HC Deb 22 March 1948 vol 448 cc2727-9

Lords Amendment: In page g6, line 36, at end, insert new Clause:

"Assistance by local authorities to other bodies —A local authority in England or Wales, may, with the consent of the Minister given either generally or specially, contribute towards the expenses of any body carrying on activities within the area of that authority, being activities for the purpose of furthering the development of trade, industry or commerce therein, or of giving advice, information or other assistance to persons resident therein, or otherwise for the benefit of that area or those persons.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."—[Mr. Bevan.]

Mr. Hare

I should like to welcome this Clause. I understand it will enable local authorities to co-operate with the Board of Trade in the work of assisting industrial development in their respective areas. If it will do something to alleviate what really is a most disquieting series of circumstances at the moment I think we should welcome it very much. Anyone who has followed the work of local authorities in trying to attract industry to their estates will realise the appalling difficulties which both industry and the local authorities have had in getting the Board of Trade to reach decisions quickly. So far as London is concerned, it may interest the House to have these figures: out of 117 applications which have been put forward by industry to move to sites reserved by the London County Council on their estates, only two applications have been approved and many have not even been considered although they have been put forward for some 18 months or more. I feel we should definitely welcome this Amendment, and I hope it will give the local authorities a chance to get decisions from the Board of Trade.

Mr. Walker-Smith

So far I have not been very successful in getting information from the Treasury bench but I will make one last attempt. I would like to ask, with regard to the words the consent of the Minister given either generally or specially. how it is envisaged that such consent be given generally or specially in regard to contributing towards the expenses of any body carrying on activities within the area. When the word "generally" is used in this Amendment does that envisage a general consent for prescribed bodies or general consent for all bodies, and will that be done by one statutory instrument or in what way? "Specially," I take it, means "individually." The Minister shakes his head but I hope for some sort of oral information as distinct from signs.

Mr. Bevan

The hon. Member puts his request with such courtesy that he is entitled to a full explanation. I am not certain whether some of the questions put are not put frivolously.

Mr. Walker-Smith

On a point of Order. Is it in order for the right hon. Gentleman to impute to me at this late hour a motive and to charge an hon. Member who is putting forward a serious argument with putting forward that argument frivolously? Is that not contrary to the practice of the House?

Mr. Speaker

I think we must carry on the Debate as best we can. It is getting late.

Mr. Bevan

The hon. Member put a point which he himself proceeded to answer. He asks whether "generally" means a particular body. It does mean a body which is in general existence. It might be a development council, which exist almost everywhere, and in such cases general consent would be given. It would not be necessary to Ilse a statutory instrument. One does not need it to give a local authority consent to spend money. With regard to "special," it might be a special case in a particular area not reproducible in other areas where special application would be necessary.

Sir W. Darling

Is there any limit to the amount the local authorities in England or Wales might, by consent of the Minister, spend? Such widespread activities as the furthering of industry, trade or commerce might take large sums.

Mr. Bevan

In such circumstances the money involved will be taken into account.

Remaining Lords Amendments agreed to. [Several with Special Entries.]