I beg to move, in page 1, line 20, to leave out from beginning, to "that," in line 1, page 2, and to insert:
(1) For the removal of doubt it is hereby declared that all Defence Regulations directed by Order in Council to have effect by virtue of the Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers) Act, 1945, and remaining unrevoked at the date of the passing of this Act and all orders or other instruments in force thereunder are and remain valid and effective for all or any of the purposes set out in Subsection (1) of Section one of that Act.
(2) The purposes set out in Subsection (1) of Section one of the Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers) Act, 1945, shall include and shall be deemed always to have included the following purposes.
The purpose of this Amendment, and of another which I shall mention in a moment, is to bring the Bill into line with the intentions of the Government, as expressed with some particularity by the Lord President on Friday, and again, in shorter form, by the Prime Minister last night. I think it is obvious that this Bill was produced in a hurry It is not part of a long-thought-out plan, because there is not such a plan, and, therefore, it is quite easy to understand that the draftsmen may have received some indefinite instructions and have thought that they had better be on the safe side in drafting the Bill as widely as possible
Before I proceed to explain what the Amendment seeks to do, it might be well if I stated in as short a form as I can what I understood to be the view of the Lord President and of the Prime Minister. The Lord President, on the Second Reading Debate on Friday, put in the forefront of his case the removal of legal difficulties. He said:
We were apprehensive that unless we got this additional definition of purpose we might, first of all, get into legal difficulties.
Then he said:
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.
A few lines further on, he said this:
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."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th August, 1947; Vol. 441, c. 1804.]
I welcome the fact that the Government are extremely scrupulous, even though I do not understand their scruples. I do not think their scruples were explained, certainly not adequately explained, on Second Reading. In any event, we have now reached the Committee stage, and I accept the view that the Government have scruples, right or wrong, and that those scruples ought to be respected. The purpose of the Amendment is to bring the Bill into such a position that it will meet and remove all the scruples which have hitherto been expressed.
The Lord President mentioned three different topics on which he was doubtful whether the existing powers really covered them. The first was redressing the balance of trade, the second was the development of the export trade, and the third was the emphasis on increasing production. He thought, if I understood him right, that there was some danger of an order, which appeared on the face of it to be directed to one or more of those objects, being held by the courts ultra vires the 1945 Act. I do not think I would feel very happy in having to plead before a court that such an order was ultra vires that Act. I do not think I am usually at a loss for an argument on a legal topic, but I confess that I should be at a loss on this occasion. Nevertheless, let us suppose that the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney-General has discovered a statable argument on this question, and that, therefore, we ought to deal with it.
This Amendment does precisely what the Government want. It sets out to remove doubts, and, if I may, I should like to read it.
(1) For the removal of doubt it is hereby declared that all Defence Regulations directed by Order in Council to have effect by virtue of the Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers) Act. 1945, and remaining unrevoked at the date of the passing of this Act and all orders or other instruments in force thereunder are and remain valid and effective for all or
any of the purposes set out in Subsection (1) of Section one of that Act.
Then, we go on—
(2) The purposes set out in Subsection (1) of Section one of the Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers) Act, 1945, shall include and shall be deemed always to have included the following purposes.
That links up with the passage in the Bill at the top of page 2—
that is to say:—
These two things include everything about which the Lord President expressed doubts on Friday, and it is necessary, I think, in order that the proper meaning of this Amendment should be appreciated, that I should discuss along with it, the Amendment at the bottom of the first page on the Order Paper, which seeks to delete subsection (1, c)—
In page 2, line 7, leave out from "trade," to end of line 11.
Plainly, it will not make sense to make an Amendment of the purposes set out in Section 1 of the 1945 Act if it is not linked up with Subsection (1, c). With your permission, Major Milner, I propose to discuss the two Amendments together, and, no doubt, they can be put separately to the Committee in due course.
On a point of Order. Could we have a Ruling on that? Do I understand that we are now to discuss both these Amendments and also the Amendment to delete Subsection (1, c), because, if so, it widens the whole scope of this extremely important Amendment, and, indeed, we might discuss the whole substance of the Bill?
I am very glad, Major Milner, that you have ruled that the Debate on the present Amendment shall accept within its compass the issue raised by the Amendment with respect to Subsection (1, c), but, of course, there will be two Divisions. Surely, there is no reason why these two Divisions should not take place at their proper time and place in the chronological sequence of the Bill? That would be agreeable to us. No doubt, a prolonged Debate will take place on the first Amendment, and it might, to some extent, abridge the time of the Committee in regard to the second.
I appreciate that point, and the only difficulty on which I would seek your guidance, Major Milner, is this. Between this Amendment now being moved and the Amendment at the bottom of the page, there are two others, and it seems to be logical and proper that, if we are to have two Divisions, the votes could take place on this Amendment and on that at the bottom of the page instead of waiting to dispose of those in between.
Before you give your Ruling, Major Milner, may I explain that the second and third Amendment in the name of my right hon. Friends and myself on the Order Paper are really alternative to the first. The second is in page 1, line 20, after "which," to insert—
at the date of the passing of this Act,
and the third, in line 23, is to leave out from "thereunder," to "shall" in line 24. They raise quite short points and are little more than drafting. I suggest that it would be for the convenience of the Committee if we took the discussion of the present Amendment and the one on paragraph (c) now, had our Division on this first Amendment, discussed the next two Amendments in their turn, and then had the Division on the Amendment relating to paragraph (c).
I must make it clear that there cannot be a second discussion on the Amendment relating to paragraph (c). I understand that it is desired that there should be one discussion but two Divisions, and the Divisions would be taken in chronological order, as the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition suggested.
I cannot agree to that. If that is to be your Ruling, Major Milner, then I think it would be better if the discussion on this present Amendment were limited strictly to its terms, and that we should preserve all our rights to have a full discussion on the main issue, which is the Amendment to leave out paragraph (c). If, however, a Debate were to take place on that Amendment and the present one now, it would affect the duration of the Debate on the Amendment relating to paragraph (c). If it is desired to keep this Debate on this Amendment strictly to the terms of the Amendment, then, of course, the main discussion of the evening will fall on the Amendment relating to paragraph (c).
The right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that we cannot have two discussions on the same subject matter. I understood that the right hon. and learned Gentleman asked that the two Amendments should be taken together in one discussion. I was agreeable to that, on the clear understanding that there would be only one discussion—not two—but two Divisions if desired. However, if the Committee do not unanimously agree to that course then we must take the Amendments in the order in which they appear on the Paper, and the discussion on each one must be strictly limited to its terms.
I am afraid it is not really possible to discuss this present Amendment without mentioning paragraph (c), but I shall attempt not in any way to argue the case about paragraph (c) at this stage, and to restrict myself merely to mentioning it, in order to get the rest of the argument into shape.
There was a most noticeable conflict on Friday between the view of the Lord President and the view of certain hon. Gentlemen who sit high up behind him; and it is, perhaps, noticeable that, after that conflict had fully emerged into the light of day, the Prime Minister on Sunday night came down entirely on the side of the Lord President and against hon. Members who sit behind him; because the Prime Minister, according to the Press report, said this:
The Government have introduced a Bill which, while it gives no greater powers than were given to the present Government in 1945, enables them to be applied to the present crisis.
It is exactly in line with that sentence in the Prime Minister's broadcast that this Amendment is drafted. If I had been asked to draft an Amendment to carry the Prime Minister's intention into legislative effect I do not think I could have drafted a better Amendment than that which now appears on the Order Paper in the name of my right hon. Friends and myself. It is necessary, I think, in order to appreciate the importance of this Amendment, to spend a moment or two in developing the conflict—or, rather, in showing the reasons for the conflict—between the right hon. Gentleman and his follow.
The hon. Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman) and the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. Mikardo) and others appeared to be fellow travellers on this issue. I think I may take it that their remarks worked in together and were intended to form a coherent whole. The view of the hon. Member for East Coventry certainly was that the attempt to maintain full employment without the controls we have in operation already was bound to lead to a crisis. I think that that is what he meant when he said "without adequate controls." Therefore, the hon. Member for East Coventry, far from regarding this as a Bill for the removal of doubt, regarded it, as he explained in his opening sentence, indeed, as a Bill which ought to be used to very great effect. If this Amendment were carried, that use would be precluded, and the view of the Lord President would be sustained.
Then the hon. Member for Reading made a speech at least equally important to that of the hon. Member for East Coventry, because he regarded this Bill as the result of pressure brought to bear on the Government by himself and his friends. He told us that, whereas the Government had said months ago that his proposals could not be carried out, the Government were proposing to carry them out; but that they could not be carried out by reason of administrative difficulty. I venture to think the Government were right, and that if they attempt to carry out the views of the hon. Member for Reading they will land the country first into administrative chaos and secondly into national disaster. It is in order to support the Lord President against all pressure of that kind that this Amendment is designed—to prevent assaults coming down on his head from those who sit on the Mountain behind him. I cannot help remembering at this time the somewhat triumphant self-confidence of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney-General 18 months ago when he told us, "We are the masters now." I wonder whether the right hon. and learned Gentleman is quite sure today that he and his colleagues really are masters of the situation?
I should like to carry the Committee with me, and, therefore, I would just say in passing to the hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. Collins) that the purpose of this Amendment is to make clear on the face of the Bill what the two leading Members of the Government have said was their intention—that the Bill does not go beyond the removal of doubts, and, especially, the new purpose specifically mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman. I think that all I have said up to now is relevant to that issue. As I say, our main reason for putting down this Amendment is to relieve the Government from pressure while they are finding a policy. It is noticeable that the hon. Member for East Coventry invented quite a different myth. He invented the myth of wise statesmen foreseeing trouble, making preparations, and then awaiting the psychological moment to launch on an astonished world a policy which would sweep the country. I wonder if he was serious? We have heard rumours, of course, that far from sweeping the country, the right hon. Gentleman has not even carried all his own followers.
I have tried as carefully as I can to keep strictly to this Amendment, but it is difficult to draw the line. I have tried not to forestall what I may have to say in regard to the Amendment to leave out paragraph (c). If, Major Milner, you think the line of argument I am now pursuing would be more relevant on that Amendment, I will leave it for the moment and pass on to other matters. I can be short on this Amendment, retaining what I have to say till that later Amendment, because it would be unfortunate if I developed half my argument and then had to leave the other half to be brought forward in a disjointed manner. Possibly it would be better if I did not now develop the general line of argument, which I shall do at some stage during the Debate.
We are dealing here with such very loosely drafted and vague provisions in the Bill that a great deal depends on the spirit in which the Government intend to operate the Bill. Therefore, it is important that we should get at the beginning of the Bill a clear pointer to the spirit in which Parliament intends the Bill to be operated. If at the beginning of the Bill, we put in a clear indication that its main purpose is for the removal of doubt, and for the establishment of at least two of the purposes in Clause I as comprehended within the framework of the 1945 Act, then it is clear that, whatever be the legal niceties, no Government could, without flying in the face of the obvious intention of this House, use this Bill for more extended purposes. It is clear, therefore, that the Government would not really be free to change their minds. At the moment their minds are entirely in line with the Amendment. I find nothing in the speeches of right hon. Members opposite which goes one bit further than this Amendment would carry them. If that is what they want, then this Amendment makes it clear that they cannot be pressed, either by panic or by pressure from behind, into going further than they intend.
I hope the Government will accept this Amendment as carrying out their intention. At the moment I cannot see any reason why they should not. If they do accept the Amendment, then they know exactly where they stand. They have the powers for which they ask and no more. We have not yet been told any reason at all why they should get any more, but to pursue that line of argument would, I think, be trespassing on the later Amendment to leave out paragraph (c). If this Amendment is accepted the Government will have all—and indeed more than all—the powers which they ought to have to make changes by regulations. I do not want to dwell on the topic which I hope to raise at a later occasion, that the right way to deal with this matter is to bring forward important new developments for discussion in this House before they are put into operation. That, I take it, under your Ruling, Major Milner, comes more appropriately under paragraph (c).
I am certainly not raising that question at all. The point I am raising, or propose to raise in some detail at a later stage, is that where there are major changes of policy they ought to be brought before this House in the form of Bills, and that neither a negative Prayer nor an affirmative Resolution is——
I rather thought that, and it was only because of the interruption of the right hon. Member—which, I confess, I rather invited—that I ventured to foreshadow the argument I shall put at a later stage. At this stage it is enough to say that this Amendment will save right hon. Members opposite from their friends.
I thought I had made it perfectly clear that if this Amendment were accepted, it would be a clear pointer to the Government that this Committee agreed with their intention; and it would be, if not a breach of the law, at least a breach of faith for the Government to proceed beyond their present intentions. If they have as their authority a Bill beginning "For the removal of doubt," quite clearly such a Bill could not be used, without at least a grave breach of faith with the Committee, for purposes which go beyond the specific purposes to which the right hon. Member alluded at an earlier stage.
I shall not follow the right hon. and learned Member in his Second Reading speech. I confess I am not surprised that he devoted his speech to Second Reading matters and not to the purpose of this Amendment. I shall seek, if I can, to avoid falling into that error, and to direct my observations to the Amendment on the Order Paper. This Amendment, as I see it, would add a great many words to the Bill but, as sometimes happens, the words would be entirely empty, and would in no way at all alter the scope, the effect or the substance of the Bill. I would not reject them for that reason alone if I thought that their adoption would enable hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite to spend nights less ridden with fears of Gestapos, goblins and dictators.
If it had been in Order, I would have said that this Amendment would not achieve that result. The Amendment, by the first of its two Subsections, seeks to remove doubts; but these are doubts which have never arisen, and which nobody could suggest for one moment were ever capable of arising. The purposes for which existing regulations could be used is, indeed, a matter which is in doubt, and it is for the purposes of removing this doubt that this Bill is introduced; but this Subsection does not deal with this doubt at all. Let me read it to the Committee.
(1) For the removal of doubt it is hereby declared that all Defence Regulations directed by Order in Council to have effect by virtue of the Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers) Act, 1945, and remaining unrevoked at the date of the passing of this Act and all orders or other instruments in force thereunder are and remain valid and effective for all or any of the purposes set out in Subsection (1) of Section one of that Act.
That is, the 1945 Act. That is not a matter about which I apprehend anyone has the slightest scintilla of doubt what
soever. If there were a doubt, it would be a most grave and important constitutional matter that we should seek, by this Bill, to remove this doubt in regard to existing orders and regulations by retrospective action. But there is not the slightest doubt about it, and Members opposite know there is no question about the validity and operation of existing regulations or orders already operative and in force thereunder. These orders have been made and these regulations were continued for one or other of the four purposes specified in the 1945 Act, and that those orders and regulations are operative, legally enforceable and valid, no one who devotes his mind to the matter could for a moment have the slightest doubt.
Subsection (1) of this Amendment is completely vacuous, and so also is Subsection (2). Subsection (2) merely restates, in language which is less apt, what is already set out in the Bill. I could quite understand Members opposite wishing to raise some issue in regard to paragraph (c), which we shall approach on a later Amendment, but so far as this Amendment is concerned, taken by itself, as we have to take it, it adds nothing to and detracts nothing from the existing provisions of this Bill. The only result which would be achieved by the inclusion of this Amendment in the Bill would be to complicate the eventual legal interpretation which will have to be put on it by the courts, and for these reasons we cannot accept it.
As the high legal authority who has misled His Majesty's Government on this subject, the right hon. and learned Gentleman is naturally anxious to fight every point. We were led to believe that the object of this Bill was only to remove doubts. It was for the purpose of removing doubts as to the working validity of the 1945 Act. We were led to believe that possibly the courts might hold that, an emergency of a peculiar character having now arisen, the phrase "transition from war to peace" would no longer cover the interim powers granted under the 1945 Act. We were led to believe that. If there was only this doubt, we thought it only right to put down an Amendment to remove the doubt. We do not seek to alter at this moment—little though we like them—the vast powers which are enjoyed by the Government under the 1945 Act. But, it appears now that all this is wrong. There is no question of removing doubts. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has the effrontery to get up and say at that Box, "No, there is no doubt about all this." I have never heard such stuff.
I am very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for his courtesy in giving way. Obviously, when the right hon. Gentleman said that he never heard such stuff, he had not been listening to what I said. What I said was that this Bill has been introduced for the purpose of removing doubt—doubts which might arise in future as to whether the purposes for which it was desired to use existing regulations were covered by the four heads set out in the 1945 Act. This Amendment seeks to remove not this doubt, but doubts about quite different matters which have never arisen except in the mind of the right hon. Gentleman.
I have legal advisers and friends here in this House whose professional credentials are at least as high as those which the Labour Party are able to procure by the glittering prize of office. We are told now that there has never been any question of doubt in this matter. Certainly we were told that there was doubt, and I have certainly every reason to believe that the doubt operated in respect of the word "existing" regulations, and that no new regulations could be made under this Bill apart from those which have already been made under the 1945 Act. After all, there is the Lord President of the Council. I have a great deal of confidence in his sense of fair play. [Laughter.] I have when it comes to a dead-level talk across the Table of the House. He knows perfectly well that we were assured that existing regulations were all that were to be involved in this Bill, and that the Government were afraid the existing regulations would be hampered by arbitrary or far-fetched constructions being put upon them by the courts, and that consequently, at a moment when there is a grave emergency, the Government's powers may be hampered and restricted.
There was all this brought out by the Lord President on the Second Reading about the delicate feelings of Ministers who had to administer great and important Acts regulating the entire life and movement of labour and the conditions throughout the country. They were most anxious that they should not be forced even to appear to make a strange interpretation of the law. We were told all this; that this was the reason and the purpose for which this Bill was introduced. We were told that it was for the purpose of removing all doubt. The right hon. and learned Gentleman must have misled his superiors who engage him. He may have misled them at a time before this Measure, but we are well aware that there were doubts, and doubts of the kind I have described. A mere statement, which is the most perfect representation of the converse of the truth that it would be possible to refer to within the limits of Parliamentary language, in no way removes this impression.
This Amendment is intended to give the Government all that we understood they asked for. We thought they asked for very little, having regard to the immense powers they already possessed, that they wished to be sure that these powers are not diminished at this time of crisis. The Government could not have considered that it raised an important issue. They hoped to push it through at the tag end of the Debate on Thursday, and wind it up and get us all away by Friday. So trumpery and trifling did they consider it—just a matter of removing doubt. The right hon. and learned Gentleman says that it has nothing to do with removing doubt. If he considers that there is nothing more in it than that, it shows what a bad bargain the Government have made in hiring him to give legal advice.
We desired very much to approach the issues in this crisis, so far as possible, as a united Parliament. Instead of that, this challenge is flung in our faces. I shall elaborate that on the later stages of the Bill. I have just been informed that the Government of the Bahamas have deported their Attorney-General. If I wished this Government well, I might recommend the adoption of a similar course, but I cannot wish them well in view of the partisan manner in which they have treated us. We have endeavoured, with all the legal talent and authority we can command, to express exactly what we were led to believe—and I understand the meaning of words as well as anyone else—was what the Government wished. By no one was that impression conveyed more than by the Attorney-General. This Measure has grown to one of enormous importance. All that lies behind it is coming into view. The Government refuse to accept the Amendment, which gives them all that they asked for and demanded—the removal of doubt. One doubt, at any rate, which has been effectively removed is that of the competency of the Attorney-General.
The Leader of the Opposition has an advantage in this matter over me and most Members on this side of the Committee, in that before this Bill was presented to Parliament he had conversations which we do not know about, but to which he has referred. I and the members of my party were not consulted about this Bill, and have in no way given authority, in advance, to produce a Measure which has nothing whatever to do with our mandate. It seems to me, with great respect, that the Amendment is platitudinous. The right hon. Gentleman had his tongue in his cheek in the way he moved it. In effect, his purpose today has been to move an Amendment which means nothing whatever. I propose to vote with the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Liberal Party, because I wish the whole Bill to mean nothing at all. It is a totalitarian Measure and exactly the kind of thing which was introduced in Germany and other Fascist countries. In my submission, it is most important that the Attorney-General and the Lord President should make clear whether they stand by the original line which the Lord President put across in the conversations we have heard about. Is this a Bill for the removal of doubt? Is the Bill merely an attempt to say, "There may be some slight doubt"——
I am referring to Subsection (1) of the Amendment, and particularly to the words:
For the removal of doubt.
The advantage of those words, although the Subsection is platitudinous, is that
they declare that the intention of the Bill is merely to remove doubt as to the legal validity of the 1945 Act. If the Amendment is accepted, or if the Attorney-General or the Lord President—as I appeal to them to do—get up and say, "The purpose of this Bill is merely to remove doubt," then the great constitutional crisis which will arise on this point can be avoided. I appeal to them to make their position clear.
Following the dispute which has taken place between my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) and the Attorney-General, I want to turn to the words of the Preamble. After citing the 1945 Act, it states":
Whereas under the Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers) Act, 1945,"—
and these words will show what, in the view of the Government, was the interpretation they put on their Act—
…(being purposes connected mainly with the orderly transition from war to peace and the allocation of available supplies and services during the transition)".
I understand that that is what the Government have suggested is the reason why they want this hew Bill.
I do not know whether the right hon and learned Gentleman heard the Ruling I gave a few moments ago, but we are dealing with a specific Amendment, and not with the Bill as a whole, or with the Preamble. If the Preamble has any relation to the Amendment, then the right hon. and learned Gentleman is in Order, but not otherwise.
Those words are an explanation of the doubt which apparently was in the mind of the Government. They say, and the Attorney-General agrees, that because they had doubt as to the force of the 1945 Act, and the purposes for which it could be used, they are now saying, "We require a new Act, and hence this Bill." Is that, or is it not, true? The powers of the 1945 Act are very extensive. What happened? The war was coming to an end. During the war the Government, under the Defence of the Realm Act, had power to issue regulations which are still in existence. They were to come to an end within six months of the end of the war. Everybody agreed that it would be wrong that that Act should be terminated and that from that moment the right to make Orders in Council should come to an end so that we could begin to legislate for matters arising as a result of the war. In the circumstances, the 1945 Act was passed. That will remain in force until 1950. There is nothing in that Act which says that it is mainly for purposes connected with the orderly transition from war to peace. Why there has been any doubt in the minds of the Government, I cannot make out; why this Bill should ever have been necessary I cannot make out. That being so, if there is a doubt, the right way to remove the doubt is to accept this Amendment.
I was coming to that. If it is to remove a doubt, the right thing to do is to accept this Amendment, and to say that in order to remove doubts, the Act of 1945 must not be limited to anything occurring in the transitional period, but it is to be in existence for five years; but if it is intended to do more, as we suspect that it is from the words that are used in subsequent provisions, then we oppose it. If there is merely a doubt as to the purpose of the 1945 Act, then accept the Amendment which seeks to remove those doubts and no more. There is our declaration. It is obvious from the refusal of the Government to accept this Amendment, that they intend to do what we suspect.
I support the Amendment moved by my right hon. and learned Friend, and I think that the answer of the Attorney-General is, in part, disingenuous and, in part, inaccurate. Let me deal with the first point first. He says that Subsection (1) of the Amendment taken alone—and I think the hon. Member for King's Norton (Mr. Blackburn) made a similar point—is platitudinous and, probably, improper. With respect, I agree, if it were taken alone, but I say that no lawyer looking at this Amendment would dream of taking it alone. It is quite obviously intimately connected with Subsection (2), and without Subsection (2) it is impossible to give it any meaning. If we look at it with Subsection (2), then it is neither platitudinous nor improper. In the attempted demolition of Subsection (1), the Attorney-General is really not being fair to the Amendment or to those who drafted it.
I think that the convenient rule of draftsmanship, as the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) has pointed out, when the whole purpose of the Bill is the removal of doubt, is to set out the words "for the removal of doubt" clearly in the opening Subsection, and that is the reason. I am not differing from the Attorney-General or the hon. Member for King's Norton in saying that if Subsection (1) stood alone it would be platitudinous and improper, but I say that no lawyer looking at this Amendment as a whole would dream of saying that Subsection (1) should or could be construed in isolation.
When we come to the consideration of Subsection (2), then the Attorney-General's argument becomes definitely wrong, in my respectful submission. He said that, taken in conjunction with Subsection (1), Subsection (2) merely carried out the intention of the Government's own Bill, but did it in a more long-winded manner. I think that he is wrong in that. The words in the Government Bill state:
The Regulations … shall … be extended so as to be applicable for the following additional purposes.
That would, in my submission, read as from the passing of the Measure.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman nods to signify his assent, and if' he will turn to the language of the Amendment in Subsection (2) he will find that it states:
The purposes set out in Subsection (1) of Section 1 of the Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers) Act, 1945, shall include——
I ask him to note the next words:
and shall be deemed always to have included the following purposes.
These words definitely make the Amendment which we are proposing different from what the Government have said, and also, in my submission, make it more favourable to the Government, because it means they will not only be secured after the passing of the Act with regard to the use made of the regulations and orders thereafter, but as to their use at the present moment.
For those reasons, I hope that I have shown the Committee that there really is no substance whatsoever in the suggestion that there is anything wrong technically or in substance with the Amendment which has been moved. It has all the advantages claimed by the right hon. and learned Member for Hillhead (Mr. J. S. C. Reid) and accentuated by the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery. I have endeavoured to meet the point of criticism which came from the hon. Member for King's Norton. I have confined myself to the legal considerations There is no ground whatsoever for considering that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has produced any answer to the case put forward.
The legal argument which has been advanced by the hon. and learned Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. H. Strauss) seems to me to be quite inconsequential. How can he say that any court could conceivably construe the words in Subsection (2) of the Amendment:
Shall include and shall be deemed always to have included the following purposes
as being in any way different in effect from the words
shall be construed as including
which are contained in the Bill? When a court has to construe a Section and there is an Act telling them how to construe it, as this Bill will do, it says "the Act shall be construed." That means that there is a statutory construction put upon the Section as from the beginning. That comes to exactly the same thing as:
shall be deemed always to have included.
There is no difference whatever. It strikes me that the whole argument upon this Amendment is really the greatest waste of time, because the two things mean just the same thing. This is an enabling Bill. It is a Bill that empowers—[Interruption.] This is an Amendment to a Bill. One cannot discuss an Amendment without mentioning the Bill. The Bill is an
enabling Bill. What matters is, what are the powers given by the Bill? The greatest use of these powers will be made in order to mobilise the resources and the labour to meet this crisis. It would not be in Order to go into that on this Amendment. I will have an opportunity to do so later.
The other question that arises is this. Powers are granted by the 1945 Act for certain purposes; do those purposes include the economic mobilisation necessary to deal with this present crisis or do they not? That is the doubt. Whether it is said that the Amendment is to remove a doubt or whether it is put in the simpler and more economical version in the Bill seems to me to make no difference whatever. The doubt which we are removing is whether the powers can be used for dealing with this economic crisis. If the powers can be used, then they can be used for any purpose necessary to deal with the crisis. If that is so, the form of words makes no difference at all, and I respectfully submit that the Attorney-General's version on this is completely right.
I cannot agree with my political neighbour the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) that there is really no difference between the words of the Amendment and the wording of the Bill. But if, in fact, there is no difference the wording of the Amendment is much clearer. There can, I think, be no doubt between the lawyers on either side of the Committee that the regulations made under the 1945 Act will remain in force whether or not this Bill is passed into law in its present form, and the question, if I understood the Attorney-General correctly, is really whether orders under these regulations can now be made for the purposes mentioned in Clause 1 of the Bill or whether those orders under the existing regulations might be declared ultra vires. I think that was what the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney-General said, because otherwise I am in complete doubt as to whether there was a doubt arising, bearing in mind that the regulations already made are in force and will continue in force, and this Bill creates no power of making new regulations.
I want to make this point perfectly clear. I see no reason why there should be the slightest difference or doubt between the lawyers on both sides in regard to this simple and elementary point. There is no doubt and I think no difference between us on the point that the existing regulations and orders made thereunder remain operative and effective for one or other or all of the four purposes specified in the 1945 Act. Those purposes continue. The doubt, which is in no way removed by Subsection (1) of this Amendment, is whether those four purposes are sufficiently wide to cover the kind of matter which can be covered under the three additional purposes which we propose to add by this Bill.
I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for so clearly stating what the doubt is, but I should have thought he would have resolved that doubt if he had read the Lord Chancellor's speech in introducing the Supplies arid Services Bill in another place in 1945. After all, the purposes of this Bill, as expressed in Clause 1, are for the purposes of:
promoting the productivity of industry, commerce and agriculture; 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,
or, as the hon. and learned Member for Northampton said, to deal with the economic crisis. May I remind the right hon. and learned Gentleman of the arguments used by the Lord Chancellor in favour of the 1945 Bill that it was really to deal with those very same problems? He said this—and I am quoting from the Second Reading Debate made in another place—when introducing the Bill:
… so long as those shortages continue the principle of 'fair shares' must go on. It is not only a question of foodstuffs."—
so that foodstuffs were considered then—
and clothing; there is a very great shortage of raw materials of all kinds, and the difficulty of getting the necessary raw materials is very closely bound up with the manifold difficulties relating to the dollar exchange. It is obvious that we must continue to produce at home everything that we can, both in our fields and in our factories.
He then goes on to talk about the inflationary difficulties and the necessity of controlling other costs. I suggest to the right hon. and learned Gentleman that
if he examines that speech—and I do not want to weary the Committee by reading it at any length—he will see that the argument used then was for powers to enable regulations to be made for the very same purposes as are covered by Clause 1 (a and b) of this Bill. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman agrees with that, then, so far as Clause 1 (a and b) are concerned this Bill is unnecessary, because the right hon. and learned Gentleman has now agreed that any orders made under the existing regulations for the purposes set out in Clause 1 (a and b) can be made under the existing Act.
I did not say that. What I do say is that I am in substantial agreement with the view of the hon. and learned Gentleman as to the intention of the original Act, but doubts have been expressed whether the Act as actually framed is sufficiently wide to cover the three additional purposes expressed in the present Bill.
I was dealing only with the first two purposes, because the third will be the subject of a separate Debate. We hear that doubts have been expressed without any clear exposition of those doubts. Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman seriously contend, contrary to the view expressed by the Lord Chancellor, that the purposes set out in paragraphs (a) and (b) of this Clause are not covered by the 1945 Act? I suggest that the real doubt is the doubt as to the purposes for which the Government want this Measure, and if the Government cannot come down on one side of the fence or the other—and I should have imagined that between last Friday and today they would have been able to make up their minds as to whether this Bill confers powers such as the hon. Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman) suggested or whether it is for the resolving of a doubt—then they will soon earn for themselves the epitaph "They toil not, neither do they spin."
—and I should have thought the Committee could come to a conclusion now. [HON. MEMBERS:"NO".] As hon. Members opposite like; we shall be here all right, but the Debate started with the intention that we should discuss this Amendment and the one at the bottom of the page together. The hon. and learned Member who suggested that, was subsequently thrown over by the Leader of the Opposition, and we are now debating a more limited matter, namely, the first Amendment on the Order Paper. We still have to come to the Amendment on the famous paragraph (c) of Subsection (1) which I imagine will excite a little more eloquence than this rather more reasoned one.
I am bound to say that the more I listen to this Debate, the more I am mystified as to what the Opposition is getting at, and, indeed, the Leader of the Liberal Party as well. I do not know what all the bother is about. Clause 1 (1), as drafted in the Bill, is perfectly straightforward, honest and upright, and all it says is that for the future, in the interpretation of the Defence Regulations, the making of orders and statutory instruments thereunder, the purposes can be wider and also more numerous than they have been. That is put in the most honest and straightforward language, and it adds those three purposes, which are to be found at the bottom of page 2 of the Bill, to the four purposes that are to be found in the Act of 1945-That is all there is to it. Why there has been all this bother and suspicion of hidden, dark and insurrectionary purposes I do not know. The hon. and learned Gentleman and others keep on insisting that I should say who is right about the interpretation of the Bill, myself or my hon. Friend the Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman). The answer is perfectly simple—I am right. I represent the Government. With great respect, my hon. Friend the Member for East Coventry does not represent the Government. Of course, he has a perfect right to be heard, and to say what he likes, but he speaks only for himself, and not for His Majesty's Government.
Why all these questions, except in the hope of making a spot of bother? It is clear that the only people who speak for the Government are those who sit on the Treasury Bench. Therefore, it is ridiculous. As I have said. Subsection (1) is perfectly straightforward. I would not dissent from the description that was given of it by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton, (Mr. Paget); I think he is right. Nor would I dissent from what was said by my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General. Indeed, I say myself that it is also for the removal of doubts as to the future administration of Defence Regulations. It is for both these things. In the words of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton, it is to enable the Defence Regulations and orders thereunder to be used for the three purposes set out in Clause 1 (1) of the Bill, as well as for the four purposes set out in Section 1 (1) of the 1945 Act.
Secondly, or firstly—I do not mind which; it does not matter twopence—it is to remove any possible doubts as to whether, if the regulations or orders were used for those things, they might not be ultra vires. That is the purpose of Clause 1 (1), and it does it in perfectly honest and straightforward language. I am bound to say that on grounds of constitutional doctrine and respectability—if Socialists dare to plead respectability, and I do not see why we should not, because, in these constitutional matters, we are just as respectable as hon. Members opposite—[An HON. MEMBER: "Oh."] I do not suppose the hon. Gentleman knows more than the dead what it is all about. We should not expect him to know; let him get on with his motorcar and the carburetter—this Amendment is a very doubtful document. The first paragraph of it seems to me, in the language of Karl Marx, to be tautological. It says, in fact, that:
it is hereby declared that all Defence Regulations directed by Order in Council …
remain valid and effective for all or any of the purposes set out in Subsection (1) of Section 1 of that Act.
Of all the redundant, tautological nonsense I have ever read, this is the last word, and how the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition should be in a position to pass the slightest reflection on the skill, uprightness and ability of my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General, when some pantomime lawyers have advised him to put down this Amendment, I do not know. It is litter verbiage; it is unnecessary; it is redundant; it is ridiculous; it is tautological,
and it ought to be scrapped and put into the wastepaper basket.
In any case, who are the Opposition, even though the Government may have slipped up or acted ultra vires, to come rushing along to the Despatch Box opposite and to say, "We will get you out of your troubles. Here is an Amendment to say that anything you do is upright and honourable and within the law"? What an Opposition! Is it their business to get us out of trouble? If we are in trouble, it is our business to take the initiative in getting ourselves out of it. I should have thought it was a most curious thing for the Opposition to start rushing round in order to get the Government out of doubts as to whether they have been breaking the law for the last two years. It is altogether an "Alice in Wonderland" business.
The second paragraph of the Amendment is a most amazing thing for any Parliamentary party to put forward. It is worthy of the Fascists or of the Communists. It says:
The purposes set out in Subsection (1) of Section 1 of the Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers) Act, 1945, shall include and shall be deemed always to have included the following purposes.
They are the purposes set out in this Bill. So what are the Opposition saying there? They are saying that, even if the Government have been breaking the law in respect of purposes (a) (b) and (c) as set out in this Bill, the Conservative Party want to say that not only is it all right for the future, but also for the past. That is worthy of Hitler or Mussolini, and I would be ashamed to put such a thing forward. In these circumstances, and having shown that this Amendment is not only nonsense, but pernicious nonsense, I hope that the Committee will not waste any further time upon it, but will reject it.
I was rather astonished to hear the Lord President of the Council supporting his right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General in his remarks about the question of doubt. The words:
For the removal of doubt. …
are set out at the very beginning of the Amendment. I remember that last Thursday, when the Lord President spoke
about this Bill, he mentioned the doubt which he possessed on behalf of the Government as regards the interpretation of orders or regulations which had already been made under the 1945 Act. He expressly referred to some arbitrary decisions by the courts, and said that he wanted nothing like that to occur again. Therefore, it was obvious that there was some doubt in his mind, and it was on account of that doubt that I was very pleased to see that my right hon. and hon. Friends had put down this Amendment in order to help the Lord President to get rid of his doubt, not because he happens to be a Member of the Government, but because—which to me, as an old Member of the House, is more important still—he happens to be a Member of the House, as we all are, no matter on what side we sit. It is our duty in a time of crisis to help each other to get out of the difficulty, no matter who has got us into it.
Furthermore, this Amendment refers specifically to the "valid and effective" instruments which are now in force, and it was on those instruments that the Lord President last Thursday, expressed some doubt as to whether they would be effective in the future, because they were originally passed for the transitional period from war to peace. That being so, I congratulate my right hon. and hon. Friends on putting down this Amendment, and, if it goes to a Division, I shall have great pleasure in supporting it.
Whatever else this Debate has done, I feel quite sure that it has caused a good many of us to rejoice in seeing the Lord President of the Council back in his old form again. I have not heard him make a debating speech of that description and eloquence for a very long time. I think we all enjoy the right hon. Gentleman when he really gets going. Of course, we know there is nothing in it, but the way in which he is able to ignore argument, to leap over the facts, and to arrive at a contrary conclusion, almost literally in the same breath, is very refreshing and entertaining, and we really appreciate it very much indeed.
I wish to refer to one particular point in which he sought to rip the Amendment into oratorical shreds. The Committee will recollect how he pointed out the iniquities of the various Subsections of the Amendment, and yet, when his right hon. and learned friend the Attorney-General was speaking, he advised us that the Amendment added nothing to and detracted nothing from the original Clause. Similarly, the Attorney-General's honorary assistant behind him, when advising the Committee, specifically stated, I think, that the Amendment meant exactly the same as did the original Clause. Yet, when we have the guidance of the Lord President of the Council, he seeks to make great play with the differences that exist between the two. Which are we to believe? I find it a matter of very great difficulty.
When we started this Debate, we were all satisfied that the Lord President of the Council had certain doubts in his mind that he was anxious to remove. That went along all right until the Attorney-General came upon the scene and made it clear that the doubts which we understood the Lord President of the Council had in his mind were entirely different from the doubts which the Attorney-General advised the Committee existed. That speech rather confused the general trend of the Debate. Exactly where we are at present, after the speech of the Lord President of the Council, nobody quite knows. Doubts indubitably exist, or we should not be debating the Question at all, but to what extent they exist, and even what they are, it seems impossible to say.
I would like to bring the Committee back to the speech of the Prime Minister on Friday last, when he made it clear that the Bill was purely an enabling Bill and a Bill for the removal of doubts. We all understood what he meant. What he meant were the doubts referred to by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hillhead (Mr. J. S. C. Reid) when he moved the Amendment, as to whether this is an enabling Bill or a Bill to achieve the purposes referred to by the hon. Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman) and others the other day. It is for the purpose of removing those doubts that the Amendment has been moved. If, as is admitted by the Attorney-General, the Amendment adds nothing to and detracts nothing from the Bill, and if, as the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) says, it is in substance the same as the Government's Bill, and if it is not accepted by the Government, I suggest that it is abundantly clear that the intention of the Bill is not to remove doubts but is for a far wider purpose, and that it has been introduced at present, heralded as a crisis Bill, in a spirit of mala fides which is not worthy of the Government and which deceives the people of the country.
The Opposition have done their best to introduce the greatest possible confusion as to the intentions of this Bill and the object of their Amendment. It is important to get the matter clear. What the doubts are has been stated over and over again. May I try to repeat them in language which I hope will be intelligible? The 1945 Act gave the Government power to make Defence Regulations for certain purposes set out in Section 1 of that Act. Those purposes were four, and they were defined in the Act, in relation to the position which then existed. They were:
To secure a sufficiency"—
of supplies and services—
essential to the well being of the community;
To facilitate demobilisation;
To facilitate the readjustment of industry and commerce; and
To assist the relief of suffering.
As the Lord President of the Council rightly said, in moving the Second Reading of the Bill, doubts have arisen whether regulations made under the 1945 Act are applicable to the purposes of the present crisis. Perhaps I might quote the Lord President of the Council, who said:
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."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th August, 1947; Vol. 441, c. 1803.]
I am not referring to paragraph (c), because to do so would be out of Order, but in regard to paragraphs (a) and (b) the doubt which has arisen is in regard—if I may quote from the Bill—to "fostering and directing exports," etc. It seems to me that the doubt which His Majesty's Government had in mind was whether or not those words fostering and directing exports were covered by the purposes mentioned in the 1945 Act. It is abundantly clear that no question arises, or should arise, about the validity of all
the regulations that have been made under the 1945 Act. Incidentally, let me say, in regard to the way in which the powers have been exercised, that no question has ever been raised in the House suggesting that those powers have been abused by His Majesty's Government. I suggest that there is no reason to suppose, from the Government's record of the past two years, that the powers which the House has given will be abused in the future.
The Government, by reason of those doubts, have come to ask for a further Bill to clarify the matter. That means that the Government, so far from defying, as the leader of the Liberal Party said last Friday, the principles of Parliamentary democracy, have taken a courageous course by asking for a clarifying Measure when they could easily have assumed that their existing powers were adequate. By so doing they have vindicated their respect for Parliamentary democracy and in the supremacy of the House. Those are the essential points which arise under the Bill. The Amendment, as the Lord President of the Council has said, is not only mischievous but pernicious and unnecessary, and I hope that it will be rejected.
As one of those whose names are appended to the Amendment, perhaps I may be allowed two or three minutes in which to intervene, particularly as L like the majority of hon. Members in all parts of the Committee, am not a lawyer. The discussion in the last hour has, with one exception, been carried on by members of the legal profession. I can only assume that as I do not possess the trade union ticket I have been ignored. I am, I am sure like most of my non-legal friends, in a state of complete confusion, because legal luminaries on opposite sides of the Committee have said things which are mutually contrariwise. Who are we non-legal Members to decide among them?
I listened to every word spoken by the Lord President of the Council last Friday and I listened to every word he said today. Two more contrariwise speeches I have never heard. I understood from the Lord President on Friday that he was in considerable doubt, and that for the purpose of removing doubt the Bill had been brought forward. I also listened to the Home Secretary, who wound up the Debate on Friday, and he left precisely the
same impression upon my mind. Were we in good company or were we not? I would like to conclude what I have to say by reading what "The Times" said in its first leading article on Wednesday morning. It said:
The Bill presented by the Prime Minister yesterday reflects the gravity with which the Government now regard the position. Its immediate intention is simply to extend the scope of the Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers) Act of two years ago, so that the powers over the national economy already possessed by the Government will be applicable without doubt to the present emergency.
I assume that "The Times" has competent legal advisers to advise those who write the articles, if they are not sometimes written by the legal people themselves. In the present state of confusion it is right that the Amendment should be pressed to a Division, and I, for one, will certainly go into the Lobby in favour of the Amendment with a complete consciousness that I am doing the right thing.
I intervene only for a short time because I do not think that the Committee would expect the criticisms which have been made on this Amendment, which stands in my name and the names of my right hon. and hon. Friends, to go unanswered. I should like very shortly to deal with the three aspects of the matter which in my view require attention. The first point on which every one, be he lawyer or layman, wants reassurance is whether this Bill is only a piece of clarification removing doubts, or whether it is really intended to go further. It is a very easy and clear way of dealing with that difficulty to begin the legislative and enacting part of the Bill by stating that it is for the removal of doubts. If that be the purpose, as it appears from the various quotations from speeches made by the Prime Minister, the Lord President of the Council, the Home Secretary and other authorities, let us state it and let us all know where we are. If there is any objection to putting it in that way which clarifies the matter——
Surely, the right hon. and learned Gentleman is begging the question? The question is not whether there is any doubt about the effect of the existing legislation; the doubt is whether the existing legislation needs to be amplified to meet the new situation.
I really do not see the misty non sequitur obfuscating the hon. Gentleman's mind. One point which has worried people is whether this Bill is merely for the removal of doubts or whether there is something behind it, something more sinister. The Lord President of the Council has said again and again, "There is nothing sinister. What are you worrying about?" The way to show that there is nothing sinister is to state, as our Amendment states, that this Bill is for clarification and removal of doubts only. That is the first point, and it seems a perfectly reasonable method of approach.
I now come to the second point, which is the number of the regulations that are affected. If I remind the Committee of the difficulty which I confess quite frankly was caused to me in this matter, and if I explain it as shortly as I possibly can, the Committee may sympathise with me in the matter. The original regulations were made under the 1939 Act. They came out in the Defence Regulations, which are now in the comparatively slim volume I hold in my hand because they have been pruned. The Attorney-General will correct me if I am wrong, but I think I have the matter right. Parts III and IV of these Regulations were the subject matter of the 1945 Act, and, in addition, the other Regulations mentioned in the First Schedule to that Act were included. That was the body of regulations which could be dealt with by Order in Council under the 1945 Act. I think that is the effect of Section 1 (4) of the 1945 Act.
We are trying to get this quite clear. As I understand it, and as we have heard from the Lord President of the Council and the Home Secretary, there is no intention and no desire that there should be any more regulations than are in existence at the moment. What do we say? We say, take the regulations, not as they stood at the time of the introduction of the 1945 Act, but as they stand today, leaving those which have been revoked, and let us confine it to stating and making quite clear that these are the regulations that we declare are in operation. That is the object of Subsection (1) of our Amendment. It is a very reasonable suggestion to make quite clear, so that he who runs may read, what regulations are affected.
The third point is that we want again to make it clear that the purposes shall be treated as extended, but whatever purposes we decide upon when we come to discuss them in a short time, we suggest that (a) and (b) should be included. The Lord President takes us to task because we have said that the purposes of Section 1 (1) of the 1945 Act shall be deemed always to have included these purposes. He says he does not like our kindness or our constitutional doctrine. The answer to our criticisms and attacks has been that the Opposition are again refusing to assist the Government in the task in front of them. We have two answers on that point. First, I cannot see how the period of transition is coming to an end and how the Government would have any difficulty in acting under Section 1 (1, c) of the 1945 Act; but let us assume that during the past week or two, when this crisis broke into even their astonished minds, they had gone an inch further. Then the Opposition come along and say, "Take not only an inch but an ell if you want to; so long as you use it bona fide for the crisis, we are prepared, to the extent to which we legislate today, to absolve you and prevent you from being enmeshed in your own difficulties." That is the attitude for which the Lord President, in his revivified speech, takes us to task. For neither the words nor the attitude have we the slightest regret or compunction, and for these words and for that attitude we shall be fully prepared to go into the Division Lobby.
The Debate has shown that it is agreed on both sides that doubts exist. The Government have argued that the doubts which we are seeking to allay either are not real doubts or that we have not done this as efficiently as they have done it. The Attorney-General did not appreciate that doubts can also be created by the Bill itself and that the doubts which we seek to allay include, besides those we have mentioned, doubts created by the present wording of the Bill, which we are seeking to alter by this Amendment. If the Attorney-General looks at the wording which we are seeking to remove, he will see that the regulations which this Bill is seeking to validate shall in operation be limited expressly or by implication to the purposes of Section 1 (1) of the 1945 Act. It seems very difficult indeed to see how purposes which are laid down by an Act of Parliament in 1945 can imply a date limiting these regulations. The Government have passed a lot of regulations and obviously they must be limited to the 1945 Act.
I think great concern will be caused in the country if people understand from the Lord President of the Council that the Opposition should not help the Government in Committee. Surely, he has been in Committee when an Amendment has been put forward by the Opposition and the Minister has said, "This improves the Bill"? It has been done again and again in the great nationalisation schemes of the Government, in regard to transport, electricity and the coal industry when the Opposition, although putting forward their unalterable opposition to a nationalisation scheme, have put forward Amendments which helped the Government, and which the Government said helped them. The Lord President of the Council, in making this kind of easy debating speech, is on record as saying that in no circumstances must the Opposition help the Government, and that if the Government are in a mess they must stay in it, and do not want to profit by our advice. I think that is very ungenerous, and also very unconstitutional, because one of the great lessons of English democracy is that the Opposition acts as a kind of partner to the Government. [Interruption.] That is quite true. Often in Committee the Opposition put forward an Amendment, putting in a word or phrase which improves a Bill. That is common knowledge. Why does the Lord President of the Council, in order to catch the headlines, say that the Opposition are not trying to help the Government, and that it is no part of constitutional practice that they should do so? I think it is very wrong of him, and very misleading. I am sorry he is not here, but I ask him on a future occasion to correct that impression. It is arguable whether this Amendment is better or worse, but the Lord President ought not to have made the point that its purpose was to help the Government.
The Attorney-General said that it was tautological, platitudinous, and so on, but then the Lord President of the Council, making a completely inconsistent point of that, said that the words in Subsection (2) meant that it was like Fascism and Hitlerism, and used those words. How could that be so? If the Attorney-General was right in saying that it was a platitudinous and boring Amendment, and if the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) was right in saying that it was an entire waste of time of the Committee to discuss it, how could the Lord President of the Council be right in saying that it had those terrible dictatorial and totalitarian effects?
I do not think the hon. Member is being quite fair because what was said was that Subsection (1) was platitudinous. The argument the Lord President advanced about Subsection (2) was that the words:
shall be deemed always to have included the following purposes.
would make retrospectively varied, orders and regulations made during the last two years which otherwise would have been unvaried. I do not think the Opposition really intended that effect.
The short answer seems to be that as the Amendment seeks to remove doubts, that is the object of putting in the Subsection. That seems quite simple. I do not know quite where I am with the hon. Member for King's Norton (Mr. Blackburn) because he is against this Amendment, but is going to vote for it, I understand, because he does not like the Bill. He is not a sea lawyer, but I suppose he has to steer a difficult course, and he may have to work his passage.
One does not need to be in full agreement with an Amendment in order to support it. I agree with the position of the hon. Member for King's Norton (Mr. Blackburn). One may not go the whole way with an Amendment, but may be against a Clause. The explanation of the Attorney-General seems clear and fair enough. He said that the doubts are whether regulations and orders under the Act of 1945 can be applied to the three additional purposes of this Bill. If there is any doubt about that, it means that the additional purposes, particularly purpose (c), in the Bill, go far beyond the 1945 Act. It is not a legal issue, or a question of a legal problem at all. It is a political issue, whether the Government are taking into their hands powers which the Lord President said on Friday the Government were not going to be cross-examined about in advance. That is the issue, and upon that issue I think we should vote against the Clause, and vote for the Amendment, as there is no better Amendment on the Paper.
I have a certain amount of sympathy with the Lord President of the Council, and I think my hon. Friend the Member for Northwich (Mr. J. Foster) was a little hard on him today. I do not think he realises the disadvantages under which the Lord President suffers. First, the Lord President said he was not going to be cross-questioned, and then he found he was being cross-questioned and immersed in a Debate in which almost no one but lawyers took part. He had the supreme misfortune of having to listen to a speech by the Attorney-General, which obviously confused him, and which he said confused him. Then he had the further difficulty of a speech by the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), and the unhappy Lord President was completely and entirely without the help and support of the one good lawyer on the other side of the Committee, the hon. and learned Member for Gloucester (Mr. Turner-Samuels). How in the world could we expect him to be in anything but a state of confusion? He dealt with the first part of the Amendment in slight confusion, and then something seemed to upset the Lord President. I do not know what it was, but it gave me great pleasure, because he seemed his own lively vocal self again, and went up in the air at nothing in particular.
I really think it is carrying mutiny a little too far if hon. Members are not allowed by back benchers to support Government policy. I was very interested to hear what the Lord President said about Subsection (2) of the Amendment. I do not for a minute say that it is a good Subsection. I think it goes a little too far. Standing by itself, it is not the best part of the Amendment. I see that the Lord President has returned, I suppose from consulting his hon. and learned Friend by telephone. I am glad to see the wisdom that has come to him through my help on this occasion. What really happened to the Lord President when he went all excited about Subsection (2) of the Amendment? Obviously he had become aware that he had been making a very bad case. I do not know whether there crossed his mind one of the naughty newspaper headings which he saw this morning, or whether something was muttered from behind by his able supporter, the Minister of Health, but he suddenly went for the poor wretched Opposition
Apparently we are all agreed that the first part of this Amendment is pretty good, and that the second part is not so good. Could we not take the first part and vote on that, and put it into the Bill? That would seem to be a commonsense solution. It would define the position. I believe that I have support from several hon. Members on the other side of the Committee for that. We could then drop the second part of the Amendment. We might be able to put it into the Bill at another stage of the Measure, or get the Bill so amended that even the best lawyers on the other side would agree that, as amended, it had nothing whatever to do with the interpretation which the Lord President of the Council has put on this part of our Amendment.
|Division No. 373]||AYES.||[5.21 p.m.|
|Adams, Richard (Balham)||Champion, A J||Forman, J. C.|
|Adams, W. T. (Hammersmith, South)||Chater, D.||Fraser, T. (Hamilton)|
|Allen, A C (Bosworth)||Chetwynd, G. R||Gallacher, W.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Cluse, W S||Ganley, Mrs. C. S.|
|Alpass, J. H.||Cocks, F. S||Gibson, C. W.|
|Anderson, A. (Motherwell)||Collins, V. J.||Gilzean, A.|
|Anderson, F (Whitehaven)||Colman, Miss G. M||Glanville, J. E. (Consett)|
|Attewell, H. C.||Cook, T. F||Gordon -Walker, P. C.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R||Cooper, Wing-Comdr G||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Wakefield)|
|Ayles, W. H.||Corlett, Dr. J||Greenwood, A. W. J. (Heywood)|
|Ayrton Gould, Mrs B||Cove, W. G.||Grenfell, D. R.|
|Bacon, Miss A.||Crawley, A.||Grierson, E.|
|Baird, J.||Crossman, R. H. S||Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)|
|Barnes, Rt Hon A. J||Daines, P.||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelly)|
|Barstow, P. G||Dalton, Rt. Hon. H||Griffiths, W. D. (Moss Side)|
|Barton, C.||Davies, Edward (Burslem)||Guest, Dr. L. Haden|
|Battley, J. R.||Davies, Ernest (Enfield)||Gunter, R. J|
|Bechervaise, A E||Davies, Harold (Leek)||Guy, W. H.|
|Benson, G||Davies, Haydn (St. Pancras S. W.)||Haire, John E (Wycombe)|
|Berry, H||Deer, G||Hale, Leslie|
|Beswick, F||de Freitas, Geoffrey||Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon A (Ebbw Vale)||Diamond, J.||Hamilton, Lt.-Col. R.|
|Bing, G. H C||Dobbie, W.||Hannan, W. (Maryhill)|
|Binns, J.||Dodds, N. N.||Hard man, D. R.|
|Blenkinsop, A||Driberg, T. E. N.||Hardy, E. A.|
|Boardman, H||Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwich)||Harrison, J|
|Bewden, Flg.-Offr. H W||Dumpleton, C. W.||Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick)|
|Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton)||Durbin, E. F. M||Herbison, Miss M.|
|Braddock, Mrs E. M (L'pl, Exch'ge)||Dye, S.||Hicks, G.|
|Braddock, T. (Mitcham)||Edwards, John (Blackburn)||Hobson, C. R.|
|Brook, D. (Halifax)||Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel)||Holman, P.|
|Brooks, T J. (Rothwell)||Evans, E. (Lowestoft)||House, G.|
|Bruce, Major D. W. T||Evans, John (Ogmore)||Hoy, J.|
|Buchanan, G.||Fairhurst, F.||Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.)|
|Burden, T W||Farthing, W. J.||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayr)|
|Burke, W A||Fernyhough, E.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)|
|Callaghan, James||Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.)||Hutchinson, H. L. (Rusholme)|
|Carmichael, James||Follick, M.||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)|
|Chamberlain, R. A.||Foot, M. M||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A|
|Jay D. P. T.||Neal, H (Claycross)||Stross, Dr. B|
|Jeger, G. (Winchester)||Nichol, Mrs. M E. (Bradford, N.)||Stubbs, A. E|
|Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S. E.||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J. (Derby)||Swingler, S.|
|Jones, D. T. (Hartlepools)||Noel-Buxton, Lady||Symonds, A. L.|
|Jones, P. Asterley (Hitchin)||Oldfield, W. H.||Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)|
|Keenan, W.||Orbach, M.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Kendall, W. D.||Paget, R. T.||Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet)|
|Kenyon, C.||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)||Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)|
|King, E. M.||Pargiter, G. A.||Thomas, Ivor (Keighley)|
|Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. E.||Parkin, B. T.||Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)|
|Lee, Miss J. (Cannock)||Paton, J. (Norwich)||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|Leslie, J. R.||Peart, Thomas F.||Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)|
|Levy, B. W.||Poole, Cecil (Lichfield)||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Lewis, J. (Bolton)||Popplewell, E.||Tiffany, S|
|Lewis, T (Southampton)||Price, M. Philips||Titterington, M. F.|
|Upton, Lt.-Col. M.||Proctor, W. T.||Tolley, L.|
|Logan, D. G.||Pryde, D. J.||Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G|
|Longden, F.||Pursey, Cmdr. H.||Vernon, Maj. W. F.|
|Lyne, A. W.||Randall, H. E.||Viant, S. P.|
|McAllister, G.||Ranger, J.||Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)|
|McEntee, V. La T||Rees-Williams, D. R.||Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.)|
|McGhee, H. G.||Reeves, J.||Webb, M. (Bradford, C.)|
|McKay, J. (Wallsend)||Reid, T. (Swindon)||West, D. G.|
|Mackay, R. W. G. (Hull, N. W.)||Richards, R.||White, C. F. (Derbyshire, W.)|
|McLeavy, F.||Ridealgh, Mrs. M.||White, H. (Derbyshire, N. E.)|
|MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)||Robens, A.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Mainwaring, W. H.||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)||Wigg, Col. G. E.|
|Mann, Mrs. J.||Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)||Wilkes, L.|
|Manning, C. (Camberwell, N.)||Rogers, G. H. R.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping)||Scollan, T.||Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)|
|Marshall, F. (Brightside)||Shackleton, E. A. A.||Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)|
|Martin, J. H.||Sharp, Granville||Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)|
|Mathers, G.||Shawcross, C. N. (Widnes)||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|Medland, H. M.||Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (St. Helens)||Williams, W. R. (Heston)|
|Mellish, R. J.||Silverman, J. (Erdington)||Willis, E.|
|Messer, F.||Silverman, S. S. (Nelson)||Wills, Mrs. E. A.|
|Middleton, Mrs. L||Skeffington, A. M.||Wise, Major F. J|
|Mikardo, Ian||Skeffington-Lodge, T. C||Woodburn, A.|
|Mitchison, G. R||Skinnard, F. W.||Wyatt, W.|
|Monslow, W.||Smith, C. (Colchester)||Yates, V. F.|
|Moody, A. S.||Smith, H. N. (Nottingham, S.)||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Morley, R.||Smith, S. H. (Hull, S. W.)||Younger, Hon. Kenneth|
|Morris, P. (Swansea, W.)||Snow, Capt. J. W.||Zilliacus, K.|
|Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, E.)||Solley, L. J.|
|Moyle, A.||Soskice, Maj. Sir F||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Murray, J. D.||Sparks, J. A.||Mr. Pearson and|
|Nally, W.||Steele, T.||Mr. Simmons.|
|Naylor, T. E.||Stephen, C.|
|Agnew, Cmdr. P. G.||Erroll, F. J.||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon O|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir W. (Armagh)||Fleming, Sqn.-Ldr. E. L.||Mackeson, Brig. H. R.|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R.||Foster, J. G. (Northwich)||Maclay, Hon. J. S.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir D. P. M||Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley)|
|Barlow, Sir J.||Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D||Macpherson, N. (Dumfries)|
|Beamish, Maj. T. V. H.||Gammans, L. D.||Maitland, Comdr. J. W.|
|Beechman, N. A.||Gates, Maj. E. E.||Manningham-Buller, R E|
|Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C. (Wells)||Glyn, Sir R.||Marlowe, A. A. H|
|Boothby, R.||Gomme-Duncan, Col. A||Marples, A. E.|
|Bossom, A C||Gridley, Sir A||Marsden, Capt. A.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.||Hannon, Sir P. (Moseley)||Marshall, D. (Bodmin)|
|Bracken, Rt. Hon Brendan||Harris, H. Wilson||Marshall, S. H. (Sutton)|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Harvey, Air-Cndre. A. V||Maude, J. C.|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Haughton, S. G||Moore, Lt.-Col. Sir T|
|Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A. (S'ffr'n W'l, d'n)||Head, Brig. A. H.||Morris, Hopkin (Carmarthen)|
|Byers, Frank||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir C||Morrison, Maj J. G. (Salisbury)|
|Carson, E||Herbert, Sir A. P.||Morrison, Rt. Hon W. S. (C'nc'ster)|
|Challen, C.||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Mott-Radclyffe, Maj. C. E|
|Channon, H.||Hogg, Hon. Q.||Nicholson, G|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. W. S.||Hutchison, Col. J. R. (Glasgow, C.)||Orr-Ewing, I. L|
|Clarke, Col. R. S.||Jarvis, Sir J.||Osborne, C.|
|Cooper-Key, E. M.||Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W.||Peto, Brig. C. H. M|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Kerr, Sir J. Graham||Pickthorn, K.|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Lambert, Hon. G.||Pitman, I. J.|
|Davies, Clement (Montgomery)||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Poole, O. B. S. (Oswestry)|
|De la Bère, R.||Law, Rt. Hon. R. K.||Prescott, Stanley|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Raikes, H. V.|
|Donner, Sqn.-Ldr. P W.||Lennox-Bcyd. A. T.||Rayner, Brig. R.|
|Dower, Lt.-Col. A. V. G. (Penrith)||Linstead, H. N.||Reed, Sir S. (Aylesbury)|
|Dower, E. L. G. (Caithness)||Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Reid, Rt. Hon. J. S. C. (Hillhead)|
|Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond)||Low, Brig. A. R. W.||Renton, D.|
|Duncan, Rt. Hn. Sir A. (City of Lond.)||Lucas, Major Sir J.||Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. Walter||Lucas-Tooth, Sir H.||Roberts, Maj. P G (Ecclesall)|
|Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)||Teeling, William||Wheatley, Colonel M. J|
|Robertson, Sir D. (Streatham)||Thorneycroft, G. E. P. (Monmouth)||White, Sir D. (Fareham)|
|Smith, E. P. (Ashford)||Thorp, Lt.-Gol. R. A. F.||White, J. B. (Canterbury)|
|Spearman, A. C. M.||Touche, G. C.||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Spence, H. R.||Turton, R. H.||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Stanley, Rt. Hon. O.||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Stoddart-Scott, Col. M||Wadsworth, G.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Strauss, H. G. (English Universities)||Wakefield, Sir W. W.||Major Conant and|
|Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray)||Ward, Hon. G. R.||Major Ramsay.|
|Taylor, Vice-Adm. E A. (P'dd't'n, S.)||Webbe, Sir H. (Abbey)|
I beg to move, in page 1, line 20, after "which," insert:
at the date of the passing of this Act.
I respectfully agree, Mr. Beaumont, with what you have said. These are simple Amendments and I hope they will not cause any controversy. The object of inserting these words is to make it quite clear that it is only to regulations which will be in force at the time of the passing of the Act that the Act and its contents apply. In the argument on the last Amendment I showed briefly how some doubts come into this from the necessarily complex understructure of the Defence Acts and Acts under which regulations are made. I do not propose to repeat that, nor to confuse the Committee by giving the various difficulties which have presented themselves to different Members of the Committee. I only say that that difficulty has presented itself and, therefore, the clarifying words should be welcomed. If we put the words in there, I think it will be agreed that the same words which occur in line 23 are unnecessary at that point. The object of the second Amendment is to take them out in line 23. For these reasons which I think are well understood by the Committee, I move the Amendment.
To be quite frank, we hardly feel that this Amendment makes a difference to the Bill. On the other hand, we follow the point which has been made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman. It was a perfectly fair point put quite clearly. We wish to meet the Opposition. In view of the reasons advanced and the fact that the Opposition would be happier and we have no objection on merits, we should be glad to accept the Amendment.
I beg to move, in page 2, line 7, to leave out from "trade," to the end of line 11.
This Amendment deals with the crux of the Bill. In order that everyone should appreciate its character, I will read the paragraph which the Amendment seeks to delete. This is the paragraph:
… (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;
I would challenge anyone to think of anything which a Government might wish to do of a drastic character which would not come within this sweeping provision. I am glad to see that the Minister of Labour is in his place. I take, first of all, the question of industrial conscription in time of peace. This paragraph is designed by the Government to give them not indeed the power—for they possess that already though they have not dared to use it—but to give them, as it were, a renewed Parliamentary authority and to refresh them in carrying out that policy. This is, in fact, a proposal to which we are asked to give a wave of support, for serfdom in time of peace, without even the protection of Parliamentary legislation.
That is what it is and that is what we shall have to tell the people when we see them on the platforms of the country. We shall have to say, "Any one of you may be taken from your homes at any moment, and from your employment, and sent off wherever some obscure official in the various Departments may decide you are to go." That is the power for which the Government are asking. The Government fear to bring this very grave matter before Parliament by the recognised legislative measures They hoped to sneak it through at the fag-end of the Debate last week, when they thought to obtain power without a Bill in Parliament, over the whole lives of the working people of this country—a power such as no Government in these islands has ever taken before except when the enemy's bayonet was at our throats.
Why was there all this fuss in the Labour Party when they were making provision for conscription for military service? It was a comparatively small affair to this, only affecting people for a year or 18 months at an early period in their lives, and yet what a very great storm there was over that. The Government, very properly, introduced a Bill, and passed it through all Parliamentary processes, which enabled it to be shaped, and it was powerfully modified by Parliament while it was passing through; but here the right hon. Gentleman and his friends are taking the power to conscript compulsorily, and, no doubt, with pains and penalties, every wage-earner in this country, and they can compel him to go wherever they like, no matter what the conditions that may prevail.
It is a very serious thing for the ordinary working men and breadwinners of this nation to have this hanging over them, and not to know whether they are safe from being told at any time, "You must get off and work at some rougher job where we are very short of labour at the present time. We will take you from your home and send you away." The press gang was limited to the Navy in taking their men, but this press gang of snoopers is to go around the country trying to find out means of taking workpeople from their existing positions and sending them, against their will or without their consent, to other industries. Will they be much good when they arrive at these other industries? May they not be found to be unfit for the work which they are called upon to do? All this is to be done without any protection of Parliament, and without a Measure being carefully shaped by Parliament.
I cannot conceive that it would be in the interests of anyone not to take advantage of this Parliamentary protection of long Debates and the discussion of Amendments in Committee, which would ensure this right and protection to the working people of this country. Now, after two years of Socialism, we have this proposal, which is intended at once to pillage the well-to-do and enslave the poor, and to do it without an Act of Parliament, when, on the other hand, the Government's confiscatory taxation is put before us in a Bill, in a procedure which enables it to be amended. The rights of the poor man to choose and change his employment when he pleases, and not when the Government pleases, are to be dispensed with, without any of the constitutional processes which, in the long centuries of the development of democracy in this country have developed the rights of the people of this country and placed them under its protection. I say that the Government are endeavouring to establish the serfdom—for that is the word I am going to apply to this proposal, and not only here—the serfdom of the working classes, and this is being done without giving them the right and the power to be protected by Parliament.
I see hon. Members sitting over there who will have to justify these matters to their constituents, and we would like to know how this is going to happen. No doubt, they will have a vast apparatus of prejudice at their hands, and all these working men who disagree with being moved from their present position and being thrown into other jobs, for which many of them may be quite unsuited, will be called "spivs" or "drones" or any of the filthy jargon that is being invented to enable the incompetence of the Government to save itself by drastic legislation.
We are told that the Government would not do anything of a rough character. They would not dream of using these powers in an unsympathetic manner. What guarantee have we got of that? It is quite true that we are now asked, as it were, to reinforce the dying war-time regulations which they have never dared to enforce. We are reviving these regulations of the 1945 Act and carrying them forward with renewed Parliamentary authority. I think that the Government are, by that means, placing the wage-earners of this country who are not engaged in the basic industries under the perpetual menace of uncertainty. A man comes home at the end of a hard day's work, highly skilful work, a man who may be earning £8, £10 or £12 a week at his trade, and he may find, when he comes home, and hopes to have a little peace and rest with his family over the week-end, an order from the Ministry of Labour, or whoever it is, telling him to proceed to some town far away and there undertake a task which he has never been fitted for, and without any provision for the housing of his wife and children and also without any plans for the children's schooling, which will be deranged.
I do not wonder that the Government do not like to put this proposal into an Act of Parliament. They had hoped to slip it through last week, when they were making it appear that it was nothing at all, not even to remove doubts. Now, they want these great powers, without any protection of the House of Commons, and I say, here and now, quite frankly, that whatever had been the powers under the 1945 Act they should not, in the future, be exercised in respect of the direction of labour without being the subject of a definite Parliamentary Bill. That is the position which I think we should certainly take up. I only take up this point because it is one of the most glaring powers for which the Government are asking. It is a power which they have already, but which they have never dared to use. Why have they not done so? They have not done so because they are afraid, but, now, they think that, if they can pillage and pinch this new affirmation from the House of Commons, they will be perfectly free to do that.
To whom are we to entrust these great powers? So far as I can make out, there is nothing in Subsection (1, c) which would make it impossible for them to discriminate against anybody. It is necessary for them to discriminate, between man and man, interest and interest and between trade and trade. There is nothing to force them to give any reason why they discriminate adversely against an individual. These are very grave matters. Someone has said that a strong nation should no more be confiding of its liberties than a pure woman of her honour, and, if Parliament were to allow this to be smuggled through in this way, without bringing in a Bill, without subjecting it to the full light of day and directing upon it the full blast of public opinion, we should utterly fail in our duties. If the Government wish to direct labour, if that is the answer, I think the least thing to do is to give to all these working people of this country, the breadwinners, the wage-earners, who are in some cases, men running up to 45 and 50 years of age, the same protection which they gave to the recruits called up for the Army, which was done through the ordinary legislative process.
I am sorry for the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President who began this afternoon in a most meek and mild manner, like the cooing of a turtle dove in spring, but, afterwards, felt that he must hurry up and put himself in line with the Left Wing elements of his party. I certainly do sympathise with the right hon. Gentleman for having received one rebuff after another at the hands of his party, and I say now that neither he nor the Prime Minister, with all their great positions, are the men who decide what legislation should be put forward and what should not. They have to take their orders—and I warned the country at the last General Election that they would have to do—from outside bodies of no elected authority.
Who is to administer all these powers, I should like to know? We see the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President and others there who have shown themselves to possess many qualities of self-restraint, and who have had experience, but they are no longer free agents. We are giving these great powers, but will they be free to exercise them? At any moment the convulsion may take place in the privileged, protected conclaves of the party, and the present Prime Minister may be discarded as lacking in colour, or for some other reason—although I thought his colour was pretty red anyhow—and in his place we may have the Minister of Health, or someone like that, to exercise these powers.
These are not powers which we are giving only to a particular set of men; they take their place on the Statute Book, and there they are to be used, and can be used, with any amount of political spite. Distinctions can be drawn in the movement of labour, on taking men from one trade and thrusting them into another of an invidious character. The ipse dixit of the Minister is sufficient to say it was necessary in the interests of the community—what he thinks are the interests of the community—and in a manner best calculated to serve those interests. Then we were blandly asked by the Home Secretary, a most respectable politician—I was astonished to hear him taking such a line—"How could you oppose the idea that the whole resources of the community are available for use?" Well, I certainly do. Personally, I think that private property has a right to be defended. Our civilization is built up on private property, and can only be defended by private property. As a Communist theory that is quite logical, but the party opposite have made themselves the opponents of that; they will not touch that. They tried to draw this line between their opinions and those of the Communists, but what is the result? They have neither the efficiency of collectivism nor the enterprise and energy of individual initiative, and to say that anybody is a "spiv" or a drone who thinks, at any rate, he may have the right to wear his own pair of trousers, and to do that under the loose provisions of this Clause, is an outrage on Parliament. If we were to consent to it we should be unworthy to hold our place here.
There are a great many other possibilities which in this Debate we shall show will arise with the Government if these powers are given. They tell us, "Oh, we do not mean anything. You know us well; we will not do anything with them. We have not been able to do anything with anything very much." But we have no right to count upon their violence or their weakness; we are responsible for the legislation which goes from this House. The blameless and reputable Home Secretary, the other night, used language very similar to that which was in the mouths of Hitler and his associates. I do not think he is a second Hitler; I do not think right hon. Gentlemen opposite are likely to be second Hitlers. They may use his words, but they have not got his guts, nor, I am glad to say, his criminality.
We feel bound to take our stand at this moment upon the rejection of these sweeping powers, far beyond anything that Parliament would vote or pass in a legislative form. Very slowly the rights of private property, and the rights of working men to choose or change their employment have been built up in this country, and they ought not to be cast away except after prolonged, mature consideration by the House of Commons. I feel that there was no need for this. It is brought in, I think, either under some dark design, or what, I admit, may be more probable, to allow weak, incompetent men, who cannot think out any plan for mending our affairs, to give some satisfaction to the crypto-Communists and extremists who sit behind them and on their flank, and to say, "Well, anyhow, this will please our boys; it is something in which they can see that we have taken all powers." I have no doubt whatever that this ought not to appear on the Statute Book—the words of paragraph (c)—and we shall do our utmost and everything which lies in our power, here and in the country, to resist it.
I am sorry, indeed, that this step should have been taken by the Government. It is a step of gross provocation. We know the difficulties that they are in, and we know that some of those difficulties are not of their making. We know very well the plight in which the country stands. I offered to assist them in anything which was national in its character and not animated by party strife, and that offer I gave in all good faith. What is the answer? The answer is this Bill which contains in it a Clause more insulting to the rights and dignities of decent men and women throughout this country than almost any words which any Government ever dared to put upon the Notice Papers of the House of Commons.
I have always understood that there are two methods of debate; one is to consider the matter under discussion on its merits, and objectively, and the other is to blackguard the other side, as the right hon. Gentleman, if I may say so, does with such charm and gusto on every occasion that he has the opportunity. The right hon. Gentleman is a past master in the art of picturesque hyperbole. But I must not, and, indeed, could not, attempt to follow him on any excursion into that realm of fantasy in which, at least in regard to this Bill, the right hon. Gentleman seems to live, and, indeed, to thrive. I am restricted to dealing with the Amendment as it appears en the Paper, and to dealing with it in relation to the grave situation in which this country now is. But the right hon. Gentleman thought fit to mention that he was not unaware of the view that I had indicated about the proper construction of this Bill. I want to take the opportunity of assuring the right hon. Gentleman that I have not departed in any way from any view that I have expressed at any time about the effect of this Bill.
I do not take the view that this Bill involves in practice any vast increase in the powers which are invested in the Government, for the powers which are already invested in the Government are very extensive indeed. Those powers include, as the right hon. Gentleman seems to have forgotten, the power of directing labour—the power which the right hon. Gentleman himself introduced at another period in this country's history when the position of the country was one of great gravity and danger. That power was continued by Parliament under the 1945 Act, and it continues in existence at the present day. The right hon. Gentleman devoted a great deal of his address to a discussion of the evils which might arise from an injudicious or improper exercise of the powers. But I cannot help feeling that what is really disturbing the serenity of hon. Members opposite is not the possibility that labour may be directed by virtue of the provisions of the Bill, but the danger that further steps may be taken, is may be against employers, property or wealth, under the enlarged scope which is being given to the purposes of the present enactment. That is the real fear which is behind all the allegations and the spurious indignation which have been expressed by hon. Members opposite in regard to the possible direction of labour.
The particular provision which is challenged by the Amendment removes any possible doubt as to the interpretation and extent of the powers as they exist under the 1945 Act. By this provision, the Bill will enable the Government to use, not new powers, but existing powers—powers created by the right hon. Gentleman under the 1939 and 1940 Acts, continued by this House under the 1945 Act for the transitional period. The provision will enable the Government to use those powers not only for the four purposes which are expressed in the 1945 Act, but for the three additional purposes which are set out in this Bill and, in particular, for the purpose embodied in paragraph (c), which is the subject of the present Amendment—in particular, that is to say, for ensuring that the resources of the country, not only in manpower, but in management, property and wealth, are used for the benefit of the country.
We propose to continue with the Government of this country, supported as we are by the mass of the people in the country, without taking up time by giving hon. Members an opportunity to go to the country and exploit the present difficulties for their own party political ends.
If we regarded paragraph (c) in isolation, and apart from the wide powers which already exist in the 1945 Act, paragraph (c) would contemplate a pretty wide purpose for the exercise of the existing powers and regulations. It is a wide purpose, and it is intended to be. It is a purpose not dissimilar from, although not quite as wide as, the power which was conferred on the Government by the Act which was passed unanimously by Parliament in 1940. But wide though the purpose is, its exercise is, of course, subject always to the important safeguard in case it should be misused, of the Parliamentary check by way of negative Prayer. Having got, as we have, and as Parliament has said we ought to have, certain defined powers under the 1945 Act, we cannot risk their exercise being indefinitely postponed and delayed while the ingenuity of legalistically minded people is being exercised right up through the hierarchy of the courts, until each particular power has been made the subject of some decision—favourable although I have no doubt such decisions would eventually be—by the House of Lords. These are powers the exercise of which must, in certain cases, be carried through with expedition and without the risk of long litigious delay.
The purpose of this Bill, and the particular purpose expressed in paragraph (c), is to ensure that our existing powers—not new powers but powers arising under the existing regulations—are exercisable without the fear that they will constantly be the subject of challenge, and sometimes of frivolous challenge, in the courts. We want wide powers because the grave necessities of the existing situation require wide powers sometimes to be exercised. One could forgive more readily the indignation of the right hon. Gentleman and the attempts of himself and his followers to delay and impede the Government in the implementation of their policy. [HON. MEMBERS: "What is it?"] One could understand—[Interruption.] If the hon. Member will remain quiet he will hear. One could understand the desire of the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. Nicholson) to impede and delay the policy of the Government by obstructing the progress of this Bill, if they had some alternative policy with which to meet the grave situation in which the country is placed. Hon. Members on both sides of the Committee will remember the notable speech made by the right hon. Gentleman—not, I observe, in this House, but I think at Blenheim the other day; and as, admittedly, hon. Members opposite have no kind of policy to meet the grave situation in which the country is placed, the least they can do is to support the Government with realistic powers, however drastic, which are needed for dealing with the present situation.
When I first read this Clause, I must confess that, although without any legal knowledge, I said to myself, "This is the works." When I was told that there were certain explanations which the Government had for the inclusion of this Clause, I attended most carefully to what was said in the Second Reading Debate and to what the learned Attorney-General has just said. There has been nothing to change my opinion that this is a totalitarian Clause. It seems to me that both the Lord President of the Council and the Home Secretary were not only ill at ease when they were speaking about this Clause, but they were furtive as well. If there were any doubts upon this matter, they were entirely removed by the speech of the hon. Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman). His speeches are always of interest to me, and I think many Members on this side, not least because of the rapid changes of front in which he indulges; and, against the firmament of somewhat fixed stars on the back benches opposite, he flies to and fro, for all the world like some political flying saucer. Where he comes to rest very often indicates where there is the main gathering of rebels who are going to ginger up the Front Bench. His speech indicated to me that very considerable trouble is coming from that very volatile tail which wags the somewhat rickety Front Bench dog—as we shall discover gradually whether the powers contained in this Clause are to be implemented by the Government, whatever their protestations of innocence may be at the moment.
But if the Government profess that the intention of this Clause is not what the Opposition consider it to be, I cannot understand why they cannot accept this Amendment. The removal of this paragraph can still leave them with all the powers they require. I can only assume that the reason they adhere to it must be one of three. Either what they say is untrue, and they do really require these totalitarian powers; or else, there was, perhaps, originally a legal mistake, which they obstinately refuse to acknowledge, and through obstinacy they prefer that the country should run the chance of losing its liberty rather than the Front Bench should lose face; or lastly, now that this mistake, if mistake it was, has been revealed, they dare not go back on it for fear of incurring the wrath and rage of those who sit behind them. I should say that the truth is a mixture of all three reasons. But that is not very much comfort to us on this side of the Committee.
An hon. Member has reminded us of the disastrous and gradual decline of Germany towards totalitarianism, but it seems to me that there is a very marked difference between our case and that of Germany. The decline of Germany was gradual, and 20 years elapsed between the time when the Germans shouted "Hoch, der Kaiser" and the time when they shouted "Heil, Hitler!" Even a few days ago the country could rightly, having listened to the Prime Minister, have greeted him with the salutation, "Ad hoc, Attlee!" Now, however, they might well salute the probable inspirer of this Clause with "Heil, Cripps," or, more euphoniously descriptively, "Heil, Crippler!" It so often happens, when a country faces a situation such as ours at the moment, that there is a temptation to demand authoritarian powers. It is natural, and can be well understood. I well remember that, when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) was making his periodic announcements to Parliament, many of those who had to dig out the endless figures and facts for him were inclined to say, "Why should Parliament continue to interfere with all this pressure of work when the Prime Minister and others are so hard pressed?" That is a natural sentiment in those circumstances. But it seems to me to be a fatal one, for by yielding to it we should destroy the very thing for which we were fighting.
That is part of our difficulty in regard to this Clause. It may have originated, not necessarily from any evil intent of the Government, but through confusion. Part of that confusion may have arisen legalistically, and part may have arisen because it was not really understood what the effect of the Clause was going to be. But the confusion seems to me now to come from the confusion of two issues. The first is the material one of this crisis, which, whether we surmount it or whether we go down under it, will be a material victory or a material defeat. But the second issue is the issue of our liberty, and that is something in which I passionately believe; and because of that belief I shall resist to the end what is sought for in this Clause today. It seems to me that by this Clause we shall betray that for which this country has long stood, and for which so many have fought and died.
I rather gather from the speeches we have heard from the Opposition that they are against giving the Government the powers in paragraph (c). They appear to believe that for Parliament to give the Government those powers is to go beyond our Constitution altogether, to overthrow democracy, and to substitute for Parliamentary democratic Government a totalitarian State. I hope I am stating the argument of the Opposition fairly. They do not believe a word of it; least of all does the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition believe a word of it. He knows as well as we all know that there are circumstances in the life of a nation which require that Parliament, and the Government of the day supported by Parliament, shall have all powers that are necessary in the interests of the community. Does he deny that?
I am coming to the qualification in a moment. I am concerned, first, with establishing the principle, about which I say that the House of Commons is unanimous, that there are circumstances which would justify these powers. Let us be fair about it. The question between us is what those circumstances are. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite do themselves very bad service when they pretend that their argument against this Clause is that the giving to the Government of powers of this kind is never justifiable. They do not believe any such thing.
That is not the only issue between us. The other issue is for what purpose these powers are to be used? For that we have no reason at all.
If the hon. Member will forgive me, I shall endeavour, in my own inefficient and inexperienced way, to lay out my argument as I wish to lay it out; but I cannot say it all at once. No one would have believed, listening to the right hon. Gentleman today, that he himself had brought into Parliament and passed through Parliament such a Measure—not after a long delay, not after careful examination, not after investigation point by point, not after a long Committee stage and a long Report stage and a long Third Reading, not after long argument in another place to enable further Amendments to be made and then counter Amendments. He said that Parliament was not justified in giving to the Government powers of this kind at all, and then he seemed to qualify that by saying, "Only if there was long, patient, legislative authority for every single detail of the powers."
I see. And, in the second place, he must attach some importance to legislation which is put forward by a Government officially representative of all three Parties in the State?
I can appreciate that, in some people's minds, the first point which the right hon. Gentleman put to me is decisive of this issue, and I am coming to that in a moment, but I am amazed to hear the right hon. Gentleman put forward the second point. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] What conceivable difference can it make how many parties are represented? [Laughter.] Before the hon. Member laughs, let him consider what his laughter involves. Is the right hon. Gentleman now challenging the Parliamentary system of this country?
I will give way in a moment very willingly, but I want to finish my point, and I want to put to the right hon. Gentleman, before he puts the point he is going to make, that Parliamentary authority in this country means that a Government is entitled to bring in legislation and to pass legislation through the House, so long as that Government has the confidence of the majority of the House of Commons; and so long as the Government has that majority, the number of parties that make up the Government is entirely irrelevant. On this serious matter the right hon. Gentleman is now seeking to put forward a principle which I think has occurred to him only in the heat of Debate, and which on calm reflection he would be the last man in this Committee to put forward.
The hon. Member makes a mistake to found his argument upon the idea that there is no difference between party Government and partisan Government. Undoubtedly the majority in the House of Commons is effective for all legislative purposes, but a Government which represents all parties has a moral authority to deal with matters which is not possessed by a party Government seeking to carry out its class and partisan prejudices and animosities over the heads of its political opponents. That is my answer.
The right hon. Member leaves me more puzzled than ever. What is he asking the Committee to believe? Is he asking hon. Members to believe that to give the Government these powers is wrong in itself, or is he asking them to believe that it would be wrong to give the powers to this Government, but right to give them to a Coalition Government? Is that what the right hon. Member asks me to believe?
It is wrong to give these powers, in any circumstances, to any Government in peacetime, but the urgency of the State may be such that when there is agreement between all the organised parties in the State, these terrible steps may have to be taken.
So now we have reached, at last, the principle which I advanced at the beginning, that there is nothing wrong with paragraph (c) in principle. [Interruption.] But the right hon. Member has just said so. He has said that what makes the powers wrong is not the principle of the paragraph—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] The right hon. Member can correct me if I get it wrong; I am doing my best to get it right. The right hon. Member agrees with me that there is nothing wrong in the paragraph in principle. The only thing that makes it wrong is, first, that it is not a Coalition Government——
Well, that is what he said. The hon. and gallant Member, in the subtelties of his own mind, may draw a profound distinction between an agreement of all parties and a coalition, but I am unable to follow it, unless what the hon. and gallant Member really means is that it is quite right for a Coalition Government to carry out a party policy but wrong for a party Government to carry out a coalition policy. The very words upon which the right hon. Member founded his argument are the words of his own Act.
Certainly, in time of war. I am coming to that point in a moment and hon. Members opposite may not like it any better when I do. Section I of the 1940 Act says:
The powers conferred on His Majesty by the Emergency Powers (Defence) Act, 1939,"—
which were not powers conferred upon a Coalition Government, but powers conferred upon a party Government, in 1939—
(hereinafter referred to as the 'principal Act') shall, notwithstanding anything in that
Act, include power by Order in Council to make such Defence Regulations making provision for requiring persons to place themselves, their services, and their property at the disposal of His Majesty "—
I will come to it in a moment, if the hon. Member wants the exact date. It was some time in 1940. [HON. MEMBERS: "Read on."] It goes on:
as appear to him to be necessary or expedient for securing the public safety, the defence of the Realm, the maintenance of public order, or the efficient prosecution of any war in which His Majesty may be engaged, or for maintaining supplies or services essential to the life of the community.
So the principle is agreed. All that can be done without being totalitarian; all that can be done without being un-Parliamentary; all that can be done without overthrowing the democratic system; all that can be done without imitating Hitler, provided—what? Provided there is a coalition, and provided—and here I come to the second point—the country is at war. I agree entirely that on that point must be founded the real difference between the Government and the Opposition in this Debate.
The Opposition believe that powers of this kind are justifiable only in war. Can they really mean that? Do they not really mean that they are not justifiable even in war, unless they are necessary for the safety of the State? Many wars have been fought without this power, and it is only at the moment when these powers are necessary to save the State that they can be justified, as they were undoubtedly when that Act was passed. That is where we differ. We on this side of the Committee—I think all of us—cannot accept the distinction drawn by hon. Members opposite. We think that what people can be compelled to do, with justification, in the interests of the community in war, we are equally entitled to compel them to do for the constructive purposes of peace, provided only that the crisis in which we find ourselves justifies those powers.
I should like to know how serious hon. and right hon. Members opposite think this crisis is. It seems to me they think it very serious when they think the Government are doing nothing, but they think it trivial whenever the Government does anything. So far as I have been able to discover any policy in the Opposition at all, it is to wait and see what the Government do, and then to tell them that they must not do it. When the Government seemed to underplay the crisis, it was hon. and right hon. Members opposite who were saying that the country was on the brink of ruin, and why did not the Government do something about it. When the Government say, "We agree, this is the most critical moment in our national history. There has never been a more critical moment in the national history of this country, even in war——
The right hon. Member says, "Rubbish." He has himself made speeches in the country making the same point. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] He used the very words, at Blenheim, that there was nothing except the actual bloodshed which this country was not suffering now, two years after the end of the war, which it suffered during the war. Are we to understand that the right hon. Gentleman did not mean it? Only he can say that. I am going to assume that what he told his audience at Blenheim is what he meant——
No sort of deduction of that kind can be drawn. There is no sort of comparison between the dangers in which we were in June, 1940, and the kind of dangers we are now in. In 1940, the dangers were brought upon us by the terror and power of the enemy. Now the difficulties and dangers we are in, which I certainly do not wish to underrate or understate are, we hold, largely due to the mismanagement of the party opposite. That is altogether apart from their escaping from their faults, neglects and incompetence by the assumption of sweeping powers, which in their hands will only make matters worse.
The right hon. Gentleman does himself an injustice. He has devoted his intervention to showing that our present dangers are due to a different cause from that of the dangers in 1940. That is not in dispute. Of course our dangers are due to different causes. Although we may differ about the causes, we will agree that they are different. But that is not what he said at Blenheim, and that is not what I said he said. Let us come to the difference in causes. The cause today is just as much due to the world situation as it was then. The United States has been directly responsible for the situation in which we find ourselves. [Laughter.] Let me make my own point. It seems to me that for the first two years of the war America let us have whatever we could pay for in cash. That was the cash-and-carry period—"Do not take any single armament away on any occasion unless you can pay for it in cash." That is what took our foreign investments, every penny of them. It was on these foreign investments that we relied to bridge the gap before the war between our imports and exports. We had to spend every penny of them in America, very often at under-cut prices, and very often at forced sale prices, in order to pay for the materials we needed to defend America as much as ourselves. It was only when every penny of our investments had gone that they came forward with this unsordid act, which they called "Lend-Lease," and which, incidentally, had the effect of preventing us from preparing the ground for building up our export trade again after the war.
On a point of Order. We are debating a narrow issue in one sense, namely, paragraph (c) of this Bill, and whether or not it confers totalitarian powers. Is it in Order for an hon. Member to utilise that as an opportunity for making a very ill-timed attack upon the United States?
It is inevitable that the Debate should go very wide. Therefore, I cannot find anything which I think is out of Order. I assume the hon. Member was simply using it as an illustration.
I do not in any way want to question your Ruling, Mr. Beaumont, but if this argument is to be admitted, it is quite obvious that some of us may want to controvert it in preparing the speeches we want to make, if ever we catch your eye. Since this matter has been raised, can we have your Ruling on how wide we can go in controverting this argument in relation to our foreign investments and our United States Ally?
In my humble and respectful submission, the hon. Member has gone far beyond an illustration in this matter. He has proceeded to argue for at least five minutes in the warmest possible terms. I want your guidance, Mr. Beaumont.
I have already expressed the view that I think it would be undesirable that we should make an argument of this, but that it should simply be used as an illustration.
I have only one more sentence on this point. I used this only to deal with the right hon. Gentleman's point, which he was allowed to make, on what was the cause of our present discontent and distresses. He was saying that much the greater part of the cause was the Government, and I was endeavouring to controvert that argument, successfully, I hope. The final sentence I wanted to say was this. When the end of the war came, if only the United States could have been persuaded to take the view which we on this side unanimously held, namely, that what was required for the purposes of war would necessarily be required for a number of years for the reconstruction of peace, and had continued Lend-Lease for a couple of years afterwards, the world as a whole would be out of its distress; but instead they preferred to act like shabby money-lenders——
Is it courteous to you, Mr. Beaumont, after your Ruling that the subject should not be pursued, to take advantage of the situation to make that insulting remark?
The hon. Member has gone outside the Ruling I gave that the point should be regarded purely as illustration and not as an argument. I hope that the hon. Member will withdraw.
If you direct, Mr. Beaumont, that the expression I used was un-Parliamentary, I withdraw it unreservedly, but what I say is that what they in fact did was to make certain that we should borrow their money——
I understood your Ruling, Mr. Beaumont, was not that the expression used was un-Parliamentary, so much as the hon. Member had largely gone outside your Ruling on what was relevant. As I understand it, the hon. Member is now seeking to repeat in different words the irrelevant observation he made before.
The hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) may know what the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman) is going to say. I asked the hon. Member to withdraw the expression he used, which he has done. I am going to ask him to keep his remarks within the borders of the Amendment itself.
Further to that point of Order. It is quite obvious that, with a view to preserving proper international relations, an answer must be made at the earliest moment to the charge which has been made by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman), and I trust that you will agree, Mr. Beaumont, that for that purpose, if for no other, it will be in Order for someone on this side of the Committee to deal with the monstrous accusations which have been made by the hon. Member.
In order that you may be assisted by the Committee in this dilemma, Mr. Beaumont, ought not the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) to be called on unhesitatingly to withdraw the insult which he offered to a friendly Ally?
I was dealing with the argument put forward by the Leader of the Opposition, that all this trouble had been due to His Majesty's Government. I was putting forward the argument that it is due to nothing of the kind, that it is due, in the main, to the United States Government. I dealt with what happened up to the time of Lend-Lease, and the cessation of Lend-Lease, and in a very few words I can complete the story. What happened was that we had to borrow money on their terms, spend it in the United States, and that after we had done that, they raised prices against us. That is exactly the situation, and Members opposite can put what construction they like upon it.
The hon. Member knows very well that our difficulties are entirely due to the fact that we are not allowed to use the resources of the rest of the world where we can find them without buying an equal quantity of stuff at increased prices in America.
However, what I want to say, in conclusion, is this. We on this side of the Committee take the view that it is necessary to put this country on its feet, to make it independent, economically as well as politically, of anybody else in the interests of this country, and in the interests of the world. This country has contributed more to the further progress of human civilisation than either America on the one side or Russia on the other. The salvation of humanity depends on our being able to combine the collective control of our resources with individual and political and civil liberties. If that cause goes down in this country, it goes down in the world, and we are in danger at this moment of seeing it go down for want of being able to use our resources of wealth, property, labour, and everything else we have, to save it from that calamity. Members opposite may think that that does not matter; we think it does. We think it matters as much as it did in 1940, and on that basis we are justified in taking these powers and using them wherever they are necessary without being intimidated by anybody.
In view of the fact that no member of the Government has risen immediately to repudiate the monstrous line of argument of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) I think it is necessary that someone sitting on one of the Front Benches should rise to dissociate every decent Member of the Committee from his remarks——
I do not want to be too finnicky about these matters, but the right hon. and learned Gentleman has said that he wished to dissociate from something or other every decent Member of this Committee. The implication is obvious—that those who believe what I have said to be true, as I do, are being charged with not being decent Members of this Committee. I want to ask you, Mr. Beaumont, whether such a charge is in Order?
The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) described a great and friendly Power as "shabby moneylenders." He was ordered by you, Mr. Beaumont, to withdraw——
I do not think that the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Mr. J. S. C. Reid) implied any particular individual, and, that being so, I cannot rule that he was out of Order.
I think that not only Members on this side of the Committee, but the great majority of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite also, would wish to take the earliest opportunity of dissociating themselves from what the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) said. I do Members opposite that credit because I do not believe that, whatever may be our differences on domestic matters, anyone with any sense of responsibility in this Committee wishes to stir up trouble, as the hon. Gentleman the Member for Nelson and Colne does, between us and the United States of America——
I have been to America, and I propose to go again. My experience of the United States is that they like people who hold sincere opinions and express them frankly.
I might be inclined to take at its face value what the hon. Gentleman has just said did I not realise that he is a man of very acute intelligence. I cannot accept that the hon. Gentleman, whatever his motive may be, did not realise the extremely offensive nature, to Americans, of his remarks. I can think of no one at the moment who is trying to make trouble between the two countries except the hon. Member and Ben Hecht——
On a point of Order, Mr. Beaumont. I ask you whether it is not the custom of the House that when a Member states a matter as his opinion, it is un-Parliamentary for another Member to say that he does not really believe it? I have said three times that I have no desire to cause trouble between this country and the United States, and it is my honest belief that nothing I have said would do that.
It may be a mistaken view, but it is my honest and sincere view. I ask whether hon. Members are entitled when I say that I am expressing what I believe, to say that I am not telling the truth.
On a point of Order. As I raised the original point of Order about this matter, I ask you, Mr. Beaumont, to rule that any further discussion on the relations between ourselves and the United States is out of Order.
I pass from this topic with one remark only, and it is that I hope that someone on the other side of the Committee will also express their detestation of the line of argument of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne. I should not have tried to catch the eye of the Chair quite so early in the Debate had I not thought it necessary to say what I had just said, but as I have done so, I shall now pass to some remarks which in other circumstances I would have sought to make at a somewhat later stage in the Debate. The Attorney-General's line of argument I found very mystifying. First, he was full of scruples that the 1945 Act was a very limited Act, and that orders which most of us would have thought were plainly within its compass were possibly subject to challenge. Then he says, "Oh, but this paragraph (c) hardly carries us any further; the 1945 Act is so wide that (c) adds nothing to it." I cannot understand how those two lines of argument can be reconciled. I should have thought that we had now emerged from the realms of doubt, and we could, on this point at least, take the Clause on its face value. The Clause says that it is to apply to:
the following additional purposes.
Paragraph (c) is called an additional purpose, and I should have thought that a wider purpose could not have been devised. Surely, the Government would
agree that under the 1945 Act, as it stands, a challenge in the courts would be comparatively easy if the Government went beyond the expressed purpose.
The Attorney-General must not shake his head, for that has been the foundation of his whole case for this Bill. If that is so, I challenge anyone to mention anything, which would be subject to challenge if paragraph (c) were allowed to stand. It is so wide that I cannot imagine anything being challenged under it. I thought that was the right hon. Gentleman's purpose—to get something completely unchallengeable, no matter what the Government did. Therefore, we come up against the fundamental question on which I shall ask the patience of the Committee for a few moments, because I believe it is essential to set out, in as clear terms as one can, what we regard as the essence of Parliamentary government and democracy.
We think that the essentials are being undermined and may be swept away if this Clause appears in the Bill. It is hardly necessary to burn down the Houses of Parliament if the Government get paragraph (c). I think that it makes it worse that the Government do not know what they are going to do with it. If the Government said, "We want drastic powers for a particular purpose," we would have some chance of judging whether those powers ought to be granted. We are asked to give powers that will last three years before Parliament will have any say in the matter at all, and we cannot know in the least what the Government will do; and what they can do is wholly unlimited. I believe that it is a function of the House to defend the twin rights of liberty and property. Believe me, if we sacrifice the one, we shall sacrifice the other. All history proves that. Therefore, let us try for a moment to separate the arguments about this Clause, because I think they have got rather confused.
There are two quite separate points involved. One is what powers ought to be given to the Government; and the other is by what method ought the Government to get those powers. Those are wholly different questions. At the moment we are talking about the method and not about the powers. The only reason the Government want this power, if it means anything at all, is because they do not want to disclose in advance to Parliament and the country what they intend to do. We believe that in the present circumstances there is no case for allowing them that power.
I want to put forward propositions to which, I think, the House as a whole will agree. I wonder whether there are many hon. Members who would disagree that the more far-reaching the change of policy, the greater need there is for discussion and approval in the House before that policy is put into effect. I should be surprised if hon. Members opposite, and any occupant of the Government Front Bench, disputed that. Let me pass to the next point. I say that major changes should not be made by executive order if there is time for them to be preceded by Parliamentary discussion. Therefore, I come to the confusion which has vitiated so many speeches at this and other stages of the Debates on this Bill.
It has been running through the speeches that because in time of war it may be justifiable to grant wide powers of this nature, therefore they are proper when we come to a crisis in time of peace. That rather reminds me of the old fallacious argument that because we can spend £12 million a day in time of war, we can do so in time of peace. Surely, there are two quite essential differences between war and peace in this respect? The first is that the meeting of Parliament in war time may become impossible by enemy action, and, if that were so, and we had no powers in reserve, we might be held up for a very long time. The second, and even more important, reason is the comparative speed with which the situation can change. In war time we all know that the situation can change from day to day or even from hour to hour, but does anyone opposite really say that this crisis is going to change in essentials from day to day or from hour to hour? I am no great admirer of His Majesty's Government, but I believe that even they can see at least a week ahead at present. Indeed, if anybody believes that we cannot see ahead in peace time, it just makes nonsense of any claim that there can be the kind of centralised planning in which Socialists believe. Therefore, the time factor would not prevent the Government's proposals from being submitted to the House before they were put into operation.
If that is so, I cannot think that any person should maintain that this crisis should be solved by administrative action alone, unless either he is not stopping to think or he has other reasons for wanting to undermine the authority of the House. I do not think it is a party question—at least I hope not. I think I have the Lord President of the Council with me in this, because he said on Friday that if there was to be any question of revolution, let it be after full discussion. It is quite true that his ideas of full discussion and mine would not always correspond, but at least he seems to have the right idea about it. He cannot deny that something like revolution could be done under paragraph (c) without discussion.
The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head. Can he think of any revolutionary change with regard to persons, liberty or property which a court could hold to be ultra vires under paragraph (c)? I find great difficulty in imagining that, although there may be a few—one never can prove a negative. I will say that changes of the vastest importance and the most far-reaching effect on the everyday lives of everyone in this country, rich or poor, could be made by executive action alone under paragraph (c). Why should there be? There can be only two reasons. One is speed, of which I have disposed, and the other is the desire to burke discussion. The right hon. Gentleman may say, "We have no intention of doing these things," but is every hon. Member satisfied that the right hon. Gentleman will still be sitting there three years hence? I am not sure. In any case, we had better not take the risk. There is nobody who goes so far as the man who starts out but does not know where he is going, and that is the position of the right hon. Gentleman today. Therefore, I think we had better take temptation out of his reach.
There is another matter which I believe to be the most fundamental of all. A suggestion was made that there is no difference between changes of this character being made by a Coalition Government and by a party Government. Surely anyone with any idea of the practical working of democracy knows that although a majority puts a Government in power, they can never carry out far-reaching changes without a very wide measure of agreement in the country. Therefore, it is sheer foolishness to think that because 51 per cent.—if it were as many—voted for the right hon. Gentleman and his friends, they can go ahead regardless of ever taking the other 49 per cent with them. That is sheer foolishness.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that we cannot introduce far-reaching changes unless we have a large measure of support in the country. Can he say whether there was a measure of far-reaching agreement on the Trades Disputes Act in 1927?
I was quite accurate in what I said. What I said was it could not have rankled very much, because four years later only 50 Socialist Members came back into the House. However, that is a side issue, and hon. Members opposite can take their own view. Surely it is essential to the working of democracy that there should be discussion before executive action on important questions. It is not only that Bills have been very greatly improved by the House during the last few years—the right hon. Gentleman will admit that—but if he has to bring in any kind of large-scale Measure at all, he has got to put it in black and white in words. It is just as easy to put it in a Bill as it is to put it in an order. Why not bring it here, where it can be amended and improved?
More fundamental than that is that the main purpose of discussion is both to state and form public opinion. If hon. Gentlemen opposite really believe that the things with which they are toying would be for the benefit of the country, and if they really believe in democracy and that the people will come to the right view in time, after consideration, debate and discourse, surely they should welcome the fullest possible discussion before they try to put their ideas into operation, because they would swing public opinion if they were right, and they would facilitate smooth operation. We are not to have that. There are to be powers to do all these things without any consultation with the elected representatives of the people of this country. I cannot for the life of me see why that should be except on the footing that hon. Gentlemen opposite have more than a lurking suspicion that if these things were made plain to the country before they became law, they would never become law, for the country never would have them.
To conclude what I have to say, I agree with the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) in his diagnosis of the underlying difficulties which we have to surmount before we can get out of this crisis. He said:
Now, more than ever, there is need for … a moral and spiritual uplift in this country to conquer the material difficulties which beset us."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th August, 1947; Vol. 441, c. 1823–4.]
That may be got if there has been adequate discussion and leadership in the House, but it will never be got by Orders in Council. Therefore, I say that not only is this a proposal which completely undermines the authority of the House, and not only is it a proposal which defeats to a very large extent the fundamentals of democracy and Parliamentary Government, in which I hope most of us believe, but it is a proposal which will defeat its own object if the object of the Government is not to score party points, but to get the country out of its troubles. This is the worst possible way of doing it and, therefore, now that tempers have cooled a little, I beg the right hon. Gentleman to think again about this. He is really
doing the country a great disservice and I do not think that he is doing his own party any great service by insisting on this. I hope that he will see fit to be reasonable.
On a point of Order, Major Milner. When you were not in the Chair some remarkable statements were made in a speech by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman). They consisted of a most opprobrious attack on a friendly Power which we on this side of the Committee think should be the subject of a definite dissociation on the part of the Government. I would, therefore, like to move to report Progress to give the Government a chance to dissociate themselves from the remarks in question.
I cannot accept that Motion. The Government are perfectly competent—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—on such occasions as they think fit to make any declarations they wish to make on such questions. I do not therefore think I can accept any Motion on those grounds.
I know that it is perfectly within your right to accept or refuse a Motion like this, Major Milner, and I do not argue on that. What I do say is that when a totally extraneous matter has been raised in a Debate of urgent international importance, it is only right that we should give the Government the chance of expressing their opinion upon it, and in that case am I not within my rights in raising the matter?
The hon. Member is certainly within his rights, but I do not think it is any part of the functions of the Chair to decide whether or not a particular declaration should be made at any given time. That is a matter on which the Government and the Opposition must decide for themselves, and any individual Member may similarly say what he wishes to say on those occasions when he is called upon. I cannot accept the Motion.
The right hon. Gentleman was not here and I think he really should be a little careful in entering into matters which arose when he was not present. If the Government were to disapprove, approve, repudiate or otherwise comment on various statements made by private Members of this House—on both sides—then indeed we should be kept busy, and I do not propose to be ordered about by the Opposition.
The right hon. Gentleman is entirely wrong in thinking that I was ordering him about, but we did think that in all the circumstances—which are very serious—it would be well for the Government to dissociate themselves from the kind of language which was used by the hon. Gentleman.
On a point of Order. I am sorry to hold the Committee up on this point of Order as I am anxious to get on with the main Debate, but with the deepest respect, Major Milner, in your last Ruling you said it is open to any hon. Member, whether on the Front Bench or not, to make what comment he thinks appropriate on any subject. The question I wish to submit to you is: Is it really true that upon this Amendment it is open to the Government, however competent, to deal with the matters referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Farnham (Mr. Nicholson), and is that not, therefore, an argument for some other form of Motion being put before us?
As you were not present at the time, Major Milner, may I tell you that your predecessor directed the hon. Member to withdraw his remarks, thus making it difficult for other hon. Members of the Committee to raise the subject now. In my humble submission, therefore, a special Motion should be passed.
That may be. I was not in the Chair, but all I can say at the moment is that without prejudging the question in any way as to what has been said or ought to have been said, I cannot accept the hon. Gentleman's Motion on the grounds which he has given, nor on the grounds given by the hon. Gentleman the senior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Pick thorn).
The speech that was made by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) deserves a reply not only from the right hon. Gentleman on the Front Opposition Bench but also, I think, from me speaking as a Liberal for Liberals. During his speech the hon. Member made several charges. I do not propose to refer to them. But he also made some very serious statements with regard to the constitutional position of the House of Commons, and it is with those that I intend to deal. According to the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne there are occasions upon which the House has the power to surrender all its present powers and transfer them to the Executive or to whomsoever it pleases. The hon. Member went further and said that if it has that power—about which there may be some quite considerable doubt—it is the duty of the House on occasion to surrender its powers to the Executive.
No. All I said was that powers of this kind had been accorded by Parliament to the Government before. They were accorded, for instance, in 1940, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman voted for them then as I did. What I said was that the real difference between the two sides of the Committee was as to the occasions on which such powers might be voted.
I am right in the statement I made. I am only analysing the statements step by step as to what the hon. Gentleman had in mind. The hon. Gentleman said that this had been done, that there was power in the House to surrender its own powers, that there was a duty upon the House every now and then to surrender those powers, and that this is one of the occasions upon which that duty should be undertaken by the House.
I am anxious not to keep the Committee and the hon. Member must really take the debating answer his words deserve. He was saying that this was one of the occasions, and judging from the cheers with which his speech was received, not only from the hon. Members sitting behind him, but even from the Front Bench, quite obviously the attitude now of the Government plus the bulk of their supporters is in favour of the statement made by the hon. Gentleman. It is perfectly obvious that what they have in mind is that this is a moment when these full powers possessed by the House should be surrendered into the hands of the Government. [Interruption.] If it does not mean that, what does it mean? That is where we differ fundamentally from both the hon. Member and those who agree with him, for that is the surrender of everything that is sacred in and to democracy.
Let me deal with some of the points he made. He said that, this having been done before, it was right that it should be done again. He used that as a principle. So far as I know, this kind of power was never surrendered to a Government on any occasion, except in May, 1940. Such powers were never given to the Government of this country even when it was less democratically representative than it is, and at a time when it was in great danger when we were fighting Napoleon. These powers were not surrendered to the Government by this House during the war of 1914–18, when we were in mortal danger. They were not surrendered by this House in 1939. May I remind the House that if any war was ever declared, not so much by a Government, as by a people united in one common purpose it was the war of 1939? That war was declared not from above, against a common enemy, but from below, when the whole country was united.
If ever there was a time when the House of Commons might have said that it surrendered its powers unto the Government it might have said in 1939, but we only did so in 1940, when we were in such a state that we were a beleaguered nation, almost as if we were in a mediaeval castle threatened with destruction at any moment. Then and then only were these powers given unto the Government. What is more, as has been pointed out to the hon. Gentleman, at that time the Government of the day decided that whatever differences they might have domestically with other parties in normal times of peace, they would sink those differences for the one purpose of defeating the common enemy. It was in such circumstances that such powers as these were surrendered to the Government.
I would also point out that some hon. Members seem to think that there is no real difference between a crisis in time of war and a crisis in time of peace. It is suggested that what is needed in time of war is needed today, as we heard in a most eloquent peroration. May I point out that there is a great difference in time of war, because then we know who the common enemy is? All our power is directed against him. The problems confronting us in time of war are really reduced to the one problem of defeating the enemy with the least cost to ourselves. In time of peace the problems are more complex, and we may differ, as indeed we do, as to the method of solving the problems and as to the causes of them.
Some hon. Members believe that the Government would be in this situation today whatever it had done, and whatever Government was in power. There are those who say that the whole situation is due to the failure of the Government. The truth lies between those two positions. I say deliberately that the Government should have foreseen a number of things which have now happened and should have taken precautions in time. I had to remind the right hon. Gentleman the other day that we might have gone away without this Bill, without this Debate and without last week's Debate, as he viewed the situation a fortnight ago exactly. He then told the House that he had no statement to make on the economic position before we adjourned. Now it is said that the situation has so rapidly changed in a fortnight that we are face to face with a situation which calls for the surrender of all the powers of the constitution and for putting them into the hands of the Government.
Therein lies the great difference. No one can deny that the economic situation is critical. I have been talking of the danger of what might happen when the war ended and for some considerable time thereafter. I would say to the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne that I have used such words as "never in the history of this country have we been faced with such a critical situation economically," and that I would do certainly all that is possible to try to resolve the problems that had brought about that situation. I would say with the Leader of the House that we should unite together, not in a coalition, to try to resolve those problems so that the least possible suffering should be caused and a solution found at the earliest possible date. But I am being asked to surrender not only such powers as are necessary to resolve that situation, but the complete powers that a Government may need so that they may have—if we give the paragraph its full meaning—no need to call this House together again.
Now I am coming to what the hon. Gentleman said. He said that this House had the full power, together of course with the other House, of legislating for anything. Certainly, for any single thing that we like to mention; and it would be legal. The House is now asked to transfer its full powers, together with those of the other House, into the hands of the Government. Would the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne deny that under those powers the Government need not call this House together again until the Act expires? All the taxation which the Government require to raise could be raised without a Budget or a Budgetary Resolution. Would the hon. Gentleman deny that there is no limit whatever to the power over resources, men and material that we are now being asked to surrender into the hands of the Government?
Whether those powers would be required or not would not be for us to judge. The Government would be the sole judges of what they thought was really necessary for their purpose. No court would declare the decision illegal.
I would like to give the House a quotation which deals with this very problem and puts it very clearly. This was said on 31st October, 1939:
The question we have to consider tonight is: What is the minimum of special regulation which will accomplish the legitimate purpose of protecting the country against its enemies?
For "enemies" hon. Members can now read "Our economic problems and difficulties."
Anything that goes beyond that is an unnecessary attack upon the liberty of the subject—
the very point which I raised—
and ought not to be tolerated by those who should specially be the guardians of the liberties of the people. There is a very different problem which has beet dealt with by the right hon. Gentleman—not what is the minimum necessary, but what is convenient for the administrator and bureaucrat who promises not to misuse the powers, even though they are admittedly too wide.
That is the very argument that has been used on that side of the House.
I venture to think that the right hon. Gentleman's statement proved conclusively that the attack so ably launched by the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot) upon these regulations was entirely justified. You can, not get out of it by citing instances in which the regulations might be used to good purpose and without doing harm. I readily admit that anyone can think of instances in which the regulations could be used quite properly and without doing harm to any person who ought not to suffer. What one can equally show is that they are, in their wording, wide enough to cover a multitude of instances, in which they could be misused to the great detriment of the freedom of the people of this country. The vital question is whether they do not take away the liberty of any class or party of people in this country, to oppose the Government up to the hilt, if they want to do so.
I hope these words have been noted by the Leader of the House, for that vital question is the very one which is being put to him tonight as Lord President of the Council. May I have his attention for a minute? I have never been discourteous to the right hon. Gentleman. I hope that I have never been discourteous to any hon. Member. It has never been my desire to be so. I have always tried to argue my questions on principle, and have never sought to bring in personalities. What is being said in the House tonight and what was being said by the right hon. and learned Gentleman in 1939 is:
The vital question is whether they do not take away the liberty of any class or party of people in this country, to oppose the Government up to the hilt, if they want to do so. It is very dangerous when governments start to identify themselves completely with the national interest. There is grave danger that they may take the view that everything the Government docs it in the national interest, and, therefore, anyone who opposes the Government is opposing the national interest. If we arrive at this stage, as well we may under these regulations, then we shall have completely wiped out all political liberty in this country."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st October, 1939; Vol. 352, c. 1889–90.]
I commend that statement to the right hon. Gentleman and his followers. A clearer statement of the dangers could not possibly have been made. It was made by the President of the Board of Trade whose absence I sincerely regret. There it is. The purpose of the words which are being used in this Bill is to give totalitarian powers to a Government, and we are asked as the House of Commons to surrender those powers. We have had to fight throughout the centuries for these rights against the Executive. At one time they were claimed by the King; today they are being claimed by a Government, and their use is without limitation. For those reasons I and my colleagues strongly oppose this provision.
During this Debate we have heard from hon. and learned Gentlemen on both sides of the Committee the legal arguments which would lead us to the view that the Government had in existing legislation already such powers as they are now condemned for taking or for underlining. It does not lie with me to follow any of those arguments. I want to say a few words about the Amendment, and by so doing, I may create a precedent in this Debate. A point of importance was made by the right hon. and learned Member for Hillhead (Mr. J. S. C. Reid) when he suggested that whatever the majority the Government might have, when they introduced legislation which is likely to be of an unusual, or, as he put it, of a revolutionary nature, there should be a wide measure of agreement in the country. Confused as the notions and the knowledge of the general public may be about the facts and seriousness of this crisis, the one thing on which there is not merely a wide measure of agreement but almost a general measure of agreement is the necessity for ensuring that the whole resources of the community are available for use and that they are used.
If there is one thing for which this Government would not be forgiven, it would be for failing to make use of any resources of labour, materials or wealth which this country possesses. Therefore, while I am not able to enter into fine legal arguments as to whether we already possess those powers, and it does appear that we do not quite possess them in the form envisaged in this Bill, I maintain that it is vitally necessary for production and for recovering from our present grave economic troubles—the paragraph deals with economic facts—that we should have a provision of this kind in the Bill.
A great deal was said by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition in regard to the loss of liberty. He was particularly concerned about the poor who, he said, would be enslaved under the Bill. There was one little phrase sticking up like a black bristle in a white pig's back, about pillaging the rich, but for the main part he was concerned about enslaving the poor. He urged their inalienable right to change employment. For the first time this century in peace time we have a Government which has provided the people not merely with the political liberty to change jobs, but with the economic possibility of making that liberty effective. This is of vital importance. It is only by the implementation of provisions of that kind that that liberty, which is prized by all sections of the community—the right to demand work and the ability to get work and to change employment—exists today. It has not really effectively existed before during this century. It is therefore nonsense to suggest that people like my right hon. and learned Friend the President of the Board of Trade are likely to implement under this new legislation any acts which will deprive people of real liberty, but it is imperative to understand that legislation of this kind will be necessary if we are to harness the resources of our country in manpower, materials and wealth and to provide the continued employment which will provide our people with economic liberty.
There was a suggestion that in paragraph (c) the Government had brought forward gross provocation. In my view the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition was completely gross provocation, if indeed it was not incitement. It is bound to create difficulties and doubts in the minds of men and women when they read and hear speeches of that kind, doubts which to my mind have no right to exist. I hold the view that if there is one way whereby we can overcome our present troubles—and there is only one way—it is by making them real to every man and woman in this country. They will not be real if only one special section of the community is subject to direction under the Control of Engagement Order. They will only be real if the people see before their eyes factual, visual evidence that the sacrifices have been levelled off and are being made by all and that single sections are not being asked to sacrifice and to submit to direction.
I hope that several Measures are going to be introduced under paragraph (c), and I do not think that power to introduce them already exists, although it has been said that it does exist. For example, recently, we have provided legislation which allows for setting up development councils in industry. Those development councils stop short at the power to enact that there shall be works councils in individual firms. One cannot possibly get individual men and women in the workshop to play their part in this struggle unless they first understand it, and, secondly, know that machinery exists to enable them to make their contribution by way of suggestion and discussion, to feel that they are really part of the industry in which they work. The only way to do that is by getting their participation in individual works councils.
I hope that under this paragraph the provision now applying to development councils will be extended so that there will be compulsion, possibly, to introduce works councils in all businesses over a certain size, councils to permit men and women a definite say over a definite field in the industry, and how it shall be directed. It is in those things that I think this provision can be extremely useful. It is vitally necessary that the Government should have these powers. I believe the great majority of people of this country want them to have these powers, and the only thing they will not forgive is failure to use every resource we have to extricate the country from its present difficulties, and to help it to emerge into a better way of life.
The hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. Collins) takes the good Socialist totalitarian view that the end justifies the means. He is prepared to see the people of this country go through fire, provided that at the end they achieve some sort of economic freedom. He is prepared to resort to direction of labour, and prepared not only to apply it to workers, but to managements as well. He is prepared to see the whole face of our country scourged and scorched if only he can achieve some Utopia which is unspecified and undefined.
May I interrupt the noble Lord? I should not be prepared to subject one class of the community to any kind of direction to which another class would not be equally subject.
The hon. Member does not appreciate that the effect of direction of labour and that the enforcement of laws of that kind in peace time will last far beyond the immediate period, and do irreparable damage to our country and our spirituality.
I am very glad we have got away from the feeble beginnings of this Debate. For a time we toyed with the idea that this was a Measure to remove doubt. Then, fortunately, my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) clearly stated the issues as they were going to affect the workers of this country. Equally fortunately, the Attorney-General reciprocated by saying that the powers taken here might involve further steps against property, wealth, and employers. That raises in acute form the major issues which many of us have known resided in this Bill from the very moment of its preparation. I wish to ask the Government a number of questions, and I hope there will be some kind of reply. So far we have had denunciations of the Bill, and quite rightly, but no one has asked the Government in what way they are going to use the powers they are now taking. I would like to know whether they are going to exercise any of these powers over the trade unions. The other day, in another place, Lord Brand made a remarkable speech in which he said that the serious inflation from which we are suffering could only be arrested if there was some Government intervention in the process of collective wage negotiation. I want to know whether the Government have considered his view, and whether they are now prepared to introduce into wage arbitrations the Government itself, representing the consumer, and see to it that in our present period of inflation wages do not rise further at the present time.
May I ask for guidance, Major Milner, and whether it is really in Order to have a Debate covering the whole economic field—which is where the noble Lord is getting? I do not intend to follow in that field as though we were having a two-day Debate on economic affairs.
While the noble Lord cannot go into too much detail, I do not see how I can rule out of Order a question which would appear to be inviting an answer as to whether a certain matter comes within the powers which under this Bill it is proposed to employ. We cannot have detailed discussion of these matters, though they can be mentioned incidentally. We cannot have a discussion on the matter in detail, but it seems to me in Order that this, amongst other matters, may be argued generally under paragraph (c).
With respect, I fully agree, but as I understand it, the noble Lord is asking me if I would make a declaration on wages policy on behalf of His Majesty's Government.
Further to that point of Order, in view of the very important Ruling you have given, Major Milner, which I loyally accept and abide by, may I submit this to you? In view of the fact that this Debate can cover absolutely everything, and at the same time enshrines most important constitutional principles, may I ask you to indicate that you would not be prepared to accept the Closure Motion on it at once?
I cannot give any promise of that sort and the Ruling I gave was directed to the proposition put forward by the noble Lord. I must reserve all my rights as to a future Ruling.
I really do not see how we can give these powers to the Government unless some of the problems contained in them are explained and questions which we are entitled to ask are given an answer. Whether the Lord President chooses to answer is a matter for him to decide, but the Committee may note that on the first question I put he rose rather truculently, and said he had no answer to give. That is in line with his statement the other day that he wanted these powers, but was not prepared to be questioned on them. That is another indication of the arrogant nature of the Members of the present Government. I have no desire to proceed upon this matter of union organisation. There will be other opportunities.
Then there is the question, which has been mooted and referred to in Government speeches in the last few days, of the curtailment of non-essential industries. We are told that those industries are to be cut down. Who is to say that they are to be cut down? I presume the Government and its planning committees. Who is to say whether the industries are essential or nonessential? Again, the Government and the planners. This seems to me to be a most wrong-headed solution. We shall be doing ourselves grave damage if the Government proceed, under the powers given in this Subsection (1, c), to close down one industry after another, which one or other Member of the Government, in a position of departmental responsibility, may think to be worthy of being closed down. Who knows but that some young industry which is coming into existence might be knocked on the head, which, if allowed to carry on would, in time, capture the export trade of the world? Those are the kind of considerations to which the Government ought to address themselves before they act arbitrarily under this Bill.
Then there is the question of foreign travel. We are told by the Chancellor of the Exchequer—and Treasury policy over the last few months is in accord with it—that one of our best hopes in this country is to re-establish our invisible export trade by encouraging merchant venturing overseas, by encouraging the establishment of businesses which will trade with one country and another, and thus provide for us vital invisible exports. Have the Government thought of the reaction upon our home tourist trade of the measures which they propose to cut down foreign travel? It will start a process of preventing people from coming here, and slash this very important trade which has been building up since the war.
This idea that the State as such must be master of its own fate is a piece of 20th century madness. It is the people and their desires who must be the masters of their own fate in building up businesses wherever they can, and by travelling all over the world wherever they want. This idea that being suddenly confronted with a collection of elected members of the Socialist Party, who are foisted into positions of power by the vote of the people, who preside over great Departments of State, you should entrust them with the power to take decisions in accordance with their own natures, involving every single member of the population, is dangerous and utterly unconstitutional. The only hope for this country is that the people, whose liberty is now being drastically curtailed from day to day, shall be enabled to take their own decisions, and go where they like throughout the world, to trade and travel, building up their lives and fortunes where they may.
Then there is another question. Under this paragraph, the Government will no doubt take powers to apply mass incentives to specialised industries, to apply differential rations to certain categories of workers. Have they thought of the consequences of that? Do they think that every coalminer and every engineer is worthy of special rations, silk stockings for his wife, special commodities in the shops, and that no artisan in the building trade, or in some other walk of life who does not qualify for these benefits, is worthy of consideration? There are enterprising bricklayers, telephone operators, insurance clerks, there are people in every walk of life who need these special advantages, special payments and special inducements. The Government's proposals for mass incentives to specialised industries take no account of those people, and take far too much account of the lazy men and women who exist in some of them. The question of incentives is a personal matter of man to man. The only solution for this country is to restore the price system throughout our economy, and to get away from this idea which the Government desire to enforce, through the provisions of this Measure, of mass benefits to certain industries, highly represented in this House.
Finally, I would like to say a word about the direction of labour. My right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford, with unerring instinct, made it the burden of his magnificent speech this afternoon. Our party has for a long time now been castigated for having so arranged our economic affairs that many people were thrown out of work at different periods of crisis by the too drastic operation of the old-fashioned Liberal price system. But let us not forget they were thrown out of work by a great impersonal force, and that makes all the difference. Now, along come the Government, and proceed to direct labour in a positive sense, acting according to the will of certain identifiable personalities, for purposes which people cannot understand, and which they heartily dislike. Sir, how terrible a thing is State Socialism. We have seen it at work upon the Continent. It starts by pleading that men should be good and equal.
The burden of many speeches, including that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford, was directed to the subject of the direction of labour. Am I not entitled to refer to it, if only in passing? I would say, very briefly, that what happens is that this business of trying to make men good and equal resolves itself into seeking means to ensure this. Over the years it feeds upon itself, gathering potency from the very crises which the doctrine induces. The issues are narrowed up from precedent to precedent until a pyramid of State power has been erected. Then the monster is unloosed, and simple people, brought up to pursue life and liberty, are indicted for acts of "sabotage against the people," cast into gaol, and torn limb from limb. That has been the experience upon the Continent, and we have to take it into account. Do not hon. Gentlemen opposite observe the remorseless and relentless trends here? At the present time we may well have, and do in fact have, a kind and gentle Prime Minister, and a Lord President, who is in exuberant spirits, and thinks of this Bill in light-hearted terms. But the printed words are there for all to see. In Bill after Bill introduced into this House over the last two years, more and more power has been embraced to the State. Do not hon. Gentlemen opposite see how communised and organised labour are forcing these——
I will not detain the Committee for very long. In conclusion, I would like to say that I think that the Government have forfeited the respect of the people of this nation by their actions over the last two years.
In taking the powers which they will have under this Bill, and under this Subsection, the Government show that they forfeit the confidence of the country. They show that they have exceeded their Mandate. It would seem to me that the only honourable course for the Government to take in face of that situation and in face of the growing contempt of the community towards them, is to resign and to face the electors. Then, if they are returned to power, they can take the powers contained in this Bill and do it with a good conscience; but that they should attempt to do it now, two years after they were returned to power, when every month produces fresh evidence of crisis——
On a point of Order. Surely we are discussing an Amendment to decide whether to give the Government certain powers. I had always understood that upon an Amendment of that character it was both material and in Order to discuss whether the moment was opportune at which such powers could reasonably be given, or whether the Government which demanded these powers was a Government worthy of our confidence. It must be material, when considering whether certain powers are to be given, to consider to whom they are to be given. I submit that we must not be unduly confined in this matter. We must look at it in all its relevant repercussions—[HON. MEMBERS: "Speech."]—I am raising a point of Order.
May I ask your guidance on this matter? May we not, in a Debate to decide whether the Government should be afforded certain powers, consider whether the Government which it is proposed should assume them is one worthy of our confidence and whether the moment is or is not opportune for these powers to be taken? If not, what are all these speeches about?
Further to that point of Order, Major Milner. In view of the fact that the Lord President himself has made a statement that he does not intend to give any indication of the manner in which these powers are to be used, are we not entitled, if we catch your eye, to try to elicit from the Government by questions, information about the mariner in which they will use these powers?
The hon. and gallant Gentleman is right in what he has just said and to some extent the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) is also right. But there must be some limit to the discussion, and I am afraid, fortunately or unfortunately, I must be the best judge of that limit. I do not think that the noble Lord had any cause for complaint.
I should like to come back to the question of these powers and the use that is likely to be made of them. I think that the noble Lord and the Leader of the Opposition were at least right in this: that they concentrated on the labour control as probably the most important issue arising under this Subsection. I think the language in which the Leader of the Opposition painted the probable manner in which the Government would use the powers of control and direction was some what vivid. I do not think that we should take seriously this picture of workers being directed away from their homes in thousands and so forth. Nevertheless, this is an exceedingly important issue——
Does not the hon. Gentleman realise what will happen? It is not that every working man will be directed away from home, but there must be vast numbers who will be.
I do not believe that will happen. Perhaps the hon. and gallant Gentleman will let me get on. I think that the issue of the use of labour controls under this Bill is an exceedingly vital one, and I would like to ask the Government for one or two assurances about how these powers are to be used; and I would like to make some suggestions about how we can, as it were, soften the difficulty. I happen to have had the job of administering these powers of direction and so forth for three years or so during the war. On the basis of that experience, I believe that it is possible to say how these powers ought to be used in the present emergency. I would also say on the basis of that experience that I am totally opposed to the use of labour direction in peace time in almost any circumstances. I think it would be doctrinaire to say "in absolutely any circumstances," but I say "in almost any." I say that for two reasons. First, because I think such direction is unacceptable in principle, and, second, because I believe on the basis of experience that it will be clumsy and ineffective in practice. I believe that it is unacceptable in principle because compulsion of this character on the individual in respect of the job which he cither wishes to accept or leave is an interference in what I would call personal freedom. It is really confusing to discuss this question on the basis of whether we direct capital, on the one hand, or whether we direct labour, on the other.
The real issue is between what I would call personal freedom, on the one hand, and what I would call economic freedom on the other. I think we invade the sphere of personal freedom when we begin to say that an individual must not leave his job if he wishes or, alternatively, we try to direct him into a job which he does not wish to accept. We have got into some confusion over this—perhaps even the Government have got into confusion—by the use of the phrase, "Negative direction of labour," and also by rather slipshod references to the Control of Engagement Order which, of course, was used very widely in wartime. I have been advocating the use of the Control of Engagement Order under this Bill to meet this crisis in the coming months. I think that if we make use of that Order in the correct manner, we shall be able to meet a lot of our difficulties. Broadly speaking, there are two ways in which the Control of Engagement Order can be used in this situation or, indeed, in wartime. On the one hand, it can be applied to a whole industry in the sense in which it is applied to the coal industry and to agriculture at this moment. We used to call it, as the Minister of Labour will remember, putting a "ring fence" round the industry. When that is done we say: "This worker is a coalminer, or a farm worker; he may not leave that industry and he may not take any other job." In my opinion, that is a vicious system, and one unlikely to prove effective. It is vicious because it is a plain and blatant interference with personal freedom. It is ineffective, first, because it is very doubtful whether——
Possibly the hon. and gallant Gentleman saw that I was about to interrupt. The hon. Gentleman is certainly going into far too much detail. I cannot permit him to do that.
Really I had only one other brief point to make. The other method, and this is my main point, by which we can use this power, is by putting a limitation on the employer in respect of his right to engage additional labour. I believe that, if the Government are going to operate this control under this Bill, as the President of the Board of Trade has rather indicated on these lines, namely, on the lines of a limitation of the engagement of extra labour by firms in non-essential industries, that is the right, valuable and effective method. I do not think it is always realised that if that is done, inessential firms will soon lose their labour as a result of natural wastage.
I wish finally, therefore, to ask the Government if they can assure us that the use of these powers of labour control will be, very largely, by the limitation of the recruitment of extra labour by nonessential firms, and not by interference with the personal freedom of individual workers, either by preventing them leaving their jobs or by directing them elsewhere.
I do not intend to take up the time of the Committee for very long, but it seems to me that the speech which the hon. Gentleman opposite has just made is an illustration of the difficulty in which we are all situated. None of us, on either side of the Committee, has the foggiest idea of what the Government require these powers for. It has been very rare to hear either a coherent speech or one that was com- pletely in Order, but I would hazard a suggestion to those hon. Members who have asked questions of the Government that they will get no answer from the Government, for the reason that the Government do not know the answers. They have made it quite plain to us that they have no idea.
I should like to make some other remarks before I come to the main subject of my speech. As the mover of the rejection of the American loan, and as a strong opponent of that loan and the conditions attaching to it, I would like to repudiate very strongly the remarks made about the loan by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman). I am very well-known in the United States as a lively opponent of the loan in this country, and, if any words of mine carry across the Atlantic, I would like to say that I do not believe that there is one man in a million in this country who shares the views expressed by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne—[Interruption.]—or, as one of my hon. Friends says, one man in 20 million. I would like to say that, in 23 years in this House, I do not think I have heard anything much hotter than the speech of the Attorney-General. It really was shameful, and the interjection of the Lord President just now, when he referred to the point of Order raised by my noble Friend, and when he said that, whether it was in Order or not, he had not the slightest intention of answering the question, made me wonder whether I was sitting in the Reichstag.
There are two views about this Bill and this paragraph. There is the view that a group of able and ruthless men are seizing the opportunity to impose a totalitarian system of Government in this country, the opportunity being the present economic crisis. There is another view that this Government consists of incompetent, frightened and timid men, quite incapable of reaching decisions or achieving a policy of any kind, who have brought in what purports to be and looks like a bold piece of legislation in order to cover up their own incompetence and panic. Until this afternoon, I was inclined to the latter view, but I am not now quite so sure, after the interjection of the Lord President. I think that the Government ought to make some attempt before we part with this Measure to tell us the purpose of it. They have not made the slightest attempt to do so.
Why do they think that these sweeping powers are necessary? I really think that we want a little precision in this matter; we have got absolutely none. The right hon. and learned Attorney-General never bothered to tell us, and the Lord President truculently told us that he would not tell us, however often we asked, for what purpose these enormous, sweeping powers are required. The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne attempted to say that the Leader of the Opposition had said that these powers were, in fact, justified. If he looks up HANSARD tomorrow he will see that the right hon. Gentleman said nothing of the kind. He said that these powers were wrong—they were the words he used—and that similar powers would only be justified in a position of grave emergency, such as war, and with the approval of all parties, or the great majority of this House. I think he is right.
I would have thought that not only were the Committee entitled to some precision from the Government in this matter, but that they were also entitled to the maximum number of safeguards to protect what, after all, used to be thought a valuable thing in this country—the freedom of the citizen. I complain bitterly that the Government have not made the faintest attempt to meet the wishes or the anxieties of the Committee on this matter. They have not put a single provision in the Bill to tone it down or to give us any satisfaction that this most important paragraph will not be abused. It could have been drafted with much greater care. It bears all the evidence of haste and improvisation. Some attempt, at any rate, could have been made to define what were the purposes of the Government, and to safeguard, in some way, the liberties of the subject.
No attempt has been made to do that, and, so far as I can see, the Government can do anything under this paragraph. They can repeal any statute on the Statute Book. I am not convinced that even the Common Law—the last safeguard—is not in extreme danger, and could not be violated under the terms of this paragraph, if the Government so desired. The
right hon. and learned Attorney-General has given us absolutely no assurance on this provision whatsoever. When we ask what practical measures the Government propose to take under this Bill, the party opposite are dumb, because, of course, they do not know themselves. Look at the problems that have to be faced and solved in our present economic situation. There is the question of hours of work, of wages, of the cuts in food, of economy in expenditure overseas, and the great vital question of convertibility and non-discrimination which ought to have been taken up long ago with the United States. All these things will have to be dealt with; none have been grappled with by the Government up to now. No decision has yet been come to on any one of them. No wonder the Lord President said in moving the Second Reading of the Bill:
We have no preconceived notions as to precisely how we propose to utilise it.
That was a remarkable sentence for the Leader of the House to utter in introducing the Second Reading of one of the most revolutionary Measures, to put it quite mildly, ever to be brought forward in this House. I could hardly believe it. In fact, I will read it again:
We have no preconceived notions as to precisely how we propose to utilise it."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th August, 1947; Vol. 441, c. 1806.]
After an intervention he said that he had no intention of making any attempt to answer the questions which were put to him by either side of the House. I think this is really one of the most outrageous things which have ever been perpetrated in this House.
I am not going into the details of the matter, Major Milner, because I fully accept your earlier Ruling, but when it comes to the direction of labour, I agree with the hon. Member opposite that it would appear to have a very sinister interpretation. The Government have failed to man the mines largely because they capitulated to the orders of Mr. Horner, not for the first time, and not, I am afraid for the last. Let us face it. The only way they have carried on agriculture in this country during their two years tenure in power is by slavery. Does this Measure mean that they are going to find another form of slave labour in order to man the essential industries of this country? We have certainly had no assurance to the contrary from any Minister.
Whatever the motive or purpose of this Measure, it is unquestionably and undoubtedly a step in the direction of the totalitarian State. Nobody can deny it. The Government may proclaim their own beneficent intentions. But this Government may not last so long as some Ministers think. Even before the termination of this Parliament, they might be replaced by a more extreme Administration which would still command a narrow majority, and which might use the powers which it is sought to grant in this Bill for purposes other than those anticipated by the Attorney-General or the Lord President of the Council. That is the deadly danger that Mr. Gollancz pointed out in a remarkable letter to "The Times" this morning. We are frightened not so much of the intention of those who brought in this Measure, as the fact that once it is on the Statute Book it may be used for a far more evil purpose than was contemplated by anybody who has been responsible for bringing it in. That is what, to me, marks the absolute infamy of the Government in bringing in this Measure, and in refusing to tell the House of Commons why they brought it in and what they propose to do with the immense powers which it contains.
I think I detect in the speeches which have been made by Members opposite a measure of fear, and I wonder exactly why they think the powers are required. I have listened very carefully to many of their speeches, and this question of what the working class will think about this Bill, comes very strangely from Opposition Members. I have never known them have any concern at all for what the working class might think or might wish to do, unless they wanted to use the working class for their own purposes. In the background of the speeches of hon. Members opposite is the fear that, perhaps, these powers may be used in order to see that those people born into high society, and who have never done any productive work, will be required to work in the interests of the community, upon whom they have lived for so long. Some hon. Members opposite, who have never done any productive work at all, may fear that they might be directed to some peculiar type of work which they do not know how to do. Perhaps they will have to attend training classes in order to dis- cover the sort of things which the working class have had to do for so long. I can envisage the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) being directed to gut the herrings about which he talks so often, for three or four days, so many hours a day, or doing something productive and useful to the community.
On a point of Order, and a very important point of Order. An hon. Member of this House has voiced the probability that Members of Parliament will now come under direction. Is this not a breach of Privilege, which should be treated as being almost as important as the leakage of secrets from the Labour Party?
Further to that point of Order. Your predecessor, Mr. Beaumont, has already ruled that, in the Debate on this paragraph (c), no details are to be discussed at all, and that it is to be discussed as a general matter, particularly as regards direction of labour. I submit that the hon. Lady has gone well beyond the Rule of your predecessor.
There is only one reply I should like to make to the hon. Member for East Aberdeen regarding herring. It may be that under this provision the hon. Member may have to try to do something which women have been very capable of doing, and which he has been unable to do up to the moment. I think there is a fear in the minds of hon. Members opposite. They are afraid of many things, but they are afraid mostly that a lot of their ill-gotten gains, that they have got from the production of the workers, may be used in the interest of saving the community, in which community hon. Members opposite suppose themselves to be the only patriots.
The patriots are the working class of every type, who suffered all the indignities put upon them by organised capital, who suffered unemployment, and who even now are suffering unemployment—unemployment that cannot be righted at the moment because it is a legacy left over from the past because the whole of the resources of the community have never yet been used for the benefit of the community. What hon. Members opposite are afraid of is that, perhaps, this Government, who were returned to power to see that the whole of the resources of the community should be used for the benefit of the community, may, for the first time, have those resources used for the benefit of the community through the regulations the Government may make.
We have been asked how we are to justify this Bill to the workers of this country. It is always the workers who are referred to. Let me say without any fear of contradiction that it has taken me all my time during the last 18 months to justify the fact that we have not taken these powers and have not insisted that the whole of the resources of the community shall be used in the reconstruction period for the benefit of the community. It takes me all my time to do that when I go into my constituency, where, after the last war, because the whole of the resources of the community were not used, the poverty was of a most dreadful character; and its scars are left on the working class in that community even to this day. They press me every time I go there to say why it is that only a section of us are asked to give everything in order to save this country in an economic crisis. "Why is it that we workers are always asked to produce more?" they ask. There is only a certain amount the workers can stand and the workers can do. Knowing them as I do, living as I do amongst them on every possible occasion—preferring to be with them than with the type of person represented on the other side of the Committee—I know they are concerned, very concerned, as to why we have not used the whole of the resources of the community to get us out of this economic difficulty. We talk here above their heads. They do not understand half of what is said by hon. Members on the other side. They do not understand the Opposition's talking about what the workers think, because it is an entirely new conception to them that anybody representing capitalism, as the Tory representatives do, can be considered to be concerned about the working class. They think that they are concerned only with how much work they can get out of them, and how much profit they can make.
Their view is that the Tories cannot be interested in what they think. That is a fact. The policy of the Government is on trial. That policy is an attempt to get workers and capital to work together——
On a point of Order, Mr. Beaumont, your predecessor in the Chair has given some fairly severe Rulings on what may or may not be discussed in this Debate. At least two hon. Members, one on either side, have had to conclude their speeches prematurely simply because they went outside the strict terms of the Amendment. I ask you, how much more of this have we got to put up with?
I should like to conclude the sentence, in the middle of which I was interrupted. For the past two years the Government have made strenuous efforts to get industry to work for the benefit of the community as a whole. It is that policy which is on trial, not whether the Government are able to deal with the situation. What is on trial is whether it is possible, in new circumstances, to get the working class and the employing class working side by side, utilising in industry the total resources of the community. If that breaks down and a class war becomes evident, it will not be the responsibility of the Government or the working class, but the responsibility of the owners of industry who are not prepared, unless forced to do so by some penal measures, to use our resources for the benefit of the community. It must be within the knowledge of hon. Members opposite that at present great efforts are being made to sabotage the policy which the Government are trying to put into operation——
If you say that, Mr. Beaumont, I am in a difficulty. If it is out of Order to refer to the fact that the resources of the community are being misused, or that the Government's attempt to use them is being sabotaged, I must leave it there. I do not want to discuss the American loan and what we feel about it.
Whether we like it or not, the working class of this country can produce so much, and no more; they can carry so many parasites on their backs, and no more. But unless there are powers to prevent their having to carry those parasites on their backs, sooner or later the working class will itself take powers—which nobody will be able to discuss—in order to throw off the parasites they have carried for so long. That is my own honest opinion. I have been in the Socialist and working class movement all my life. I have never been a hypocrite, and I do not intend to saddle the Government Front Bench with responsibility for my opinions, but I believe sincerely and emphatically that we cannot endure a system whereby the workers are in subjection, while the employers make huge profits, on which they live, without producing anything. I ask hon. Members to read paragraph (c), and to read it carefully. I believe if it is reiterated by the Press of the Tory Party, it will act as a clarion call for the workers to insist on this Government taking the necessary powers to see that the whole of the resources of the community are organised to the advantage of the community as a whole.
In the course of his peroration to a long speech last Thursday, the Chancellor of the Exchequer suggested that during the Recess we should ponder, study and explain the economic crisis to our constituents. That was hardly the type of message we expected. We expected some inspiration which would send us back to rouse our constituencies to try to raise agricultural and industrial production to overcome the crisis. I am sure that the hon. Lady the Member for the Exchange Division of Liverpool (Mrs. Braddock) will forgive me if I do not follow her speech, because I cannot think that a speech of that kind is calculated to bring about that unity of effort which we need to solve our problem. Over and over again, the President of the Board of Trade has gibed at the Opposition for trying to remove controls. I think that he knows in his heart of hearts that those of us who are concerned with businesses are trying to overcome the petty frustrations and difficulties which face us in trying to get production. I have with me a number of examples of petty frustrations which have to be overcome. Members in all parts of the Committee receive representations of this kind. I derive no satisfaction in overcoming one of these difficulties by correspondence with the President of the Board of Trade, or with some other Government Department, because I feel that they should never have arisen. Why should it be left to Members of Parliament to remove some petty frustration in connection with the issue of a licence to encourge the export trade?
What has struck me during this Debate is the inconsistency of hon. Members opposite. I do not want to be petty or indulge in recriminations, but two months ago the hon. Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) was deriding the Government because a Measure gave the Home Secretary power to do whatever he liked, or let someone else do it for him. During the course of that same Debate, the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) and the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) gave unqualified support to that view. That was on a Measure which is very similar to the one we are discussing today. During the weekend I went to the cinema, and the caption, "The Clarion Call," came up on the screen. Then the Prime Minister was seen and heard, in his earnest, quiet, way, describing the crisis, and explaining why the country will have to tighten its belt and accept the rules, orders, and regulations which will be brought forward as a result of this Bill. At that moment, I could not help thinking of the message which was sent out to our troops by Field-Marshal Montgomery just before the battle of El Alamein. Those who were there at that time, or thereabouts, will remember that it was a simple and unexpected message, in view of all that had gone before—the disorganisation of the Eighth Army and its regrouping and redrilling. The message was—"How proud …
Instead of a Measure of frustration like this, which will mean more orders and regulations, what we should be doing at this time is going to our constituents and rousing them to increased production by telling them that having won the war how proud they should be of having the opportunity of facing up to the situation. Almost anything can be done under this Bill, and that is why I support the Amendment to limit its powers.
There has been a great deal of confusion in this Debate between the powers which are conferred in this Clause and the purposes for which those powers are to be used. The powers are not new; they have existed since 1941. When the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition was speaking of those powers, he said that they involved industrial conscription, that they imposed serfdom on the people of this country, that nobody would feel safe from having a knock at his door at night. The powers which he so described are the powers which he himself took. There is no new power conferred by this Bill. Again, when the right hon. Gentleman was speaking to us about those powers, he said that we should be particularly careful about conferring powers of that kind because of the character of the people who are to exercise them. He referred particularly to the President of the Board of Trade, he quoted to us what my right hon. and learned Friend said away back in 1934, and he said, "Look at the type of man to whom you are giving these powers." But the right hon. Gentleman himself gave these powers to that very man, when he was Minister of Aircraft Production, and he used them. Really, we must get away from that "phoney" histrionic nonsense, and come back to what is the real issue here.
The question is not as to the powers, not, I think, very widely as to their purpose, but for what the powers will be used now. Are they to be used for the mobilisation of industry in order to meet this crisis? Are we to treat exports as though they were shells and are we to say to every man who owns a factory: "At this moment you own a national asset, and if that asset is required to serve the nation, it must serve the nation, and you must make the things which the nation requires"? Is not that the sort of use which is to be made of these powers here and now?
It seems to me that we have come to a parting of the ways. I feel that this is a moment, and a Bill, of very great importance, not so much because of its legal effect, but because it is a milestone that is marking the parting of the ways. We have come out of a sunlit, dollar-paved valley in which we could strut about, and now there are only two roads before us. They are both hard roads, and they both involve some loss of economic liberty. In the Second Reading Debate, those two roads were described with very great candour, on the one side by the right hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson) and the hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft) and on the other side by the hon. Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman). I can see no middle road between those two. Let us recognise here and now that they both involve sacrifice of economic liberty. Here I would say to the hon. and gallant Member for Antrim (Major Haughton) that one should draw a distinction between civil liberty and economic liberty. The hon. Member for South Dorset (Viscount Hinchingbrooke), was attracted very directly towards civil liberty, and the expression of opinion.
That, I say quite emphatically is economic. Economic liberty is something that has never been enjoyed except by that small minority of people who are fortunate enough to have private means. Private means were the key and passport of economic liberty. The people who had no private means never have had economic liberty. They were subject to the rule of the boss, and this was a rude which was enforced by a very serious sanction indeed—the dole and the means test; the sack——
On a point of Order, Mr. Beaumont. Your predecessor ruled the hon. Member for North Battersea (Mr. Jay) out of Order for exploring this very avenue in rather a different sense. May we not have some Ruling as to how far this kind of argument is permitted to be pursued by the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) as distinct from the hon. Member for North Battersea?
What I was indicating was that this Bill provides, among other things, for this additional purpose:
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.
What we have to discuss is whether that is desirable or not, and I am attempting to argue that it is desirable, and, in fact, is a lesser reduction of liberty than the alternative. The alternative which was put by the hon. Member for Monmouth was to cut the social services and get back to mass unemployment, which is what
economists describe, and ask us to accept, as the stick that goes with the carrot. The system, as the hon. Member for Monmouth put it, is to get back to price mechanism.
I will try to do so. There, on the one hand, are the very grave curtailments on economic liberty which are imposed by one section. If the nation desires them, it can go back to them. The alternative is to go forward—and again I will try to keep in Order here—and try to take the full Socialist alternative which was given by the hon. Member for East Coventry. In this matter I most emphatically support everything he said. I feel, and I think a good many hon. Members opposite will recognise, that in this Parliament I have been a moderate, and my opinions have been dictated more by reason than by doctrine on a great many occasions. Indeed, I think the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) will remember that I was one of the very few voices to state that the tied cottage was necessary to agriculture.
I was simply dealing with the general point. While on this point, I should like to say that I feel there is no kind of middle way. If we try to drift along as we have been drifting along, without either taking the Socialist alternative or the alternative put forward by the hon. Member for Monmouth, that is the way to certain disaster. Here is a point where we have to say quite firmly, either we go back to price mechanism, or we go the whole hog and mobilise industry, as it were for war, to make things which the community requires as for a military operation, because the safety and the future of the community depend upon it. This is the Bill which will give us those powers, and I submit that they are highly necessary at this time.
I do not propose to detain the Committee many minutes, and I shall try not to make a Second Reading speech. I have listened with great interest to the hon. Member for the Exchange Division of Liverpool (Mrs. Braddock), and I rather regret that her speech was not made in Hyde Park rather than in the House of Commons. No doubt she is perfectly honest in all she says, and I realise that she does not want to know me. As for the speech that has just been made by the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) I would ask him to remember that when my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) took these powers in 1940 it was in time of war, and in time of war anything and everything must be done by the community in the interests of the whole nation in order to protect us from invasion. Therefore, it is not comparable to talk about what we did in 1940 and what is being done today. Many of us thought in 1945 that the powers that the Government took then were wholly unnecessary in time of peace. Had the Government known their business they could perfectly well have done without them, although, of course, some controls had to be retained for the time being while things were scarce.
Now we are told that the present Bill confers no further powers on the Government than they already had under the Act of 1945. The Prime Minister has assured us that this Bill was only required in order to enable us to weather the economic crisis and that this Clause we are discussing was necessary to make sure that it was legal to enforce the existing Act. I am one of those who think that this Bill is wholly unnecessary. I am perfectly certain that the Government could carry on and do everything necessary in the existing emergency without further legislation. But we have just heard a speech, similar to other speeches made from the other side of the Committee, which showed very clearly that there are hon. Members whose views about this Measure are not those of the Prime Minister. They are advocating that the Bill should be used not so much to assist our economic recovery as to using economics in order to carry through a social revolution.
My great complaint about this Bill is that it establishes a dangerous precedent. I do not think for a moment that the Lord President of the Council, the Prime Minister or most of the right hon. Mem- bers on the Front Bench opposite are really totalitarian in the sense in which Hitler was. I do not look upon them as desperadoes but, as was said by ray hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen and Kincardine, Eastern (Mr. Boothby), rather as frightened men who do not in the least know what to do and are, therefore, anxious to get rid of Parliamentary control, as far as possible and then rule by Orders in Council. But although this Government may be well meaning there are other hon. Gentlemen on that side, who may, as has been suggested, soon be in control of a majority in the House, and they are by no means so harmless.
I look upon the national situation at the present time as being extremely dangerous, but I think that it would be better if the Government were to concentrate on the essentials and not to dither about inventing in Government Departments various ways of directing industry in this way and that, and in arranging what particular exports are to be sent to what country and a hundred other details. They should concentrate on the two great essentials and then we might soon get this country going again. If only they could get the miners to produce more coal, if only we were in a position to sell coal abroad as we were in 1937——