HC Deb 03 June 1957 vol 571 cc980-1013
Mr. Woodburn

I beg to move, in page 13, line 27, to leave out "or if" and to insert "and".

This appears to be a drafting Amendment and, in some ways, it ought to have been a drafting Amendment. We had hoped that the Government would have introduced a similar Amendment after having agreed, at the end of a long debate in Committee, which was really a considerable waste of time, that there was a redundancy in the Clause and that there was a duplication, because the greater powers in the second part obviously included the lesser powers in the beginning. We thought that the Government would introduce an Amendment to make the matter simpler and clearer and to state exactly what were the Secretary of State's powers.

If the Secretary of State is "of opinion" that an investigation should be made, that provision is bound to cover any other kind of case. If somebody sends a complaint to him, presumably he forms his opinion from the complaint. It seems unnecessary to clutter the Bill with unnecessary words. The Solicitor-General resisted this in Committee as though it would make a substantial alteration to the Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) moved the Amendment in Committee with much courtesy and said that he wanted only an assurance that the draftsmen and the Solicitor-General would look into the matter. The Solicitor-General developed such heat about it that one would have thought my hon. Friend was suggesting that the Government should give more money to local authorities. In fact, it was merely a simple change in the Bill.

The hon. and learned Gentleman may not be aware that, at a later stage, when the point was specifically put to the Lord Advocate as to whether the greater powers in the second part of the Clause do not include the smaller powers at the beginning, the Lord Advocate said that he thought there was a point in that. Since the Lord Advocate thought there was a point in it, we thought there was point in the matter being reconsidered, and we shall be glad to hear from the Solicitor-General for Scotland that, even if he is not prepared to accept the Amendment as it is drafted at the moment, he will be prepared to look at this Clause again, and if necessary to put the wording right in another place.

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

I am sorry I cannot be more forthcoming to the right hon. Gentleman, but we have looked at this with considerable care. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, it follows a standard form. I do not say that a standard form is necessarily always right, but there are two different possibilities. One is that the Secretary of State should receive complaint, and the other is that the Secretary of State should, through administrative information or the like, form his own judgment whether an inquiry is necessary. I do not think it would make a great difference, but I believe that it is better to leave the Clause as it stands.

Mr. Ross

The explanation which we have had of the Government's refusal to accept the Amendment is far from satis- factory, and certainly not very full. I am deeply disappointed, after the long discussion which we had in Committee, and having eventually brought the Government to the position in which they were prepared to look at this matter. This is a matter of common sense, and I am surprised that the Solicitor-General for Scotland is so obdurate.

I am not able to believe that he is responsible for this decision. It must be the silent Secretary of State himself. The right hon. Gentleman will not leave that Bench, because he is terrified that if he does so somebody will give something away. This Clause is a very important one, and this subsection is the one that might start in train a movement which might lead to the suspension of the powers of local authorities.

The first step is an inquiry, and that inquiry follows what? It follows upon a complaint being made to the Secretary of state that any local or public authority have failed to do properly anything which they are required to do by any overspill agreement or town development scheme, I think that that is reasonable. It is reasonable that, if there are complaints, there should be an inquiry, but the words which we find offensive are the words: or if the Secretary of State is of opinion". Surely it would have been quite sufficient to have left it to the Secretary of State, having received a complaint, then to have made up his mind whether or not it was desirable that there should be an inquiry?

We can hardly think of what is to happen under an overspill agreement without reference to the concern of Glasgow and the receiving authority about the carrying out of that agreement, if something that should happen fails to happen, and the Secretary of State, who had originally approved the scheme, being eventually informed of the failure to get adequate co-operation, it is then surely up to the Secretary of State to take action. By leaving in the words or if the Secretary of State is of opinion we are giving an independent power to the Secretary of State which we feel is not justified.

I do not know whether we are to have in future a psychic Secretary of State who will suddenly appreciate that something is wrong somewhere, even though he does not know about it and has received no complaint, but who suddenly discovers that something has gone wrong, and that there should be an inquiry. That is what it means. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) was not with us in the Scottish Grand Committee between 1945 and 1952, because in those days we used to hear speech after speech by hon. Gentlemen opposite, and I quoted one during the Committee stage by the Secretary of State for Scotland. It is all very relevant to this matter, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

I fail to see the relevance of this matter. What happened in the Scottish Grand Committee in 1945 does not seem to me to have any possible connection with this Amendment.

Mr. Ross

We had a Bill then dealing with the powers of local authorities and the right of the central Government to interfere with local authorities, and I should have thought that as we are dealing here with the right of the Secretary of State to interfere with the local authorities, that also was relevant, but I will very gladly be corrected if I am wrong.

We have on record a speech by the Secretary of State for Scotland complaining of the interference of the central authority with local government. The right hon. Gentleman was sitting on the back benches in these days. He was not then referring to the incumbent of the office at that time, but to the fact that in future somebody like Huey Long might be riding roughshod over the local authorities. The right hon. Gentleman, who was warning us about this at that time, is now the Secretary of State for Scotland, and is now insisting on taking power to interfere with local authorities, despite the fact that he has had no complaints. I should have thought that that was relevant to the matter.

We are concerned that the Secretary of State, who was such an advocate of purity in the actions of local authorities, and who was so righteously and stoutly defending the interests of local authorities, should himself not only seek these powers, but, having done so, should insist that these powers must be maintained. I confess myself quite defeated by the attitude of the Government in this respect, because I cannot see what they have to lose by accepting the Amendment.

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

We might lose this—or a future Government might lose it. The Secretary of State is responsible for the payment of certain subsidies at a higher rate than normal in respect of overspill. At an early stage, when he is paying that grant—it is rather on the development schemes, on which he is paying town development grant—if he feels that this payment which he is making is being inflated by reason of the fact that the work is not being properly carried out, he has the duty to this House and to the country to find out what has gone wrong.

Mr. Ross

But he already has that power without this Clause. This is an additional power. The Solicitor-General for Scotland knows quite well that it is dealt with in the Clause in relation to the functions of the Secretary of State, who has all the powers in the world to suspend, to reduce, or to do whatever he likes in regard to local authorities in respect of the financing of approved houses.

We have had this over and over again. There are the terrified men who are afraid to leave the local authorities to carry on with their own work, and who insist in every case on taking into their own hands more and more power to cover themselves up and to make quite sure that there is no little escape Clause by which some little local authority may be able to assert itself in some way. I cannot understand the Secretary of State, who has made speeches on this subject, and whose party has made speeches of the same kind in the past and no doubt will be making them again in future.

At Edinburgh last week, they talked about the local authorities and how determined they are to give them a job and leave them alone to do it. But they take this power, which is additional to all the other powers they have got, and not only will they have an inquiry after receiving complaints, but even without receiving any complaints at all. That cannot be justified in this context.

When we consider, further, what happens when the inquiry takes place, and what may well happen to a local authority following the inquiry, it becomes more apparent still that by insisting upon this provision, the Secretary of State will militate against the success of overspill and town development schemes.

7.30 p.m.

There follows from the inquiry the possibility of the Secretary of State for Scotland himself assuming the power for the local authority, doing the work, incurring debt and embarking on capital expenditure. What would be the outlook of someone responsible in a local authority who knew that he had the Secretary of State for Scotland at his shoulder all the time prepared to step in—not if anything goes wrong, but if, somehow or other, in some mysterious way, the Secretary of State thinks that something has gone wrong? From that will flow all the train of events which perhaps might lead to the suspension of the powers of the local authority.

I do not think that by insisting on this power the Secretary of State is increasing the prospect of local authorities being attracted to overspill and tow n development schemes. As we have seen in Committee and in these discussions, any local authority which embarks on these schemes will be taking on a very heavy financial commitment. They have this threat that a Secretary of State, particularly one like the present Secretary of State, can insist on this power. The only insistence on having this power is to see that they put themselves in a position of embarking on heavy expenditure and are to he threatened by the Secretary of State in this way.

I think that probably the Lord Advocate is the most balanced member of the Government Front Bench. I do not think that he would be prepared to defend this insistence on the Secretary of State having this power. I sincerely hope that we have not heard the last word from the Government on this Amendment. We on this side view it very seriously. Eventually, it led to a consideration that the Government would have another look at it. I am beginning to wonder whether they have kept their promise in regard to that.

My right hon. Friend the Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) suggested that if they insisted on having power to intervene when no complaint was made they did not need to have that power when a complaint was made. Obviously, one provision is redundant. If there is to be this power without a complaint, it is not necessary to have the power for an inquiry if there is a complaint.

I hope that the Government will look at this again and give us a more reasonable explanation of why they must have this power. I should prefer it if someone would get up from the Front Bench opposite and say, "We will have another look at this. We repent of our past position of immovability and will take steps to put the thing right." I hope that the Secretary of State will break his silence in respect of the Bill. It is astonishing that he has not uttered a word, unless it were a procedural word. He might be forgetting that speech and we do not want to tempt him into repeating it. The only speech he has made at intervals, has been to say, "I beg to move that the Question be now put."

Here is a chance for him to break new ground and to make a speech in relation to one of our Amendments. He could not do it better than by rising now and saying that the Government are prepared to have another look at this Amendment.

Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, North)

I support this Amendment, and I support the plea which has been addressed to the Secretary of State that he should accept it.

In opposing this very reasonable and logical Amendment the Secretary of State is overlooking the fact that this Clause is permissive and not mandatory. If the word were "shall" instead of "may" there would be some sense in the Secretary of State opposing the Amendment, but as the Clause stands he has ample discretion and ample jurisdiction. If I had been drafting the Amendment I should have gone further than my hon. Friends. Instead of asking that the words "or if" should be left out, I should have asked that all the words within the commas should be left out so that the subsection would read: If a complaint is made to the Secretary of State that any local or public authority have failed to do properly anything which they are required to do by any overspill agreement or town development scheme, he may cause a local inquiry to be held into the matter. That would make sense.

The right hon. Gentleman already has discretion, and this Clause emphasises his discretion. I fail to see the sense of putting into the Clause the words which are between the commas. We go some little way towards making sense of the Clause by asking that instead of using the words "or if" the subsection should read: and the Secretary of State is of opinion that an investigation should be made as to whether any such authority have so failed … It is obvious that if we leave out the words between the commas the Secretary of State has discretion to do that. Manifestly, if he is a sensible Secretary of State he would not want to order an inquiry unless he was "of opinion", without employing the words within the commas— that an investigation should be made as to whether any such authority have so failed … The words within the commas are completely redundant. If the words "or if", are left out, and "and" substituted for them that would go some way towards giving sense to the Clause.

I had not intended to intervene in this debate, but as I listened to the persuasive speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross), I felt I must join with him in asking the Secretary of State to consult the Lord Advocate, who sits on his left, or the Solicitor-General, who sits on his right, and to construe this Clause as it might be construed in a court of law. He would then see that the Amendment makes sense of it, but that the existing words do not.

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

May I deal first with the last point made by the hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes). He suggested that the Clause does not make sense as it stands, but as he knows perfectly well, there is a similar provision in a number of Acts going back to 1947, the Housing Act, 1950, and the like.

Mr. Hector Hughes

I did say that it does not make sense as it stands, but I confess that I went a little too far in saying that. My argument was that which I used in the first part of my short speech, that the words within the commas are redundant.

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

I am not sure whether the hon. and learned Member was here when I spoke a few moments ago—

Mr. Hughes

I was.

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

I then explained the circumstances in which the Secretary of State might have to take action and ought to take action even if a complaint had not been made. He could not do that if the words which the Amendment seeks to delete were not in the Clause. I have no recollection of any promise to reconsider this question, but very much the reverse. I do not think that the Lord Advocate promised to reconsider it either. The Amendment which had the same effect as the one now before us went to a vote in Committee and was defeated, so I do not think there is any question of the Government going back on any promise given in Committee. This is a well-known form of words, and I see no reason why we should depart from it in this Bill.

Mr. Willis rose—

Mr. Hughes

The Solicitor-General has not really addressed his mind to the two parts of this Clause. One part deals with a complaint to the Secretary of State; the intermediate part, between the commas, deals with the Secretary of State's opinion; and the third part deals with his ordering an inquiry. My argument is that if the first and last parts of the three are linked together, they make sense. If a complaint is made, then the Secretary of State may order an inquiry.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. and learned Member must not make a second speech in the guise of an intervention.

Mr. Hughes

I thought I was intervening before the hon. and learned Member sat down.

Mr. Speaker

Not as far as I know. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) rose to speak.

Mr. Hughes

Would you allow me to finish the point that I was making, Mr. Speaker?

Mr. Speaker

I know what the point is. I think that the whole House knows.

Mr. Willis

I apologise to the Solicitor-General for not being present earlier, but I was obtaining some necessary refreshment.

We had a long debate on this subject in Committee, and I am bound to say that the Government did not satisfy me, or many of my colleagues, that these words which the Amendment seeks to delete were necessary. The Solicitor-General has just told us that they are in other Acts, which is the Government's usual excuse—"We have done this before and therefore we ought to do it again". We, on the other hand, have repeatedly pointed out that because something was done in the past does not necessarily make it correct now. When we pass a Bill surely we ought to look at the things we have done in the past and to ask ourselves whether they were the best that could be done or whether we can improve on them.

With the inclusion of the words "or if", the Secretary of State has power to call an inquiry for almost any reason under the sun. If he wakes up in the morning with an attack of indigestion and feels that he would like to do something to a local authority which at the time is not very popular with him, he can decide to have an inquiry into its work in connection with overspill and town development plans. Surely these powers are far too wide and should not be given to the Government. If the word were changed to "and", the Secretary of State would still be given very wide powers to hold inquiries.

The subsection reads: If a complaint is made to the Secretary of State that any local or public authority have failed to do properly anything which they are required to do by any overspill agreement or town development plan… An overspill agreement or town development scheme may affect hundreds or even thousands of people. Is it suggested that if something is being done which is not right, nobody will complain'? It must be the experience of every hon. Member that it is not that people do not complain but rather that there are a large number of complaints even when things are being done in the proper way. To imagine that populations will be shifted from one area to another, into places probably with no amenities and with all the difficulties which arise out of trying to transport people from one area to another, and that there will be no complaint if things are done incorrectly, is ridiculous. Somebody is bound to complain.

7.45 p.m.

The Government may have in mind the possibility of local authorities conniving to defraud the Government. After the phrases we have heard this afternoon about trusting local authorities, surely the Joint Under-Secretary will not suggest that local authorities will deliberately get together in order to get the better of St. Andrew's House. In any event, that they would have to be pretty smart to get the better of St. Andrew's House. Surely the Government are not suggesting that they would get together with that purpose.

Why do the Government want this wide, sweeping power? Some examples were given in Committee. There might be a Communist town council which the Secretary of State does not like or there might be a Socialist town council which he does not like. He may think that he would like to do something to injure its reputation, and therefore he may hold an inquiry. All that is possible under the subsection.

What is wrong about waiting for a complaint to be lodged? Who, in the first place, will inform the Secretary of State that something is wrong? How will he suddenly get this divine inspiration that something is wrong in a scheme which he approved two years ago?

Dr. Dickson Mabon

Not divine. More likely diabolical.

Mr. Willis

Does the Secretary of State walk up the steps of Dover House, Whitehall, saying to himself that Kilmarnock is not carrying out its agreement?

Mr. Ross

If the Secretary of State carries on in this way Kilmarnock will never sign an agreement.

Mr. Willis

That is possible, because every Clause is tied up so tightly that it is impossible to get anything done.

How does the Secretary of State first get the idea that something is not right? From his officials? In that case, somebody is complaining. One of my hon. Friends suggests that they are snooping. Surely a Government which for five years denounced snoopers is not to base its actions upon snoopers. Surely the idea that something is wrong must come from somebody. I presume that there is a complaint. The subsection does not say who is to make the complaint. Perhaps the Lord Advocate or Solicitor-General would tell us whether it includes officials. It says nothing about them here.

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

If an official makes a statement of fact to the Secretary of State, that is not a complaint.

Mr. Willis

I assume that if an official makes a statement of fact the Secretary of State will accept it. I imagine that in practice what will happen will be that the official will say, "Something is wrong with this scheme. Look at these figures and these returns. They are not in accordance with another report." In that case, the official will be complaining that something does not tie up with something else, that some report or some set of figures do not tie up with what the local authority ought to be doing under the overspill agreement or town development plan. I still await the Solicitor-General's legal interpretation. Does the provision include a complaint by a civil servant or does it not?

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

That is begging the question. If a statement is made by a civil servant it follows that it is not a complaint covered by the first part of the Clause.

Mr. Willis

That answer is too clever by half. I asked a simple question and I ask it again. I ask the hon. and learned Member not to try to steer round it. If a civil servant complains that something is not being done under a town planning scheme, is that not a complaint?

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

No, probably not, because the civil servant is acting on behalf of the Secretary of State, and the Secretary of State cannot complain to himself. The point is that if the matter is raised by the Civil Service it would not be in the form of a complaint.

Mr. Willis

Suppose somebody is put up to complain or it is suggested that somebody ought to make a complaint; would that be covered?

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

I am sorry. I did not hear the hon. Gentleman's question.

Mr. Willis

Suppose it is suggested that a person ought to complain. Would that position be covered?

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

Presumably it would be, but then the Secretary of State does not go round like an agent provocateur asking people to complain to him.

Mr. Willis

All we are trying to get to know is whether the words at the commencement of the Clause are sufficiently wide to make it possible for the subject of the complaint to be placed before the Secretary of State without the inclusion of the words in the commas. I believe they are. The Government or the Secretary of State may suddenly get an inspiration that something is wrong and needs looking into; but that does not seem to be how things will work out. I am not happy about the interpretation touching the Civil Service. I noticed that the Solicitor-General for Scotland qualified his answer by saying "probably." I am still not certain about it, and neither is the Solicitor-General for Scotland. That is why he tried to dodge the answer about six times, and then gave a very qualified answer and said "probably."

Mr. Woodburn

The Clause ought to be redrafted.

Mr. Willis

That is what we suggested in Committee, but the Government have done nothing about it whatever. It is unsatisfactory and shows the Government up in a very niggling light.

The Government have been niggling throughout the whole Bill, and have safeguarded themselves to such an extent that scarcely a local authority will want to have anything to do with the Bill. The Government ought to look again into this matter. We do not want all sorts of inquiries being conducted because somebody has given information secretly that he ought not to have given. We have had enough of that sort of thing, and we do not want it to happen in relation to the Bill.

Dr. Dickson Mabon

If the Solicitor-General for Scotland—

Mr. Gerald Nabarro (Kidderminster)


Dr. Mabon

I do not appreciate the noise made by the trombone opposite.

Mr. Nabarro


Dr. Mabon

I beg the hon. Gentleman's pardon. I see that he is not a trombone.

The serious point here is that we thought the Solicitor-General for Scotland might be able to cite the kind of instance where a complaint would be made by a private person or by some other agency, to the Secretary of State about some occurrence in connection with an overspill agreement or a town development scheme. There might be no genuine or reasonable complaint, other than on the part of the Secretary of State himself. The Solicitor-General for Scotland has not told us.

I cannot see any circumstance which would be neglected by people making representations to the Secretary of State. That is the kernel of our argument and is quite simple. We feel that it is possible, in the various difficulties and deficiencies which can arise for the receiving authority, for private citizens for public agencies to bring a matter to the notice of the Secretary of State. If we are wrong, I hope that the Solicitor-General for Scotland will inform us and give us examples.

There may be an honest, genuine difference of opinion between us. He may feel that there could be circumstances, while we feel that there cannot, while he cannot demonstrate that there is. We ask the Solicitor-General for Scotland to weigh in the balance the other argument which has been complemented by the argument that the Secretary of State himself used when in opposition. I assume that he argued it genuinely and sincerely. The argument was that increase in the power of the central authority is bad where it is unnecessary and where, the Secretary of State could use it malevolently to the disruption and undermining of the influence of the local authority. That is a powerful argument. If it had been used by an irresponsible back bencher one could discount it as exaggerated, but it has been used by the present Secretary of State, and therefore we cannot dismiss it.

The worth of the Amendment will be determined by the balance between the powerful argument about central government interference on the one hand and the worthwhileness of the provision in the Bill on the other. The Solicitor-General for Scotland ought to be a little more fair and give us an illustration showing exactly what the position is, so that we shall know where to strike the balance.

Mr. Hubbard

We have reached an extraordinary stage in this Bill. Nothing compels the local authorities to accept an overspill agreement, which is entered into voluntarily between exporting authorities and receiving authorities. So far, our local authorities have had no experience whatever of these matters.

The success of the Bill will depend upon whether the importing authorities will give it a trial. Therefore, the Bill ought to be made as attractive as possible. There ought not to be a hidden menace. We are not asking the Government Front Bench too much when we say it should make the Bill as clear as possible, with no snags in it for the local authorities. So long as the local authorities carry out their normal functions they are under the heavy hand of the Treasury but at least they know where the menace lies.

Here, we are confronted with something new. There is the tremendous problem of 300,000 overspill people in Glasgow. The Government have decided to get away from the new town idea at the moment by getting receiving authorities to enter into agreements to receive the people and provide them with employment, and to make factories, incurring an unknown financial liability to do so. But before they incur this unknown financial liability they want to be sure that there is nothing they do not understand. Not a single word have we had from the Scottish Office to make it possible for the local authorities to understand the situation.

8.0 p.m.

I appeal to the Joint Under-Secretary of State to help us. We know that this provision is necessary, and although we are not satisfied that town development is all that is wanted, we are prepared to help the Government. There must be many local authorities which are anxious to help, but how can we expect local authorities to help the Government if the Government refuse to help local authorities even to the extent of explaining their reason for refusing to accept this simple Amendment?

Surely, local authorities are entitled to know from what sources complaints may be expected. Let us suppose, for instance, that somebody involved in an overspill arrangement was not satisfied with the conditions in the area which other people had been tolerating for years. Would the Secretary of State call an inquiry in those circumstances? In addition, could the complaint be made by one person or would it have to come from a group of persons? Would a complaint have to come from a whole organisation such as the Housewives' League? Surely, we are entitled to know how substantial the group would have to be, and of what standing.

If the Secretary of State is not prepared to go some way to meet the receiving authorities, let us consider what is at stake. The authorities undertake to do certain things, and then all of a sudden without any intimation the Secretary of State calls an inquiry. That is a most unreasonable state of affairs for any local authority to have to accept. Surely, words are not beyond the Scottish Office. Surely the Scottish Office is capable of explaining this matter. It could have been passed long ago if we had had the simple explanation for which we are asking. No local authority should accept all the financial and physical responsibilities of a receiving area until this matter has been made specifically clear—

Division No. 133.] AYES [8.5 p.m.
Agnew, Sir Peter Burden, F. F. A. Fraser, Sir Ian (M'cmbe & Lonsdale)
Aitken, W. T. Butcher, Sir Herbert Garner-Evans, E. H.
Amery, Julian (Preston, N.) Campbell, Sir David George, J. C. (Pollok)
Amory, Rt. Hn. Heathcoat (Tiverton) Cary, Sir Robert Gibson-Watt, D.
Anstruther-Gray, Major Sir William Channon, Sir Henry Godber, J. B.
Arbuthnot, John Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.) Gomme-Duncan, Col. Sir Alan
Armstrong, C. W. Cole, Norman Gower, H. R.
Ashton, H Cooke, Robert Graham, Sir Fergus
Baldwin, A. E. Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K. Grant, W. (Woodside)
Balniel, Lord Corfield, Capt. F. V. Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R. (Nantwich)
Barber, Anthony Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne) Green, A.
Barlow, Sir John Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Gresham Cooke, R.
Barter, John Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood) Grimond, J.
Baxter, Sir Beverley Cunningham, Knox Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)
Beamish, Maj. Tufton Currie, G. B. H. Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. C.
Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.) Dance, J. C. G. Harrison, A. B. C. (Maldon)
Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.) Davidson, Viscountess Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)
Bennett, F. M. (Torquay) Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA. Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)
Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth) du Cann, E. D. L. Hay, John
Bidgood, J. C. Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond) Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel
Biggs-Davison, J. A. Duthie, W. S. Heath, Rt. Hon. E. R. G.
Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West) Henderson, John (Cathcart)
Bishop, F, P. Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E. (Kelvingrove) Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W.
Black, C. W. Elliott, R. W. (N'castle upon Tyne, N) Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)
Body, R. F. Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn Hill, John (S. Norfolk)
Boothby, Sir Robert Errington, Sir Erie Hirst, Geoffrey
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A. Farey-Jones, F. W. Hobson, John(Warwick & Leam'gt'n)
Braine, B. R. Fell, A. Holland-Martin, C. J.
Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.) Finlay, Graeme Hope, Lord John
Browne, J. Nixon (Craigton) Fisher, Nigel Hornby, R. P.
Bryan, P. Fletcher-Cooke, c. Hornsby-Smith, Mist M. P.
Mr. Nabarro

All very instructive.

Mr. Ross


Mr. Hubbard

I have previously said that the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) reminded me of Jimmy Edwards, but even he is not as rude as all that.

Local authorities, both receiving and exporting, have been asked to undertake large financial responsibilities. Exporting authorities are expected to pay £14 per house for ten years, and yet they do not know what may arise under this Clause. Importing authorities have to undertake house-building, the provision of factories and services of all descriptions, and yet they do not know in what circumstances the Secretary of State may call an inquiry. He cannot or will not tell us.

If the Secretary of State wants this Bill to be a success he must tell us and the receiving authorities what exactly is involved, for the receiving authorities are the only people who can make this Bill work. Without their co-operation, the Secretary of State cannot make it work. Unless he gives us a satisfactory explanation, it is doomed to failure before it leaves this House.

Question put, That "or if" stand part of the Bill:—

The House divided: Ayes 208, Noes 177.

Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Dame Florence Mathew, R. Smyth, Brig. Sir John(Norwood)
Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives) Maude, Angus Speir, R. M.
Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'gh, W.) Maudling, Rt. Hon. R. Spence, H. R. (Aberdeen, W.)
Hutchison, Sir James (Scotstoun) Mawby, R. L, Spens, Rt. Hn. Sir P.(Kens'gt'n, S.)
Hylton-Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Harry Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R. Stevens, Geoffrey
Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)
Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich) Nabarro, G. D. N. Steward, Sir William(Woolwich, W.)
Jennings, J. C. (Burton) Nairn, D. L. S. Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.
Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle) Neave, Airey Storey, S.
Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Noble, Comdr. Rt. Hon. Allan Studholme, Sir Henry
Joseph, Sir Keith Nugent, G. R. H. Taylor, sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Keegan, D. O'Neill, Hn. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.) Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)
Kerby, Capt. H. B. Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.) Teeling, W.
Kerr, H. W. Osborne, C. Temple, John M.
Kimball, M. Page, R. G. Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)
Kirk, P. M. Pannell, N. A. (Kirkdale) Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)
Lambert, Hon. G. Partridge, E. Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, S.)
Leather, E. H. C. Pickthorn, K. W. M. Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.
Leburn, W. G. Pilkington, Capt. R. A. Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)
Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield) Pitman, I. J. Turner, H. F. L.
Lindsay Hon. Peter (Petersfield) Pitt, Miss E. M. Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.
Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.) Pott, H. P. Tweedsmuir, Lady
Longden, Gilbert Powell, J. Enoch Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.
Lucas, P. B. (Brentford & Chiswiok) Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.) Vosper, Rt. Hon. D. F.
Lucas-Tooth, sir Hugh Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L. Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
McAdden, S. J. Profumo, J. D. Wakefield, Sir Waved (St. M'lebone)
Macdonald, Sir Peter Raikes, Sir Victor Wall, Major Patrick
McKibbin, A. J. Redmayne, M. Webbe, Sir H.
Mackie, J. H. (Galloway) Rees-Davies, W. R. Whitelaw, W. S. I.
Maclay, Rt. Hon. John Ridsdale, J. E. Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
McLean, Neil (Inverness) Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.) Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)
MacLeod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.) Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks) Wills, G. (Bridgwater)
Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries) Roper, Sir Harold Woollam, John Victor
Maddan, Martin Russell, R. S. Yates, William (The Wrekin)
Maitland, Hon. Patrick (Lanark) Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.
Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R. Sharples, R. C. TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Markham, Major Sir Frank Shepherd, William Mr. Oakshott and
Marples, Rt. Hon. A. E. Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.) Mr. Brooman-White.
Marshall, Douglas Smithers, Peter (Winchester)
Ainsley, J. W. Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwch) Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)
Albu, A. H. Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. Kenyon, C.
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse) Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.
Allen, Arthur (Bosworth) Edwards, Robert (Bilston) King, Dr. H. M.
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.) Lawson, G. M.
Awbery, S. S. Evans, Edward (Lowestoft Lee, Frederick (Newton)
Bacon, Miss Alice Fernyhough, E. Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)
Baird, J. Fienburgh, W. Lindgren, G. S.
Balfour, A. Finch, H. J. Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson
Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J. Fletcher, Eric MacColl, J. E.
Bence, C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.) Forman, J. C. McGhee, H. G.
Benson, G. Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) McGovern, J.
Beswick, Frank Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T, N. McKay, John (Wallsend)
Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale) George, Lady Megan Lloyd(Car'then) MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)
Blackburn, F. Gibson, C. W. MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)
Blyton, W. R. Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C. Mahon, Simon
Bowden, H. W. (Leicester, S.W.) Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R. Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfd, E.)
Bowles, F. G. Grey, C. F. Mann, Mrs. jean
Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Marquand, Rt. Hon. H, A.
Brockway, A. F. Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly) Mason, Roy
Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper) Griffiths, William (Exchange) Messer, Sir F.
Burke, W. A. Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley) Mitchison, G. R.
Burton, Miss F. E. Hannan, W. Monslow, W.
Carmichael, J. Herbison, Miss M. Moody, A. S.
Castle, Mrs. B. A. Hobson, C. R. (Keighley) Morrison, Rt. Hn. Herbert (Lewis'm, S.)
Champion, A. J. Holmes, Horace Moss, R.
Chetwynd, G. R. Howell, Denis (All Saints) Moyle, A.
Clunie, J. Hoy, J. H. Mulley, F. W.
Coldrick, W. Hubbard, T. F. Neal, Harold (Bolsover)
Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead) Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey) Oliver, G. H.
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Oram, A. E.
Cove, W. G, Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Oswald, T.
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Hunter, A. E. Owen, W. J.
Cullen, Mrs. A. Hynd, H. (Accrington) Padley, W. E.
Darling, George (Hillsborough) Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe) Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)
Davies, Harold (Leek) Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill) Palmer, A. M. F.
Davies, Stephen (Merthyr) Jeger, Mrs. Lena(Holbn & St. Pncs, S.) Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)
Deer, G. Johnston, Douglas (Paisley) Pargiter, G. A.
Dodds, N. N. Jones, David (The Hartlepools) Parker, J.
Donnelly, D. L. Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Paton, John
Pearson, A. Skeffington, A. M. Wells, Percy (Faversham)
Pentland, N. Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke, N.) Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Plummer, Sir Leslie Slater, J. (Sedgefield) West, D. G.
Popplewell, E. Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank Wheeldon, W. E.
Probert, A. R. Sparks, J. A. White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)
Proctor, W. T. Steele, T. Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.
Pryde, D. J. Stewart, Michael (Fulham) Wilkins, W. A.
Randall, H. E. Stonehouse, John Willey, Frederick
Rankin, John Stones, W. (Consett) Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)
Redhead, E. C. Strachey, Rt. Hon. J. Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)
Reeves, J. Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E. Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)
Reid, William Swingler, S. T. Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Rhodes, H. Sylvester, G. O. Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Taylor Bernard (Mansfield) Woof, R. E.
Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.) Thomson, George (Dundee, E.) Yates, V. (Ladywood)
Rogers, George (Kensington, N.) Tomney, F. Younger, Rt. Hon. K.
Ross, William Ungoed-Thomas, sir Lynn Zilliacus, K.
Royle, C. Viant, S. P.
Short, E. W. Warbey, W. N. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill) Watkins, T. E. Mr. John Taylor and Mr. J. T. Price.
Mr. Ross

In the interests of progress, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I do not move the Amendment in page 13, line 39, to leave out "with any requirement thereof".

8.15 p.m.

Mr. Willis

I beg to move, in page 13, line 43, to leave out from "relates" to the end of line 4 on page 14.

This Amendment means, in effect, the deletion of subsection (3, b). The Clause deals with the powers given to the Secretary of State in respect of default, and it appears that the paragraph is not necessary. After all, by Clause 16 (3) the Secretary of State is given power himself to take or cause to be taken the action to which the requirement relates, that is to say the requirement set out in an Order arising out of an inquiry.

The Secretary of State having been given power to do that which the local authority has not done, it seems quite unnecessary then for him to have to go to the Court of Session, under Section 91 of the Court of Session Act, 1868, in order to have the action declared a statutory duty of the authority. It should surely be quite sufficient for the Secretary of State to be given the power to perform the action which the local authority has failed to carry out.

The subsection is really quite frightening in its requirement about going to the Court of Session in order to obtain permission to declare an action to be a statutory duty, running up expense, of course, which the local authority will ultimately have to pay. That is all right, of course, for the Secretary of State, but it is exceedingly unfortunate for the local authority.

I notice that in Section 169 of the main Act, the Housing (Scotland) Act, 1950, the Section dealing with default by a local authority, it has not been thought necessary to insert a similar subsection. If it is not necessary to put such a subsection in the main housing Act, why is it suddenly necessary to put it into this Bill? The Government are doing everything they can to discourage local authorities from accepting overspill rather than the reverse.

I can think of one possible reason why this provision is put in. It may be that it is put in in order to cover the various works which a local authority might undertake to do under an overspill agreement or a town development scheme which are not in themselves statutory duties. About that, of course, we had a long speech from the Joint Under-Secretary this afternoon; he told us that the Government had no intention of making those functions under the town development provisions statutory duties.

The hon. Gentleman moved some Amendments which were most complicated, which nobody in the House understood, and which he himself, I do not doubt, understood no better. When he was tackled about them, he could not explain them. He had a brief in higher legal technology or terminology, and I do not think he understood what it was all about. He certainly leaned over the Box in a very disarming manner as though handing out bouquets and presents to the local authorities, pointing out how gently the Government were treating the local authorities in not imposing burdens upon them and making them statutory duties. He said that the Government did not want to do anything terrible like that, but proposed to exclude everything except housing.

I can only assume now that this provision may be in the Clause in order that, if the Secretary of State is called upon to do these jobs, they might be regarded as the statutory duties of the local authority. If that is so, it knocks some of the good will out of the hon. Gentleman's gesture to the local authorities earlier today.

Why is it necessary to have this paragraph here? Is it not sufficient simply to have power to do work and then afterwards charge the local authority? There is nothing in the main Act which empowers the Secretary of State to make application to the Court of Session, yet it seems to cover exactly the same sort of situation. I hope that the Solicitor-General will explain it. No doubt, it is a question which requires legal knowledge. I hope that he will make it intelligible to us laymen who are trying to understand what the paragraph which we seek to delete is all about. At the moment, we can see no reason for it, and we should like to see it taken out of the Bill. If we do not have a very good explanation as to why it should remain, we shall have to divide upon it later, so I hope that the Solicitor-General will give us a satisfactory explanation.

Mr. T. Fraser

I beg to second the Amendment.

I need not add much to what my hon. Friend has said. Under subsection (3, a), the Secretary of State has power himself to take action if the inquiry which he has ordered has reported adversely on the local authority. If he finds that the local authority has been in default and he has required the local authority by order to carry out the functions in respect of which it has defaulted, subsection (3, a) gives the Secretary of State power to take the action. That would seem to be quite sufficient.

Subsection (3, b), which we seek to remove, gives the Secretary of State the alternative power of going to the Court of Session. If anything is calculated to frighten the small burgh which might be a receiving authority and to ensure that it will play no part whatever in solving Glasgow's problem, this is it and I hope that the Government will agree to take out this power.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) said, we are driven back to the reference to "duty." In Committee, I called attention to the fact that in the Bill what had been merely a duty had to be treated as if it were a statutory duty. Earlier today, the Joint Under-Secretary and the Solicitor-General for Scotland have been saying in relation to Clauses 9 and 10 that where a duty is referred to, it is a reference only to the building of houses and the provision of water supplies and sewerage services. Those are all statutory duties, but in subsection (3) the Government are providing that the Court of Session will treat any requirement upon the local authority by the Secretary of State as if it were a statutory duty.

If it is a function relating to the building of houses or the provision of water supplies or sewerage services, it is, in fact, a statutory duty and there is no need for this provision. Beforehand, the provisions of subsection (3) to some extent led us into thinking that our interpretation of the earlier Clauses was right and that the Government were wrong. If the Government were right in what they said in resisting earlier Amendments, they should have no hesitation in accepting this one.

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

One thing on which both sides of the House are agreed is that we hope it will never be necessary to use these powers. They are similar to powers which have been in operation, but rarely, if ever, used, for the past fifty or sixty years. One of the two methods of the double power is for the Secretary of State to do the work himself and the other is the application to the court to get an order upon the local authority.

In the ordinary case—for example, with housing—if a default occurred, it would be reasonably simple and probably most expeditious for the Secretary of State to go into action and get the houses built. Generally speaking, if a default occurred in a scheme of this sort, that is the action that would be taken. There are, however, other duties which may be imposed upon or undertaken by local authorities under the Bill.

Mr. T. Fraser

Such as?

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

Such as, for example, to choose their tenants in a particular way; they may have certain duties under an arrangement with the exporting authority concerning the tenants they receive. As the hon. Member knows, if a local authority is getting the overspill subsidy, it must keep houses available for tenants who are approved, first, by the exporting authority, and then by the receiving authority. If the receiving authority fell down on its task and was not taking tenants who were available and acceptable but was letting the houses to its indigenous inhabitants, that would be a case in which the Secretary of State could not effectively intervene and take over the local authority's job himself. It would be a massive undertaking for him to take over the selection of tenants. That is the type of case in which it is much easier and more effective to proceed by getting an order of the court upon the local authority to observe the conditions under which its tenants had to be selected.

Mr. Ross

Surely, the hon. and learned Gentleman realises that in an earlier Clause the Government have already taken power to deal with the case in which the tenants are not those who are properly to be provided with houses under an overspill agreement. The Government have already taken power to stop payment of subsidy.

Mr. T. Fraser

Would that not be the step taken by the Secretary of State if the receiving authority was not letting a house to a family from the city whose overspill was being taken? Surely, he would not go to the Court of Session, but would withdraw the overspill subsidy.

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

Had the hon. Member remained seated another two minutes, he would have heard the answer.

The Secretary of State has as much interest as anybody else in ensuring that the overspill arrangements work effectively. We want the scheme to work and not to penalise the local authority. It would be far better to get an order from the Court, which the local authority would obey, so that the people who are being overspilt from Glasgow—

Mr. Gordon Walker (Smethwick)


The Solicitor-General for Scotland

Yes, overspilled; I hate the word "decanted," certainly in this connection. The Secretary of State has an interest to see that those people get into the houses which are intended for them. As the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) pointed out, the Secretary of State can stop the subsidy or stop the additional part of it; but that is a partial remedy. The Secretary of State's intention is not to penalise the local authority by reducing the subsidy but to ensure that by getting an order on the receiving authority to give the houses to the right tenants, the receiving authority will go on with the job and make sure that it is the people from Glasgow, for example, who get the houses.

It is for that reason that I believe sincerely that this second peg of the procedure should be in the Bill.

Mr. Woodburn

Throughout the Bill, we always have the impression that steam hammers are being used to crush peanuts. I should imagine that on reading the Bill, any small local authority will be terrified out of its life to have any part in the scheme.

For example, can the Solicitor-General for Scotland say whether, if an agreement is made between two local authorities, that is a legal agreement? If so, does the exporting authority have any legal remedy for a breach of that agreement by the receiving authority? Can it go to the Court of Session and get a decision there?

All through the Bill the Secretary of State imposes duties on the local authorities and takes power to deal with the local authorities. Our objection is that the Secretary of State does not seem to be doing very much to help the local authorities. If the scheme is to work, and we are anxious that it should, it all depends on good will. All this intimidation which the Bill as a whole seems to ensure seems to me likely to destroy good will.

8.30 p.m.

I imagine that, if two authorities come to an agreement, it is quite right that there should be a method of ensuring that No. 2 authority fulfils its part of the bargain. No. 2 authority would probably not object if it did not get the population to be exported. After all, in a way it is doing a favour to No. 1 authority. However, if No. 2 authority breaks the agreement on which No. 1 authority counts, is the only remedy going to the Secretary of State and asking him to use these powers? Would the Solicitor-General for Scotland answer that?

If a local authority fails, perhaps through no fault of its own, perhaps because it cannot help itself, to carry out some of the obligations which it undertakes, is it to be subjected to an order by the court? If the local authority cannot fulfil the order of the court is there to be a penalty for the local authority? Is the non-fulfilment of the order contempt of court? Can the council of a small burgh be sent to prison for contempt of court if it does not carry out a court order? A logical interpretation of what the Solicitor-General for Scotland said is that it could be.

We feel that this is a very drastic power, and that it ought to be reconsidered. We feel some friendlier sanctions should be used if there is a breach by an authority of these obligations. Can the local authority appeal against a decision, if it has broken its agreement? What means has the local authority to show it is not culpable in any criminal way or legal way for its breach of an agreement?

There are a good many questions to be asked and answered before we can possibly agree to this proposal for this power. The Secretary of State himself ought to reconsider this matter. Was this taken from a previous Act? I imagine so. I imagine that if this power has been used it has been used only for the most drastic breaches of agreements. What, in detail, are the breaches of agreement that require this court order? What are the punishments which apply to a local authority which either does not or cannot comply with the court order? Are councillors liable to a penalty? If so, what is the penalty?

If, as we anticipate, this provision will intimidate local authorities, and deter them, not from carrying out their agreements, but from entering into agreements at all because of fear of the consequences, what will the Secretary of State do to assuage their fears and put the matter on a proper basis?

Mr. Hector Hughes

The speech of the Solicitor-General for Scotland stultified itself and went far to support the arguments which have been advanced from this side of the House. He said he hoped the Clause would never be called in aid. He thereby seemed to indicate that it is an undesirable Clause. Indeed, it is an undesirable Clause. As my right hon. Friend the Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) has just said, it is part of a parcel of Clauses showered forth by the Secretary of State giving him powers. As my right hon. Friend said, the Government seemed to be taking a hammer to crush a peanut.

I submit another argument against the Clause which gives undue powers to the Secretary of State. It is a remarkable Clause. It is unnatural, unreal and improper. It does two things. It changes the quality of the act of the Secretary of State, what is called in the Clause "the action," into that of an act of another and enhanced status, and it does that quite unnecessarily with the aid of the Court of Session.

I could understand it if the aid of the Court of Session were invoked to raise the status of the Secretary of State's action to the status of an order of the court, but the provision goes a step further and seeks to raise it to the status of a statutory duty. It seems to me quite undesirable and unnecessary and to be part and parcel of the general purport of the Clause, which has showered upon the Secretary of State unnecessary powers far in excess of the duty which he will have to perform in each case.

Mr. Ross

This is a matter of great importance. I hope that the Secretary of State will address himself to the Amendment.

Mr. Willis

If he does, it will be the first time.

Mr. Ross

There will always be a first time for everything.

This is a very exceptional matter dealing with very exceptional circumstances. It arises out of an overspill agreement or a town development scheme. We have already discussed town development schemes, and it was explained by the Solicitor-General for Scotland and by the Joint Under-Secretary that what should be done should not be specified. Now, however, we are told that if a certain thing happens under the agreement, the thing which has not been done and which the Government have said should not have been specified, will be declared a statutory duty. How on earth are the local authorities to understand this legislation?

The Solicitor-General for Scotland tells us that this provision relates, among other things, to the selection of tenants. He will find in Clause 9 (4, d) that the Government lay down the solution to the problem that he posed. He will find in Clause 2 (3) that once again the Government cover the very position where there is a departure from the conditions laid down by the Secretary of State—in relation to the overspill and the withdrawal of the subsidy of £42.

If the question is one of failure to do something which Glasgow wants, Glasgow is freed from the obligation to pay £14. Therefore. a local authority, in respect of the one case which the hon. Gentleman cited, stands to lose £54 per house per annum immediately. Unless we are told specifically what exactly is in the Government's mind that makes them demand this exceptional power, we are led to suspect all sorts of underhand reasons. We are told that all this is for the protection of Glasgow against places like Kirkintilloch. What kind of people does the Joint Under-Secretary think we are that we should be prepared to accept that?

I am sorry that the hon. Member for Fife, East (Sir J. Henderson-Stewart) is not here. He went completely wrong and altogether haywire on this matter in Committee when he said that we were dealing with statutory duties. We had a nice phrase from the Lord Advocate, who said that these were not statutory duties but notional statutory duties. Now the Government are insisting upon having the power to go to the Court of Session and having these actually declared to be statutory duties.

As soon as they become statutory duties the default powers of the Government under general Statute are involved, because of the necessity for the preparation of sites for industrial accommodation and the provision of that industrial accommodation, the provision of accommodation for all kinds of trade and commerce, the provision of facilities for public worship. They are tremendous responsibilities—

Mr. J. N. Browne indicated dissent.

Mr. Ross

The hon. Gentleman shakes his head. Will he tell us what the provision does mean? We have tried to find out hour after hour. It obviously refers to those matters in a town development scheme including, as well as apart from, housing accommodation. On any of these things there can be a slip as regards what has been understood to be the agreement.

From my own point of view, representing an area which is a potential receiving area, I think that the Town Council of Kilmarnock will not be happy to go forward in relation to an overspill agreement in which things are not individually specified, with the Government insisting on a power to go to the Court of Session to declare those things that are not specified to be statutory duties. It will not be a happy situation for the Government to have, additionally, the power to take over from the local authority and actually to do those things, to raise the money, and to charge the ratepayers of Kilmarnock.

We have proceeded a long way from the concept of dealing successfully with overspill, that is, co-operation between the two local authorities concerned. I appeal to the good sense of the Scottish Office. Does it or does it not want the overspill schemes and town development schemes to be successful? If it does, it must trust the local authorities. If the idea gets abroad among local authorities that wherever there is any upset of plans, any disagreement as to what should or should not be done, the Secretary of State will lose patience, will order an inquiry, and will then proceed to the Court of Session, and that these duties will be declared to be statutory duties, and a big stick will be wielded in that way, the local authorities will not look at town development or overspill agreements.

The Government should think again about this matter. They have adequate powers in relation to the main aspect of overspill, and that which is sought here is one which they should not use. Why should we have this short-circuiting of the problem by the Secretary of State taking this exceptional power? I hope that the Government will think again. Like everyone else who comes from Scotland, I am appalled by the problem facing the City of Glasgow. We want these schemes to succeed, but they will not do so by the eternal parading of powers of default and by the determination to use the big stick to local authorities. If that is done, the overspill schemes will not be successful, even after the start.

Has the Secretary of State thought what would happen if he used his ultimate deterrent? What will happen in the receiving areas in respect of those people who come in? Will there be continued co-operation? What will be the feeling between the incoming people and the local population if the Secretary of State, in a case where there disagreement, arraigns the local authority before the highest court in Scotland? Does he think that feeling will be such that in a social sense the overspill agreement will be successful?

We had tabled an Amendment to delete the whole Clause, but it was not called. We feel that the least we can ask the Government to do is to delete the paragraph. I hope that, though belatedly, the Government will recognise their duties in connection with the successful outcome of town development, and do what we ask in this case.

8.45 p.m.

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

I can assure the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) that there is no intention of using the big stick in this Bill or anywhere else. However, frequently, the existence of a power is a very good safeguard and prevents the need to use the power. We do not expect that it will be likely that we shall have to use the power, but it is a safeguard against a possible happening.

Mr. Hector Hughes

Surely the Solicitor-General is talking nonsense when he says that there is no intention to use the big stick. The Government are seeking such a power. Must not an Act be construed according to its terms rather than, as the Solicitor-General seems to suggest, its intentions?

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

I agree with the last few words of the hon. and learned Gentleman. We must certainly construe an Act according to its terms. The fact that one has a power does not necessarily mean that it will be used.

Mr. Willis

When was such a power last used?

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

The last occasion was when a dispute arose as to who should bury somebody. The question arose as between the Secretary of State and a county council whether this power should be used. It was felt that burial should move rather more quickly than the Court of Session was likely to.

The right hon. Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) asked whether what I would call "the innocent local authority" could obtain what is described in Scotland as "specific implement", an order for performance. The answer is. "Probably yes". The Scottish law on it is not very clear, like so much of the English law. The court has a certain discretion. It will normally order specific implement—I am sorry to have to use the technical phrase—in the case of breach of contract, but not always, for it has a certain discretion. A local authority would certainly have an action for damages if it could prove damage. Accordingly, it would be what I might describe as an uncertain position. With regard to performance, unless we have this power for the court to get an Order—

Mr. Willis

What does all this mean in English?

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

I was trying to explain it in Scotch.

Mrs. Mann

is not the hon. and learned Gentleman's answer a perfect example of "reversion to tripe"?

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

The explanation is that here, as in many other cases, our law is not as clear as it ought to be.

With regard to what happens in the case of failure, the Court of Session (Scotland) Act, 1868, makes it clear that in the event of the order not being implemented, the court may attach such conditions or penalties as it thinks fit. There is, of course, the normal right of appeal.


The right hon. Gentleman asked whether this provision was in a previous Act. It is to be found in the Local Government (Scotland) Act, 1947, the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act, 1947, and the Water (Scotland) Act,

Division No. 134.] AYES [8.50 p.m.
Agnew, Sir Peter Grant, W. (Woodside) Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R.
Aitken, W. T. Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R. (Nantwich) Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles
Amery, Julian (Preston, N.) Green, A. Nabarro, G. D. N.
Amory, Rt. Hn. Heathcoat (Tiverton) Gresham Cooke, R. Nairn, D. L. S.
Anstruther-Gray, Major Sir William Grimond, J. Neave, Airey
Arbuthnot, John Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury) Noble, Comdr. Rt. Hon. Allan
Armstrong, C. W. Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G. Nugent, G. R. H.
Ashton, H. Hall, John (Wycombe) Oakshott, H. D.
Baldwin, A. E. Harrison, A. B. C. (Maldon) O'Neill, Hn. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)
Balnlel, Lord Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye) Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)
Barlow, Sir John Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.) Osborne, C.
Barter, John Hay, John Page, R. G.
Baxter, Sir Beverley Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel Panned, N. A. (Kirkdale)
Beamish, Maj. Tufton Heath, Rt. Hon. E. R. G. Partridge, E.
Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.) Henderson, John (Cathcart) Pickthorn, K. W. M.
Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.) Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W. Plikington, Capt. R. A.
Bennett, F. M. (Torquay) Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe) Pitman, I. J.
Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth) Hill, John (S. Norfolk) Pitt, Miss E. M.
Bidgood, J. C. Hirst, Geoffrey Pott, H. P.
Biggs-Davison, J. A. Hobson, john(Warwick & Leam'gt'n) Powell, J. Enoch
Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel Holland-Martin, C. J. Price, David (Eastleigh)
Bishop, F. P. Hope, Lord John Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)
Black, C. W. Hornby, R. P. Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.
Body, R. F. Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P. Profumo, J. D.
Boothby, Sir Robert Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Dame Florence Raikes, Sir Victor
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A. Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives) Redmayne, M.
Braine, B. R. Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'gh, W.) Rees-Davies, W. R.
Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.) Hutchison, Sir James (Scotstoun) Ridsdale, J. E.
Brooman-White, R. C. Hylton-Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Harry Robertson, Sir David
Browne, J. Nixon (Craigton) Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)
Bryan, P. Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich) Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)
Burden, F. F. A. Jennings, J. C. (Burton) Roper, Sir Harold
Butcher, Sir Herbert Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle) Russell, R. S.
Campbell, Sir David Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.
Cary, Sir Robert Joseph, Sir Keith Sharples, R. C.
Channon, Sir Henry Kaberry, D. Shepherd, William
Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.) Keegan, D. Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)
Cole, Norman Kerby, Capt. H. B. Smithers, Peter (Winchester)
Cooke, Robert C. Kerr, H. W. Smyth, Brig. Sir John(Norwood)
Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K. Kimball, M. Speir, R. M.
Corfield, Capt. F. V. Kirk, P. M. Spence, H. R. (Aberdeen, W.)
Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne) Lambert, Hon. G. Spens, Rt. Hn. Sir P.(Kens'gt'n, S.)
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O E. Leather, E. H. C. Stevens, Geoffrey
Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood) Leburn, W. G. Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)
Cunningham, Knox Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield) Steward, Sir William(Woolwich, W.)
Currie, G. B. H. Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.) Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.
Dance, J. C. G. Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.) Storey, S.
Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA. Longden, Gilbert Studholme, Sir Henry
du Cann, E. D. L. Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.) Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond) Lucas, P. B. (Brentford & Chiswick) Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)
Duthie, W. S. Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Teeling, W.
Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West) McAdden, S. J. Temple, John M.
Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E. (Kelvingrove) Macdonald, Sir Peter Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)
Elliott, R. W. (N'castle upon Tyne, N) McKibbin, A. J. Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)
Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn Mackie, J. H. (Galloway) Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, S.)
Errington, Sir Eric Maclay, Rt. Hon. John Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.
Farey-Jones, F. W. McLean, Neil (Inverness) Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)
Fell, A. Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.) Turner, H. F. L.
Fisher, Nigel Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries) Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.
Fletcher-Cooke, C. Maddan, Martin Tweedsmuir, Lady
Foster, John Maitland, Hon. Patrick (Lanark) Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.
Fraser, Sir Ian (M'cmbe & Lonsdale) Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R. Vickers, Miss Joan
Garner-Evans, E. H. Markham, Major Sir Frank Vosper, Rt. Hon. D. F.
George, J. C. (Pollok) Marples, Rt. Hon. A. E. Wade, D. W.
Gibson-Watt, D. Marshall, Douglas Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Godber, J. B. Mathew, R. Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)
Gomme-Duncan, Col. Sir Alan Maude, Angus Wall, Major Patrick
Gower, H. R. Maudling, Rt. Hon. R. Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.
Graham, Sir Fergus Mawby, R. L. Webbe, Sir H.

1946. Although we are here dealing with a new type of duty, it is certainly not an innovation to the law.

Question put, That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill:—

The House divided: Ayes 213, Noes 178.

Whitelaw, W. S. I. Wills, C. (Bridgwater) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.) Woollam, John Victor Mr. Barber and Mr. Finlay.
Williams, R Dudley (Exeter) Yates, William (The Wrekin)
Ainsley, J. W. Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly) Paton John
Albu, A. H. Griffiths, William (Exchange) Pearson, A.
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley) Pentland, N.
Allen, Arthur (Bosworth) Hannan, W. Plummer, Sir Leslie
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Herbison, Miss M. Popplewell, E.
Awbery, S. S. Hobson, C. R. (Keighley) Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)
Bacon, Miss Alice Howell, Denis (All Saints) Probert, A. R.
Baird, J. Hoy, J. H. Proctor, W. T.
Balfour, A. Hubbard, T. F. Pryde, D. J.
Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J. Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey) Randall, H. E.
Bence, C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.) Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Rankin, John
Benson, G. Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Redhead, E. C.
Beswick, Frank Hunter, A. E. Reeves, J.
Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale) Hynd, H. (Accrington) Reid, William
Blackburn, F. Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe) Rhodes, H.
Blenkinsop, A. Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill) Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Blyton, W. R. Jeger, Mrs. Lena (Holbn & St.Pncs,S.) Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)
Bowden, H. W. (Leicester, S.W.) Johnson, James (Rugby) Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)
Bowles, F. G. Johnston, Douglas (Paisley) Ross, William
Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth Jones, David (The Hartlepools) Royle, C.
Brockway, A. F. Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Short, E. W.
Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper) Jones, T. W. (Merioneth) Skeffington, A. M.
Burke, W. A. Kenyon, C. Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke, N.)
Burton, Miss F. E. Key, Rt. Hon. C. W. Slater, J. (Sedgefield)
Carmichael, J. King, Dr. H. M. Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
Castle, Mrs. B. A. Lawson, G. M. Sparks, J. A.
Champion, A. J. Lee, Frederick (Newton) Steele, T.
Chetwynd, G. R. Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock) Stewart, Michael (Fulham)
Clunie, J. Lindgren, G. S. Stonehouse, John
Coldrlck, W. Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Stones, W. (Consett)
Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead) MacColl, J. E. Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.
Corbet, Mrs. Freda McGhee, H. G. Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.
Cove, W. G. McGovern, J. Swingler, S. T.
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) McKay, John (Wallsend) Sylvester, G. O.
Cullen, Mrs. A. MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles) Taylor Bernard (Mansfield)
Darling, George (Hillsborough) MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling) Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)
Davies, Harold (Leek) Mahon, Simon Tomney, F.
Davies, Stephen (Merthyr) Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfd, E.) Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn
Deer, G. Mann, Mrs. Jean Viant, S. P.
Dodds, N. N. Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A. Warbey, W. N.
Donnelly, D. L. Mason, Roy Watkins, T. E.
Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwch) Messer, Sir F. Wells, Percy (Faversham)
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. Mitchison, G. R. Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse) Monslow, W. West, D. G.
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Moody, A. S. Wheeldon, W. E.
Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.) Morrison, Rt. Hn. Herbert (Lewis'm, S.) White Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)
Evans, Edward (Lowestoft) Moss, R. Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A, B.
Fernyhough, E. Moyle, A. Wilkins, W. A.
Fienburgh, W. Mulley, F. W. Willey, Frederick
Finch, H. J. Neal, Harold (Bolsover) Williams Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)
Fletcher, Eric Oliver, G. H. Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)
Forman, J. C. Oram, A. E. Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)
Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) Oswald, T. Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N. Owen, W. J. Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
George, Lady Megan Lloyd (Car'then) Padley, W. E. Woof, R. E.
Gibson, C. W. Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley) Yates, V. (Ladywood)
Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C. Palmer, A. M. F. Younger, Rt. Hon. K.
Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R. Pannell, Charles (Leeds, w.) Zilliacus, K.
Grey, C. F. Pargiter, G. A.
Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Parker, J. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Mr. John Taylor and Mr. Simmons.