National Health Service Bill (Time-Table)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 23rd April 1952.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale 12:00 am, 23rd April 1952

I could imagine that hon. Gentlemen opposite have a case, in their judgment, for saying that the amendment of the transport system or even the de-nationalisation of steel could be held to make some contribution to a change in the economic situation. I should not agree with them, but, nevertheless, those measures would be of an order of magnitude which might appear to have some relevance to it. But surely not £10.75 million from the cripples. Surely right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite have got the whole thing wrong. They should have their order of priorities put right again.

The only explanation they have given is that we started some of it. But that is not good enough at all. We put a term to it; and, indeed, if the Government are always to do what we did as a precedent, then they can take the power to make the Regulations but not make them. It is not the first time that powers have been taken to make punitive Regulations and the Regulations themselves have never afterwards been made. There are very many Acts on the Statute Book giving power to make Regulations which, in fact, are not made. I hope hon. Gentlemen opposite will follow our example faithfully in this respect.

I come back to the point that there is something seriously wrong with the morals of a party which, despite all the other pieces of present legislation which they are anxious to bring to the Floor of the House of Commons, invoke the authority of the Guillotine in order to force through the House of Commons punitive powers to oppress cripples. I do not want to embarrass them too much; the spectacle is painful; but they need not imagine that because they rush this Bill through the House of Commons the people will not know what they are doing, for in a few weeks' time, if they carry these Regulations through, the consequences of this legislation will reach the people and will reach them in a thousand and in tens of thousands of irritating ways—all for the purpose of getting a miserable sum like this.

I believe that Governments should have a sufficient Parliamentary authority to get their business through. It is never right for an Opposition to use the powers conferred upon them by the constitution to deny the right of government to the Government of the day. That is a perfectly proper point of view, and that is why different parties have invoked the Guillotine from time to time. But let us have some sense of proportion; let us have some selective principles. Do not use the Guillotine for purposes like this; and, if hon. Members are going to talk about the respect in which Parliament is held, can the people have any respect for a Government which introduce legislation, and force it through the House of Commons by a Guillotine, directly opposed to the mandate they got from the country?

Not only have the Government no mandate for this, but they specifically obtained votes by saying that they were not going to do it. Never was there a more dishonourable use of the Guillotine than this. It seems to me, therefore, that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen ought to think again. It is really too bad that the weakest and the most oppressed and the most helpless people in the country are now to be denied the opportunity of having their grievances voiced on the Floor of the House of Commons.