§ Mr. MACLEAN
I beg to move, in page 3, to leave out lines 6 to 35, inclusive.
This Amendment would exclude from the Schedule the Labourers' (Ireland) Act, 1883, and all the amending Acts. I move it in order to get a statement 4if the Government's intentions. This particular Act and all these amending Acts appear every year in the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill, and I suggest it is 1376 time that principal Act and the amending Acts were embodied in one Measure.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
I think the hon. Member is largely right in his suggestion. It would be desirable to codify these Acts, but, at present, advances are still being made for the provision of labourers' cottages in Northern Ireland, and I am sure the hon. Member would not desire that operation to be stopped. We do not know how long it will go on, but it is proceeding from year to year and, in order to enable these advances to be made and repayments to be collected, we have to continue these Acts from year to year. There is a good deal to be said for the codification of all these troublesome Acts of Parliament which have been amended in this way, and if the hon. Gentleman will devote some of his energy and ability to codifying these Acts for me I shall be glad to consider, in the course of next year, whether we could not introduce a Bill drafted by him for that purpose.
I would point out that a debate on consolidation would be quite out of order on this Bill.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
Are we not entitled to reply to a request for assistance from the Government Benches? If they throw out a life-line, surely we are entitled to say whether we are going to take it up or riot.
§ Amendment negatived.
I beg to move, in page 3, to leave out from lines 40 to 44, inclusive.
The Act referred to here is the Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1904, and the position is this: The law as regards wireless telegraphy is hopelessly out of date. That is obvious from the reference to the Act of 1904. The Act has not been altered except by the Act of last year, which was passed, it will be remembered, to define transmission of messages, meaning the reception of messages, and so compelling the taking out of a licence. I do not deny the necessity of continuing in force some Statute governing wireless telegraphy transmisison, and so forth, but I think we are entitled to ask the Postmaster-General what the policy of the Post 1377 Office is. If he is going to persuade us to give him this Act for another year will he promise within the twelve months to introduce new legislation that will bring the law up to date? A Bill was introduced last year, but was not proceeded with because the Bill gave all sorts of powers of search and other objectionable powers of investigation to the Post Office, to which objection was taken. This Expiring Laws Continuance Bill is a very great draught on the good will of Members of this House. A Bill is introduced for the first time and passed without due examination because the Government say that it is only to last for a short time, and then it is brought forward with 25 new Bills—that is what it seems to—and passes through all stages in the Committee stage of this Bill.
§ The ASSISTANT POSTMASTER-GENERAL (Viscount Wolmer)
I have great pleasure in responding to the invitation of the hon. and gallant Gentleman, and will give him the information for which he asks. I am sure that he does not desire to press this Amendment. He realises as much as anyone that unless the Act of 1904 were kept in force the whole of the wireless services of this country, including broadcasting, would at once be plunged into chaos. He says that the Act was passed over 20 years ago, and he asks what is our policy in the matter. I think he will agree that if there is a subject on which temporary legislation is justified, that subject is wireless telegraphy. The science is as yet in its infancy, our knowledge of it is expanding daily, and our experience of it is altering every year. As one new invention succeeds another, the wireless situation in this country and in other countries is revolutionized, and a whole series of international agreements has been entered into from year to year in order to deal with the various problems that the progress of wireless telegraphy raises. Nobody knows that better than my hon. and gallant Friend, who has always taken a keen interest in wireless. It is for that reason that all Governments have felt that it has been necessary to extend this Act only temporarily. Even when his own party were in power, they extended this Act temporarily from year to year, and think they were quite right in doing so, because during that period the wireless situation was changing. It is still in a 1378 fluid and changing condition, and until we have reached a period when wireless has got to that stability where I think we can say that steam and other somewhat ancient inventions have arrived, it would. be unwise to legislate in a per- manent sense. Therefore, my answer is that the Government think this is the right method of dealing with this question, at any rate for the time being.
§ Major CRAWFURD
The reply of the Assistant Postmaster-General is interesting but peculiar. He said that the fact that wireless invention was changing from year to year was a very good reason why an Act of Parliament 22 years old should he continued. It has already been mentioned that the Government did introduce a Bill on the subject last year, which was withdrawn, and, therefore, one of the Noble Lord's contentions must be wrong. If it he right to keep an Act 22 years old on the Statute Book in order to deal with changing conditions, surely it was rather a foolish performance to introduce a Bill last year. Will the Noble Lord or someone else give us some idea of what, if any, are the legislative intentions of the Government with regard to wireless telegraphy?
§ Viscount WOLMER
I thought I had said that our intention was to prolong this Act in a temporary fashion from year to year.
§ Captain GARRO-JONES
I think this Act of 1904 is being made a pretext for neglecting the duty of bringing in fresh legislation on this subject. The Noble Lord said that if anything might justifiably be made the subject of temporary legislation, it was wireless telegraphy, but surely he is not going to tell the Committee that anything in the Act of ]904 can have any usefulness or bearing on the developments of broadcasting as they exist to-day. The point we are anxious to ascertain is when the Postmaster-General is going to cease making these pretexts and bring in some kind of legislation which will have a bearing on broadcasting and wireless as they exist to-day. When this Act came into force in 1904 there was no wireless telegraphy at all. In what respect, then, can it have any effect on wireless? Is it to be understood that all this vast development is not governed by any statutory Regulation at all? That is what we are 1379 to gather from the Noble Lord's speech, and I think we are entitled to know when that out-of-date position is going to be brought up-to-date.
Will the Noble Lord tell me this: Is the Wireless Telegraphy Bill, which was introduced last year, dropped definitely and done with?
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
I beg to move, in page 4, to leave out lines 5 to 7, inclusive.
This Amendment deals with the Coal Mines (Minimum Wage) Act, 1912, which applies to given districts in Great Britain, and among other districts to the "Mainland of Scotland." In 1920 an Amending Act was brought in and the Schedule to that Act names the districts and counties to which it is to apply. There is a mine in Scotland on the island of Raasay, and although the Act is to apply to workmen employed underground in coal mines and to men employed in iron and stone mines, I am told that the minimum wage does not operate in the case of this mine. This mine is on the island of Raasay and is not on the mainland, consequently neither the Act of 1912 nor the Act of 1920 operates and the minimum wage is not paid to the miners employed at the mine. During the War I am told that German prisoners worked the mine. None of the men now engaged there are being paid the minimum wage which is paid in other districts in Scotland. I want to know whether the Government intend to make the Minimum Wage Act of 1912 and the Amending Act of 1920 applicable to this mine? I should like, there fore, to have a reply from either the Secretary for Scotland of from the Minister of Mines upon that point
§ 12 M.
§ The SECRETARY for SCOTLAND (Sir John Gilmour)
I think I may say that this matter will be very carefully considered, but as far as I am aware the mines in the Isle of Raasay are centainly not being worked at the present time.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
These mines were working during the time this Act was operating. The mines were working in 1380 1912, 1918, and 1920; they were working during the War. What I am asking is that if in the event of any amending legislation the purpose or scope of this Act will be applied to the Isle of Raasay, and that the miners working there will receive the wages that are paid in other similar districts in England.
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
It is quite clear that these mines are not working at the present time. If and when the occasion should arise that the mines should be reopened and worked then the point will be considered.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
Is it not a fact that, though the mines are not working, there are certain people working at the mines, and these persons, who otherwise would receive the minimum wage in other mines are not receiving it here. What we are seeking is not an assurance to receive proper consideration, but the normal assurances that these men working in competition with other mines—these miners will be subject to the same rates and conditions as in other mines. That is the only assurance we are asking the Secretary for Scotland in order that they may receive every consideration.
At the moment they are not subject to the Minimum Wage Acts, which are not applicable. What they are asking for is very simple and elementary, that if the mines are worked the Minimum Wage Acts applicable thereto shall be applied.
There is another aspect of this case apart from that put forward by several hon. members, that is as to why this Act is not made permanent instead of being carried forward from year to year? The matter was considered by a Committee, and the suggestion that the Act should be made permanent was offered on two grounds by the Chairman of the Committee, and another Member. One Member said:Suppose we do make the Act permanent, and the minimum wage given were raised in the House of Commons till then?The other hon. Member, just after the subsidy was granted, observed:There are all kinds of other possibilities opening up and other methods, and the mines may occupy a totally different position to that occupied previously. 1381 Making the Act permanent will more or less simplify the principle of the minimum wage.He says—and quite rightly—that it will be a great mistake in the interests of the men—
§ Mr. BASIL PETO
All I suggested was that there had been other methods of remedying matters than by merely dealing with wages.
The hon. Gentleman added other words which, I think, make my interpretation agree. If not, no doubt, he will explain to the Committee why this Act should not be made permanent. It seems desirable that some reason or justification should be given why the Act should not be made permanent, but merely continued from year to year.
§ Mr. VARLEY
There is no point whatever in making the Act permanent, and I hope sincerely that the Government will not give way to the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Leith.
§ Amendment negatived.
I beg to move, in page 4, to leave out lines 11 to 24, in clusive.
The object of this Amendment is to leave out the Courts (Emergency Powers) Act, 1914. I do not profess to understand why it is necesasry to retain this Act, but I am perfectly satisfied with the examination made by the Committee which was appointed by this House in 1925. On page 11 we find that the Chairman said to Mr. Ram, the representative of the Department:This Act has been continued only so far as it, relates to Orders made by any Court before the 31st August, 1922. The Lord Chancellor's Department considers further continuance unnecessary, and the Scottish Office concurs. Have you anything to say on that, Mr. Ram?Mr. Ram replied "No," and the Chairman then said:Then this Act, will lapse for everybody agrees.And the Committee recommended that the Act should be discontinued. What desire to know is why that recommendation was not agreed to, and why this Act is still continued?
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL (Sir Thomas Inskip)
The hon. and gallant Gentleman is quite right in saying that the Select Committee which was appointed assumed that it would probably be unnecessary to continue this particular Act of Parliament, but after the Committee had reported further investigations, showed that there were in actual operation certain Orders that had been made under the original Act, and it was therefore necessary to continue the original Act until those Orders had been worked out, Hon. Members arc aware that this Act is an Act which gave to the Courts certain powers in regard to the postponement of financial obligations which were incurred in cases of hardship arising out of circumstances connected with the War. So long as those Orders are in operation it is necessary to continue the Act, otherwise the Orders would come to an end. I understand those Orders are rapidly disappearing with the passage of time. I hope the hon. Gentleman will take it that it is reasonable that the Act should continue.
§ Captain GARRO-JONES
The learned Solicitor-General stated that the Committee recommended that this Act should no longer be continued, but the point that puzzles me is how is it that when the Lord Chancellor's Department on the best legal advice recommended that the Act should not be continued, and the Scottish Office, also presumably acting on the best Scottish legal advice, also made the same recommendation, the Act should still be continued? Did those two Departments make a mistake? If so, it cannot be helped, but I think we may well ask how long it will be before these Orders referred to by the learned Solicitor-General run out. Is this Act to be continued indefinitely, and, if not, how long is it to be continued? I think we should have an answer to that.
The Government will not gain anything by flippant replies of that kind. If my hon. and gallant Friend's question had been dealt with courteously no more would have been said. Perhaps the Solicitor-General will now tell us how many of these Orders there are, and what sums of money are involved. I would like the Home Secretary to give a courteous 1383 and reasonable answer to the questions put to him.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Mr. SCURR
I beg to move, in page 4, line 26, column 3, to leave out the words "Sub-section (7) of Section thirteen."
This proposal was a War Measure passed in the interests of economy, but in regard to London government is very complicated, and so far as the London County Council is concerned it is really necessary to have the information which has hitherto been contained in these annual reports in order to secure the ordinary co-operation and a knowledge of the work. The only objection offered is the ground of expense. After all, it is necessary that the ratepayers should know how their money is being expended by the various local authorities, therefore the reports should be published annually. For these reasons I think this provision should be repealed.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of HEALTH (Sir Kingsley Wood)
There has been some considerable discussion between the London County Council and the Metropolitan borough councils with regard to the operation of this Section. The Committee will observe that in 1855 the Metropolitan boroughs were required to make an annual report to the London County Council of their proceeding, and a list of the names and addresses of their members.
I think the issue between these two bodies is as to the way certain information should be supplied. For instance, the London County Council do not need the names of the members of these various authorities supplied to them because, fortunately, the annual reports of the Metropolitan Boroughs are usually printed and are available to the public. Therefore it is a question now as to the exact nature of the information which, under more modern circumstances, should be supplied. I think it is neces- 1384 sary that there should be a report provided by these various authorities in order that the public and the London County Council can see exactly how the money is being spent. Consequently the Metropolitan Boroughs have asked us to postpone this matter for another year in order that some agreement may be arrived at as to the exact nature of the reports to be published. That is why we have included this provision for another year.
§ Sir K. WOOD
I cannot say what will happen next year, but we do not propose to ask them to furnish the names and addresses of their members. It is our intention to get them to come to some agreement in order that proper information may be available, to the London County Council.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I beg to move. "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."
The Minister in charge of public business suggested that at 12.30 we must report Progress. The next Amendment. raises the question of Alien restrictions and I suggest that this Motion should be accepted.
§ Committee report Progress, to sit again To-morrow.
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.
§ It being after Half-past Eleven of the Clock upon Wednesday evening, Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.
§ Adjoured at Twenty-six Minutes after Twelve o'Clock.