§ [Queen's Recommendation signified]
§ Considered in Committee under Standing Order No. 84 (Money Committees).
§ [Sir GORDON TOUCHE in the Chair]
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to authorise the Secretary of State to assist persons wholly or mainly concerned with the provision of sea transport services serving the Highlands and Islands, it is expedient to authorise:—
A. The payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of any expenses incurred by the Secretary of State—
§ —[Mr. Maclay.]
§ Mr. Ross
I said that I did not rise to oppose it, Sir Gordon. I rise not in any spirit of opposition, but purely in one of inquisition, to ask whoever, on behalf of the Government, is putting forward the Money Resolution—which, of course, is a sweeping measure of nationalisation—how much they propose under paragraph A(a) to make available to the Secretary of State for the chartering of ships, how much under sub-paragraph (b) for building ships, which, I gather, is what the Government are now doing, how much for acquiring ships to be taken on charter and, under subparagraph (c), how much formaintaining, altering, modifying, converting or disposing of ships for the time held by him.May we have an explanation from whoever is responsible for this Money Resolution of what is meant, or what is thought to be meant by the phrase "for the time being held by him."?
§ 10.15 p.m.
§ Mr. E. G. Willis (Edinburgh, East)
Further to the questions asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross), may I ask the Secretary of State how much money it is proposed to spend under this Money Resolution for the purpose of the nationalisation of shipping? I think that we are entitled 1603 to know how much we shall spend no nationalisation of shipping in view of the Government's statements a short time ago.
The question I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman refers to the words in sub-paragraph (a):includes to a substantial extent, the provision of public transport by sea ".Do they mean the same as the earlier phrase at the beginning of the Resolution,mainly concerned with the provision of sea transport"?Surely there must be a difference. I do not know, but it seems to me that there is a difference of meaning, and that "mainly concerned" means something rather different from "includes to a substantial extent."
I should like to have the right hon. Gentleman's opinion on that because it seems to me that the second phrase ought to have read the same as the first.
§ Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Govan)
May I ask one or two questions of the Secretary of State about this Money Resolution? I am not opposing the Resolution. I should like to ask whether some of the pledges which were made when the Bill was considered by the Scottish Grand Committee in relation to its principle are covered by this Money Resolution. The Secretary of State will recollect that a Hovercraft was included in the term "vessel".
As the Money Resolution can be taken, I think, as referring almost specifically to sea transport, can we still rely on the pledge which was made that a "vessel" engaged in this work will include a "hovercraft"?
§ Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
I want to ask about the extent of this Money Resolution, whether it can extend to the improvement of harbours and bridges in harbours.
As the Secretary of State knows, a very serious question has arisen in Aberdeen, about the harbour and the pontoon bridge there, and the ships which serve the islands, not only the islands off the the West Coast but particularly the Islands of Orkney and Shetland. The Orkney and Shetland Steamship Company has threatened to remove its ser- 1604 vice from Aberdeen unless that harbour is improved and unless the pontoon bridge is repaired and improved.
What I want to know is whether these financial provisions are such as will enable some of the money to be made available for the purpose to which I have referred.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
I wonder whether the Secretary of State for Scotland would add to the definition in sub-paragraph (a), which is rather vague, and of which we should like some further explanation. Will he say exactly what these words mean:including such services ancillary thereto as are necessary for the proper functioning thereof"?That seems to be going into the realms of metaphysics.
I should like to ask, also, to what extent—and I heard this with some alarm —there is a proposal to extend further into the realm of nationalisation.
§ Mr. Hughes
I am glad to have that definite assurance from the Chair that there is nothing about nationalisation in the Bill.
§ Mr. Hughes
There is a further point for elucidation in line 14. I am in some difficulty in voting for the Resolution until we have a clear definition of what financial obligation we are incurring in view of the words:…being services serving the Highlands and Islands, that is to say, the Counties of Argyll, Caithness, Inverness. Orkney, Ross and Cromarty, Sutherland and Zetland"—
§ Mr. Hughes
I have not yet made up my mind, Sir Gordon. It depends upon whether we have a satisfactory explanation.
§ Mr. Hughes
I have read the Resolution carefully and I am putting questions because of its vagueness. When I put my geographical difficulties to you, Sir Gordon, you will understand my question, which is whether services to the County of Argyll include services to the Isle of Arran. If you understand the geographical proximity of the Mull of Kintyre in the County of Argyll to the west coast of the Island of Arran, you will understand my difficulty.
I should like to ask the Secretary of State for Scotland whether any of the expenditure incurred under the Bill will include assistance to a vessel which on he way to Campbeltown in Argyll calls off the west coast of Arran. There is at present a not very adequate service going from Glasgow to Argyll via the west coast of Arran and calling at Loch Ranza and Pernmill. I should like the Secretary of State whether, in this respect, Argyll includes, for financial purposes, he west coast of the Island of Arran.
§ Mr. A. C. Manuel (Central Ayrshire)
I should like to make certain that the Money Resolution is wide enough to do some of the things I was asking about in Standing Committee yesterday in connection with paragraph A, which states that… the Secretary of State—(a) in making advances, or carrying out contracts for the charter of ships, to persons who provide or propose to provide, or arrange for or assist in or propose to arrange for or assist in the provision of, public transport services (including such services ancillary thereto as are necessary …)".I do not know why "assist" occurs so frequently.
I believe that the whole success of what the Secretary of State is doing with the Bill, and the things which the Money Resolution is covering, will be based on the ancillaries. We want to know whether the Resolution is wide enough to include ferries between the smaller outer islands, in particular.
The Joint Under-Secretary was fairly forthcoming on this point and said that those who are operating the ferries could make an application. I want to know whether the Money Resolution has been So drafted that the Secretary of State has no doubt that the ferries ancillary 1606 to the main provisions in the Bill as regards the Outer Islands are included. If that is so we must have a complete recognition that the stone jetties must be kept up, so I therefore ask whether the Money Resolution would maintain the landing places on either side of the ferry service.
I hope that the Minister will recognise that we are not filibustering, but that we are trying to elicit information. He is always very suspicious when information is requested, but I hope that he can give us an assurance that the Money Resolution will be wide enough to include the ferry services which are so necessary if the sea services he is bringing in are to be successful.
My second point relates to the building of ships, which is covered by the Money Resolution. Has the Secretary of State any idea of the ceiling which this would place on the price paid for the ships? I assume that they will be similar in character to those in service in the Highlands and Islands. If the Minister could tell us the price which is likely to be paid for each ship built, and which he is prepared to charter to other people, we would have a clearer idea of what the Money Resolution covers.
As regards the Bill—
§ Mr. Manuel
I was about to say that the Money Resolution must be related to the figure of £250,000 which is in the Bill. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] The Chairman will tell us.
§ Mr. Manuel
We were informed in the Scottish Grand Committee that the Money Resolution covered a sum of £250,000 for the first financial year.
§ Mr. Manuel
I can agree with you, Sir Gordon, that it ought to be in, but as it is not in we cannot talk about it. In so far as the Money Resolution enables the Secretary of State for Scotland to build ships, what does that mean in money terms?
Mr. M. MacMillan
I wish to ask two questions in respect of the Money Resolution. Perhaps this will render a service to hon. Gentlemen opposite, who are equally anxious about the expenditure of the money proposed in that Resolution.
May I ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what is the overall sum in his mind involved in the Resolution? I suspect that he cannot answer this question, but he should have something to tell us, otherwise we shall simply pass a Money Resolution without any knowledge of the limit. I doubt whether there is a limit in the minds of right hon. Gentlemen opposite. I should like to know whether there is.
I should also like to underline the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel). Can the right hon. Gentleman break down the figure X which is being blindly supported by all of us because we can do nothing else? Can he tell Us what items of expenditure are involved under the general heading of the Money Resolution? Can he say, for example, what is the actual cost per ship, and how many ships are involved? Surely we have a right to ask that question and to receive an answer before we as a responsible Committee pass the Money Resolution.
Have we not a duty to ask the right hon. Gentleman what the limits are under the Resolution to the amount of money which, with the consent of the Treasury, he intends to spend on the ancillary services? We can only assume that the ancillary services are those which are necessary for the running of sea transport services, and these include piers and harbours and bus services connecting with the sea ports. We know that it is intended to cover Hovercraft or air taxi services from the ports, and the ferry services between the smaller islands so that passengers are not left stranded and cannot get home to places like Lochboisdale and Lerwick.
May we have an explanation of what is involved and the expenditure on the ancillary services? I want to be reassured that I am supporting the Resolution for the right reasons, and I want to be strengthened in my support by being given the answers to these questions. It is the duty of the Minister 1608 to give us some idea of the money that will be spent overall and particularly in relation to individual items which come strictly within the Resolution.
I would call attention to the reference to "maintaining" in the Resolution. What is involved? We know that to modernise, alter and maintain H.M.S. "Victorious" may cost up to £20 million. There is a large weekly expenditure on H.M.S. "Britannia". It can be a very costly business to convert a ship. At times, it is even costly to dispose of one. Can we have some idea of what will be spent under this heading, not per ship but in total?
Also, is it intended, under the reference to "acquiring", to deal with existing older ships of the MacBrayne fleet?
§ Mr. Willis
On a point of order, Sir Gordon. Is it not a gross discourtesy to the Committee that the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, who is really responsible for the Money Resolution—
I do not feel any sense of deprivation at the absence of the Financial Secretary to the Treasury. I doubt whether he could give more answers than the Secretary of State. I could not put it much lower than that.
In regard to the ancillary services under the Resolution, we know that certain types of aircraft are included. May we know what those types are? I know that Hovercraft are included, but is it limited to them? They are something far the future, whereas we have the existing Herons and, in the near future, the Herald. I imagine that those are the aircraft which will be used in the next few years. Does the right hon. Gentleman mean aircraft in general, and can he say whether he intends to acquire aircraft and to become the owner of nationalised aircraft under another heading, as 1609 he becomes a nationalised shipping owner on our behalf, or on behalf of those people who will make a profit out of the services?
Those are questions which the Committee wants to be asked and which, I am sure, hon. Members opposite would ask if they dared and if it were not so late and the Whips were not looking on. We want to be assured in our support of the Money Resolution so that we can feel that we can conscientiously go to bed tonight and not worry too much about leaving all these new and fairly expensive ships, these new Hovercraft and piers and ferry services in the hands of the new enthusiast for nationalisation, the Secretary of State for Scotland.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes
On a point of order. May I seek your guidance, Sir Gordon? This Money Resolution is in the name of the Economic Secretary to the Treasury. The questions which have been asked—
§ The Chairman rose—
§ Mr. Hughes
If you will bear with me for one moment, Sir Gordon, may I say that the questions which have been asked are questions for his Department?
§ Mr. Hughes
I am asking whether these questions can properly and legitimately be answered by anyone other than the Minister in whose name the Money Resolution is on the Order Paper.
§ The Chairman
The hon. and learned Member is obviously objecting to the procedure, so I must leave the Chair.
§ Several Hon. Members rose—
§ Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)
On a point of order, Is it in order, on a point of order, for anyone to be opposing a Bill or to be obstructing a Bill in any way?
Mr. M. MacMillan
On a point of order. Is it not a fact that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes) was objecting not to the procedure, but to the conduct of the hon. Member?
§ Mr. Hughes
On a point of order. I put to you, Sir Gordon, a matter on which I sought your guidance. This Money Resolution is in the name of the Financial Secretary to the Treasury and a number of questions have been asked of him.
§ It being after Ten o'clock, and objection being taken to further Proceeding,The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to report Progress, and ask leave to sit again.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again tomorrow.