Application of Security Provisions to Companies Established in Connec Tion with Agreement on Gas Centrifuge Process

Clause 19 – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 2nd March 1971.

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Lords Amendment No. 1: In page 17, line 13, leave out "5 and" and insert "and 4 to".

Photo of Hon. Nicholas Ridley Hon. Nicholas Ridley , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.

The Amendment will improve the security arrangements under the Bill in one particular respect. The purpose of Clause 19 is to ensure adequate protection for classified centrifuge information exchange and generated under the Gas Centrifuge Agreement. The Clause empowers the Secretary of State to make an order designating any company registered in this country which appears to him to have been formed in pursuance of the Tripartite Gas Centrifuge Agreement between this country, the Netherlands and West Germany.

As subsection (1) left this House, the effect of designating such a company would have been to apply to it the security provisions of paragraphs 2, 5 and 6 of the First Schedule. The Government have decided that the wording of this subsection was slightly deficient, in that it failed to provide for special constables of the Atomic Energy Authority constabulary to guard the premises of companies designated under the Clause. By introducing a reference to paragraph 4 of the Schedule, the Amendment rectifies this difficulty.

10.25 p.m.

Photo of Mr James Wellbeloved Mr James Wellbeloved , Erith and Crayford

This Amendment from the Lords is of vital importance in a Bill which is transferring to private companies, albeit companies with majority Government shareholdings, certain matters which are essential to the security of the nation.

I am particularly worried because under Clause 19, which is being amended, it appears that further companies may be set up with private capital under the Gas Centrifuge Agreement. The Clause and the Amendment deals with security, not only of British Nuclear Fuels Limited and the Radiochemical Centre Limited but also any other companies which may be formed in any part of the United Kingdom.

The Amendment seeks to extend Schedule 1(4), which is now Schedule 1 to the Nuclear Installations Act, 1965, to firms wherever they may be set up now or later under the Gas Centrifuge Agreement. The House of Commons having sent the Bill without that paragraph (4) in it, but stating that it preferred to Paragraphs 2, 5 and 6 of Schedule 1 to the Nuclear Installation Act, 1965, as set out in the Schedule to this Act we should be careful before agreeing to increase the security provisions by involving special constables.

We must compare the request from the Lords for these extra security provisions with what already exists in the Schedule. The Schedule, as applied to the companies which are being hived off from the Atomic Energy Authority, provides in paragraph (2) For the purposes of section 2 of the Official Secrets Act 1911, any office or employment under the specified body corporate shall be deemed to be an office under Her Majesty and any contract with the specified body corporate shall be deemed to he a contract made on behalf of Her Majesty It is, therefore, clear from that provision that the whole paraphernalia of the Official Secrets Acts will be applied.

In paragraph (5)(1) there is power for the Minister to direct that anybody who is considered to be a security risk shall be discharged. That paragraph reads, The specified body corporate shall comply with any directions which the Minister may give to them for the purpose of safeguarding information in the interests of national security; and a direction under this sub-paragraph may in particular require the specified body corporate to terminate the employment of any person specified in the direction who is an officer of, or employed by, that body or may require that body not to appoint a person so specified to be an officer of, or to any employment under, that body. That is a substantial power which is already conferred on the Minister under the general security arrangements relating to this matter. Indeed, many of my hon. Friends will no doubt think that we have gone too far in this respect. Had it not been for the rules of procedure, which do not allow us to table Amendments on matters which have already passed through this House, we would have sought, even at this late stage, to amend this provision.

We must also bear in mind that paragraph 4 and its application in the light of paragraph 6 of the regulations will also apply to these new firms, for it says that without the consent of the Minister, anybody may have his emloyment terminated on security grounds. That in some way redresses some of the anxiety which I know is felt by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Carter).

In addition to these powers in the Schedule, we are now asked to agree to an Amendment, tabled at the last moment by the Lords, so that special constables may be appointed. Paragraph 4 of the Schedule states: Section 3 of the Special Constables Act 1923 (which, as subsequently amended and extended, provides for the appointment of persons nominated by the Defence Council to be special constables within certain places and limits, and, in particular, in and within fifteen miles of premises in the possession or under the control of the Defence Council) shall have effect as if all premises in the occupation or under the control of the specified body corporate were premises under the control of the Defence Council. Sub-paragraph (2) states: In relation to any premises in the occupation or under the control of the specified body corporate, the powers of nomination conferred on the Defence Council by that section as applied by sub-paragraph (1) of this paragraph shall be exercisable also by the Authority. 10.30 p.m.

We are in a situation in which we have already agreed to very substantial powers, by implementation of Section 2 of the Official Secrets Act. By giving the power to the Minister to require the dismissal of anybody who is suspected or found to be in any way a security risk, we are now saying, at this very late stage, that it is necessary to invoke paragraph 4 of the Schedule to increase the power for security arrangements.

Before the House agrees to these extra powers being conferred, we need to consider carefully the whole question of the security arrangements in respect of these proposals, because at present the two companies which have been established, British Nuclear Fuels Limited and The Radiochemical Centre Limited, will still have shareholdings the majority of which must, for all time, be held by the Government. I cannot find in the Bill or in the debate any undertaking that any other companies which can be formed in accordance with sub-paragraph (2) of Clause 19 are also for all time to have a majority shareholding by the Government. If I am correct in my interpretation, it is possible that a company could be formed somewhere at some time in the United Kingdom to deal with matters under the gas centrifuge agreement signed in March, 1970 which would be wholly in private ownership or would have a major shareholding in private ownership.

The House needs reassurance that by applying these stringent security requirements we are not imposing upon any such company conditions which would run contrary to the responsibility of directors under the Companies Act. The House is aware that the basic doctrine of shareholding and directorships of companies is that the first responsibility is to shareholders.

Before we apply these extra powers, we ought to clearly set out that no future company which will be formed in respect of the gas centrifuge agreement will be placed on the same basis and conditions as the two companies already formed, British Nuclear Fuels Limited and The Radiochemical Centre Limited, or we should say that we are possibly putting an unfair burden and responsibility on these companies.

In considering the Lords Amendment to apply paragraph 4 of the security arrangements, it is worth recalling, on the point of whether it is appropriate to apply the security requirements to private companies, that when the previous Bill was passing through the House, the Lords, in their wisdom, decided to reject the Clause that called for a majority public shareholding in the company and wanted all these new companies dealing with the profitable side of the Atomic Energy Authority to be hived off to private enterprise. The Lords amended that Bill. I suppose the Minister can argue that, as the Government have seen the error of their ways and have decided that it is essential in the national interest that there should be a majority public shareholding in these two companies for all time, it is reasonable to apply these extra security provisions. We shall be interested to hear the Minister's views.

On Clause 19, I want to ask some specific questions about the gas centrifuge agreement and how the Lords Amendment will apply. First, I hope that the Minister will be able to tell us, before we agree to this extra security arrangement, whether this agreement which was signed in March, 1970, has been ratified by the United Kingdom or by the other contracting parties—the Governments of the Netherlands and of the Federal Republic of Germany. It would be odd if we were being asked to agree to these stringent security arrangements being applied by virtue of the implementation of the Special Constables Act, 1923, and all that that means, in pursuance of things which may happen under the agreement without the agreement having been ratified.

Therefore, we need to know whether the Government intend to ratify the agreement and whether the agreement has been ratified by the Governments of the Netherlands and of the Federal Republic of Germany and, if it has not been ratified, whether the Government have any assurance that those Governments intend to ratify the agreement and whether the Government themselves intend to do so.

It would be stupid to agree to this Amendment without that clear understanding. We should be agreeing for no purpose to extra powers which the House is always loath to pass. All hon. Members—I do not believe there is any great party divergence on this matter—are jealous of Parliament's necessity carefully to examine legislation which can impinge upon the liberties and freedoms of Her Majesty's subjects. It is this principle that we are debating. Clause 19(2) says: For the purposes of this section the Secretary of State may by order made by statutory instrument designate any company registered (whether before or after the passing of this Act) in some part of the United Kingdom and appearing to him to have been formed pursuant to an agreement dated 4th March 1970 providing for collaboration in the development and exploitation of the gas centrifuge process for producing enriched uranium and made between Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom and the Governments of the Federal Republic of Ger many and the Kingdom of the Netherlands. That is a pretty wide provision, referring to any company registered … in some part of the United Kingdom and appearing … to have been formed pursuant to an agreement". Before we can accept the Amendment the Minister must spell out a little more clearly what the Government's intentions are. Is he prepared to give a specific undertaking that the two companies that have already been set up, and whose articles of association have been placed in the LibraryBritish Nuclear Fuels Ltd. and Radiochemical Centre Ltd.—are the only companies that will be formed in pursuance of the agreement? We all know the Minister's views on hiving off the profitable parts of public industry. Is there hidden away somewhere a plan to set up other companies entirely or predominantly with private shareholdings?

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North

And then they go into liquidation.

Photo of Mr James Wellbeloved Mr James Wellbeloved , Erith and Crayford

I am sure that I shall be called to order if I pursue the matter of the Rolls-Royce liquidation.

Before we agree to these further stringent security measures we must have the assurance that there will not be further companies with private capital to which the powers could be applied under the agreement.

Clause 19(2) is very wide. Does it mean that the manufacture of enriched uranium or the manufacture of the machinery and all the other apparatus involved in the gas centrifuge can be done only by public companies, or can it be done by private companies?

We also need to know—and this partially touches on the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis)—whether the security provisions will be applied to any sub-contractors who might be involved under the agreement, providing parts for the manufacture of the gas centrifuge itself. We must know how these extra stringent security provisions will be applied, and how wide their application will be. How will they be applied to sub-contractors producing the nuts and bolts and all the other bits and pieces for the gas centrifuge equipment?

There is another worry that my hon. Friends will have. The preamble to the agreement says: Considering that development of this method on a co-operative basis will strengthen European technological co-operation and that its joint industrial exploitation will contribute to European economic integration;…Declaring furthermore their readiness to integrate their collaboration into the framework of an enlarged European community;… the high contracting parties have come to this agreement.

If we grant the powers set out in paragraph 4 of the Schedule to the Nuclear Installations Act, 1965, will they be weakened or strengthened if we go into the Community? Are there regulations in the Community which would impose under this sort of declaration even greater and more stringent requirements than we are being asked to agree?

In a narrow debate of this nature I cannot go into any of the arguments for or against our joining Europe, but I am certain that it would assist many of my hon. Friends, who feel passionately either for or against our entry into Europe, in making up their minds on whether to grant these new powers to the Government if we could have from the Minister a clear statement on these matters.

10.45 p.m.

I turn to the substance of my case against the Amendment. Paragraph 4 of the Schedule sets out the requirements for the implementation of Section 3 of the Special Constables Act, 1923. I am sure hon. Members will be glad to have their memories refreshed as to precisely what that Section says. It reads as follows: Any two justices of the peace may appoint such persons as may be nominated for the purpose by the Admiralty, Army Council, or Air Council, to be special constables within the yards and stations and limits within which constables of the metropolitan police force may by virtue of the Metropolitan Police Act 1860, or the Metropolitan Police (Employment in Scotland) Act,1914, both as originally enacted and as applied to the Air Force, be employed; and every person so appointed shall be sworn in by any such justices duly to execute the office of a constable within the places and limits aforesaid, and when so sworn in shall have the same powers and privileges, and be liable to the same duties and responsibilities as constables of the metropolitan police force have and are liable to under the said Acts. Subsection (2) goes on to say: Special constables appointed under this section shall be under the exclusive control of the department on whose nomination they are appointed, and that department shall have power to suspend or terminate the appointment of any such special constable.

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North

Could my hon. Friend answer two questions? First, could he say where he obtained a copy of that Act and whether copies are freely available so that hon. Members could look at them? Secondly, he referred to the swearing in of constables of the Metropolitan Police. As I understand the situation, the Metropolitan Police cover only what I would term the Greater London area. How would the provisions apply to special constables if such factories were situated in areas outside the Greater London area?

Photo of Mr James Wellbeloved Mr James Wellbeloved , Erith and Crayford

The simple answer is that I do not know. This will have to be made clear by the Minister.

Photo of Mr James Wellbeloved Mr James Wellbeloved , Erith and Crayford

May I finish answering my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North and I will then give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West (Mr. Bob Brown). In regard to the availability of copies of the Special Constables Act, 1923, I regret to tell my hon. Friend that, unless he orders copies from the Vote Office, they are not readily available.

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North

On a point of order. My hon. Friend says that copies of that Act are not readily available. I believe this matter has been raised on other occasions and it has been laid down previously that if documents are not freely available then the House cannot be expected to take a decision in the full knowledge of the facts. I tried to get this information. I make no aspersions against the officials of the House and the Vote Office who do a wonderful job, but it is a logical point of order to ask how hon. Members can be expected at this late hour to continue a debate if my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford is the only hon. Member with the relevant document.

I was hoping to take part in this debate and I wished to have a look at this document. I also know that some of my hon. Friends would like to see the document and to take part in the debate. I therefore ask whether in dealing with this point of order you will accept a Motion by me that we should report Progress and ask leave to sit again, by which time we may be supplied with documents.

Photo of Mr Selwyn Lloyd Mr Selwyn Lloyd , Wirral

This is not a point of order. It is a matter for the Government in dealing with the Vote Office. In any case, any plea of ignorance by the hon. Member for West Ham, North may be met by the fact that his hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford has now supplied information covering that gap in his knowledge.

Photo of Mr Selwyn Lloyd Mr Selwyn Lloyd , Wirral

I have ruled that the question of availability of a document is not a matter for the Chair.

Photo of Mr Raymond Carter Mr Raymond Carter , Birmingham, Northfield

With reference to your remarks, Mr. Speaker

Photo of Mr Selwyn Lloyd Mr Selwyn Lloyd , Wirral

I have replied to the point, which was not a point of order. Mr. Wellbeloved.

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North

On a point of order. Could you advise me, Mr. Speaker, as to where my hon. Friends and I can obtain copies of the document necessary for this debate? I have previously been advised that it is the job of Mr. Speaker and his staff to see that the Vote Office has such copies of documents available. Recently when some copies of documents were not available Mr. Speaker arranged to have copies roneo-ed. With great respect, it has been laid down by your predecessor, Dr. King, that the Government are not responsible for papers being available to hon. Members because Mr. Speaker's office and the Clerks Office kindly arranged with the Vote Office to have copies roneo-ed and made available to hon. Members.

Photo of Mr Selwyn Lloyd Mr Selwyn Lloyd , Wirral

I am advised that what the hon. Member has said is not so and that my predecessor has not ruled to that effect. I will examine the Rulings of my predecessor, but concerning this evening I am prepared to rule for myself.

Mr. Wellbeloyed:

As to availability, I had the greatest difficulty in obtaining a copy of this document. It is not available in the Vote Office and I had to institute a search in the Library and to make photostat copies of the Library copy so that I could follow the meaning of paragraph 4 of Schedule 1 under the Nuclear Installations Act and to prepare my speech.

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North

On a point of order. Mr. Speaker. You have ruled that it is not within the competence of the Chair to see that papers are available. May I ask whether it would be in order for me to ask for the Leader of the House, whose duty it is to see that such papers are available, to make them available to hon. Members on both sides of the House?

Photo of Mr Selwyn Lloyd Mr Selwyn Lloyd , Wirral

That is not a point of order. The Chair has to interpret the rules of the House and I have ruled that the availability of documents is not a matter for the Chair. No doubt the hon. Member's point, which was not a point of order, has been heard and noted by the Minister.

Photo of Mr James Wellbeloved Mr James Wellbeloved , Erith and Crayford

I will give way to the Minister if he wishes. Apparently his silence means that he is content that the House should not have these documents made available to hon. Members. If this is to be the attitude of the Minister there is little doubt that I shall be asking my hon. Friends to divide. My hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme wished to intervene.

Photo of Mr Robert Brown Mr Robert Brown , Newcastle upon Tyne West

I must first admonish my hon. Friend for suggesting that I represent a village in the Midlands, Newcastle-under-Lyme, when I represent the premier constituency in the great City of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. I understood my hon. Friend to say that any two magistrates could undertake these powers. Am I right in assuming that, for instance, the Gosforth magistrates, of whom we have heard with regard to the Desramault case or the Newcastle-upon-Tyne magistrates could take this decision relevant to the Metropolitan area? Further, my hon. Friend tended to hurry through his introductory remarks, and I appreciate that he wants to make progress, but could he go into more detail on this question of our entry into the Common Market

Photo of Sir Henry Legge-Bourke Sir Henry Legge-Bourke , Isle of Ely

On a point of order. I wonder whether it might help the House if you were to point out to hon. Members concerned that this refers only to the Atomic Energy Special Constabulary and does not cover what the hon. Member is worried about.

Photo of Mr Selwyn Lloyd Mr Selwyn Lloyd , Wirral

With respect, that is not a point of order, it is a point of argument.

Photo of Mr James Wellbeloved Mr James Wellbeloved , Erith and Crayford

It is a point of argument and—

Photo of Mr Robert Brown Mr Robert Brown , Newcastle upon Tyne West

On a point of order. I was in the middle of an intervention.

Photo of Mr Selwyn Lloyd Mr Selwyn Lloyd , Wirral

Interventions of this sort should be short.

Photo of Mr Robert Brown Mr Robert Brown , Newcastle upon Tyne West

I will not be a moment. I was suggesting that my hon. Friend should ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to elaborate on the points he made about the technicalities of entry into Europe.

Photo of Mr James Wellbeloved Mr James Wellbeloved , Erith and Crayford

I am obliged to my hon. Friend for the serious points he has made. I apologise for mixing up the designation of his constituency. I see that he represents a constituency on the banks of a major river, as I do. No doubt he sometimes qualifies for the title of "Mouth of the Tyne" in the same way as I sometimes am referred to as the Mouth of the Thames".

Photo of Mr James Wellbeloved Mr James Wellbeloved , Erith and Crayford

The hon. Member for North Fylde (Mr. Clegg) keeps calling "humbug" from a sedentary position. If he wishes to intervene from a standing position I will gladly give way. If he does not then I think there is some question of order involved, as to whether a Government Whip, not prepared to intervene or take part in the debate, should continue to follow the example of the Prime Minister and, from a seated position, confine his political argument to hurling abuse across the Chamber.

Photo of Mr David Watkins Mr David Watkins , Consett

My hon. Friend has not touched on the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West (Mr. Bob Brown) about any two magistrates having powers with regard to the Metropolitan Area. Since, through Government incompetence, this document is not available, would he confirm the point by starting his remarks again at the point about any two magistrates?

11.0 p.m.

Photo of Mr James Wellbeloved Mr James Wellbeloved , Erith and Crayford

I can assist my hon. Friend. The Long Title of the Special Constables Act, 1923 is recorded on the photostat copy, which I must assume is a correct copy of the Act in the absence of the availability of the Act in the Vote Office. The Long Title is: An Act to make perpetual, subject to an amendment, the Special Constables Act, 1914; to provide for the employment of special constables in connection with Naval, Military and Air Force yards and stations; and to remove certain limitations on the appointment of special constables in Scotland. One must assume that it is in order for two magistrates anywhere within the United Kingdom to swear in a special constable nominated by the Defence Council. That would be my interpretation, but I must caution my hon. Friend to bear in mind that I am not a member of the learned fraternity, and I would sooner have the Minister's more precise interpretation of the Act than ask the House to rely on mine.

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North

On a point of order. I raised with Mr. Speaker a legitimate point which he ruled was not a point of order, although he agreed that there was a necessity for us to have the Act which we cannot get. Mr. Speaker said that it was not his responsibility but the Government's. My hon. Friend has been reading from a photostat copy of the Act which may or may not be a correct photostat. I make no aspersions against my hon. Friend's honesty or sincerity. I accept his word that he read it correctly. My hon. Friend then gave his interpretation, which may or may not be correct, and said that he was not a member of the learned legal profession. We must accept my hon. Friend's word because there is no one on the Government Front Bench who can either quote the Act or correct my hon. Friend. If we cannot have the Act before us, there should be someone here to tell us whether my hon. Friend is right or wrong.

Photo of Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris , Nantwich

The hon. Member will recognise a Parliamentary situation which frequently occurs. The Chair cannot compel the attendance of anybody to answer questions in the House. The Chair has to try to see that all hon. Members stay in order. So far as I can see, there is nothing out of order.

Photo of Mr James Wellbeloved Mr James Wellbeloved , Erith and Crayford

I go along with my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North in saying that when we are dealing with a complex matter of interpretation of an Act in respect of the Metropolitan Police the Home Secretary or a law officer should have been present instead of a junior Under-Secretary of State.

I note that the Leader of the House has just entered the Chamber. He may not have heard the matters which have been under discussion. I will draw to his attention that paragraph 4 of Schedule 1 of the Nuclear Installations Act, 1965, to which Lords Amendment No. 1 refers, sets out that Section 3 of the Special Constables Act, 1923, shall be invoked giving powers for special constables to carry out certain duties in particular places.

The Leader of the House will be interested to know that I have, after great diligence and difficulty, obtained a photostat copy of the Special Constables Act from the Library but that we are now in a difficulty. I am explaining to the House my interpretation of the Act, but I am not a learned gentleman; I have no training in the law. I can only read the words of this photostat copy. As my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North has rightly pointed out, we have no certainty that this photostat copy is an authentic copy of the Act. In view of this, would the right hon. Gentleman give consideration to taking steps now to ensure that either a Law Officer or the Home Secretary is called into the Chamber so that the House can proceed with some certainty in these grave matters? If he wishes to intervene, I will certainly give way. I know that, with his usual care and courtesy, he tries to meet the wishes of the House, and I am certain that he will find that it is the wish of every hon. Member on this side of the House, and, no doubt, of hon. Members opposite, that the House should be in possession of the facts in respect of this most important Act which we are discussing in relation to the Lords Amendment.

Photo of Mr Eric Deakins Mr Eric Deakins , Walthamstow West

We are dealing with a very important topic here and I disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Cray-ford about it. This matter is far too important to be left to lawyers. We are dealing with an issue which affects the liberty of the subject and this house has always taken great pride and care in not leaving such matters to lawyers. They are matters to be debated by anyone in this House. Although we may not all be lawyers, we want to preserve the important British principle that the liberty of the subject must be preserved at all costs. If my hon. Friend is right, there are things in the Lords Amendment which detract from the liberty of the subject.

Photo of Mr James Wellbeloved Mr James Wellbeloved , Erith and Crayford

I agree. I hope that the Leader of the House has been listening carefully to what my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow, West (Mr. Deakins) has said, because this is a vitally important matter. As I go on into my speech about the Lords Amendment, I will be dealing in some detail with the powers of special constables.

Photo of Mr Raymond Carter Mr Raymond Carter , Birmingham, Northfield

Is my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford aware that the position is not quite as hard and fast as far as the law is concerned as he believes? What he and I have before us as a document purporting to be the Act is, in fact, merely a summary, an abridgement.

Furthermore, I draw his attention to Section 3(3) of the Act, which he has perhaps overlooked because of the abridgement. It raises far wider issues, particularly as the Act affects Scotland. Section 3(3) states: In the application of this section to Scotland references to any two justices of the peace shall be construed as references to the magistrates of a burgh or the standing joint committee of a county, as the case may be, and the reference to swearing in shall be read as a reference to making a declaration or taking an oath, as the case may be, in the form and manner prescribed in section seventy-nine of the Burgh Police (Scotland) Act, 1892, and section eleven of the Police (Scotland) Act, 1857, respectively. As a far wider area of the law is thus drawn into this controversy, should we not at least have in the Chamber tonight the Law Officers of Scotland, since Scotland is particularly mentioned in the Act?

Photo of Mr James Wellbeloved Mr James Wellbeloved , Erith and Crayford

I am indebted to my hon. Friend for intervening and drawing my attention to Section 3(3) of the Special Constables Act, 1923, because both he and I had great difficulty in acquiring these photostat copies. My hon. Friend has obtained his photostat copy from a different source to me. My copy merely contains the words, about Section 3, "(applies to Scotland)". I ask you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to consider our difficulty.

The Lords Amendment means that we are asked to agree that paragraph 4 of the first Schedule shall be applied to installations set up under the Gas centrifuge Agreement. It specifically refers to Section 3 of the Special Constables Act, 1923. The whole of the Amendment is fundamentally based on that requirement. It is now clear that the Minister has not a clue on this matter. We have offered to give way to him, but he has declined to intervene. We are debating a matter of great consequence, giving these special constables power of the same standard and extent as every constable, to be exercised within a radius of 15 miles from the premises in which they are stationed. This is vital and the House does not have the necessary documents.

I ask you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to join with me in some way to appeal to the Leader of the House, who is present, to ensure that the documents are made available, a Law Officer attends this debate or the Amendment is withdrawn. It is intolerable that we should be asked to give the Government these powers when we do not have the principal Act upon which they are based. I will intervene in my own speech on a point of order to ask that you use your powers to see that this is done.

Photo of Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris , Nantwich

I have an even bigger difficulty than the hon. Gentleman, in that I do not have these powers. The Government have heard him and it is for them to decide what they will do. There is nothing that the Chair can do to force anyone to come here or to produce any documents. Since I cannot do that, perhaps I can advise him that it would be in the best interests of all if he left that argument.

11.15 p.m.

Photo of Mr Raymond Carter Mr Raymond Carter , Birmingham, Northfield

Will not my hon. Friend agree that he came into the Chamber tonight in the firm belief that he had in his possession the Special Constables Act, 1923, whereas it has turned out to be an abridgement of an abridgement of the Act? Has not he, therefore, to some extent based his arguments on a completely false assumption? In view of that, perhaps I might help my hon. Friend—

Photo of Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris , Nantwich

Order. I understand what the hon. Member for Northfield wishes to do, but I think that it must be recognised that interventions should be as short as possible and not too discursive. I ask the hon. Gentleman to respect the conventions of the House.

Photo of Mr Raymond Carter Mr Raymond Carter , Birmingham, Northfield

I shall be very brief in my remarks. I am trying to help my hon. Friend. The document in my possession is an abridgement of the Act, and it may cause my hon. Friend to reconsider some of the points that he has made so far. With it, my hon. Friend may be able to go back over some of his points and make them in a far more informed way.

Photo of Mr James Wellbeloved Mr James Wellbeloved , Erith and Crayford

Having quickly compared my hon. Friend's document with my own, I see that Section 3(1) of the Act of 1923 is identical, with one exception. My hon. Friend's copy contains the words … Admiralty, Army Council or Air Council…", whereas my document has been altered by the deletion of those words and the insertion of "Defence Council", so bringing the Section slightly more up to date.

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North

I was about to ask my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford whether he would make a suggestion to the Leader of the House. Unfortunately, the right hon. Gentleman has left the Chamber. Perhaps my hon. Friend, instead, will ask the Under-Secretary, who obviously has a copy of the Act, whether he cannot arrange for photostat copies to be prepared and distributed to hon. Members.

Photo of Mr James Wellbeloved Mr James Wellbeloved , Erith and Crayford

The Under-Secretary must have heard my hon. Friend's suggestion, and I put it to the hon. Gentleman in all seriousness that it would facilitate and expedite our discussion of this Lords Amendment if he could arrange for his officials to obtain photostat copies and circulate them. The point is that, so far, I have dealt with general matters, and I am about to come to the main burden of my remarks. Obviously there will be considerable difficulty if my hon. Friends have not copies of the Act, in that they will have to query with me any point that they do not fully understand as I develop my case, and that may well prolong the debate. Therefore, I appeal to the hon. Gentleman to act sensibly and respond to the genuine point which has been put to him by arranging for photostat copies to be made available.

Photo of Mr Thomas Swain Mr Thomas Swain , North East Derbyshire

Clearly there is some contradiction between the two documents which have come to light as a result of the diligent researches of my hon. Friends the Members for Erith and Crayford and Northfield. In view of that, should not the whole of the Act of 1923 be made available, so that there can be no misrepresentations in this House about the decision that we have to reach at the end of this debate?

Photo of Mr James Wellbeloved Mr James Wellbeloved , Erith and Crayford

I am indebted to my hon. Friend who again has made a sensible and important point. I should say to my hon. Friend and to the House that Section 3 of the Special Constables Act, 1923, is the only Section—if I do not make this clear I am sure that you, Sir Robert, in your wisdom will call me to order—which is referred to in paragraph 4 of the Schedule to the Nuclear Installations Act, 1965.

Photo of Mr Thomas Swain Mr Thomas Swain , North East Derbyshire

Does my hon. Friend agree that there may be some relativity between Section 3 and other Sections of the 1923 Act as there is in most Acts of Parliament a certain relativity between the Sections which apply different interpretations because of their relativity?

Photo of Mr James Wellbeloved Mr James Wellbeloved , Erith and Crayford

I agree with my hon. Friend. It is for that reason that I am sure that I speak on behalf of all hon. Members on this side in condemning the Government for their attitude towards this vital matter affecting security. It is disgraceful that these documents are not available. It is a scandal that the Under-Secretary sits tight in his seat, despite the many appeals which have been made to him on this matter. It is indicative of the contempt which the hon. Gentleman and his right hon and hon. Friends have for the civil liberties of the people of this nation.

Photo of Gerald Kaufman Gerald Kaufman , Manchester Ardwick

Does my hon. Friend agree that it goes further than that? The Under-Secretary introduced the Iron Castings Order a week or two ago in a most cursory—

Photo of Gerald Kaufman Gerald Kaufman , Manchester Ardwick

—and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Northfield says, cavalier fashion. Tonight the hon. Gentleman spoke for about two minutes when introducing the Amendment. Does the hon. Gentleman think that this place is a rubber stamp? No doubt he wishes that it were.

Photo of Mr James Wellbeloved Mr James Wellbeloved , Erith and Crayford

My hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman), as always, is right on the ball and has again pinned the Under-Secretary to his bench. The Minister is more concerned with the implementation of his party's doctrinaire economic policies than with the civil liberties of the people of this realm. The hon. Gentleman is more concerned with pursuing this newfound economic policy of the Government: if it is a profitable industry, flog it; if it is a bankrupt industry, keep it. The hon. Gentleman is more concerned with that kind of attitude than with the realities of the freedom of the individual.

I appeal to my hon. Friends to allow me to develop my argument a little further without intervention for a moment or two. I do not want to discourage them too much, because of the absence of the documents, but it would be of assistance to the House if I made progress on the main burden of the argument which I wish to adduce.

Section 3 of the Special Constables Act states that special constables must be persons who are nominated by the Defence Council. I ask the Under-Secretary, when he comes to reply, to make clear to Parliament whether the persons nominated by the Defence Council will be subject to some form of vetting before their names are passed on to the magistrates and whether any private company which might subsequently be formed under the Gas Centrifuge Agreement, entirely with private capital, would be in a position to make suggestions to the Defence Council regarding people who might be nominated as special constables. This is an important point upon which we need some clear statement from the Government.

Photo of Mr Thomas Swain Mr Thomas Swain , North East Derbyshire

My hon. Friend mentioned the vetting by the magistrates of the individual who was to be appointed as a special constable. Will he agree that it is equally important to vet the magistrates who make the appointment?

Photo of Mr James Wellbeloved Mr James Wellbeloved , Erith and Crayford

That is a point of view, and I hope that the Minister, when he comes to reply—and indeed my hon. Friend—will develop that point later, because it is a matter which should receive consideration. I am concerned, because if a private company were allowed to make recommendations to the Defence Council which were accepted without any positive vetting, we should have the sort of situation which has arisen in respect of private companies which have employed private security firms where people with criminal records can act as security guards. It would be a scandal of monumental proportions if, under these provisions, a private firm could make a nomination to the Defence Council of a person whom they wanted to be invested with the powers of a special constable, and after the person had been invested with those powers by two magistrates it was discovered that he had a criminal record.

Photo of Mr Clinton Davis Mr Clinton Davis , Hackney Central

That is a point to which I have alluded at Question Time on numerous occasions. I have talked about the employment of Securicor, about which I have expressed very grave anxiety. There seems to be a predilection on the part of this Government to employ organisations of that kind in other fields, such as immigration. Here we have a situation where the security of the individual is being threatened, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will develop this point.

Photo of Mr James Wellbeloved Mr James Wellbeloved , Erith and Crayford

I am indebted to my hon. Friend. He and my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North have developed this matter at great length and it is a matter which ought to occupy this House this evening, because it would be a most serious situation if this practice, which occurs in private security firms, should occur in respect of these other establishments which are being set up under the Gas Centrifuge Agreement.

Photo of Sir Henry Legge-Bourke Sir Henry Legge-Bourke , Isle of Ely

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. May I suggest that this cannot possibly be in order on this Lords Amendment, because what we are dealing with here is only making applicable a paragraph in the Special Constables Act, 1923. The whole question of the private employment of other forms of security really does not arise on this Amendment from their Lordships.

Photo of Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris , Nantwich

I think there is some substance in the hon. Member's submission to me. I think the hon. Gentleman would be well advised to heed what has been said and take it from me that that is really correct.

Photo of Mr James Wellbeloved Mr James Wellbeloved , Erith and Crayford

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, may I put this point to you? I accept that you are in the same difficulty as many of my hon. Friends, and you do not have the benefit of a copy of the Special Constables Act 1923 before you. I take it that the hon. Gentleman has now supplied you with a copy, and you will see that subsection (1) of Section 3 states that any two justices of the peace may appoint such persons as may be nominated for the purpose by the Defence Council to be special constables.

11.30 p.m.

Under the agreement mentioned in Clause 19(2) relating to collaboration for the development of the gas centrifuge process for producing uranium, other companies may be established. I have asked whether that could be done by private shareholding. Those companies could, it seems, be in a position to recommend the Defence Council to nominate persons to be appointed as special constables. It would be disgraceful if such a company, set up under this agreement, could recommend the Council to nominate as special constables people who might have criminal records. The Minister cannot shuffle off his responsibilities in this matter with a two-minute speech.

When the two justices of the peace consider the appointment of persons nominated by the Defence Council, will they have any discretion or must they, under the 1923 Act, accept those nominations? Will they be able to call for reports on the nominees?

I see the Patronage Secretary in his place on the Government Front Bench. He always casts a sinister shadow over our proceedings. Is he aware that we are in difficulty because, in debating a matter which affects the fundamental liberty of the subject—

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Finsberg Mr Geoffrey Finsberg , Hampstead

On a point of order. Is it in order for the hon. Gentleman to make submissions every time a fresh face appears on the Treasury Bench when you have already commented on that practice? In other words, is not the hon. Gentleman guilty of tedious repetition?

Photo of Mr Selwyn Lloyd Mr Selwyn Lloyd , Wirral

That is a matter for me to judge.

Photo of Mr James Wellbeloved Mr James Wellbeloved , Erith and Crayford

The hon. Gentleman is obviously inexperienced in the procedures of the House. I was appealing to a Government Minister who has recently entered the Chamber, who has responsibilities, as has the Leader of the House, to all hon. Members, to do something about the scandalous position which both you, Sir, and Mr. Deputy Speaker, have rightly ruled is not within your authority to give directions. I appeal to him as a senior and important member of Her Majesty's Government to ensure that the House is provided with photostat copies of the Special Constables Act, 1923. Many of my hon. Friends are having to intervene in my speech because they have to query certain matters in respect of the Act, which is not available to them.

Photo of Mr Raymond Carter Mr Raymond Carter , Birmingham, Northfield

Paragraph 4 of the Schedule refers to the fact that the special constables would have powers within a 15 miles radius of the centre of the premises to which they belong. Many nuclear installations, and probably many of the premises that the two private companies being set up will have under their control, are on the sea shore. Will their powers carry them 15 miles out to sea? If so, will not the whole question of maritime law be raised?

Photo of Mr James Wellbeloved Mr James Wellbeloved , Erith and Crayford

My hon. Friend has jumped a couple of sentences ahead of my thoughts on this matter.

Photo of Sir Henry Legge-Bourke Sir Henry Legge-Bourke , Isle of Ely

On a point of order. With great respect, Mr. Speaker, are we not getting into a debate on the merits of the 1923 Act? Surely these matters were debated when that Act was a Bill and when later it was amended. Are we not solely concerned, with this Lords Amendment, simply with whether a certain part of that Act shall apply to the Bill?

Photo of Mr Selwyn Lloyd Mr Selwyn Lloyd , Wirral

The hon. Member for Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) is perfectly right. The hon. Member for Erith and Crayford is in some danger.

Photo of Mr James Wellbeloved Mr James Wellbeloved , Erith and Crayford

Are we not in the difficulty, Mr. Speaker, that paragraph 4, referred to in the Lords Amendment, specifically mentions Section 3 of the Special Constables Act? Surely it is proper, Sir, before we confer upon these authorities the powers set out in Section3—

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North

On a point of order. May I ask my hon. Friend to read this out. We do not have it. I should like to know whether my hon. Friend is correct or not.

Photo of Mr James Wellbeloved Mr James Wellbeloved , Erith and Crayford

I wish to help my hon. Friends. The passage I refer to is available. It is paragraph 4 of the Schedule to the Bill. I was drawing your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the fact that the Lords Amendment refers to paragraph 4, which specifically refers to Section 3 of the Special Constables Act, 1923. If the House is being asked to approve that paragraph with reference to the powers contained in Section 3 of the 1923 Act, surely it must be within order for Parliament to consider whether it is proper to agree to the Lords Amendment and to agree to those powers being applied in the particular respect that we are asked to apply them in this paragraph.

Photo of Mr Selwyn Lloyd Mr Selwyn Lloyd , Wirral

The hon. Member for Erith and Crayford has been addressing the House for over an hour. I must ask him to draw his remarks to an end.

Photo of Mr James Wellbeloved Mr James Wellbeloved , Erith and Crayford

Mr. Speaker, I would have drawn my remarks to an end some time prior to your resuming the Chair but for the point—I submit it to you in all seriousness—which I was putting to the Parliamentary Secretary. Many of my hon. Friends have had to intervene frequently in my remarks because of the absence of documents. It would be unfair to place upon my shoulders the responsibility for the length of my speech when it has been subjected to frequent intervention because of the absence of documents. I hope that you, Mr. Speaker, will allow me to complete my submissions on this matter involving the freedom and liberty of Her Majesty's subjects. It would be serious if Parliament was prevented from properly considering the full implications of these matters.

I have dealt with the question of the Defence Council and the justice of the peace. I turn now to the question which

is of paramount importance. What are the powers which will be conferred upon the special constables who will be appointed if the Amendment is agreed to? It is intended that these special constables should exercise their jurisdiction within a radius of 15 miles from the premises which they are charged to be in control of. Assume that a nuclear firm under the agreement was established in the vicinity of Charing Cross and that special constables appointed to those premises had jurisdiction within a radius of 15 miles. The House will begin to understand the importance to be attached to the Amendment, because it is being said that a special constable appointed to those premises shall exercise—

Photo of Mr Francis Pym Mr Francis Pym , Cambridgeshire

rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question put, That the Question be now put:—

The House divided: Ayes 121, Noes 36.

NOES
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony WedgwoodJones,Rt.Hn.Sir Elwyn(W.Ham,S.)Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock)
Buchan, NormanJones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen)Sillars, James
Carter, Ray (Birmngh'm, Northfield)Kaufman, GeraldSkinner, Dennis
Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.)Latham, ArthurSmall, William
Cohen, StanleyLawson, GeorgeSteel, David
Dalyell, TamLewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)Stoddart, David (Swindon)
Davis, Clinton (Hackney, C.)McElhone, FrankStrang, Gavin
Deakins, EricMackie, JohnSwain, Thomas
English, MichaelMillan, BruceVarley, Eric G.
Evans, FredMorgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Hannan, William (G'gow, Maryhill)Oswald, ThomasTELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Hooson, EmlynPrescott, JohnMr. James Wellbeloved and
Janner, GrevilleRoderick,Caerwyn E.(Br'c'n&R'dnor)Mr. Bob Brown.

Question put accordingly, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment:—

Division No. 219.]AYES[11.50 p.m.
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)Haselhurst, AlanParkinson, Cecil (Enfield, W.)
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)Havers, MichaelPink, R. Bonner
Atkins, HumphreyHornby, RichardPounder, Rafton
Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone)Howe, Hn. Sir Geoffrey (Reigate)Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay)Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.)Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis
Maker, PeterHunt, JohnRedmond, Robert
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.)Hutchison, Michael ClarkReed, Laurance (Bolton, E.)
Boscawen, RobertJames, DavidRees, Peter (Dover)
Bray, RonaldJenkin, Patrick (Woodford)Rees-Davies, W. R.
Brewis, JohnJennings, J. C. (Burton)Ridley, Hn. Nicholas
Brinton, Sir TattonJopling, MichaelRoberts, Michael (Cardiff, N.)
Brocklebank-Fowler, ChristopherKilfedder, JamesRoberts, Wyn (Conway)
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Bruce-Gardyne, J.King, Tom (Bridgwater)Scott-Hopkins, James
Buchanan-Smith, Alick(Angus,N&M)Kinsey, J. R.Sharples, Richard
Chapman, SydneyKitson, TimothyShaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)
Chataway, Rt. Hn. ChristopherKnight, Mrs. JillShelton, William (Clapham)
Chichester-Clark, R.Knox, DavidSkeet, T. H. H.
Churchill, W. S.Legge-Bourke, Sir HarrySoref, Harold
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)Longden, GilbertSpeed, Keith
Cockeram, EricMacArthur, IanSpence, John
Cormack, PatrickMcCrindle, R. A.Sproat, Iain
Dalkeith, Earl ofMcLaren, MartinStanbrook, Ivor
Dixon, PiersMaclean, Sir FitzroyStodart, Anthony (Edinburgh, W.)
du Cann, Rt. Hn. EdwardMather, CarolStuttaford, Dr. Tom
Eden, Sir JohnMaude, AngusSutcliffe, John
Eyre, ReginaldMaxwell-Hyslop, R. J.Taylor,Edward M.(G'gow,Cathcart)
Fenner, Mrs. PeggyMeyer, Sir AnthonyTaylor, Frank (Moss Side)
Fidler, MichaelMitchell,Lt.-Col.C.(Aberdeenshire,W)Tebbit, Norman
Finsberg, Geoffrey (Hampstead)Moate, RogerThomas, John Stradling (Monmouth)
Fortescue, TimMolyneaux, JamesThompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)
Fowler, NormanMoney, ErnleTugendhat, Christopher
Fox, MarcusMonks, Mrs. Connievan Straubenzee, W. R.
Gibson-Watt, DavidMonro, HectorWarren, Kenneth
Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)More, JasperWeatherill, Bernard
Goodhew, VictorNeave, AireyWhitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Gower, RaymondNoble, Rt. Hn. MichaelWorsley, Marcus
Gray, HamishNormanton, TomYounger, Hn. George
Green, AlanNott, John
Gummer, SelwynOsborn, JohnTELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Hall, John (Wycombe)Owen, Idris (Stockport, N.)Mr. Walter Clegg and
Hannam, John (Exeter)Page, Graham (Crosby)Mr. Paul Hawkins.
NOES
Carter, Ray (Birmingh'm, Northfield)Janner, GrevilleRoderick, Caerwyn E.(Br'c'n&R'dnor)
Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.)Jones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen)Skinner, Dennis
Cohen, StanleyKaufman, GeraldStoddart, David (Swindon)
Davis, Clinton (Hackney, C.)Latham, ArthurSwain, Thomas
Deakins, EricMorgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
English, MichaelPalmer, ArthurMr. Bob Brown.

12 midnight

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Like you, I have been in this House for a long time and

The House divided: Ayes 121, Noes 17.

I know that Mr. Speaker has sole right to decide if and when to accept the closure. I am also well aware that the Patronage Secretary has the right to move the closure at any time. But you will of course agree that Mr. Speaker, in deciding whether or not to accept the Motion, must himself decide whether he feels that there has been adequate debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved) may theoretically have spoken for one hour and 23 minutes, but because of the point of order raised earlier about availability of documents, he was interrupted on a number of occasions by hon. Members on either side of the House. I doubt whether he spoke consistently for the whole period.

I appreciate that you could not be in the Chair for the whole time, but did it occur to you that neither the Minister nor my hon. Friends on the Front Opposition Bench who were taking notes, had spoken? If Mr. Speaker had been in the Chair for the whole time, he might have appreciated that hon. Members did not have adequate time to discuss the matter before the closure was moved.

Photo of Mr Selwyn Lloyd Mr Selwyn Lloyd , Wirral

As the hon. Member has pointed out, this is a matter entirely for Mr. Speaker, who has to form his own view as to a reasonable time for the discussion of an Amendment. It is not required that he should explain, but I do so on this occasion without wishing it to be taken as a precedent. I considered that about 45 minutes was sufficient time for discussion of the Amendment. In fact I did not accept the Closure until after an hour and a uarter.

Photo of Mr Selwyn Lloyd Mr Selwyn Lloyd , Wirral

There can be no point of order as to the Closure.

Photo of Mr Thomas Swain Mr Thomas Swain , North East Derbyshire

A new point of order, a point of order arising from what you have just said—[Interruption.]

Photo of Mr Selwyn Lloyd Mr Selwyn Lloyd , Wirral

No point of order can arise out of what I have just said.

Photo of Mr Thomas Swain Mr Thomas Swain , North East Derbyshire

Further to that point of order, may I ask whether you are in the Chair or the hon. Member who has just returned from the Smoking Room and is seeking to call me to order?

Photo of Mr Selwyn Lloyd Mr Selwyn Lloyd , Wirral

I am in the Chair.

I now call Amendment No. 2 and with it we can discuss Amendment No. 3. These Amendments involve Privilege.