HC Deb 25 January 1967 vol 739 cc1556-75

Lords Amendment: No. 10, in page 8, line 38, at the end to insert: (2A) An order under subsection (1) of this section shall not apply to any acquisition of land of a description specified in section 1(2) of the Acquisition of Land Act (land belonging to local authorities etc.)

Mr. Skeffington

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

Mr. Hugh Rossi (Hornsey)

I welcome this Amendment as one would welcome any Amendment to Clause 8. Clause 8 has perhaps attracted the greatest attention both in this House and in another place. It is the Clause which deals with the special procedure relating to compulsory purchase. Anything which cuts down the powers of the Minister in that respect is most welcome.

As the Clause was originally drawn, the Minister had power to make an Order to the effect that special procedure could apply to the whole country generally. Once he had made the Order applying special procedure to the whole of the country generally, the Land Commission could step in and acquire property without the general protection of public inquiries on matters of this kind. There has been a great deal of public concern about this. These procedures will appertain, but at least this Amendment seeks to place on the Minister the restriction that he may not make a general Order covering the whole country at one time. What he must now do under this Amendment is to make Orders which must specify special classes of property, and he must come to Parliament in order to have the matter ratified.

There is no definition as to special classes and we are to a certain extent in the dark as to what the Minister may have in mind. If he is able to give if I should be grateful for some explanation of the Amendment to that extent. How will the Order operate to specify a class of acquisition? Subject to that I welcome this Amendment.

Question put and agreed to.

Subsequent Lords Amendments agreed to.

Lords Amendment: No. 13, in page 9, line 1, leave out subsection (4).

Mr. Willey

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

Perhaps it would be for the convenience of the House at the same time to consider Lords Amendment No. 14: In page 9, line 10, leave out "subsection" and insert "section".

Mr. Deputy Speaker

If it is agreeable to the House the two Amendments may be discussed together.

Mr. Graham Page

indicated assent.

Mr. Willey

As the hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Rossi) said, it is now clear on the face of the Bill itself that Clause 8 will not be invoked in general circumstances. I had always made clear that there was no intention so to do, but it is now written in as part of the Bill itself. I do not object to that at all. It is now explicit in the Clause.

As hon. Members will remember, I offered to consider the question of whether we should have affirmative or negative procedures on two or three matters, of which this was one. I came—to the view—which I am sure is right — that this is not a Clause in which the affirmative procedure should be invoked. This clearly is a Clause which ought to rely upon the negative procedure. There are technical difficulties about the Amendment itself. I do not rely on those, because this is a matter which the Government could construe, but I was advised that they would probably be construed as a misprint.

On merits we have made it impossible to resort generally under this Clause. Because of the wide range of circumstances which might invoke Orders and the limited circumstances which would be dealt with, and because of the general desirability of the Government confining the operations of this Clause—which, incidentally, is accepted now by the Opposition in the Lords; they do not deny that there might be a case for invoking the powers under the Clause—it is better to rely on the negative and not on the affirmative procedure.

Sir D. Walker-Smith

This Clause and the Second Schedule which goes with it are an echo of far-off unhappy things, being a very clear echo of the now happily defunct Section 2 of the Acquisition of Land (Authorisation Procedure) Act, 1946, and the Third Schedule of that Act. Section 2 of the 1946 Act, the so-called "speedy procedure" under that Act, was repealed in 1953 in the days of freedom and now, as it were, it has been plucked from the pigeon-hole where it has lain since 1953. It is proposed to be re-enacted, although in an intensified form, by these provisions.

This Clause is called the special procedure. Section 2 of the 1946 Act, on which it is based, was called by Government supporters in those days a speedy procedure, but it was always referred to by those in opposition in the Standing Committee and in the House as "the harsh and arbitrary procedure ". We were then led on this matter by a very dearly loved figure who later became Speaker of this House, then Mr. W. S. Morrison. Those who remember him will be able to recreate in their minds the way in which he pronounced these words "the harsh and arbitrary procedure" which nature has unfortunately not equipped me to reproduce.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

The Minister of State might try.

Sir D. Walker-Smith

It would be difficult to recreate the full flavour he gave to those very descriptive words.

In fact Clause 8 as it stands is worse than the repealed Section 2 of the 1946 Act because that Section did at least have a requirement of exceptional urgency before the harsh and arbitrary procedure could be put into effect. As the House will appreciate, that is not the case in regard to Clause 8 of this Bill. All that is required here is, under subsection (1), that it should appear to the appropriate Minister or Ministers that it is necessary in the public interest to enable the Commission to obtain authority for the compulsory acquisition of land by a simplified procedure". What that really means is that the Minister has carte blanche. Whenever he may think it is in the public interest, he is able to give power to the Commission to proceed to compulsory acquisition. After a lapse of 20 years we find that this Bill is more authoritarian in this respect even than the 1946 Act. The little finger of the right hon. Gentleman is thicker than the loins of the then Minister in that first fine rapture of Socialist enthusiasm in the Attlee Administration of those days.

If the House refers to the Second Schedule it will be found that it simply reproduces the words of the discredited and repealed Third Schedule of the 1946 Act. In paragraph (2) it refers to the service of a notice on the person whose land is to be acquired. Under 2(b) we see that it is a sufficient notice if it is: either delivered to some person on the land or, if there is no person on the land to whom it can be delivered, is affixed to some conspicuous object on the land. When the provision says: delivered to some person on the land there is no requirement that that person shall have any proprietary interest in the land or any necessary or lawful connection with anyone who in fact has such a proprietary interest.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I hesitate to interrupt the right hon. and learned Member, but I understand that we are discussing only the limited question as to whether subsection (4) of Clause 8 should stand. I do not think it would be in order to canvass the whole of the merits of Clause 8 or to go into the detail of the Schedule.

Sir D. Walker-Smith

Not the whole of the merits I agree, but only sufficient of the merits to support my argument that this is a Clause which, taken with the accompanying provisions of the Schedule —and they have to be read together—is such as to demand the very closest form of Parliamentary control such as is provided by the Amendment from another place and such as is proposed to be deleted by the Motion to disagree which the Minister has moved.

In support of that, I wanted to refer —and to refer only very shortly—to one or two matters in the Schedule, but only in that limited context. Of course I appreciate the force of your Ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and naturally I shall entirely abide by it. In that limited context I have explained that here is a provision where it is sufficient in order to take away land if this procedure is to go on uncontrolled to give notice to some person without any connection with the owner, a casual wayfarer, a trespasser or even a fugitive from justice. Take the case of my constituency and Thorley Wood. I suppose that if anybody had served a notice on Roberts while he was hiding in Thorley Wood, it would have been a sufficient satisfaction of the provisions of the Schedule. As for the conspicuous object, I suppose that it would be sufficient to pin the notice to a tree which is blown down overnight in a gale.

6.45 p.m.

Suppose, however, that it is reasonable to take this example at this time of year in view of the harsh weather that we were promised. Suppose that somebody puts a snowman on the land, complete with prime ministerial pipe in mouth—a veritable abominable snowman—and affixes a notice to it and it is promptly melted away before anybody has a chance to see it. That would also satisfy the provisions of the Schedule. If the Minister thinks that it would not, perhaps he would be good enough to explain. On my reading, it would be sufficient. Therefore, we get the position under this so-called special procedure that a person can have his land acquired compulsorily without even knowing that that is what is proposed to be done.

The Minister may say that it does not very much matter because it does not do the citizen much good in this procedure if he does know, because even if he knows he has no right to an inquiry or even a right to be heard. All that he has is a right to have the decision notified to him; and it is almost inevitable, as he has no right of a hearing or of inquiry, that the decision will be against him.

Therefore, as the Government are seeking here to revive in an aggravated form an odious procedure which was properly removed from the Statute Book, it is surely very wrong that they should come to the House and seek to remove this minimum and very reasonable constitutional requirement which the Amendment of the other place has put on the exercise of this power.

This shows that the Government are approaching the Bill on the basis that they will not accept any restrictions or curbs whatever on the totality of the power of the Commission and of the central machine in this matter. That is clean contrary once again to the view which has been traditionally taken of these matters in the House and the regard that we have always sought to pay to constitutional safeguards and the rights of the citizen.

The Government's attitude is indefensible in reason. I dare say that this will not make very much difference. As has been pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain), the benches opposite are not occupied by the supporters of the Government. They do not come here to defend the Bill. They are ashamed even to listen to the defence of the Bill as put forward from their Front Bench. One would sympathise with that if only they would follow their absence here with a corresponding absence in the Division Lobby when the decision of the House is taken. We know, however, that when that time comes, the Minister can, and does, rely upon the uncomprehending but slavish obedience of his cohorts in other parts of the Palace of Westminster.

It is on that basis that this Measure is being pushed through, not on merit or on reason, but simply on the power of a majority in the Division Lobby. It is very reprehensible that the clock is being put back in this way. This harsh and arbitrary procedure is being revived in an intensified and aggravated form and the Minister will not even make it subject to the affirmative Resolution procedure, which would give some reality to Parliamentary control.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) was rather unfair to hon. Members opposite when he rebuked them for not being here to listen to Ministerial defence of the Bill. It must be absolute agony for them to hear it and I rather sympathise with them in finding themselves disposed to be in another part of this Palace.

My right hon. and learned Friend has produced a powerful case for insisting on the affirmative procedure. I desire to add only two reasons to those adduced by my right hon. and learned Friend. First, as he has said, this is an odious procedure which is contemplated by the Clause and the Schedule and it is made very little less odious by the Amendments introduced in another place. It seems to me that, whatever may have been said in another place, there is no justification whatever for it.

To take away, perhaps—I say this deliberately—somebody's home by a procedure of which the person affected need not even know seems to be an outrage in civilised society. It is utterly wrong that the Government should seek to put upon the Statute Book a Measure empowering that to be done in any circumstances.

I agree that that is not the issue on the Amendment, which defines what the Government must do to exercise this odious and tyrannous power. If the Government insist on taking this power, they should go through what is generally regarded by all Parliamentarians as the strongest test, that of the affirmative procedure. In other words, a Minister should be forced to come to the Dispatch Box and deploy positively the reasons why this power should be taken in the circumstances in which it is being asked. That is the least that the House of Commons can ask if this procedure is to be adopted at all.

No one can say that there may not be circumstances of fantasy which would give the Government an arguable case for saying that they should take this power. If that should arise, however, they should be compelled to make that case. They should not themselves be the judges and take the power.

Secondly, there is here a technical problem. Under the negative procedure an Order is made, and if the House is sitting it can be prayed against during the following 40 days. If the Order is made during the Recess, time does not run until the House returns. The possible time, therefore, for a Prayer to annul such an Order is certainly 40 days. If, for example, an Order were made early in the Summer Recess, it might be a matter of months.

What is to happen during that interval? If I understand the Clause aright —I speak subject to correction—the Order would operate as soon as it was made and the Government would proceed to operate this procedure. If the House is in recess, there is no opportunity to pray against the Order; the machine marches forward to deprive someone of his land. It may well be that by the time House returns and the sitting days are running again, it is too late for a Prayer successfully to be carried through. A Minister might get up at the Box and say, "I am very sorry, but this has been done. The procedure has been operated." The merit which is claimed for this procedure is that it is quick. It therefore seems that in this type of matter the negative procedure affords very little protection.

To take the argument a little further, let us suppose that none the less the Prayer is carried. I am, I think, the only hon. Member in the Chamber this afternoon who has actually had a Prayer carried.

Mr. Willey

So have I.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I share that distinction with the right hon. Gentleman, who, I am sure, will share my hope that I will soon be able to put my score ahead of his.

Prayers can be carried. Suppose that the Prayer is carried in this case. What would happen if the process of compulsory acquisition had gone ahead? That shows how inapposite the negative procedure is for this subject matter, although I accept that it is a very good procedure in many other cases.

I may not be out of order by indulging in competitive recollection or anecdotage with the right hon. Gentleman. The effect of my carrying a Prayer was to add to the cheese ration of the United Kingdom by an ounce per head for a week. Nobody could get that cheese back. If the Minister has taken my house under this procedure, if he has moved me out and got me in the position of desperately struggling to find somewhere to live if he has power to take it away from me, he cannot undo the harm that he has done. That is the distinction.

That is why, if one thinks of the subject matter, there are two overwhelming arguments for using the affirmative procedure. One is that all hon. Members, I think, accept that this is a very powerful engine of government, a tremendous power over the citizen, a unique power over the citizen to take in time of peace. My right hon. and learned Friend said that it goes further even than the powers taken at the end of the war.

Secondly, it is a matter in which the negative procedure could be a largely illusory protection. It would have some advantage in that the matter would be publicised and the Minister brought to the Despatch Box, and I do not under-rate this, but as a protection to the citizen it would be inadequate.

Therefore, if the Minister wants, even at this stage, to show that he is prepared to do something to protect the citizen or to do other than leave the citizen at the mercy of his creature, the Land Commission, he should give the citizen the protection of the affirmative procedure. Even if the Minister is worried about the Government Chief Whip—who is not here at the moment—let him stand up just once for the citizen.

Mr. Peyton

I support the protest which has been made by my two right hon. Friends against the Government's attitude on this matter. It seems to me to be part and parcel of the doctrine enunciated not very long ago by the Prime Minister that "We have taken steps which have been taken by no other democratic country in the world." It all rings so true and is consistent with the doctrine.

The subsection with which we are dealing offers to the individual a wretched protection for his essential rights. I should like to echo what my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) said about the public interest and the attitude constantly adopted by tyrants. Who are Ministers to be the arbitrary judges of the public interest? In my view, they set themselves up unduly and without warranty.

We have to remember that the subsection is accompanied by a Schedule which in one sense, and one sense alone, is distinguished in the Bill: it is comprehensible. Other parts of the Bill are not. Paragraph 3(2) of Schedule 2 gives to the Minister the right to dispense with any inquiry. It seems to me, therefore, that except for the negative and frail procedure of Prayer—and Prayers are likely to multiply, and as they multiply so their effect will diminish—the individual is left bereft of his rights and without any possible arena in which he can make his complaint.

Sir D. Walker-Smith

In case the effect of this compliment about the comprehensibility of Schedule 2 should have an exaggerated effect, does my hon. Friend appreciate that this Schedule is taken word for word from an earlier Statute? It is not therefore any new contribution to the Bill, and does not affect the general strictures on the general incomprehensibility as such.

7 p.m.

Mr. Peyton

I am obliged to my right hon. and learned Friend. That makes it very much worse. I suppose that the Government found this precedent in an earlier Statute and were ashamed not to use it. As a result, it stands out gleaming in its comprehensibility among the other unintelligible rubbish with which the Bill is littered, and I mean particularly the Schedules.

No words could be too strong in protest against this policy. My right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) said it was unreasonable to chide members of the Labour Party for their absence from the Government Benches. I have seldom seen those benches looking more beautiful than they are now. [Laughter.] I bow to the hon. Lady the Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Joyce Butler), but she was not the only reason for my compliment. I can understand that were they here perhaps a sense of shame, dormant in them but dead in Ministers, might appear and rouse them to some kind of protest. What I find very difficult to stomach is the right hon. Gentleman's attitude that the Bill is such a reasonable Measure that it will do things which have to be done.

We all understand the pressure of housing demand, and the rest of it, to which the Minister refers time and time again. What we are attacking is the Bill and the tyrannical means by which it is buttressed. We believe that the Bill will not work, but that the attempt to operate it will produce tyranny. As my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths) said, the Government's complacent acceptance of this very flimsy procedure is intolerable.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

If ever there were a subject which ought to be given the fullest possible Parliamentary scrutiny, and not the least possible Parliamentary scrutiny, it must be Clause 8, because the Minister or the Commission is here provided with powers to take away a man's land without a public inquiry, without affording an objector an opportunity to state his case, without appearing before an inspector and, worst of all, without even being informed in certain circumstances that his land is being taken away from him.

Surely, if land is to be taken from a private individual without notice, without opportunity for redress, without a chance of appearing before an inspector, then this is something which goes to the heart of Parliament. If this subject is not one on which this House of Commons should spend a good deal of time, then I cannot think of any subject with which Parliament should concern itself.

We see this extraordinary and impractical procedure whereby the Commission is required to give notice by the process of affixing a piece of paper to a conspicuous object. I am very interested in where the burden of proof will lie, because in the event that the flimsy procedure here laid down is not complied with and the piece of paper is not affixed to a conspicuous object, where will the individual be able to have his case argued?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Eric Fletcher)

I do not think that that arises on this Amendment.

Mr. Griffiths

With respect to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the case that I was making is that it is essential under subsection (4), which we are seeking to have struck out, to have the affirmative procedure in order that the matters now referred to should have the fullest possible inquiry. That was the nature of my argument, but, of course, I accept at once your correction.

I wish to refer briefly to my own constituency, because this is a matter that really affects us in West Suffolk and it is for that reason I ask that the affirmative procedure should be followed.

In my constituency there is some ten-land. There are no conspicuous objects in some of the fens—at least, if the Minister wants to find them, he might have to wear an aqualung. I cannot believe that those servants of the Commission, who are sent out to affix these notices to conspicuous objects, should go around with hammer and nails or large pieces of adhesive tape in order to affix pieces of paper to what in winter might well be an expanse of water.

There are other areas which the Commission may well wish to acquire in my constituency, for instance in the Breckland, and I should like to know how the Minister envisages in the Breckland of Suffolk, with a 50 m.p.h. wind blowing, he will have those pieces of paper affixed to conspicuous objects—which often do not exist.

Further, has he never heard of gipsies and children? In the event of these pieces of paper fluttering around the countryside, is that the sort of burden of proof which a serious Government are asking a civilised nation to accept? What a way of doing business! When we are confronted with a procedure as flimsy as this, the House of Commons should have the maximum possible opportunity of requiring the Minister to stand up at the Box. He must show how making the country a laughing stock can possibly be justified. It is outrageous that the negative procedure, which the Minister knows perfectly well imposes many severe limitations on members in this House, should be used. I remember only recently sitting until 11.30 p.m. hoping to speak on a Prayer and not succeeding in being called. If a piece of paper is supposedly stuck on a conspicuous object and blows away, my constituents will not be at all happy if at 11.30 I am prevented from protesting against this. Therefore I ask the Minister to recognise that he is foisting upon the country a tyrannical procedure, a sublimely ridiculous procedure, and is denying to the House an adequate opportunity to question him and to interrogate the Commission on the misdeeds which it is going to pursue.

Captain W. Elliot

The operation of this Clause is so extraordinary that I believe that when it is appreciated by the country, there will be a great outburst. Mr. Macmillan likened Socialism to a great octopus with arms grabbing in all directions, and this Clause is a vivid illustration of that.

When the people realise that they will have no appeal against the operation of the Clause unless the Minister thinks it expedient, they will ask Members of Parliament to take up their complaints. As has been pointed out by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith), in certain circumstances we may not be able to so so.

We have read a good deal recently about the decline in the prestige of Parliament and in particular the ineffectiveness of back benchers because our procedure is getting out of date. If back benchers on the Government side of the House let this sort of thing go through, they had better start blaming not the procedures of the House for our weaknesses, but themselves. I hope that they will bear that in mind. The lack of attention and attendance of hon. Members opposite has already been mentioned. It is an absolute disgrace, when this sort of legislation is going through, that we hear remarks about how weak our procedure is and about what we should do to correct it. Hon. Members opposite can blame themselves if they allow this provision to go through.

Mr. Reginald Eyre (Birmingham, Hall Green)

I hope that, having listened to the arguments of my hon. and right hon. Friends about the consequences of the Amendments and this very important Clause, the Minister will bear in mind the drastic consequences which will be suffered by a number of citizens, consequences which will flow from a rejection of the Amendment. I beg him to remember that the leaders of the professions concerned have addressed to him a protest to say that the Bill in general and this Clause in particular merit further consideration.

I hope that he will indicate that he has taken that advice and will take away the Amendment, the Clause and the Bill with the object of trying to make these provisions safe. What a relief it would be if the Minister did that! He would receive nothing but commendation in the country if he were brave enough to make that decision. I beg him not to pursue this unworkable scheme, but to take it away while there is still time.

Mr. Skeffington

Perhaps I should say first that the procedure is not perfect. [Laughter.] I am very glad that hon. Members seem to share my view, because they applied it to every one of their Planning Acts, to every one of their Education Acts and to every other Act in which compulsory purchase procedures were invoked. Far from making a purely party political point, if it is so degrading as the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths) has suggested, it is very surprising that in their 13 years of office no attempt was made to modify it.

Sir D. Walker-Smith

The Third Schedule of the Acquisition of Land Act, 1946, was repealed in 1953 in the course of our tenure of office.

Mr. Skeffington

The right hon. and learned Gentleman is normally more moderate in his criticisms, because he knows these things very well. Part V of Schedule 1 is still in force and was applied by right hon. Gentlemen opposite to a whole variety of Acts whenever compulsory purchase powers were included.

Sir D. Walker-Smith

But that does not include the Minister's right to dispense with a public inquiry.

Mr. Skeffington

No, but I was not dealing with that and nor was the right hon. and learned Gentleman. I do not think that this is a perfect procedure, and I do not think that it is impossible to get a better, but hon. Members have been addressing themselves to the affixing of notices and it is to that that I am addressing my remarks. Part V of Schedule 1 to the Acquisition of Land Act, 1946, is applicable to Acts passed when the right hon. and learned Gentleman was a Minister. If at some time this procedure can be improved, I am sure that all parties will be grateful.

However, the right hon. and learned Gentleman knows that a whole variety of steps have to be taken—endeavouring to find the owner by advertisement, by addressing to the last known address and so on—before this step can be taken. Only when all those have failed is this step taken, and the Government feel that even then we must still try by any device left open to us to notify the owner. This has been the practice of Governments of both parties. I agree that this is not a perfect procedure, but it is nonsense to suggest that it is an invention of the Labour Government when in fact it has hallowed precedent.

I do not think that there is any absolute constitutional practice, but, broadly speaking, when changes intended under the Bill are major changes, such as the naming of the second appointed day, Governments of both parties have thought that such things should be subject to the affirmative procedure. There might be a number of Orders under this Clause and Governments of both parties have regarded such things as suitable for the negative procedure. In view of that, and in view of the practice of previous Governments, I hope that the House will now come to a decision on this Amendment.

7.15 p.m.

Mr. Graham Page

The Parliamentary Secretary has made a most misleading speech. We are here discussing the special procedure to be applied by Clause 8. The special procedure can be brought into operation by an Order which would merely be subject to annulment by Prayer in this House, or in another place. On the face of it, this is a form of procedure which was used for a few years after the war, although in a less severe form. As the Parliamentary Secretary has said, it has been repeated in other legislation since.

But his statements were misleading in that he did not draw a distinction between the procedure as repeated in the Town and Country Planning Acts and this which we now find in Schedule 2. To start with, it has been applied in other legislation only for the benefit of elected bodies, and we are here dealing with a nominated body not under the control of any electorate, as is a local authority. The procedure as now known does not apply to dwelling houses. Originally it was temporary. It does not include the provisions about notice which are to be found in Schedule 2. It includes the right of public inquiry.

These distinctions exist between the procedure to which the Parliamentary Secretary was referring and that in the Bill, and they are clear and definite distinctions in each case. The Bill removes certain fundamental rights of the citizen, particularly the right to a public inquiry. I know that if a later Amendment is accepted this will be toned down a little, but under this procedure it will still be possible for a man's property to be taken away from him without his being heard in his own cause.

One frequently asserts that the rule of law is the greatest protection of the subject against the Executive, but equally effective is his right to bring out in the open by a public inquiry for his friends and neighbours and before the Press and the public the conduct of the Executive towards the individual citizen. This is a vital right when his property is being taken from him, and it is a right which ought not to be removed without Parliament's taking a positive decision about it. It ought not to be removed by the Government before Parliament has had an opportunity to consider the circumstances giving rise to it.

It is recognised by the way in which the Government have drafted the Clause that present circumstances do not justify the special procedure. If the Government have thought that this special procedure was justified at the moment, there would have been such a provision in the Bill and it would not have been a matter of introducing it by Order. But the Bill provides, if the Minister thinks it necessary in the public interest at some time in future, for this special procedure depriving the citizen of certain of his fundamental rights to be brought into operation by Order.

If these circumstances exist, they should be put before Parliament, which should have an opportunity to decide whether they justify an order of this sort or not. The Minister should be pre- pared to come before the House when he wishes to make an order of this kind and say what the circumstances are which make him think it necessary in the public interest and why they make the special procedure so necessary. He should not be allowed to make an order and bring it into operation and then, as it were, slap it on the Table of the House and say, "Pray against it if you like", while, in the meantime, a man's property may be being taken away from him.

Are the Government so frightened to debate an order of this sort before it is made? It is our complaint that an order can be made and come into operation before the House has an opportunity to debate it. Are the Government frightened to debate an order like this for more than an hour and a half? Under the negative procedure that is the most time we can have to debate such an order, for at 11.30 p.m. the guillotine falls, and on many occasions it deprives of an opportunity to take part hon. Members who wish to speak and put points on behalf of their constituents.

Mr. J. T. Price (Westhoughton)

I am interested in the hon. Gentleman's observations about the changed procedure. A few moments ago the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) referred to his performance in 1951 when he succeeded, on a prayer, in preventing the Government putting a halfpenny on a lb of cheese. The 11.30 p.m. rule did not apply then. Every night in those days the prayer procedure was grossly abused through debates going all night because the Government only had a majority of three or so at the time. But the succeeding Government, of which the right hon. Member was a distinguished adornment, altered the rule because they did not like debates going, on all night on these orders. The Tory Government introduced the new procedure for a debate of an hour and a half on prayers and it is no good the hon. Member complaining to us about it.

Mr. Graham Page

I am sorry if I did not put my point clearly, but the hon. Member has made it for me. There are two forms of procedure, and when considering a Bill the sort of procedure we are to apply to orders under it is very important. We should not apply the negative procedure, which means that a debate on an order must finish at 11.30 p.m. although that order may deprive a citizen of his rights. That is the point.

I agree that there are many cases where a negative order is the proper form of procedure—for example, when certain regulations are being brought forward perhaps it is right that time should be limited so that we do not have all-night sittings on small details. But this matter is not a small detail. The kind of order involved in this provision is a major matter affecting the citizen. This Clause

has caused as much consternation to the public as any Clause in the Bill. It is true that it is not yet in operation—thank heaven that it is not—but if it is brought into operation the order should be fully justified before the House and the circumstances which the Government think justify it.

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

The House divided: Ayes 171, Noes 104.

Division No. 254.] AYES [7.25 p.m.
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Ginsburg, David O'Malley, Brian
Alldritt, Walter Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C. Orme, Stanley
Allen, Scholefield Gourlay, Harry Oswald, Thomas
Anderson, Donald Gregory, Arnold Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)
Archer, Peter Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly) Owen, Will (Morpeth)
Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.) Griffiths, Will (Exchange) Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles
Bacon, Rt. Mn. Alice Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.) Parker, John (Dagenham)
Bence, Cyril Harper, Joseph Pavitt, Laurence
Binns, John Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)
Blackburn, F. Haseldine, Norman Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)
Booth, Albert Hazell, Bert Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. Henig, Stanley Price, Thomas (Westhoughton)
Bradley, Tom Hooley, Frank Price, William (Rugby)
Brooks, Edwin Horner, John Probert, Arthur
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough) Randall, Harry
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.) Redhead, Edward
Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.) Howie, W. Rhodes, Geoffrey
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Robertson, John (Paisley)
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Hughes, Roy (Newport) Rodgers, William (Stockton)
Cant, R. B. Hunter, Adam Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)
Carmichael, Neil Hynd, John Rose, Paul
Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak) Rowlands, E. (Cardiff, N.)
Chapman, Donald Jeger, Mrs. Lena (H'b'n&St. P'cras, S, Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)
Coe, Denis Jones, Dan (Burnley) Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
Coleman, Donald Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Silverman, Julius (Aston)
Crawshaw, Richard Kelley, Richard Skeffington, Arthur
Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard Kenyon, Clifford Slater, Joseph
Cullen, Mrs. Alice Lawson, George Snow, Julian
Davidson, Arthur (Accrington) Leadbitter, Ted Spriggs, Keith
Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford) Lee, John (Reading) Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)
Davies, Harold (Leek) Lever, L. M. (Ardwick) Swingler, Stephen
Davies, Robert (Cambridge) Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.) Symonds, J. B.
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Taverne, Dick
Delargy, Hugh Lyon, Alexander W. (York) Thornton Ernest
Dewar, Donald Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Tinn, James
Dickens, James McBride, Neil Tomney, Frank
Dobson, Ray McCann, John Urwin, T. W.
Doig, Peter MacColl, James Varley, Eric G.
Dunn, James A. McGuire, Michael Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)
Dunnett, Jack Mackintosh, John P. Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e) Maclennan, Robert Watkins, David (Consett)
Edwards, Rt. Hn. Ness (Caerphilly) McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.) Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)
Edwards, William (Merioneth) McNamara, J. Kevin Wellbeloved, James
Ellis, John MacPherson, Malcolm Whitaker, Ben
Ennals, David Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.) Whitlock, William
Evans, Ioan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley) Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Wilkins, W. A.
Fernyhough, E. Mapp, Charles Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Fitt, Gerard (Belfast, W.) Mason, Roy Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Mendelson, J. J. Willis, George (Edinburgh, E.)
Floud, Bernard Millan, Bruce Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Foley, Maurice Milne, Edward (Blyth) Winterbottom, R. E.
Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale) Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test) Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.
Forrester, John Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire) Woof, Robert
Fowler, Gerry Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Yates, Victor
Fraser, Rt. Hn. Tom (Hamilton) Neal, Harold Zilliacus, K.
Freeson, Reginald Newens, Stan
Gardner, Tony Norwood, Christopher TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Garrett, W. E. Ogden, Eric Mr. Charles Grey and Mr. Ernest Armstrong.
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.) Page, Graham (Crosby)
Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n) Harvie Anderson, Miss Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)
Baker, W. H. K. Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel Percival, Ian
Batsford, Brian Heseltine, Michael Peyton, John
Beamish, col. Sir Tufton Hill, J. E. B. Pink, R. Bonner
Bell, Ronald Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch
Body, Richard Holland, Philip Prior, J. M. L.
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John Hooson, Emlyn Pym, Francis
Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James
Brinton, Sir Tatton Jennings, J. C. (Burton) Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter
Bromley-Davenport, Lt. -Col. Sir Walter Johnston, Russell (Inverness) Ridley, Hn. Nicholas
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Jopling, Michael Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N&M) Kimball, Marcus Russell, Sir Ronald
Bullus, Sir Eric King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.) Sharples, Richard
Clark, Henry Kitson, Timothy Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)
Clegg, Walter Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry Sinclair, Sir George
Cordle, John Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Smith, John
Costain, A. P. Lubbock, Eric Steel, David (Roxburgh)
Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne) McAdden, Sir Stephen Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Currie, G. B. H. Mackenzie, Alasdair (Ross&Crom'ty) Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)
Dalkeith, Earl of Maclean, Sir Fitzroy Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford) Maddan, Martin Tilney, John
Eden, Sir John Maude, Angus Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Mawby, Ray van Straubenzee, W. R.
Eyre, Reginald Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Vickers, Dame Joan
Farr, John Mills, Peter (Torrington) Ward, Dame Irene
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.) Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Fortescue, Tim Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Winstanley, Dr. M. P.
Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone) Monro, Hector Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Giles, Rear-Adm. Morgan More, Jasper Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard
Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.) Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles Worsley Marcus
Goodhart, Philip Murton, Oscar
Goodhew, Victor Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds) Onslow, Cranley Mr. R. W. Elliott and Mr. Bernard Weatherill.
Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Osborn, John (Hallam)

Subsequent Lords Amendment disagreed to.