HC Deb 25 June 1936 vol 313 cc2002-26

(1) If the Secretary of State is satisfied, with respect to any aerodrome provided by a local authority under section eight of the principal Act, that it is necessary that the local authority should be empowered to carry on in connection with the aerodrome any particular business, being a business which appears to him to be ancillary to the carrying on of an aerodrome, but which the authority would not otherwise have power to carry on, he may make an order authorising that local authority, subject to such conditions (if any) as may be specified in the order, to carry on that business in connection with the aerodrome.

Any such order may be varied or revoked by a subsequent order of the Secretary of State.

(2) Sub-section (2) of section eight of the principal Act is hereby repealed; but any local authority which, immediately before the date of the passing of this Act, was carrying on any business by virtue of a certificate given under that sub-section by the Air Council, may continue to do so until the Secretary of State otherwise directs by an order made either generally or in relation to that local authority.—(Sir P. Sassoon.)

Brought up, and read the First time.

4.55 p.m.


I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

When the Bill was under consideration in Committee I promised to move on the Report stage an Amendment to Section 8 (2) of the Act of 1920 to secure that a local authority would be empowered to carry on at an aerodrome subsidiary businesses such as the sale of petrol, oil and spare parts where permission to do so had been granted by the Secretary of State by an order made in respect of that particular aerodrome. The result of the new Clause will be that in future any Order will not be of general application but will apply only to the particular aerodrome in question. The effect of repealing Section 8 (2) of the Act of 1920 and the substitution of this new provision is by no means revolutionary. All it does is to substitute ad hoc authorities for the general authorities hitherto given in respect to the carrying on of subsidiary businesses, and obviously it is a more satisfactory method. It denotes no change of attitude or spirit on the part of the Air Ministry in regard to this question of the supply of oil and fuel at their aerodromes by local authorities but merely enables our intentions to be better achieved.

It was the intention of Section 8 (2) of the Act of 1920 that local authorities should be able to step into the gap and provide services and facilities at their aerodromes where private enterprise had failed to do so. This power was never intended to cover a general system of municipal trading. If that had been the intention the statutory provision would have been drawn in far wider and more explicit terms. The flaw in the provision which is now being repealed is that an Order issued in respect of one particular aerodrome applied automatically to all aerodromes belonging to local authorities. That was clearly an unsatisfactory system. It might be necessary at one aerodrome and wholly unnecessary at another for the local authority to carry on these subsidiary businesses. Under the new Clause it will be possible to deal with each application on its merits, and of course, the Ministry of Health will be consulted in every case.


I wish to move the Amendment standing in my name and in that of the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede).

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Sir Dennis Herbert)

That Amendment is out of order, as it would impose a charge.


To which Amendment are you referring, Sir Dennis?


To all the Amendments in the name of the hon. Member.


Am I entitled to ask for your reasons for not calling these Amendments?


They are out of order because there is a possibility that they would create a charge. The hon. Member can, of course, put his point of view on the Question before us, "That the Clause be read a Second time."


Is it not a fact that any charge or loss is not in question?


These Amendments must be taken together in order to make sense: it may be that one of them taken alone cannot create a charge: but it would make nonsense if not connected with another Amendment: as all these Amendments must be taken together, and if taken together might create a charge I must rule them all out of order.


With great respect to your original Ruling that these Amendments might create a charge, do I take the Ruling to mean that the Amendments might have the effect of creating a charge that would not be created if the Clause were passed as moved by the right hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary of State?


That is so. What I said was that the Amendments might create a charge and were consequently not in order.


Might I suggest that they would create no charge other than that which is provided for by the right hon. Gentleman's own new Clause? If the fear is that this trading might result in a loss and thereby create a charge upon the rates, it obviously cannot create a charge upon the taxes, as might arise from the right hon. Gentleman's own Clause. I submit that in these Amendments there is no extension of the Clause in that way. They are merely the machinery by which the local authorities may carry on business which might or might not result in a loss. No new issue is raised.


I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman. The matter has been considered, and it has been decided that the Amendments might create a charge.


You ruled the Amendments out of order because they might create a charge, but surely one can equally assume that they might not create a charge, and are in order.


The hon. Member is sufficiently acquainted with the rules of this House to know that if these Amendments might possibly create a charge, or if the creation of a charge is a possible result of an Amendment, that possibility is enough to put any such Amendment out of order.

5.4 p.m.


The Amendments which have been ruled out of order might not be of so much consequence to the critics of the Clause so long as we are able to discuss the general principle involved, and I propose to offer one or two observations in reference to municipal trading in relation to the Air Ministry. I fail to see why municipal trading should be a matter of reference to the Air Ministry with or without reference to the Ministry of Health. It is all very well for the Under-Secretary to refer to the Act of 1920, but we are not discussing that Act. We are discussing this Measure, which will become an Act of Parliament. The time has gone by when the little prejudices against municipal trading by hon. Members opposite, who want civil aviation, and want to do the best they can to make the country air-minded, should be enforced and substantiated in the body of this Measure. That is practically what the Clause amounts to.

Municipal trading is already under considerable limitation. I fail to see why the existing law should not be left alone, although I would like to extend the powers of municipal authorities. In these days, municipal government has developed from the comparatively incompetent methods of the earlier municipal governments, and big cities and towns are being given tile power to establish aerodromes and are invited to assist the national objective of making the nation air-minded. Hindrances should not be embodied in a Bill of this character against providing a hotel upon an aerodrome or providing other facilities for the owners of aircraft and the users of aerodromes. To say that such facilities might mean a charge upon the rates is beside the point. In any kind of commercial enterprise there is a certain amount of risk, but there is no more risk attached to municipal aerodromes than to any of the other multifarious, municipal trading schemes, which are exceedingly successful.

Surely it can be left to local authorities to decide in their wisdom whether it would be desirable for them to engage in this small amount of municipal trading, keeping whatever profits there may be within the municipality, and certainly keeping the control of the trading and the future development of the enterprise in the hands of the general public. It is because we feel that it is exceedingly undesirable, whatever restrictions the House might regard as necessary for municipal trading, that it should be left to the Secretary of State for Air to decide this matter in respect of aerodromes, that we intended to move the Amendments, and that I offer these criticisms.

5.8 p.m.


It is a remarkable thing that we have twice had requests from the opposite benches for an increase in the number of municipal aerodromes. There must be some form of prejudice in that type of man who desires a municipality to enter upon all kinds of responsibilities and risks, and at the same time would use the power of the municipalities as an opportunity for private enterprise to make profits. We were told that if the Amendments were embodied in the Clause there might be a charge somewhere. Not many days ago a question was answered in the House showing that no kind of air service paid. If an air service does not pay, aerodromes cannot. It is prejudice which it is very difficult to understand. If the municipality is to take full responsibility, if it is to act as a complete aerodrome authority, why not make the aerodrome complete under that authority?

What hon. Members seek to do now is to destroy the organisation, which always depends upon one controlling centre. There are stations that I know where there are always comings and goings, and there are bound to be running repairs required for that service. Why should they not be provided by the authority which has provided the aerodrome? This arrangement would provide a great lever for keeping down prices and keeping prices level, because municipalities are not out to make profit, as is private enterprise, in the provision of those services. I hope the Under-Secretary will see that he is going the right way to put impediments in the way of municipalities by saying that municipalities shall not have the right to spend money in that way. If civil aviation is to have the advance that it should have in this country, no such impediment should be put in the way of anyone who is taking full responsibility for an aerodrome. I make a last appeal to the Under-Secretary to give careful consideration to the Clause before he lets it go. Otherwise he will find himself up against a growing opposition by municipal authorities, and they will be justified in their opposition.

5.12 p.m.


I have very considerable sympathy with the speech that has just been delivered from the other side, not because the Under-Secretary is not trying to do his best to make local authorities responsible for aerodromes. He and the Air Ministry have done their best to ensure that municipalities shall see far enough ahead to provide municipal aerodromes, but I think we must give them the whole picture. If a local authority is to embark upon this enterprise, it should do the whole thing. Looking back upon the history of transport in England nothing is clearer than that when we gave the local authorities the power to trade in transport and only gave them the power to trade in tramcars, we upset the transport development of this country. The Under-Secretary has the right idea, and in another place, or at some later stage, perhaps he will be able to get these aerodromes provided with enthusiasm behind them. That is what we want in the country. It would be advisable to give local authorities the power to trade in as free a way as they can to provide facilities for making their aerodromes popular.

5.14 p.m.


The remarks of the hon. and gallant Gentleman remind me of an experience. I am a member of an urban district council which had been asked by certain surrounding local authorities to engage in considering the provision of a new aerodrome in the immediate vicinity of London. It was desirable that that aerodrome should be established, and no less than four county district councils, one borough council and three urban district councils and consultations on the matter. We were faced with the fact that land is very expensive in the vicinity of London and that, for a good many years after the actual provision of the site of the aerodrome, there would be a substantial loss that would have to be borne by the rates. We were stirred up in our efforts by the visits of a lady who has some notoriety as an airwoman. Among her many visits to the locality was one to a rotary club, where she made a speech calling on the district to rise to the occasion; and the eloquent peroration of her speech was to the effect that, if the municipality would only provide the aerodrome, it would be such a fine thing for Messrs. So-and-So, mentioning the name of a great firm of aeroplane manufacturers, who, apparently thought that, if the aerodrome was established and we provided the site at our expense, they would be allowed to come in and have a monopoly for doing all the profitable part of the business. That eloquent but unfortunate peroration killed the whole thing stone dead, because in this wicked world you could not expect members of a municipality, who have to face the ratepayers trienially at elections, to undertake the task of providing a site on which private enterprise might make a profit while they were making a substantial loss.

I would point out to the Under-Secretary that there is ample protection, because, before the municipalities can invest any capital in this business, they will have to go to the Ministry of Health for a loan, and the municipal finances will be quite adequately protected against undue risk by that ordinary precaution. It seems a pity to put the people who provide municipal aerodromes in a worse position than those who provide private aerodromes, and I imagine that in the vicinity of the great towns great difficulty will be found in getting aerodromes provided of anything like adequate area unless they are provided either by one municipality or by a combination of municipalities. It would be very regrettable if it should be thought, in starting this service, where the good will of the municipalities is, as I understand it, very earnestly desired, that there was any differentiation against them in this matter.

I had hoped that the Minister might have been able to accept our Amendments, but, as they cannot be moved, he cannot do that, I think that, if we had had an opportunity of dividing on the Amendments, even had we been beaten, we might not have found it necessary to divide against the Clause. My hon. Friend the Member for West Islington (Mr. Montague) gave no indication of his views with regard to dividing against the Clause as it is printed, but it seems to me that it would be very difficult for us, holding the views that we do with regard to municipal trading generally, and particularly with regard to the municipal trading so jucidly explained by the hon. and gallant Member for Wallasey (Lieut. - Colonel Moore-Brabazon), to accept the Clause in present form without a Division, and I hope the Under-Secretary will feel, if we divide against it, that that is not because we do not recognise that he has met us to a certain extent but because this is one of the cases where, if we have half a loaf, we are at last entitled to say that we would have preferred the whole loaf if it had been possible to get it within the Rules of Order of the House.

5.21 p.m.


This seems to be a Clause which gives the Secretary of State power to put some kind of control—I think a proper control—upon what might otherwise be general municipal trading in which the municipal authority would be able to compete in trade with its own ratepayers. I think it is right that the Minister should have some authority to put a check upon that without interfering with the proper right of the authority efficiently to run its municipality. What is the kind of business which appears to the Minister to be ancillary to the carrying on of an aerodrome? I hope that the Under-Secretary and the Solicitor-General will give us some idea of what businesses will be and what will not be within the meaning of this wide and almost incomprehensible expression, "ancillary to the carrying on of an aerodrome." We know that at many of the larger aerodromes there are refreshment houses, newspaper stands, and so on. Are we to understand that these are businesses ancillary to the carrying on of an aerodrome? There are a few cases in this country where local authorities are licensees carrying on hotels, but I think it was stated recently by the Minister of Health that in every one of these cases special circumstances were brought to his notice but for which no such business would have been permitted.

Who is going to decide in the present case? Is the Minister to say what in his opinion is ancillary? Is he to lay down a list of businesses which, for all time, he will consider to be ancillary, and in respect of any one of which the local authority concerned may apply for his authority to trade? Does it mean that at any moment the Minister may say—and I gather that his decision will be final—that a given business, unconnected though it may be at first sight seem to be with it, is so related to the carrying on of an aerodrome that in his opinion it is a business which is ancillary to the carrying on of an aerodrome? If he is going to have this unlimited power, it is going to mean a tremendous extension, which I am sure he does not intend, of municipal trading at these aerodromes. I hope we shall be told what generally is going to be the definition of "ancillary" for this purpose. It is a word which in many legal connections in this country has never been free from doubt, and, while we applaud the Minister's action in not giving to municipalities a complete inroad against private enterprise in this case, we hope there will not be any such extreme construction of this remarkable word as will give some unintended right which he never had in mind.

5.24 p.m.


I think the real significance of this Clause lies in the statement of policy made by the Under-Secretary when the matter was raised in Committee. He said that it would be the deliberate policy and intention of the Government for the future so to administer the matters which we are now discussing as to give the utmost possible benefit to private enterprise, and to check the development of municipal enterprise. I think it would be desirable to give local authorities the widest opportunities of trading in ancillary matters. I would much rather see the present law allowed to continue, so that, if it were considered right that a particular service should be operated by one authority, equal permission should be given to others throughout the country if they cared to take advantage of it. There is a certain controversy now between the principles of strict individualism and municipal trading, and I must say that I find myself on the side of municipal trading. I hope that the Government will be pressed not to exercise their authority, as they declared they would, against municipal trading.

5.26 p.m.


We have had a classic example of how the interests of private enterprise are set up against the public interest, in the speech of the hon. and learned Member for East Leicester (Mr. Lyons). We have heard from time to time pleas that municipal authorities should undertake the building of aerodromes, and we on this side have listened sympathetically to those pleas. Hon. Members opposite are delivering speeches all over the country saying that this country is quite unprepared in the air to meet the necessities of modern warfare, and one of the purposes of this Bill is to facilitate and regulate civil aviation as one of the foundations for air defence. But here we have a suggestion that the development of civil aviation should be restricted to prevent a municipal authority from selling chocolates as against a private person who might want to sell chocolates. I never heard a more fantastic suggestion.

The Under-Secretary, in moving the Clause, said that there was not a very substantial difference between it and the language of the principal Act, but the language of the principal Act makes it necessary that an Order having general application should be made, whereas this Clause would make it possible for the Minister to make an Order with respect to a particular aerodrome. I do not regard that as a step forward; it makes the local authority a servant of the Minister, and if it were included in other Acts it would give rise to a storm of indignation. If local authorities need special powers which are not exercised by other local authorities, they have to promote a Private Bill and get those special powers, or to adopt powers in adoptive Acts. The hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. G. Williams) shakes his head, but that is a perfectly general description of the relationship between the local authorities and the State. Here is a suggestion that the Minister should have power to treat each local authority separately.

The local authority must first make an application to the Ministry of Health for a loan, and protection for the ratepayers can be provided there. The local authority would have to justify all the capital expenditure required on every part of the aerodrome. The local authority would have to plan the aerodrome as a whole, and, in planning the aerodrome as a whole, would have to take into account restaurants, refreshment rooms, waiting rooms and so on, both at the aerodrome and also, as is done in connection with many other services, in the town, because many of these aerodromes are a long way from places of business. If an ordinary transport company now provides a restaurant and waiting room at the gathering point for traffic, are the local authorities to be prohibited from doing that? Is it to be said that, if they have a waiting room, and perhaps a refreshment room, on the aerodrome itself, they cannot have them in the town or in the city where the passengers embark on the omnibus or car to go to the aerodrome? Is not a waiting room or a refreshment room there just as much a part of the general organisation of the aerodrome as the aerodrome itself? Would it be regarded as not coming within the meaning of the word "ancillary" to allow the authority to have a licensed bar at the aerodrome?

I would like to know exactly what the meaning is, and what the position of the local authority is to be. It is going to be encouraged to embark on a vast capital expenditure, approved by the Ministry of Health; then there is to be another inquiry by the Secretary of State for Air; and then an Order will be made allowing these things to be done. But after that, any such Order may be varied or revoked by a subsequent Order of the Secretary of State. So the local authority may be encouraged to embark on capital expenditure in the first instance and is then completely at the mercy of the Secretary for Air. Any private interest can bring pressure to bear on the Minister and say, "Here is a local authority carrying on a business of an extremely profitable kind," and it can urge him to revoke the Order and allow them to carry on the business. If I know the complexion of this Government and governments of the same kind, they will be extremely sensitive to pressure of that kind and will after a time revoke the Order and allow the business to be carried on by the private concern.

We understand also that it might be possible for the local authority to make provision in the original plans for stands or stalls, and ultimately they would lease them to private concerns. The hon. Member asked if it was fair that a local authority should use the rates in order to carry on unfair competition against those who have to pay the rates. Here is an instance where the local authority is asked to incur a vast capital expenditure on what is known beforehand to be a heavily losing concern. What the hon. Member is suggesting is that the ratepayers as a whole should provide the expenditure in order that particular ratepayers might be able to make a profit. It is absurd for the Minister to suggest that one of the reasons why the Clause has been adopted is in order to protect the ratepayer. It is not. It is in order to protect private interests. He may say that we are pressing the matter because it is strictly in accordance with our Socialist principles to do so. On the other hand, ought he to set the interests of this small class of persons against the national interest? Ought he not to be able to say to local authorities, "If you are prepared to build an aerodrome you should be complete masters in your own house. You should organise the aerodrome as you wish and you should carry on any ancillary business you care to, without any interference from us."

I have been a member of a local authority for many years and, if it was suggested to me that we should raise a large loan to build an aerodrome and establish businesses and then find ourselves entirely under the orders of a State Department not making any contribution to the capital outlay, I should regard it as an absurd proposition. I know of no provision of this kind in any other Statute. It is a piece of sheer financial irresponsibility. I admit the claim that, if a local authority is to spend money part of which the State provides, the State is entitled to have a say in the administration, but here is the reverse principle. Here is a local authority spending its own money and the State saying, "You are to be our instrument in determining how it is to be spent." If the Minister desires to promote the creation of municipal aerodromes, he had better not hedge them round with limitations merely in order to satisfy the claims of reactionary private individuals.

5.36 p.m.


I have listened with considerable interest to arguments of hon. Members opposite and I am in entire agreement with them. It has been my privilege in the last few years to travel extensively by air, and Imperial Airways, where they have been encouraged to set up aerodromes, have also been encouraged to set up these ancillary services. Here we have municipalities setting up aerodromes but being discouraged—that is the only word one can use—by this Clause from providing these ancillary services. I would ask what are the intentions behind the Clause, and I would particularly refer to the second sentence, that any Order permitting local authorities to institute these ancillary services may be varied or revoked. I feel that this interpolation wrecks the whole purpose of the Clause. Assume that facilities are provided not only for food and drink but also for sleeping accommodation, which is often necessary, and the business becomes profitable. I am not questioning the right of private interests to get business, but you may get terrific pressure from hotel and other organisations, not only on the local authorities but through Parliament. We know that such pressure has been exerted in other matters. The question is whether this sentence is going to be used to put municipalities in a worse position than other interests. I look with considerable sympathy on municipal trading and I hope it will extend.


We do not want to register an adverse vote if we can help it, but the point has been strongly put that under the existing law the interests of ratepayers are adequately safeguarded. Will the Solicitor-General consider withdrawing the Clause pending consideration in another place? It will be a valuable gesture without any disadvantage to the Government.

5.40 p.m.


I was under the impression that the Amendment in my name was not in order, but I gather that that is not so. I share the view that has been expressed in more than one quarter of the House that, if the Clause is passed as it stands, it will cause grave concern to municipalities. I had understood that the Government desired to encourage the establishment of municipal aerodromes up and down the country. I cannot conceive a Clause which would have a more depressing effect than this on the possibilities of that development. The London County Council, of which I am a member, is disturbed at its wording and, while we did not anticipate going to the extent of voting against it, we felt that a reasonable Amendment might be made which would go at least some way towards allaying the fears of municipalities. The Under-Secretary assured the House—I am convinced that they needed little assurance on the point—that he had been most amenable to reasonable criticisms that had been made of the Measure. When I heard him say that, I hoped that at this late stage of the Bill he was not going to lose his reputation, and it encouraged me to put this Amendment on the Paper.

The SOLICITOR - GENERAL (Sir Terence O'Connor)

On a point of Order. Is the hon. Member in order in moving his Amendment? I was under the impression that we were having a general discussion on the Clause.


I perhaps misled the hon. Member myself. The Amendment cannot be moved until the Clause has been read a Second time. It might be for the convenience of the House if he moved his Amendment formally after the Clause has been read a Second time.


I feel that, if we substituted "desirable and expedient" for "necessary," it would remove some of the objections which municipalities have to the Clause. The word "necessary" seems to me too restricted and too rigid. It might very easily lead to very unhappy results in its interpretation. "Desirable and expedient," it seems to me, may provide all the necessary safeguards for those who fear that this might conceivably open the door to a flood of municipal trading. We are not particularly wedded to the actual words, but we suggest that the word "necessary" is much too rigid, and we find confirmation of it in several parts of the Bill. Where powers are sought to make roads or put up buildings and do other works of the sort, the word "necessary" is not used. In Section (1) of the Act of 1920 it was used and it is found to have been too restrictive and it is to be altered and the expression "desirable or expedient" substituted.

There are many ancillary purposes which a municipal aerodrome will find it necessary to develop, and one feels that municipalities ought not to be placed in the position that they are only entitled to develop those services where a dead loss is certain before they start, and, if municipalities are to be encouraged in this direction, it is desirable that those ancillary services which will lessen the loss that would otherwise be incurred should be allowed and encouraged. Such services as the sale of refreshments, and, in special cases, the provision and maintenance of a hotel may be ancillary. As has been pointed out, most of these aerodromes will be some distance removed from populous neighbourhoods. It will be necessary to supply petrol and lubricating oil, to repair aeroplanes and supply spare parts, and, as the service develops, other ancillary services may be necessary. The Under-Secretary of State might reasonably accept this alteration in the form of words and make it a little more easy for these municipal services to be developed on the lines that municipalities would desire. I commend the suggestion to the Under-Secretary, and hope that he will find it possible to accept the Amendment.

5.47 p.m.


I am sorry that I cannot do what the hon. Gentleman the Member for Deptford (Mr. W. H. Green) suggested, and I think that when one looks at what this proposed new Clause does, it may be that a good deal of the arguments this afternoon have been founded upon a misapprehension. It is not a restricting Clause; it is an enabling Clause. It is a Clause enabling local authorities to do something which they have no statutory right to do at the present time. This is neither the time nor the place to enter into any general discussion as to what local authorities ought or ought not to be permitted to do in the way of invading the realm of private trade. That is a matter of very general interest that certainly would not be appropriate on this occasion. The position is that upon the Committee stage there were a number of Amendments from hon. and right hon. Friends on this side of the House purposing to restrict the powers of local authorities, so that they should not be allowed to deal in fuel and various articles of that kind. Those were restricting Amendments, and my right hon. Friend the Attorney-General resisted them, and stated that we were not prepared to accept them. It was pointed out that there was an alteration considered desirable in the existing law, not by way of further restrictions, but by way of clearing up a position which was anomalous. I will explain in a little detail what this Clause really effects. By the Act of 1920 local authorities are empowered to establish aerodromes, and Section 8, Sub-section (2) says: A local authority providing an aerodrome under this section shall have power to carry on in connection therewith any subsidiary business certified by the Air Council to be ancillary to the carrying on of an aerodrome. The House will note the significance of the words "an aerodrome," the reason for inserting which I am at a loss to understand. The effect of that Sub-section has been that, where a local authority has established a local aerodrome, if it were desired to get a certificate to permit it to carry on in connection therewith any subsidiary business certified to be ancillary, it had to satisfy the Air Council that such subsidiary business was ancillary to the carrying on of an aerodrome. That is to say, that, far and wide over the country as a whole, the certificate might apply that such a business is ancillary. What has been the result in actual practice? The Act has been in existence for 16 years, and it has only been invoked on one occasion. I do not know how it comes about that it has not been invoked on more occasions, but one reason which occurs to me is that there may be a considerable difficulty in satisfying the Air Ministry that a particular business is ancillary to the carrying on of an aerodrome.

It may very well be—it is no concern of the Ministry whether it should be or should not—that this Clause may or may not increase the number of applications made for certificates or orders. We are providing in this Clause that when the application is made by a local authority, it shall be considered in relation not to aerodromes in general, but to the particular aerodrome in respect of which the application is made. It follows from that, that it is not possible to give an answer in completely general terms to many of the questions which have been addressed to me, for instance, by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Leicester (Mr. Lyons) and by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), who both asked whether certain premises would be ancillary. The answer is that we no longer propose to do what was done under the 1920 Act, and say that such and such a business is ancillary to all aerodromes, but the matter will have to be considered upon the circumstances in each case.

Some of the examples that would, in given circumstances, be ancillary are provisions for the sale of petrol and oil, which might be ancillary in cases where there were not reasonable conveniences in the neighbourhood, the sale of spare parts, where the same considerations apply; the doing of repairs to aircraft and to engines, and, in certain circumstances, the provision of hotel accommodation where otherwise there would be no accommodation for passengers. I ask hon. and right hon. Gentleman opposite to consider the proposed new Clause in the light of the instances I have just given. As I read the existing law, which is contained in the Act of 1920, it would be almost impossible to certify that some or all of those particular businesses were ancillary to the business of carrying on an aerodrome in every case.


Does that appertain to municipalities?


Oh, yes; the instances which I have given are instances in which, in my view at any rate, in given circumstances, these businesses would be ancillary to the carrying on of an aerodrome in a particular locality.


The hon. and learned Gentleman has pointed to the present law as being an inducement to municipalities to come forward, but the difference between this Bill and the Act of 1920 is that, under the existing Act, once a certificate is granted by the authorities he has quoted, it remains permanent, and does he think that under the Bill there will be an inducement to local authorities to start anything when they know that it might be revoked by a subsequent order of the Secretary of State?


I have not overlooked that point. When I heard it raised from the benches opposite I realised that it was a point of substance, and perhaps I had better deal with it right away. It is true that the Act of 1920 does not provide for the revocation or the withdrawal of a certificate once given. The view is that those certificates are in their nature revocable documents, and that it was not necessary to specify that they should be revoked. Doubt has been cast upon that view, and there has been a suggestion that there might be difficulty in revoking such an Order. Therefore, power is taken in the present Clause to revoke Orders where necessary.

I absolutely appreciate the point that has been made that it would be almost impossible to ask a local authority to undertake expenditure in connection with sonic business of this kind and then to allow it to be at the complete mercy of the Secretary of State in regard to the withdrawal of an Order he had made. One cannot imagine any Secretary of State acting in a captious way like that, but there is some safeguard in the first Sub-section, because he may make an Order authorising the local authority, subject to such conditions (if any) as may be specified in the Order, to carry on that business. It would be possible under Sub-section (1), and indeed a prudent local authority could ensure it, to include among the conditions inserted in the Order a condition giving a reasonable tenure at any rate, so that the Order might endure for a certain period of time. That appears to me to provide material for a practical safeguard. You must have some power to revoke an Order that is made, because the circumstances in which an Order was made might entirely disappear and an aerodrome might cease to be used. Is it then proposed that you should, by virtue of an Order of this kind, leave the authority in possession of a business which had no longer any relation to aerodromes at all?


The hon. and learned Gentleman knows very well that if the aerodrome died all the businesses ancillary to it would die very quickly.


It may be, I do not know. I think it was the hon. Gentleman himself who asked whether a licensed bar would be ancillary to the business of all aerodrome. It might be that a licensed bar would be ancillary in a given instance, but if for reasons of town planning or other developments the aerodrome was abandoned and the bar remained, it would cease to be so. Is it suggested that in those circumstances the local authority ought, by virtue of a provision of an Air Navigation Bill and not as a matter of general policy, have power to continue the provision of alcoholic liquores?


I am not a lawyer, but surely the power to carry on any business ancillary to an aerodrome would lapse if the aerodrome itself lapsed?


I am not at all sure that that would necessarily follow. If the business at the time the order was made was ancillary, I am not at all sure that the hon. Gentleman is right that, if the business to which it was ancillary disappeared, the power also would disappear unless there was power to revoke. However, a point of substance has been raised about this power of revocation, and I will give an undertaking that it shall be looked into before the Bill reaches another place, with a view to seeing whether, consistently with retaining the power of varying, because it is both varying and revocation that are necessary—one does not want undue rigidity ill a matter of this kind—we cannot do something to ensure that there shall be some security of tenure, at any rate on the part of local authorities who are granted power in this form. For the reasons that I have advanced, I submit that this is not a Bill which is invading the rights of local authorities, and is not an attack upon the powers of trading, or upon the general issue, which remains entirely untouched. The Clause deals with the simple, narrow and restricted area of local trading which has been placed in rather an absurd position by an earlier Act. I hope that in these circumstances the hon. Gentleman will not think it necessary to divide the House. As regards the Amendment, perhaps I shall be in order if I deal with it—


No. It was for the convenience of the House generally that the hon. Member speaking on the question "That the Clause be read a Second time," said that as he was then dealing with the subject of his Amendment he would not make a second speech but only formally move his Amendment after the Clause had been read a Second time. When that has been done the hon. Member will formally move the Amendment and it can then be discussed by the House.

6.1 p.m.


I should very much like to assent to the suggestion that you have made, that we should now dispose of the Second Reading of this Clause, but in view of the fact that the Solicitor-General has not met us either on the major aspect of our complaint or in regard to any substantial details of them, I am afraid that we shall have to say a few further words about the Clause before we allow it to go to a Division. It was once said about an eminent lawyer Member of this House that he was very great on a small point, but very small on a great point. The hon. and learned Member fulfilled the former of those qualifications in his speech. He endeavoured to rebut our complaint by the suggestion that the words "an aerodrome" were broader than the words "the aerodrome," or vice versa. I was not able to follow his reasoning. It appears to me that the powers he is now taking are very much more restrictive to the enterprise of local authorities than the powers as they stand in previous legislation. He made a great point of the fact that this is an enabling provision, that it is giving something which did not exist before and that we ought to be satisfied with it. I agree that it is an enabling provision, but if we think it right to enable a local authority to do something, surely it is wise to enable them to do it adequately. Our main complaint about the Clause is that it does not enable them to do it adequately.

If we could detach ourselves from the hidden complex which is to be found in the way the Government Front Bench looks at every trading question as between local authorities and private enterprise, it would appear ridiculous that when a local authority finds it necessary to start some enterprise it should be hedged about with every form of restriction and difficulty which does not apply if that same enterprise is being entered upon by some profit-making concern. That is a farcical position, if we can only take prejudice out of it. Why is it necessary for the Under-Secretary to be so anxious that when a local authority starts an aerodrome it should not start any enterprise which might compete with private enterprise near by? Look at the safeguards in the Clause. First, the enterprise must be ancillary to the aerodrome. That is a strange word. What does "ancillary" mean? It means almost anything that the Under-Secretary or the Secretary of State wishes it to mean. The same drawback and vagueness of the term which may prove useful in a restrictive sense to the Secretary of State to-day will prove equally useful in an expansive sense to the Secretary of State probably in some future years.

The word "ancillary" is one of those very vague words which we frequently find in Statutes. I believe the derivation is from a Latin word meaning hand-maid. Anything which can be taken to be subsidiary, or subservient, or helpful, and comes within the function of the term "hand-maid," can be carried out by the local authority as being ancillary to the conduct of an aerodrome, but that is only the first test that has to be passed. We then find that it is necessary that the local authorities should be empowered to carry it on. It must not only be ancillary, but it must be necessary for the local authority to carry on this ancillary enterprise at the same time. Not only must is he necessary and ancillary, but it must even then be subject to such conditions as the Secretary of State may impose. When it has been proved necessary, when it is ancillary, when it has been subject to such conditions as the Secretary of State may impose, even then he has power to revoke or vary.

The position is really farcical, and I cannot understand why the Front Bench opposite persists in that attitude. The trouble is that in their morbid jealousy of the activities of local authorities they are being driven as the years pass into ever more ridiculous position, until the whole attitude they adopt about the activities of local authorities and State enterprise will collapse and bring the Government down with it. I have no wish to make a bigger issue of this point. This is the type of observation which we could make on half the proposals that the Government bring forward, for the simple reason that half the proposals we have debated on the Floor of the House, certainly in this Parliament and in the last few years, have been proposals which have endeavoured to maintain a, semblance of private enterprise without concealing the principle that State and

municipal control is the most efficient way of carrying on enterprise.

Question put, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

The House divided: Ayes, 203; Noes, 112.

Division No. 250.] AYES. [6.7 p.m.
Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J. Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J. Penny, Sir G.
Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.) Gridley, Sir A. B. Perkins, W. R. D.
Albery, Sir I. J. Grimston, R. V. Peters, Dr. S. J.
Aske, Sir R. W. Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E. (Drake) Petherick, M.
Assheton, R. Guinness, T. L. E. B. Pickthorn, K. W. M.
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Gunston, Capt. D. W. Pilkington, R.
Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet) Guy, J. C. M. Plugge, L. F.
Beauchamp, Sir B. C. Hacking, Rt. Hon. D. H. Porritt, R. W.
Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h) Hanbury, Sir C. Ramsay, Captain A. H. M.
Beit, Sir A. L. Hannah, I. C. Ramsden, Sir E.
Bernays, R. H. Hannon, Sir P. J. H. Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)
Blair, Sir R. Haslam, H. C. (Horncastle) Rayner, Major R. H.
Blindell, Sir J. Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton) Reid, Sir D. D. (Down)
Bossom, A. C. Hellgers, Captain F. F. A. Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)
Boulton, W. W. Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P. Ropner, Colonel L.
Bower, Comdr. R. T. Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth) Ross, Major Sir R. D. (L'nderry)
Brass, Sir W. Herbert, Capt. Sir S. (Abbey) Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)
Briscoe, Capt. R. G. Hills, Major Rt. Hon. J. W. (Ripon) Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.
Brocklebank, C. E. R. Hoare, Rt. Hon. Sir S. Runciman, Rt. Hon. W.
Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith) Holmes, J. S. Russell, A. West (Tynemouth)
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury) Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J. Salmon, Sir I.
Carver, Major W. H. Horsbrugh, Florence Salt, E. W.
Cary, R. A. Howitt, Dr. A. B. Samuel, Sir A. M. (Farnham)
Cayzer, Sir C. W. (City of Chester) Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.) Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir P.
Cayzer, Sir H. R. (Portsmouth, S.) Hudson, R. S. (Southport) Savery, Servington
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n) Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir T. W. H. Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)
Chapman, A. (Rutherglen) Jackson, Sir H. Shepperson, Sir E. W.
Chapman, Sir S. (Edinburgh, S.) Jarvis, Sir J. J. Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.
Chorlton, A. E. L. Keeling, E. H. Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's U. B'lf'st)
Collins, Rt. Hon. Sir G. P. Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose) Smithers, Sir W.
Colville, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. D. J. Keyes, Admiral of the Fleet Sir R. Somervell, Sir D. B. (Crewe)
Cook, T. R. A. M. (Norfolk, N.) Kirkpatrick, W. M. Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)
Cooper, Rt. Hn. A. Duff (W'st'r S.G'gs) Lambert, Rt. Hon. G. Southby, Comdr. A. R. J.
Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.) Latham, Sir P. Spears, Brig.-Gen. E. L.
Courthope, Col. Sir G. L. Leckie, J. A. Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)
Crooke, J. S. Leech, Dr. J. W. Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'l'd)
Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C. Lees-Jones, J. Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)
Cross, R. H. Lindsay, K. M. Strickland, Captain W. F.
Crossley, A. C. Lloyd, G. W. Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (N'thw'h)
Crowder, J. F. E. Locker-Lampson, Comdr. O. S. Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)
Cruddas, Col. B. Loftus, P. C. Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.
Davidson, Rt. Hon. Sir J. C. C. Lovat-Fraser, J. A. Tasker, Sir R. I.
Davison, Sir W. H. Lyons, A. M. Tate, Mavis C.
Dawson, Sir P. Mabane, W. (Huddersfield) Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)
De Chair, S. S. MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G. Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)
Denman, Hon. R. D. McCorquodale, M. S.
Dixon, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. MacDonald, Rt. Hn. J. R. (Scot. U.) Touche, G. C.
Dodd, J. S. MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross) Train, Sir J.
Dorman-Smith, Major R. H. MacDonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness) Tree, A. R. L. F.
Dower, Capt. A. V. G. McEwen, Capt. J. H. F. Tryon, Major Rt. Hon. G. C.
Drewe, C. McKie, J. H. Tufnell, Lieut.-Com. R. L.
Duckworth, G. A. V. (Salop) Maclay, Hon. J. P. Turton, R. H.
Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side) Makins, Brig.-Gen. E. Wakefield, W. W.
Dugdale, Major T. L. Ward, Lieut-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Duggan, H. J. Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Ward, Irene (Wallsend)
Duncan, J. A. L. Markham, S. F. Waterhouse, Captain C.
Edmondson, Major Sir J. Mason, Lt.-Col. Hon. G. K. M. Wayland, Sir W. A.
Elliot. Rt. Hon. W. E. Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J. Wedderburn, H. J. S.
Ellis, Sir G. Meller, Sir R. J. (Mitcham) Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.
Emmott, C. E. G. C. Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest) Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)
Emrys-Evans, P. V. Mitcheson, Sir G. G. Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.
Entwistle, C. F. Moore-Brabazon, Lt.-Col. J. T. C. Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Everard, W. L. Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.) Wise, A. R.
Findlay, Sir E. Neven-Spence, Maj. B. H. H. Withers, Sir J. J.
Fox, Sir G. W. G. Nicolson, Hon. H. G. Womersley, Sir W. J.
Furness, S. N. O'Connor, Sir Terence J. Wragg, H.
Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J. Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. W. G.
Goodman, Col. A. W. Orr-Ewing, I. L. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Graham Captain A. C. (Wirral) Palmer, G. E. H. Dr. Morris-Jones and Lieut.-Colonel
Grattan-Doyle, Sir N. Peat, C. U. Llewellin.
Acland, R. T, D. (Barnstaple) Hardle, G. D. Potts, J.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.) Harris, Sir P. A. Price, M. P.
Adamson, W. M. Henderson, A. (Kingswinford) Pritt, D. N.
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.) Henderson, J. (Ardwick) Quibell, D. J. K.
Ammon, C. G. Henderson, T. (Tradeston) Rathbone, Eleanor (English Univ's.)
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R. Hills, A. (Pontefract) Ritson, J.
Banfield, I. W. Holland, A. Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Brom.)
Barnes, A. J. Jagger, J. Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)
Barr, J. Jenkins, A. (Pontypool) Rothschild, J. A. de
Batey, J. Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath) Rowson, G.
Bellenger, F. Jones, A. C. (Shipley) Seely, Sir H. M.
Benson, G. Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Sexton, T. M.
Bevan, A. Kelly, W. T. Short, A.
Brooke, W. Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T. Silkin, L.
Burke, W. A. Kirby, B. V. Silverman, S. S.
Chater, D. Lathan, G. Simpson, F. B.
Cluse, W. S. Lawson, J. J. Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)
Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R. Lee, F. Smith, E. (Stoke)
Cove, W. G. Leonard, W. Smith, T. (Normanton)
Daggar, G. Leslie, J. R. Sorensen, R. W.
Dalton, H. Logan, D. G. Stewart, W. J. (H'ghfn-le-Sp'ng)
Davies, D. L. (Pontypridd) Macdonald, G. (Ince) Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton) McEntee, V. La T. Thorne, W.
Dobbie, W. McGhee, H. G. Tinker, J. J.
Ede, J. C. MacLaren, A. Viant, S. P.
Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty) MacMillan, M. (Western Isles) Walker, J.
Evans, D. O. (Cardigan) MacNeill, Weir, L. Watkins, F. C.
Gardner, B. W. Mander, G. le M. Watson, W. McL.
Garro Jones, G. M. Marklew, E. Westwood, J.
George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke) Marshall, F. White, H. Graham
George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey) Messer, F. Whiteley, W.
Green, W. H. (Deptford) Milner, Major J. Wilkinson, Ellen
Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. Montague, F. Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)
Grenfell, D. R. Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N) Williams, T. (Don Valley)
Griffiths, J. (Llanelly) Oliver, G. H. Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)
Groves, T. E. Paling, W. Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)
Hall, G. H. (Aberdare) Parker, J.
Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel) Pethick-Lawrence, F. W. TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Mr. Mathers and Mr. Charleton.

Question, "That the Clause, as amended, be added to the Bill," put, and agreed to.


I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Clause, in line 3, to leave out "necessary," and to insert "desirable and expedient."

6.17 p.m.


I hope the right hon. Gentleman will make a beau geste and accept this minor Amendment. The word "necessary" is much more restrictive than the words "desirable and expedient," and if the new Clause came before the courts for interpretation a much more restrictive meaning would be placed upon it than the meaning given to it by the Secretary of State. The word "necessary" means almost as much as the word "imperative." On the other hand, "desirable and expedient" can he inserted in the new Clause without destroying the degree of restriction which the Government desire to maintain.

6.18 p.m.


I will go as far as I can to meet the hon. Member, but I cannot accept the Amendment in its present form. If he would accept the addition of the words "or expedient" after the word "necessary," I am prepared to accept it. It would give a little more discretion to the Secretary of State.


I am prepared to accept the suggestion, and beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment made: In line 3, after "necessary" insert "or expedient"—[The Solicitor-General.]