HC Deb 04 February 1949 vol 460 cc1979-2010

Order for Second Reading read.

11.25 a.m.

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Glenvil Hall)

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

By Section 40 of the War Damage Act, 1941, public utility and certain other undertakings, rated by reference to accounts, receipts, profits or output, were excluded both from liability to contribute and right to payment for war damage. In 1943, as many hon. Members will remember, a further War Damage Act was passed; by Section 70 of that Act, these undertakings were again excluded. It was felt, both in 1941 and in 1943, that the provision for these undertakings should be made in a separate Bill. The Measure before the House is that Bill.

It may be asked why an enactment, promised in 1941 to make provision for events then occurring, has not been presented to the House earlier than today. I think the right hon. Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake), who once occupied the position I now occupy, will know the answer. It is that the complexity and variety of the properties and interests to be dealt with—railways, canals, harbours, lighthouses, gas, electricity, water, sewerage and even, in some cases, ships—and the need to reduce the provisions to deal with them to exact and comprehensible yet managable and intelligible form in a Bill, has proved an almost impossible task. It may interest the House to know that an earlier version of the Bill ran to as many as 16 drafts. Simplified though the present Bill is—

Mr. Osbert Peake (Leeds, North)

I think "streamlined" is the word.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

—Streamlined though the Bill may be, it is still formidible to those who have looked through the Explanatory Memorandum. During the lifetime of this Parliament, it has fallen to my lot to introduce a fair number of technical and complex Measures. When one considers the best method of presenting such Bills to the House on Second Reading, in order to be of the utmost assistance to hon. Members one has to decide whether one will deal with the Bill Clause by Clause in some detail—or, at least, take the most vital Clauses and deal with them in some detail—or whether it is better to deal with the Bill in broad outline, and hope that any points which may need emphasis and explanation can be dealt with in the more free and easy atmosphere of the Committee. In view of the extreme technicality of this Measure, I do not propose to go into too great detail or to explain the Bill Clause by Clause. This will make my speech a good deal shorter which is a most desirable thing, particularly on a Friday morning.

In order to sketch in the background against which this Bill must be considered, I draw attention to the White Paper, Command 6403, which was presented to Parliament in 1942 by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer This is entitled "War Damage to Public Utility Undertakings, &c." Paragraph 7 of that document deals with the problems presented by those undertakings, and I shall quote a few sentences to show why it is only now that this matter comes before the House and why public utilities and similar undertakings were excluded from previous Measures of this kind. Public utility undertakings were excluded from the principal Act because, for a number of reasons, neither the contribution nor payment structure of that Act was appropriate to them. The main factors contributing to this situation were their peculiar physical features (in particular the extension over wide areas of fixed distribution networks) and the difficulty of separately valuing their immovable and movable property. Moreover, the distinction between developed and other hereditaments is not applicable to public utility undertakings, and the test applied by Section 4 (I) (a) of the principal Act for determining whether a cost of works payment is to be made in respect of a developed hereditament, namely, whether the making good the damage would require works costing more than the difference between the value of the hereditament when repaired and its value as a site with the damage not made good, is inappropriate to public utility undertakings, which are under an obligation to render service … And so on, for the rest of that particular page.

That gives the House some idea of the difficulties inherent in this problem. The opening sentences show that the core of the difficulty centres round the exacting of contributions, and the payments to be made in cases in which damage occurred. Contributions are dealt with in the White Paper in paras. 37 to 48. When the problem was examined, it was found that the normal War Damage Act basis, that is the Schedule A assessments, was either not generally available or, if available, inappropriate. It would thus be necessary to devise a different method for determining the contribution which public utility undertakings ought to make.

The White Paper plan, as those who have read that document will remember, was to divide public utility undertakings into groups; to assess the total contribution of each group as a percentage of the total payments in respect of war damage, and to allocate the total contributions so assessed to the undertakings in the group under a scheme to be made by a representative body acting for each group. The plan as to payments was to make provision for the War Damage Commission to receive claims from undertakings property by property and to make payments, including payments for damaged goods, in accordance with certain specified conditions.

From 1942 to 1945, a great deal of thought and labour was given to the preparation of legislation to give effect to this plan. Difficulties were met with, however, and when the present Government took office in 1945 the problem was taken up where the previous Government had left it. On 26th February, 1946, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, now the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, announced to the House that he hoped to settle, in advance of the introduction of a Bill, the total amount to be paid for war damage to each group of public utility undertakings and the total amount to be contributed by each group. The total war damage payments to, and contributions from, each group would then be fixed by the Bill, which would provide for the making of schemes determining the sums to be paid to and contributed by particular undertakings."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th February, 1946; Vol. 419, c. 371.] The arrangement visualised in that statement by my right hon. Friend has had to be developed, for it proved impossible, when we came to consider it, to fix the global payments for each group, without first settling the detailed claims of individual undertakings. This, in its turn, could not be done without settling what kinds of property were to qualify and on what basis compensation for such damage was to be calculated. The making of schemes has, in fact, preceded legislation instead of following it.

Clauses 1 to 3 of Part I of the Bill and the First Schedule to it therefore empower the Treasury to determine the amount of war damage payments and contributions to be made in respect of each undertaking. These determinations will be in accordance with the arrangements which were made when consultations took place. In fact, the whole of Part I of the Bill, together with the First, Second and Third Schedules, are concerned with the implementation of this arrangement.

As I said earlier, I do not propose to comment in detail on these Clauses unless the House desires it. However, I think that the House will wish me to give some indication of the cost of the provisions made in the Bill. As is explained in the Financial Memorandum, the gross amounts of payments to be made is in the region of £91 million. These payments will of course be reduced by the contributions leviable, and also, under the terms of the Second Schedule, by the amounts to be set off for compensation already made and contributions already paid. It is estimated that the net charge on the Consolidated Fund will be about £62 million. The gross amount of contribution to be levied is to be 27½ per cent. of the aggregate payments for damage sustained by the undertakings in each group, except for the harbour group, for which the proportion has been fixed at 10 per cent. The reason for this difference is that the damage to undertakings in the harbour group was much more severe than the damage to the general run of the undertakings. To have assessed it at 27½ per cent. would, in our view, and I trust in the view of the House when we come to discuss this matter in detail, have placed too great a burden upon it in relation to the value of the property at risk compared with other undertakings.

Let me turn for a moment to the other undertakings excluded under Section 70 of the 1943 Act from the existing war damage legislation. There are those undertakings rated by reference to accounts, receipts, profits or output and those which ranked as public utility undertakings, under Section 40 of the 1941 Act and Section 70 of the 1943 Act, but have not been included in the grouping system of Part I of this Bill. Looked at in another way, the undertakings concerned fall into three groups. These, briefly, are, first, those which rank as public utility undertakings within the meaning of Section 70, but as to which the contribution structure of the 1943 Act can be applied without modification. In this category are refuse disposal undertakings and the undertakings of drainage authorities. Next, there are those undertakings which rank as public utility undertakings within the meaning of Section 70, for which the contribution structure of the 1943 Act must be modified. Into this category come tramway and trolley vehicle undertakings. Thirdly, there are those undertakings performing functions similar to those of public utility undertakings, for example, non-statutory water and electricity undertakings; undertakings licensed by the Postmaster-General for carrying on communication systems; mines, quarries, gravel, sand and other mineral workings.

Clauses 9 and 10, together with Part II of the Bill, are mainly concerned with all these classes of undertakings. The White Paper indicated that the payment structure of the principal Act could be applied to all these classes, with an amendment of the definition of land, but that the contribution structure would need to be modified for all of them, except refuse disposal undertakings and drainage authority undertakings. The White Paper gave several examples of the type of modification required, of which perhaps two are of particular interest. One is the need to provide that the undertakings be made direct contributors in place of the proprietary interests who would be the direct contributors under the principal Act. The other is the need to modify the rate of contribution for mineral properties. As some Members of the House will have realised, the Bill provides that it is to be reduced from 2s. to 6d. in the £.

The White Paper proposals have been followed in this Bill. Clause 9 restores the undertakings concerned to the principal Act for payment and contribution purposes, and Part II makes the necessary modifications in the contribution structure of the 1943 Act and, in conjunction with the Fifth Schedule, defines the kinds of property to which they are to apply.

The rest of the Bill deals with more general matters. Some of these miscellaneous provisions make amendments to the War Damage Act, 1943, not strictly or entirely arising from the repeal of Section 70. These are included in the Bill for convenience. The only one of the provisions which has nothing to do with the main purpose of the Bill is to be found in Clause 21 which authorises the payment of interest on advance payments made under the business scheme of Part II of the principal Act. This provision is made in fulfilment of a promise given to the House by the then President of the Board of Trade, the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, on 21st October, 1946. The promise applies to early settlements made on or after that date. It will be remembered that one of the reasons for this change was the anxiety of the Government to encourage the re-equipment of industry as soon as supplies were available.

There is one other provision to which I should refer. It is contained in Clause 30. This Clause deals with the difficulties that arise where liabilities or rights are vested, either by the Bill or the principal Act, in a body whose undertaking, with its assets and obligations, had been transferred to another body before those liabilities or rights were capable of being enforced or exercised. For example, this has happened in certain cases under the recent nationalisation Acts. The provision in Clause 30 is designed primarily for the protection of persons other than the Exchequer, although I will admit that the Exchequer, quite properly, will benefit in certain cases. The general reason for it may best be illustrated by an example. Suppose that C is the owner of the fee simple in a building let on a 99 years' lease to B. Suppose that the property were rendered unfit by war damage in 1941 and, under the provisions of Section 64 of the 1943 Act, the collection of contributions was suspended. Suppose further that C's interest in the property ceased in 1947, because it was acquired by, let us say, an electricity area board when the industry was nationalised. Suppose, again, that the property is made fit in 1949. In those circumstances, as the law stands, B can collect no indemnity whatever from C, because he had not paid any contribution before 1947. In 1949, when he pays his contribution, he will not be able to collect from C, as C has ceased to exist. Clause 30 deals with this difficulty and will permit him to collect his indemnity from the Area Board which has stepped into C's shoes.

I hope that this Bill will receive a Second Reading without a Division. It is largely non-controversial and much of it has already been accepted by the parties concerned. I would pay a tribute to the friendly spirit in which the many consultations that have preceded it have been carried on. I would also pay a tribute to the ingenuity and skill of counsel who drafted the Bill. It is not often that a draftsman gets a good word in this House, but on this occasion I can safely say that it is his skill that has enabled us to bring forward a Measure to clear up one of the most intractable problems that the war has left behind. If, by the passage of this Measure, we can make a final settlement of this difficult and complex problem, I am sure that we shall have done a very good day's work.

11.48 a.m.

Mr. R. A. Butler (Saffron Walden)

I can certainly assure the right hon. Gentleman that we do not intend to vote against the Second Reading of this Bill. We shall, however, attempt to examine it in some detail in Committee, and thereby increase our knowledge of the Measure perhaps more effectively than will be possible on this occasion. I should like to associate myself with the compliments paid by the right hon. Gentleman to the draftsman. He has certainly rendered it unintelligible to me, but if he has made it intelligible to those intimately concerned, he will have done a great work. I notice that the Bill is a substitute for a Bill previously delivered, which indicates the labour and troubles which the draftsman has passed through in preparing it for our consideration. If one examines some of the wording, one will see how very difficult it is for the ordinary person to understand. If one looks, for example, at Clause 34, the interpretation Clause, one finds that Subsection 2, reads: Except where the context otherwise requires, references in this Act to the principal Act, or to any provision thereof, include respectively references to the enactments repealed by the principal Act or to the corresponding provision of the enactments thereby repealed, notwithstanding that certain provisions of the enactments thereby repealed are expressly referred to in this Act. One will see that the ordinary man has some difficulty in understanding all the references and cross-references. I have been associated with one or two complex Measures myself, notably the Government of India Act, but this Measure appears to be a very much more difficult one to understand. However, I notice a compensation. We borrow from those who originally drafted our Prayer Book, and who thereby brought into the English language some of the most beautiful examples of its prose, the following definition of a person: A 'person' includes a body of persons corporate or unincorporate. I come to the right hon. Gentleman's opening remarks about the delay. We are somewhat surprised that the Bill was not introduced earlier. When the War Damage Act was first introduced on 17th December, 1940, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir Kingsley Wood announced that there was a lacuna in the Bill. He explained that although the Bill made arrangements for advances to certain public utility undertakings where urgent works of repair were necessary, it had been impossible to incorporate them in the Bill, and he said: … we shall do our utmost, in consultation with those concerned, to expedite the presentation of our proposals to Parliament."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th December, 1940; Vol. 367, c. 1133.] Later, in Committee, in February, 1941, which is eight years ago, he said: I cannot give a specific day now, but I can tell my hon. Friend that we are doing our utmost to expedite the introduction of the Bill."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th February, 1941; Vol. 369, c. 428.] I have had a word with my right hon. Friend the Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson) and he confirms my impression that, owing to the obvious difficulties which have been referred to by the right hon. Gentleman with regard to public utilities, it was impossible to make further progress, particularly owing to the need for establishing the Schedule A assessment. The right hon. Gentleman himself referred to Command Paper 6403 with the terms of which, of course, we on this side of the House are completely familiar. He summarised some of its findings for us and indicated that it was due to the peculiar physical features of these undertakings, the need for their separate valuation, that the delay had taken place. He also referred to the negotiations which had taken place and which have resulted in the terms which are to be found in Part I of the Bill and which, as he explained, have taken place before the passage of the Measure itself.

This is not altogether a usual procedure and I request that some further explanation be given, for example, of the manner in which the sums set out in the table in Clause 2 were arrived at. If we are unable to get a further explanation from the Solicitor-General, perhaps we can get one in Committee. We welcome the fact that negotiations took place but, the negotiations having taken place before the passage of the Measure, it would be interesting to have some further idea about how these various sums were reached and whether satisfaction is felt at the manner in which the sums have been arrived at.

The right hon. Gentleman went into various other details of the Bill, and I do not propose on this occasion to follow him in great detail. As far as I understand the position, Section 40 of the War Damage Act, 1941, repeated in Section 70 of the Consolidated Act, 1943, excluded from these provisions not only public utility undertakings but also any type of undertaking rated by reference to the accounts, receipts, profits or output. The present Bill embodies a scheme for the majority of public utility undertakings and we have in Paragraph 11 0f the Memorandum, which the right hon. Gentleman divided into three different categories, the other types which are now included. He gave us in detail the legislative provisions for these various types. I wish to ask whether there are any further types of undertaking of this sort which are not included in the Bill. Paragraph 11 uses this expression: The undertakings which remain to be legislated for fall into the following categories. May we take it that all these are now covered by the Bill itself in one way or another?

Mr. Glenvil Hall

Or by the principal Act.

Mr. Butler

Of course, the object is to put some of them in the principal Act. If it is the case that they are now covered, then the right hon. Gentleman's claim that we are covering every aspect of this subject is met.

I come to the question of costs. First, before dealing with the cost to public funds, I would say that we have here the method of assessment which is to fix global sums in Clause 2 for each of the eight groups of undertakings. The principle of assessment is not, therefore, embodied in the Bill itself but has been agreed outside Parliament. I notice that the figure for the harbour group is ten per cent. The Financial Secretary drew attention to that. We consider, in view of the suffering and the difficulties undergone by the ports during the war, that that is quite legitimate differentiation between that group and the others at 27½ per cent. Coming to the question of the cost to public funds, I notice in the Memorandum that the net charge on the Consolidated Fund under Subparagraph (1) will be about £62 millions. Subparagraph (1, a) refers to: Payments by the Treasury in respect of war damage under Clause 1. Under Subparagraph (1, f): Payments by the Board of Trade of interest on early settlements under the Business Scheme … the cost up to 31st March, 1949, is about £2 million. The other sums cannot at present be estimated. Therefore, in examining this Bill, the House, and later the Committee, will have to realise that considerable sums of money are involved and that there is, to a certain extent, an unknown liability. We shall attempt to obtain from the Government, either in reply to this Debate or in Committee, some further assessment of the likely sums under Subparagraphs (1, b), (e), (g) and (h) which at present. it appears, cannot be estimated.

I notice in the printing of the Bill, although this is a corrected version, that the last sentence in the Memorandum The sums involved cannot at present be estimated. is printed right across the page. I do not know if this is an error of printing, but I assume that that sentence really only covers Subparagraph (2). If that really is the case, perhaps an explanation will be given, because at first sight it looks as if the sentence covers the whole of Paragraph 20 of the Memorandum. If it refers to Subparagraph (2), I think we get a clearer indication of the likely cost.

My next point is on the very Clause to which the right hon. Gentleman referred. Clause 30 concerns the Inclusion of certain liabilities and rights under the principal Act and this Act in transfers on nationalisation. etc. The right hon. Gentleman gave us a little picture of Messrs. B and C, the latter being the owner in fee simple of a property, and he gave us the particulars of Section 64 of the Act of 1943. He said that under this Clause, B could collect the sum of money due to him from the nationalised undertaking which had taken over the property previously owned by C. That is clear, and it means that nationalised undertakings assume the liabilities of the undertakings which were taken over by them. I want to be clear about this point. In the Interpretation Clause it is stated: nationalisation Act means any Act, whether passed before or after the passing of this Act, which embodies any scheme for the carrying on of any industry, or part of an industry, under national ownership or control: If we are to read this literally, the words "or after the passing of this Act", would presumably mean that in the case of any undertaking at present under private enterprise and taken over under nationalisation, its liabilities, it not already dealt with at the date of nationalisation, will be taken over by the nationalised concern. If we can have that assurance, it will leave no loose ends and will leave the people concerned satisfied.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

The right hon. Gentleman must remember that the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, also enters into it and makes it rather complicated, although doubtless we can clear up these points in Committee.

Mr. Butler

That is what I hoped to extract from the Government. If there are complications, I should prefer explanations of them today, but, if we cannot have full explanations today, we must pursue these points later. Reading this carefully along with the interpretation in connection with Clause 30, it would appear that the situation is comparatively simple. If it is not, and if the Town and Country Planning Act, which is not even as clear as this Bill and has caused infinite disturbance in the country, the Government should do something today to attempt to clear up how my point is met or muddied by the Town and Country Planning Act.

I have dealt with the majority of the points which I wanted to raise at the outset, and, no doubt, my right hon. Friend the Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake) will have other points to put later in this Debate. Meanwhile, I should like to thank the Government for Clause 31, which implements the undertaking given by the President of the Board of Trade in 1946, and I should like to say that those authorities with whom we have been able to be in touch do not seem to have had, up to this date, sufficient time in which to put forward all the points which strike them in connection with this Bill. No doubt, they will have other points to put, and, indeed, some of them are anxious about the calls upon them and the utilities under their control in a Bill of this character. These must be left for the Committee stage, and I have no further observations to make on Second Reading.

12.3 p.m.

Mr. Berry (Woolwich, West)

This Bill is another example of the fact that if one waits long enough, one gets what one wants. I remember the time to which the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Butler) has referred, and I think my predecessor in the representation of West Woolwich was rather more optimistic than was usual for him. As a matter of fact, although I was on the opposite side to the Government, when we came to go into this matter we discovered how complex a problem it was. For instance, in one type of utility there was a difficulty of determining what was the correct method of assessment in the cases of those water undertakings which got their water from upland sources and those which got it from rivers and streams, the former being gravitational and the other pumping. I introduce that as an illustration of the difficulty which was experienced in these negotiations, not only in regard to that kind of utility, but in connection with other utilities.

This Bill is an example of the triumph of common sense in practical politics, and I think there has been a general contribution to it by all parties. I think that both this Government and the previous Government, which also had a shot at the matter, together with the Civil Service and the undertakings themselves, are to be congratulated on the solution which has been reached—although I agree that there are a number of points which will have to be discussed in Committee—for what at one time appeared to be the most difficult problem, almost defying solution.

I am very glad that common sense has prevailed. The Bill calls attention to the tremendous contribution made by the public utilities to the war effort. Our public utility services, our docks and harbours, gas, water, electricity, and that kind of thing, are all too often taken for granted, but these things ought not to be taken for granted. Some of us have all too painful knowledge of what happened when the enemy knocked some of them out during the war. I am hoping that the figures given by the Financial Secretary will bring home to hon. Members and the people of the country the tremendous contribution which our public utilities made in connection with the war effort. Without that contribution, it would have been almost impossible to carry that war effort to a successful conclusion. Had our country been lacking essential supplies, we should have been in a very difficult situation indeed.

In connection with the combined gas and water undertakings, when, on the vesting date of 1st May, the gas undertakings are taken over by the Gas Board, I hope arrangements will be made whereby a fair burden will be borne by the nationalised undertaking, instead of throwing a heavy part of that burden on the water undertakings, to be passed on to the consumers. There is one other matter I should like to mention. There are some water undertakings in the country which supply water only or mainly in bulk, and I am hoping that these will be regarded as coming under the same heading as ordinary water undertakings, because if they are omitted certain difficulties will be created. One outstanding example of this type of case is the Derwent Valley Water Board.

In welcoming this Bill as almost the final stage of a very difficult problem. I congratulate all those concerned in introducing it, and I hope that, while there may be Amendments in Committee, the Bill will speedily reach the Statute Book and end a very long and difficult chapter of patient and successful negotiation.

12.8 p.m.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd (Wirral)

I agree with the remarks of the hon. Member for West Woolwich (Mr. Berry) about the contribution which was made by our public utilities to the war effort. I represent a Merseyside constituency, and I know of the tremendous work done in order to keep the port going in very difficult circumstances, and those efforts reflected the very greatest credit on all concerned.

With regard to the Bill, I must confess that I regard it as a very frightening Measure. I am not sure whether one ought to read the Bill for a long or a short time, because the longer one looks at it the more complicated its provisions appear to be. My purpose in intervening is only to ask a few commonsense questions, but if the answers to my questions are already contained within the provisions of the Bill, I apologise for taking the time of the House.

I take it that this sum of £91 million to which the Financial Secretary referred is the sum to be dispersed. I should like to ask if any payments have already been made on account, or whether there will be additional payments to be made beyond the figure of £91 million? What is the future liability, or the amount which will have to be dispersed? Following upon that question is the question of contributions, and I think the right hon. Gentleman referred to a sum between £20 million and £30 million as the amount that would have to be produced by way of contributions. Has any part of that sum been contributed, or is it to be levied in the future?

With regard to the claims, may I also ask the Solicitor-General whether these have been finally assessed or not, whether the sum provided for is a final sum, whether all claims have been put in, or whether there is any opportunity or any provision made for reopening any of these matters? Of course, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman is aware, there is very wide dissatisfaction in the other branch of war damage payments at the finality imposed upon claims. It appears to me that damage suffered by certain public utilities may not become apparent. Therefore, I should like to know up to what date claims may be put in, and whether their assessment has been finally made.

Is the principle on which this average contribution of 27½ per cent. has been based the result of complicated negotiations, or has it been fixed on an actuarial basis, or what? I quite agree, of course, that harbour undertakings deserve and should have a preferential rate, but I am wondering why exactly the same contribution has been laid down for the other seven groups. I take it that the right hon. Gentleman the Financial Secretary, in answer to my right hon. Friend's point, did say quite definitely that every type of public utility undertaking is now covered, and that every type of property damage is covered either by this Bill or the principal Act.

Finally, I should like to ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman one question with regard to the Fourth Schedule. It seems to me that that Schedule is striking testimony to the unfortunate effect of the long delay which has taken place. As the right hon. and learned Gentleman is no doubt aware, the Fourth Schedule deals with the provisions for the recovery from landlords, mortgagees, tenants, and others, of their proportion of the contribution. I wonder whether he could say a general word in explanation of that Schedule, as to how he thinks, in practice, it is going to work out. Certain misgivings will be aroused in the minds of some people if they feel that there is going to be a sort of retrospective or retroactive claim. I should like the right hon. and learned Gentleman to explain the effect of that Schedule and the extent to which it means that demands will be made on people who may well think that they are not going to be subject to any liability. I apologise for asking these questions at such short notice, and hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will be able to give me some answers upon them.

12.14 p.m.

Mr. Erroll (Altrincham and Sale)

I rise with some trepidation to speak on the Bill because it is a complicated Measure, but principally because my background of knowledge of the subject is so slight. However, as it raises some important matters which citizens like myself may well question, I think it is only right that the point of view of the ordinary person should have the attention of Ministers.

I am sure that this Measure was conceived in no party spirit but in a genuine and conciliatory attempt to do the best in a series of rather difficult circumstances. Nevertheless, on reading the Bill one cannot but notice the unreality of large parts of it because, of course, so many of the undertakings referred to, have been nationalised in the meantime. One cannot help wondering whether the Bill is really worth the trouble. As the Government control the undertakings, why not just issue a direction which will wipe out the whole matter without so much legal complication? For example, in the First Schedule, which defines the various groups of undertakings, of the first seven, four, if not five, are already nationalised. It is not until one comes down to water and sewerage that one sees any private or municipal enterprise concerned except, possibly, with regard to certain harbours.

I cannot help wondering why it is that these payments or contributions are to be regarded as chargeable to capital account. I should have thought that contributions of this sort were essentially chargeable to revenue account; but, of course, if they were, it would go on the deficit side of the nationalised undertaking. I should like to be reassured and have my suspicion removed on this point. It seems to me that since so much play is being made with the losses which nationalised undertakings are incurring, the Government are very anxious to reduce the number of payments that must be put against revenue account. To say that in all cases they will be charged to capital account is a very convenient device for keeping the revenue account clear of such embarrassment.

I appreciate that in the case of some of the electricity undertakings, large sums of money were, in fact, due to the undertakings. That raises a point of some complexity and interest, particularly to those hon. Members on both sides of the House who are Members of the Standing Committee on the Iron and Steel Bill. In that Committee we are at present engaged in a discussion on the equity and justice of using Stock Exchange values as a basis of compensation for shareholders in the steel industry. That basis was used for the compensation of shareholders in the electricity supply undertakings, and I shall be glad if the Financial Secretary can indicate in what way Stock Exchange values were able to reflect the expectation of repayments under this Bill to electricity supply undertakings before they were nationalised. I hope he can do that, because we have been told at such length upstairs that the Stock Exchange price very accurately reflects all the hopes and fears and possibilities of returns to come at unspecified dates in the future. Perhaps the Financial Secretary can tell us what was his estimate of the enhancement of the value of electricity stocks by the prospect of the repayment envisaged under this Bill.

I am particularly interested in the payment to be made by the National Coal Board. As a layman, it strikes me—and I shall be very glad to be corrected if I am wrong—as being very small when one considers the number of mining properties in the country. It may be that there is some specially narrow definition of mining property which has escaped my attention, but I should have thought that mineral properties, coalmining properties all over the country, represented a very big and vulnerable target, and one peculiarly liable to bomb damage. I imagine that ancillary undertakings, such as batteries of coke ovens, would not be included, although many pitheads are adjacent to coke ovens, steel plants, and, in many cases, ports, and therefore close to obvious targets of enemy air attack.

I cannot understand, therefore, why the contribution to be made should only be £125,000. It is specially indicated in the Bill that the contribution is to be regarded as a capital expense and not a charge on revenue. I do not like that at all, and I am suspicious, but I am very anxious to be reassured because I should not like it even to appear to have been the Government's intention to adjust the Coal Board's finances in such a way. Of course, it would not be fair to compare that figure of £125,000 directly with the figures given in the table on page 5 of the Bill. The figures in that table are gross amounts, and the undertakings listed only have to pay a percentage of the amount—27½1 per cent. in most cases, with the exception of the harbour group. Even so, taking the £125,000 as the actual contribution of the Coal Board, and grossing it up, it means that the Coal Board is only liable for a gross payment of about £550,000, which, curiously enough, is only about one-fifth of the gross liability of the sewage undertakings of this country.

Are sewage farms really so very vulnerable that their assessment must be so high? In most cases they are situated well outside the boundaries of a town, well away from other undertakings or property because of the very nature of the undertakings. I cannot see why sewage undertakings should be assessed so highly and Coal Board undertakings at such a low rate. That is where my suspicions are once again aroused, because sewage undertakings are among the very few in the First Schedule which have not been nationalised. Sewage undertakings are probably owned more by small units of local government than any other type of public utility under-taking, with the possible exception of water undertakings. It is in sewage undertakings that the Government have been so active, because—and this is one of the points on which I have a quarrel with the Government—they have not waited even for the Second Reading of this Bill before presenting some of their demands for payments under it.

I am all for getting a move on and getting the preparatory work done, particularly after all the delay there has been in presenting this Bill. On the other hand, I think it is discourteous to this House for a Government Department to issue demands for payments under a Bill which has not even had its Second Reading. By all means send an advance note to the local authority saying "From a preliminary investigation, and provided the Bill goes through Parliament as we expect, it appears that a payment will be due." By all means phrase it like that; I can see no harm in such a method of approach, but just to write to a small local authority and say, "So much money is due from you under this Bill" before the Bill has had its Second Reading, I regard as scant courtesy to this House and a matter of embarrassment and difficulty to the local authorities concerned.

I speak with some feeling in this matter because I have the honour to represent the borough of Sale as part of my constituency. They have a sewage disposal undertaking. The council read a statement on 14th December requesting payment of a net contribution in respect of the undertaking amounting to no less than £742. That is a very big sum to be asked to pay, years after the war is over, and I understand that it created a good deal of resentment in the council. They themselves do not accept the liability. They protested vigorously. Incidentally, they are a Conservative Council. They said, "Why should we pay? We do not know why we should pay. We do not even know about this Bill; the Bill has not even had its Second Reading." I think it had barely been presented to this House. They are still of the opinion that their contribution should, in fact, be borne by the Exchequer.

While I know that the whole subject of the Bill has been a matter of close consultation and agreement with the bodies interested, I think the Council have a very fair claim to be considered for total exclusion from contributory payments, particularly in view of the passage of time which has elapsed, and because they, like others, are a small authority and the sewage undertakings are in my opinion grossly over-assessed in the table.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

indicated dissent.

Mr. Erroll

The Financial Secretary shakes his head; I am sorry that he should have ruled out that possibility so quickly. I am sure he will appreciate that non-county boroughs—the little ones like Sale—feel today that they are little more than tax collectors for bigger authorities and bigger undertakings. The Sale council has made a big effort to keep down its rates, and it grudges very much having to pay £742 now, so many years after the war, and without even the authority of an Act of Parliament to enforce it. I hope the receiving authority will not object to a delay in the payment until the Bill has become an Act. I think that is the least that can be granted to them.

For the rest of the Bill, I must confess there is little with which I can find fault. It is a complicated Measure, and I am sure that in Committee when we have all had a little more time to study the Bill—though on the question of whether or not that is a good thing I shall have to consult with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd)—we shall be able to raise points of detail which may require further elucidation.

12.26 p.m.

Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)

I should like some explanation of Clause 15, and to follow up the point which has just been made by the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Erroll). I want to know why the Coal Board is to be called upon to pay £125,000 in respect of war damage to public utility undertakings. We thought that this was wiped out when we paid the £164,000,000 to the coalowners, but now we are finding that the Coal Board, which had no responsibility at all during the war, will have to pay £125,000. I maintain that far from being too small, this is far too large a sum and it will be saddled on the coalmining industry. When the accounts of the Coal Board are presented, hon. Members will say, "Look at the losses which have been made by this nationalised industry." I do not see that the National Coal Board should be called upon to pay £125,000 for obligations which were incurred before the Measure nationalising the mines was put on the Statute Book.

The Coal Board has far more important liabilities to meet, and I suggest that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, instead of saying, "The coalmining industry is a prosperous industry. Think of a figure, double it; we can easily get £125,000 from the coal industry because of the profits it is making," ought to remember that there are other claims to be made on these profits when the time comes. I fail to see why the coalmining industry should have to pay £125,000, even if it is made capital expenditure and spread over a period of years. I ask the Financial Secretary to say how this contribution from the coal industry, a good deal of which will come out of the miners' wages, compares with contributions demanded from other industries.

How is this lump sum of £125,000 arrived at? It may seem a small sum compared with the total expenditure of the Coal Board, but all these sums mount up and they appear on the balance sheet, and when the time comes we are told, "We simply cannot afford to give miners concessions like holidays with pay and that sort of thing." Why cannot this £125,000 be put on the whisky industry? The argument that the property of the Coal Board is just as vulnerable as any other industry was far fetched. A great part of the assets of the Coal Board are underneath the ground, safe from bombing at all. The Financial Secretary should look somewhere else for this £125,000. Only last week £20 million was over-subscribed to the whisky industry, and I suggest the Financial Secretary takes the £125,000 from whisky and not from coal.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

Perhaps I may answer my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) by telling him that this £125,000 was agreed in 1943 with the Coal Commission to which, of course, the National Coal Board is the successor.

12.31 p.m.

The Solicitor-General (Sir Frank Soskice)

May I apologise, Sir, for not being in my place at the time when you were so good as to be ready to call me. I was imbibing spiritual nourishment from a very fertile source.

The Bill which the House is discussing has already been described as primarily a Bill suitable for further investigation in Committee. Not only that, but it is also possible that incautious answers not happily phrased and made in the course of the Second Reading Debate, might give rise to misunderstandings which would not occur in the course of the more minute discussions which take place in Committee. Therefore such answers as give will be given subject to that reserve and that qualification; deliberately, they will be general in character and in scope, in order not to lead to any misunderstandings due to any language I may use.

The basic feature of the Bill, as my right hon. Friend pointed out, is this. It all starts from the circumstance that Section 70 of the War Damage Act, 1943, excluded certain undertakings from the purview of that Act. My right hon. Friend has read out from the Command Paper which was issued in 1942 a passage indicating some of the difficulties of integrating the undertakings referred to in Section 70 of the 1943 Act into its general context and fitting them into the contribution and payment arrangements envisaged under that Act. It was then thought that it would have been difficult, indeed extremely difficult, to treat those undertakings in the same way as other undertakings and individual concerns with which the 1943 Act dealt.

Public utility undertakings and other undertakings specified in Section 70 of that Act possess certain features. They may have a distribution system running through a number of different areas and in most circumstances it was impossible, or so it appeared at that time, to treat them as part of the network of the payment and contributions system set up by that Act. They were, therefore, left out and the object of this Bill is to deal with them. It has taken a long time to work out a scheme appropriate to them, but I believe hon. Members on all sides appreciate that that was unavoidable.

As a result, the group system has been devised. As the House knows, the undertakings left out by Section 70 were public utility undertakings, as defined in that Section—the definition being very extensive in scope—and undertakings which were assessed not by reference to rateable value but in terms of their accounts, output and profits. Those two general types of undertakings were found to be impossible of assimilation within the general scope of that Act. What we did was this: we took, first, the public utility undertakings referred to in Section 70 and in respect of them we devised this group system. That accounts for a large number of the excepted undertakings in Section 70, but it does not account even for all public undertakings excepted by that Section. We take, therefore, most of the public undertakings and bring them within this grouping system.

The other public undertakings which are within the scope of Section 70 we put back into the Act of 1943, where necessary making Amendments in the provisions of that Act with regard to the collection of contributions. We also put back within the 1943 Act the other type of undertaking which was excepted by Section 70. By "the other type" I refer to the undertakings assessed by reference to their accounts and output. Thus we devise the group system for most of the excepted public undertakings and the rest we put back in the 1943 Act, making Amendments where necessary in the contribution provisions of the Act. They are not necessary in the case of drainage authorities, but they are necessary to a greater or lesser extent in the case of all the others and the modifications are contained in Part II of the present Bill.

Mr. R. A. Butler

Before he leaves the point would the right hon. and learned Gentleman tell us why they are not necessary in the case of drainage undertakings?

The Solicitor-General

Because the particular physical characteristics and general circumstances of the drainage undertakings, which we can examine in rather more detail in Committee, do not render it impossible to integrate them into the then existing system for the assessment of contribution. Other undertakings, partly because they sprawl or for other reasons, cannot be included in the same way.

Mr. Butler

How do drainage under-takings differ from sewage undertakings?

The Solicitor-General

There are differences, but it would take a considerable time to investigate all those differences in the course of a Second Reading speech, especially in view of the fact that there are other points I want to answer before I come to the end of what I was about to say.

With that general reply, and with the promise that we can look into the position when it is minutely set out and submitted to discussion in Committee, perhaps I may deal with some of the general matters of principle which were raised. The delay was to some extent due, as has been pointed out, to the fact that for the purpose of setting up this group system, very exhaustive consultations and discussions took place with a view to assessing, first, the global figure and then the percentage which the contribution should bear, in the case of the public utility undertakings, in relation to that figure. I have been asked how they were assessed. The 27½ per cent. was assessed in relation to the £91 million by a comparison between the payments made in the 1943 Act, in respect of all recipients' payments other than those excepted by Section 70, and the contributions made by those recipients, or rather by the contributors because they were not all recipients of payments. By a comparison of those two amounts the conclusion was reached that the appropriate percentage, when one was working out a group system and dividing them into eight groups, was, as I have said, 27½ per cent. in the case of all the public utility undertakings, except in the case of harbour undertakings in which, because of the special reason that they suffered particularly heavily in the course of the war, the lesser figure of 10 per cent. was thought to be appropriate.

That brings me to the point as to why these should be regarded as capital outgoings. Now, 27½ per cent. is the amount of the contribution. That means to say that the State has to pay 72½ per cent., which is an amount in excess of the amount originally contemplated as the likely proportion. I can assure the House that this has nothing whatever to do with any nationalisation Measures; nor is it any attempt to reduce the expenses which will fall on the nationalised undertakings. Nevertheless, it is practically necessary to say that when the State was bearing this very large percentage of this heavy figure of loss and damage we could not take the contributions we had assessed—27½ per cent. and 10 per cent. respectively—and further whittle them down by allowing them to be treated as revenue outgoings for purposes of assessing tax, thereby reducing them by a further 9s. in the pound or whatever the appropriate figure would be. If that had been done it would have been necessary to assess them at a higher figure than 27½ per cent.

As appears from the Financial Memorandum in respect of Part I public utility undertakings, the allowance made for contributions to be received is a very substantial figure. The practical necessities of the case, quite independently of any indirect motive such as was attributed to us by an hon. Gentleman opposite, require that these payments should be received free of deduction or tax, and should accordingly be treated as capital outgoings for the purpose of their ranking as contributions in settlement of this assessed percentage of 27½. That is the reason why it is thought necessary not to allow them to be treated as revenue outgoings.

Questions were asked whether all undertakings were now included, and whether all claims had now been received. I can say that all undertakings are now either within the 1943 Act or dealt with under the group system provided for in this Bill. That, I think, follows as a matter of necessary conclusion, because what happened was this: We had the 1943 Act, which provided a comprehensive system of payment of contributions covering everybody, subject to this, that it excepted under Section 70 of the Act certain undertakings, the ones to which I have referred. We have taken some of these excepted undertakings and provided for them by the group system, and the rest we have put back under the 1943 Act, making such amendments as necessary for the purpose of contribution under the provision of that Act. So under the 1943 Act or under this Bill all undertakings must be covered.

With regard to claims, I am in a position to tell the House that claims were submitted—and I am talking about claims submitted right up to due date—by all these undertakings. So far as we know—and I speak subject to correction—there can be no claims other than those that have been submitted. The amounts of the claims have been fully examined by the Departments, and the amounts which the Departments have provisionally determined upon as appropriate to be allocated in respect of the claims have been accepted by the undertakings themselves. I say that subject to the qualification that there are a very few undertakings which are still discussing certain principles applicable to the allocation of payments to them. The basic amounts upon the basis of the allocations made are not in dispute. Generally speaking, it can provisionally be said that the undertakings are all satisfied with very few exceptions, in the case of which there is still discussion going on.

Mr. R. A. Butler

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman mean that in the table on page 5 there are still certain undertakings who have not agreed these figures?

The Solicitor-General

I speak subject to correction, but I think that I can answer the question accurately in this way. The total figure nobody disputes, but then comes the question of breaking it down and apportioning it to undertakings. The negotiating committees have been at work on that and have tried to apportion between the undertakings in the various groups the components of the basic figure. All the undertakings, with a few exceptions, comprised in these groups are content with the figures which have been provisionally allocated as being appropriate in their particular case.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

I think that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has dealt with the question of claims, and has said that there are no further claims to come in. If further claims do come in, is there any machinery for dealing with them?

The Solicitor-General

I am told that the position is that there is no further machinery, but it has been agreed that up to the date of the introduction of this Bill or other due date all claims—and I want to make quite sure I am right about this—have been submitted and investigated.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

Was notification given to the public utility undertakings on this point? Were they given a final date?

The Solicitor-General

The claims have actually been agreed with the interests concerned. The actual people concerned have been in the discussions and have all agreed, subject to these few exceptions which I have indicated, and I am told that there are only very few exceptions. Broadly speaking, therefore, everybody is in, and with very few exceptions every body has agreed the appropriate amounts.

I want to deal with one or two matters of detail. The hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Erroll) complained that demands for payment had been made on the local authorities carrying on public utility undertaking in advance of this Bill. I have inquired since he made that observation, and I am assured that the following is the position. Notification only was sent out to the local authorities of the amounts that they would provisionally be called upon to pay in due course as a result of the allocations being made in respect of claims and in respect of contributions. It is not accurate, so I am informed, to say that there have been any notices sent out calling for payment. They are really provisional announcements of the amounts which in due course will require to be paid, but they are not present demands for payment. I understand from the hon. Gentleman that he thought that was "not an improper proceeding." Those are the actual words which I think he used when he said that he thought that would be perfectly proper. That is what I am told was in fact done.

Mr. Butler

If an undertaking has not agreed to payment within a group and yet receives a demand for its contribution, what machinery is there in this Bill to regulate this matter before we pass the Bill through Parliament?

The Solicitor-General

The Bill itself contains no specific machinery for that purpose. The Treasury are given certain powers with regard to finally fixing the amount. In the meantime, if there are still local authorities or other public utility undertakings—and as I have said there are very few indeed—who have not finally accepted the amount which it is proposed to apportion to them, then discussion can go on and one hopes that they can finally agree. I am told that this is in a very small compass. They have practically all agreed, and it is hoped that it will be possible for all of them to agree in the near future. The Bill does not in terms contain machinery to deal with that matter, except that it enables the Treasury to make provision under the general terms of the allocation set out in Clause 2 of the Bill.

A point was made on the question of nationalisation, and, in particular, concerning Clause 30 of the Bill. I think that the question was asked on a slight misconception of the purpose of Clause 30. The purpose of this Clause is, in particular, to preclude a rather anomalous operation, for example, of Section 64 of the 1943 Act. The effect of that Section is, if I may put it shortly, that contributions are not to be paid and cannot be exacted until the land is fit as described in that Section—generally speaking, fit for other user. An hon. Member gave an example of a case where a right to receive a payment had accrued, but the obligation to make the appropriate contribution had not yet arrived because the land could not be said to be fit, and, in consequence, under section 64, the appropriate contribution could not be yet exacted. In those circumstances, in the terms of Clause 30 of this Bill, it could be said that the right to the contribution had not yet accrued—"accrued" being the word.

Suppose the undertaking that was under an obligation to pay that contribution, or rather which would in due course, when the land became fit, be under an obligation to pay that contribution, went out of existence because it became nationalised. In such a case there would be no right of indemnity in respect of any portion of that contribution; it would be a right which had not, in the terms of Clause 30, yet accrued. Therefore, it would just vanish when the undertaking itself ceased to exist under the terms of a nationalisation measure, or in any other circumstances; it is not only limited to nationalisation measures and similar processes bringing an undertaking to an end. The only object of Clause 30 is really to put an end to a rather anomalous proceeding which on some occasions may be brought about by a Section such as Section 64 of the 1943 Act.

One could go on dealing with a wide variety of points, which really would take a considerable time, but which I earnestly submit it would be much more appropriate to deal with in Committee, particularly, for example, the Fourth Schedule. The Fourth Schedule is most elaborate, providing for the apportionment as between landlords and tenants, mortgagors and mortgagees, of the incidence of contribution; it undoubtedly does have certain retrospective effect. If I now proceeded to endeavour to expound it in detail, it being an extremely complicated Schedule, I feel that my speech, which is already rather elongated, would be prolonged quite unduly. I would ask the House to defer fuller consideration of that Schedule until we reach the Committee stage.

What we have tried to do is to clear up this outstanding problem. This subject has been, I will not say hanging about, but has been, of necessity, a matter of prolonged and anxious consideration, as is betokened by the fact that a previous Bill had to go through 16 drafts. We have done this in a way which we hope the House will agree—and I rather understood from hon. Members opposite that they do agree—is on the whole workmanlike. The Bill may have to be altered and improved as we examine it further in Committee, but it has the effect of bringing back undertakings that were excluded. It brings them back partly into the group system and partly into the 1943 Act, subject to certain amendments of detail in the application of its contribution proceedings. I hope that the House will feel sufficiently acquainted with its provisions to be able to say that it should have a Second Reading today, thereby merely adopting its general principle and not giving final approval to all its particular details. I therefore commend it to the House on its Second Reading.

Mr. Erroll

I should be very grateful if, before the Solicitor-General concludes, he will clear up the very substantial point about the size of the contribution to be made by the National Coal Board, because it is so much smaller, even when grossed up, than that to be paid by the sewage undertakings. I cannot believe that sewage undertakings are more vulnerable than all the coalmines in this country. As I suggested, it looks like bias, which I am sure is not there, and it is very desirable to have that point cleared up as soon as possible and not to leave the allegation unanswered. It was an allegation which I made with trepidation, because I felt that there was a satisfactory answer.

Mr. Assheton (City of London)

Before answering that, would the right hon. and learned Gentleman be so good as to tell us the aggregate of the gross amounts of payments in respect of mineral properties? That is, of course, very relevant to this particular point.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

I hope that before replying to that question my right hon. and learned Friend will bear in mind the point I made: that the Coal Board is being asked to pay too much. The £125,000 should be a liability against the coalowners, who have already had £164,000,000. The bill which is now being paid by the State ought to have been paid by the coalowners.

The Solicitor-General

There are obviously conflicting points of view. The hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Erroll) thinks it is too little and my hon. Friend thinks it is too much. All I can say is that the figure of £125,000 was arrived at as a result of negotiation and as a result of balancing out all the conflicting factors which were thought to exist in the case of each particular undertaking. The fact that there is such a sharp conflict of views between the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale and my hon. Friend might, I should have thought, be taken as some indication of the balancing views, and an indication that we had arrived at something which could be said to be a reasonable medium. I should say, therefore, that the amount attributed has been the result of the weighing up of conflicting considerations, and this has been the figure fixed upon.

Mr. Assheton

Would the learned Solicitor-General answer my question about mineral properties?

The Solicitor-General

To be quite honest, I have not the figure at my fingers' ends, but I can get it, and will give it willingly. I see from the shakes of the head of the Departmental officials that it is not readily and immediately available. I am sorry that I cannot answer the right hon. Gentleman's question.

Mr. R. A. Butler

Could the right hon. and learned Gentleman answer the point made by my hon. Friend about the relationship of this £125,000 net to the gross figure on page 5? That is causing us some confusion.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

The House has apparently forgotten that there is a history to this, and perhaps if I remind hon. Members they will recollect that when the nationalisation of the coal industry was being considered in the House, this and other questions were discussed. On more than one occasion there was quite a long discussion on what should be done about the liability for contributions of colliery owners for war damage. Most hon. Members will probably remember, when I call the matter to mind, that it was agreed that in order to prevent a great deal of work by the colliery owners and concerns, the whole thing should be wiped out, and that the Coal Board should pay part of the contribution.

In 1943 the Coal Commission came to an arrangement that the sum of £125,000—a global sum—should be paid over in full satisfaction of any contributions that might be due from them. When the National Coal Board was formed it took over the liability, together with such funds as had been earmarked and set aside for this liability. That is why in this Bill that undertaking and arrangement has been implemented. The money will, of course, be a capital sum, but I think I can say to my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) that that money has been passed over by the Coal Commission to the National Coal Board for this particular purpose.

Mr. Assheton

I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will not think that we are pressing him too hard if we ask him to tell us the aggregate of the gross amounts of payments made in respect of colliery undertakings and other mineral undertakings. He knows the figure, because it must have been agreed. What we want is the benefit of that information.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

Coal does not enter into the table on page 5, to which reference has been made. It does not enter it at all. That is the point I am trying to make. It comes into the Bill, because within the four corners of the Bill we desire to make provision for the undertaking which was given, and which goes back to at any rate 1943.

Mr. Assheton

I quite agree, but if we are asked to agree to this sum of £125,000 being accepted in settlement from the National Coal Board, we want to know what was paid out of the Exchequer in respect of the damage done to those undertakings?

Mr. Butler

I understood that the Solicitor-General had come back refreshed with some opinion which was not in his mind earlier, and it would be a great pity to give this Bill a Second Reading without the benefit of the advice which he has had from his source of refreshment.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

I have not, as the House must be well aware, the actual figures as to what is or will be paid out to the coal mining industry by way of payments for war damage, but the claims will be treated as though they were war damage claims and will go in property by property. I am sorry that I have not all these particulars available, but it is impossible to carry all these figures in one's head. When I came here I did not think this matter would be raised, so that I have not the necessary advice with me. When we are dealing with this part of the Bill in Committee, we shall take steps to see that we are armed with all the relevant information and if, as I think is not likely, we then have the total which has been expended and paid under this head, we shall certainly give it to the Committee.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

The right hon. Gentleman used the phrase "the claims will go in property by property." I understood that all the claims had been received and assessed.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Milner)

This Debate must be carried on a little more regularly. It is usual when hon. or right hon. Members rise to address the House for the second time that they ask leave to do so.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

By leave of the House, I should like to say that if the hon. and learned Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) had that impression from what I said, I regret that I did not make myself plain. We are dealing here with two separate things. In the reply that I made earlier I was dealing with public utility undertakings, and collieries do not come in under that, but are dealt with separately. They only come in under Clause 15 under which Parliamentary sanction is required for the contribution of £125,000. This dates back to 1943 when the arrangements were made with the Coal Commission.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.