§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Debate resumed on the Second Reading Motion.
§ LORD SOULBURY
My Lords, by way of prelude to the Second Reading of this Bill in another place, the Government spokesman stated that the Government intended to retain only those war-time powers which were desirable in the public interest. When I read those words, they seemed to me to contain an unimpeachable content, to be reassuring, placating, encouraging. But, I am bound to say, after the first flush of pleasure, the same anxiety occurred to my mind as obviously occurred to the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Simon, when he studied the Bill. The question that occurred to me was: What will be the procedure under this Bill for deciding what are the war-time powers which it is desirable to retain in the public interest? Living in a democratically-governed country, and after experience of Parliamentary institutions, I thought, in my innocence, that the procedure of deciding what was desirable would be arrived at by general debate and discussion in the 603 Houses of Parliament, and that powers of this immense nature would come under genera I review of Parliament at not too infrequent intervals.
I confess that, like others, I was disturbed and disappointed to find that, so far from my natural anticipations being realized, as has been pointed out this general review and possible revision cannot take place until the autumn of 1950—five years from now. When I look at the Bench opposite I see a number of noble Lords whom I saw opposite in another place and whom I looked upon with great respect and regard, and to whose utterances I paid great attention, although I did not always agree with what they said. When they were, as often, pleading for the rights of Parliamentary discussion, watching with vigilance the preservation of the rights of minorities, resisting with all their might any suspected attempt of the Executive to curtail Parliamentary time at the expense of the Legislature, I had considerable sympathy with the noble Lords when they were sitting in another place. As my noble and learned friend Lord Simon has pointed out, my noble friend Lord Stansgate was certainly the most doughty defender of the rights of minorities and the right of Parliament to discuss, and he condemned the wrong of the Executive in curtailing opportunities of discussion. He was the most doughty opponent I have in my recollection. He will forgive my saying so, but, quite frankly, the Executive of whom I was a member at the time found him a considerable nuisance, and, as a junior Minister, not only did I find him a nuisance, but regarded him with considerable apprehension, almost bordering, at times, on terror.
And now, my Lords, see what has happened. These noble Lords here acquiesce in, connive at and support this Bill. To one who has heard them at other times in another place it is a sad reversal. The sight of any man falling from grace is distressing, and doubly so when such a man has had a noble past and whose fetish was the worship of liberty and freedom. I hope the excuse, or the defence, for this Bill will not rest upon the plea that these various matters can be criticize in another place on the Estimates on Supply Day, or by raising the matter on the Adjournment, or by Questions, or, here, by Question and Motion.
604 As regards Clause 4, which has just been mentioned, to a layman the ice is too thin to justify him skating upon it, but I am bound to say, after having heard the expressions, and the divergent expressions, of noble Lords learned in the law, the impression I have in my own mind is that it is a very doubtful defence compared with the defence which Parliament ought to have.
§ LORD SOULBURY
That makes it more doubtful. Parliament should have the power to reconsider, discuss and revise measures of this kind at not too infrequent intervals. It is that power which the Government are now curtailing and taking away. I had hoped that what the Government would have done would have been to allow Parliament, as in the case of war-time regulations, to review these measures annually, or, at worst, perhaps, every two years; to provide an occasion upon which the Government's whole policy, as regards control, could have been reviewed and discussed; a progress report submitted of what had been done with regard to the controls; and how far the Government programme had been realized or not.
But that is just what this Government are seeking to avoid; just what they do not want to do. For this reason, if they did that, then, on their periodical appearance for a review of this Bill, they would either be unable to justify the retention of those powers, in which case they would have to abandon them, or, if they were able to justify them, they would, ex hypothesi, have to confess that their programme had failed, and that the measures which they had hoped to take to render these regulations unnecessary had not matured, and that the Government's policy had been a failure. That would have been the alternative. One sympathizes with any body of persons placed in a dilemma of that kind. It is not an agreeable dilemma to be in, and I am afraid it is the presence of that dilemma which has led the Government into this course. I gathered from the Lord Chancellor, when he addressed your Lordships yesterday, that he regarded criticism as helpful. I took down his exact words:…if any Government…were deprived of healthy, active, vigorous criticism, it would be deprived of one of its main chances of success.605 That may be, and I will not dispute it but it is very remarkable that the Lord Chancellor and his friends, holding that view, should seek to enact this self-denying ordinance. If the Lord Chancellor thinks he derives so much support from criticism, why in heaven do the Government go out of their way to remove a very important and salutary method o criticizing the Government at intervals? I must say I am not very much convinced by Ministerial lip-service to criticism. I know it is customary to say low much Ministers enjoy it, but I have yet to meet the Minister who ever pressed the opposition, in another place, to call for his estimates on Supply Day.
§ LORD SOULBURY
No doubt other Ministers have the same reaction as I had when they first learned of it, by saying "Now I am for it." Similarly, has any Minister when in difficulty, or some administration has gone wrong, ever asked the Opposition to raise the matter on the Adjournment, or, in some very ticklish situation, said to a Member of the Opposition, "Be a good friend and ask me a question about it"? Criticism is essential; it is almost the main business of Parliament to criticize; but I have yet to be convinced that Ministers like it. That makes me all the more suspicious of a Government who take action of this kind to withdraw Ministerial action from the probing and searching of Parliament. These powers will last for five years. It is a five years' close season for timorous occupants of the Treasury Bench; a protection for Ministers but by no means a protection for the general public.
What is the defence which is put forward for this proposal? If I understand it rightly, it is that it would be wrong to make the country think that after two years the Government would cease to need these powers. In other words, you would thereby create a feeling of false optimism. I understand that that is one of the main objections to the proposal that the period should be two years. I do not think that the Government need be very anxious about that; I do not believe that they have much cause for fear. There may have been some risk of a certain amount of optimism last summer, but the Government have been extremely busy and most successful in 606 pouring buckets of cold water on any optimism which existed. There may still be a few smouldering embers here and there which might be blown into a flame, hut, by and large, I think that the Government have already successfully extinguished the fires of hope which they lit in the hearts of so many people a few months ago. There was some heat engendered in the summer, but there is winter cold now. Ministers have "cast forth their ice like morsels; who is able to withstand their frost?" But whether there is power to review this measure two years or two months hence makes little difference; optimism has been almost extinguished and is most unlikely to recur.
The Lord Chancellor justified the idea that an amendment of the kind suggested would engender false optimism by an analogy from the Army Annual Act. With great respect to the noble and learned Lord—I am not sure whether I use that phrase in the sense to which the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, referred yesterday—this analogy is rather unfortunate for his argument. As your Lordships know, the Army Annual Act is passed every year and, as has been pointed out, nobody thinks that the Army is going to cease to exist as a legal body because its existence is renewed annually. Why on earth, if this Bill had to be renewed after two years, should the general public think that the Government intended to abandon the policy of control? The argument of the Army Annual Act seems to me completely to destroy the purpose for which the Lord Chancellor used it. In any case it seems to me that he has a curious opinion of the electorate, which is not so credulous or so gullible as he imagines.
He appears to have been influenced by the widespread approval of his audiences in the recent General Election, and to have formed the impression that people are enthusiastically thirsting for the controls. In any event it is dangerous to attribute electoral success to any single factor. I very much doubt whether any of the electors realized that they were voting to confer powers of this kind on the Government for five years, and I am wondering whether the Lord Chancellor told them so. He is apprehensive about the action which might be taken in your Lordships' House, a matter with which the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, has just dealt.
607 He seems to fear that while the Government were junketing with controls this House might cut off the banqueters in the midst of their revels if a two-year period were adopted. Is he really so apprehensive of that? I may be over-suspicious, but I think that his anxiety is somewhat tempered by the thought, or possibly the hope, that your Lordships might be induced to supply for His Majesty's Government that scapegoat that they will certainly require before the five-year period has elapsed. In vain is the net spread in the sight of the bird! The Lord Chancellor has dangled a noose in front of your Lordships, but I suggest that you will not be rash enough to insert your heads in it. On the other hand, your Lordships may think it advisable to let the Government have as much rope as there is available, in the hope that at a later stage they will make suitable use of it.
Admittedly these controls are necessary, and many of them will probably be necessary for a considerable time. No one is so foolish as to suppose that the Government could sweep them away without doing incalculable harm to the general That, however, does not mean that this Government should take the kind of action that they wish to take to-day to curtail or limit the opportunity of Parliament to review and revise at intervals the legislation which they have passed. This Bill attempts to stifle or postpone legitimate Parliamentary criticism, and for that reason I submit that it should be deplored by all supporters of Parliamentary government.
§ 4.48 p.m.
My Lords, we have had, during the last two days, a debate which has reached a level of brilliance which I personally do not remember since I have been in your Lordships' House. In particular, I think we shall all have to wait a very long time before we hear anything so impressive as the formidable and inexorable unfolding of argument in the speech of my noble and learned friend Lord Simon. I do not pretend that I can compete with forensic ability of that kind, and I should very much have preferred not to speak to your Lordships this afternoon, because it seems to me that the case against this Bill has already been overwhelmingly made.
608 It so happens, however, that in the brilliant speech in which he introduced the measure the Lord Chancellor referred to some remarks which I myself made to your Lordships in the debate on the Address, and it appeared to me that his interpretation required a certain measure of correction. He seemed to imply, or at least I understood him to imply, for his words were rather guarded, that I had advised your Lordships, or those of your Lordships who sit on this side of the House, to give carte blanche to the Government to bring forward any measures they liked, and that we ought to oppose nothing that the Government did, whatever that might be. I am quite certain that the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack did not mean in any way to misinterpret me, and I can only conclude that he was at that moment not giving that full attention to my remarks for which I might perhaps have hoped; but in fact I said nothing of the kind. My words were extremely carefully phrased; I said:Whatever our personal views, we should frankly recognize that these proposals were put before the country at the recent General Election and that the people of this country, with full knowledge of these proposals, returned the Labour Party to power. The Government may, therefore, I think, fairly claim that they have a mandate to introduce these proposals.That is what I said, and as there still seemed some doubt about what I meant, I sought to make the position clear at the end of the debate by an intervention which I made during the speech of the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House. Noble Lords may remember that I interrupted him to say that the words "these proposals" referred to the proposals which were before the country at the Election. The noble Viscount will remember that.
I have to-day spent a pleasant and, I hope, a fruitful morning in reading a most interesting production of the Labour Party entitled Let Us Face the Future, which I found to be appropriately bound in a white sheet, adorned with some embellishments couleur de rose. I may say that when I was originally making my notes I put down the name of this production as "Let us Face the Facts", but I thought there must be a mistake about that; so I looked again and I now give you the correct title. In this admirable production I found plenty of reference to control; but I must say, search where 609 I would, I could find no suggestion that the decision as to what controls were necessary and what were riot was to be taken out of the control of Parliament for five years, and that that indeed was that only control which was to be removed. Yet that is the issue, and, indeed, the only issue, before us to-day. With regard to the necessity of maintaining for the present the existing controls, which was referred to at very considerable length in the speech of the noble and learned Lord Chancellor and in the brilliant and charming maiden speech of my noble friend Lord Pakenham, there is no disagreement at all, so far as I know in any part of the House. We all know that the maintenance of some control is necessary now and may be necessary for some tine in the future. But that is quite a different thing, I suggest, to giving the Government powers to maintain controls for an unknown time in the future when conditions may be entirely different.
Moreover, if your Lordships, wore in disagreement with the decision of the Government, which is incorporated in this Bill, I think a great many of us were still more astonished by the arguments put forward b1 the noble and learned Lord Chancellor in recommending it to the House. His speech, I thought, if he will allow me to say so, was a most admirable piece of special pleading. But I do not believe that it convinced any of your Lordship, and I am extremely doubtful if it convinced the Lord Chancellor himself. The first reason he advanced was—as has heel said this' afternoon—that the British people are passionately attached to controls. He referred to remarks which he said he had heard made at and after election meetings and which had convinced him that this was the case. My noble friend Lord Pakenham made a valiant attempt to extricate him from this difficulty and said that the Lord Chancellor had never said anything of the kind Lord Woolton, he said, had greatly interpreted the Lord Chancellor. But, in fact, the Lord Chancellor did say pretty well what Lord Woolton says he said. But I would quote the exact words to your Lordships. The Lord Chancellor said: "They"—that is the British people—" do not want us to worship spurious liberty by taking off controls. If that does not mean what Lord Woolton sail I do not know what does. I should add, in fairness to the Lord Chancellor, that 610 he added the words: "which will lead to the disastrous situation that followed the last war." Nobody, of course, wants to lead to that situation. But the Lord Chancellor did compare and contrast spurious liberty and the maintenance of control, and I would have thought that Lord Woolton was perfectly fair in making the comment which he did. At any rate, I am quite certain that the noble and learned Lord Chancellor is entirely wrong in his view of the British people.
There is riot a single one of your Lord-ships who could not quote examples on the other side. Some measure of control we all know to be necessary at the present time, but I do not believe that there is anyone—Lord Pakenham certainly did not attempt to do so—who would say that controls are, for themselves, popular. I would like to quote an example on the other side which has come within my own experience. It may seem almost too unimportant, too parochial to mention in your Lordships' House, but at the same time it is, I think, a very good example of the intolerable inconvenience which has already been caused to the people of this country by some of these petty restrictions. Your Lordships may not be aware —I was not myself until recently—that there is a regulation, which was passed during the war, under which no one is allowed to set up in business as a haircutter unless he gets a licence. I do not know what was the original reason for that regulation. There may have been some abnormal conditions in war-time which necessitated it, but it is certainly leading to great abuses now.
A haircutter. You cannot cut hair in this country at the present time unless you get a licence from the Board of Trade. Well, in a small country town in my part of the world, there was only one hair-cutter, and he, I am sorry to say, did not give universal satisfaction. As a result, the people of the town had to walk or cycle six miles to get their hair cut. This, naturally, meant very great trouble, expense and waste of time to those concerned. Now it so happened that there was another man in this small town who was also in a position to cut hair. He had been trained to do it, and his fellow citizens went to him and asked if he was 611 ready to start business. The other haircutter had no objection, and it was obviously for the general convenience that this man should cut the hair of the people of that town. He applied to the Board of Trade for a licence, but his application was refused. It was refused on the ground that he did not come within certain very limited categories mentioned in the regulation in question. As a result the maximum of inconvenience has been caused to all concerned.
This Government refused the licence. But I am not blaming the Government, I am blaming the system under which these regulations are the law of the land. Perhaps the noble Lord will allow me to continue. The case which I have quoted is a very small one, but it is typical of the kind of thing that is happening everywhere. One noble Lord—I believe it was Viscount Simon—made mention of business men, and a sort of giggle went over the Front Government Bench as if there were something slightly disreputable or malevolent about business men. I hope the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, will tell us why he laughed—he did laugh; they all laughed.
That is the general attitude on the Government Benches whenever business men are mentioned. This man who wanted to start work as a hair-cutter was a business man. There are big business men and there are small business men in this country. A very large part of the life of this country is kept going by business men, and these restrictions are clogging the blood of trade and industry at the present time and will do so more in the future. I do not blame the Committee which refused the licence in the case I have mentioned. They were bound by the terms of the regulation. I have always been told in Parliament that these things can safely be left to the discretion of the Minister. In the vast majority of instances, however, the Minister, who may be a most intelligent and public-spirited man, never hears about them. What in fact happens is that the decision is left to minor bureaucrats. These minor 612 bureaucrats may be, and often are, most excellent and patriotic people. But they are not in a position to use their discretion. I would like the Lord Chancellor to have heard the comments on this subject from the people of the town to which I have referred. I feel sure that they would have modified his views as to the desire of the British people for more and better controls.
Then the noble Lord gave a second reason in favour of this Bill which I personally thought was even more surprising. This touched what I think was called the constitutional aspect by Lord Pakenham this afternoon. I was interested to see that, very wisely, he did not tackle that aspect himself at all. He passed over it and went on to safer ground. But the noble Lord, the Lord Chancellor, was not so discreet and he said in effect—he will correct me if I am misinterpreting him—that the Government did not want to return to Parliament in two years' time to ask for an extension of the period of control because they were afraid that Parliament might refuse. I gather that the Government were not unduly apprehensive about the House of Commons. They thought that the subservient majority of the House of Commons could be depended upon to toe the Party line whatever their own personal opinions might be. The Whip would be put on and it would be effective. But your Lordships are a very different matter. You are independent minded; you are allowed to think for yourselves; and that in the Lord Chancellor's opinion was clearly a dreadful thing, which could not be allowed; it was a danger which must be guarded against.
I think he suggested at a later period that Clause 4 gave Parliament some power over new Orders, and, it has been suggested since, over old Orders. I am not clear about that, but, in any case, I do not think it very much matters. What is going to happen is that old or new Orders are to lie on the Table for forty days and that after that, once they have been approved, Parliament loses control over them for five years. That is the position. Those Orders may be perfectly legitimate at the time they are introduced. Your Lordships may wish these Orders to be passed through the House; yet in two years, one and a half years, or three years the situation may have changed and there may be every reason then for with- 613 drawing those Orders. But Parliament is era rely debarred from taking any action in the matter. If I remember right, during this part of the noble Lords speech, the Leader of the House left the Chamber. I think he was extremely wise. For I do not know how many times in the last three years we have heard the noble Lord extol the virtues of your Lordships' House as a Council of State, not unduly swayed by Party opinion, wise and objective. And who shall say he wrong?
Personally, I have never known your Lordships' House fail to consider the merits of the case, and if the arguments were strong and convincing, I am sure your Lordships would grant the Government the power for which they asked. If they refused to concede these powers it would be simply and purely because they considered that the powers were no longer necessary. Moreover, in any case, if this House refused powers which are thought by Ministers to be essential, the Government have always the ordinary constitutional remedy open to them, which is to go back to the country and ask for a renewal of their mandate. There is nothing to prevent them doing that at any time they wish. If the country is behind then, their mandate will be renewed. If the country votes against them, it is clear that their policy is not approved. That is the proper constitutional course. I have heard the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, recommend that course again and again. I remember hearing a broadcast which he made, I think, in the early years of the war, extolling the dignity and authority of Parliament and how it must be preserved. That is the way to preserve it. First, there is the Government: over them conies the authority of Parliament: and over Parliament the authority of the British people. That is the structure of the British Constitution. If the Government are hampered in their work, they can always go back to the sovereign people of this country from which. Parliament gets its authority. But what is entirely contrary to the spirit of the Constitution is to attempt to stifle the free decisions of Parliament. That is what the Government are doing by this Bill, and as Lord Woolton said quite truly, whether they mean it or not, it savours of totalitarianism. It is that that has shocked your Lordships and, I am sure, when it realizes the truth, will shock the whole country.
614 As Lord Woolton has already announced, we do not propose to vote against this Bill. For one thing, if we did so and if we defeated the Government, we should automatically bring controls to an end now, some of which at the present time we know to be absolutely necessary. We all accept the fact that those controls are needed now. Moreover, there is another equally important reason, which was expressed far better than I could do it in the effective and forceful speech of Lord Brabazon yesterday afternoon. We honestly believe that the country has made a deplorable mistake in electing the present Government. We believe that it will soon be apparent to them how great that mistake is. But the only way in which they can learn this lesson is by being allowed to find out for themselves what a Socialist Government means, the interference with liberty which it brings in its train. Noble Lords opposite, in the first flush of victory, applaud this measure. But they will, I believe, possibly at no distant date, curse the day when they put their name to it. The Government appear to have suicidal tendencies. If they want to hang themselves, for Heaven's sake do not let us deter them from their laudable ambition. On the contrary, let us give them the rope and they themselves, I hope and believe, will, in the fullness of time, do the rest.
§ 5.9 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT STANSGATE
My Lords, in contemplating this debate this afternoon I was somewhat depressed because yesterday there seemed to be such a general measure of agreement that it appeared to me that the Opposition would wilt. Today, however, things have livened up. I do not feel called upon to answer all the points, although I listened with great interest to the noble Viscount's slashing attack on the Coalition Government in dealing with hair-cutters. There was also the Bill mentioned by the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, and the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel. I was a follower in those old days and whereas the noble Viscount opposite appears to regard this Bill as -such a constitutional monstrosity that it is a public duty to destroy it at the earliest moment, the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, taking the view of the Liberals in the old days, regards this House as being unable to do anything of the kind. I should have liked to hear that point developed.
615 It was rather wistfully that I listened to some of the remarks on these old controversial questions. I thought of the speech of the Leader of the Opposition as a sort of schedule of the Parliament Act. He said it was our business to act as a Council of State. We are here as His Majesty's Government. The noble Lord, Lord Woolton, referred to us as members of the Opposition, but he must get out of that habit. I remember these controversies. There are not many people now who do remember them; but of course everyone gets old. There were great battles and I thought the matter was settled. The old doctrine was: "When we think the public are sick of the Government, we have a right to destroy the Government." There seems to be much the same opinion to-day. The mandate of the Government is to be judged, not by the electors, but by the Opposition in a non-representative House. If the noble Lord thinks that that will bring about the suicide of the Government, I think he has got the suicide boot on the wrong leg.
To come to the more monotonous question of this Bill—it really is a very dull affair because we are nearly all agreed—let us take the points one by one. First there is the White Paper which was the declaration of a three-Party Government. It said that the Government had no intention of maintaining war-time restrictions for restriction's sake, but were resolved that so long as supplies were abnormal the most urgent needs should be met first. By that declaration we stand. Then I come to the Bill itself. I do not know whether I may say such a thing of an ex-Lord Chancellor, but I thought the noble and learned Viscount rather over-egged the pudding. He described the thing as something terrible. He read out words which were so general—of course lawyers always use general words —that anything might be done under them. When I asked some of my colleagues what he was reading from; I found he was reading from a Bill which he himself supported when he was Lord Chancellor in the Coalition Government. Really I felt my withers were unwrung. I was very interested in his references to Mr. Laski and to Mr. G. D. H. Cole, who I believe is a writer of detective fiction.
616 As regards the Bill, although I am not overlooking the fact that there is a difference between two years and five years, it really is the same as that which was introduced by the noble and learned Viscount's own Government. Apart from the argument about two and five, it is the same Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Woolton, said very wittily that whereas maternity was a matter of fact, paternity was a matter of opinion. I should have thought that a dangerous remark to make in an hereditary Chamber. This Bill is the Bill of the late Government with the exception of the one point about two years or five years. All of us on this side of the House would like to acknowledge the sense of statesmanlike responsibility shown by the noble Lord, Lord Woolton, in saying: "Of course, controls are necessary; we should have imposed them if we had been in office." There is another view, of course, which is easier to take and much more popular—the sort of view that societies, like the Society of Individualists, would take. If people are irritated and are annoyed with us, they say: "Why don't you join the Individualists Society and get rid of controls?" It requires a man with a sense of responsibility, especially when in Opposition, to come and say: "We admit that controls are necessary and we should impose them." The other line, "Are you annoyed? Try us," is much easier but not so responsible. I wish we had the noble Lord, Lord Beaver-brook, here to-day, but unfortunately he is absent.
Now I come to the question of method. If I giggled at the mention of business men it was not out of any disrespect—far from it—but there is a great difference in the attitude to what is called liberty between business men who are well off and those who have a hard economic life. I thought Lord Woolton's account of the business man very attractive—the merchant venturer who has made money and says: "Take it from me, I like the fun of the game." But there is no fun of the game for the man who cannot get a house because somebody is building a cinema, or cannot get soap because someone is making lipstick, or cannot get a job for lack of direction which has resulted in a factory closing down. The freedom he looks for is freedom from want, freedom from insecurity. While he likes, as we like, political freedom, freedom of speech, freedom of expression and 617 so on, he recognizes that in other matters you must have regulation and planning if social security is to be provided and the ordinary needs of life are to be met.
I was much obliged to the noble and learned Viscount for his quotation of what I said—I had not remembered that I spoke in 1939 in the House of Commons—but there is a vast difference between emergency powers which enable the Government to suspend Habeas Corpus and lock up a man without trial, and regulations such as are proposed. The one means infringement of personal liberty and the other direction of the economic life of the country. As regards Parliamentary control over these things, I was amazed at the measure of Parliamentary control. Forty years ago the noble and learned Viscount and I entered Parliament I think al: the same time. I am a good Parliamentarian, a House of Commons man through and through. We always used in those days to say to the Minister: "Put it in the Bill."
But in 1908—that is the first thing I remember about it—the Old Age Pensions Act was succeeded by a mass of social legislation affecting at every point the common life of the people. It was impossible then to "put it in the Bill." Therefore, instead of a demand for some thing to be put in the Bill, there arose the question of controlling the regulations which were inevitable if this type of legislation was to be passed, and the struggle became one for the right of day-to-day inspection and control of the regulations.
I am no longer a House of Commons man, but I must say that if I were would never call the giving of these powers browbeating the Back Benchers. The power given here is tremendous. My noble friend Lord Pakenham said he hesitated to put ideas into your Lordships heads; but I would say that apart front motions of censure regarding all these things, not only Orders in Council but regulations made in pursuance of those Orders, you have the power of going into semi-minutia. In your Lordships' House, where the rules of order are so generous and time is unlimited—we have not begun yet to sit after, dinner—your Lordships will be able to exercise co-equal power; with the House of Commons. Never yet as far as I know, has an attempt 618 been made to deny this House co-equal power to pray against regulations made.
Finally, to come to the great question of two years against five years, I understand the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Simon, to attach sanctity to one year. But if one year, why not two?
§ VISCOUNT STANSGATE
I am coming to that, but it was one year which the noble and learned Viscount repeated time after time. That was with regard to Acts. Nobody believes that even at the end of five years all these regulations will have ceased. There will be something left, we agree. What therefore is required is an overriding power to retain the imposition of a reasonable amount of restriction—we hope the minimum that may be. What is the difference between the two? The difference is this. The Coalition said, "We will start with two, plus one may be, plus one may be, plus one—that is five." We say, "We will start with five and then, if necessary, we can prolong it." That is the whole difference.
But what does come up for review when this comes before the House? It is not the regulations that matter. You can consider the improper use of the regulations at any time, either in another place or in this House. What comes up for review is the power of the Government to make such regulations. We all know, and it is agreed, that at the end of five years that power cannot be discarded. No Government, in fact, could exist without some such power, in all probability for five years. The House of Commons, having gathered fresh strength from the Election, decided about a fortnight ago, by a majority of 300 to 180, that they wanted it for five years, and the question we are discussing is whether this House is to decide that it shall be for only two years. What the Government will not do is to come, at the end of two years, and put themselves on probation to this House, for their existence to be continued from year to year as this House may decide.
§ VISCOUNT STANSGATE
No, let there be no mistake about this. If the House 619 of Commons wishes to turn out the Government, it can do so to-morrow. Anyone can put down a Vote of Censure, and the Government can be turned out. But what the noble Viscount is asking is that there shall be power to make us come after two years, once a year, and to say: "There are certain things we require if we are to exist"; and this House is to have the power to say: "No, we have finished; we think your mandate is exhausted." That we will not concede. After all, the duty of the Government is to govern. Therefore I would venture respectfully to endorse the advice that was given to your Lordships by Lord Wool-ton, who begged you to use your great power in the interests of the country, by refraining from opposing the Second Reading of this Bill.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.