HC Deb 16 May 1946 vol 422 cc2257-74

12 mdt.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter (Kingston-upon-Thames)

I beg to move, That the Control of Rates of Hire of Plant (Exemption) Order, 1946 (S.R. & O., 1946, No. 609), a copy of which was presented on 30th April, be annulled.

It is fair to say at the outset that this Statutory Rule and Order, which this Motion seeks to annul, is, unlike most of its opposite numbers, clear and comprehensible. This Statutory Rule relates to a previous Statutory Rule and Order, No. 1,277 of 1941, which is a Statutory Rule and Order issued by the Minister of Works imposing, in not inconsiderable detail, a series of restrictions upon the prices which may be charged for the hire of machinery and other industrial plant. Statutory Rule and Order No. 609 of 1946, now before the House, seeks to make one exemption to the Order of 1941. What it does in brief is this. While leaving the general price restrictions upon the hire of machinery in force over the whole sphere of our economic life, it makes one exemption from that, and one exception. It excepts from these price restrictions any hire of machinery made by the Minister of Fuel and Power in connection with opencast coalworkings. The matter which arises on this Order—and it is right to say that the Order is made by the Ministry of Works, and it is therefore perfectly proper that the Parliamentary Secretary should reply—is that it is made in favour of the Ministry of Fuel and Power. I think it is fair and proper that I should read to the House the explanatory note attached to the Rule which gives the Ministry's version of the necessity for this Order. It reads as follows: The effect of this Order is to make it possible to place on Contractors engaged in opencast coalmining the responsibility for the repair and maintenance of Government-owned plant, and to charge for such plant a flat rental, irrespective of hours of operation. It applies only to opencast coalmining. Though that may be the object of this Order, it certainly is not its effect. Its effect is perfectly clear—to exempt this hire by the Ministry of Fuel and Power from the whole restrictions, including that of price, imposed by the Order of 1941. That, in my submission, raises two points. First, that the provisions of this Order are not necessary for the object which it is alleged is the object of the Order, and, second, that they are highly objectionable in principle.

May I take the first point? If what it is desired is to facilitate it as the Explanatory Note suggests, the leasing of machinery to contractors, and making the contractors responsible for the repair and maintenance of that machinery, it is not necessary to raise the price limit for the hirings. If it is desired to place upon these contractors responsibility for the maintenance of Government-owned machinery, one would have thought that the price to be obtained by the Ministry for the hiring would be diminished, because a responsibility which would otherwise lie on the Department to maintain its own machinery is placed upon the contractors. It is surely in accordance with normal commercial practice, and indeed in accordance with ordinary commensense, that where an additional obligation is placed on the hirers, the charge should be lower.

Taking even the expressed object of the Department as accurate, it is, in my submission, not necessary for that purpose to relieve the Ministry of Fuel and Power of the price-limits contained in the Order. It may be necessary, for that purpose, to remove from the Ministry some other provisions of the Order, but there is no necessity to remove the price limits. That is precisely what is done by exempting these hirings from the provisions of Statutory Order 1277. My first submission is that, given the principle expressed in the Explanatory Note, this Order goes far further than is necessary for that purpose. If the Parliamentary Secretary simply desires to facilitate this hiring, I am quite prepared to draft him a Statutory Rule and Order which will do it, and do it while covering an infinitely narrower scope than does this Order.

The substantial point which, in the opinion of my hon. Friends and myself, justifies us bringing this matter for the consideration of the House, is the major issue of principle involved. What is done by this Order is to permit the Minister of Fuel and Power to charge any price he likes, while everybody else is restricted by the Order of 1941. It is highly objectionable to have one set of restrictions applying to the country at large, and to have one exception made to it in favour of one Government Department. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation, in another Debate, referred to Government discussions being carried on on the "Old boy" basis. It would appear that that is what has happened in this case, and that the Minister of Works has said to the Minister of Fuel and Power, "All right, old boy, the law shall not apply to you." That is surely a matter which raises a question of fundamental principle. It was said during the Debate that terminated yesterday that certain provisions of that Bill set up a state of administrative privilege. Surely this Statutory Rule and Order does exactly the same. It provides that the ordinary law of the land shall not apply to a particular Government Department. That is a matter of some importance to this House. It is surely fundamentally wrong to say that all the King's subjects shall be bound by certain regulations except the Minister of Fuel and Power and his staffs.

We have often heard hon. Members opposite assert that there was one law for the rich and another for the poor. The modern version apparently is, "One law for the community and another for the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Fuel and Power." The Lord President of the Council, in introducing the Act under which this Order was made, told the House that it need not be alarmed, because the Measure provided that liberty marches on. He omitted to point out that this march of liberty was apparently to be confined to Whitehall and was apparently to include only the Ministry of Fuel and Power, marching in single file. The object of this Order appears to be so small and so easily met, in comparison with the wide implications of the Order, that I feel the House is entitled to an explanation of the grave necessities which alone could justify permitting the Minister of Fuel and Power to have a private monopoly of high charges. It is a matter of speculation, but it does appear that by reason of some governmental arrangement, the Minister of Fuel and Power, having abandoned any attempt to raise black diamonds, has decided instead to go in for a black market.

12.11 a.m.

Sir John Mellor (Sutton Coldfield)

I beg to second the Motion.

My hon. Friend has made the point so cogently that I do not propose to attempt to cover the arguments which he has made, but I want to ask one or two questions. I cannot understand why this Order is made by the Minister of Works, because in December, 1944, everything to do with opencast coal working was transferred from the Ministry of Works to the Ministry of Fuel and Power. It is perfectly true that Statutory Rule and Order No. 1277 of 1941, which is referred to in the Order which is the subject of this Motion, was also made by the Minister of Works, but under Regulations 55 and 55AB of the Defence Regulations, 1939, under which, apparently, both these Orders were made, competent authorities, including both the Ministers of Fuel and Power and of Works, were able to make the necessary Orders. As the Minister of Fuel and Power is the proprietor of the machinery in question, it seems strange that he should have had to go to the Minister of Works to get him to make this Order, because he was an equally competent authority to do so.

The whole matter seems to me to be rather curious, and I would like the Parliamentary Secretary or the Solicitor-General, whoever replies, not only to deal with the essential point which has been so effectively made by my hon. Friend, but also to explain the curious method that has been adopted. When the whole responsibility for searching for and working opencast coal has been transferred to the Minister of Fuel and Power, it is strange that the Minister of Works, who has had no responsibility for this since December, 1944, should make the Order which puts the Minister of Fuel and Power in this privileged position. It looks to me as if the Minister of Fuel and Power is ashamed to make an Order like this and, in order to make it look, perhaps, a little better, he has gone to the Minister of Works, also a competent authority, and asked him to carry out this strange proceeding for him. I hope we shall get an answer from the Government on this point.

12.15 a.m.

Mr. Orr-Ewing (Weston-super-Mare)

I feel the case has been made so fully that I need not say one word on the points which have been mentioned. But I feel very worried about this Order because the Ministry of Works are, as I have always understood it, very interested in housing matters in one aspect. I cannot quite understand why it is that priority is given to the use of particular types of machinery for the mining of opencast coal, which machinery is also most suitable for the clearing of sites, in order to build houses. How are we to understand this matter? Is it that production of opencast coal is now of such major importance that it overrides the necessity of speeding up the preparation of sites for houses? Has this matter had the full approval of the Minister of Health? Have the local authorities been consulted as to what their position will be in the event of their having to deal with competitive bids from the Minister of Fuel and Power? Imagine the position in which somebody goes to the Ministry of Fuel and Power and says, "I want opencast coal," and somebody else goes to the Ministry of Health and says "I want housing." What happens then? Housing stands nowhere, and coal wins out of hand.

This is a sort of inter-Departmental black market of the most extraordinary nature, which I do not think we could find paralleled in any country in Europe. That, by itself, is a rather serious aspect of the matter. I am rather surprised that there is no representative on the Government Front Bench of the Ministries concerned. What about the Ministry of Transport? It is most urgent that we should develop the new towns, and that means demands for roads, railways, and, of course, footpaths. We must clear the ground for these means of communication, and these machines are the very things we want for the work. But, no. The Minister of Fuel and Power, in some other part of the country, has discovered some opencast coal under somebody's gladioli, and the new towns can go West as far as he is concerned. Competitive bids between gladioli and coal, or coal and new towns, will be won by coal.

This is a most extraordinary principle. This is not only a matter of detail. It is a matter of principle which is raised by this Order. I cannot think, nor have I been able to learn, of any possible precedent for an Order of this nature outside of actual warfare in the face of the enemy. I shall be interested to learn from the Government where the precedent lies. There are necessities for getting coal in peace as well as in war, but can the Government quote a single precedent by which one Government Department is given precedence over all other Government Departments in the use of material and machinery in the degree prescribed in this document? For my own part, though I would do anything I could to assist in the production of coal, whether opencast or from below the surface of the earth—everybody in this House would do that—yet we must have a fair judgment in this matter in giving such overriding powers to one Minister. When the Minister most deeply involved in the housing of the people parts with rights that he may possess which would enable him to carry out his task, and parts with them to another Minister responsible for producing coal which can be used by the people only when they are in their houses, then I think we are entitled to some definite information from the Government.

12.20 a.m.

Sir William Darling (Edinburgh, South)

I deplore the thinness of the House. So long as I am in this Chamber I shall always look upon these Statutory Rules and Orders as a matter of great importance. Government is almost entirely now by Statutory Rules and Orders, and it is only determined watchdogs who do not sleep at night who will see that the Government keep to the somewhat elaborate method into which they have led themselves. This is one of many scores of Orders of this kind, and I shall always be willing to take my share, with your permission, Mr. Deputy Speaker, in discussing matters of this description. I am glad to congratulate the House on the presence of the Lord Advocate as representing Scotland. The last occasion, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, on which I had the privilege of catching your eye, I directed the attention of the House to a Bill which had an inaccurate address for the Stationery Office in Scotland. You will be glad to know that the correct address of the Stationery Office in Scotland now appears, and instead of 120, George Street, Edinburgh, they have now got the correct address, 13a, Castle Street, where the Stationery Office has been for the last 18 months. The Bill also changed its name on two occasions, in addition to having an inaccurate and improper address. It was only out of deference to you, Sir, that I did not press what I thought was an important point of Order. I can make nothing of it tonight because the correct address is given on this Order. The only difference between this Order and the Bill of the previous occasion which had the incorrect address, is that the Bill was marked "Twopence nett," where this is marked "One penny nett."

I will proceed to the actual substance of the Order. I am struck, as the previous speakers have been struck, by the apparent endeavour of the Minister of Fuel and Power to dominate other Governmental Departments. If I understand the Order rightly, its object is to provide machinery for the much-needed production of coal, and it is obvious that the kind of machinery so provided is of a unique character. Doubtless other hon. Members have seen this machinery, specially imported from the United States for this purpose. It is machinery of an intricate character which cannot be kept in order by ordinary engineers. It is of an unusual type, and it is used in very remote places which makes the responsibility for the repair and maintenance of Government owned plant placed upon contractors an extremely onerous burden. After all, these contractors are only engaged, I hope, in the laudable effort of securing opencast coal. It does not seem to me to be in the interests of the public to lay upon them these serious burdens which are not borne by contractors in the coal industry. We want coal, and this is a new method of getting it. If the Minister of Works and the Minister of Fuel and Power were at one in this matter they would encourage, even to the extent of drawing on the public purse, the maintenance of this machinery.

But a contrary line is taken. The contractors who operate this machinery in remote places, often with inexperienced or untried, unskilled labour, are placed at a disadvantage in getting coal by having to accept responsibility for the repair and maintenance of Government-owned plant. I hardly think the objects of the Ministry of Fuel and Power are met by any such restrictions. This is a burden which is unnecessarily placed upon the contractor. It would seem to me that far from an explanatory note, there should be an encouraging injunction that any contractor who can secure for the Minister of Works the use of this important and unusual plant should be free and indemnified from any responsibility arising from breakdown and failure to operate, so important is the work to which they have committed themselves. But on the contrary, the burden is rather heavily laid upon them.

I cannot understand the Order unless it is, as suggested by the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter), that the forceful character of the Minister of Fuel and Power has intimidated that of his more polite, refined and delicate colleague. When I look at the Minister of Works I can hardly believe it. It may well be that this impassioned, and energetic and determined Minister, whose Parliamentary Secretary is so ably representing him tonight, has intimidated the Front bench of the Government more than he has succeeded in intimidating the Opposition. It has been said that the King can do no wrong, and while, as a loyal subject, I am willing to subscribe to that doctrine, I cannot subscribe to the doctrine that the Minister of Fuel and Power can do no wrong.

12.26 a.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works (Mr. Harold Wilson)

When I saw this Prayer on the Order Paper, I was a little surprised that right hon. and hon. Members opposite should find anything to object about in so harmless and so necessary—and I would say so reasonable—a little Order. But, after hearing the speech of the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter), who moved the Prayer and the speech which followed it, I must agree that there are certain worries and doubts in their minds. Before I deal with the question of price, which was fundamental to the first speech, I will try to dispose of points put by the hon. Gentleman who seconded this Prayer. He thought the Minister of Fuel and Power and not the Minister of Works should have made this Order. He said that opencast coal came to the Minister of Fuel and Power from the Minister of Works. The Minister of Works is responsible, and his Department always has been responsible, for civil engineering contractors' plant in general, and since this was an Order amending a more general Order on contractors' plant, it was perfectly reasonable that it should have been made by the Minister of Works.

Then the suggestion was made that by excepting the Minister of Fuel and Power in this Order, it is giving actual protection and automatic priority over housing, and it is thought that this will mean that an undue proportion of contractors' plant in the country will be directed to opencast coal, and away from housing. There is no question of that at all. Contractors' plant is closely controlled and put into the jobs most urgent in the national interests—so much of it to opencast coal, so much to housing, and so much to transport, as the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Orr-Ewing) has mentioned. The allocation is made by the Ministers concerned in accordance with the needs, and a fair proportion goes to each. I can re-assure the hon. Member on that point.

Mr. Orr-Ewing

Is the hon. Gentleman not really setting a standard of rates of hire in favour of one side rather than anybody else?

Mr. Wilson

No, Sir, I think the hon. Member has imaginary fears in this matter. In the first place, and perhaps he realises it, the plant owned by the Minister of Fuel and Power is, for the most part, plant which came into this country from the United States under Lend-Lease for the purpose of opencast coal. And for the most part it is specialised equipment suitable only, or mainly, for opencast coal production. There is certainly no question that the Order will give a priority or a preference to opencast coal production.

On the question of price, to which the mover referred, the original order, 1277 of 1941. did, as he suggested, lay down controlled rates of hire on various types of excavating plant and conditions of hire. Among them is the condition which is now revoked in the case of the Minister of Fuel and Power—that in the event of a breakdown of plant, unless it was caused by the negligence of the hirer, the hire should cease. That was, of course, a provision of the original Order, and the reason for changing it in the case of the Minister of Fuel and Power is, I think, generally obvious. I rather gather the hon. Member admitted the case for changing the conditions as to the repair of plant, and also for changing the conditions for working overtime. He did not raise any objections to these two points. His main attack was on the subject of price. I hope I can set his fears at rest on that point. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Fuel and Power is certainly not going to charge in any case a rate higher than the maximum which would be charged by private plant owners. There is no question of that.

I should like to give the hon. Gentleman a further assurance. I think he has it in mind that we are singling the Minister of Fuel and Power out for special treatment as compared with private plant owners. That is not so. We have written to the Contractors' Plant Association and made it perfectly clear that we are willing to extend this arrangement to any other type of work where it would prove suitable, provided we are satisfied that the interests of all parties concerned will be properly protected. In the case of fuel and power contracting the arrangements were agreed with the civil engineering contractors. They had no fears that the Minister of Fuel and Power was going to charge excessive rates, and we have said that if we can get similarly happy arrangements made for other types of work my right hon. Friend would be quite ready to make a new Order exempting them from the provisions of the original Order.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

If it is not the intention of the Minister of Fuel and Power to charge higher rates than were laid down in the Order of 1941, why does he take the trouble to exempt the Minister from the restriction?

Mr. Wilson

I was just coming to that. The hon. Gentleman very kindly offered, and one day we may accept his offer, to draft an order or two for us and relieve our legal staff. He suggested that if he had drafted the Order he would have exempted the Minister of Fuel and Power only on the conditions he agrees are desirable, the matter of overtime rates.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

No, that is a misunderstanding. I certainly did not suggest that any exception should be made in the overtime rates and the repair.

Mr. Wilson

The whole point is, and I do not think the hon. Member has seen it, that all these cases are very closely bound up with one another. If individual contracts are made in which the onus of repair is placed on the contractor rather than on the owner of the plant, that automatically affects the rates of hire which would be appropriate. If we had done as the hon. Member has suggested and exempted the rates from this amending Order we should have had to draft a completely new schedule of rates which would be appropriate in conditions in which the repairs were done by the other party. If the hon. Member studies the original Order, S.R. & O. 1277, as I am sure he has done, he will see a very long and complicated schedule of rates. I am sure that he would agree that once the boot is on the other foot in the matter of repairs, it would be necessary to work out and prescribe a new schedule of rates; and that would take a lot of time.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

If the Minister proposes to put the duty of repairing the machinery upon the hirers, surely he would agree that there is an argument for charging less to them and not more?

Mr. Wilson

Certainly, Sir, and we are going to charge less.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Then why take power to charge more?

Mr. Wilson

I thought that I had made that point clear to the hon. Gentleman. I agree that we could have made an Order to give powers to the Minister of Fuel and Power to make different arrangements about repairs and overtime from those in the original Order and not to give exemption in the matter of prices. If we had had to make that compromise it would have been necessary to make a new schedule at lower rates. This is now to be dealt with by administrative arrangement. The Minister will not charge rates higher than the maximum—and indeed is going to charge rates lower than the maximum—simply for the reason that the onus of repair is on the other party.

Mr. C. S. Taylor (Eastbourne)

The original Order speaks of maximum prices and not of minimum prices. Therefore, if we charge less than the maximum prices there is no need for the Order. If we charge more than those prices, there is a need for the Order.

Mr. Wilson

As I have explained, the motive in making the Order was to enable us to carry on coal production more continuously. We shall be glad to explain the reasons if the hon. Gentleman and other Members on that side of the House do not appreciate them. There is now a greater incentive to get more coal; under the new arrangement we pay for the coal actually got and not for the amount of work done. It was found necessary to make a different arrangement about the repairs. I agree that it was not necessary to make a different arrangement about the hire rates. I have explained that it was simpler to do what was required by this new Order than to have a long and complicated Order. There is no question of going above those rates; indeed it is going to be a matter of going considerably below the rates. I am sure that hon. Gentlemen are not worried about this exempttion of the Minister of Fuel and Power from the requirement about repairs. It is extremely desirable. The Minister of Fuel and Power does not run a plant repairing agency. I am sure that hon. Gentlemen opposite are not proposing that he shall establish one. Large contractors who are doing opencast work have such arrangements, and it is reasonable that the Minister should be allowed to make use of those organisations. That will spread the work and will enable contractors to go more fully out for coal production. I am sure that hon. Members in all parts of the House want to see that object attained.

The main reason for doubt about this Order among hon. Gentlemen opposite is the feeling that the Minister of Fuel and Power is being given competitive advantage over other plant hirers. There is nothing in that point. In the first place, he is not competing with other plant hirers, because he is not in the business of plant hiring and is not out to make a profit: he is out to get coal. He owns a small amount of American plant and it seems reasonable that it should be deployed in the national interest in this way. Secondly, as I have said, it is the intention of my right hon. Friend, if he finds any other class of work in which it would be advantageous to make the same kind of exemption and with the same degree of protection for all parties concerned—because we know we must protect the civil engineering contractors in this matter as well as the owners of plant—to make similar exemptions to the Order irrespective of whether the plant is a Government owned plant or a private agency's. There is no question of favouritism to a Government Department, but simply a question of the type of work involved.

Mr. Orr-Ewing

In view of the last statement, would it not really be better to lift the maximum hire price altogether? If anyone comes along with important work to do, what has been said in the past does not count at all.

Mr. Wilson

I am sure the hon. Gentleman is not serious in that. Am I to take it that he is suggesting that in those conditions we should lift the controls altogether?

Mr. Orr-Ewing

That is what the hon. Gentleman said.

Mr. Wilson

I am sorry that I was not clearer. I was referring to certain classes of work where we can be quite certain the interests of both parties would be protected, as will be the case if the matter is in the hands of the Minister of Fuel and Power. If the hon. Gentleman is suggesting that we should choose a time of great shortage of contractors' plant—and there is a shortage of which we are all very conscious—to remove control of rates, then I am sure it would lead to a dangerous situation. It would provide the owners of contractors' plant with the power to exploit the conditions of scarcity, and I am sure the hon. Gentleman would be as unwilling as we are to see that state of affairs.

12.43 a.m.

Mr. Harold Macmillan (Bromley)

We are very grateful to the hon. Gentleman on this rather complicated but important matter for the very clear and valuable speech which he has made, as indeed he always does. He will forgive me if I intervene for a few moments to ask questions which are worrying and concerning my hon. Friends. The first is, What is the best use that can be made of that machinery? The hon. Gentleman has told us, as I understand it, that there will be an allocation as between the different Departments for different purposes. We have all been through the long battle of priorities, allocations and Departmental rivalries as to whether A 1 is better than B 2, which dominated the productive problems of the war. I am glad to hear that in this machinery, which is in short supply, there is an effective method of allocation as between the claims of coal and housing and other needs. I would only ask the hon. Gentleman what is now the present system of arranging this allocation between the claims of the Departments, which, in my recollection, make their own goods for their own needs. Is it the Lord President's Committee or by what machinery are these general broad decisions taken to allocate this plant between the various Departments which claim it? That is the first point, which is one of considerable importance. We wish to be satisfied that the machinery is effective in carrying out these allocations. We have now abolished the Ministry of Production who used to do these things. I should like to know what modern machinery replaces the Ministry of Production for this purpose.

The second point, which, I am afraid, must be quite difficult to follow, is that, as I understand it, this Order as it now stands prevents anybody from charging more than a certain price for this machinery. Is that right? That is the basic Order. The hon. Gentleman has given admirable reasons why in certain conditions a particular Department should charge less than a certain price, because he says they are going to place on the contractors burdens not now placed on their shoulders. They are going to be responsible for repairs. There are now arrangements about overtime, he says with great force, and I agree with him that in these circumstances it is necessary to make arrangements that these contractors should pay less than the present prices. Therefore, he says, we must come to the House of Commons to ask power to relieve the Minister from this pressure under the original Order which prevents him charging more.

It is the combination of these two propositions which I still—probably quite foolishly—am not able wholly to connect. The Parliamentary Secretary says we must be able to charge more and must therefore be relieved from the obligation of charging more. The system of allocation is the most vital point. Is this machinery for this very admirable purpose really the right machinery for it? The Parliamentary Secretary's final excuse for it, as it were, is to say that it would be rather a bore to have to go through and set up a new set of Orders or a new price list, and therefore it is really simpler to take this measure. It does not seem to me at first sight exactly calculated to achieve the results required.

Hon. Members


Earl Winterton (Horsham)

Surely the hon. Gentleman wants to answer that point? He can do it, by leave of the House.

Mr. Wilson

If I have the leave of the House to reply, I should like to deal with the two points raised by the right hon. Gentleman. With regard to the first, I should have thought that a Member of this House as experienced as he is would know that it would be very unusual for us to give details of Cabinet Committees and Cabinet arrangements for the allocation of materials or anything else. I can assure him, as I have assured him, that there is machinery for the allocation of this plant as thorough and as adequate and as efficient as the machinery which operated, I think, under his own control, earlier in the war in the matter of the disposal of very many other kinds of machine tools and so on which were required for the——

Mr. Macmillan

Who is the Minister responsible?

Mr. Wilson

The Minister of Works is responsible for matters affecting civil engineering contractors' plant.

Mr. Macmillan

Which is the Minister responsible for the allocations? That is what I wanted to know.

Mr. Wilson

The Minister of Works. There is, in my view, a very good system for controlling the allocation of most plant, whether it has come new from the manufacturers or is being disposed of from the Service Departments. It is allocated among these urgent priority needs. So far from the Minister of Fuel and Power getting too large a cut in it, I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that the Minister of Works has very much in mind the problem of housing and also the needs of the building materials industries for this very important plant.

With regard to the second question the right hon. Gentleman raised, to answer it would really mean going over my words a second time—even a third or a fourth time. I am sorry it was not clear. I think he got the point at the end. I must repeat that the purpose of this Order is to enable the Minister of Fuel and Power to do something in the interests of speedy action and maximum coal production, and is not to enable him to charge higher prices or lower prices or to do anything at all about prices. The purpose is to enable him to make speedier and more satisfactory arrangements for the repairing of the plant in question. That is the motive, as I explained before. The easiest and speediest way to give him those powers, because we had to act quickly, was to have a simple Order of this kind. We could, but with much greater delay and difficulty, have produced a very complicated Order. I quite agree that theoretically the Order enables the Minister to charge greater rates, but his intention and assurance is that he will charge lower rates. The whole thing has been done as an arrangement satisfactory to the people who are to do the job, the civil engineering contractors.

Question put, That the Control of Rates of Hire of Plant (Exemption) Order, 1946 (S.R. O. 1946, No. 609), a copy of which was presented on 30th April, be annulled.

The House divided: Ayes, 25; Noes, 114.

Division No. 175. AYES. 12.52 a.m.
Agnew, Cmdr. P. G. Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. O. Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.
Aitken, Hon. Max Macdonald, Capt. Sir P. (I. of Wight) Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray)
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Mackeson, Lt.-Col. H. R. Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)
Channon, H. Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley) Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Conant, Maj. R. J. E. Marsden, Capt. A. Young, Sir A. S. L. (Partick)
Crowder, Capt. J. F. E. Marshall, D. (Bodmin)
Darling, Sir W. Y. Neven-Spence, Sir B. TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Drewe, C. Nield, B. (Chester) Mr. Boyd-Carpenter and
Foster, J. G. (Northwich) Orr-Ewing, I. L. Sir John Mellor.
Kingsmill, Lt.-Col. W. H. Prescott, Stanley
Adams, Richard (Balham) Ganley, Mrs. C S. Pritt, D. N.
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Gibson, C W. Pursey, Cmdr. H.
Attewell, H. C. Greenwood, A. W. J. (Heywood) Ranger, J.
Barton, C. Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley) Rhodes, H.
Bechervaise, A. E. Hall, W. G. (Colne Valley) Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)
Bing, Capt. G. H. C. Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R. Royle, C.
Blackburn, A. R Hardy, E. A. Shawcross, C N. (Widnes)
Bowden, Fig.-Offr H. W. Hewitson, Capt. M. Shawcross, Sir H. (St. Helens)
Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton) Hobson, C. R. Shurmer, P.
Braddock, T. (Mitcham) Holman, P. Silverman, J. (Erdington)
Brook, D. (Halifax) Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth) Skeffington-Lodge, T. C.
Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.) Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.) Smith, S. H. (Hull, S.W.)
Callaghan, James Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Snow, Capt. J. W.
Cobb, F. A. Jones, D. T. (Hartlepools) Soskice, Maj. Sir F.
Cocks, F. S. Jones, J H. (Bolton) Stewart, Capt. Michael (Fulham, E.)
Coldrick, W. Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. E. Swingler, S.
Collindridge, F. Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton) Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)
Collins, V. J. Lewis, J. (Bolton) Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Corlett, Dr. J. Lipton, Lt.-Col. M. Thomson, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Ed'b'gh, E.)
Daines, P. McAllister, G. Tiffany, S.
Dalton, Rt. Hon. H. McKay, J. (Wallsend) Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G
Davies, Edward (Burslem) Mackay, R. W. G. (Hull, N.W.) Walkden, E.
Davies, Harold (Leek) McLeavy, F. Warbey, W. N.
Delargy, Captain H. J Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping) Weitzman, D.
Douglas, F. C. R. Medland, H. M. White, H. (Derbyshire, N.E.)
Driberg, T. E. N. Middleton, Mrs. L. Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
Durbin, E. F. M. Mitchison, Maj. G. R Wigg, Col. G. E
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. Monslow, W. Wilkins, W. A.
Edwards, A (Middlesbrough, E.) Morgan, Dr. H. B. Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)
Edwards, John (Blackburn) Moyle, A. Wilson, J. H.
Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel) Nally, W. Woodburn, A.
Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury) Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford) Yates, V. F.
Ewart, R. Noel-Buxton, Lady Younger, Hon. Kenneth
Fairhurst, F. Oldfield, W. H. Zilliacus, K.
Farthing, W. J. Palmer, A. M. F.
Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.) Pargiter, G. A. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Follick, M. Pearson, A. Mr. Joseph Henderson and
Foot, M M. Perrins, W. Mr. Simmons.
Freeman, Maj. J. (Watford) Platts-Mills, J F. F.
Gaitskell, H. T. N. Popplewell, E
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