HC Deb 16 June 1958 vol 589 cc716-32

(1) The rights conferred by a compulsory rights order in accordance with subsection (5) of section four of this Act, or in accordance with subsection (3) of section five of this Act, shall not affect any of the rights mentioned in subsection (2) or subsection (3) of this section.

(2) Subject to the next following subsection the said rights are:—

  1. (a) any right of support for any land not comprised in the order, or for any building or structure on any such land, or any right of action of any person in so far as it arises from the withdrawal of support to which he is entitled for any such land, building or structure;
  2. (b) any rights of any statutory undertakers, or of the body carrying on a sewerage undertaking or sewage disposal undertaking, or of any river board or other drainage authority, in respect of any apparatus on, under or over land comprised in the order, being apparatus in respect of which, at any time since the granting of the authorisation referred to in the order, the Board have been entitled to serve a notice under the provisions of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1944, applied by section twelve of this Act.

(3) In relation to an opencast site order, the said rights also include the rights conferred by any agreement made by the Board and for the time being in force whereby (apart from this Act) the Board are required to leave any coal unworked.

(4) Without prejudice to the preceding provisions of this section, the rights conferred by a compulsory rights order as mentioned in subsection (1) of this section—

  1. (a) shall not affect any right of action of a person who is not a person directly concerned, and
  2. (b) in the case of a person directly concerned, shall not affect any right of action of his in so far as it arises otherwise than by virtue of his being entitled to an interest in or right over land, or in so far as it arises by virtue of his being entitled to an interest in, or right over, land not comprised in the order.

(5) Nothing in the preceding provisions of this section shall affect the operation of subsection (4) of section four of this Act, or of subsection (2) of section five of this Act.

(6) Without prejudice to the preceding provisions of this section nothing in section four or section five of this Act shall be construed as authorising any interference with the exercise of a public right of way.

(7) Notwithstanding anything in subsection (8) of section four of this Act, or in subsection (6) of section five of this Act, a person shall not be taken to be a person directly concerned in relation to a compulsory rights order by reason only that he is entitled to any such right as is mentioned in subsection (2) or subsection (3) of this section.

(8) In the application of this section to Scotland, for the reference to the Town and Country Planning Act, 1944, here shall be substituted a reference to the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act, 1945.—[Sir I. Hornbin.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Sir I. Horobin

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

This is a dull but important machinery Clause, which carries out one or two undertakings made in Committee. We have taken advantage of it to make a number of drafting changes, and also to cut out a certain amount of duplication in Clauses 4 and 5, which will somewhat shorten the Bill. After an introductory subsection, subsection (2) deals with the definition of certain rights which remain unaffected by any compulsory rights order. They are rights of support for land and certain important rights of statutory undertakers, such as sewerage undertakings, drainage authorities, and so on.

The subsection makes it quite clear that the Board cannot withdraw support from neighbouring land; it must include in the order all the land which is likely to be affected directly by opencast working or indirectly by the withdrawal of support. It also makes it clear that the various statutory undertakers, or near-statutory undertakers—in respect of whom we had a considerable discussion in Committee—must be dealt with by the Board under the special Clause 12, which gives them special protection in matters of parliamentary procedure. This point was raised by hon. Members on both sides in Committee. They said that it should be carefully considered, in fairness to those bodies which have important responsibilities of this kind.

In subsection (3), I fulfil an undertaking which I gave in Committee dealing with agreements for the sterilisation of coal. We felt that it was right to draw a distinction. It would not be fair to the Coal Board to preserve in perpetuity, against any action for opencast coal, certain sterilisation covenants which the Board had inherited and which might have been drawn up 100 years ago before anyone thought of opencast coal. On the other hand, we did not think it was right that the Board should be entitled to override sterilisation agreements which the Board itself had made. The subsection deals with the matter along these lines.

Subsection (4) is largely the result of a little interchange between the hon. Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. Mac-Dermot) and myself on the question of nuisance. I am sure that he will be glad to see that we have redrafted the Bill to make it quite clear that we did not have the ludicrous position which might arise where the very persons most concerned might lose their right to action for nuisance because they were the persons directly concerned. We have made it quite clear that everybody still retains the right to action for nuisance in the ordinary way against the Board.

The only other subsection to which I need draw attention is subsection (6), which has been inserted for the removal of doubt. We want to make it quite clear that nothing in Clauses 4 and 5 gives the Board a right to interfere with the exercise of a public right of way. There was a possible doubt there and we felt it wise to take the opportunity to put the matter right. This is a machinery Clause to carry out a number of undertakings and to make a number of tidying-up points. Subsection (8) is the Scottish application. I do not think that there is anything controversial in any way in the Clause.

Mr. MacDermot

I agree with the Parliamentary Secretary that this is not a controversial Clause, or that there would not appear to be any need for it to be controversial. I reserve comments on subsection (3) until we discuss the Amendment to it, but I should like to thank the Parliamentary Secretary for the consideration which he has given to the point I raised in Committee about action for nuisance by the owner of land part of which was taken. On considering the matter further, I am not really very certain that there was a great deal of substance in the first place in the point that I raised. The fact is that such a person will have the right to action for nuisance. It was probably preserved in the original wording, but the draftsman appears now to have put the matter beyond doubt and I am grateful for the attention which has been given to it.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time.

Mr. Robens

I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Clause, at the end to insert: Provided that if the Minister is satisfied that the purposes for which those rights were conferred will not be prejudiced by the proposed opencast coal operations, he may at the time of confirming the opencast site order direct that the provisions of this subsection shall not apply to the order. As the Parliamentary Secretary has said, this is a machinery Clause, and it is not highly controversial, if, indeed, controversial at all. But we should be most careful that we do not lay down as part of our legislative process something which is unreasonable and which we might regret at a later stage. We have tabled the Amendment, therefore, to enable the Parliamentary Secretary to look once again at subsection (3) of the new Clause, which deals with agreements made by the Coal Board for the sterilisation of coal.

The Parliamentary Secretary referred briefly to this matter and said that whilst old agreements which the Board had taken over when the industry was nationalised, some of which dated back 100 years, had by now automatically fallen away, the purpose of the subsection was to make sure that the Board, by reason of this legislation, did not escape its responsibilities under those agreements which it had made for the sterilisation of coal. In general terms, one would agree with the Parliamentary Secretary, and one should not use legislation designed for one purpose for another and entirely different purpose.

We felt bound to raise this matter by tabling an Amendment to give the Parliamentary Secretary a little time for reflection on what appears to us a common sense proposal, although I do not say that the words of the Amendment are necessarily the correct ones. The Parliamentary Secretary may agree that there might be a case, though I doubt whether it would occur very frequently, where the Board had agreed to provide support for a specific purpose but, when it came to dealing with the land for the purpose of opencast mining, the reason for the support might have disappeared because of the circumstances surrounding the extraction of the coal. In such a case, it would be foolish if a pocket of coal were left on an opencast coal site, to which the provisions of the Bill had been applied, and the coal was not extracted because it happened that the Board had agreed to sterilise the coal for some reason or another.

An example which comes readily to mind is where an opencast site is astride a roadway and authority has been given for an alternative roadway to be made, either permanently or temporarily, thus enabling the Coal Board to take out the coal which was supporting the original roadway, because when it came to reinstating the roadway, in accordance with the Traffic Act and Ministry of Transport regulations, other materials would be put in to support it and the coal would be taken out.

There are two such cases in my constituency. One is an A-class road and the other is a Class 3 road, both of which will be dug up. The Class 3 road will be restored, but it would be wrong to leave the coal which now supports it. As to the A-road, advantage is being taken of the opencast site to make a road diversion. It would be wrong to sterilise the coal to support a roadway which will not exist when the opencast operations have been completed. It may be that in these two cases agreement to sterilise the coal was made some time ago.

On the other hand, there will be cases where the Coal Board has made an agreement, in the course of the normal working of a pit, and particularly a new pit, to sterilise coal which might be under farm buildings. In those circumstances, the buildings might be taken down and re-erected, in which case the support of the coal which had previously been sterilised would not be required.

I am sure that the Parliamentary Secretary, with his more expert knowledge of these matters, will be able to cite a number of cases where the Coal Board had honestly made an agreement to sterilise coal for the support of some object and where subsequently, in the course of operating a very large opencast site, that which the coal was supporting was to be removed and restored later on. In such a case, there is not much point in leaving the coal there and sterilising it.

5.30 p.m.

The only point of the Amendment is to enable the Minister, if he is satisfied about the purpose for which the coal was sterilised by agreement is no longer required and that the support and restoration can be carried out in other ways, to absolve the parties from the agreement to sterilise the coal. We do not seek to put the Amendment in to enable the National Coal Board to be relieved of any agreement entered into on a general scale, but the Minister must have power, where he is satisfied in conditions such as I have indicated, to relieve it of the obligations which it took on for an entirely different purpose.

I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will see that there is a constructive viewpoint about the matters which I have described and that the words provide an opportunity for him to think about it. The words themselves are not terribly important, and we would not dream of pressing them if the Parliamentary Secretary thought it worth while to consult the Board about the matter. It might be able to give him a number of real cases. I hope that the Minister will seek in another place to take advantage of the opportunity of this Amendment, which would benefit not only the operation of the Bill but opencast coal working.

Sir I. Horobin

While I appreciate the terms in which the Amendment has been moved, I hope that it will not be pressed.

I want to make two points. The first is that we are dealing with the use of compulsory powers and not to relieve the National Coal Board of agreements into which it has voluntarily entered. In the kind of case to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred, I would not think there would be the slightest difficulty of agreeing to bring the sterilisation agreement to an end. Just as it was voluntarily entered into, it could be voluntarily removed. We are dealing here with compulsory powers. We presuppose that somebody with an interest in the matter feels that he would be damaged by the agreement being brought to an end. It seems wrong in principle to use compulsory powers to relieve somebody from an agreement into which he has entered voluntarily.

The second point is that the Amendment could have an almost indefensible result. It could be used to relieve the Board of the provisions of a sterilisation agreement which it might enter into in the future when it knows all about the provisions of this Measure, which would be absurd. We ought to rest on the principle that if people come together, are prepared to say that a certain agreement of this kind is obsolete and are agreed to get rid of it, by all means let thorn get rid of it. If somebody who benefits by an agreement is not prepared to agree because he would be damnified by its coming to an end, we should not use compulsory powers to enable him to escape from an undertaking voluntarily entered into. I see that a certain type of case might arise, but the case for rejecting the Amendment is very strong.

Mr. Robens

I would only ask the Parliamentary Secretary if he had noted that this is a matter of Ministerial discretion. I would think that on going to a new site a new agreement might very well be made on the basis that the site was not to be worked for opencast coal, and that there might come an occasion when it was being worked for opencast and when such a sterilisation agreement ought to be set aside if the other party were unwilling to withdraw from the agreement. I would think it the height of folly to leave an area of coal sterilised while digging all around it merely because one party to the agreement refused to meet the situation with common sense. The Amendment gives Ministerial discretion where undue difficulty is met with on the part of the other party to an agreement.

While I accept that the Parliamentary Secretary cannot accept the proposed words, I would still think the Amendment worth while considering. When we consider this matter again, the Minister may well come to the conclusion that the Amendment is reasonable and may wish to include it in another form. Otherwise, could he indicate more definitely that the proposal is unworthy of further consideration? I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not turn it down completely flat without further consideration. We could have a situation in which we would be confronted with folly that would not be to the advantage of either the Coal Board or anybody else. I hope the Minister can promise to give the matter further consideration after consulting the people engaged in the work.

Mr. MacDermot

Could the Minister help us by giving an illustration on this point? His remarks were directed forcefully to the pros and cons of giving compulsory powers to either party to a voluntary agreement, but might there not be cases where a sterilisation agreement was voluntarily entered into by the National Coal Board not to give protection to the mineral owner, who was not affected at all by opencast coal working, but for a different purpose? It might be a case where the mineral owner would not suffer loss but desired to protect himself by the sterilisation agreement if the coal working took place. It seems unreasonable that he should have the power to hold the National Coal Board up to ransom and that opencast working in the national interest be seriously prejudiced.

Sir I. Horobin

All I can say in answer to that interruption is that we have continuous observations on various operations from the National Coal Board, and we have no reason to think that this is a matter to which it attaches importance. In fact, we have not had any observations from the Board that it has long-standing sterilisation agreements. It cannot be very long ago, because the Board has only been concerned with this matter for ten years. There are many matters in the Bill on which the Board has very strong views, but this is not one of them.

Mr. Robens

The Coal Board is not responsible for legislation; that is our task. It may be that the Board did not raise this matter with the Parliamentary Secretary. We can quite understand that, but this is something which Parliamentarians observe. They have experienced it in their constituencies and they are responsible for legislation. There may be cases where it is in the national interest that this power should be reserved to the Minister, not to the Coal Board. I am asking whether the Minister has consulted the Board. This consultation is a two-way traffic and this is one of the things on which I should have thought he could satisfy himself, (a) that we were wrong, or (b), that he should do something about the matter.

Sir I. Horobin

I did not misunderstand, but I was merely answering the point put by the hon. Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. MacDermot). I agree that these matters are appropriate to raise in the House. I was only saying that this particular trouble, if it is a trouble, had not been brought to our attention. This is the last occasion on which Amendments can be dealt with in this place. If the right hon. Member and his hon. Friend think that chapter and verse can be given in another place, well and good, but we have no evidence put before us to show that there is an overwhelming practical case to set against the very strong point of principle which I put to the House that we should not use compulsory powers given for a quite different purpose to enable anybody to get out of an agreement quite recently and voluntarily made.

Of course, if a strong case could be put that there are a large number of these cases the proper procedure would be to move an Amendment, based on such a case, in another place. The onus of proof, surely, is on those who want to amend the Bill, especially at this late stage. I was very forthcoming in Committee in giving undertakings on a number of matters. That is the reason for the large number of Amendments we are considering today, but I do not think that I should go on giving further undertakings. If an Amendment is argued with a large number of cases, if they can be found—this is not a matter of vital importance one way or the other—no doubt it would be dealt with on its merits in another place, but I have no evidence so far which calls for setting aside a principle which, I think, is agreed to be a sound principle, that if a voluntary agreement has been come to the parties should stand by it.

Mr. Robens

I am sorry that the Parliamentary Secretary is being rather forceful about this. It is true that in Committee he undertook to look at a great many things and, as a consequence, we have these Amendments on the Notice Paper. Will he also agree that, by being conciliatory and helpful, the Opposition, which have not a Civil Service to help them, nor the right to go to the Coal Board and ask for help, have probably saved him 30 or 40 hours of Committee work?

5.45 p.m.

This is exempted business and we can get along so much more easily when the Parliamentary Secretary meets us with some sweet reasonableness. What he is saying to me now is, "You go to the Coal Board. Make them undo their secrets and tell you all about it. When you have got that information, see someone in another place and ask him to put down an Amendment and have it argued. On the basis of that, we will discuss the matter." I am sure we could get on much more easily, and save a lot of time, if the Parliamentary Secretary, with his usual courtesy and kindness, would do that for us. Why should he not have a

(1) For the purpose of facilitating the assessment of compensation under Part II of this Act, the Board shall cause records to be made in accordance with the following provisions of this section.
5 (2) In the case of an opencast site order, where the Board have published, served and affixed notices under subsection (2) of section four of this Act, the Board shall cause a record to be made of the condition, as on the date of entry,—
(a) of all the land comprised in the order, and
(b) of any other land which, in relation to that order, forms part of a holding to which section sixteen or section twenty-eight of this Act applies:
10 Provided that, in relation to an opencast site order made in accordance with section six of this Act, this subsection shall apply as if paragraph (b) thereof were omitted.
15 (3) In the case of any compulsory rights order (other than any order made in accordance with section six of this Act) the Board shall, at the end of the period of occupation, cause a record to be made of the condition, as at the end of that period, of all the land comprised in the order.
20 (4) Any record of the condition of land made under this section shall be made in pursuance of a comprehensive survey of the land, in so far as such a survey can be carried out by inspection and without any operations involving the excavation of land or the making of borings therein, and shall include all such particulars of the land and of things in or on the land as are reasonably required for recording the results of such a survey.
(5) Where the Board have caused a record to be made under this section they shall—
25 (a) in the case of a record made under subsection (2) of this section, within twenty-one days after the date of entry, and
(b) in the case of a record made under subsection (3) of this section, within twenty-one days after the end of the period of occupation,
30 send a copy of the record to every person who is then known to them to be a person directly concerned.

word with the Coal Board? He has only to pick up a telephone to get an audience with the Chairman, but it might take me weeks to get such an audience as I have not the authority which the Parliamentary Secretary has.

I want to save the hon. Gentleman time. All I am asking the Parliamentary Secretary is whether he would look at this matter and consider whether there is anything in it. Then he could deal with it properly. We have done so well so far that it would be a pity if we started to argue on matters of procedure. This is a matter on which he could help us.

Sir I. Horobin

We are considerably indebted for progress to the right hon. Member and, in view of what he has said, may I say that without any commitment I will take up the telephone and see what can be done.

Mr. Robens

In those circumstances, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause added to the Bill.

(6) If any person, to whom a copy of a record is sent under this section, gives notice of objection to the Board, within twenty-one days after the date on which the copy was sent to him, requiring the record to be amended in one or more respects specified in the notice, then—
35 (a) if all the persons whose agreement is requisite agree on an amendment of the record (whether the amendment is that specified in the notice of objection or another amendment in substitution for it), the Board shall cause the record to be amended accordingly;
40 (b) if no such agreement is reached, and the objection is not withdrawn, the matter in dispute shall be determined by arbitration.
(7) For the purposes of the last preceding subsection, the persons whose agreement is requisite shall be the Board, the person who gave the notice of objection, and all other persons to whom copies of the record were sent under this section.
45 (8) For the purposes of any arbitration under paragraph (b) of subsection (6) of this section—
(a) the reference shall be to a single arbitrator appointed by the Board and the person who gave the notice of objection in consequence of which the dispute arose;
50 (b) except in relation to the appointment of an arbitrator, all persons whose agreement is requisite for the purposes of that subsection shall be parties to the reference.
55 (9) With respect to professional and other fees incurred by persons in obtaining advice or conducting negotiations with regard to any record made under this section, the Minister may make regulations requiring the Board, within such limits (whether as to descriptions of fees, or as to amount, or otherwise) and subject to such conditions as may be prescribed, to pay fees so incurred:
Provided that no regulations under this section shall apply to any fees in so far as they form part of the costs of an arbitration under this section, or shall affect any power of an arbitrator with respect to any such costs.
60 (10) In the application of this section to Scotland for references to costs, and to an arbitrator, there shall be substituted respectively references to expenses and to an arbiter.—[Sir I. Horobin.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Sir I. Horobin

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

This appeared, on the face of it, to be an extremely simple business, but it has landed us in an extraordinary amount of complication. All we are trying to do is to ensure that people know what they are talking about when at various stages they talk about land. One would have thought that an easy thing to do, but upstairs and now we have found that it takes a remarkably large number of words. In this Clause we are seeking to strike out the existing Clause 10 and to put in another making a number of technical changes, and it also fulfils a couple of undertakings I gave in Committee on the question of records.

In subsection (2) of the new Clause we deal with the condition of land at the date of entry under an opencast site order. This does not apply to storage site orders because, in the light of changes made upstairs, they can be made only on land which is already under requisition. There is no point in making a record of the condition of that land now; all that was gone into at the time when the land was originally requisitioned.

We make two changes as compared with the present Clause 10. We ensure that the record of condition shall cover all the holding and not just the land comprised in the order. That is because, as a result of Amendments made in Committee, some of the compensation provisions to protect the tenant in particular involve calculating values on certain assumptions which relate to the whole holding.

The second change is to provide for a record of the land in the case of a limited order under Clause 6, orders dealing with easements, and so on because, under Clause 30, there is provision for terminal compensation on easements and similar rights have to be taken into account at the date of entry. The condition of the rest of the holding does not come into this calculation In this new Clause it is only necessary to record the condition of the land actually comprised in the order.

Subsection (3) fulfils an undertaking of mine to provide for a record at the end of the Board's occupation of the land. This is needed for the assessment of cost of works terminal compensation under Clause 21. I should point out that in the following subsection, which is entirely machinery, these records can only involve inspection. They do not give any right or call for boring or disturbance of the ground, or anything of that kind.

Subsection (5) fulfils another undertaking of mine, which I think was generally acceptable, that these records should go to everybody known to be concerned without putting them to the trouble of asking for them. We have made a slight change for the benefit of the Board. As we are now asking the Board to make records of rather more land, it should have 21 days instead of the original 14 in which to send out copies.

Subsection (8) makes a slight change in the Arbitration Act, 1950. The hon. Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. MacDermot) will probably be interested in the change, and I think he will consider it a sensible one. I am advised that where matters go to arbitration under that Act, if any one of the persons concerned did not answer the Board's letter it would involve an expensive and complicated procedure to get an arbitrator appointed. We have made what seems to be a sensible provision, namely, that the person concerned in agreeing to the arbitrator should be the person who served the notice of objection on which there is to be arbitration. That will simplify, speed up and cheapen the procedure.

The short intention of the Clause is to ensure as speedily, easily and cheaply as possible that everybody concerned gets a record of the condition of the land at all material dates.

Mr. Champion

I agree with the Parliamentary Secretary that there are here a lot of words to express a couple of fairly simple ideas. Nevertheless, it seems to me that the words are necessary.

I rise merely to thank the Parliamentary Secretary for having so scrupulously and carefully given thought to what was said in the Standing Committee and for having carried out completely the promises which he gave, particularly the promise in this case which I regard as of some importance. The provision that the tenant affected should have a copy of the record without having to fetch it or to serve a notice upon the Board requiring it to send it to him is a simplification which will be welcomed by every tenant farmer concerned, for such a person probably would not be able to get legal advice easily or even cheaply.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time.

Mr. MacDermot

I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Clause, in line 29, to leave out "send" and to insert: serve a notice exhibiting". I hope that we may be able to consider, at the same time, the next four Amendments, in line 31, to leave out "to" and to insert "on"; in line 31, to leave out "sent" and to insert "served"; in line 33, to leave out "sent to" and to insert "served on"; and in line 34, after "notice", to insert "of objection" as they all go together.

The object of the Amendments is to make more formal the procedure for sending a copy of the record to every person who is known to the Coal Board to be a person directly concerned. The Bill as originally drafted provided that anyone who wanted a copy of the record had to write and ask the Board for it. In response to a suggestion by my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South-East (Mr. Champion), the Government have now accepted that the better course is to make it the other way round and put the responsibility on the Board to send a copy of the record to every person who, as far as it knows, is a person directly concerned.

The Clause says: … the Board … shall … send a copy of the record … The first Amendment requires the Board to … serve a notice exhibiting … a copy. The reason is that if the phrase "serve a notice" is used it will import the provisions of the Ninth Schedule, which lays down in a well recognised form for lawyers—such words appear in many Acts—a definite procedure for serving a notice.

Difficulties may often arise. The Board may have a last known address of a person which may not be that person's current address. If we merely say that a notice must be sent, the person concerned may object that it was never sent to him because it was not sent to the address where he was now living. The Ninth Schedule provides for all that sort of thing. It provides for the way in which a notice shall be sent to a company—at its registered address or principal office.

A case might arise where the Board believed that there was an interested party but did not know what his name was. It is difficult in those circumstances to see how the notice can be sent. However, the Ninth Schedule provides for that contingency by saying that the Board can address it to the person either by name or by the description "the owner or the occupier" and then send it in the prescribed manner to one of the addresses which will satisfy the requirements for the service of the document.

That is the sort of thing that we have in mind in making our suggestion. We feel that it will avoid doubt and the possibility of future litigation if the notice is made a formal one, in the same way as a person who objects has to serve a notice of objection on the Board. The word "notice" imports all these formal provisions, whereas mere "send" does not.

Sir I. Horobin

When I looked at the Amendments I was not clear what was in the mind of the hon. Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. MacDermot) and his hon. Friends. I was a little afraid that the intention might be that the notice should simply draw attention to the fact that persons concerned could set to work to obtain the notices. That would have been unacceptable. I am very glad that that is not the case.

Speaking offhand, the hon. Gentleman seems to have a useful point here. If he is prepared not to press his Amendments now, I should like to consult my advisers and, if necessary, move an Amendment in another place. The hon. Member will appreciate that I cannot accept his Amendments as they stand, because this is a very technical matter, but I think that there is something in what he said.

Mr. MacDermot

These are purely formal and technical points. In view of the Minister's assurance, for which I thank him, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause added to the Bill.