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Dangers of'Rule by Order

26th February 1943
Page 17
Page 17, 26th February 1943 — Dangers of'Rule by Order
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Which of the following most accurately describes the problem?

The Principles for Which We are Fighting are Being Endangered by Bureaucratic Zeal to Control all Our Activities

By " Tantalus "

THE article " Vital Factors in Labour Deferment" published in the issue dated February 12 gave the ntimber of Statutory Rules and Orders_ which have come into being since the war began as 2,000. This figure, however, was considerably understated, for an investigation reveals that, since the commencement of.the war, no fewer than 8,000 such Rules and Orders have been made. This latter figure includes some 300 Orders in Council, ntaking or amending Defence Regulations, many of whichhave not been subjected to the scrutiny of the House of Commons.

It will be realized that the life of the individual is vitally and, directly affected by this vast number of Orders. In a war of the magnitude of the present one some such procedure was inevitable in an effort to deal .with new and unforeseen circumstances demanding immediate action—the steps taken to combat Black Market activities and those relating to the control of prices of food, clothing and other commodities provide a suitable illustration.

The Orders themselves do not cause undue apprehension; restrictions, prohibitions and compulsions are regarded as necessary war-time measures. But the individual does resent being governed by public servants who, by a mere stroke of the pen, can change the pattern of one's whole hfe So far as industry is concerned, only those undertakings which have been the victims of this system really know the extent to whichthey have suffered. And, under the system, many thousands of officials must be engaged solely in ordering about the Nation as a whole. In all fairness, it must be acknowledged that the Civil Service is the best organization of its kind in the world. Nevertheless, the practice of government by Rules and Orders, which now has grown to .such immense proportions, needs much closer examination than -has been accorded to it in the past In this respect, the recent successful revolt in the House of Commons is decidedly encouraging. One swallow, however, does not make a summer, neither does one 'victory win a war So it is to be hoped that the dawning rtalization of this paramount danger will become magnified. It is several years since Lord Hewart,, when Lord Chief Justice, foresaw the trend of events and warned the Nation accordingly.

Parliamentary Committee as Watch Dog?

There are encouraging indications that pressure is being brought to bear in Parliamentary circles for the setting up of a committee which will act as a watch dog and keep an eye on what has become a 'most irksome feature of government control. One of the first duties of any such commit

' tee would be to take the necessary steps to ensure beyond all doubt' that the rights of the individual are not infringed or his liberties impaired_ Also it must preserve the prerogative that the elected representatives of the people shall ensure that Orders (backed by force of legislation) shall be subject to full explanations by the Ministers responsible and to the satisfaction of Hie House. The Parliamen

tary revolt, to which refetence has already been made, was indeed significant in its expression of disgust and alarm concerning the excessive degree of departmental powers of control.

It is no exaggeration to say that grumbling is general and that maim people are deliberating as to whether the growth of government by order to-day is pointing the way to a future servile state. Some even go farther and suggest that the New Order envisaged by Whitehall, and all the implications attached thereto, definitely indicates such a state. One thing is certain. Bureaucracy is well dug in and its architects are firmly convinced that it alone is competent to run the country, as it already. claims to run the war.

Tightening Grip on Trade and People

Those people—to be found in all walks of life—who have taken the trouble to face the facts can see clearly. that individual liberty is in jeopardy. They view with real alarm the ever-increasing hold of the State upon the private lives of its citizens. They can see that bureaucratic control is tightening its grip on industry, trade, Parliament and the people. Therefore, if, in the era -ssf post-war reconstruction, private enterprise, privilege and freedom in the wider sense are to be restored, the decks must be cleared for action now._ It may be too late when the Peace Treaty is signed.

It is reported that already Stalin is preparing plans for the immediate rebuilding of Stalingrad and other destroyed cities. No hesitation or delay is countenanced by the " Silent•Man of the Kremlin!: Then, again, in one of his pamphlets, Sir Ernest'Benn says: "We live in imminent fear of the seizure of power by some government which would take full advantage of the anti-liberty laws registered on' the Statute Book during a state of emergency."

The position of the road-haulage industry 'to-day might well be summed up in Sir Ernest Benn's words. For it is agreed generally that the conditions of war have provided means whereby the severest form of' control has been imposed upon the industry. It is apparent that the leaders of the industry were unprepared for any such contingency and, therefore, were unable to resist its development In fact, all records indicate that the policy adopted has been one of acquiescence and weak submission. Whether, in the post-war era, there will be a return to freedom with scope for development and expansion, or whether the present state of-affairs will become permanent, remains to be seen. This is a matter for the industry itself to decide. A return to freedom can be attained only by grim determination and a sustained fight, and the members of the rank and file must play their part to any such end. Victory, doubtless, be achieved under strong and gallant leaders imlaued by singleness of purpose and fortified by the confidence tfrf hauliers generally.

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