New Clause. — (Statutory Instruments.)

Orders of the Day — Isle of Man (Customs) Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 25th July 1952.

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Any statutory instrument made under this Act shall be laid in draft before both Houses of Parliament and shall not have legislative effect until the same shall have been approved by an affirmative resolution of each House.—[Mr. Hale.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

11.6 a.m.

Photo of Mr Charles Hale Mr Charles Hale , Oldham West

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

I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams) for his cry of approval just now when no one on this side spoke further on Clauses 4 and 5. We had no intention of discussing them further, as he would have known had he been present last night even as much as the Leader of the House.

This is not a "formal" Clause, but it is of a type which has been discussed by the Committee and by the House many times before in connection with other matters, and the case for this Clause, in connection with others previously, has often been so forcefully expounded in the last six years by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury himself that I am certain that I need not add a word to the very forceful arguments he has used in the past. However, to summarise what the position is in this matter, it is that there is power to impose a penal sum of up to £100 by way of penalty, so it is all the more necessary that it should be subject to supervision.

So we come to this, that, so far as this Bill is concerned, the matter lies between the Commissioners, who were defined last night, and the people of the Isle of Man—the people of the Isle of Man who contravene what the Commissioners think right practice; and the Commissioners decide on the regulations, consulting nobody, subject to no appeal, and subject to no amendment of any kind; they then declare them; the Commissioners then appoint an officer to examine any breaking of the regulations; and the Commissioners do not enter into negotiations, and are not subject to any court of any kind; and, finally, the Commissioners themselves impose the penalty and the Commissioners themselves collect it.

That seems to me—I hope I am not overstating it—to be as bad a case of delegated legislation—private delegated legislation—as one could possibly have. I am very anxious to hear the Financial Secretary's observations on the point.

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

The hon. Member has correctly stated the present position, but I think I can in some degree alleviate his anxieties. The position as regards control or lack of control of the Statutory Instruments is as stated by him, but as soon as Clause 306 of the Customs and Excise Bill, which the House of Commons passed a short time ago, comes into effect these Statutory Instruments, with others of a similar character affecting the United Kingdom, will be subject to the negative procedure. That is one of the results of the review of the law which we have undertaken in connection with a much more massive Bill.

In our view, that is the correct degree of control for these types of Order. In the circumstances, the hon. Gentleman having ventilated the matter, I hope he will not think it necessary to press it further.

Photo of Mr Charles Hale Mr Charles Hale , Oldham West

I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman. We did not examine the Customs and Excise Act as carefully as we might have done. It runs into 300 Sections, and it was suggested that it might delay proceedings and take up considerable time if we considered it in detail, so in deference to the overloaded business of Her Majesty's Ministers we allowed that Bill to go through almost without discussion. That perhaps explains why I was not aware of that particular provision. I am grateful to the Financial Secretary, who is so pleasant and courteous, sitting there happily, if I may say so, looking so attractive this morning in his "Old Banstead Harriers" tie. In the circumstances, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion, and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule agreed to.

Bill reported, without Amendment.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."—[Mr. Boyd-Carpenter.]

11.12 a.m.

Photo of Major Geoffrey Bing Major Geoffrey Bing , Hornchurch

I do not want to detain the House for more than a few moments on this matter, because it is obvious that we have to pass this Bill. It is based on highly unsatisfactory accounts, which we have discussed at some length, and all I want to say now is that by the next time on which we discuss such a Measure we ought to have some more satisfactory form of account so that we understand a little more clearly what we are talking about. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]

Hon. Members who applaud should have heard the superb performance of the Financial Secretary, on which we all wish to congratulate him. He dealt with every Clause without ever allowing the House to perceive that he never told them the financial result of it. He is bound to be in that position, because he is, in effect, presenting a Finance Bill six months in advance of the Budget on which it is based. In those circumstances, he is naturally under difficulties, and we all appreciate the way in which he did it.

I shall detain the House for only a moment to give an example of what I mean. On examining the latest available accounts of the Isle of Man dealing with the last Finance Bill, we find that the yield on the tax on spirits is somewhere in the neighbourhood of £174,000, whereas the yield on the tax on tea is £32. I do not know whether that is a correct reflection of the social habits of the Isle of Man, or whether it is the result of the rather peculiar way in which the Isle of Man accounts are presented.

At the moment they are presented on such a basis that it is impossible for hon. Members to discuss this Bill adequately or intelligently, and I therefore think that the best course would be to pass the Bill as it is but to urge that next year there ought to be full accounts available to the House before we deal with the matter.

11.14 a.m.

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Plymouth, Devonport

I should certainly like to join with my hon. and learned Friend in congratulating the Parliamentary Secretary on the skill he has shown throughout our discussion of this Bill. That is a genuine tribute which I believe is shared by all hon. Members on this side of the House. We were in some difficulty in dealing with this Bill; not only the difficulty mentioned by my hon. and learned Friend, but also the difficulty of knowing what would be the proper way to raise the points we wished to raise on the Bill.

We might have followed the example of the Conservative Opposition in earlier days when they put down a Motion to reject the Bill on Second Reading. We considered that course, but thought that would be a way of dealing with the matter which might be misunderstood in the Isle of Man, and might lead them to think there was some animosity against the people of the Isle of Man. Of course, nothing of that sort entered our minds. We wished to establish on a clearer basis the relations between the two countries.

We did not appreciate that we should have the interventions of the Leader of the House, who told us the other night that it was an absolute outrage that we should be discussing the Bill at all at that time, and, the following night, said that we had made very good progress. We on this side appreciate the skill shown by the Parliamentary Secretary, and also appreciate the apology made by the Leader of the House.

One of the most attractive features of this House is that when an hon. or right hon. Gentleman has made a mistake, feels genuinely that he has made a mistake and comes to the House and confesses his error, the House always accepts it in the spirit in which it is given. We are sorry that the Leader of the House is not here to hear our thanks for his coming here last night, although at a rather late hour we must admit, to make amends for the statement he made in the House the other day.

I hope that next year we shall have a Bill establishing clearer relations between this country and the Isle of Man, because it is a constitutional anomaly of a very curious kind to have the same Bill, in essence, passing through two Assemblies at the same time, with no one very clear about what would happen if Amendments were made to the Measure.

11.16 a.m.

Photo of Sir Eric Fletcher Sir Eric Fletcher , Islington East

I wish to add to what has been said by my hon. Friends and join in congratulating the Financial Secretary on the great skill he has shown, with very little ammunition or information, in piloting this Bill through the House. I think that our discussions have been quite agreeable, and the House has learned a great deal as a result of the scrutiny directed towards the Bill. The whole House, and no doubt the people of the Isle of Man, will realise by now that this is not merely a formal Bill, as the Leader of the House on one occasion thought. It is a Bill which deserves and requires careful scrutiny.

I think it is generally accepted on both sides that the financial relations between this country and the Isle of Man, particularly with regard to Customs, leave a good deal to be desired. They have continued for many years on a basis which is now recognised to be out of date, and we and, no doubt, the people of the Isle of Man have learned with a great deal of satisfaction of the negotiations that have been taking place for putting these financial relations on a more satisfactory basis.

Those who have followed the debates on this Bill through its various stages have realised that this is merely another illustration of the useful function which is performed by a vigilant opposition, as we now have, after the absence of a good many years. That vigilant Opposition may be there for only a short time, but during that short time it has a great deal to do.

I was glad to hear the Leader of the House withdraw the unjustified strictures which he at one time addressed to the House for having, as he said, dared to occupy the time of the House in discussing a Bill which he regarded as a mere formality. I am glad to find it is now realised that this is an important Bill. It contains a great many unsatisfactory features, but we on this side are, nevertheless, prepared to allow it to have a Third Reading, because as the result of our criticisms we have had assurances that the points we have made will be rectified in future years.

Having said that, I hope the House will give this Bill its Third Reading, but the Government should be aware that when the Bill comes before us again, or any Bill of this nature which appears to us to call for criticism, we shall not hesitate to give it all the scrutiny and criticism we think it deserves.

11.20 a.m.

Photo of Mr William Hall Mr William Hall , Colne Valley

I should like to add one or two words to what my hon. Friends have said. I am sure that the Financial Secretary and those hon. Members opposite who were present at our debates will agree that we have had some very useful debates, in spite of their being rather early in the morning on two occasions. They have, in our view, been well worth while.

If discussions of this kind had taken place in recent years, perhaps something more would have been done to make the situation better and more reasonable from the point of view of the taxpayers of this country. The Opposition cannot be charged with having delayed the proceedings. If the Leader of the House had been more reasonable, this Bill would have been through, I feel certain, on the first occasion on which we debated it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Hon. Members opposite may question that, but many of them were not here. I would like to remind them that on the first night we discussed this Bill the Closure was moved before the debate had been running an hour.

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

I must warn the right hon. Gentleman that there is nothing about all that in the Bill. We are now on the Third Reading.

Photo of Mr William Hall Mr William Hall , Colne Valley

I bow to your ruling, Mr. Speaker, and I will not pursue that matter, except to say that in the debates we have had, short though they have been, they have been extremely useful, and have thrown light on this Bill. So far as my hon. Friends on this side of the House are concerned, we do not want to delay the proceedings, although there is much that could be said on Third Reading. I hope, therefore, that the Third Reading will be agreed to without a Division.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.