Orders of the Day — Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers) Bill

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 8th August 1947.

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Order for Second Reading read.

11.5 a.m.

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Lewisham East

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

This Bill arises out of the Debate which has taken place during the last two days on the economic state of the nation. It is quite clear that if the considerable number of measures to be taken by the Government in the economic held, and particularly in regard to the balance of payments, are to be carried out with that speed and decision which the House and the country would wish, we must have adequate emergency powers for their implementation. Accordingly, we ask Parliament to give us these powers. The Prime Minister referred to a number of proposals, and it may be, as we go along, that it will be necessary to use emergency powers for them. My main purpose is to explain the provisions of this Bill, and its relationship to its predecessors in the history of emergency powers.

In 1939, there was passed the Emergency Powers (Defence) Act, which became law on 24th August, 1939. I quite agree that that Measure was put through in the shadow of war. It took very, very extensive powers, including powers to detain individuals, and it enabled a wide variety of Defence Regulations for economic purposes to be made. That was done under the Conservative Government of 1939. The next Act was the Emergency Powers (Defence) Act, 1940, which was promoted by the war Coalition Government. That Measure was moved in the House of Commons by the present Prime Minister, and it gave the most extensive and sweeping powers, in relation both to property and persons, for the purposes of the prosecution of the war. Those Acts were for war purposes, and we are not at war; but we are facing grave economic difficulties which are of greatest importance to the country.

When the war ended, the Coalition Government had intended to proceed with a Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers) Bill. That Measure was dropped by the Caretaker Government, but with the new Parliament, a Bill was brought in by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. My right hon. Friend, in moving the Second Reading of that Bill, which became the Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers) Act, 1945, said that there were two distinct cases for it—the political and legal case, and the economic case. As regards the economic case, although, as he agreed, the scope of the Bill was wide, we were then thinking primarily in terms of the internal situation, and the avoidance of the boom and slump which followed the 1914–18 war. That was the main purpose of that Act: to control internally the economic transition from war to peace after the late war, in the hope and belief that thereby we could make a better job of it than was done after the 1914–18 war.

It is important to understand the basis upon which the 1945 Act proceeded, because I think there are misapprehensions on the point. The 1945 Act did not enable the Government to make new Defence Regulations. They could not act outside the sphere of the then existing Defence Regulations, and if any of these were revoked, the power of the Government to act within those Defence Regulations would cease. That is the first point. The second point was that the purpose for which those existing regulations and orders could be used had to be within the meaning of Section 1 (1) of the new Act of 1945. This Subsection is as follows: If it appears to His Majesty to be necessary or expedient that any Defence Regulation to which this section applies should have effect for the purpose of so maintaining, controlling and regulating supplies and services as—

  1. (a) to secure a sufficiency of those essential to the well being of the community or their equitable distribution or their availability at fair prices; or
  2. (b) to facilitate the demobilisation and resettlement of persons and to secure the orderly disposal of surplus material; or
  3. (c) to facilitate the re-adjustment of industry and commerce to the requirements of the community in time of peace; or
  4. (d) to assist the relief of suffering and the restoration and distribution of essential supplies and services in any part of His Majesty's dominions or in foreign countries that are in grave distress as the result of war;
he may by Order in Council direct that the Regulation shall have effect by virtue of this Act whether or not it is for the time being necessary or expedient for the purposes specified in subsection (1) of section one of the Emergency Powers (Defence) Act, 1939. So the Act of 1945 enabled the existing Regulations, subject to such amendment as might be made within their meaning, to be used for the purposes which I have read out from Section 1(1). As is clear from the Preamble to the Bill. the Second Reading of which I am now moving—[Laughter]—the Bill of which I am moving the Second Reading now—did I make a mistake?

Photo of Sir Kenneth Pickthorn Sir Kenneth Pickthorn , Cambridge University

It is only that the Preamble is funny.

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Lewisham East

I am glad there is a bit of humour about on a Friday morning. The purpose of the Bill, as is stated in the Preamble, is to enable the use of the powers conferred by still existing Defence Regulations to be directed more particularly to increasing production and redressing the balance of trade. Like its 1945 predecessor, the Bill does not enable the Government to make new Defence Regulations. If it had been necessary in our judgment that that power should be put in the Bill, we should have put it in, but surveying the very wide field covered by existing Defence Regulations, we did not consider it necessary to take power to make new Defence Regulations. But had it been necessary we would have asked Parliament to give us the necessary authority. We came to the conclusion that we would not, and that we do not need to, and, therefore, we do not seek that degree of authority.

It may be argued that the existing powers are wide enough for the purposes which I have indicated, namely, the increase of production and the balance of payments situation, with all its consequences. I dare say that legal experts could have quite interesting arguments about that. I think both sides in the controversy could make a case. There are, however, arguments which have con- vinced the Government that the right course is to ask Parliament to extend the purposes of the Act of 1945. It would not be right that we should be involved in a situation which entails any doubt as to the validity or legality of Government action. It could have been argued, when we brought in the Act of 1945, that it was not at that time necessary. I forget whether it was so argued or not. [An HON. MEMBER: "It was."] It could have been argued that the war-time powers could have gone on, at any rate for a time, but this Government have taken the view—the war Coalition Government took the same view, and I took it as Home Secretary at the time-that it is very important in the use of emergency powers that Ministers shall be able to put their hands on their hearts and conscientiously assert that they are acting within the law. That is profoundly important.

We were apprehensive that unless we got this additional definition of purpose we might, first of all, get into legal difficulties and that the courts might rule that some of the action was ultra vires. Secondly, there might have been a temptation to the Government to stretch the meaning of the existing law under the Act of 1945—no doubt conscientiously, but still an attempt to stretch it because the public interest required that to be done. We do not want Ministers to stretch the meaning of the law in the framing and administration of Defence Regulations. It would be unconstitutional, undesirable and thoroughly objectionable. Therefore, because of legal doubt, because we wanted Ministers to be able to say to themselves all the time, "I am acting within the law," and in order that the Government might have adequate powers, which it must have, to deal with the present situation, we thought it right to take the straightforward course and bring this Bill before Parliament.

Photo of Sir Kenneth Pickthorn Sir Kenneth Pickthorn , Cambridge University

When did the Government think so?

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Lewisham East

During recent weeks. [Interruption.] Certainly, while we have been discussing these problems. We came to that conclusion instead of relying on a somewhat optimistic interpretation of a purely legalistic argument. The purposes of the Bill are different from the purposes laid down by Parliament in 1945. They are additional to those purposes but, in our judgment, they are appropriate and necessary. For example, there is nothing specific in the Act of 1945 for redressing the balance of trade—the Act does not refer to that subject at all—and obviously much of the motive of the action we may have to take under this Bill may be related to the balance of trade. Today that is a dominant purpose, and if regulations and orders are to be used for it, it is constitutionally desirable that the Government should have the express assent of Parliament.

There are, indeed, various respects in which the purposes set out in Section 1 (1) of the 1945 Act might have to be stretched to make them cover all the measures at present proposed to meet the economic situation. I have given the House the purposes for which that Act can be used as defined in the 1945 Act. For example, the first and main purpose is that of: … so maintaining, controlling and regulating supplies and services as to secure a sufficiency of those essential to the wellbeing of the community or their equitable distribution or their availability at fair prices. I do not think, and the Government do not think, that this points at all clearly to the development of the export trade. "Maintaining" suggests preserving the normal position rather than trying to go beyond prewar limits. It would be a matter for question, for example, whether it would not be rather a stretch to bring within the definition the manufacture, say, of luxury goods for export to earn hard currency. The third purpose mentioned in the Subsection, namely: … to facilitate the readjustment of industry and commerce to the requirements of the community in time of peace … might seem wider, but here again the use of the word "readjustment" is not, in our judgment, altogether apt in relation to the present circumstances. In other ways, the phrase: … maintaining … supplies and services…. is also somewhat inappropriate from the point of view of the need for increasing production. The emphasis now should be rather on the need for increasing production.

Here it is appropriate that I should remind the House of the provision in Section 4 of the 1945 Act which, of course, is continued in this Act, increase- ing Parliamentary control in these respects. Under the war-time Emergency Powers Acts, the only right of Parliamentary challenge existed as against the regulation itself. Orders attracted no right of Parliamentary challenge by Prayer. In the 1945 Act we provided that orders and other recognised statutory instruments made under the Defence Regulations should be subject to Parliamentary challenge. That was an advance in the field of Parliamentary control which we thought it right to introduce in time of peace, and the same will be true of this Measure. Similarly orders made under the regulations will be open to Parliamentary challenge.

That is the meaning of the Bill, and these are the reasons the Government are asking Parliament for the Bill. We have no preconceived notions as to precisely how we propose to utilise it. What we need is the power to utilise it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Certainly, if the House expects the Government to act with vigour in this situation, as the Opposition have demanded, and the Conservative Press have demanded, then the Government should have adequate powers with which to do it, and we are not going to be cross-examined in advance on what exactly we are going to do with the powers when we get them. There is no legitimate case for doing so, none whatever. We shall use them as we go along for the purposes set out in the Bill, and we shall be accountable to Parliament for the action which we take.

Photo of Mr Henry Strauss Mr Henry Strauss , Combined English Universities

But if Parliament is not sitting?

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Lewisham East

If Parliament is not sitting, it can challenge us when we come back. It the hon. and learned Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. H. Strauss) faces the economic menace which has been described in high terms, and high letters, too, by the Opposition, and by their newspapers in the spirit that the Government cannot act if Parliament is not sitting, he is not giving proper weight to the situation. Moreover, if it is to be argued that every time the Government wishes to do something which is urgent in this economic field, we have to bring in a separate Bill, that seems to be making completely foolish all the talk about the critical situation in which the country finds itself at the present time.

Therefore, we think we must have these powers. I do not want the House to think there is some deep dark plot here to conduct a social revolution by Defence Regulations. In so far as revolutions are about, they will be conducted by Parliament in the proper way, and after full discussion. But these powers of emergency, which are necessary in the situation, are quite appropriate within this field, and for the purposes for which we ask for them in the Bill. They are required, in our judgment, to deal with the emergency. We have taken what seems to us constitutionally the correct course in coming to Parliament frankly and asking for the necessary widening of the purposes of the 1945 Act, and in seeking Parliamentary approval of a Measure which, together with its predecessors, will arm the Government with the powers necessary for the economic mobilisation of the country. Millions of people all over the world are watching us and wondering if—and I think most of them are hoping that—we shall rise successfully to the emergency which faces us. This Bill may serve as one indication to the world of our determination to succeed—as we have succeeded at previous great crises in our history—in surmounting our difficulties. It gives notice to the world of what are the objectives we are setting ourselves to achieve, and the words of the Bill set out the purposes for which we need it.

I have only one other reference to make to the Bill and that is to the period of operation. There is no stated period for the operation of the Bill. It is not necessary because the operation of the original Act of 1945 is set out in that Act. That was for a period of five years, with power to renew annually by Resolution of each House of Parliament, and it will run side by side with this one. Therefore, this Bill will last as long, and no longer than, the Act of 1945.

I hope the House will give the Bill a Second Reading. I am sorry to see the Opposition have put down a Motion of rejection. I think the Liberal Motion—[HON. MEMBERS: "Where are they?"]—I am sorry to have to refer to the Liberal Amendment in the absence of the party that fathered it, but I think that in the light of the explanations which I have given the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) has perhaps come to the conclusion that the rejection Motion was mis-worded, and has misfired, and perhaps he does not wish to pursue the matter. I think the House should give us this Bill, and I ask for it with all reasonable speed, after adequate and proper examination, in order that, subject to all the Parliamentary checks which this kind of legislation properly entails, the Government may be fully armed with adequate legal powers to deal with such issues as arise.

11.27 a.m.

Photo of Mr Winston Churchill Mr Winston Churchill , Woodford

I beg to move to leave out "now," and at the end of the Question to add, "upon this day three months."

The curious and somewhat disingenuous speech in which the Lord President of the Council has introduced this Bill, part filled with legal cover and part with veiled menace, will certainly not add to its easy passage through this House. Neither, I may say, will the introduction of this Bill itself be a means of securing the wholehearted co-operation of all parties in the State in respect of the necessary purposes which lie before us. One would even almost suppose it had been introduced specially to cause ill-feeling, doubts, and suspicion.

At present we are governed by the 1945 Act, which gives very wide powers to the Government. We objected to the extension of those powers for more than two years. We thought that after two years they might be brought up for discussion every year under the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. We have not altered our opinion about that. We consider that a different treatment of our affairs, based more on liberty and effort, and less on regulation, restriction and compulsion, would have made a more prosperous and fertile Britain today. We object very much to being asked to give reinforcement and refreshment to these powers, which in the two years that they have been operating since the war ended, have done more to frustrate than to help forward our recovery. The Government used their majority in 1945 to brush aside our request for a two years' period and they insisted upon these powers ruling for five years, which was also the normal life of the Parliament.

These powers are the negation of British freedom and our way of life in time of peace. That cannot be denied. We now find ourselves in our present plight, of which no one will underrate the gravity. No doubt, part of that plight is due to the inevitable conditions of the aftermath of so great a war, in which we made such immense exertions, but we find it difficult to believe that a much greater recovery could not have been made, especially when we look at what has been done in countries like Belgium and Holland, subjugated and stripped by the enemy for so many years and only liberated by the exertions of our armies and of our Allies. When we look at such countries, and when we see what a far more lively, active thrusting forward of production and revivification of national life and strength is the rule and is the atmosphere—when we see that, we find it hard to believe that these oppressive regulations and frustrations have on the whole, been beneficial. We think on the whole, they have been injurious, even to the first two years after the war.

We also consider that, after every allowance has been made for the difficulties of the aftermath and of our national fatigue, the main cause of at least half our troubles has arisen from the partisan policy and administrative incompetence of the Party opposite. We have no confidence in their ability, and, apart from wartime memories among some of us, we find it difficult to trust their fair play. Having attained by their majority the vast powers of the 1945 Act for five whole years, they now come forward with this new Bill, which is described in its title as a Bill to redefine the purposes of the 1945 Act. We are bound to subject this Measure to the most searching examination. We cannot allow the natural desire to go away for the holidays in any way to relieve us from our duty of making sure that this Measure is thoroughly examined, and that, at least, we know the purpose that lies behind it.

The first question that would naturally be asked is—What is there that the Government cannot do under the 1945 Act that they can do under this Bill? That is the first question. The right hon. Gentleman gave us a list of minor items which he had evidently gathered together for the purpose of giving some sort of answer to that question, but, under the 1945 Act and the Regulations made upon it, the Government can now direct labour. They can take anyone from his or her home and send them anywhere they please, put them to any toil they may choose, however unsuited they may be to that toil, or however much they may resent their compulsory addiction to it. Even that does not satisfy them. This power to choose or change occupation, hitherto considered the mark of the difference between democracy and serfdom in one form or another, which is already in their power, they have not dared to use, not because they have not got the legal power to use it, but because they have in fear of arousing the deep spirit of the British nation, which, in time of peace, has always stood up for these fundamental liberties.

But even this great power does not satisfy them, when, by acquiring shares by Government money, or by issuing Government paper, irrespective of its real value, they can acquire and take possession of any business that they like. We all know their overriding powers in matters of finance. The whole country wilts under the burden of their devastating or confiscatory taxation. We are entitled to ask, nay, we are bound to ask, what more do they want, and what do they want it for, and we shall endeavour to extract far more precise and straightforward answers to those questions than any that have been volunteered by the Lord President this morning.

We have been given the impression by the Government that this is not a Bill of any great consequence, that it seeks no material extension of powers, and that all it does it to make sure that the powers which the Government took two years ago are still operative. Why should they not be still operative? These powers were definitely related to the transition from war to peace. They were granted by Parliament for five years, only two of which are at present over. Does anyone pretend that the transition from war to peace is over? How can that be contended? Of course, we all know that Socialism involves the privations and squalors of war prolonged indefinitely in time of peace, the more painful to endure because they have to be borne without the excitement, stimulus and glory of defending home and freedom from the foreign foe. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about Belgium and Holland?"] Although they are Socialist countries, all I say is that they have managed to become prosperious countries, and have become prosperous countries, because, although they are now Socialist, their Governments have worked together with the intention of reviving the nation as quickly as possible and not with the intention of ramming their party doctrines down the throats of their fellow countrymen.

However, I am on the legal point which the Lord President brought before us—the point about the doubts that would be caused by any action under the Act of 1945 by the contention that the transition from war to peace was over. How could anyone make such a pretence? It seems, indeed, to be a far-fetched argument that the courts are going to deny the Government the powers they already have on the grounds that the state of transition from war to peace is over. Except for the bloodshed, all the evils of war, and worse, are going on in our country today. Do they deny that? They will be made to deny it before their fellow countrymen. Life under the Socialist Government is worse, far worse, for the country than it even was in the full blast and severity of the war.

How can any court hold that the transition from war to peace is over, and that this is some new special emergency which has just arisen, to which existing legislation is legally inapplicable? Such ideas are nonsense. There is no validity whatever in them. We have not even made a treaty of peace with our principal antagonists, Germany and Japan. I cannot believe that any court could so affront human reason and depart from the character of British justice as to declare that the transition from war to peace is already over. Who are the courts to express an opinion and be a judge of what is or is not a new transcendent emergency? That is not a legal matter; it is a political matter. There are all kinds of emergencies which arise from time to time. I believe that all this story about fear of the courts depriving the Government of the powers of the 1945 Act on the grounds that the transition period is over is moonshine and humbug. That is what makes the Conservative and Liberal Parties—[Interruption]—I like to hear those taunts and jeers which are cast at the Liberal Party because I think it much more becoming to do it when their leader is present—it will be by a union of liberal-minded men of all parties that the repressive legislation and other forms of oppression which the party opposite have cast upon this people will ultimately be cast off by the nation.

I say that when a reason which is obviously false, a flimsy pretext of this kind, is put forward about doubt of what courts will say about the emergency between peace and war being over, about Ministers being so embarrassed in their deft and shrewd handling of affairs for fear that they would stretch ever so slightly the exact bounds which, in every form of good faith and strict interpretation of the law, they would wish to observe—all this talk fills me with suspicion. When a false motive, a false pretext, is put forward, a flimsy and untruthful pretext, one feels it is all the more necessary to find out what is the true motive of the Government in bringing forward this Bill. If the only wish of the Government is to make sure that the 1945 Act, with all its vast powers, is still in full activity, not hampered by a new construction of an unreasonable character by the courts, why did they not bring in a simple Bill affirming that such was the case?

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Lewisham East

That is what I have done.

Photo of Mr Winston Churchill Mr Winston Churchill , Woodford

The right hon. Gentleman has not done that at all, and I shall put to the House the words he has inserted which show how far from accuracy that muttered interjection lies. Little as we like the 1945 Act, or subscribe to its principles in time of peace, I doubt if it would have encountered any serious opposition if the Bill had merely been for the removal of doubt as to whether that Act was still in force now.

What is the position in which the Government seek to place us? On the one hand they say that this Bill makes no appreciable change in the law, that it merely revives with indisputable validity the Act of 1945. On the other hand, they demand our assent to terms as wide as those in Clause 1 (1, c). I must read those words: generally for ensuring that the whole resources of the community are available for use, and are used, in a manner best calculated to serve the interests of the community;

Hon. Members:

Hear, hear.

Photo of Mr Winston Churchill Mr Winston Churchill , Woodford

Hon. Gentlemen opposite cheer that, but applied in its full force that would be the complete abrogation of Parliament and of all our dearly-bought and long-cherished liberties and rights. It is not only Governments that have rights—ordinary British people have them too. No reason has been given us by the Lord President, in moving the Second Reading of this Bill, to justify the casting away, by us, undefended, of such rights as are still free from the operation of the 1945 Act. Who is to be the judge, I should like to know, of whether the conditions of Clause 1 (1, c), those sweeping words which excite the enthusiasm of hon. Members opposite, are in fact fulfilled by any legislation demanded by the Government? It is only Ministers who are to be the judge. The courts have ruled that the Minister who takes executive action has only to declare that he considers that action necessary under the Act, and that is the end of the matter. That is, at any rate, the practice which is growing up. There is no protection at all to be looked for in that quarter. Therefore, the only guarantee we would have that Clause 1 (1, c), would not be abused is in the character of Ministers and the confidence we place in them. Thus we are asked to give a blank cheque for totalitarian government, for that is what this is, at the absolute discretion of Ministers who, proceeding by Orders in Council when Parliament is not sitting, and may not be sitting for months, would be absolute masters. Is this really necessary to the life and recovery of the country? I should have thought that it would have spread so much uneasiness and alarm as to discourage and paralyse effort.

Then we are referred to Clause 1 (1) and assured that this Bill only applies to existing regulations, and also that the word "vary" in Clause 2 is not intended to be interpreted in the sense of "initiate new regulations" but only to adjust. I would like to know exactly where we are. Why then do the Government need to write on the face of this Bill the words of Clause 1 (1, c) which I have read out, and which, as I say, in one sweeping grip, embrace absolute powers. We are told that these powers are no greater than those which were granted to the Government of which I was the head in May, 1940. But that was at a moment when invasion, death and the physical destruction of our whole race and State seemed to be at hand or threatening. Moreover, there is a great difference between entrusting powers to a Government representing all parties in the nation, joined together in a common cause, and entrusting the same powers to men who barely held a majority in the country even in 1945, who have shown themselves again and again in the past two years always to be ready to put party before country, always ready to scorn the feelings and harry the interests of their political opponents—even though these are half, and if there was a General Election, would be proved to be far more than half, the whole nation.

Who is going to wield these powers? It is not only the Prime Minister who seems increasingly an amused passenger in the "pleasure boat." Clause 1 (1, c), which I have been reading out, would give the Minister of Fuel and Power the power to carry into effect his doctrine that only organised labour matters, and that the rest of us are not worth a tinker's curse. We have heard talk of the Dunkirk spirit. What would have been said at the time of Dunkirk if those in charge of the little boats that went over there had said they were only going to take off the members of the trade unions, and that they did not care a tinker's curse for the rest? The Minister who used that expression still remains a Member of the Government in spite of his failures, and I assert that he is retained in that position by the play of outside causes. But a more dangerous, and certainly a far more cap able, figure lies behind, in the President of the Board of Trade. No one has ever doubted the sincere fanaticism of the President of the Board of Trade. We all know how he would deal with Parliament, from his speeches and writings of former times. In this connection, and especially in connection with Subsection (1, c), I must read some of the views which he has expressed. In 1934, at the Socialist Party Conference——

An Hon. Member:

That is a long time ago.

Photo of Mr Winston Churchill Mr Winston Churchill , Woodford

He has never modified or withdrawn the statement which I am about to read out, and I know nothing in his conduct which would lead one to suppose that he has. At any rate, he is quite welcome to make a withdrawal whenever he chooses. This is what he said: The House of Commons should confine itself to two functions; (a) to debate and decide the principles and general structure of legislation; and (b) to the approval of Ministerial Orders. Parliament would be expressly forbidden to discuss the details of any Measure. Again: In the event of a victory by the Socialist Party at a general election being accompanied or followed by an emergency situation"—— apt foresight— the Socialist Government would seek for the necessary emergency powers from Parliament. The party would interpret its mandate from the electorate as conferring upon it full authority to act in this way. It is quite up to date. We know the views of the party opposite, and what we are determined is that the country shall know them, too. The President of the Board of Trade was also responsible for the following: The devising of the detailed administrative methods for the working out of the (Socialist) Plan are not matters with which the House of Commons need concern itself. We had an echo of that just now. When we say, "Bring forward your Measures, and if they are well conceived and in the public interest we will give you full support" the Lord President of the Council says, "To think that we should have to bring forward a succession of Bills to deal with all these different administrative matters which come to hand at the present time. Not at all." I suppose all these great steps, like direction of labour and so forth, will be taken without Parliament having an opportunity to consider the matter in the form of legislation, or having any of the protection of the fundamental rights of the subject which have always been enjoyed.

Photo of Mr Winston Churchill Mr Winston Churchill , Woodford

I must return to the President of the Board of Trade: The devising of the detailed administrative methods for the working out of the (Socialist) Plan are not matters with which the House of Commons need concern itself.

Hon. Members:

The right hon. Gentleman said that before.

Photo of Mr Winston Churchill Mr Winston Churchill , Woodford

So I did. I have been so much interrupted. But I have got another one: I cannot imagine the Labour Party coming into power without a first rate financial crisis.

Hon. Members:

Read on.

Photo of Mr Winston Churchill Mr Winston Churchill , Woodford

The right hon and learned Gentleman went on to say: That is why we asked for full emergency measures.

Photo of Mr Ian Mikardo Mr Ian Mikardo , Reading

Send to the Central Office for the rest of it.

Photo of Mr Winston Churchill Mr Winston Churchill , Woodford

Hon. Members opposite seem to be very hilarious, but there is an air of apprehension behind their laughter, because they know that they will have to justify on every platform in the country not only the physical miseries which they have inflicted upon this country, but the gross invasions of our fundamental liberties. I ask, are these powers in Subsection (1, c), in their vague, all-embracing terms, the kind of powers which we would entrust to a man who holds these views about this House, and about society and the State in relation to ordinary men and women? Naturally, one shrinks from giving support to such immense powers when we have heard beforehand how one of the most able of all the Ministers intends to use them.

Photo of Mr Winston Churchill Mr Winston Churchill , Woodford

Perhaps the hon. and learned Gentleman will be successful in catching your eye, Mr. Speaker. He is not successful in catching mine. I am still mystified about the intentions and motives of the Government. The Prime Minister's speech on Wednesday is universally judged to be inadequate to the crisis and vague in its character. Are the Government trying to make up for lack of deeds by boastful words? That is a point which has occurred to me. It is the most innocent explanation of this Bill that I can find. Why should they come forward with all these demands for totalitarian powers when nothing that was said by the Prime Minister or by any of the Ministers who spoke yesterday in the Debate furnishes any substantial reason for their need? Is it because—and we must ask ourselves this—they wish to get Parliament separated and away on the holidays and then use these powers with irrevocable effect? Or is it, having no effective plan or design, they wish to cover up their vacuity by the assumption of sweeping powers? Some light must be cast on this as the Debate proceeds. If the Government are sincerely concerned with the enduring validity of the 1945 legislation, and wish only to be reassured on that point, it is quite easy for them to accept the series of Amendments which we shall place on the Order Paper to that effect. If what they tell us is their purpose is true, it is quite easy for them greatly to diminish any criticism or opposition to this Measure.

But what has been said by the Lord President, the attitude of the party—especially that part of the party which drives the rest—makes it perfectly clear that there is more behind this Measure than we have been told. While that impression lasts, I cannot possibly avoid expressing the strongest opposition to the Bill. For my own part I do not think there are any circumstances in times of peace in which the words of paragraph (c) of Subsection (1) of Clause I could be voted for by anyone who cares about the decent government of this country and the free life of its people.

12.3 p.m.

Photo of Dr Leslie Haden-Guest Dr Leslie Haden-Guest , Islington North

The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition has not done justice to himself. If we are to relate the acts of the present to the speeches of the past, as he did those of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade—and I hope that this will not became a custom of the House—then the speeches might be read, too, of the right hon. Gentleman himself, in which he criticised the very party he now leads. He will, no doubt, remember those speeches, and how well they were phrased; and I hope he will consider that he has not really done himself justice today in quoting those speeches of the President of the Board of Trade, which may or may not represent the present views of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. The quotations were irrelevant, in any case, because the right hon. Gentleman's argument in this matter was entirely false and misplaced.

The Lord President of the Council, in moving the Second Reading of the Bill, explained quite clearly what the purpose of this Bill is. It is a very simple Bill, in- deed; and it is clearly intended, to extend, and only to extend the regulations of the Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers) Act, 1945, so as to avoid any ambiguity in the actions which will be taken by the Government in facing the grave emergency which confronts us at the present time, and which does need very drastic action. Do hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite think that drastic action at the present time is not needed?

Photo of Mr Cyril Osborne Mr Cyril Osborne , Louth Borough

It was needed two years ago.

Dr. Guest:

Do they not think that action is required on a scale not previously required? Such an idea would be absurd. We require to do things now on a scale and with the energy not previously exercised—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—by any Government in time of peace, because the conditions of this sort have not arisen before. That is the situation now. We need these powers for the salvation of the nation. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) has moved an Amendment which would put off the use of these powers for three months. Is that statesmanship, or is that partisan manoeuvring to get a good Press in the newspapers? It is perfectly clear from what my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council said that extension of the powers in order to avoid any ambiguity is necessary; because the duties which have to be performed now, in facing this emergency, are the duties of organising the productivity of industry, commerce and agriculture, the fostering of exports and the reducing of imports, and for ensuring that the whole resources of the community are available for use and are used in the manner best calculated to serve the interests of the community, and are not frittered away—as they might be frittered away if hon. Members opposite had their way in this matter. We cannot in this emergency allow people to fritter away the resources of the country. We cannot allow undue luxury to continue. We cannot allow evasion of Income Tax to continue. We cannot allow large numbers of practices to continue, even in peace time, which are impeding the national effort. I say that in answer to what I consider to be the mistaken criticism of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition.

I have always appreciated the fact that I have served in the same House of Commons with the right hon. Gentleman, whose efforts in the war I regarded—as, I think, most of us in this House regarded them with the greatest respect; whom we supported; whom we regarded as a man to help the nation at that time in a way very difficult for another man to do. Let me remind the right hon. Gentleman, when he accuses Members on this side of taking a party line, and serving only the interests of our party, that after an his toric Division in this House in which the then Prime Minister, Mr. Neville Chamberlain, obtained so little support that he felt obliged to resign, it was be cause of the support of the Labour Party that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford became Prime Minister. I think he ought to remember that, and realise that we on this side do not look at things from a narrow partisan point of view. We do not. The right hon. Gentlemen and hon. Members opposite know perfectly well that that statement, that Members on this side do regard things from a partisan point of view, is entirely untrue. Our war services on this side have been equal to those of hon. Members on the other side. Our services in time of peace are certainly better than theirs, be cause directed to the interests of the nation as a whole. I think that that particular charge is unworthy of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wood ford, and is one that ought not to have been made, and on which——

Photo of Mr Julian Snow Mr Julian Snow , Portsmouth Central

On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker, I believe it is a convention of this House that a Whip does not make speeches; but may I ask your protection from the senior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn), who was pointing at me in a manner which reflected on my war service? I ask for your protection.

Photo of Sir Kenneth Pickthorn Sir Kenneth Pickthorn , Cambridge University

Before you give your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, let me say that, as a matter of fact, I was unaware of the hon. Member's existence.

Photo of Mr Julian Snow Mr Julian Snow , Portsmouth Central

Further to my point of Order. I quite realise the hon. Gentleman does not take very much notice of hon. Members of this House other than those of his own party; at the same time, I still claim your protection in this matter. I believe that his action was deliberately insulting.

Photo of Mr Douglas Clifton Brown Mr Douglas Clifton Brown , Hexham

These personal matters affecting war records are very unfortunate, and, of course, they arouse a lot of heat. I may say it is the fact although I was not present, that the hon. Member for Central Portsmouth (Mr. Snow) was chosen to be a member of a guard of honour in Berlin, so there is no question about the hon. Member's war record, which we all know is a good one.

Photo of Mr Julian Snow Mr Julian Snow , Portsmouth Central

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. In fact, I considered the action of the hon. Member in pointing up and down the ranks of those sitting on this side of the House to be insulting.

Photo of Mr Winston Churchill Mr Winston Churchill , Woodford

My hon. Friend has said that he was not referring to the hon. Member for Central Portsmouth in any way. How then can it be complained that my hon. Friend was insulting him, when he was not even pointing at the hon. Member opposite?

Photo of Mr Thomas Scollan Mr Thomas Scollan , Renfrewshire Western

Then who was he pointing at?

Photo of Mr Winston Churchill Mr Winston Churchill , Woodford

His aim was not accurate.

Photo of Mr Douglas Clifton Brown Mr Douglas Clifton Brown , Hexham

I think we had better proceed now.

Dr. Guest:

The temperature of the House having risen, perhaps I had better pass to another aspect of the matter about which I wish to address certain questions to the leaders of my party.

Photo of Mr Arthur Molson Mr Arthur Molson , High Peak

Before the hon. Member leaves the point, I should like to make this observation. This is not the first time the claim has been made that my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) was made Prime Minister because of the attitude of the party opposite. As a matter of fact, the party opposite had voted against the late Mr. Neville Chamberlain on a number of occasions, but the fall of the Chamberlain Government on that occasion was brought about by the action of hon. Members on this side of the House.

Dr. Guest:

I will not pursue that matter further, except to say that the right hon. Member for Woodford would certainly not have been able to maintain his position as Prime Minister without the support of the Labour Party. I think that is quite clear.

Photo of Mr Winston Churchill Mr Winston Churchill , Woodford

I have never criticised the action of the Labour Party in that connection. I thought it was very wise and patriotic of them to do so, and we worked together for five eventful, tumultuous years. My criticism has been directed at the action of the present majority returned at the Election, which I say has put party before country.

Dr. Guest:

I will not pursue the controversy. The right hon. Member has made his point, and I have made mine.

I now wish to address certain questions on the very important matter we are discussing today to the leaders of my party. I want them to explain how far the powers they have now taken—no doubt the answer will be that they cover the situation—will enable them to take the necessary action for the integration of the economy of Europe, and to obtain more trade and more production inside Europe, without relying too much, of course, upon assistance from the United States. If we can get the friendship and assistance of the United States, by all means let us have it. But to put ourselves under the yoke of the United States is something which this House would never tolerate, and which the nation would never tolerate. At the present time we are suffering from some of the clauses of the Loan Agreement, and we must get out of that difficulty.

It seems to me that the most important thing we shall be able to do under this Bill is to get the economy of Europe integrated, and to create production in Europe—[HON. MEMBERS: "Under the Bill?"]—Integrated with our own economy. Only on that basis shall we be able to restore the fortunes of Great Britain which, as an individual country, exporting and importing, cannot possibly maintain itself in the modern world at that standard which it was able to do in years gone by. If we are to integrate the economy of Europe, we must have not only Western Europe but the Eastern European countries, which constitute the agricultural areas. Those are areas which are at present most closely attached to the Soviet Union. We must have the cooperation of those areas which produce the agricultural supplies—Hungary, Rumania, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, and so on. It is essential to have those countries united with us.

Therefore, I ask the Government: are they prepared to stress and to press for the integration of those Eastern countries; and will they also press for the integration of the Soviet Union?—[Laughter.] Hon. and right hon. Members opposite may laugh at that, but do they realise that Eastern and Western Europe, including the Soviet Union, comprise the richest and wealthiest area in the whole world, that Europe and the Soviet Union together have a population of 500 million and more, that a large proportion of those people are well trained, with high proportions of specialists and educated people and that an integration of the economies of Western and Eastern Europe with the Soviet Union will certainly bring us out of our difficulties? We have already had offers of very great help from the Dominions, especially from Australia and New Zealand, which are controlled by Labour Governments. We have an offer of help from South Africa and from Canada. We have a plan which we must put into operation for the development of the resources of our tropical dependencies in Africa and elsewhere.

With those vast resources in Europe and of the Eurasian Continent, including Soviet Russia, with our Dominions and Colonies, and with the whole of tropical Africa—in which we can exercise so great an influence—there is no reason why we should-not put all our national energy behind the effort to increase economic production, and all our resources if need be, as is laid down in this Bill. There is no reason why, in a few years' time, we should not build up in the country an even higher standard than we had before the war, and one parallel with that now enjoyed by the United States. I hope that whoever is to reply today will give a definite answer to the question, whether the Government intend to attempt to integrate the economic resources of Western and Eastern Europe with those of the Soviet Union in order to gain an added prosperity for the whole world, as well as for ourselves.

12.17 p.m.

Photo of Mr Clement Davies Mr Clement Davies , Montgomeryshire

I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for calling me today, because we are debating a matter which concerns the faith I hold more dearly than anything else. The last two days have been sad enough, when we have had to acknowledge here, and to the world, that we were not paying our way; that, unfortunately, we have not even a plan by which we could see our way to working ourselves back to normality. But today, we are debating a much more serious matter as far as I am concerned: the liberty, the spiritual liberty, of the individual. What shocked me more than anything else were the jeers and sneers coming from the other side of the House when references were made to liberty by the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill)—that faith which has been held by my party. The Liberal Party is small in numbers today, but heaven alone can tell what this country and this House—both sides—the world and democracy in general owe to those who have held my faith, At a time when democracy itself is being threatened, it ill becomes anyone to sneer at the liberty of the individual—[Interruption]—hon. Members ask me to get on with it——

Photo of Mr Clement Davies Mr Clement Davies , Montgomeryshire

I remind hon. Members opposite that Hitler himself, and even Mussolini, claimed to hold the Socialist doctrine long before turning to other methods. These matters are so fundamental—[An HON. MEMBER: "A propaganda speech for the Liberal Party."] Do hon. Members opposite seriously suggest that I am trying to make a propaganda speech for the Liberal Party? I would remind hon. Members opposite that every kind of temptation has been held out to me to join them. It is merely because I hold sincerely to the faith that is in me that I stand where I do now. It is not propaganda; it is a sincere spiritual feeling. That is why I and my colleagues have put down an Amendment to the Motion for the Second Reading of this Bill. We realise to the full the need there is for a plan, for a pooling of all the resources we can command. Now, more than ever, there is need for what the Prime Minister referred to two days ago—a moral and spiritual uplift in this country to conquer the material difficulties which beset us. I and my colleagues are willing to do anything which will help preserve the spiritual liberties which we treasure above everything else, and to see that our material resources are used for the best purposes.

But we ask ourselves: why this Bill? Perhaps the House will remember the Bill of 1945, now an Act, which was introduced into this House. It had been prepared by the Government of which my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford was Prime Minister, and at that time they decided that it would be wrong to continue to do away with the powers possessed by this House and transfer them to the Executive for a longer term than two years. However, His Majesty's present Government came along and said, "We desire to have these powers for another five years." I, on behalf of my colleagues, differed from both sides; I suggested that there was a great danger in the House parting with its powers to the Executive, and that the Bill should be limited to only one year. We said that after that the Government should come to the House, and give an account of their stewardship and say what further powers they required. I did not have my way, nor did other right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House. The Government had the powers of the Bill handed to them for five years.

The 1945 Act contains tremendously wide powers. My right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford has already referred to Regulation 58A, which gives full power, as, indeed, it gave full power in 1939, to the Executive to deal with the liberties of a man or woman. That has not been used, certainly not during the last two years. All that has happened is that those working in mining and agriculture were not allowed to leave their jobs. From time to time, during the last two weeks, we have heard that it was proposed to do away with that. Let me turn to the Act itself. I did my best to follow the statement made by the Lord President. If there are doubts, it would be much easier to introduce a short Bill saying, "To remove such doubts this Act of 1945 shall and always shall have such and such a meaning." To that we could not have objected, because the Act is on the Statute Book, and will remain there for another three years——

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Lewisham East

Is not that exactly what we are doing by this Bill?

Photo of Mr Clement Davies Mr Clement Davies , Montgomeryshire

That is the whole point. There are words now being used which, to my mind, are not only unnecessary, but highly dangerous. Given their full effect, there would be no need to call this House together, or for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to introduce a Budget. It could be done. It is no use the Lord President shaking his head. There would be full power to do that sort of thing——

Photo of Mr Clement Davies Mr Clement Davies , Montgomeryshire

May I refer the House to paragraphs (a) and (c) of Section 1 (1), which seem to me to cover all that is necessary? It has been suggested that this Act was limited to the period known as the transition period from war to peace, but no one can say that we are out of that period yet, for this Act says that that period shall be five years. Only two years of that term have so far gone. Can anyone say that we are out of the transition period if we are still at war, as we still are, legally, with Germany and Japan? Treaties of peace have not yet been signed with either of those countries. Therefore, so far as time and term are concerned, this Act is wide enough, and still in existence. Section 1 (1) states: If it appears to His Majesty to be necessary or expedient that any Defence Regulation to which this section applies should have effect for the purpose of so maintaining controlling and regulating supplies and services. "Supplies" are the goods and materials, and "services" are the services of individuals. What for?— (a) to secure a sufficiency of those essential to the well being of the community or their equitable distribution or their availability at fair prices; Is there anything which the Government want over and above that?

Photo of Mr Patrick Gordon Walker Mr Patrick Gordon Walker , Smethwick

If the right hon. and learned Gentleman says that the Government could make a Budget under the powers of this new Bill, we could certainly make a Budget under the existing Act.

Photo of Mr Clement Davies Mr Clement Davies , Montgomeryshire

I shall come to the dangerous words in the Bill in a moment. I am only saying now that there are full powers under this Act to secure a sufficiency of the supplies and services which are scarce. There could not be wider words than: essential to the well being of the community "—— or: their equitable distribution. I will pass over paragraph (b), and come to paragraph (c), which states: To facilitate the readjustment of industry and commerce to the requirements of the community in time of peace. These are the widest possible terms that any Government could ever want. They are so wide that the Coalition Government, of which the party opposite were a part, said, "This will enable us to do all that is necessary to meet the difficult times which we know are in front of us." If that is so, all this Government need have done was to bring in a short Bill to remove doubts by saying, "This means, and shall mean, so-and-so." It is no good citing to the courts the Preamble of any Act. If the words are clear in the Section, the Preamble is ignored. The Preamble is turned to only if there is any doubt as to the actual meaning of the words of the Section. So, I ignore the Preamble. The court would go straight to paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) of Section 1 (1) of the 1945 Act. Orders in Council—and let us remember that they will come into effect and remain in effect, and all actions under them will be legal until this House has, within 40 days, decided that they should be withdrawn—may be used (a) for promoting the productivity of industry, commerce and agriculture which is no wider than what is, I think, already existing— (b) for fostering and directing exports and reducing imports, or imports of any classes, from all or any countries and for redressing the balance of trade; no wider, but in fact rather narrower; because we all know that the more we particularise, the narrower is our path, and the wider the words we use, the wider our path. Paragraphs (a) and (b) are, therefore, already covered by the 1945 Act. Now comes the danger: (c) generally for ensuring that the whole resources of the community are available for use, and are used, in a manner best calculated to serve the interests of the community. Calculated by whom? Calculated by one or two men over whom neither you, Mr. Speaker, nor I, nor anyone else will have any control whatever. For the first time in the history of this country in time of peace, we are putting powers in the hands of some totalitarian person who will decide what is calculated best to serve the interests of the community. It is for that reason that, speaking as a Liberal, and believing in the liberty of the subject, I am opposed to the full to this Bill as it is introduced.

12.31 p.m.

Photo of Mr Richard Crossman Mr Richard Crossman , Coventry East

I think that many of us on this side of the House welcome the belligerency of the Leader of the Opposition and the melancholy liturgy of the leader of the Liberal Party. This Bill, whatever its legal significance has for us an immense symbolic significance [Interruption.] We are prepared to spend next week and the week after to get this Bill through.

This Bill is a symbol of one fact—this is not going to be another 1931. In 1931, the Labour Government was faced with an economic and financial crisis. It capitulated and refused to take the necessary power to plan the country's economy and get it through the crisis. This Bill symbolises today the end of all those delusions that have been growing up on the other side that, finally, the time would come when this Government would turn back from their Socialist path and accept the advice given, for instance, very quietly and, therefore, all the more dramatically yesterday by the right hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson). He told us the alternative to this Bill. That alternative was to go through another 1931 on a fantastically greater scale—no holidays with pay, of course; reduce the school-leaving age of course; cut down the standard of living of the working class and get back to the good old system.

There was one thing that the right hon. Gentleman did not say and which I intend to say for him from this side—the alternative to this Bill is mass unemployment. I know that mass unemployment has its conveniences. It was an essential part of the prewar system. It provided an incentive for men to stay in badly-paid industries because they could not go elsewhere. It provided an incentive for employers not to improve conditions because the existing conditions of employment kept the working class down, divided them and destroyed their political and economic power.

We on this side of the House know that we have come to the turning of the ways, and that in this crisis we either go forward to full Socialist planning or back to a pool of unemployed—one way or the other. For two years we have been in suspended economy. There was in the Coalition period a common belief in a theory called "full employment." I believe that there is already considerable agreement on both sides on the analysis of this position—that it is impossible to maintain full employment without some Government planning both of labour and of materials and, therefore, the attempt to maintain full employment without adequate controls was bound to lead to a crisis in which the Government would have to go back to the old cure of deflation or forward to Socialist planning. I regard paragraph (c) as significant because it gives us on this side the assurance that the policy of deflation has been turned down and, therefore, the Government must take the course urged on them from time to time for many months—

Photo of Mr Cyril Osborne Mr Cyril Osborne , Louth Borough

Does the hon. Gentleman deny that at the present time under a Socialist Government there is a considerable amount of unemployment; that on the books there was something like 360,000 unemployed as well as thousands of "spivs" not employed?

Photo of Mr Richard Crossman Mr Richard Crossman , Coventry East

The pool of unemployment of over one million which we had between the wars was totally different from transitional unemployment, and I would add that it has partly grown up under this wishy-washy system, which is neither one thing nor another. The signs of crisis have forced the decision upon the Government. If they had waited any longer they would have been forced to accept the policy first written in the "Economist" and then spoken from the Front Bench on the other side—the policy of deflation with all its inevitable unemployment which is so convenient to the other side.

I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that there is a big difference between doing these things in war and in peace. I do not think that it is proper for this side of the House to pretend that there is an exact parallel with Dunkirk or the Battle of Britain. This is a peacetime Measure and a Socialist Measure, and we on this side believe that, in order to ensure a decent standard of living for our people and the people of Western Europe, some of the sacrifices which were accepted by the working class for the conquering of Hitler should be re-accepted for a period of time. We think that it is perfectly legitimate to call on them today for a peaceful objective to accept again some of the sacrifices which they made to defeat Fascism. We stress the parallel with 1931 and not the parallel with 1940. I regret that in the Preamble of this Bill it is implied that the justification of the Bill is solely the war and the allocation of supplies and services as a consequence of the war. The oration of the President of the Board of Trade last night made that a singularly inadequate analysis of our trouble. He pointed out that this was absolutely untrue, that this dislocation goes far further back, that what we are facing is a dislocation of the capitalist system, and what this Bill has to deal with is a capitalist system run down by years of neglect, followed by the war.

I want to turn to the attempts made by the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Liberal Party to appeal to the democratic spirit against this Bill. I will give a reasoned reply to that. Member's of the Front Bench, many of them, were just as worried as we were about the need for these measures for many months. Why did they hesitate to take them? Because they were determined that such a Bill should not be imposed by force on the working classes, because they were determined that these sacrifices of liberty should be voluntarily accepted, because they said, as another Government said before the last war, "We cannot go into this divided, and if we push it at the pace which is wanted by some of our back benchers we shall get divisions among the people who have to carry it out." For who are to make the sacrifices? The organised workers of this country, and the Front Bench wisely said to itself, "We have to wait until the crisis develops—" [Laughter]. Hon. Gentlemen opposite may laugh. I used to laugh when peopled talked about the proximity of the last war, but I begin to appreciate much more why the Government then said that we have got to wait even to the last moment to make sure that everyone is satisfied that war is justified.

I know that a similar thought has been in the minds of Ministers for many months. It is impossible in this country to impose by force on the organised trade union movement the sort of powers and the sort of things that are carried out under this Bill. It has been an achievement of voluntary, democratic persuasion, which has been going on over the last eight months, though I believe it should have gone on faster and it could have gone on faster.

Photo of Mr Clement Davies Mr Clement Davies , Montgomeryshire

Surely, the hon. Member does not forget that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House a fortnight ago said there was no need to make a statement of any kind. This Bill was not introduced then and apparently he believed that everything was going so pleasantly that this House could adjourn for ten weeks.

Photo of Mr Richard Crossman Mr Richard Crossman , Coventry East

It would be difficult to initiate the right hon. and learned Member into all the mysteries of the Labour movement. If he had come to the Margate Conference he would have seen the start of the process of democratic discussion which led up to this Bill today. He would have seen our movement arguing this matter out amongst ourselves and coming to the conclusion that this is necessary. Even if this is done, as it is done, at the very last moment it is done with a united movement; it is accepted by the movement, and for that not only we but hon. Gentlemen opposite will be very grateful in times to come, for it is this movement and these organised workers who have got to accept these sacrifices of liberty for the sake of the greater liberty. I think they are accepted to get rid of a system of privileged liberty. We had privileged liberty before the war and some of us know what that meant—one million unemployed. The working class movement said to itself: "That system will not go on. We are not going to live on the unemployment of others." That is what people were doing between the wars. They were working because others were unemployed.

I have been asked about the mandate of this Party. It was much more a mandate to prevent a recurrence of permanent unemployment than any other single thing, at least in my constituency. In Coventry we were not so much concerned with nationalisation since none of our industries are to be nationalised, but what we did worry about was unemployment. The pledge that I gave was that we would do everything necessary to prevent a recurrence of permanent unemployment. The crisis has come and the measures can be taken under this Bill which we are discussing today.

I should like to stress a second point. This Bill gives the Government power to carry out Socialist planning, but that does not mean the planning will be carried out. The thing which we on these back benches are mainly concerned with is the hope that, the plans have been prepared, and that the Government will carry into effect the concentration of industry which is so essential to get through this crisis. I should like to give one illustration from my own constituency which is concerned with motor cars. I am glad to see the Minister of Supply present, because on this point he should have a guilty conscience. In 1945 it was decided that British motor cars should form a large part of our export trade. It was decided—without any great analysis of the market as I believe—to expend vast amounts on plant and vast quantities of money for tooling up, and tens of thousands of our most skilled engineers were put into producing motor cars for export. Then we got the horsepower tax modified and other changes to help that end. But I wonder if anybody asked himself before making that decision whether the motor car was the best thing to sell in all the markets of the world. We must remember that we cannot sell it in America Nor can we sell it in Russia, or in Eastern Europe or indeed anywhere where capital goods are required. We can sell it in New Zealand, and I think the New Zealanders have made the greatest sacrifice of anybody, because we see by our papers this morning that New Zealanders have forbidden themselves American cars at half the price of British cars.

We can sell cars in the Dominions and we could sell them in the Argentine until an import barrier was put on them. I believe there is a future for the export of British cars, but I believe that the amount of plant we have in it at present is far too great. We are in grevious danger, through lack of planning, of finding heavy employment in my constituency when the sellers' market now existing is replaced by a buyers' market and the British car is squeezed out. I think we could get a continuous permanent export on the basis of a smaller industry altogether. I give that as a concrete illustration of the sort of planning we from these Back Benches are requiring of the Government. That is what we mean by concentration of industry and by Socialist planning.

I want the House to observe one of the by-products of this failure of planning. We have all studied with keen interest the reason why the Anglo-Russian trade talks failed. We are all in common agreement that the task of the Secretary for Overseas Trade was difficult because we could not in those trade talks guarantee supplies. Since we could not guarantee supplies we should have had to pay in convertible pounds and that would have been an expensive procedure. If we could have guaranteed these supplies then I believe these talks would have been successfully completed and the signatures put to a trade pact. We could not, for instance, supply 29,000 tons of steel rails because the steel was going into motor cars, because we had not planned our exports for the markets we required, but believed in the vague development of world trade and multilateralism by which, through some mysterious process, despite the flow of American cars, there would be room for British cars as well all over the world.

We want to see this Bill leading to Socialist planning in which we plan not only production, but production for the market where the people will take and need our goods and sell us the food and the timber we require. That market is not America, but Russia and East Europe predominantly. That is why I say, in passing, that any suggestion that the trade talks in Moscow should not be resumed for fear they might upset the Americans is a suggestion of national suicide. For this nation's independence can only be preserved by cordial relations with America and the development of the Marshall Plan on the one side, and by the development, on the other side, of relations with Russia, which will reduce our dependency on the dollar markets for food, timber and raw materials. Only by that method can we survive as an independent nation—by standing four square and working with both for the development of Europe and of the world.

May I add one further point so that our opponents on the other side of the House will not be too alarmed? This Bill has, of course, severe limitations. Anybody who studied carefully the initial paragraphs of the speech of the President of the Board of Trade last night will realise that however much we achieve by stepping up our own production, however many the cuts we make, the gap cannot be closed by that alone. We know and we welcome the fact that the President of the Board of Trade since yesterday recognises that the economic integration of Europe is the only solution for this country's livelihood and that of France as well. I look forward to a Bill of this kind for Europe—a European Bill of a European Government planning the resources of Europe on a Socialist basis and planning a regional area big enough to survive against America. The President of the Board of Trade revealed yesterday that, like Saul at Damascus, he had at last seen the light. This Bill enables the Government to have the powers to get people to work on the right things by concentrating manpower and raw materials on essential industries. No one opposite has sought to tell us how we can do this without these powers because hon. Members on the other side do not believe in doing it. They believe in going back to the prewar system with a pool of unemployment and a cartel system to limit production, and a creeping paralysis of British industry. We do not believe in that. We believe in going forward.

But we must recognise when we are calling on the workers for these secrifices that we must show that they are worth while for the sake of another higher liberty. In a civilised state we all have to make sacrifices of liberty and I believe that the present sacrifices are worth while for the sake of liberty from permanent unemployment. But having asked that of the workers we must realise that it does not depend on our production alone whether we survive. It depends much more on a very few men and on their statesmanship. The workers can work as hard as they possibly can, but if mistakes of statesmanship are made at the top, their work can be utterly frustrated. On the lines of the famous phrase coined by the Leader of the Opposition concerning Britain's reliance on the few, I say of this situation in peace time, "never have so many depended on the statesmanship of so few."

This is not a question of dictatorship: it is inevitable in the modern world, and we on these back benches call upon the Government when appealing to the workers to give of their best to recognise their own enormous responsibility in diplomatic relations with Russia and America, to urge forward the European Union and to look beyond this country and appeals to the workers. They must recognise that these sacrifices can be justified only if the statesmen respond by moving forward. If we stay an island and an isolated State we shall go down. We must unite with Europe and together with Europe rely on both Russia and America assisting us as far as they can, until we are independent of them. That is the picture for the statesman. Let them do the job and they will not be disappointed in the workers.

12.54 p.m.

Photo of Mr Peter Thorneycroft Mr Peter Thorneycroft , Monmouth

The hon. Gentleman the Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman) has presented his arguments with the clarity and enthusiasm which we have learned to expect of him. A considerable portion of his speech betrayed what I thought was a certain intellectual dishonesty in that he was presenting the choice which lay before the British people as his own policy on the one hand and mass unemployment on the other. That is a very familiar argument at the hustings, but I do not think it is a particularly useful one to preach in this House. I propose to answer it, but before doing so I want to say something a little more closely related to the details of the Bill.

I wish the hon. Member for East Coventry, while he was making his speech, could have seen the face of the Lord President of the Council. He was causing intense pain to his right hon. Friend, and I think that the Lord President must have been saying, "Save, oh, save me, from my candid friend." When we came to the House this morning, this Bill was presented to us as a rather trifling little Measure. A very subdued Lord President of the Council came along and explained that there were certain difficulties of legal interpretation in the courts, that just for greater safety it would be better to have the thing tied up and that, in fact, the Law Officers advised him that a short Measure of this kind was required. That may have been an argument for the Bill, but it is not the argument for it presented by the hon. Member for East Coventry. I think that the hon. Gentleman will agree with me that what he says is that this Bill is not just to deal with a few dislocations and something of that kind, but is of symbolic significance to the Socialist movement. To use his own words, this Bill is "the turning of the ways." It is not something which has been thought out by the Law Officers, but a Measure the basis of which was first worked out at the Margate Conference. It is, the hon. Gentleman said, a Bill to give the Government power to put into effect a Socialist plan. I think that the House ought to be informed which is the case that the party opposite really want to present upon this Bill.

Photo of Mr Richard Crossman Mr Richard Crossman , Coventry East

I should like to stress that I said it was of symbolic significance, though perhaps its legal significance was not very great.

Photo of Mr Peter Thorneycroft Mr Peter Thorneycroft , Monmouth

If it is the Bill which is going to give the party opposite power to carry a Socialist plan into effect, it is of something more than symbolic significance. I ask that whoever is to reply will tell us which is the case which the Government seek to put forward. We should know that, and I think that many hon. Gentlemen opposite also would like to know. Many of them seem somewhat troubled about what appears to be the sweeping nature of the provisions, and I think they are entitled to know, as much as we are. I ask the Home Secretary to say whether this is just a trifling Measure to clear up a small legalistic difficulty, or a matter of great significance and sweeping powers, which many hon. Members seem to think it should be. Personally, I think that the Opposition should be prepared to give the Government very considerable powers in time of difficulty, but on two conditions. The first is that they should know what it is that the Government propose, and the second that they should consider that what the Government propose is broadly right.

I do not know, and I do not think the country knows, what it is that the Government propose to do about this crisis. In fact, the Lord President of the Council said that he did not know precisely what he was going to do—what he wanted was the power. But we want to know. I listened to the two days' Debate. I sat all through it, and even tried to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker. I heard a lot of talk about the appeals that were to be made, the targets to be set and so on, but I still do not know what it is that the Government really propose to do to tackle this situation. We are told that there is a great storm into which the ship of state is now sailing, but all that this Bill does is to tell us to go away for our holidays, to take our lifebelts with us and, when we come back, the captain may know broadly which course he is going to steer.

I want to turn now to what is going to be done at home, because I understand that this Bill deals with the orders and regulations which can be put into effect to deal with the home situation. At least, I gather that that is what is intended. I do not propose to talk about the wider sweep of which other hon. Members have spoken, nor do I intend to be doctrinaire about the evils or otherwise of delegated legislation and the question of whether Ministers should use these powers. I say that what matters is what kind of economic order the Government are trying to create by the orders that they make. Let us at any rate have that clear from the Government, and then we shall know better what this Bill is all about. There is one kind of economic order which I think the hon. Member for East Coventry supports and which, probably, the Government also support. So far as I can understand it, they want to lay down what they call the social priorities. They want to allocate materials and resources between one industry and another, to say to one industry, "Expand," and to another "Contract." The more honest of them admit that, if you are to allocate raw materials and resources, you have to allocate the men as well. Therefore, powers are taken to allocate labour, and they are being taken under this Bill.

Let us face the fact that this Bill is not just temporary. The President of the Board of Trade, in winding up the Debate last night, made it perfectly plain that this is not a temporary situation. Do not imagine that we can pull out of it over night; this is something which is going on for a considerable time. These powers over labour are not temporary powers to deal with a temporary situation, but are part of the main structure which the Socialist Government must have to put their policy into effect. I say that that policy is going to fail. In the first place, I say that because it cuts right across the whole basis of the trade union movement in this country. Then, in order to direct labour, more powers of direction are required over wages. You cannot direct a man from a job where he is earning £12 a week to a job which pays £6 a week. It means that the Government have to tackle wages at the same time. It cuts right across the whole basis on which the trade union movement has hitherto been built up.

I do not think the Government know what the social priorities are. I do not think that any Government knows, or that any Government Department has the knowledge to lay down these things. One can broadly say that we want more men in the coal mines, but let me give an example of what it means when we come down to the details of laying down priorities. In the fuel crisis, a great glass works was making windows for houses, and this work was thought to be so essential that they were given a 50 per cent. allocation of coal—you never get a 100 per cent. allocation. But the raw materials needed to make the glass were forgotten, and the firms which produced the raw materials were forgotten. The hon. Member for East Coventry was particularly frank about this matter, and admitted that the planning in regard to the motor-car industry had been remarkable by its absence. The policy will fail on those grounds. Finally, it will fail because the only countries which have tried that system of allocation and direction of manpower, and have tried it in peacetime, have found that the ultimate sanction is the machine gun. The Government have got to choose whether they are to have that system, or whether they are to have a system which goes back to the prices mechanism. They have got to have one or the other. There is no halfway house between the machine-gun system and the prices mechanism system.

At the moment they are trying to have both, with the result that they are getting the worst of everything, and that is why we are in this position. On the one hand, they have rationing and price fix- ing, and on the other, differential wages but no incentives, because however much a man earns, he cannot buy the things he wants. They fix their prices for one lot of industries, with the result that men are not flowing into them, because they allow prices to run up in other industries. Eighty per cent. of the country is under private enterprise, but they create conditions under which no private enterprise can flourish. If one had gone out of one's way deliberately to create a chaotic situation in this country, it could not have been done better than it has been done by this Government. I want to make this plain to the right hon. Member for East Coventry.

Mr. Grossman:

Not yet.

Photo of Mr Peter Thorneycroft Mr Peter Thorneycroft , Monmouth

The "right hon." may well be only an intelligent anticipation, because there are always opportunities in storms of this character for the more energetic back benchers. The hon. Member made an attack upon my right hon. Friend the Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson) who gave, in his speech yesterday, the kind of alternatives that would have to be put forward. It was a courageous speech.

Photo of Mr Peter Thorneycroft Mr Peter Thorneycroft , Monmouth

I believe it is better to put the pros and cons bluntly on both sides. The policy which was outlined by my right hon. Friend is the policy of the Conservative Party—indeed, of the Liberals also—and has been dealt with in the Industrial Charter.—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—Certainly. It is not a return to laissez faire and the abolition of all controls. It would take all the planning resources and all the planning offices the Government have to start to restore the prices mechanism after the mess this country has got into. It would take a very considerable period, but what we want to know is whether the Government propose to make any start in that direction. Can they use this Bill to do anything to deal with the economic chaos into which they have got this country?

Let me put forward something which could be used against me. If we are ever to restore the economics of this country, people have to pay prices which are more nearly related to the cost of the articles they consume. That means deal- ing with the cost-of-living subsidy. I think that £300 million of subsidies may have to be cut off. That can be used against me, but I would rather present these things bluntly. If that were done, we should have to deal with the worst cases of hardship, but what are the Government going to do about their cases of hardship, because there will be more cases of hardship under their system? Take the question of the Tobacco Duty. What is to be done about the old age pensioners. If £300 million were saved on price subsidies, we could afford to spend £80 million to look after the hard cases. How do the Government propose to deal with this problem? Something has to be done, because you cannot have an over-all increase in production without trying to tackle the hardship cases.

Next, can I be told what are the ration cuts in food the Government have estimated as a result of these proposals? The public have read a lot about what we say in the House of Commons, but what is this to amount to in terms of the ordinary housewives' rations? I can believe almost anything, but I can hardly credit that the Government have let the thing come to this stage in our proceedings without any estimate at all of what cuts in the meat ration will have to take place. Let the Government have courage and say what the cuts are to be, and let us hear the answer before the end of this Debate.

The Government have powers to reduce imports. What methods do they propose to use? One of the best methods is to deal with the inflationary situation. Another method would be the method of indirect taxation. Personally, I should think that is the better method. On the one hand, the Government might raise £150 million by way of taxation, and on the other, it is a way of reducing imports. What about the remedies suggested yesterday? What are the Government going to do under this Bill? They talk about cutting down capital construction. Hon. Members on all sides of the House agree that they have been spending far too much money on capital construction. If they cut it down, there will be far less demand for importing steel, timber, and so forth. Are the Government, under these regulations, taking power to prohibit private firms from doing it? If so, why do not they do something about it themselves and first set their own house in order? They could do an-awful lot by example; probably a great deal more than they can do by regulation.

I do not want to repeat all that has been said about the Severn Bridge. There is a huge scheme of capital construction. I understand that the Government's defence was that they never intended to go on with it. If that is so, the Minister of Transport has perpetrated one of the biggest frauds on my constituency of Monmouth that I have seen for a long time. My constituency was led to suppose that this vast scheme was starting in the spring. What do the Government intend to do? Are they going to stop it. I see from the newspapers that somebody has gone down to cut the first sod for the town of Stevenage. Is that vast scheme to continue? Will the Government tell us that? It is idle for the Government to come to the House of Commons and talk about cutting down capital construction when all these schemes are going forward. The "Sphere" of 19th July had under the heading, "Whitehall's vast new offices," a great picture of new buildings, and the cranes, the concrete and the railway lines which are there even at the present time while this construction is going on. Henry VIII's wine cellars are going to be incorporated in a building there. Is that the sort of example to set the people of the country when we are telling them to tighten their belts and to cut down their capital construction?

I believe the Government underestimate the advantages of the power of leadership and example in these matters. Suppose they stopped building the new House of Commons. It would not save so much in materials and so forth, but it would show the world that Britain was facing up to the realities of the situation. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I hope I shall get as much agreement for my next suggestion. Suppose that, instead of lecturing the trade unions that they must not ask for increased wages, or lecturing directors of firms and saying that they must not distribute profits, we in this House of Commons set an example and cut our salaries by 10 per cent. Suppose Ministers cut their salaries by 10 per cent. [HON. MEMBERS: "Cheap."] The country might then begin to think that they had some leadership.

This Bill is utterly inadequate to the tasks that confront the country. It is inadequate because, whatever it may suggest, it should have been done 18 months ago. Why have the Government waited? They knew these facts. Their argument is that these things are necessary. Why did they not do them when they borrowed the money from America? I voted against that loan. I make no debating point about that now—there are arguments on both sides—but I will tell the Lord President of the Council why I did it. I did it because I thought that the right hon. Gentleman's Government would borrow, the money and would squander it and would then look around for means of dishonouring the terms on which it was accepted. I think I was right. The Government have squandered that loan. I am not going to argue whether we bought more wheat, more tobacco or more chewing gum.

Photo of Mr Thomas Scollan Mr Thomas Scollan , Renfrewshire Western

What does the hon. Member mean by "squandered?"—[An HON. MEMBER: "Quiet, we do not want to hear you."]—We do not want to hear the hon. Member either.

Photo of Mr Peter Thorneycroft Mr Peter Thorneycroft , Monmouth

Might I have the hon. Gentleman's attention for one moment while I tell him the answer to the question he has asked? It was a perfectly fair question, and I am trying to answer it. I am saying that the one thing the Government bought with that loan was time.

Photo of Mr Peter Thorneycroft Mr Peter Thorneycroft , Monmouth

However, time was the one thing they were not prepared to use. I have sat in this House and listened, sometimes all night, to Debate after Debate, on great Bills to change the ownership of some industry or other. I am not arguing whether they were right or wrong, but they were utterly unrelated to the realities of the situation. I have never been, and I hope the Lord President will give me credit for it, one of those who sought to place on the shoulders of the Government responsibility for all the evils and problems of this world. I know how great these evils and problems are, and it is foolish and unwise to try to attribute to the Government responsibility which is not theirs. But I blame His Majesty's Government for their delay. For that delay the British people are going to pay a very high price indeed. The Government will themselves be responsible for a large measure of the sufferings which the British people are about to endure. I know why they waited. They waited not because of some talk about public morale, but because they did not want to introduce unpopular measures until the British people had become sufficiently frightened. The Government thought that when the people were sufficiently frightened at the onset of this crisis, they would be able to get away with unpopular measures and the people would have forgotten the promises they made at the Election.

Photo of Mr Harold Davies Mr Harold Davies , Leek

That is not true.

Photo of Mr Peter Thorneycroft Mr Peter Thorneycroft , Monmouth

The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister has no mandate whatever for the policy he is now seeking to pursue. He was elected in 1945 to introduce a paradise and not a purgatory. If he thinks these measures are necessary and wants to direct labour and wants the all-out Socialist totalitarian system for which the hon. Member for East Coventry was arguing, let him have the courage to get up and say so, and let him take his case before the people of this country and argue it there. The best thing that His Majesty's Government could do for the British people at the present time would be to get out. Nothing would do more to restore the credit of the British nation than that. Let the Government get out and make room for those who have the courage and the will to govern.

1.18 p.m.

Photo of Mr Herbert Hughes Mr Herbert Hughes , Wolverhampton West

With the final sentence of the hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft), hon. Members on this side of the House would find much to disagree, but if the programme which has been outlined by him and by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir John Anderson) were placed before the people of this country, we have no doubt that this party would be returned with an even bigger majority than it has at the present time.

Photo of Mr Herbert Hughes Mr Herbert Hughes , Wolverhampton West

1931? Precisely. It is now becoming quite clear that the policy of the Conservative Party, as in 1931, is to make the cuts at the end where the people have the least margin to be cut. They would go not for the people whose incomes are eight times the size of those at the lower end, but for family allowances and even—if we take the right hon. Member for the Scottish Universities—for the old age pensions. The only solution that has not been put forward which was operated in 1931 is the means test cut on the unemployed, and the only reason why that solution has not been put forward is that at the moment the unemployment figure is at its lowest ebb for many years.

As my hon. Friend the Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman) has said, our movement welcomes this Bill. We welcome particularly the Clause which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) chose so strongly to attack. We believe, and the Labour Movement believes, that the whole resources of the community should be made available for use, and we believe that they should be used in a manner best calculated to serve the interests of the community. We do not expect the Conservative Party or even the Liberal Party to share that view. But those are the principles this movement put before the country at the General Election, and those are the principles which we intend to carry out. When we are asked, "Why did the Government not just come forward with some small legalistic Measure?" the answer is that the best tonic we can give to the engineers in the factories of Wolverhampton, to the miners in the pits, and to the other essential workers all over the country, is a gesture of this kind, which will show them that if sacrifices have to be made, they are going to be made in proportion to the ability of the various sections of the community to stand those sacrifices.

I wish to refer to a few of the things which I hope the Government will do in using the powers they are given by this Bill. The hon. Member for Monmouth said that in many respects the planning that has been carried out in this country in the last two years has not been wholly successful, and from that I would not dissent. But as he himself asks, the problem is, "How do you go on to cure those defects? Do you go back to less planning, or do you go forward to more?" We believe that the solution to our crisis is to go forward to more drastic planning wherever it is required in the interests of the nation. We believe that the non-essential uses of our industry and manpower have to be reduced. We believe that the kind of maldistribution of labour which has been growing up over the last few months has to be checked. We believe that it is wrong at this present time that there should be over 40,000 more workers in our entertainments and sports industries than there were in 1939, while the foundries and textile mills are crying out for labour.

We believe it is wrong that there should be a quarter of a million of people engaged at the present time in no useful work whatever, and drawing an average of £760 per annum unearned income for the work they are not doing. We believe it is wrong that there are a quarter of a million "spivs" in this country. Unlike the Conservative Party, and unlike the Liberal Party, we are prepared to take the necessary measures to deal with that situation, even though it means going back to direction of labour, which is not a thing the Labour movement would stand for, if it could possibly be avoided. The safeguards to the individual liberties of the workers of this country rest not upon the Conservative Party, but with the trade union movement which represents them, and which will be prepared to see that the powers the Government possess are used with discretion, and not more than is absolutely necessary. We believe there has to be a limited direction of labour, and we would be prepared, if it is necessary to control the people who do not appear at the Labour Exchanges, for a national census to find out where the idle hands are at the present time.

As has been said in the Debate in the last two days, we believe that the incentive to the workers in our factories has not merely to be an economic one. That is why I, representing an engineering constituency, welcomed the remarks of the Prime Minister about the need for a vast extension of joint production committees. We have heard a lot of talk about targets. Targets on a national level do not mean a great deal to the worker in the factory. We have to get down to the position in which there is not only a target on the national level, but in which every factory has its target, and the workers are taken into full consultation with the management on the problems, difficulties, and targets which have to be broken. When we get that kind of planning—and it can be done by good management—we will get the kind of incentive and co-operation that we need at present in our industry.

We have to transfer more of our materials for export, and that means that we have to go without many things at home. My hon. Friend the Member for East Coventry referred to the motor car industry. We have to step up the proportion of the output of the motor car industry that goes for export, and to do that we have to cut down the amount available at home. In my view it was a backward step when the Government scrapped their old scheme for the allocation of motor cars, so that today essential workers needing motor cars are unable to get them, whereas those who have a friend round the corner can pay their extra £100 and get away with a new motor car. That is the kind of practice to which we have to put an end.

There is no greater step that could be taken from the point of view of morale in the factories and mines than a limitation of profits and dividends. That would help with the question of inflation, but far more than that, if we are going to direct our workers into essential industries, we have to go much further than simply issuing a mild appeal to the directors not to pay 115 per cent. or 125 per cent., as one can see is being paid every day if one looks at the pages of the "Economist". We have to impose a limit of some kind on high dividends. I think that many of the measures the Government have proposed so far do not go far enough. Why do we postpone the restriction of currency allowances for foreign travel until October? Most of the money will be spent in August and September. Why not bring it in now? If we did that, we should save the £10 million we are to cut off timber which we vitally need for industrial purposes. One great use of petrol in this country at the present moment is not on the basic ration, or even in legitimate industrial uses. Thousands of gallons are going on. the side, and every one knows it. Let us take a drastic measure, and say that as in the case of Service petrol, industrial users, farm and factory users, must draw their petrol from specially earmarked pumps serving coloured petrol. If we took that kind of step, we should go some of the way towards stopping the black market which is going on at present.

The right hon. Member for Woodford compared this country with Holland and Belgium and asked why their reconstruction was going better than ours. One salient fact stands out there. Holland and Belgium have not got 707,000 men standing in uniform within their own territory. We want the Government to explain why it is necessary, to maintain an overseas force of 300,000 in March of next year, that they have to be backed up by 707,000 at home. We want a very careful and detailed examination of that proposed use of manpower.

My hon. Friend the Member for East Coventry referred to the Anglo-Soviet trade negotiations. We know that the solution of many of our economic problems could be found if we could get this country, the Dominions and Western and Eastern Europe working together, and a great effort has been made to reach satisfactory terms with the Russians over the last few weeks. It is true that the Soviet Government have asked for pretty hard conditions, but I ask my right hon. Friends whether to close the gap that separates our proposals from those of the Russians at the present time would cost the economy of this country anything like as much as the cost which has been caused to our economy by the convertibility and non-discriminatory clauses of the American Loan Agreement? We were prepared to give a great deal away to get an American loan. I think we should be prepared to give a little more away to get an Anglo-Soviet agreement.

Finally, this country is ready and waiting for a strong lead. The workers in the factories and in the mines are prepared to work harder, to accept all the sacrifices which the Government have asked them to accept. They are prepared to accept these for the sake of our national reconstruction, as they accepted them during the war, but they ask one condition—that, if sacrifices are going to be asked of the workers, they shall be asked of the higher income groups as well. Therefore, we must have in the operation of this Bill firm measures to deal with the black market, we must have equality of sacrifice, and, by that, we will get that will to work which will pull this country out of the economic crisis. It is clear that the alternative is to go back to the kind of cuts which were imposed in 1931. That might provide a temporary economic palliative, but it would divide this country more deeply than it has been divided in the past 10 years, and, if that is the only alternative the Opposition have to offer, it is clear that they have failed to begin to understand what is necessary to get this country on its feet again.

1.32 p.m.

Photo of Sir Kenneth Pickthorn Sir Kenneth Pickthorn , Cambridge University

I think I can be short, because most of what I was going to say has been said very much better than I could have said it by my hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft). In the main, I think he said with more fluency and effect than I could command what I wish to say. Nevertheless, I think there are one or two things left to be said and that should be said.

The Debate today has been, in the main, a continuation of the Debate of the last two days, and, with every respect to the House, I think that is perhaps proper, and, with every respect to the Chair, I think it is quite orderly; but I hope it may be considered not improper to refer more particularly to the Bill. I wish the Attorney-General were here. I had hoped that he was going to enlighten us a little. I do not in the least cast doubt on the competence of the right hon. Gentleman who is now in command of the Treasury Bench, who, I understand, is to speak last, but I think that we might have received more legal and technical guidance at an earlier stage. Quite honestly, from the Government's own point of view, it really has now become necessary, because every speech which they have had from their supporters, beginning with the hon. Gentleman who spoke from below the Gangway, who is a doctor, though not, I gather, a doctor of law, and then the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Coventry (Mr. Grossman) and the hon. Gentleman who last addressed us, they have indicated an entirely different legal and technical point of view on this Bill from the point of view indicated to us by the Lord President of the Council. [Interruption.] Oh yes. Quite honestly, the right hon. Gentleman is not right in shaking his head. If he had been here throughout the Debate——

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

I have heard it all.

Photo of Sir Kenneth Pickthorn Sir Kenneth Pickthorn , Cambridge University

If the right hon. Gentleman has heard every word, he must know, then, that the point of view which they indicated has been an entirely different point of view from the Lord President's. The hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway welcomed this Bill because, under this Bill, this Government of supermen is going, not only to "integrate" this country, but to integrate Europe and Asia, and to organise and exploit Africa. All that is to be done under this Bill. The hon. Member for East Coventry welcomed this Bill as if it were a sort of "Night of the Long Knives," to give the "All Clear" to his wing of the Party to go straight ahead and not bother with any of the scruples of the other parties or the other parts of that party. He certainly took that line, and the other hon. Gentleman who spoke, certainly took that line. The House is really discussing this Bill in ignorance and obscurity, for it does not know whether that is right or what, after hearing that, the Treasury Bench thinks the Bill means. Even if we did know what the Treasury Bench thinks the Bill means, we should not be very much further forward, because the courts are not bound by the Treasury Bench, nor is the Treasury Bench permanently manned. But it is most unfair and improper to ask this House to give a Second Reading to a Bill on which diametrically opposed views are taken by the Front Bench and by, so far, every single speaker on the back benches opposite, and I do claim, and I think we should be quite entitled to move the Adjournment of the House upon it, that we ought to have a full explanation of which is the Socialist Party line about this Bill before we carry this Debate further.

Is the line that this is a small technical Bill which is to make it plain, in the new circumstances which the Chancellor of the Exchequer explained to us yesterday he had seen coming for the last two or three years, but which had now burst upon him in a sudden storm—to make plain that in the new circumstances the special provisions for that war-to-peace transition are still to be applicable? Is that all it is? Or is it really going to authorise this Government to do all sorts of things that it has not hitherto done, and, indeed, could not hitherto have done? Which is it? I think it is most important that we should be told that by somebody on the other side, and that we ought to be told it well before we get to the end of the Debate, which is already drawing to a close.

I should like to say two things to the hon. Gentleman who spoke last. He wanted to know why the Forces are still required. I will tell him one reason. It is because the Foreign Secretary, nearly two years ago, was prepared to stake his political reputation and his political future on solving the Palestine problem, and he has not yet solved it. I do not say whether or not mistakes have been made, but that is one reason. Another thing I would say to him is that he told us that an alternative policy suggested from this side would break the people wide open, make disunity greater than ever before. This is really the root of the whole of our problem. As long as hon. Gentlemen opposite take the view that they, with 47 per cent. of the votes cast in the country, and, therefore, 65 per cent. of the seats in this House, must do as they like, and that anybody who does not wholly facilitate their doing as they like is sabotaging the national effort, if they take that view, and simultaneously that if other men had a majority, and an alternative policy were tried, then the people of this country would be split wide open, then, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer said at the General Election, there will be trouble all over the industrial field. So long as they take that view, there can be no economic continuity, still less progress, in this country, and we must stumble from one crisis to another until we end in disaster or revolution or both, from which ever side, it comes; and I beg them to reflect in their consciences upon that argument.

The Lord President of the Council made no attempt, and I beg the Home Secretary, unless, as I hope, the Attorney-General will do it, to indicate to us what under existing Regulations can be done by orders. Does the Patronage Secretary wish to help us?

Photo of Mr William Whiteley Mr William Whiteley , Blaydon

I am speaking to my hon. Friend, not to the hon. Gentleman.

Photo of Sir Kenneth Pickthorn Sir Kenneth Pickthorn , Cambridge University

It is a little difficult when one can hear half the words but not all of them—neither silence nor articulation. There should have been some indication to us of what can be done by orders under existing Regulations. I quite understand that there cannot be an exhaustive analysis of that now, but I suggest to the Attorney-General that there can be no proper consideration of this Bill unless that is made plain. We ought to be told what are the practical limits of the powers for which the Government are now asking.

I wish to say one thing, if I may leave the Bill directly for a moment, about, the Chancellor of the Exchequer yesterday. He told us that there were three causes for the difficulties in which we now stand. The first was the price rise in the United States. That, he said, was the chief one. The second was the setback to the export drive; and the third was the spread of the dollar famine. I wish to suggest two things to hon. Gentlemen apposite. The first may be debatable; the second I do not think they will dispute. The first is that all these reasons are fundamentally the same reasons. It is no use talking about the dollar famine as if it were a kind of Colorado beetle dropped out of heaven by some malevolent angel to breed rapidly on reaching these shores. It is not a physical thing of that sort. It is an index of the fact that the rest of the world is not producing the things which Americans want. That is all the dollar shortage is.

Photo of Mr Charles Hobson Mr Charles Hobson , Wembley North

Will the hon. Member indicate those things which we are not producing and which we should produce, which America requires?

Photo of Sir Kenneth Pickthorn Sir Kenneth Pickthorn , Cambridge University

Certainly not. I am trying to make my speech in my own way and that is not part of my argument.

Photo of Mr Charles Hobson Mr Charles Hobson , Wembley North

That is the hon. Member's case.

Photo of Sir Kenneth Pickthorn Sir Kenneth Pickthorn , Cambridge University

Oh, no. If I may continue my speech to those who can follow me, I will do so. Has the Attorney-General explained it now?

Photo of Mr Hartley Shawcross Mr Hartley Shawcross , St Helens

Yes, I explained to my hon. Friend that the hon. Member has not got a case.

Photo of Sir Kenneth Pickthorn Sir Kenneth Pickthorn , Cambridge University

That is not awfully good. The argument is this: the dollar shortage is no more than the index that the rest of the world is not producing enough which America wants to buy. The reasons why it is not making the goods which America wants to buy are no doubt various, but, in the main, they are political. In the main, they are not economic, in the main, they are because of disorder and unpredictability in political arrangements all over the world; and, secondly, because the planners have guessed wrong about the fundamental factors of their planning. After all, the fundamental factor in planning our situation 18 months ago was the course of American prices. The Chancellor of the Exchequer told us that course wholly surprised him and that that is the main cause of the trouble in which we now are. How then can it now be argued that immense new powers should be given in order to permit immense new planning?

Photo of Sir Kenneth Pickthorn Sir Kenneth Pickthorn , Cambridge University

The Attorney-General shakes his head, but he has not been here all day. I know that that was not the argument of the Lord President of the Council, but it was the argument of everyone else who has spoken from the other side of the House. I think it is most important that we should be told authoritatively on which argument the matter is to rest.

There is much else that might be said, but I wish to leave time for others, and I will finish with only one further observation. I am sorry I have so empty a Treasury Bench to which to say this. Mr. Disraeli on one occasion compared right hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury bench to a row of extinct volcanoes.

Photo of Mr Charles Hobson Mr Charles Hobson , Wembley North

Tell me the old, old story.

An Hon. Member:

We have heard that several times before.

Photo of Sir Kenneth Pickthorn Sir Kenneth Pickthorn , Cambridge University

Not in the form in which hon. Gentlemen are now to hear it. But what would he have said of this set of little eminences, who have always had smoke in their heads and never any fire in their bellies, who have now collapsed into shapeless heaps of dust, still perceptible only by their unpatriotic impertinence in not even yet being extinct.

1.45 p.m.

Photo of Mr Woodrow Wyatt Mr Woodrow Wyatt , Birmingham Aston

The speech of the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) was characterised by a complete lack of understanding of what has taken place today. I hope that he is better at instructing undergraduates in history than he is either in listening to hon. Members' speeches or in trying to estimate the number of Labour Members of Parliament who took part in the recent war in one of the Services, an occupation in which he was engaged earlier today. The obvious distinction between my hon. Friend the Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman) and the Lord President of the Council was merely that, whereas the Lord President said the Bill very largely dealt with legal technicalities, my hon. Friend the Member for East Coventry pointed out that, although it was only a legal technicality to a large extent, it represented something of symbolical significance to the Labour movement as a whole, because of the terms of the Bill. That, I think, is quite an easy distinction to understand.

Photo of Sir Kenneth Pickthorn Sir Kenneth Pickthorn , Cambridge University

Is that the end of a paragraph? I do not know why hon. Members think that they can read my mind, although they profess to find what I utter unintelligible. I beg the hon. Member to believe that what he has said I have been doing I have not done, and why he should think I have been doing it, I do not know.

Photo of Mr Woodrow Wyatt Mr Woodrow Wyatt , Birmingham Aston

If the hon. Member was not doing that, it is quite impossible for the House to know what on earth he was trying to do. The hon. Member also, in the course of his speech, suggested that we on this side of this House, at any rate on the back benches, were asking why we needed to have Armed Forces. He explained that the reasons for that was that the Foreign Secretary had staked his reputation on finding a solution to the Palestine problem, and had failed to do so. That may be as it is. I quite agree that that has a large part to play in the reasons for the extent of our Forces at the moment. But I think that the hon. Gentleman should remember that he has wholeheartedly pledged his support, over the last two years, to the general terms of the foreign policy which the Foreign Secretary has been pursuing. That foreign policy in itself is the major cause of the large Forces we have at present.

It is not inappropriate, on this Bill, particularly as it deals with the methods which are to be used, or the powers which can be used, to make the best use of our manpower, to consider for a few moments this whole question of the Armed Forces and their present size, because the effect of the maintenance of large Armed Forces on our home industries and overseas expenditure since the end of the war has been quite incalculable. Without a doubt they have been the largest single cause of our adverse balance of payments. One cannot, of course, estimate accurately how much they have been costing us in dollars, but it is reasonable to say that the cost, for instance, for Germany, has been about £80 million a year, and another £70 million in dollars for the Middle East, and another £30 million could quite reasonably be added for other overseas garrisons and the indirect expenditure which our Forces have incured on materials which must come from the United States. That gives a total of £180 million for the year. If the total for the first year was similar, as it may easily have been, then at a conservative estimate overseas expenditure on military Forces has been something of the order of £360 million in dollars, which by itself almost accounts for the gap which we face at present.

What is it that the Government have decided to do to meet this very serious situation? These very large Armed Forces, of course, are our greatest luxury. The Government tell us that in this very serious situation, we are going to cut food expenditure in the United States by some £150 million a year, but that we are going to cut the Armed Forces by only 80,000. That seems to me to be a very disproportionate cut to effect on the two items. Even by next March we shall still have in the Forces some one million men, of whom, as was clearly explained yesterday by the Chancellor, we shall have some 700,000 at home as against only 300,000 overseas. That is a most extraordinary proportion, and I think the House must have already realised that. Today we still have Armed Forces three times the size of our total prewar Forces. Even in March we are aiming to have 2½ times the size.

This question of the large size of the Armed Forces cannot be divorced from the very serious decision which was taken two years ago at the end of the war. It was a decision to this effect—that because the intentions of Russia could not be clearly defined, and because the Government felt that, perhaps, Russia might at some point be embarking upon a course of aggression, they would have to keep Armed Forces of a sufficient size to deter them from that aggression. If that had not been the case, our Armed Forces could have been reduced drastically. If one looks at the figures in relation to the whereabouts of these troops, one will see that the purpose for which they are in those areas is not so much to keep the population, say, in Germany, in order, but to provide a bulwark, a first line of defence, against the Russians. For in stance, at this very moment there are some 130,000 soldiers——

Photo of Mr John Boyd-Carpenter Mr John Boyd-Carpenter , Kingston upon Thames

On a point of Order. Is it in Order on the Second Reading of this Bill for an hon. Member to discuss the disposal of the Armed Forces of the Crown and their strategic disposition?

Photo of Mr James Milner Mr James Milner , Leeds South East

I can see no objection to anything which the hon. Member has said.

Photo of Mr Woodrow Wyatt Mr Woodrow Wyatt , Birmingham Aston

Thank you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I submit that it is in Order to refer to this matter in dealing with the Clause which calls for the best use of the resources available, and I do not consider that the best use of the resources is being made if we have wholly disproportionate Armed Forces at our disposal. In Germany and Austria we have some 130,000 soldiers at the moment, and they are not there merely in order to keep the population quiet. In the Middle East we have nearly 200,000 soldiers, and they also are not there merely because of the population or because of the difficulties involved in Palestine.

Photo of Brigadier Sir Harry Mackeson Brigadier Sir Harry Mackeson , Hythe

Would the hon. Gentleman say from where he gets these figures?

Photo of Mr Woodrow Wyatt Mr Woodrow Wyatt , Birmingham Aston

The figures which I am quoting are, of course, only deductions which have been obtained by examination of Questions and Answers in this House, and they are based oh a series of calculations which I have been making for some months. They have never yet been denied by the Government, and I think they are reasonably accurate. I cannot, of course, guarantee their accuracy to the last detail. In addition to that very large number in the Middle East, and because of that very large number, we have some 150,000 men at home who are doing nothing but supplying these Forces abroad, quite apart from the civilian element in industry supplying them I believe that the objects which we are trying to achieve, of providing a bulwark against the Russians for a short period until America or some other Power could come to our aid, is one that we cannot achieve, because at the first suspicion of war our economy would be overstrained, and we could not really supply and maintain such large Forces. I think the decision we made two years ago was wrong. We should have relied on token Forces in these areas, which would have been sufficient to have dealt with a frontier incident, followed by reference to U.N.O. and then, if the act of aggression was persisted in, the incident would have inevitably led to a third world war.

If it was felt by our American Allies that greater Forces were needed, they should have been called upon to supply them, although it is interesting to note that yesterday a report from Washington said that the United States Chiefs of Staff think the British have too many troops in Europe, and that they do not intend to fill up any vacuum which may be caused by their withdrawal. If America thinks that, surely it is time we ourselves came to the same conclusion. It is not too late now to alter the course that we have taken. Of course, it is the Middle East, Germany, Austria and Palestine which give us the greatest strain to bear, and we should make up our minds to tell the United Nations that we cannot support the responsibility of controlling events in Palestine, say, for more than another six months, and give a date when we will withdraw exactly in the same way as we did in India. That would release for us at least 100,000 men. But the reduction which the Prime Minister has proposed only weakens us within a framework which we cannot support; it is the framework which needs contracting, and not the structure inside the framework.

Another factor which is not generally realised is that although the defence bill was quite a small bill compared with what may be expected in the future, because we have been living very largely on the equipment we accumulated during the war. The next bill is going to be considerably higher because the overheads in research and modern equipment for making war have increased very much in price. Before the war the defence bill was some £580 million, and the next one will probably be very nearly twice as much if we continue to maintain Forces of this order.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer yesterday gave an estimate of the strength of the Forces which we would have by the end of next year, and that estimate was in the neighbourhood of 850,000. But, the Government themselves are committed, by their own plan to reduce conscription from 18 months to 12 months, to have only 650,000 men in the Forces at that time, because they will not be able to get replacements to maintain a larger Force. What will happen next year? Are we suddenly one morning going to have 250,000 men being mobilised, with consequent dislocation to our industry and Armed Forces, or are we going to be told that the call-up period is to be 18 months instead of 12 months? One of those two things will have to happen if the Government persist in their present policy with regard to demobilisation. I suggest they should change their minds, admit that they cannot bear the strain any longer, and reduce the size of the Forces by the end of next March not to 1,007,000, but to something in the neighbourhood of 780,000, which is quite enough in all conscience. It is true that by increasing the rate of demobilisation, we should have some disorganisation in the Forces, but if we do not require the Forces for an immediate operational role it does not matter if we have temporary disorganisation, as the Americans did. It is only if we want to hold our Forces for immediate action that we need demobilisation to be carried out so slowly.

If we did take this action, we would find that our problem in respect of this Bill would be largely eased, because it would mean that the extra quarter of a million demobilised would make up our deficiency of labour, which is put by the Government at some 600,000, and which could just be met by an increased rate of demobilisation; we should save £100 million a year in foreign exchange by reducing our commit- came to £900 million for this year, that merits overseas, and, at the same time, the people so released would produce some £100 million of exports. I hope the Government will use their powers under this Bill to take drastic action of this kind.

2.0 p.m.

Photo of Hon. John Maclay Hon. John Maclay , Montrose District of Burghs

I felt, in listening to the speech of the hon. Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt), that it was a very interesting speech, and that one could not possibly take exception to it because of the Ruling that it was in Order, but that we must get back to this Bill, because we have very little time indeed in which to deal with it in detail. I am not going to touch on the bigger issues with which so many of my colleagues on this side of the House have dealt. I will only say that I agree with every word that has been said on this side of the House. If I had any doubt this morning, I have no doubt now that a great issue of liberty is at stake. I merely content myself with saying that if I had any doubt last night or before, I am clear, from the arguments advanced today, that it is a great constitutional issue of principle and liberty which is at stake today.

I want to come straight away to detail, and to pick up a remark of the hon. Member the Senior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn), in which he said that we have had no information given us today about what can be done under existing regulations. If the speech of the hon. Member for Aston was in Order, then it is quite clear that anything under the sun can be done under this Bill. That is the first point. I come now to the second and more detailed point: What are the Parliamentary protections with which we shall be working when this Bill becomes an Act?—if it does, and as I assume it will in view of the mood of hon. Members opposite. On the Second Reading of the 1945 Act, the Home Secretary made this remark: The present Bill provides the framework within which the powers will be operated, subject to the closest scrutiny by Parliament."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th October, 1945; Vol 414, c. 124.] Today the Leader of the House used the expression which I jotted down—I think I have got it aright—that the Bill would be operated subject to all the Parliamentary checks. Let us look at that. This would sound very well on the platforms in the country. People would think that these checks were really effective, and I suspect that there are many Members of this House who think they are really effective. Let us examine the matter for a minute.

I wonder how many Members really know of the existence of the list of Rules and Orders which have been presented, and which are required to lie upon the Table of the House for a certain number of days. I wonder if they know of that paper which is available every week in the Vote Office. It is a list of the Rules and Orders lying on the Table in the House of Commons waiting for Prayers for annulment or affirmative Motions. I took the trouble to find out exactly what the position is today from the latest list. On 2nd August there were no fewer than 122 Rules and Orders lying on the Table of the House of Commons, and of those 122, no fewer than 66 are issued under the Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers) Act, 1945. Have any of us the slightest idea what is in all those orders? I am a Member of a Select Committee which has certain duties and functions, and we do take a good deal of trouble over these Rules and Orders; but I should be misleading the House and my constituents completely were I to pretend that I really know what was in all of them.

Let us just glance at some of the 122 now lying on the Table. Here is one issued under the Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers) Act. It deals with carrots. There is another Order relating to potash fertiliser. Then there is something very interesting about finance—two Orders dated 1st July issued by the Treasury under Regulation 2A, of the Defence (Finance) Regulations, 1939, 9 and 10 Geo. VI. Do hon. Members opposite know remotely what is in those Orders? I have not the slightest idea myself, I confess freely. Yet that is the way in which we are legislating for the country nowadays, and under this Bill we are going to extend very widely the powers to make such Regulations and Orders. Here there is a Braces Order, dealing with the manufacture and supply of braces. There is another about women's and maids' outer wear, side by side with another covering lead and zinc. Then there is an Order which, even with my lack of Parliamentary and political experience, catches my eye very quickly —an Essential Work Order, a revocation Order, a dock labour Order.

This brings me to my final point, because I promised to be very brief. The Dock Labour Order is a very important one. The one to which I am referring is a revocation Order. The original Dock Labour Orders were issued under Defence Regulations. Today there is a new Act under which there is an Order which is not a Defence Regulation Order and, therefore, has nothing to do with the Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers) Act. But I am referring to it because it could come under this Bill. It is a magnificent example of the type of thing that should not happen under this system of Orders which can be dealt with only by Prayers for annulment.

This Order, the Dock Workers Order, goes into the most intimate details of every dock labourer's life. It transforms the dock workers' part of the docking industry of this country. It could not be more important to a vast number of people, and what is more, to the whole import and export trade of our country. How does it come before Parliament? There was a parent Act, but no information can be given about this Order until it comes before the House, and lies on the Table for a certain number of days, probably 39, to be subject to a Prayer of annulment. If anyone wants to discuss some of the details of such an Order, though he is in general agreement with the main principle of that Order, he has to wait until a Prayer is put down for its annulment. That is a rotten procedure, because it leaves one open to misunderstanding outside the House, if not inside the House, as going on record against that particular Order. If this Bill means anything, it is quite possible that we shall be making Orders of that kind.

I finish my remarks by saying that it is quite clear that the Parliamentary protection which the Leader of the House and the Home Secretary have talked about means remarkably little when it comes to this kind of legislation. For that reason, if for no other, I should be against going on with this kind of thing; and certainly, as one completely convinced that this is an issue of constitutional liberty, I shall vote against the Second Reading of this Bill.

2.8 p.m.

Photo of Mr James Carmichael Mr James Carmichael , Glasgow Bridgeton

During a large part of the discussion today I think many hon. Members have devoted their remarks to the Debate that took place yesterday and on Wednesday. I think it is a pity, because there are points in this Bill that ought to be examined. I want to say at the outset that I support this Measure. I do so because I think we have gone through a political revolution in this country. I am afraid that hon. Members on the Opposition side have failed to recognise that. It is a political revolution in the sense that the forces of the Government today are being tested very fully as to their capacity to govern in the future. They are facing an economic crisis. It was very well explained, I think, by the President of the Board of Trade last night in that while there is an immediate emergency, there is also a complete change in world economic relationships arising out of the first world war.

The question that arises today is, how can the Government deal with this immediate emergency? Some of the hon. Members on the Opposition side of the House, particularly the hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft), accuse the Government of trying to take drastic measures with this Bill which are unnecessary. But he concluded his speech by saying that these things ought to have been done 18 months ago. The Opposition cannot have it both ways. We must be quite clear whether the Government are doing the right or the wrong thing; and we must be equally clear whether they are doing it at the right or the wrong time. The time factor may be debatable, but nobody will dispute that there is a state of emergency, and that something out of the ordinary will have to be done. This Bill is intended for that purpose. Clause 1 (1, a) says it is for promoting the productivity of industry, commerce and agriculture. Nobody could find fault with that. I admit that the wording is sufficiently wide to give tremendous powers, but it is not true to suggest that the Government intend dictating to the trade union movement or to employers what shall be done. The Bill merely recognises that at this time the Parliamentary machine, as we understand it, can be so cumbersome as to be unable to undertake the job in hand smoothly. The Government go to the trade union movement and discuss with them the problems to be faced, and faced courageously; but they go equally to the employers of labour and discuss frankly with them the problems to be faced. Surely, that is the duty of the Government at this stage?

Photo of Sir William Darling Sir William Darling , Edinburgh South

Have the Government not the power to talk with the trade union movement or employers now, without this Bill?

Photo of Mr James Carmichael Mr James Carmichael , Glasgow Bridgeton

I will be guided by the Government spokesman on that matter. If I have to choose between guidance from the Government Front Bench or guidance from the Opposition benches, I have no difficulty in making up my mind.

Photo of Sir William Darling Sir William Darling , Edinburgh South

That is no answer to the question.

Photo of Mr James Carmichael Mr James Carmichael , Glasgow Bridgeton

I am answering the question in the way in which I think it should be answered. I say that with this Bill the Government will have greater powers for discussion and arriving at decisions than under the 1945 Act. That is my case.

Strong language has been used about the liberty of the subject. Well, I have not been plunged innocently into politics since my arrival in this House. I know something about the liberty of the subject. Although I do not desire to hark back on the past in detail, I am afraid hon. Members forget the Trades Disputes Act, which was fought in this House up to the last minute. I am as jealous of the liberty of the subject, and my own personal liberty, as any hon. Member in this House, but I maintain that the liberty of the individual must always be related to the needs of the people as a whole. If I have my liberty restricted—as it must be on many occasions—for the well-being of the community, then I have to accept that restriction because it is for the common good, even though it be to the detriment of the individual. The Government have asked for these powers because they deem them necessary. I know it may be possible for a Government to use those powers unwisely, but that is the test of a Government and of a people. This Government was elected. Let us not argue about the percentage of votes cast on the one side or the other.

Photo of Mr James Reid Mr James Reid , Glasgow Hillhead

That would be too awkward.

Photo of Mr James Carmichael Mr James Carmichael , Glasgow Bridgeton

It is not awkward at all. In my candid opinion the Tory Government in office prior to the war was the last; I do not think there will be another. That is my opinion, for what it is worth.

Photo of Viscount  Hinchingbrooke Viscount Hinchingbrooke , Dorset Southern

Does not the hon. Member think that a large experiment in a Measure such as this for the direction of labour is a drastic step to take with a majority of only two million votes?

Photo of Mr James Carmichael Mr James Carmichael , Glasgow Bridgeton

The direction of labour has been condemned by the Tory Party on this occasion, but I know that direction of labour has always operated. The great unemployment figure before the war was the most powerful influence in the direction of labour.

Photo of Mr James Carmichael Mr James Carmichael , Glasgow Bridgeton

The noble Lord says it was not dictatorial, but I cannot accept that. I had to accept the lash of dictation in the industrial world. I regard this power as a very necessary one for the Government. I admit that it is possible for the Government to abuse that power. I do not think any people can be kept in check indefinitely by a Government who exercise power wrongfully or dangerously against the people. But I will take that risk, because I know that the movement for social change develops from time to time, and no Government can hold it back. If Government measures could have kept the people in subjection there would have been no Labour Government in this House today.

I now turn to the question of the party against the country. That theme has been played on far too much by some hon. Members. Surely, members of the Conservative Party will agree that they accept the philosophy of Conservatism and private enterprise because they regard it as in the best interests of the country? They would not suggest for a minute that that philosophy was dangerous to the country. The same applies to the philosophy of any other party; and I say that if the Labour Party is to serve the country properly it must pursue the policy in which it believes. I admit that it is party politics, but party politics cannot be divorced from government. The Government would be failing in their duty if they did not attempt to carry out the policy for which they have a mandate.

During the Debates of the last three days it has been admitted that the Parliamentary machine, as we understand it, is quite incapable of tackling the job properly. That must be admitted on a very wide field. No matter what the Opposition may say, I think the President of the Board of Trade made out a brilliant case for the Government. He made the sort of speech which I am always glad to hear. He said that we face economic problems, to some extent, hitherto unequalled. I go further and say that because of the changes now required in our industrial life, the Parliament which was suitable for prewar days is not suitable for the times in which we now live. The day of the individual key man in a post, or as a Member of the Cabinet does not fill the bill. The Cabinet system requires to be completely overhauled as soon as we are clear of this emergency, so that 640 Members will have a greater responsibility for doing work than for making speeches. With all due respect to the honesty of Cabinet Ministers, today a Minister is concerned primarily about his own Department; his strength or failure depends upon his ability to handle that Department. But I submit that as a member of the supreme executive he can never give devoted and undivided attention to the work of the Executive, because he knows that his future depends entirely on his position as a Cabinet Minister.

I wish the Government all power in the job they are now undertaking, but I hope that in their subsequent examination of the machinery of government, they will give consideration to the advisability of spreading the responsibility so that it is borne on the shoulders of all hon. Members. If I have one regret since entering this House it has been that I have seen so many competent people, on both sides of the House, not getting proper opportunities for devoting their energies and capacities to the full in the work of this House of Commons. That can be achieved not by our speeches, but only by the detailed work which we can undertake in committees. I ask the Government to consider that aspect in connection with any new proposals they bring before this House. I wish them well in the job that lies ahead, confident that if they set about that job with the courage with which they built up their movement they will have the backing of the people of the country.

2.20 p.m.

Photo of Mr Ian Mikardo Mr Ian Mikardo , Reading

I want to say, first of all, a word or two about the Amendment moved by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill). I think that most of us enjoyed the right hon. Gentleman's speech nearly as much as he enjoyed it himself, and were delighted to see that he had not quite got over the effect of being one of the principal sideshows at a Bank Holiday jamboree. But I suggest that the arguments he deployed, and which were later followed by the Leader of the Liberal Party, were based on a total misconception, in twentieth century terms, of the relationship between the individual and the State. I have not the slightest doubt that at the time the first regulation or order was introduced, which said that people must ride vehicles on only one side of the road, the spiritual predecessors of the Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues described it as an unforgiveable interference with the liberty of the subject. I have not the slightest doubt, also, that when it was first suggested that unregistered and unskilled people should not be allowed to be medical practitioners people objected to it as interfering with the liberty of the "quack" to treat patients.

I have recently re-read the Debates on the Education Act of 1875. In that Debate the spiritual forefathers of right hon. and hon. Members opposite said: It is a grave invasion of our fundamental liberties"— the precise expression used by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford— to say to a man, 'You have no freedom to decide whether you shall send your child to school or not'. In those days, the forefathers of Members opposite were appealing for the right of a man to keep his child at work instead of sending him to school: this morning two right hon. Gentlemen, one the Leader of the Conservative Party and the other the Leader of the Liberal Party, made impassioned pleas for the freedom of the individual to be a "spiv" if he so wished. There are some freedoms which a civilised people, in a civilised community, are prepared to give up.

I want, now, to turn my attention to the Bill, and to be frank in some of the things I wish to say to my right hon. Friends in the Government. All that this Debate has shown today is that the Bill itself matters a great deal less than what is done within the powers which it confers on the Government. I suggest that whether the exercise of these powers will be beneficial or not to the country, depends on three factors: First, the leadership of the Government; second, whether there is a detailed plan in the Government's mind which will carry out the principles of their leadership; third, whether the Government are successful in mobilising the good will of the workers, about whom we have heard so much during the last few days. It seems to me that leadership consists of being in front of the troops which are being led, and not being behind them. In this respect, I cannot refrain from pointing out that many of the measures which, we are told, are to be carried out under this Bill are those which were suggested to the Government several months ago from these benches and which, for several months, the Government have told us could not be carried out.

I know that it is the least rewarding of human enterprises to say, "I told you so," because nobody ever forgives a prophet for turning out to be right. We smile indulgently at the newspaper astrologers when they turn out to be wrong. Even the greatest newspaper astrologer of all, Lord Beaverbrook, who made, in 1939, the most "whopping" error of prophesy in history, and did more to misguide his victims than anybody has done since the three witches in "Macbeth," suffered no worse fate for being wrong than being given a seat in the Cabinet. But it is the prophet who turns out to be right who is not forgiven, especially if he dares to reiterate his prophecy after the event. Be that as it may, for many months we said to the Government that they should cut films, petrol, and other luxury imports, and nothing was done about it. We demanded a planned policy for the redeployment of labour, and it was said that that would be totalitarian. We demanded an approach to the United States about the conditions of the Loan, and dollar expenditure in Germany, but that was not done. For months we suggested that if rations were to be cut there should be differential rations, and coupons for restaurant meals. We were told that that was administratively impossible. For months we asked for a cut in the Forces. We were always told it was impossible. Now we have got one, however small. It seems to me that the stone which the builders rejected at Margate has become the head stone of the corner. I can only rejoice in this change of heart on the part of the Government. Why, we have even got the Prime Minister to make a broadcast. I can only rejoice that at long last the Government are catching up with the troops they are going to lead.

There is much that can be done in connection with detailed plans. But there are three immediate short-term tasks for the planners which they can tackle at once, and for which they can use the powers under this Bill. The greatest gain in productivity to be got out of our industry in the short-term is not by increasing overall managerial efficiency—although goodness knows that is necessary—and not by getting each worker to move his fingers five or ten times faster—although, in some cases, that can be done without breaking anybody's neck. In the short-term the greatest gain to be found arises from the fact that over most of our industry the ratio of productivity between the best and the worst firms in the same industry, making the same things, is between three and five to one. In the engineering industry generally it is between seven and eight to one; and in some other industries it is 12 to one. This provides enormous opportunities for redeploying labour on the technical level within the industries, from the least efficient to the most efficient firms, as we so often did during the war.

The second immediate task that we have to tackle is to stop the waste of scientific and technical manpower which is going on throughout the whole of our industry. We have to stop people spending all their time, not on creating things, but on fiddling about with the patent law, of finding ways of dodging other people's patents. We want the Services to demobilise our scientific manpower. More than two-thirds of the Government's expenditure on scientists and laboratories is for military research. That is a proportion which, in these times, we cannot afford.

The third immediate short-term task is to safeguard what Professor Bernal has brilliantly called the "wardenship of the elements." We need somebody to watch over the tremendous waste of by-products which is going on in our industry at present, to watch over the most valuable of all by-products—that which is called "waste heat." This heat is being wasted in a fantastic way in many industries. The heat ought to be used in an encyclical process, but often the chain is broken.

I claim to speak with a little confidence on the question of mobilising the good will of the workers, because I spend a great deal of my time, in factories, talking and listening to workers, not as a Member of Parliament talking to his constituents, or as a speaker at a meeting, but as one trade unionist to another. I must say that His Majesty's Government have lost a lot of the goodwill of the workers in the last few months All the time they were talking about the tactics of a production drive—the worker moving his fingers faster—without doing anything about the strategy of the production, the redeployment of labour and of materials. I say to the Government that two-fifths of our working population in the manufacturing trades will do their part with the next man in this job, but if they expect them to "carry the can" for the whole community, they will have to start to do something. Just as a general before he makes his eve of battle speech to his troops knows that they will have no heart in it unless in advance he has assured their supply services and their needs, so the front line troops of this battle—the workers—expect their generals on the Front Bench to ensure their supplies and services, and to ensure the logistics and strategy of the situation before any general comes to lecture them about the tactics of the situation.

The question before us is whether the Government can now recover the good will which they have lost. When the workers read the speeches of the last two or three days; when they are asked to make a lot of sacrifices, and the Defence Services and the Foreign Secretary are asked to sacrifice seven per cent. only and the capitalists are asked to sacrifice nothing—when they read these things, that good will is not likely to be mobilised. They have to suffer direction and work longer hours and harder for less food and fewer houses. That is what the Government say to them. To the profit-maker, they have said, "Please, Sir, we do not want to put any burdens on you; we are not going to take anything away from you; we are not asking you to make less profits; all that we ask is, 'Please do not distribute such high dividends'." The Chancellor of the Exchequer has been making that plea for two years, and for two years the capitalists have thumbed their noses at the Chancellor of the Exchequer and gone on declaring higher dividends. That is not the equality of sacrifice which we have been hearing such a lot about in the last couple of days. It is not equality of sacrifice to have hard earned wages heavily taxed while easily got capital gain goes scot free.

A few days ago I was in a foundry where the men were frightfully overworked because they were short of labour. They were literally being sweated, and the skilled men were doing unskilled work because they were short of labourers; yet every man in that foundry knew that 700 yards away there was an Army camp in which nearly 1,000 fit young men were sunning themselves in idleness and, doubtless, hating their idleness. How can we expect the workers in that foundry to take seriously our suggestion that there is a crisis, when we heard yesterday, after we had chiselled it out of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that there are 1,000,000 Service men on these shores at the moment, and there will still be 700,000 next March; how can we expect these foundry men to take this call seriously?

I have been talking to workers in several factories during the last few days, and one remark made to me was that the only time on Wednesday when the Prime Minister put any fire and passion into his voice was when he announced the paltry Service cut, and then turned round and said that there would be no change in our foreign policy. The voice was the voice of Jacob and the words were the words of his right hon. Friend Esau. The workers of this country will put their backs into the saving of this country. I know them, and I know their temper, but they will not do it because political decisions are making their lot harder. They will not go short of labour in foundries in order that 94,000 men shall be used to save the reputation which the Foreign Secretary has staked on finding a solution to the Palestine problem. They will not work harder because they cannot get a trade agreement with Russia because political decisions stand in the way.

I want to put a direct question to the Home Secretary who is to wind up this Debate, and who has endeared himself to everyone in this House for the fairness and straightforwardness with which he has answered our questions. I ask him a straightforward question, and if he has no answer to give from His Majesty's Government this House and country will know what to conclude. The question is: Is it not a fact that within the last two or three days Mr. Vishinsky has asked His Majesty's Government for a resumption of the Anglo-Russian trade negotiations, and is it not a fact that, instead of immediately accepting that invitation, His Majesty's Government are dithering about it, because some Members of the inner Cabinet are opposed on any terms to a resumption of the Anglo-Russian trade negotiations?

Photo of Mr Ian Mikardo Mr Ian Mikardo , Reading

I addressed my question to my right hon. Friend. He has given ample evidence that he has the ability to answer questions without the help of the Foreign Secretary's Parliamentary Private Secretary. I ask my right hon. Friend, is it a fact that no immediate positive answer was given because some Members of the inner Cabinet are opposed to the terms of the trade agreement and to the resumption of the negotiations on political grounds?

Finally, I believe that we must have this Bill. I believe that the very passage of it will be an inspiration to the country

Photo of Hon. Lancelot Joynson-Hicks Hon. Lancelot Joynson-Hicks , Chichester

Mr. Joynson - Hicks (Chichester) rose——

Photo of Mr Ian Mikardo Mr Ian Mikardo , Reading

I am sorry, but I cannot give way. I believe that to be so. I believe that it is necessary, and I believe that the attempts of the right hon. Gentleman and hon. Gentlemen opposite to prick this Bill this morning have been unsuccessful, fortunately, and I say "fortunately," because if they had succeeded I think that they would have harmed the country. I think that this Bill will be an inspiration to the country, and I say to His Majesty's Government that it gives them an opportunity, but it does not solve their problems They must rise to their opportunity sometimes by leading their followers and leading public opinion, instead of being dragged at the cart tail.

2.38 p.m.

Photo of Sir Charles Mott-Radclyffe Sir Charles Mott-Radclyffe , Windsor

If it be true that His Majesty's Government have been asked by Mr. Vishinsky to reopen trade negotiations, and if it be further true, as the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. Mikardo) suggested, that they are dithering about giving a reply, and it is any comfort to the hon. Member, I can tell him that it is not the first time that His Majesty's present Government have dithered before making a decision.

I have listened with the closest attention to the speech of the Lord President of the Council this morning, and to the speeches made from the Front Bench during the last two days' Debate. It seemed to me that all the arguments which have been adduced to explain why effective action has been delayed, and why the extreme powers asked for in this Bill were necessary, were in themselves criticisms of their own inaction. We have had a survey of the economic relationship between the Old World and the New during the last 20 or 30 years. We have had the story of the rise in the price of commodities which we have to buy with dollars. Are right hon. Gentlemen opposite really suggesting that all these events suddenly burst on an astonished Government last week? If so, they can hardly expect us on these benches to share much confidence in their capacity, and to give them a blank cheque, which they are asking for in this Bill.

If that was not so and if they knew about all these events and saw that a crisis was coming, why wait until the eve of the Summer Recess to introduce this. Bill? It seems to me that the Government behaved like a man going on an essential journey in a motor car, knowing full well that he has got to complete the journey and knowing also that he has insufficient petrol. He runs out of petrol at the-crucial moment halfway up a steep hill. Here we are, two years after the war when we should be breasting the rise, at least halfway down the hill and still apparently in reverse.

It is always a peculiar attribute of Socialist administration that all warnings go unheeded and always to be overtaken by events. It is only a month ago that we had an important Debate on the import programme. A statement was made from the Front Bench which did not lead us to anticipate that this Bill would be introduced on 8th August. On 8th July the right hon. Gentleman who spoke for the Government made it perfectly clear he had no plan of action at all beyond hoping for extended help from the United States of America. If that was so and if during the last month the Government had apparently no intention of putting their house in order until the twelfth hour. it seems extraordinarily inept that during that period we have had quite so many speeches from hon. Members opposite and newspaper articles written by them couched in language which could hardly be called friendly to the United States of America. A typical example of that was the speech on Wednesday by the hon. Member for Gateshead (Mr. Zilliacus), which I might describe as being diplomacy by universal insult. It is always unwise to bite the hand that feeds, even though one may not agree, as hon. Members opposite do not agree, with the principles which have driven the United States of America to be the vast economic power which they are today.

I quite agree that in this time of crisis it may be necessary to cut our overseas Forces, though I was relieved to hear from the Prime Minister yesterday that there was to be no change in our foreign policy. The Foreign Secretary, at least, knows perfectly well what it means to negotiate in Moscow on behalf of a country without fuel or power. I think he realises, as do hon. Members opposite, the long-term results of our inability, if that inability is extended over a period, to discharge our responsibilities as a world Power. I must utter this warning—if we cannot discharge our responsibilities as a world Power and as the centre of a Commonwealth, then we become a third-rate Power. There is no halfway house between the two.

The United States of America would be fully entitled to suggest that we should put our own house in order, because the Marshall Plan, as I understand it, is based upon the assumption that European countries will make the fullest use that they can of such material resources as are at their own disposal. The chief material resource at our disposal is coal, and I often wonder what Americans must think when they read the statistics of the lower output of coal production and the incidence of absenteeism in the mines. I sometimes wonder if they do not feel rather like the man who is asked to lend money to a farmer with a T.T. dairy herd of Jerseys to enable him to buy milk from somebody else.

The key to this Bill in my view is Clause 1 and the most important Subsection is 1 (a) where the Government are asking for powers to promote the productivity of industry, commerce and agriculture. I wish somebody on the Front Bench opposite had told us a few more details of how the Government propose to increase agricultural production, because it has quite certainly been staring us in the face for months past that no single factor was more important in order to save dollars.

Here again there has been no sense of urgency until the twelfth hour. When the German prisoners of war leave the land we know there will be a totally inadequate labour force. What have the Government done about it? They have aggravated the position by their total failure to cope with the key to the whole problem, which is rural housing. Only a very small number of houses built by rural district councils have actually been occupied by agricultural workers. Moreover, the subsidy for agricultural houses under the 1946 Act has up to 31st March of this year only been applied for by local authorities in respect of 580 finished houses. That in itself is a reply to the incredible claim made by the Prime Minister the day before yesterday that the present Government have built more houses in rural areas than any other Government.

As though to add insult to injury, while claiming that houses had been built in rural areas, the next thing the Prime Minister said was that timber imports in the next year will be cut by £10 million. What is the effect of £10 million in the reduction of timber imports upon the housing programme, and how will the reduction of the housing programme be apportioned between town and country? Perhaps the Home Secretary will tell us in his reply, because those are facts which the country want to know. On 28th July, which is only a week ago, in the housing Debate, the Minister of Health said: … I resist the suggestion that has been made in some quarters that it is necessary for us to reduce our housing programme. I believe that if we did that, we would gravely jeopardise national progress."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th July, 1947; Vol. 441, c. 89.] On 28th July was the Minister unaware of the intending cuts in timber supplies and what effect that would have on the housing programme? If timber is not going to be used for certain parts of houses what other material is going to be substituted? Can the Home Secretary give us information on these very important facts?

It is equally essential, if the Government mean business in increasing food production, that the agricultural labourer should be accorded skilled status. Let me remind the Government that this cannot be achieved if every increase in the agricultural wage is accompanied a few weeks later on with a further increase in the industrial wage, leaving the agricultural labourer still at the bottom of the ladder in an inflationary whirlpool. Although we had some unexceptionable principles enunciated yesterday by the President of the Board of Trade about no increases of wages without further increases of production, would the Home Secretary tell us whether His Majesty's Government since they have been in office have resisted a single demand by any industry for increased wages and shorter hours?

I will suggest to the right hon. Gentleman a few things which must be done quickly if our livestock production is to be increased. First of all, further facilities must be given for reconditioning rural cottages and farm buildings, which are just as important. The right hon. Gentleman knows that a great many farm buildings which were perfectly adequate in 1939 are totally obsolete today. What proportion of the available labour and material is going to be allocated to rural areas? There must be some system established for reducing the incredible delay which everybody engaged in the farming industry experiences in obtaining licences to carry out repairs to buildings, and rural district councils must be made to allocate a definite proportion of the houses they build to agricultural workers.

As far as steel production is concerned, if we are to have an increase in the livestock population we require a vastly increased water supply in rural areas, particularly to farms. What proportion of the new steel output target enunciated yesterday from the Front Bench opposite is to be allocated to rural areas? The country wants to know. In regard to the imported feedingstuffs we had a statement of cautious optimism from the Minister of Food in the Food Debate about the results he hoped to obtain from negotiations with various countries overseas. He told us that contracts were in process of negotiation with Hungary, Rumania, Yugoslavia and so on. I hope that the result of these negotiations will be successful but I must tell the House quite frankly that I am rather sceptical about some of them. In my view, negotiations with Yugoslavia, Rumania and Hungary in respect of foodstuffs or anything else must be conducted not in Belgrade, Bucharest or Budapest but in Moscow. When the Secretary for Overseas Trade came back the other day from Moscow he appeared to realise that the technique of negotiation in Moscow is not laid down in the text books of the London School of Economics.

As my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr Eden) pointed out yesterday, whatever livestock products we obtain from countries in Europe, these can be available only if their own imports of feedingstuffs are in excess of what they require to feed their own people. In fact, as Lord Addison in another place warned us over a year ago, a great many of the demands put forward by European countries for food allocations from the I.E.F.C. were grossly exaggerated, but in spite of that warning our own wheat allocations were scaled down three times during last year. Nevertheless, a year later, we are told that we can obtain certain livestock products from the European countries. Having wrung more than they need from the I.E.F.C. because they put up a better case than some of our representatives, they then export the surplus to us. Is this policy to be allowed to continue?

At the "twelfth hour" the Government have come down in a panic-stricken gesture to ask for extreme powers under this Bill. They ask for them on the eve of the Adjournment for the Summer Recess to save their face because they had not the courage to take drastic measures sooner. What is really needed is not words from the Front Bench but a change of heart.

"Work or want" was not part of their Election programme at all, and when hon. Members on this side of the House suggested that the situation which faced the country in 1945, and was likely to face it for the next two years or so was in fact one of "work or want" we were howled down for telling the truth. Government based on moral cowardice gets us nowhere and has, in fact, brought us to the very sorry position we are in today. The truth is that the high standard of living which we have enjoyed in the past years has been made possible only by the volume of production from British industry and can be sustained only by the same means.

In a very sincere and eloquent speech yesterday, the President of the Board of Trade asked for the Dunkirk spirit. He pointed out that when mankind was moved by spiritual values it sometimes achieved the impossible, but the difference between the Dunkirk spirit and what right hon. Gentlemen are asking for now is that at Dunkirk—as has frequently been pointed out—there was a common objective, namely, the defeat of Hitler. To-day the Government are asking for the Dunkirk spirit in order to achieve a Socialist State. That is not a common objective but one to which at least 50 per cent. of the country take violent exception. I say to the Government that in asking for the Dunkirk spirit and for national unity in the same breath they clearly do not understand the meaning of the words "national unity." Because of that it is with great pleasure that I shall go into the Lobby against the extreme powers demanded in this Bill.

2.55 p.m.

Photo of Captain Albert Blackburn Captain Albert Blackburn , Birmingham King's Norton

This is in many ways a sad occasion for me. Personally, I believe this to be the most important Debate in the history of this Parliament. It is not a continuation of the Economic Debate—that is not the issue at all. As I see it, the issue is whether or no the assumption by legislative action of totalitarian powers is a substitute for leadership and for vigour in public administration and in public and private enterprise. I claim that in actual fact—and I am sure that the Labour Party as a whole agree with me—the Members of the Labour Party who have spoken in support of the Government today care less for liberty than the aristocrats in 1216 who were responsible for Magna Charta.

Photo of Captain Albert Blackburn Captain Albert Blackburn , Birmingham King's Norton

I suggest that it is quite wrong that Parliament should now adjourn for ten weeks. I believe that the Government should come to this House of Commons with specific Measures, and that we should continue to work during the vacation, that we should set an example to the country and, one by one, should approve the Measures needed to rescue us from the crisis which has come upon us. Let me turn now to the Bill itself which is so important. In effect it states that the powers which already exist for the transition period can now be used for peace. That is the effect, and all these arguments about the doubts as to the construction of this Bill are largely irrelevant. The courts are not going to take any notice of the Home Secretary today, of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, or even of the right hon. and learned Gentleman who spoke for the Liberal Party and with almost the whole of whose speech I entirely agree.

Photo of Mr John Leslie Mr John Leslie , Sedgefield

Then why not join him?

Photo of Captain Albert Blackburn Captain Albert Blackburn , Birmingham King's Norton

I shall be dealing with that issue later. What we require are specific Measures, one after the other, in the form of legislation. If the Government are now in favour of direction of labour, surely, I am entitled to know what kind of direction? I am not going to give them a mandate for any kind of direction of labour they like. I am really astounded at the attitude of Labour Members. Under Clause 1, Subsection (1, c) of the Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers) Bill, the Government will have as I see it, power to utilise the existing regulations for almost anything they wish. The words have been read over and over again. What could be wider or more general than the words: Generally for ensuring that the whole resources of the community are available for use…. What wider words can anybody imagine? Under Subsection (2), the great importance of which has not been sufficiently stressed, there is power to vary existing regulations. Whatever the Government may say as regards their functions I do not believe that the courts of law would inquire into the Government's intentions. If the regulations are varied they are varied, and the courts of law have to accept them. As I see it, under this Bill and this Subsection, the Government can do anything they like to any person in this nation except throw him into prison. If I am wrong I shall be glad to be told so, but I have very little doubt about it.

Next, we will be told that it is a temporary Measure and only for this emergency —[Interruption.]—I hope my hon. Friend over there will remember what happened when we had military conscription. We were told that military conscription was an exceptional Measure introduced for two or three years only during the emergency. Then, when the Minister of Defence got up and announced the establishment of a Cadet Force, he referred to the introduction of military conscription as a normal peacetime measure. Are we here to see the introduction of conscription of labour as a normal peacetime Measure? It seems to me that this is completely contrary to the whole faith of the Labour Party and that the majority of its members will disagree with it. Is this in "Let us face the Future"? Was it in our Election programme? Have we any mandate for it? On the contrary, we said over and over again that it was our policy at the time of the General Election—and I challenge anyone to deny it—that we stood for a combination of economic and political democracy; no dragooning and no totalitarianism; and that we stood for in creasing the freedom of the individual. That is the reason why I fought the General Election with the Labour Party, and why I supported "Let Us Face The Future." There are two kinds of Socialism. There is totalitarian Socialism in its Communist, Fascist, or similar form, and there is liberal, democratic Socialism in which I believe. The central issue we face today——

Photo of Mr Percy Shurmer Mr Percy Shurmer , Birmingham Sparkbrook

The hon. Member jumped on the wagon a few months ago.

Photo of Captain Albert Blackburn Captain Albert Blackburn , Birmingham King's Norton

I say at once that I do not believe the Government have the slightest intention to do anything totalitarian. I know perfectly well that the Home Secretary would not do it, but I am saying that hon. Members are accepting totalitarian powers I am not saying that they are going to exercise them in a totalitarian way, but hon. Members are betraying their election pledges by allowing the Government to have totalitarian powers at this stage. In this issue, let us remember that the pressure seems to come from the so-called "Keep Left" group. They have been getting up and saying, "We said all this before." Personally, I do not think they were very open in their announcement of the coming crisis; certainly they were not as open as the realists. But who was the leader of the "Keep Left" movement in the 1929–31 Government—Sir Oswald Mosley?

Photo of Captain Albert Blackburn Captain Albert Blackburn , Birmingham King's Norton

I claim that the best friends of the Labour Party are not the people who are trying to utilise this situation to produce this, that or the other measure which they are trying to impose in a hurry on the Government, but those who stand by the Election policy of the Labour Government. I believe that the central issue was put 2,000 years ago, when the Jews tried to make Jesus of Nazareth accept the view that He was going to stand against Roman tyranny. They asked whether it was lawful that they should pay tribute unto Caesar. He told them to bring Him a penny, and then asked whose was the image and superscription on it. They said "Caesar's," and He said: Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's. It is a tragedy of totalitarian governments that they render unto Caesar things that are God's. Is it to be the tragedy of Western democracy that we shall neither render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, nor render unto God the things that are God's. At this vital stage in our history we should set an example to the nation. We should work through the Recess, as the Leader of the Liberal Party has said. I believe there is the will to do it, and that everyone in Parliament will be willing to do it. We should work through and decide on the specific measures, giving wholehearted support to the Government to save us in the crisis, and thereby setting an example to Europe and the rest of the world.

3.4 p.m.

Photo of Mr David Maxwell Fyfe Mr David Maxwell Fyfe , Liverpool, West Derby

After the remarkable call to action and clear thinking which has been given to us by the hon. Member for King's Norton (Mr. Blackburn), I think it is essential that we should all understand what is intended by this Bill. Up to the last few minutes, the whole of the House has been suffering under the difficulty of two entirely different approaches.

First, the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council said that this Bill is mere legal protection. He said that the Government cannot be put in the risk of having to rely on an optimistic legal interpretation of the 1945 Act. He said quite definitely, to use his somewhat picturesque phrase, that red revolution, by which he meant action going beyond the ordinary, would not be done by this Bill, but that it would be done by Act of Parliament. Anyone who listened will say that that is a fair summary of the speech which the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President made in opening this Debate. Then we had the speech of the hon. Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman), followed by the speeches of a number of his close political associates. The hon. Member for East Coventry said that so far from this Bill being a mere legal protection, it was the alternative to mass unemployment. The Bill was Socialist planning. What we thought as possible, namely, full employment, was not possible without a close approximation to the servile State and regimentation.

Photo of Mr Richard Crossman Mr Richard Crossman , Coventry East

Mr. Crossman indicated dissent.

Photo of Mr David Maxwell Fyfe Mr David Maxwell Fyfe , Liverpool, West Derby

The hon. Gentleman may shake his head but I appeal to those who listened carefully, as I did, to his speech. That was the substance of it.

Photo of Mr Richard Crossman Mr Richard Crossman , Coventry East

I can only appeal to HANSARD against any suggestion that I said that what was needed was a close approximation to the servile State. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman had listened, he would have known that I argued that one had to sacrifice one liberty to another in a civilised State and that we on this side were prepared for a time to sacrifice certain liberties for a greater liberty.

Photo of Mr David Maxwell Fyfe Mr David Maxwell Fyfe , Liverpool, West Derby

I say at once that the hon. Gentleman did not use the words "servile State," but the very words which he has just spoken, which are not as strong as the words he used in his speech, show that that was the inevitable logical conclusion to what he said. I would remind the hon. Gentleman that he devoted no inconsiderable portion of the time in which he addressed the House to an apologia for the delay in taking and using these powers, and he said that the Government were right in having tried voluntary democratic persuasion first. What is the alternative to voluntary democratic persuasion if it is not, whatever we may call it, the servile State?

Photo of Mr Douglas Clifton Brown Mr Douglas Clifton Brown , Hexham

If the right hon. and learned Gentleman does not give way, the hon. Member has no right to speak.

Photo of Mr David Maxwell Fyfe Mr David Maxwell Fyfe , Liverpool, West Derby

Time is limited. I did not get up until 3.4 p.m. in order to split the time fairly between the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, who will reply, and myself. The hon. Gentleman must lake my arguments, and no doubt an opportunity will be given to him to reply. It is not that I do not wish to give way, but time is limited. That was the view I took of the hon. Gentleman's speech, and I want to make it quite clear that that was supported by his associates. The general position put before the House was "Thank God, we have got this Bill by which stringent action can be taken." That was entirely different from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President.

The only matter on which these two lines of different argument agreed was that they said that Parliamentary government as we in this House understand it is insufficient and unable to cope with the situation. That is a proposition which we controvert in toto, and which we will controvert forever, so long as there is any spark of political life in us. But admitting, as we do very readily, that the Lord President of the Council and the hon. Member for East Coventry and his friends are reasonable beings, approaching these things in a rational way, there must be some line of agreement between them, and we find, if we examine what this Bill actually does, at least a possible line. We will hear from the Home Secretary whether this is the true explanation. It is quite true, as the Lord President informed us, that this Bill only keeps alive the different purposes stated in paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) of the Defence Regulations which were made under the 1945 Act. But, I remind the House, because it is very easy in a mass of subsidiary legislation to forget, that it is a fact that the 1945 Act kept alive the two strongest and most important Defence Regulations which exist. I think it is important, as no one has mentioned it, to see the width of Regulation No. 55, of which the side note is— General Control of Industry. I will, therefore, quote one paragraph from it: For regulating or prohibiting the production, treatment, keeping, storage, movement, transport, distribution, disposal, acquisition. use, or consumption of articles of any description. That is a pretty wide regulation, and Regulation 58A, which I will paraphrase because then it will be easier to understand, gives power to the Minister of Labour, or a National Service officer deputed by him, to direct anyone to any job whatever. These were the powers the Government have for these purposes—— to facilitate the readjustment of industry and commerce to the requirements of the community in time of peace. We are now going to apply these powers for the purpose of ensuring that the whole resources of the community are available for use, and are used, in a manner best calculated to serve the interests of the community. Those are the widest possible words that have appeared in any Statute except what I call the "Dunkirk Act" of 1940. Let the House remember that these are merely the regulations. Under these regulations, orders can be made. That is the next stage in the legislative subsidiary scale for all purposes for carrying out these regulations, and orders can be made governed by these generally wide purposes of the Act. So it comes to this, that the hon. Member for East Coventry must be basing his hopes—even if I have, I hope he will believe me, unintentionally overstated what he intended by 50 per cent.—on the widest use of the existing regulations and orders made under them for these new purposes.

The matter before the House today is whether that is really the method by which we ought to approach this crisis, and to allow these measures to be taken. That is the simple issue. I object to the argument which the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. Mikardo) put up that those of us who object to what is essentially that authoritarian approach to the problem of the Government are making the same mistakes as those who objected to certain Acts of Parliament which were repressive of criminal offences in the past. There is all the difference in philosophic approach between being prepared to cut down something that falls below the common denominator of decent conduct, and urging, by means of subsidiary legislation undiscussed by Parliament, things that are going to move, direct and motivate the whole lives of the people. That is the difference, and that is the fundamental difference between us in our approach. We say that, if the Government are going to condition the lives and the details of work of the people, they should bring it before Parliament to have it discussed by Parliament. I assure the House that I have studied, probably as fully as anyone, the onset of dictatorship. I apologise for the personal note, but I do want to point out two things that do bring it about.

One is that you forget the wide range of interests which your legislative proposals are going to affect. The glory of a democracy is that you maintain that humanising method of dealing with your legislation because of the flow of discussion between the various Departments and the geographical representatives of the people who are going to be affected. The second great evil which produces dictatorship, and which grows as dictatorship comes on, is that you think you are so certain that your results, or the methods of achieving the results, are right that you can dispense with hearing by discussion the views of others. That is the difference between our approach by saying "Let us sit here and discuss, for any time that you want, the approach to the plan for dealing with this crisis," and the other approach of hon. Gentlemen opposite of saying that the only way of dealing with it is by a subsidiary instrument, which certainly cannot be discussed while Parliament is in vacation, and can only be discussed when Parliament comes back by putting down a negative Resolution, for which you have to keep the House late at night and by which you cannot amend the subject of the instrument, and which is full of these difficulties, of which each one of us, during his time as a private Member, has become so well aware.

I know that the right hon. Gentleman will remind us that subsidiary legislation is not a new thing, and everyone agrees that there are occasions and subject matters for which it is suitable. I agree about that, but the point is that we have come, at last, to the time when the existence of a crisis is admitted, and we have tried during the last two days to get clear from the Government what are their proposals for dealing with the crisis. Even in the powerful speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, we had no more than a diagnosis, though a brilliant diagnosis, of the causes of the crisis. We had not, for a moment, any suggestions as to how it would be dealt with. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to deal with this point. The right hon. Gentleman the Lord President has protested against being cross-examined on the proposals which he is to use. Why does he protest? Why cannot he tell us now how far Regulation 58A is to be used, what form direction is to take, whether it is intended that the acquisition of businesses by Regulation 55 should be a mere pious aspiration or a practical method of dealing with our situation?

We on this side of the House say that we cannot give these powers to a Government who have shown themselves so barren of practical proposals to deal with the situation. We cannot resign the position entrusted to us to those who are so incompetent, because it is the incompetent and barren of ideas who always run in precipitate action. Not for a long time have I heard anything so revealing as the speech of the hon. Member for Reading, because he went on to give us a list, item succeeding item, of matters which he and his friends had pressed upon the Government. He not only did that; he gave us the arguments which the Government had used for turning down one after another, and he then said that these are the proposals—the rather inchoate, half-baked proposals, I say—which, according to him, the Government are considering today if that is the fount and origin of the proposals, if they have resisted those proposals until they have been so beset that they suddenly rush into their consideration, how can we say how they will use powers which Parliament cannot control?

The war has been over for two years. The Government have had full opportunity of considering the Parliamentary machine. They have made suggestions for altering it; they have not hesitated to truncate our time when it was necessary. I say, just as I said when the Guillotine was applied to the Transport Bill, that it is the poorest reason, the feeblest excuse, for omitting to give Parliamentary time, either to discussion on the stages of a Bill or to discussing proposals by Act of Parliament, when they can be amended and adjusted to the needs of the people, to say, "We want to get rid of Parliament for 10 weeks, we want 10 weeks' holiday from the discussions of this House." it is a terrible thing. Every argument which right hon. Gentlemen use in regard to this crisis is an argument for Parliament considering remedies for the crisis, and it is on that note, and with that in mind, that I join my right hon. Friend and leader in asking the House to reject the Second Reading of this Bill.

3.24 p.m.

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

I have been asked by right hon. and hon. Members opposite whether this is a small Bill or a big one. I gather that whichever answer I give they will not be satisfied; for instance, the hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft), after making great play with that question, said, at a later stage in his speech, probably having forgotten the question he had addressed to me, that this Bill is totally inadequate. My own view is that, from the point of view of length, this is a small Bill. That, I think, is a non-controversial statement. But I think it is an important Bill in the adaptation which it makes of great powers given by previous Acts to the altered economic circumstances with which we are faced. That, I think, is the true description of this Measure, at any rate as it appeals to me.

The right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) cast doubts on whether what he called the enduring validity of the 1945 Act had been in any way jeopardised; and my answer is that we are advised by the lawyers—and I did not notice that the right hon. and learned Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) controverted the statement—that the powers we seek under this Bill are not all contained in the 1945 Act. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Again, we appear to be approaching the region where controversy ends. That is as well when one is making the final speech in a Debate. I was responsible for presenting to the House the 1945 Act, and I was quite emphatic in stating that in the period during which the Act would run we should move away from war conditions, which were the obvious causes of the 1939 and 1940 Acts, towards a time when it would be very difficult indeed to plead that the war, and the war only, would be the cause of any action we might have to take. Therefore, we did explain the reasons which the Government could adduce for desiring a regulation or for making an order under a regulation. I recall that during the passage of that Bill I was pressed very hard indeed from the Benches opposite to limit the duration of that Act to two years, and I said at the time that I did not imagine that in two years we should be rid of all the consequences of the war.

Photo of Mr Winston Churchill Mr Winston Churchill , Woodford

We suggested that it should be put in the Expiring Laws (Continuance) Act, which would enable it to be judged every year.

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

I do not mind if the right hon. Gentleman interrupts me, because he is a very distinguished Parliamentarian, but I would have come to that point. I was also going to deal with the point which was raised by the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) who wanted to lessen the period of the Bill by one year from that which was desired by the Opposition, and then to make it subject to annual review The argument which I used in reply was that I thought that at that time it would give the country a wrong impression of the period during which His Majesty's Government thought that the conditions which made the Act necessary would operate. I still think that that was a justifiable argument. We come to the House with this Measure because equally we think we have now moved away from the position which the Supplies and Services Act, 1945, envisaged, to a new position. Certain influences which have been operating, not merely during the past two years but over a longer period, are now playing a major part in the shaping of our economic circumstances.

In our view it would not be honest to rely on the Act of 1945 to deal with these circumstances, any more than it would have been honest to have relied on the Acts of 1939 and 1940 to deal with the situation that the end of the war brought about. My own view is this, that the real difference between the two sides of the House with regard to this Measure and with regard to the Debate which has taken place during the previous two days if I may allude to that in passing—is that we differ as to the cause and permanence of the economic circumstanes which confront us today. I did not gather that the analysis that was made by my right hon. and learned Friend the President of the Board of Trade last night as to the inner cause of the present crisis was accepted by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. I do not think that at any me we are going back to the world of 1939 or to the world of 1913. No matter what Government is in power, I think that there are economic forces at work in the world which were hardly discernible in 1913 but are fully discernible now, whose operation has been accelerated by two great wars, and particularly by the self-sacrificing part that this country took in both of those two great wars, which mean that whatever normality is to be in the future, it will not be that of 1939, still less that of 1913.

Photo of Viscount  Turnour Viscount Turnour , Horsham

The country was on the verge of civil war in 1913.

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

I will leave the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford and the noble Lord to settle the justice of that description. I hope I carry the House with me. I am glad I had as much assent as I did from hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite to the last proposition I advanced. There was some assent. I do not claim that there was complete agreement——

Photo of Mr Winston Churchill Mr Winston Churchill , Woodford

We all agree with the right hon. Gentleman about 1913.

Photo of Mr Brendan Bracken Mr Brendan Bracken , Bournemouth

I quite agree with the right hon. Gentleman's analysis of the economic difficulties. But it is a great pity that it was not put to the country in 1945 when he was vote catching.

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

Unfortunately, during the 1945 campaign I did not have the advantage in my constituency of a speech from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bournemouth (Mr. Bracken). Had he come there he would know that the economic argument that I am addressing to the House today was the argument that I addressed to my constituents. Speaking for a part of the country where the Labour Party did not do too badly at the last General Election, and where I spoke in several constituencies, I can say that the burden of our argument on Tyneside and in County Durham, where the effect of recent years of economic stress was only too well known to the voters we were addressing, was always that every step must be taken—I put this in my election address—to prevent us going back to the situation that existed in the period between the two wars. We were facing the future—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—in the light of the past. I am glad to know that I am steadily carrying some hon. and right hon. Members opposite with me in my argument.

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

The hon. and learned Member cannot have been in the Chamber very much during the day, or he would know that I have spoken at least as much about the Bill as most of the hon. and right hon. Members opposite who have taken part in the Debate. I am dealing with the causes for the Bill, and I am glad to know that up to the present I have been able to get along in fair agreement with hon. Members opposite.

Photo of Mr Winston Churchill Mr Winston Churchill , Woodford

Look to your own sup porters; do not look at us.

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

I hope to do that before I have finished, but those most in need of cheering up should be dealt with first. In my view there have been only two periods in our history comparable with today. The first was the economic crisis which arose because of the ecclesiastical and trade policy of the Tudors, which resulted in the troubles that came about after the dissolution of the monasteries and the suppression of the Guilds. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nationalisation."] The ancestors of some hon. Members and noble Lords opposite did very well out of that nationalisation measure. Their main complaint is that we are now redressing the balance. The second instance was the economic troubles which succeeded the Industrial Revolution. As a result of the tendencies with which I have dealt, we are now faced with an entirely new position for this country, not merely and not so much with regard to its internal economy as with regard to its relationship to the rest of the world. The Labour Party, from its inception, always said: "There will come a time when Britain will no longer be the undisputed workshop of the world."

Photo of Mr Winston Churchill Mr Winston Churchill , Woodford

Has the right hon. Gentleman only just found that out?

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

Oh, no. We have been saying that for 50 years, at a time when the right hon. Member was resisting the tariff reform proposals of his present party on the grounds that free trade would bring perpetual prosperity to this country. I am trying not to be provoked—

Photo of Mr Winston Churchill Mr Winston Churchill , Woodford

The right hon. Gentleman is a long way off the Bill.

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

I am rather nearer than the right hon. Member was for a considerable period this morning. That being the situation as this party sees it, we do not think that the crisis with which we have to deal is one that will be solved by any short-term proposals. My right hon. Friends who have spoken in the course of these Debates have, I hope, made that quite clear to the House and to the country. It is necessary, while we are preparing long-term plans, while they are being adapted to the needs of the nation, that we should be armed with sufficient short-term powers to deal as quickly and as effectively as circumstances may demand with the situation that may arise. The burden of the complaint of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford and the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Montgomery was largely focussed on paragraph (c) of Subsection (1) of Clause 1 of this Bill, in which we are asking for powers to act generally for ensuring that the whole resources of the community are available for use, and are used in a manner best calculated to serve the interests of the community"——

Photo of Mr Winston Churchill Mr Winston Churchill , Woodford

The Government can do anything they like.

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

The right hon. Gentleman tried to provoke me this morning, and I was able to resist the temptation. I do not put myself on anything like the same level as a Parliamentarian as he is, but I ask him to reciprocate, so far as he can, and allow me to develop what I have to say. Are we to understand that if people are not prepared, in this time of stress, to place the whole of their resources at the service of the community, we should take no steps to ensure that they render the necessary help towards the needs of the nation?

Photo of Mr Winston Churchill Mr Winston Churchill , Woodford

A great demand is being made. The right hon. Gentleman has said that if people are not prepared to place the whole of their resources at the disposal of the community, the Government will ensure that they should render the necessary help to the nation. What is the community? It is there—the party Government opposite.

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

No. Sir, the community is not this party Government; neither is it the minority party in the State.

Photo of Mr Brendan Bracken Mr Brendan Bracken , Bournemouth

Tell that to Mr. Horner.

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

I have no doubt that Mr. Horner will have opportunities of reading what I have to say.

Photo of Mr Charles Byers Mr Charles Byers , Dorset Northern

This point is really fundamental to the Bill. Does not the right hon. Gentleman see that there is a conflict between object and method; that no one would disagree with the objects as set out in paragraph (c) of Clause 1 (1) of the Bill, but what the House demands is that they should know what methods are to be taken to achieve those objects?

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

I am glad to know that the objects are accepted. But if the hon. Gentleman, who is Chief Whip of the Liberal Party, had been here throughout the day he might have had less reason to make that interruption. It is significant that there were no cheers from Members above the Gangway when the hon Gentleman said that the objects were accepted. Now I am asked to accept the Chief Whip of the Liberal Party and his three supporters as the voice of the community. [Interruption.] If interruptions are made, right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite must expect that I shall deal with them. I would prefer to make the kind of speech that the House usually allows me to make, without interruptions, and I am not aware that my language has been couched in terms that ought to have provoked all the interruptions that I have received. The object, we are told, is accepted, at any rate, by the Labour and Liberal Parties, but the method is what is objected to. Really the method is legalised already by the Supplies and Services Act, 1945——

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

—and this is one of the objects brought within the scope of the 1945 Act. The method of dealing with the included objects was in the 1945 Act, and this Bill incorporates in the 1945 Act the new objects set out in the three lettered paragraphs in Clause 1 of the Bill. I cannot believe that the people of this country would think that, if people were unwilling to place at the disposal of the community their resources if they were required for the purposes of the community in a time of great stress, they should be allowed to escape making their full contribution to the national effort.

Photo of Mr Winston Churchill Mr Winston Churchill , Woodford

I do not like interrupting the right hon. Gentleman, whose courtesy to the House we all recognise, and whose earnest approach to this topic is not resented in any way The point is that the Government are taking away from the legislative and Parliamentary instrument the duties which it ought to discharge, and taking to themselves, without precise or preconceived plan, vast powers which sweep away all the liberties which we have hitherto enjoyed.

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

I do not think that that is an accurate description of this Bill or of any of the preceding Bills with which it has been associated. Any regulation made under the Bill is subject to Parliament. Any general order made under the Bill is also subject to Parliament. [An HON. MEMBER: "When it is sitting."] As right hon. and hon. Gentlemen know, if Parliament is not sitting at the time when an order is promulgated or if, after an order has been promulgated, Parliament adjourns for more than four days, the period during which Parliament is not sitting does not count towards the period over which Parliament has appropriate control of the Measure. [Interruption.] The order takes effect; of course, it does.

If Parliament does not like the order it is wiped out and the only thing that then remains is that anything which has been done under an order until the time when it was rejected by Parliament remains valid. That is only saying something which is elementary knowledge to all of us who take part in the affairs of the House. The question, therefore, boils down to this—are the circumstances in which we are placed such as to justify this procedure? Is this method really applicable to the period in which we are? My own view, and the view of His Majesty's Government, is that in order to deal quickly and expeditiously with particular circumstances that may arise it is necessary to have these powers.

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford this morning asked what the courts had to do with it. Let us take an example of where an individual expresses doubt as to the validity of a Minister's action. There was the case of Stevenage. Doubt was expressed—it was legitimate doubt, I admit, and one judge was found to agree with the people who expressed doubt—as to the powers of the Minister and the action he had taken. It took nine months to get that issue settled. Serious as that was in the case of the new town of Stevenage—[Interruption.]—I consulted my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor about the proper pronunciation of the name of that place. He was born there and he has taken part of it as his title. The pronunciation that I have given is the one that has been approved by him.

That was a case where I agree the citizen had a right to inflict as much delay as was necessary on the action of the Government in his effort to establish his individual rights and to make quite certain that the Minister was acting entirely within the law. We may have to deal with a case of some producer of an article which is urgently required to be used in a particular way in redressing the balance of payments, and has to be sent to a particular place where he does not want it to be sent for his own particular personal reasons. To suggest that we should be left in doubt as to what power to use in an individual case like that, and that there shall not be the resources of the State to ensure that we shall be able to effect what we want, is. I think, straining the argument that I concede in the case of a new town.

Photo of Sir Norman Hulbert Sir Norman Hulbert , Stockport

I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman if it is not a fact that the case to which he has just referred would be covered by export licences?

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

I am assured there may be cases where that is not so. [Interruption.] Let me put this to the hon. Gentleman on the other side of the House whom I happened to hear say "Bad example"—it is true we may be able prevent a person from sending an export to the place where we do not want it to go. We may also desire to have powers to send it to the place where we want it to go, and I think that in its full application the example I gave is a perfectly justifiable one.

The House has to decide today whether there is a crisis or not. Just as hon. Members opposite profess on occasion to put me in a dilemma by asking me whether this is a big Bill or a small one, they have to make up their minds whether this is a small crisis or a big one. Unfortunately, I received divided answers on that at different stages of the Debate. We believe that this is a crisis of sufficient importance and likely to move in certain particulars with such rapidity that it is desirable that we should have powers to deal effectively, drastically and quickly with awkward situations that may arise.

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

The actions we take are amenable to the discipline of this House. After any action is taken the Minister taking it will be responsible to this House and will have to run the gauntlet of criticism, not always on one side of the House We are determined that, as far as we are concerned, this country, in dealing with the momentous events with which we are faced, shall not lack any of the resources that quick, effective and drastic action can give.

Question put, "That 'now' stand part of the Question."

The House divided: Ayes. 251; Noes, 148.

Division No. 371.]AYES.[3.59 p.m.
Adams, Richard (Balham)Gibson, C. W.Paget, R T
Adams, W. T. (Hammersmith, South)Gordon,-Walker, P. C.Paling, Will T (Dewsbury)
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V.Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Wakefield)Palmer, A. M. F.
Allen, A. C. (Bosworth)Greenwood, A. W. J. (Heywood)Pargiter, G A.
Allen, Scholefield (Crews)Grierson, E.Parker, J
Alpass, J. H.Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelly)Parkin, B T.
Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)Griffiths, W. O. (Moss Side)Paton, J. (Norwich)
Attewell, H. CGuest, Dr. L. HadenPearl, Thomas F.
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. RGuy, W H.Platts-Mills, J. F. F.
Austin, H. LewisHaire, John E (Wycombe)Poole, Cecil (Lichfield)
Awbery, S. S.Hale, LesliePrice, M. Philips
Ayles, W. H.Hall, Rt. Hon. GlenvilProctor, W. T.
Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B.Hamilton, Lt.-Col. R.Pursey, Cmdr. H.
Baird, JHardman, D. RRanger, J
Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. JHarrison, JRees-Williams, D. R
Barstow, P. G.Haworth, J.Reeves, J.
Barton, C.Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)Ridealgh, Mrs. M
Battley, J. R.Herbison, Miss M.Roberts, A.
Bechervaise, A. E.Hewitson, Captain MRoberts Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)
Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. JHicks, GRogers, G. H. R.
Benson, GHobson, C. RRoss, William (Kilmarnock)
Berry, HHolman, P.
Beswick, FHouse, GRoyle, C.
Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)Hudson, J H. (Ealing, W.)Sargood, R.
Bevin, Rt. Hon. E. (Wandsworth, C.)Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)Scollan, T.
Bing, G. H. C.Hughes, H D (Wolverhampton, W.)Segal, Dr S.
Binns, J.Hutchinson, H. L. (Rusholme)Shackleton, E. A. A.
Blenkinsop, AHynd, H (Hackney, C.)Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (St. Helens)
Boardman, H.Hynd, J. B (Attercliffe)Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.
Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton)Irving, W J.Shurmer, P.
Braddock, Mrs. E M (L'pl, Exch'ge)Isaacs, Rt Hon. G ASilkin, Rt. Hon. L.
Braddock, T. (Mitcham)Jay, D. P. T.Silverman, J (Erdington)
Bramall, E. AJeger, G. (Winchester)Simmons, C. J.
Brown, George (Belper)Jones, Rt. Hon. A. C. (Shipley)Skeffington, A. M.
Bruce, Major D. W. TJones, D. T (Hartlepools)Skeffington-Lodge, T. C
Carmichael, JamesJones, J H (Bolton)Skinnard, F W.
Champion, A. J.Kenyon, C.Smith, C (Colchester)
Chater, D.Key, C WSmith, H. N. (Nottingham, S.)
Chetwynd, G. RKinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. ESmith, S. H. (Hull, S. W.)
Cobb, F. A.Kinley, J.Snow, Capt. J W
Cooks, F SLeonard, WSolley, L. J.
Collick, PLeslie, J. RSorensen, R W
Colman, Miss G. MLever, N HSoskice, Maj. Sir F
Cove, W. GLevy, B. WSparks, J. A
Crawley, A.Lewis, A W. J. (Upton)Steele, T
Crossman, R. H SLewis, J. (Bolton)Stephen, C
Daines, PLindgren, G SStrachey, J
Dalton, Rt. Hon. HLipton, Lt.-Col. MStrauss, G. R (Lambeth, N.)
Davies, Edward (Burslem)Longden, FStubbs, A E.
Davies, Ernest (Enfield)McAdam, WSummerskill, Dr. Edith
Davies, Harold (Leek)McAllister, GSwingler, S.
Davies, Haydn (St Pancras, S. W.)McEntee, V La tSymonds, A. L
Deer, G.McGhee, H G.Taylor, R. J (Morpeth)
de Freitas, GeoffreyMackay, R W G (Hull N W)Taylor, Dr S (Barnet)
Diamond, JMaclean, N. (Govan)Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)
Dobbie, WMcLeavy, F.Thomas, Ivor (Keighley)
Dodds, N. NMacpherson, T (Romtord)Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)
Driberg, T. E. NMallalieu, J. P. WThomas, George (Cardiff)
Dugdale, J. (W Bromwich)Mann Mrs. J.Thurtle, Ernest
Dumpleton, C WManning, C. (Camberwell, N)Tiffany, S
Durbin, E. F. MManning, Mrs. L (Epping)Tolley, L.
Dye, SMartin, J. H.Tomlinson, Rt. Hon G
Ede, Rt. Hon J CMathers, GVernon, Maj. W F
Edelman, M.Mellish, R. JViant, S. P.
Edwards, John (Blackburn)Messer, FWallace, G D (Chislehurst)
Edwards, N. (Caerphilly)Mikardo, IanWallace, H. W. (Walthamslow, E.)
Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel)Mitchison, G. R.Webb, M. (Bradford, C.)
Evans, E. (Lowestoft)Morgan, Dr H. B.Wells, P. L. (Faversham)
Evans, John (Ogmore)Morris, Lt.-Col H. (Sheffield, C.)Wells, W. T. (Walsall)
Ewart, R.Morris, P. (Swansea, W.)West, D. G.
Fairhurst, F.Morrison, Rt. Hon H. (Lewisham, E.)White, H. (Derbyshire, N. E)
Farthing, W. J.Moyle, A.
Fernyhough, E.Nally, WWhiteley, Rt Hon. W.
Field, Captain W. JNaylor, T EWigg, Col. G. E.
Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.)Nichol, Mrs. M E (Bradford, N)Wilcock, Group-Capt. C. A. B
Follick, MNicholls, H R. (Stratford)Wilkins, W. A.
Foot, M. M.Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J (Derby)Willey, F. T (Sunderland)
Forman, J C.Noel-Buxton, LadyWilley, O. G. (Cleveland)
Fraser, T (Hamilton)Oldfield, W. HWilliams, D J (Neath)
Gaitskell, H. T. N.Oliver, G. HWilliams, J. L (Kelvingrove)
Ganley, Mrs. C. SOrbach, MWilliams, Rt Hon T (Don Valley)
Williams, W. R. (Heston)Wise, Major F. JYoung, Sir R (Newton)
Wills, Mrs. E. A.Woodburn, AYounger, Hon. Kenneth
Wilmot Rt Hon. JWyatt, W
Wilson, J. HYates, V. F.TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Mr. Pearson and Mr. Hannan.
NOES.
Agnew, Cmdr. P G.Gammans, L DNield, B (Chester)
Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir W (Armagh)Glyn, Sir R.Noble, Comdr A. H. P
Amory, D. HeathcoatGomme-Duncan, Col AO'Neill, Rt Hon Sir H
Anderson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Scot Univ)Gridley, Sir A.Orr-Ewing, I. L
Assheton, Rt. Hon R.Grimston R. V.Osborne, C
Astor, Hon. M.Harmon, Sir P (MoseleyPickthorn, K.
Baldwin, A. EHare, Hon J. H. (Woodbridge)Ponsonby, Col. C E
Baxter, A. B.Harvey, Air-Comdre A VPoole, O. B. S (Oswestry)
Beamish, Maj. I. V. H.Haughton, S GPrescott, Stanley
Beechman, N. A.Head, Brig A HPrice-White, Lt.-Col D
Beswick, FHeadlam, Lieut.-Col Rt Hon. Sir C.Raikes, H. V
Birch, NigelHinchingbrooke, ViscountRamsay, Major S
Blackburn, A. R.Hogg, Hon. QRayner, Brig R.
Boles, Lt.-Col. D C (Wells)Holmes, Sir J Stanley (Harwich)Reed, Sir S. (Aylesbury)
Boothby, R.Hulbert, Wing-Cdr N JRaid, Rt Hon J S C. (Hillhead)
Bossom, A CHurd, ARoberts, H (Hancswonh)
Bower, NHutchison, Col. J. R. (Glasgow, C.)Roberts, W (Cumberland. N.)
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.Jarvis, Sir J.Savory, Prof. D. L.
Bracken, Rt. Hon BrendanJeffreys, General Sir G.Shepherd, W. S. (Bucklow)
Braithwaite, Lt-Comdr. J.Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L WSmiles, Lt.-Col Sir W
Bromley-Davenport, LI.-Col. WKerr, Sir J. GrahamSmith, E P. (Ashford)
Bullock, Capt M.Kingsmill, Lt.-Col. W HSmithers, Sir W
Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A (S'ffr'n W'ld'n)Lambert, Hon. G.Spearman, A C M
Byers, FrankLancaster, Col. C. GStanley, Rt. Hon. O
Carson, E.Langford-Holt, JStrauss, H. G. (English Universities)
Challen, CLegge-Bourke, Maj E A. hStuart, Rt. Hon J (Moray)
Channon HLennox-Boyd, A TSutcliffe, H.
Churchill, Rt. Hon W. SLinstead, H NTaylor, Vice-Adm E. A (P'dd't'n, S
Clarke, Col R. SLloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.)Teeling, William
Clifton-Brown, Lt-Col. GLow, Brig A. R. WThomas, J P. L (Hereford)
Conant, Maj. R J ELucas, Major Sir JThorneycroft, G. E. P. (Monmouth)
Cooper-Key, E M.Lucas-Tooth, Sir HThornton-Kemsley, C. N.
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col O ELyttelton, Rt. Hon OThorp, LI.-Col R A F
Cuthbert, W NMackeson, Brig. H. R.Touche, G C
Darling, Sir W YMcKie, J. H (Galloway)Turtn, R. H
Davidson, ViscountessMaclay, Hon J SVane, W M F
Davies, Clement (Montgomery)Macmillan, Rt Hon Harold (Bromley)Wadsworth, G
De la Bère, RMacpherson N (Dumfries)Wakefield, Sir W. W
Digby S. W.Manningham-Buller, R EWalker-Smith, D
Dodds-Parker, A. D.Marlowe, A A. HWard, Hon. G R
Donner, Sqn.-Ldr. P WMarples, A EWebbe, Sir H (Anbey)
Dower. Lt.-Col A V G (Penrith)Marsden, Capt. AWheatley, Colonel M. J
Dower, E. L. G (Caithness)Marshall, S. H (Sutton)White, J B (Canterbury)
Drayson, G BMaude, J. C.Williams, C (Torquay)
Duthie W SMolson, A H E.Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Erroll, F. JMoore, Lt.-Col. Sir IWinterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Fleming, Sqn.-Ldr. E. L.Morris, Hopkin (Carmarthen)Young. Sir A. S L (Partick)
Foster, J G (Northwich)Morrison, Maj J G (Salisbury)
Fox, Sir G.Morrison, Rt Hon W. S. (C'nc'ster)TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Fyfe, Rt Hon. Sir D P MMott-Radclyffe. Maj. C EMr. Buchan-Hepburn and
Galbraith. Cmdr T DNicholson, GMr. Drewe.

Bill read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House for Monday next—[Mr. Snow.]