§ 3.20 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE MINISTER WITHOUT PORTFOLIO (THE EARL OF DUNDEE)
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Earl of Dundee.)
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Earl for the way in which he has explained the Bill which is before us. I agree with him that there is not a great deal that need be said about it, because the substance of it is in the Schedule. It is one of those Bills which comes before us every year, and we are asked to reaffirm the various measures which require annual approval. There is not much I should like to say, except that I think we ought to look at these measures every year very carefully, so as to ensure that nothing that can be made permanent, or that any measure which is no longer required continues on this list. I notice that one of the measures on the list is actually before your Lordships' House at the present moment, and will presumably be passed and made permanent, so that it will come off the list.
As to the remainder, I have very little to say. Probably the time has not yet arrived when we can make them permanent, and we may continue them for a time. But there is one measure which we have had coming before us now, year after year, for forty years. I think it is time that the Government came to a decision as to whether they want this Act to be permanent, or whether they want to repeal it altogether. I refer to the Aliens Restriction (Amendment) Act, 1919. The history of this Act goes back to 1914. It was originally passed on the outbreak of the First World War. I do not want to say anything at all this afternoon about the merits of this Act. At the moment I am speaking merely on the principle that it is an abuse of a Bill of this kind to continue that Act in operation, year after year, for so many years. In due course, at the Committee stage, I propose on behalf of my noble friends, to put down an Amendment to 979 the Schedule which will enable us to discuss the whole question on its merits. I thought that I should give warning to the noble Earl that we are not happy about the repeated continuation of this particular Act for so many years, and that we shall take the opportunity of discussing it at a later stage.
My Lords, I should like to follow the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, rather than the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, in the length of my speech. From these Benches every year we have expressed regret that these measures have to go on for so long. That may be necessary, but it gives the impression that these measures are neither on nor off the Statute Book. As the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, pointed out, to carry on an Act from 1914 to 1959 is in itself unsatisfactory. I make no comment and no criticism beyond this: that I hope the point will continue to be watched, so that we can clear up this matter in the fairly near future.
§ LORD GREENHILL
My Lords, in associating myself with what has been said by my noble friend Lord Silkin and the noble Lord, Lord Rea, I should like to draw attention to the Education (Exemptions) (Scotland) Act, 1947. I remember the difficulties with which we were faced at that time. Although the position was acute, the matter was felt to be so important, from the point of view of education, that there was a good deal of hesitation as to whether approval should be given to the conditions made in that particular Act. But, after a good deal of persuasion, it was realised that something had to be done, and consent was reluctantly given to operating this Act in the way that was asked. After all these years, one has the feeling that, although there may be still some acuteness in the situation, it is not nearly so strong as it was. I feel that the time has now come when we ought to be willing to repeal this part of the Bill, if that is in order, so that reliance can be placed upon such employment as is available, in order that the education of children should not be jeopardised by this measure.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, for indicating his intention to take the course which he explained, on the Committee stage of the Bill. I think 980 that such discussion as there was on the Aliens Restriction (Amendment) Act in the other place took place on the Committee stage, and not on Second Reading. I think that the same course would probably be convenient to your Lordships. I do not know if the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill, intends to raise on Committee any point on the Education (Exemptions) (Scotland) Act, 1947. Probably the reason why this Act is continued from year to year and is not made permanent is to give everybody concerned an opportunity of reviewing it annually, instead of at longer intervals. But he will have an opportunity of discussing the matter on Committee. I think that was the practice your Lordships followed last year, which was also followed in another place. It would probably be for your Lordships' convenience to repeat that procedure.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.