Orders of the Day — Emergency Laws (Repeal) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 12th November 1958.

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Photo of Sir Harry Hylton-Foster Sir Harry Hylton-Foster , City of York 12:00 am, 12th November 1958

This debate has certainly ranged wide. While I was listening to the right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) I thought that I was back in an exclusively economic debate. Other hon. Members have been concerned with medical services, baking bread, the Ministry of Supply, in various aspects, and a good deal with labour matters. Indeed, it could hardly be otherwise, because when we are cleaning up, in part, some remanet of emergency powers, the discussion, obviously, will range widely.

On the other hand, there was an eccentric moment this afternoon when words were being exchanged across the Floor of the House on the subject of omniscience. Fortunately, I was not involved in that and I at once disclaim any omniscience in dealing with all the aspects of the different activities discussed, some of them depending on, or relating in some way to the Bill, and others not. I would, however, beg the House to remember that this Bill, which is said not to be a sweeping-away operation, is, of course, not that. It is essentially a holding operation, but it is not to be regarded in isolation.

During seven years we have been working steadily away at the process of getting rid of unwanted emergency powers, or translating wanted emergency powers into some kind of more permanent state. At the risk of boring the House for a moment, perhaps I might remind it just how much has steadily been done in this process. I want to do so because, tonight, we are, in part, accused of performing some operation for an electoral purpose, at some late moment.

That is really quite untrue. If we look at what we have been doing, we will see that this is another step in a perfectly consistent process that has been going on all the time we have been in Government. I ask the House if this is not just enough in itself?

There was, of course, a great deal done in the past. In 1951, for instance, we got rid of the remaining controls on building materials.