HC Deb 15 May 1958 vol 588 cc668-71
Mr. N. Macpherson

I beg to move, in page 2, line 1, after "payable", to insert: otherwise than under section thirty of the Police (Scotland) Act, 1956". This is a drafting Amendment. It ensures that the expenditure on police road traffic patrols will continue to be eligible for police grant. At present, this expenditure is grant-aided twice, first under Section 57 (4) of the Road Traffic Act, 1930, where it attracts an allowance towards running costs and depreciation, which varies in amount with the type of vehicle and the mileage run. Secondly, under Section 30 of the Police (Scotland) Act, 1950, the balance of the expenditure after deduction of the grant under the 1930 Act, ranks for 50 per cent. police grant.

Expenditure on police traffic patrols is included in relevant expenditure by paragraph 7 of the First Schedule to the Bill. The specific grant under the 1930 Act will be discontinued. The intention is to pay police grant on the whole of this expenditure in future but to take account of the increase in police grant in the weight given to road traffic patrol expenditure in fixing the amount of the general grant.

The Government have, however, been advised that, as the subsection stands, the effect of the words in lieu of the grants paid in respect of relevant expenditure would be to remove the authority for paying police grant, because the police grant is one of the grants payable in respect of police patrols. The Amendment puts this right.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. J. N. Browne

I beg to move, in page 2, line 35, after "concerned", to insert: shall be laid before the Commons House of Parliament together with a report by the Secretary of State explaining the considerations leading to the provisions of the order". This Amendment gives effect to an undertaking which I gave in Standing Committee to the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. G. M. Thomson). It ensures that the general grant order shall be accompanied with a White Paper giving the various considerations and a reasoned explanation of any increase or decrease. This is what the Committee wished.

Mr. G. M. Thomson (Dundee, East)

I thank the Minister for carrying out the undertaking he gave me during the Standing Committee sittings on the Bill. I am most grateful to him.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In page 2, line 36, leave out "the Commons House of Parliament" and insert "that House".—[Mr. J. N. Browne.]

Mr. Rankin

I beg to move, in page 2, line 39, after "two" to insert, "or more than three".

Time is now so precious that I do not want to waste it. Nevertheless, it should be put on record that we have about 35 minutes for the Report stage of the Bill. One solitary back bencher is proceeding to the Government side of the Chamber at the moment and we give him a hearty welcome. The reason for the widespread absence on the Government benches is that there is some sort of political discussion going on in the Tory Party in some other part of the House. Because of the action of the Government in guillotining this Measure, we regret that we have only a little more than half an hour for one of the most important aspects of the passage of a Bill.

Hon. Members on this side will recollect that we had a prolonged discussion in Standing Commitee whether the period of the general grant should be one year, two years, or three years. The Amendment is put forward to try to reach a compromise on the matter. Compromise may be the art of politics, but the compromisers are apt to be kicked around by all sides. If we can have general agreement on this matter we might as well try to attain it. The Amendment reflects the White Paper, wherein it was laid down that the grant would normally be fixed for periods of two or three years in advance. When the White Paper was tabled there was very little opposition to that proposal.

I had been led to believe that the Government view this compromise Amendment with favour and that they are prepared to accept it. If so, they will have a definite period of not less than two years and not more than three years for the duration of the general grant. The period is not unlimited, a fact that was expressed in many quarters by those who also said that the Government were being given much too great a power for an almost unlimited period to fix the operation of the general grant.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State did me the compliment in Standing Committee of saying that my Amendment was realistic. I am glad that at one period during the proceedings the hon. Gentleman has been realistic enough to face the fact that our Amendments are realistic and that the Government are now prepared to accept it.

6.30 p.m.

Mr. Malcolm MacMillan

I beg to second the Amendment.

I do not intend to delay the Joint Under-Secretary or the House, but I very much welcome the indication we have had that the Government are favourably disposed towards this Amendment. The other purpose of my saying anything at all is to show that it is at least possible to find a seconder from this side of the House for an Amendment.

Mr. J. N. Browne

These occasions on Report stage are very pleasant. They are rather like a husband and wife discussing past squabbles over a cup of tea. There is no cup of tea here. Hon. Members on both sides in Committee upstairs criticised the Government for leaving what my hon. Friend the Member for Pollok (Mr. George) described as an open-ended period of grant. I brought some criticism on to my head by saying that we were following the English Bill, although I said, as will be seen from column 164 of the OFFICIAL REPORT of the Standing Committee, that I did not rest my case on that fact.

We have considered the arguments made in Committee and the speech of the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. Rankin). We appreciate the need to remove any unnecessary doubts on the part of Scottish local authorities and to strike a small blow for Scottish independence. As I said three times in Committee, it was very unlikely that Orders would be made for longer periods than three years. The hon. Member for Govan said that if that is unlikely, why not limit the period to three years? We accept that and accept the Amendment.

Amendment agreed to.