment the people cease to be fully conscious of the overmastering urgency of the war they will not be shifted—they will not obey so easily. Again the Administration may find itself more clogged by grasping at excessive facilities than it would be by a moderation in now allowing those facilities to enter upon a stage of diminuendo, and to taper off, until before many years, I hope, they may get back to zero, and we may return to the traditional freedoms of our country.
I think we shall all agree that the Debate has shown from all sides of the House how serious are the issues involved in this Paper. I regret that the Under-Secretary was not able to accompany his brief explanation by some expression on the part of the Government like that made by the late Home Secretary when the Act was first introduced. He expressed his abhorrence of the powers that he felt it his duty to ask for. On more than one occasion as that Act went in one day through all its stages on 24th August, 1939, he referred to the reluctance that he felt and he and others on behalf of the Government made it clear that they wished that those powers should only be conferred for the period of the very great emergency which the House was then contemplating. I wish we could have had some similar words from the Under-Secretary and I hope the Home Secretary will say that he, too, feels that the powers are too great and too far reaching for any Government to have in anything but an emergency like this, and that he and the Government will gladly bring to an end the whole series of these Regulations and divest themselves of the most serious powers that the Act confers as soon as the emergency is over. Of course, that does not mean the instant fighting in Europe ceases. We all recognise that there must be an interval of time, but the shorter that interval the better, as far as the powers are concerned which affect civil liberty, and above all as regards all those provisions in the Act which place the Administration above the law and confer a privilege of overriding the law of the land upon the Minister acting by Regulations made under the Act.
When the Act was first passed I tried to get the House to remove the provision which allows Regulations overriding the law of the land. I was not able to persuade the House but surely no one except in time of emergency should be satisfied that such extensive powers should be conferred upon any Government, however good. It is no reflection on the Members of the Government of the day or on able and hard working civil servants to say that we do not wish such powers conferred on any Minister. It is essential that the principle of law should be maintained and that there should be appeal to law as against any Government Department open to any citizen, and I agree with the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) open also to the stranger in our midst. It is a great thing that we should have this principle of the supremacy of law maintained. One of the reasons why I wish to see this Act replaced by a different one, perhaps framed in the way the Senior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Pick-thorn) suggested, is that no Act can be satisfactory which confers this overriding power over law upon a Government or a Government Department. So I wish to appeal to the Government to make it clear on this occasion that, if this Prayer is adopted, they will not make use of the power given to them to prolong the extension of this abnormal position into times of peace but that at the earliest moment after the armistice in Europe they will allow the exceptional powers to lapse and will ask Parliament, either before that time or at the earliest possible date, to replace this exceptional legislation by a Measure which will be in conformity with the great principles of justice and freedom about which we are all united.
My hon. Friend the Member for Morpeth (Mr. R. J. Taylor) made a moving speech about the social value of exceptional powers in the interests of the community as a whole, and especially in the interests of those sections of the community who have not secured economic justice. I am equally desirous with him, and I am sure that many other Members are, of seeing that social justice is secured, but I do not think we need, in order to secure social justice, or to get those measures continued which he feels are so necessary for the life of the community, to have the exceptional powers conferred upon the Government of the day that are conferred by this Act, especially as regards individual liberty. I cannot see that it is the least necessary, in order to have control over the prices of food or other necessaries, that the powers which this Act confers should be given to the Government. It ought to be perfectly simple to have a further Measure prepared which will give the necessary power of regulation, subject to review by Parliament, and will allow in every case an appeal to the courts of law to the aggrieved subject or citizen. I hold that to be of the utmost importance. Some of my hon. Friends above the Gangway are inclined to think that the opposition to this Measure comes from Conservatives, but very wide support can be found from very democratic sources for the view that I venture to take and that other hon. Members have taken. I read the other day a remarkable passage written by Tom Paine, published in 1786, in which he said:
A despotic government knows no principle but will. Whatever the sovereign wills to do, the Government admits him the inherent right and the uncontrolled power of doing. He is restrained by no fixed rule of right and wrong, for he makes the right and wrong himself as he pleases.
He goes on to say a little later
A republic, properly understood, is a sovereignty of justice in contradistinction to a sovereignty of will.
I think that that noble phrase about the distinction between the sovereignty of justice and the sovereignty of will goes to the very heart of the matter we have before us to-day. I object to these exceptional powers in so far as they represent the sovereignty of will—the will of the Minister as against the sovereignty of justice. It is a matter which affects us all. I want to see the full restoration of the sovereignty of justice at the earliest possible date. That, surely, is something in which we are all united in desiring. It is something for which this country is standing at this moment in the eyes of the whole world. Others are upholding the idea of the sovereignty of will, but we are standing for the sovereignty of justice. I hope that the Home Secretary, when he explains the position of the Government, will make it clear that he accepts that ideal and that he and the Government will take the earliest opportunity of replacing this Measure by one that is worthier of the great traditions of freedom and justice on which our civilisation has been built up.
I have listened to every Debate which has taken place on this subject since these Regulations came in, and I apologise to the House for the fact that I have taken part in the great majority of them. Running through all of them has been an increasing insistence upon the importance of the individual freedom of the citizen. I have been rather shocked at the time it has taken Members of this House to realise the dangers inherent in these Regulations, which are necessary for the purposes of war, but not all of them in themselves necessary for the purposes of peace. I think that the House has been a long way behind public opinion in this matter. The Government would do well to take note of the rising tide outside this House of the demand that at the earliest possible moment all unnecessary Regulations should be with- drawn. Most of us have in our memory the bitterness which was left in the minds of people in the country generally by the overspill of D.O.R.A. in the last war, into the period after the war had been concluded.
I do not think anybody in the Debate has, denied that it will be necessary, when this war is over, to continue a great deal of necessary regulation, but running through the speeches to-day has been a growing apprehension that the Government are not anxious to keep these Regulations solely for the purposes for which they were introduced and that government by regulations may be continued after the war is over. That is a dangerous thing. We have listened to a delightful speech by the hon. and gallant Member for North Bristol (Captain Bernays) and I am sorry we do not hear him oftener. We also had a delightful speech from the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby). The hon. Member for East Aberdeen gave a really pertinent illustration when he quoted the case of the individual who was denied a continuation of study at the university because it was reported that he was not doing well enough at his work. If the Government are going to interfere by Regulations with how a person does his work in a university, the Minister might just as well go the whole hog, send for that individual to come into his study and then cane him. The preparatory schoolboy has this advantage, that he does, at least, have his case investigated by the headmaster before the application of the sanction. This is niggling, silly, petty regulation for regulation's sake.
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Morpeth (Mr. R. J. Taylor) is not here. Most of these Debates have touched on Regulation 18B, and in that they are significant. It means that it is the question of individual liberty about which people are a little frightened. I have noticed, however, that the ground of those who defend 188 and the Regulations generally is shifting. What was the attitude of the Home Secretary in order to stimulate support against those of us who have always expressed our views about these Regulations? It was "We must have Regulations to deal with the Fascists." Always Fascists, Fascist. These Regulations, however, do not threaten only the Fascists; they threaten the liberty of every man and woman in
the country. They threaten the liberty of the Communist and of the trade unionist alike. That bogy of Fascism has now been dropped. The argument of the spokesman on the Front Bench opposite to-day was that we must continue these Regulations because the war with Japan would go on after the war with Germany. I am one of those who are inclined to think that the war with Japan may well finish before the war with Germany. It does not, however, lie in the mouths of hon. Gentlemen opposite to plead that the war with Japan was something about which prevision had been exercised on the other side of the House. Let me remind hon. Gentlemen who are now so anxious to steel the country against the Japanese menace of what the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade once said:
The fevered hunt for remote new 'menaces'; the hysterical summoning of spirits from the vasty deep; the imputation to Japan, in particular, of aggressive policies of which she shows no sign; the building, utterly without necessity, of the British Naval Base at Singapore; all these are aberrations which discredit the judgment of their authors.
Hon. Gentlemen opposite had better keep off Japan.
I am concerned with what is to happen in the extension of the period during which these Regulations will go on. Most of us will agree that there must be a great volume of Regulations, but as has been said by other hon. Members, the Regulations which touch individual liberty must go at the earliest possible moment. Even if the Government do not think so now, the country will tell the Government so with no uncertain voice. I suppose my postbag is little different from that of other hon. Members, although those who have taken part in Debates on 18B may have more letters than others. Running all through my post is the same cry: "We do not want to be controlled out of existence when the war is over. We do not want our personal individual liberty taken from us. We do not want a greater measure of control of industry, trade and professions than is absolutely necessary." What is behind these Regulations? We have never yet had from the Front Bench any definite pledge that the Regulations will be removed at the earliest possible moment. We are told that, in order to deal with the unemployment problem, the people of this country are, in effect, to become a nation of serfs. Men are to be taken from one part of the country to another and directed into industry. That is inherent in these powers which are to be continued when the war is over.
If the hon. Gentleman will read the Government's proposals he will know that it is true. Let me give an example. A ballot is now taken to decide whether young men shall be put to work in coalmines, whether they are fitted for that work or not. "The right man for the right job" has always been the cry from the opposite benches in other connections, but here we have a Regulation which does not say, "John Jones is the right man to work in the mine," but says, "By the toss of a coin John Jones shall go into a mine although he might well have made a better Senior Wrangler." That sort of Regulation has got to go. There is a growing desire on the part of the people of the country for some assurance that every Regulation not vitally necessary after the war for the life of the community and its supplies of food, etc., shall go, and that the infringements of personal liberty, so necessary during the war, shall be removed when the necessities of the war are over. I do not suppose that many Members on the other side read an excellent paper called "Truth." I wish that more people read it, for it is full of good sound meat. I would like to quote one verse of a poem which appeared in "Truth" earlier this year:
When Hitler's regime is demolished,
And victory finally won,
Will all these controls be abolished?
No fear, they will just have begun!
In Britain the struggle initial—
At any rate, so we are told—
Will be to control the official
By whom the controls are controlled.
I must apologise for the fact that I was not able to be here when the Debate started, but I have heard a lot of it. I can claim to have some information on this subject. It has been very remarkable that the defence of personal liberty and apprehension about the loss of liberty seem to have grown less rather than more as the war has proceeded. I remember the atmosphere in the House when, at the time of our greatest peril, 1940, we were considering legislation under the possibility of imminent invasion. The Government brought before us at that time a Bill called the Courts (Emergency Powers) Bill, which proposed to make very great inroads into personal liberty. Nevertheless the House refused to give the Government the powers asked for, and held up the Bill for a number of weeks, while a few of us served on an informal committee which consulted with the Home Secretary on the redrafting of the Clauses of the Bill. One would think that at that time the House would have agreed to the Government's proposals, but on the contrary the House resisted the claims of the Government and insisted upon the Bill being reconsidered from beginning to end. It is very remarkable that, as the peril has grown less, the Government have found it easier to obtain from the House powers over the subject and it appears to have become easier for tyrannous controls over the individual to establish themselves.
I must confess I was a little surprised at the enthusiasm shown by some hon. Members on the other side to-day about 18B. I do not want to introduce a controversial subject or turn over the embers of what I hope are dying fires, but I must say that I did not notice the same enthusiasm about 1AA. We have had Debate after Debate about controls exercised over property, and hon. Members on the other side have held us up for hours over property Orders, but not one Member on that side was on his feet or went into the Division Lobby against what I considered then, and consider now, one of the most monstrous intrusions upon private liberty ever committed by any Government. I agree very largely with what has been said by hon. Members opposite, that to continue vexatious interference with individuals will mean that the whole of the Government controls will fall into disrepute. What I am afraid about is that unless the Government take the earliest opportunity of withdrawing certain controls, a lot of people who are not primarily concerned with the liberty of the individual will use the indignation and the rancour naturally aroused for the purpose of sweeping away all the controls which will be necessary when the war is over, if we are to avoid a condition of economic anarchy. I understand that some hon. Members have suggested that when the war is over all the controls should go. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I believe the hon. and gallant Member for North Bristol (Captain Bernays) said that they had all to go in a sweep. That is a fantastic picture.
I believe it is within the recollection of the House, and even if that is not the specific appeal made it is the temper in which the controls have been discussed over and over again. That is the tendency behind them. Hon. Members on the other side talk as though the direction of workers from one part of the country to another started with the beginning of the war; Heavens, what about the old Ministry of Health? I think it was the late Lord Melchett who suggested, as far back as 1923, that the only thing left for Durham, South Wales, Lanarkshire and other places was for us to decant the population. [An HON. MEMBER: "Not by force."] Force? All you would have to do would be to bring down the rate of unemployment benefit and the rate of public relief, and so make things intolerable. The people would be bound to move. Hon. Members opposite think that the liberties they are defending are real live things for all the working class. As a matter of fact we do not defend the liberty of the individual because of its reality within the lives of millions of working class people, but because we hope to make it a reality. Hon. Members opposite may reflect upon the fact that one of the most glorious features of the war is that the children of England are in better health in the midst of the war than they were in the midst of the peace. Why is that?
It is because of the controls of the Ministry of Food and because most of the children get free food in schools and cheap milk. The fact is testified to by every health worker and by the vital statistics that our children are very much healthier, and in addition their stature has improved. In my area they are on an average two or three inches higher than they were in times of peace. That is because the Government have recognisd it is necessary in war for certain controls to be exercised to prevent the war operat- ing unfairly against the poorest sections of the population. Would hon. Members get rid of controls on food distrbution generally? We know, from what is in the Press and what we read in certain newspapers every day, as well as from the speeches of hon. Members on the other side of the House and from the controversy in which the Home Secretary took part in the public Press on the continuation of controls. Read the attacks upon my right hon. Friend.
It was the speech praised by hon. Members on the other side. My hon. Friend should not interrupt me. He has only made it necessary for me to retrace my steps. Let hon. Members read the correspondence in the public Press about controls. The idea is to use the indignation, and the natural desire to get rid-of vexatious controls, as a means of getting rid of all controls on the use of property, food prices and administration after the war. That is the purpose of it. If it is not the purpose, I wonder why it is that every time the Government have made an invasion of the workers' position not a voice has been raised on the other side, but every time property has been touched there has been a chorus of protest. Good government, let hon. Members remember, is not the government of men but the administration of things, and that principle will necessitate, after the war, controls of a very wide kind over many aspects of our economic life.
Let me develop the argument I have started. Suppose, when the war is over, that we let loose upon the commodity market all the pent-up purchasing power which will then exist. The situation will be appalling. We should have inflation worse than that experienced by Germany and inequalities and suffering of the most monstrous kind. Not only that, but we should have, supervening upon it, riots and civil disturbances. These controls will have to be kept on, many of them, in my judgment, permanently. I know of no way of organising our economic life or of solving the problem of stepping up purchasing power, and productive capacity, and of maximising employment, except by a permanent system of priorities; in other words, except by insisting that people should have certain classes of goods before they have the right to purchase other classes of goods. Indeed, we shall find it necessary in organising the life of this nation, or any modern industrial community, to insist that the nation shall consume certain categories of goods in greater abundance than others, and we can do that only by taking them out of the price system and giving them away by a form of public service, or by artificially fixing the prices so as to achieve consumption at certain levels. By allowing a free competitive market you deny consumption of certain necessary articles to certain classes of the community.
It obviously follows, there are really only the two sides to the same coin, that if you decide that you are going to organise consumption of goods in certain quantities, you must organise to produce them in sufficient quantities. That is a system of priorities. If you are going to say that certain methods of consumption are to be achieved, that itself determines the production. We know now that we are not suffering from a production problem. The whole problem of the modern world is how to organise mass consumption parallel with mass production. If we are to have a system of priorities, we must have controls. When we talk of a system of priorities in the consumption of goods we are thinking of massive intervention by the State in the economic life of the country, and this massive intervention I support. I am not going to defend a system by which hon. Members have freedom to dispose of their property in a way which means starvation to millions of young people, as happened before the war. I would much rather have fatter babies and leaner bankers, and if I require to scrape fat off the banker by a legislative scalpel, I will do it.
I think hon. Members are making a very great mistake. There never was any real difficulty in getting workers to go to any part of the country for employment. There always was a residue of workers demoralised by the system which hon. Members defend.
My hon. Friend and I are on reasonably friendly terms, but I shall really lose my temper if he misrepresents the situation as much as that. We have had innumerable discussions here as to how workers were coerced by a whole lot of devices into certain employments. First they were rendered idle, not by any act of their own at all, but by that exercise of free choice which hon. Members opposite describe as a sort of pre-war paradise. In my own town of Ebbw Vale the whole population was rendered unemployed by a decision of a board of directors, as was the population in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary opposite, by a secret decision, made for reasons which were never explained to us.
An illustration can be given, but I do not think hon. Members can at this moment go into why a particular section, by a decision of some employers it may be, was put out of work before the war. That is getting rather far away from the Business before the House.
I accept that, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I did not start it. I will leave it at once as an illustration of the fact that the liberty which hon. Members opposite claim for the disposal of property is the denial of liberty for millions of workers, and that the only way in which the reality of liberty will be achieved by the people is by having control over property. One of the reasons why hon. Members opposite find it necessary now, when they make their perorations in speeches in the country, to say, "After the war there will never be mass unemployment again," is that there was mass unemployment between the wars which resulted in the denial of liberty to millions of people. Now they can exploit that psychology in their perorations. I therefore say that I hope the Home Secretary will take this attitude towards these controls; that any form of control which is vexatious over the life of the individual, and which can be relaxed, shall be relaxed as early as possible—[Interruption] —over the life of the individual, not only for its own sake, because even for its own sake he is justified in doing that, but also in order that a pathological state of mind cannot be created in the country as a whole which the demagogues on the other side of the House can exploit in the newspapers and on platforms in order to get rid of those controls necessary to make a civilised society.
I think my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) was not quite consistent in the remarks he addressed to the House. He made throughout 99 per cent. of his speech—if he looks at the columns of HANSARD I think he will see that that is not an exaggeration—an impassioned plea for the continuance of rigid control, and in the last few moments he claimed that control over the individual should cease at the earliest possible moment. He referred in the last three or four minutes of his speech to action which he alleged was bad in his own constituency of Ebbw Vale by a board of directors who put a number of persons out of employment. I must confess I am not familiar with that particular case. What he was insisting on during the whole of his speech was that instead of a board of directors who made, as he would think, a wrong decision, we should now place His Majesty's Govern- ment, who are drawn from a mixed bag of different sections of the community, in complete control—not a limited control over a relatively small number of people, but a complete control over everybody in the country, to make precisely the same mistakes to which he objected, but on a gigantic scale, and with no possible objection raised against it except that which we as Members of Parliament can make in this House.
His view, as I understood it, was that the controls to which we have now been subjected—except those against persons in certain individual instances—should be continued after the war. Does he suggest, for instance, that the Essential Work Order should go on after the war? Does he suggest that the Regulation which prevents the right to strike should continue after the war? Because it seems to me that unless all these controls are continued the policy which he advocates cannot possibily be carried out. Hon. Members on the other side of the House—though we are a Coalition at the moment we describe them as being on the other side of the House—are always saying that it is essential that everybody in the country, and we all agree with that, should have the maximum liberty. They are also suggesting at the same time that everybody should have improved nutrition, and so on. They claim at the same time that the Government should have the right to direct taste, should continue to have the right to direct people into jobs for which they may feel or know themselves to be entirely unsuitable. It seems to me that if the doctrine of State control, which is, broadly speaking, the doctrine of Socialism, is admitted, it carries with it one inescapable conclusion, the right of the Government for the time being to direct any given person into any given job which they, the Government for the time being, acting on the advice of the civil servants, may think wise. They can direct taste, they can direct incentive, they can direct persons into doing——
The complications I desire to avoid are these. I am not in favour of a man who refuses to work being directed into another job. What I am in favour of is this: If a man is proved to be a "scrimshanker," public assistance or unemployment benefit should be withheld from him.
That is why I am trying to persuade my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale why we think these powers which the Government now exercise, which are a direct interference with the liberty of the subject, ought to be removed at the earliest possible moment after the war is over.
I then come to the next point. If these controls are to be continued, surely they carry with them, the whole system carries with it, the presentation to a number of people in this country, a small minority of people, elected as Members of Parliament, of the right to put in, or allow to take office, a Government, assisted by civil servants, and giving to that organism the power to direct and control practically everything in this country. There would be power to control taste; to say, for example, "There is a shortage of certain goods. We do not mind about that. We think those goods ought to be in short supply. We welcome it. What we want to do is to concentrate our energies on other goods." Who are they to lay down for the population as a whole what they are to buy, what they should wish to buy? Who are they to lay down the criteria of taste? Surely we must leave that to the individual people concerned?
The hon. Member has had a margin. Everybody has a margin, depending on his income. [Interruption.] I am not talking of a margin of wealth over the minimum subsistence level. What I am talking about is a margin within which a person, a man or woman, can spend his income as he likes. He may prefer to spend it on the education of his children. He may prefer to buy his house—all the better if he does. He may prefer to spend it on shirts of different kinds, of different colours, whether it is in good taste or not does not matter. If he likes to do it, let him do it. Therefore, what some of us on this side most strongly object to is any particular section of the population, His Majesty's Government or somebody else, arrogating to themselves the right to say, over a long period of time, in peace time, not in war time, how the people of this country should spend their earnings. We object most strongly to that form of control being carried into peace time.
I think the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale has failed most completely, and I believe he will fail on almost any platform in almost any division of the country, to make out his case for the continuance of the controls, however desirable he may seek to make them appear, however much to him it is necessary to continue control in order that everyone may be well fed, well nourished, have an adequate amount of food and a good roof over their head. It is no good trying to persuade the people of this country that control, the lack of liberty, the strangling of the community, is necessary in order to obtain these desirable objectives. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale, and other hon. Members who spoke on his side of the House have said, "Of course, if the worst comes to the worst, you can fight it out here in the House of Commons." You cannot do so. All you can do, when the stranglehold is really established, is to prevent things from getting worse. That is one of the things for which we are now striving.
I would like to see after the war every man who is the head of a family in his own house. I would like to see higher wages, and the right of the individual to spend those higher wages as he wishes without any dictatorship from the Government or anyone else. I believe that even at this stage of the war there are certain controls which might be removed. I would urge my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to appoint a Committee to look through some of the Orders and Regulations which are now in operation, because I believe that quite a lot of them could be removed without doing any damage to the predominant motive of the prosecution of the war. I need mention only one or two as an example. One is that ridiculous Order, which was brought into being when we were threatened with invasion, in 1940, telling people to immobilise their cars. You have to open the body, and take out some peculiar little object, of which the name always escapes me, in order that the car may be rendered immobile. That is perfectly ridiculous.
I have never heard such an astonishing interruption. Is it the hon. Member's suggestion that you stop the stealing of motor cars by pushing out some Regulation from on high to make people take out some part of the motor car?
The hon. Member for North Southwark (Mr. Isaacs) has given me the case that I was trying to make out. He says that, as a result of this Order, the stealing of motor cars stopped. That is an argument which might be used by a Home Secretary—not this one, who is a different sort of Home Secretary. He might say, if he wished to be the judge in his own court, "I wish to interfere with the ordinary course of justice; I will decide who has been guilty of stealing, and they shall go to jug, under not 18B, but 155B, for ever." The whole point is that it is objectionable, it is restrictive, and it destroys every kind of liberty. The further you carry that on, the more objectionable it becomes. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Bristol (Captain Bernays) has suggested, in a very brilliant speech, that, as soon as the war is over—and I think he rather wrote it down, if he will permit me to say so—a complete examination should be undertaken, and that the Government might make known to the country and to the House of Commons—
I understood that it was when the war was over. He said that the Government might make known to the country which of the Regulations should go by the board after the war. He has interrupted, and said "now." I certainly think that it should be now. We might very well have a committee set up, to consider all the Regulations which have been made, in their categories, which are no longer applicable and which could be removed. We cannot remove all the Regulations after the war. None of us has been such a fool as to claim that we could—on the contrary; but we believe that a number can be removed now, and some of us believe that a committee should be set up to decide not only which should be removed now, but which should be removed at the earliest possible moment, when not only the German war, but the Japanese war, has been won.
It is not unnatural that, on the occasion of the consideration of this Motion, hon. Members should wish to make observations, and address questions and a little cross-examination to the Minister in charge of the matter, with a view to ascertaining what the general mind of the Government is as to the future. I was assured that the Debate was going to be a very quiet and peaceful affair, and, therefore, I was myself ready to make a very quiet and peaceful reply. There were moments when I was sure that the Debate would finish up with a riot, caused either by me or by Members who had provoked me. But I will do my best to maintain my best Home Office, judicial poise. Various points have been raised, with which I will endeavour to deal, and I will make a statement indicating the steps which have been already taken by the Government on this matter, and the frame of mind with which we approach it, and I will address myself, as the House would wish, to the undoubted rights of Parliament in a matter of this kind. I think that, by the time I have finished, the House will agree that the view of the Government is not unreasonable, that we are moving sensibly in the examination of this matter, and that we are taking the right and balanced view of the question of emergency powers.
My hon. Friend the Member for North-East Leeds (Mr. Craik Henderson), very gently and politely, pulled the leg, so to speak, of his neighbour in the representation of Leeds, my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, for not having let any cats out of the bag. That is perfectly true. My right hon. Friend and I conferred, as we do before these Debates, and we came to the conclusion that it would be best if hon. Members let the cats out of the bag first, and then I put them back into the bag at the end of the Debate. The hon. Member inquired what our position as a Government would be round about the time of an armistice occurring in the European stage of the war. He also wanted to know when the controls, big and petty, would end. I think it would be premature to say that, but I can say something in principle about how I feel on the relationship of economic controls to these Regulations. My hon. Friend was good enough to say that he thought that my heart was in the right place about liberty, and, if I may say so with modesty, I hope that he is right. Certainly, I will endeavour to keep the cause of liberty intact in my administration.
My hon. Friend the Member for Morpeth (Mr. R. J. Taylor) did not have quite so easy a passage as my hon. Friend the Member for North East Leeds. I thought his speech was reasonable and balanced, and quite a good speech, but he stirred up feelings. I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Morpeth was absolutely right, and that he carried the House with him generally in his view that, whatever we say about this, we must be careful not to give the impression that we are engaged in two distinct and separate wars. We are engaged in one war, and that war will not be ended until all the King's enemies are defeated. On the other hand, it is proper to argue that this matter should he reviewed as certain stages of the war are completed. My hon. Friend said that he and his friends of the Labour Party were most anxious that the Regulations affecting civil liberty and the freedom of the Press should be brought to an end as soon as possible. I, and all sections of the House, will agree with him on that. He added, however, that there were important factors in relation to the economics of the transition from war to peace about which we must take a restrained view before relaxing proper directions and controls as related to that period. I, personally, agree with him.
My hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg) said that it was the duty of the Government to come and explain to the House their position at this time. I do not complain about that; it is quite reasonable, and I will endeavour to satisfy the request he made. But he seemed to want rather more than I thought was right, the rather precipitate ending of food rationing and control. Undoubtedly, if certain foods are in short supply, we should then get into a most grave position.
I am sure my right hon. Friend is not willingly misrepresenting me. I said nothing whatever about what powers would be necessary after the immediate emergency had ceased. I said that the Government should come to the House of Commons, and say what powers were considered necessary. I made no comment whatever on the necessity of this or that power.
If I misunderstood my hon. Friend, I am sorry. I thought that he spoke with conviction about particular powers. I might say that I thought he was a little "unco' guid" in another part of his speech. I thought his remarks about the necessity for civil liberty and free speech unusual in their implications, and I thought that the assertion that Members who support the Government cannot be free men——
I thought so—it is within the recollection of the House. At any rate, my hon. Friend was most indignant with my hon. Friend the Member for Morpeth for supporting the Government. He asked, why not let the Government support themselves? That is most unreasonable. Why should the King's Government be entirely surrounded by enemies? Why should not a Member be free to support the Government? If my hon. Friend goes on with that kind of doctrine, he will find himself framing a regulation to prevent Members doing anything except attack the Government. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Bristol (Captain Bernays) seemed to me to make a very backward speech. He was very eloquent—too eloquent. I remember when he was a bright young Radical writer on the "News Chronicle." To-day, as a Liberal National Member of this House, he seemed to me to be very much more Conservative certainly than the Tory Reform group.
I hesitate to intervene on behalf of a Liberal, but certainly the whole doctrine of a Liberal, as I understand, is to stand up for the rights of individuals.
I am sorry to hear about that; I think that ought to have been referred to the Minister of Labour at the time. But, after all, Liberalism is not what it was. It was, in the nineteenth century, a great party of Manchester School individualism, but it has become, since 1906, a party for developing social reform of one kind or another. It was in relation to that that I thought my hon. and gallant Friend's speech was not Liberalism at all, neither Liberalism of the National or of any other sort. My hon. and gallant Friend said that we had been warned last year that we should have to say something this year; and he asked, Why had not my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary said it? I agree that we were warned last year, but the Government are perfectly free to take a warning or not. I thought that it would be better for me to make a statement after hon. Members had had an opportunity to express their views than to do it before, and I think my hon. and gallant Friend's indignation rather misplaced upon that point. I agree with my hon. and gallant Friend that the soldiers want to know what sort of a Britain they are coming back to. So do a lot of other people. My hon. and gallant Friend seemed to think that the only thing they want to know is whether the Defence Regulations go or not. What the soldiers will want to know when they come back is whether there is a prospect of a decent life consistent with individual liberty. The soldier is interested in liberty as well, and so am I. To reduce this matter to the simplicity of the proposition, that all you have got to do is to scatter these Regulations to the four winds and all else will be added unto you, is really rather illusory.
In one of his pearls of eloquence, my hon. and gallant Friend said that few had lost their houses but all had lost their liberties. That is an absurd thing to say. Quite a lot of people have lost their houses, I regret to say, but to say that this country is one in which all have lost their liberties is a libel upon this House, upon the British people, and, if I may say so with due respect, a libel upon the Government as well. This is not a country in which all have lost their liberties. It is true of Germany, but not true of Britain, and I hope my hon. and gallant Friend's statement will not be quoted in Germany.
No, my hon. and gallant Friend's words—I took them down—were "Few have lost their houses, but all have lost their liberties." That is an untrue statement. We have a free Parliament and a free Press, subject to security censorship and my intervention now and again, but with very great rarity. This is a free country, even in the middle of a great war, and I will not stand here silent when it is alleged that we have lost our liberties. My hon. and gallant Friend finished by applauding the demand, in relation to these Regulations under the Emergency Powers Act, that all of them should go at the end of the war, and by saying that the demand will be irresistible.
No. My right hon. Friend really must not misrepresent me. I made it quite clear that I defined the transition period after the European war, and I asked the Government to state what Regulations they would still require. I said that, when normal conditions returned, I hoped that all these Regulations would go.
The record will show what my hon. and gallant Friend did say. I will only say that, taking his speech by and large, it was eloquent, but had no relation to the realities of the situation, and was an exceedingly backward-looking rather than forward-looking speech.
The hon. Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. Harvey) deplored the fact that my right hon. Friend, in introducing the Motion, did not express abhorrence of the nature of the powers for which he was asking. What would be the good of doing so? We need these powers. There is not one hon. Member of the House who could say that these powers must not be renewed. I think there is no hon. Member of the House who would wish to vote against them. We must have them. What would have been the good if my right hon. Friend in moving the Motion had wept tears all over the Floor? My hon. Friend would not have been any happier. If the powers are needed, we must ask for them, and we ask for them in the spirit that they are necessary for the prosecution of the war, subject to the most fundamental review as circumstances change. The hon. and gallant Member for Epsom (Sir A. Southby) is always alive on these occasions and we are always glad to hear him. My hon. and gallant Friend demanded the withdrawal of the Regulations at the earliest possible moment, and referred to the "overspill" of D.O.R.A. after the last war. I am surprised that he used this word.
It is an unpopular word, I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) in the line he took. I think my hon. Friend is right to advise the Government to be selective as to what Regulations to retain at the proper time and what not to retain. Otherwise, we should be playing into the hands of extreme elements, one way or another. This is not a matter in which extreme elements ought to have the predominant voice; it is one in which the public interest ought to have the predominant voice, and all the argument, especially on economic control, should be entirely related to the public interest. The hon. Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Mr. Petherick) asked that the Government should indicate their general point of view, and that I will do. I find myself in general agreement with the hon. Member for North Cumberland (Mr. W. Roberts), who, I thought, took a discriminating and balanced view of the problem. The hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby)—in the one speech he makes on these occasions—talked about Article 12 (5A) of the Defence Regulations and hung what he had to say upon this, which brought him in Order.
My hon. Friend has had a long correspondence with us in relation to a particular case and we have tried to give him satisfaction. It is the case of Mr. Weininger, whose name will be familiar to the House. I think Mr. Weininger is lucky to be at liberty. He was released on health grounds, when there were reasons why he should be in, and there was that reason why he should be out. We have tried to be fair, and when my hon. Friend says that there is official persecution of this man, he is being unfair. I do not like talking about an individual case, but, if I have to, I shall have a lot to say. It is my ambition to be fair, and I think my hon. Friend has been rather hard. However, if he wishes to write letters, we will give them courteous consideration and the proper answer. If he wishes to raise the case in the House, it is open to him to do so.
May I ask my right hon. Friend whether it is a fact that he has never yet stated any valid reason for interning this man and whether his present remarks can be interpreted as meaning that one of the reasons for interning him is something connected with the committee to which he has just referred?
I do not want to go into that case, but, if it is insisted upon, at the proper time I will be ready. I have never believed it wise that these in- dividual cases should be argued on the Floor of the House, and I think it is hard that my hon. Friend should now come out and give details which only make difficulties for the man concerned.
The hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. A. Hopkinson) said that a Socialist Government was always followed by a dictatorship. There has been one in New Zealand for some time, and it is still a Parliamentary democracy. The hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) made an able and interesting speech and made observations about all sorts of things into which I do not want to go. Generally speaking, however, I think his observations on the issue before the House were sound and sensible.
I wish to give some indication of the steps which have already been taken by the Government in this matter in preparation for the situation at the end of the European war. We fully recognise, as a Government, that, when hostilities in Europe come to an end, there must be a general review of the emergency powers. I am now coming to the perfectly reasonable part of my speech. When that stage is reached there will be three main questions for consideration. The first one is that the end of the European stage of the war will not be, so far as we can see, the end of the war. His Majesty will, in all probability, still be at war, and everybody in the House will agree that there must be no slackening of effort until Japan, as well as Germany, has been defeated. The House will no doubt agree that for that purpose the Government must be armed with all such powers as are required for the successful prosecution of the war in the East.
We are engaged in one war, not two. There must be no mistake about that, because otherwise it may lead to misunderstandings abroad. We shall still he at war, and the Japanese war will not be a light one. We must not underestimate the Japanese. The war may be long, or it may be short, but we may be certain it will be tough. All sections of the House will be at one with me when I say that we are determined to fight that war through, side by side with our Dominions, the United States and other Allies, to the utmost of our ability. There could be no question of leaving it to our American Allies or of any shirking of our burden of the conflict. I ask the House to agree, as I think it will, that, if the Japanese war continues longer than the European war, the Government could not be any party, and I am sure the House would not be any party, to any proposal that our necessary powers should be fettered in such a way as to interfere with the effective prosecution of the war against the barbarism of the East, which is no less a menace than the barbarism of the Nazis in Europe.
Secondly, there is the question of the special powers which will be required in relation to the economic problems of, and the equitable distribution of supplies during, the transitional period between the end of hostilities in Europe and the return of normal peace-time conditions. There are, of course, varying views as to the necessity of such economic controls, but there is not necessarily any clear party division of opinion. There will be gradations of opinion. As a matter of fact, in the Debate on the White Paper on Employment Policy, there were speeches made from this side of the House which did contemplate a period when necessary economic controls might have to be continued.
There may be a transition period when it is desired to do certain things, and without proper controls, it may not be possible, in the rapidly changing conditions from war to peace, to do them at all. It may be that there would have to be fresh legislation under which Regulations might be made. That is a point for consideration, but I would resist any idea that, for each item of economic control, during the transition period, there must be a fresh Statute. There may be legislation and there may not. It is a perfectly fair point to argue. In that Debate there were some very interesting observations made by a number of hon. Members, and I say this to indicate there is not a unanimous view among Conservative Members of the House on the problem. For example, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Antrim (Sir H. O'Neill) said:
all these involve a measure of Government control of industry, to which this country has never before been subject. The British people do not like Government control, and that may be the snag on which this scheme will founder, but it seems to me obvious that booms and plumps cannot be prevented by allowing the
complete free play of economic trends, as in the past. We must recognise that, if stability is to be obtained, there must be some control. It is to a large extent a choice between two evils."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd June, 1944, Vol. 401, C. 365.]
Nobody will suspect the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Antrim of being a secret plotter for social revolution but that is his view. It is a view which is permissible in relation to that transition period.
But not to this Statute. The right hon. Gentleman, surely, will remember that it is the Emergency Powers Act and that he and his friends allowed it to go through, only after repeated assurances that it was for the emergency, and nothing but the emergency.
I think my hon. Friend will see before I have finished that his point is met. If he asks me whether such measures are permissible legally under this Act I answer that I am not quite sure how far it can be used in that direction. If he asks me whether Regulations are to be made for the purpose of the peace rather than the war and whether there is a prima facie case for considering new legislation, then I agree that there is a prima facie case for considering whether legislation should be brought in. I think we are getting across one another.
The hon. Member for Stockport (Sir A. Gridley), who is a man of industry and business, said:
I think all sensible people have recognised, even if they do not like it, that, at any rate for some time to come, there must be a continuance of rationing and of price control. Where these restrictions are not essential for the problems we are discussing, they should, of course, be removed, but where they are necessary to carry out this policy I do not think anyone in their senses would deny that they must be retained."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd June, 1944; Vol. 401, c. 436.]
The hon. Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson) said:
To us this White Paper"—
the White Paper on Employment Policy—
means the end of one chapter and the opening of a new one. It means the end of laissez faire and of the Free Trade century which has now come to an end, and it represents the definite adoption by the Govern-
ment of a planned economy."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd June, 1944; Vol. 401, C. 447.]
I give these as examples of points of view with regard to the question of suitable economic controls during that transition period. It will be wise for all of us to address our minds to that problem, not with preconceived party or doctrinaire beliefs but by trying to satisfy ourselves as to what is the right course in relation to each separate problem, what is the necessary course in the public interest in the circumstances of the time. If all of us try to act in that spirit we may be able to arrive at agreed conclusions. I am not sure about this, but it is possible, and this is the spirit in which we should seek to approach the matter.
The question of the nature and scope of the special powers which the Government will need after the war to check inflation and mal-distribution of supplies during that critical period will require the most careful consideration at the time, and before the time. It is hoped that many of the emergency restrictions which have been required while war is being waged on the Continent can be abandoned or modified when the war effort is concentrated in the Far East. In particular, both the Government and the House of Commons will be anxious at that stage to reconsider Defence Regulations which affect personal liberty and other civil liberties, such as the freedom of the Press, and I think the House will give me credit for the fact that I have never manifested any wish to retain these powers for a minute longer than is necessary for the defence of the Realm.
I appreciate the point but I think that if the Government at that time were so careless as to suspend a newspaper in the middle of the Election they would certainly lose the Election, and that should discourage them. We have only shut down one newspaper and threatened another during the whole of the time, and I think our restraint has been remarkable.
I affirm, on behalf of the Government, that we—and the House, too, I am sure—will be anxious at that stage to reconsider that body of the Defence Regulations. Civil Defence is as good an example as any of where it should be possible to remove war-time restrictions—all the Regulations relating to Civil Defence, the blackout and so on. There will he no reasonable excuse for continuing these and we shall not want to do so needlessly when the European war is finished. Who knows, they may be reconsidered, some of them, before the European war is finished? Clearly they are in the field for reconsideration at that stage. In my view, it will be the duty of the Government to sweep away all restrictions which can safely and without social disadvantage be dispensed with, and it will be the duty of the House to keep the Government up' to the mark. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] So we are all agreed about that. The Government have every intention of doing their share of the job to the utmost practicable extent.
I hope that I shall carry hon. Members with me when I say that it would be premature, certainly at this stage, when no one can foresee with certainty what conditions will obtain at the termination of hostilities in Europe, to attempt to specify what policy in connection with emergency powers ought to be followed at that stage. A concrete decision must be postponed until the question can be considered in the light of the circumstances obtaining at the time. Nevertheless, the Government have already been thinking ahead and they have been earmarking various emergency measures which it may be possible, as far as can be foreseen from the knowledge at our disposal at present, to revoke or to modify when hostilities in Europe cease. When that date is reached it will be not only the duty of the Government themselves to make up their own minds about that general review, but it will be their duty to come to Parliament and to consult Parliament and give the House the fullest opportunity of reviewing the whole position and considering the extent and nature of the emergency powers which ought to be continued. It will be the duty of the Government at that time to make a considered declaration as to where they stand on the matter and what their policy is.
If we interpret what my right hon. Friend says correctly, I am afraid there will be some apprehensions on this side of the House. We are agreed, I believe, that many of these Regulations should be relaxed one after the other, but if the Government are going to seek an entirely new legislative instrument—— [An HON. MEMBER: "They must."] My hon. Friend thinks they must. We do not. May I put my point to the right hon. Gentleman? We must recollect that there is a majority of Conservatives in this House, and if they throw this whole thing into the melting pot, many of the economic controls we think necessary may be quarrelled over and may be completely frustrated. Many of us think that a period of crisis and emergency in the war itself carries over into the period after the war, and that, therefore, these powers should still apply.
I have been careful not to commit myself to the view that new legislation will be either necessary or desirable. I leave the Government absolutely free upon that point. On the other hand, hon. Members have urged that there should be new legislation, and they have every right so to urge. All that I have said is that the House at that time shall have a full opportunity of reviewing the whole situation on a statement which the Government will make. The question of new legislation is a matter for consideration at the time. Of course, at the end of the day the Government must meet the wishes of Parliament. The Government must either adapt themselves to the will of Parliament, or make way for a Government which will do so, but it will be for the Government to make up their mind and Parliament must decide. I do not propose to go now beyond a broad outline. For the reasons I have given, it would be wrong to contemplate that the whole system of emergency powers can be brought to an end at that date. Undoubtedly special powers will be needed, both for the purposes of the continuing conditions of war and for the purposes of the economic and social problems of the transitional period. It may be that some extension of the emergency powers may be needed in certain respect, just as it may be that they can be diminished in others. We must have fluid and open minds as to what is necessary in the public interest at the time. Nevertheless, the nature and extent of those emergency powers is a question which the House will be fully entitled to review in the light of the fresh considerations which will arise as the result of the cessation of the war in Europe.
If I may say so, I think that fairly meets the various points which have been raised in the House. Nobody can expect the House to be absolutely unanimous on these things. There are temperamental differences about them and I do not claim to be absolutely representative of every hon. Member in this respect. I try to serve the House as faithfully as I can, to reflect its will and to reconcile it with my duty as Secretary of State for the Home Department. But what the House was entitled to ask for, and the essence of what the House in all quarters did ask for, was that when a situation arises in which there is a prima facie case for reviewing this matter the Government will not evade the issue but will come to the House afresh and say, "Let us have a talk about it." That we will do, and we go further. We say that we are already examining this matter in detail, so that there will be no need—provided the House gives us reasonable latitude as regards time—for that Government to come along and say, "We are very sorry, we forgot to think about this question before, and now you must wait for an indefinite period until we have had time to think about it." That situation will not arise; we shall be ready quite frankly and fairly to confer with the House about the matter in the situation which will then exist. I hope that, with that assurance, the House will be good enough to give us the Motion moved by my right hon. Friend.
In this stage of a vigorous and most interesting Debate I will only ask for two or three minutes' indulgence. I would like to make a few comments on the statement to which we have just listened from my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. I will skate rather lightly over the first part of his speech, in which he dealt with some of the points made in the course of the Debate. He said his function would be to put the cats back into the bag. I am afraid he will find that many of those cats were put back into the bag rather too roughly, and with rather too little consideration, and are likely to prove a little obstreperous in future in consequence. He was, I think, particularly unfair to my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham (Sir Edward Grigg) and to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Bristol (Captain Bernays). My hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham certainly did not suggest for one moment that it was not the business of Members of this House to support the Government, that the Government were quite capable of supporting themselves. What he did suggest was that it was not the business of Members of Parliament to invent new powers for the Executive to take. His case was that it was the business of the Givernment to call for such powers as they require to carry out the duties laid upon them, and that it was for this House, as the watchdog for the public, to decide whether or no those powers should be given to them.
The hon. and gallant Member for North Bristol was misrepresented, unintentionally I am sure, both by my right hon. Friend and by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan). It is perfectly true that he looked forward to the day when all these controls might be swept away and rendered unnecessary. Is there any hon. Member of this House who would not prefer, if he could get a proper state of society in this country without controls, to be without them? But my hon. and gallant Friend certainly did not suggest—nor has anyone in my hearing, and I have heard most of this Debate—that all these controls should be swept away, as the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale said, in one big sweep. That is clearly an argument which would not be used by any responsible Member of this House but, if it is any consolation to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Bristol, I have known my right hon. Friend now for well over 20 years and I know his methods. I can assure my hon. and gallant Friend that the more vigorous my right hon. Friend is in denunciation, the stronger is the reason for belief that the speech he is denouncing has gone home, and got under his skin, and that the measure of his vigour is the measure of the smart that he has felt.
When I come to the declaration which has been made by my right hon. Friend on behalf of the Government, I can speak with much more calm. I am sure that every Member of the House has welcomed this statement. The course of this Debate, and the speeches made during it, can have left no doubt whatever in the minds of my right hon. Friend or of His Majesty's Government that this is a matter to which hon. Members, representing as they do the whole body of people in this country, attach very great importance. During the last two or three years we have had a steady flow of plans and reports, and of blue prints and of White Papers, all of them explaining in vivid language and, if I may say so, with not a little optimism, the wonderful things the Government and public authorities are to do for the citizens of this country. I am sure that those citizens are duly grateful, but I am also sure that many of them are not a little anxious to know what, if anything, they will be allowed to do for themselves. It is because of that, that they will welcome the statement made on behalf of the Government, that this matter is regarded as serious, that the Government have already taken steps and are continuing to take steps to deal with the position which must arise at a later stage in the war, with a view to relieving the people of this country at the earliest possible moment of the restrictions, great and small, which have been so irksome to them.
In one respect, at any rate, we entered upon this war fully prepared. In the pigeon holes of Government offices there were certainly ready at the outbreak of war effective Regulations for stopping or restricting every form of human activity. That these plans were not sterile is shown by the hundreds of Defence Regulations, the thousands of Orders and tens of thousands of sub-Orders which have been made under them. I make no criticism of what has happened in the past. The House gave the Government very wide powers to deal with a state of emergency and trusted that they would use those powers only for that purpose, and as effectively and as reasonably as they could. But I think there is no doubt—and this Debate has made it fully clear—that when the emergency has passed, the country will expect something to be done about it. The Minister has definitely given an undertaking which is most valuable and important. He said as soon as the war in Europe is ended—I do not want to tie him precisely to those words but to the implication of those words, which I take to be that as soon as there is a fundamental change in the character of the emergency—the Government will, immediately, set about getting rid of all the restrictions and Regulations which, in their view, and in the light of new circumstances, can be got rid of, without danger and without risk to the pursuance of whatever further aims and purposes we have in hand. That is a great step forward.
The Minister has undertaken that when we come to the transition period, and before the Government decide finally on what powers they wish to take for the purpose of carrying out the business of that transition period, and meeting its difficulties, they will come to this House and ask for those powers. These are two most valuable undertakings on behalf of the Government, and I am sure everybody is grateful to the Minister for giving them to the House.
I made a careful statement; and although I am sure my hon. Friend means no harm, I am not quite sure whether he is not in danger of putting a little gloss upon what I said. I must stand firmly on the carefully balanced words I have used. I think my bon. Friend is running me a little bit past the post.
If that is so then I am sorry, but I 'am surprised that my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale should be the one to interrupt me, because I am sure he was not particularly pleased with the Minister's statement. I welcome the statement of the Minister, which I shall study carefully in its proper form so that I shall not put any gloss upon it, as I have no desire to do. There is the question to what extent and how soon these controls may go. The Minister devoted a few minutes to the question of continuing economic controls. I do not think there is any doubt on any side of the House that some form of control and regulation of industry, quite different and to some extent greater than that we have been accustomed to in the past, may well be needed, certainly in the transition period and possibly beyond that. In regard to these economic controls the remarks of the Minister are quite unexceptionable, although I wonder what my right hon. Friend the Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison) would have said about them three years ago. But at least what the Minister has said represents his present position and the position of the Government in this matter, and for my part I regard it as entirely satisfactory.
I finish with one small request to the Minister. If circumstances remain as they are now, I would ask that he might take the opportunity during the next month or two—certainly before Christmas—of raising this matter again, and telling us how he and his colleagues are getting on with their consideration of the details of this problem. Clearly, he could not be specific to-day, but I hope that in three or four months' time he may be able to tell us how he is getting on and how the principles he has enunciated are crystallising in practical proposals. If the course of our fortunes should make any further discussion of these Regulations out of date, no one would be more pleased than the Minister in coming to this House and telling us something of his deeds rather than words.
The Home Secretary has made to-day a declaration of the greatest importance which, no doubt, all of us will wish to see in print before commenting on it any further. But from the carefully guarded way in which he continued to avoid being drawn any further, especially when he interrupted my hon. Friend the Member for the Abbey division of Westminster (Sir H. Webbe), who gave what I thought was a most reasonable interpretation of the Minister's speech, it is clear that the right hon. Gentleman made a statement which
must be looked at with the greatest care. I prefer to stand on what the head of the Government, the Prime Minister himself, said on the matter in September, 1939, and I should like it to go on record, along with the statement of the Home Secretary:
In these last few days the House of Commons has been voting dozens of Bills which hand over to the Executive our most dearly valued traditional liberties. We are sure that these liberties will be in hands which will not abuse, but will use, them for no class or party interest, which will cherish and guard them, and we look forward to the day, surely and confidently … when our liberties and rights will he restored ot us."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd September, 1939; Vol. 351, C. 296.]
I prefer to stand on that, rather than on the statement of the Home Secretary. I can only say that we shall continue to look very closely at these matters all the more so because—although I did not hear the speech of the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan)—if we swept away all the rest of these Regulations and left Regulation 1AA on the Statute Book it might be awkward for him and other Members in the future conduct of business, both inside and outside this House.
That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty in pursuance of Sub-section (1) of Section eleven of the Emergency Powers (Defence) Act, 1939, praying that the said Act, as amended by any subsequent enactment, be continued in force for a further period of one year, beginning with the twenty-fourth day of August, nineteen hundred and forty four.