Clause 1. — (Extension of powers under 9 & 10 Geo. 6 c. 10.)

Part of Orders of the Day — Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers) Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 11th August 1947.

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Photo of Lieut-Colonel Sir Cuthbert Headlam Lieut-Colonel Sir Cuthbert Headlam , Newcastle upon Tyne North 12:00 am, 11th August 1947

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——