§ Considered in Committee [Progress, 16th December].
§ [Sir GORDON TOUCHE in the Chair]
Question again 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:—
§ 10.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Thomas Fraser (Hamilton)
I think we have an opportunity this evening to discuss this Money Resolution. There was some discussion on it on 16th December when I fear that the Government made a rather serious mistake by neglecting to suspend the Rule to allow a full discussion of the Money Resolution. None of us objected to their failure to suspend the Rule to protect the Second Reading of the Bill if we had to discuss the Bill in relation to the principle. But we thought it a bit unfair of the Government not to suspend the Rule to take the Money Resolution. Notwithstanding what we thought about it we were very careful not to criticise the Money Resolution at all.
298 It will be within your recollection, Sir Gordon, that, after a number of questions had been asked, the Chair felt obliged to rule that a point of order, not a question, on the Money Resolution raised by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes) constituted opposition to the Money Resolution, and that therefore we could not proceed further with the Money Resolution on that occasion. The right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends have now decided in the Division Lobbies that there should be more frequent investigation by the House of Commons into the amount of money—
§ Mr. Fraser
I was about to say that I hoped the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends will take the view that it is right that we should consider a Resolution such as this because only an hour or two ago they decided that it was desirable that the House of Commons should more frequently discuss the use to which money is put by the Coal Board, money which is merely loaned by the Government, whereas under such a Resolution as this money is not necessarily loaned but in many cases given to private enterprise as a subsidy. I think, therefore, that we must claim the right to discuss the way in which money is to be given to private enterprise.
On 16th December a number of my hon. Friends asked the right hon. Gentleman to justify the use of the figure of £250,000 as the amount of money likely to be expended in the first year under some of the provisions in this Bill. That sum is not written into the Money Resolution but appears in the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum. As we have seen today, what is written there does not necessarily mean anything, because today we have amended a Bill which means an alteration to or an amendment of what is written in the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum. From that point of view, this Money Resolution would seem to be too widely drawn. There is no restriction on the amount of money at all. We are giving a blank cheque to the Government by accepting this Money Resolution. 299 In other respects the Resolution—I hope I shall not be blamed for offering some criticism of it—is far too tightly drawn. As I read it, if we accept it in its present form—I hope the right hon. Gentleman will take it back—we shall deny ourselves the opportunity of considering Amendments to the Bill, and that, I should have thought, is not the wish of hon. Members on both sides of the Committee. For example, if we pass this Resolution, we give the Secretary of State power to assist persons who are concerned with the provision of sea transport services in the Highlands and Islands. That is all right, but we say that those persons must be wholly or mainly concerned with the provision of such services.
By passing this Money Resolution in its present form we are providing that the Secretary of State must give the subsidies, and they are subsidies, to shipping companies with a monopoly of those services and that no shipping company, however efficient, whose main business is not serving the Highlands and Islands can get any assistance in the provision of the services.
I do not believe that that is the wish of hon. Members opposite. Before the Money Resolution was brought before the House, I made some observations on this point when the Bill was being considered in relation to the principle. I asked the right hon. Gentleman to consider the extension of trade which he and his right hon. Friends hope will ensue from the Outer Seven Agreement. If we have a resumption of the kind of shipping activities which we used to have between Aberdeen and the Scandinavian ports, it is surely not beyond the bounds of possibility that some of those shipping companies will be willing to extend their activities to serving the northern Islands, in particular Orkney and Shetland. If that is so, and they are highly efficient shipping companies, why on earth should we in Parliament say to the Secretary of State, "You may not give any financial assistance to such a company in providing this service. You may give financial assistance only to a company which is 'wholly or mainly' concerned with running this service to Orkney and Shetland"?
I ask the right hon. Gentleman to move a manuscript Amendment to the 300 Resolution or to take the Resolution back and remove the offensive words "wholly or mainly". That part of the Resolution would then be satisfactory.
While the right hon. Gentleman has been unnecessarily restrictive in the words which he has used in confining these advances to persons who arewholly or mainly concerned with the provision of sea transport services serving the Highlands and Islandselsewhere it seems to me that he has made the Resolution far too wide, because if we read paragraph A we see:The payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of any expenses incurred by 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. …If we pass the Resolution in this form we shall not be able to give a subsidy to the efficient shipping company which is prepared to undertake the provision of those services to the northern Islands or the Western Isles, or any part of the Highlands or Islands, unless it is almost exclusively employed in that service, and yet the right hon. Gentleman is taking power to make a payment to persons who merely propose to provide or to assist to provide or to assist in making arrangements to provide for those services. I do not know why he has made the Money Resolution so wide in this respect.
As one reads sub-paragraph (a) one again comes to offensive words which are restrictive to companies which are providing these services wholly or mainly—the words in this case being "to a substantial extent" —to the Highlands and Islands. The areas are written into the Bill by definition of what is meant by "Highlands and Islands."
Some hon. Members opposite have made some very ill-informed public criticism of the Opposition in speeches which they were able to make in the shelter of private Tory gatherings in different parts of Scotland. I hope that they and the Secretary of State now realise that this is an important matter and that they will be failing in their responsibility if they pass the Resolution in its present form without querying with the Secretary of State the reason 301 for his having drafted the Money Resolution in this form.
I have indicated that in some respects I think that the Money Resolution is too wide and too generous. I oppose it mainly, however, because in other respects it is far too narrowly drawn. I want to be able to move an Amendment to the Bill in Committee in order that efficient shipping companies in other parts of this country, which are willing to provide a service to the Highlands and Islands as an extension of their principal business, which is elsewhere, will be able to say to the Secretary of State, "I can do this job for a smaller subsidy than that which you are paying to an inefficient company which has a monopoly of the service at present, and I can give a more efficient service". I hope that hon. Members opposite would consider such a proposition. If we pass the Money Resolution in this form we should be unable to do so.
In the circumstances, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will either propose a manuscript Amendment this evening to the Resolution or will withdraw the Money Resolution and subsequently produce another which will allow us adequately to consider the Bill in Committee.
§ Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)
I want to supplement what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser). That part of the Money Resolution seems to be drawn not so much with the purpose of doing something as with the purpose of seeing that certain sections of the community do not help in doing it.
We think it desirable that there should be this service to maintain the population in the outer islands, because unless that is done and transport is provided, both by sea and by road, there will be a steady shrinkage of the population in the outposts of Scotland and many parts of our country will gradually become depopulated.
My experience in some of these parts of Scotland suggests that if these facilities are not provided the women and girls will not remain there, and once they have gone life will eventually depart. The women insist on some communication being provided with the rest of the country, and that can be provided only by effective transport. We are, 302 therefore, in entire agreement with the Secretary of State in taking whatever steps are necessary to see that this transport is provided.
What we cannot understand is that, while he has not yet decided what the best medium will be, he is automatically excluding, by the Money Resolution, a number of media which might prove to be much more suitable than those which are included in the Bill. I understand from the Money Resolution—and I hope that he will correct me if I am wrong— that the Transport Commission is automatically excluded from taking any part in this scheme. I am not even sure whether MacBraynes can be brought into it—and that is already a semi-Government institution. It is excluded by the Money Resolution from making a contribution to fulfilling this purpose.
Why should not the Transport Commission undertake this? The Commission performs its functions very effectively on the Clyde, as the right hon. Gentleman knows. It operates its boats on the Clyde with the regularity and efficiency of railway trains on land. [Laughter.] I travelled in some of the worst weather the other day and the train was only about 10 minutes late on a journey of 400 miles. I did that because I could not get a plane. I travel reasonably regularly by train and I pay tribute to the regularity and safety of British Railways. In any case, no one can dispute the Commission's efficiency on the Clyde. That has been proved over many years. Since nationalisation it has certainly not deteriorated and most people agree that it has improved. Is it a prejudice against nationalisation which deprives the Commission if it is capable of doing the job of the opportunity of playing a part?
Leith — Aberdeen — Shetland and Lerwick transport has been in existence for a generation. Its shipping, presumably, is not mainly connected with transport in the Highlands. Is that regular line debarred from playing any part, if it can play a part by extending its services to the Orkneys and some of the other islands? That would be far better than hoping for all these other things mentioned in the Money Resolution to turn up. In any case, what is the purpose of mentioning all these little details? 303 Why not be as general in the body of the Money Resolution as the Secretary of State is in regard to other matters? He takes powers, in (c), formaintaining, altering, modifying, converting or disposing of ships for the time being held by him.Many other powers being taken by the right hon. Gentleman are fairly general. Why is he so particular about whom he is to make advances to, restricting it topersons who provide or propose to provide … public transport services"?"Persons" will probably legally cover companies, but we wish to be clear on that. In trying to carry out this purpose the right hon. Gentleman must not debar himself from using any instrument which may prove suitable, efficient and economic.
Can the right hon. Gentleman advance any argument why he should prevent himself, under the Bill, from being able to exercise his discretion? We do not suggest that he must use any particular medium. We suggest merely that he should not decide prematurely before he has investigated the facts what medium he is not to use. He has not decided what medium he will use. The Money Resolution decides definitely what medium he cannot use. That is wrong. I add my plea to that of my hon. Friend that the right hon. Gentleman should reconsider this and try to alter the Resolution in the two forms which have been suggested.
§ Mr. E. G. Willis (Edinburgh, East)
Hon. Gentlemen opposite smiled when my right hon. Friend the Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) referred to a nationalised service. It is interesting to note that the Money Resolution is before the Committee precisely because private enterprise cannot do the job. Therefore, the Government now have to nationalise shipping in Scotland.
That is probably why the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Mr. Stodart) did not like Scottish Members talking about this before Christmas. He thought that it was wrong that we should draw to the attention of the people of Scotland that two months after he had carried on a vicious campaign against nationalisation he should be dumbly supporting these proposals to nationalise shipping. It is a very astonishing feat by the hon. Gentleman.
304 No wonder hon. Gentlemen opposite always sit silent. I should like to hear them say something about their attitude towards the Money Resolution, in which we are being asked to vote money for carrying out contracts for the building of ships for acquisition by the Secretary of State. Apparently the Secretary of State is now to become a ship-owner because of the failure of private enterprise to provide these very necessary and essential services.
There was some annoyance about what happened before Christmas, and I hope that when the right hon. Gentleman replies he will remember that he has a very long list of questions to answer which were asked on that occasion. I hope that he has the relevant HANSARD with him and the answers to some of the questions then asked. Some annoyance was expressed. We were accused of delaying this. If there has been any delay, it has been on the part of the Government because this was before them over two years ago. It is rather thick to suggest now that we have been causing delay when the Government have dilly-dallied for about two years unable to make up their minds what they want to do.
On reading the Money Resolution one is forced to the conclusion that the Government still do not know what they want to do. Do they want the British Transport Commission to undertake this? Do they want MacBraynes to undertake it? Is the existing company to undertake it? I understand not. Who is to undertake it? Under the terms of the Resolution, it seems very doubtful whether the Commission or MacBraynes will be able to undertake the work. What is the Government's intention about the position of these essential services?
There is one question which I asked before Christmas and of which I remind the right hon. Gentleman so that he can give me an answer. In the second line of the Resolution we are asked… to authorise the Secretary of State to assist persons wholly or mainly concerned with the provision of sea transport services …When we come to paragraph A (a), we depart from that wording and we are told that the Secretary of State can make advances to companies undertaking services which includeto a substantial extent, the provision of public transport by sea …305 I am sure thatincludes to a substantial extent, the provision of public transport by sea …does not mean the same as "wholly or mainly concerned". I should have thought that 30 per cent. of a business would have been a substantial part, but it would not be the whole or the main part of the business. There seems to be a contradiction, which I ventured to point out before Christmas. Why is the wording different and what does it mean?
There is also a reference toin making advances, or carrying out contracts for the charter of ships, to persons who provide or propose to provide"—that seems to be fair enough—or arrange for"—who is a person who arranges for?—or assist in"—and I should like to know what that means, because it goes on:or propose to arrange for or assist in the provision of public transport …Who is a person who arranges for? What sort of group of persons is covered by that? What sort of person "assists in"? Surely the wordsto persons who provide or propose to provide"—cover what we want. We want services, not people who propose to arrange services which we might never see. The words simply seem to confuse the issue.
I do not know why lawyers or draftsmen use these words and I shall be very interested to hear the right hon. Gentleman's explanation and delighted to add to my legal knowledge. It always comes in handy in the Scottish Grand Committee to know what come of these things mean and I am always willing, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, to advance my legal education. That is one of the reasons why I am so assiduous in my attendances. One day, who knows, I shall be almost able to practise in Parliament House, if we go on very much longer.
§ Mr. Willis
Or be able to get an answer, as my hon. Friend says.
We ought to have that matter cleared up We ought to have some idea of exactly what we are voting when we vote forcarrying out contracts for the building of ships …What has the right hon. Gentleman in mind? Does he propose to build a sort of fleet and appoint an admiral to the ferry services of the Highlands and Islands, a sort of merchant navy? Does he propose to have one, two or half-a-dozen ships? What does he envisage? We are being asked to vote money and I think we should be told how much money we are being asked to vote and at least what we are being asked to pay for. What has the right hon. Gentleman in mind in paragraph A (b)?
We have paragraph (c), which refers tomaintaining, altering, modifying, converting or disposing of ships for the time being held by him.How many ships does the Secretary of State expect to hold? It seems to me that he has to have more than one or two, because one or two might be in repair, and we cannot stop this service because one or two ships have to be repaired. We must have a number of ships and we should be told something about them.
It is obvious from what was said during the Second Reading of the Bill, and during the course of this debate, that the sum mentioned in the Money Resolution as being a sum thought necessary for the first year, £250,000, will not cover the whole expenditure. It will not provide many ships. I should have thought that we would need at least two or three to commence with. We ought to provide that number because if one has an accident and is laid up for two weeks we cannot stop the service because of that.
The right hon. Gentleman should take the Committee into his confidence on this matter and give us rather more information than we were able to elicit from him during the Second Reading.
§ Mr. Ross
I am glad to have the opportunity of discussing properly the Money Resolution. The Secretary of State for Scotland will remember that prior to the Second Reading of the Bill I put a Question to the Leader of the House on business one Thursday, asking him when this Resolution would come up for discussion and, if so, whether he would allow time for debate. I got a reasonable reply to that, but hon. Members will appreciate my surprise on noting that when, eventually, it was put on the Order Paper for debate, the Standing Rule was not suspended, which meant that the House could not at that time discuss it.
Quite apart from courtesy to the House and to myself and the promise given to me, I think that it would have been an elementary precaution for the Government, anxious to get the Money Resolution, to have taken the one step that would ensure them getting it, which was to suspend the Standing Order and allow hon. Members the right to speak.
§ Mr. Ross
I am very glad that we have the Resolution before us in the present circumstances, when the Standing Order has been suspended, because you will remember, Sir Gordon, that we are dealing with the Money Resolution of a Bill, the principles of which have been accepted, but which were not heard by the House. By the historic idiosyncrasies of Scottish legislative procedure the Second Reading was taken in Scottish Grand Committee, so it is all the more important that the discussion of the Resolution should be under such comfortable conditions as we have tonight.
I am glad that the Secretary of State has seen fit to ensure that we get adequate discussion. I am sorry that hon. Members opposite have not yet found their voices. No doubt they are worn out by their oratorical exertions outside this House, but I hope that they will appreciate that tenderness to people who are not Scots and the rights of people who are not Scots to know what is happening in relation to legislation and what they are to be taxed with will make them a little more considerate in future.
308 May I ask the Secretary of State if I am right in understanding that we are giving him a new expenses account? I would like hon. Members to notice that we are providing a new expenses account for the Secretary of State for Scotland, and an unlimited expenses account, because there is no limiting sum of money in this Resolution. In the Coal Industry Bill, which we have had before us, there was a limited sum, and in the Money Resolution of the Post Office Bill, which we dealt with just before the House rose for the Christmas Recess, there was a very limiting figure. I see that the Postmaster-General is present and I am sure that he will agree with me.
Here we have something like a new expenses account for the Secretary of State for Scotland. He can spend what he likes. He does not need to consult Parliament. As long as he gets the consent of the Treasury he can go ahead. It is a wonderful position—and even more wonderful when we consider the specific things on which he can spend the money. If we agree to this Motion we are making public finance available for a variety of listed purposes.
I can still remember the thrill that went through Scotland when the Prime Minister came to us and proclaimed, in the Playhouse, in Glasgow—we are used to the glamour of Hollywood romance in that place, so it was quite in keeping —that Scotland was no place for State planners and nationalisation. But what is this? What is the Secretary of State to do now? Let us see what the Motion says:The payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of any expenses incurred by the Secretary of State—We should be careful to appreciate that this is what hon. Members opposite declared they opposed—this business of State enterprise. What I particularly want to draw attention to is that all this is being done so soon after their promises were made to the people of 309 Scotland. When they see such behaviour, the people do not get a very good idea of politicians, but when we decide to discuss the proposal and make it clear to the House we get this display of petulance, impatience and arrogance by Ministers of the Crown.
- (a) in making advances, or carrying out contracts for the charter of ships …;
- (b) in carrying out contracts for the building of ships for acquisition by him, in acquiring ships or in taking ships on charter;
- (c) in maintaining, altering, modifying, converting or disposing of ships for the time being held by him."
Will the Secretary of State tell me why it should be necessary, in both (a) and (b), to refer to carrying out contracts for the charter of ships? Again, will he tell me exactly what (a) means? Stripping (a) of all this welter of words, I reduce it to making advances to persons who provide or assist in the provision of public transport by sea and serving the Highlands and Islands, but there are so many provisions in this—together with the continued use of the word "provide" —that I feel that those who were responsible for the drafting deliberately set out to confuse us.
As I see it, it means that we are to make these advances to people who provide public transport services. There is no limitation on the people—just people who provide public transport services. It has nothing to do with whether they provide those services at sea, so long as they provide them in an undertaking. I see nothing to prevent the Transport Commission providing an undertaking in which public transport by sea to the Highlands and Islands would play a substantial part.
I would like to know whether I am right in my interpretation of these words. That is what sub-paragraph (a) says, if we strip it of the alternatives and extensions to people who… provide, or arrange for or assist in or propose to arrange for or assist..This is a woolly set of persons in respect of whom we give the Secretary of State power to provide money. The Secretary of State has to be satisfied that something will come out of this before he ever gets a ship manned on to the sea to go to the Highlands and Islands. We are being asked not to provide money, but to give power to the Secretary of State to get any money he likes. It is wrong to talk about £250,000 in one set of circumstances and another £250,000 in another set of circumstances. It amounts to £500,000 in a year, and that is quite a lot. If the Secretary of State 310 is taking power, I am entitled to ask him how much he is going to spend under sub-paragraphs (a), (b) and (c).
My next point, on sub-paragraph (a), arises from these 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, inclusive of any burgh situated therein …Does this mean that the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean) is left out of this Bill? I think that much depends on whether the Minister is to get the support of Ayrshire Members as to whether an adequate service will be provided in respect of other islands apart from those islands that are specifically listed.
Does the right hon. Gentleman think it wise, before we have considered the detailed matters in Committee, to present us with a Resolution which will prevent us moving an Amendment covering other islands which the Committee might consider should be included? By passing this Resolution we shall be denied an opportunity to make any necessary Amendment. If we pass the Resolution in this form the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire, who is so active in caring for the wellbeing of his constituents, will not even be allowed to put down an Amendment, because it would be outwith the Resolution.
I hope that it will be appreciated that Money Resolutions are important matters and should be discussed. What we can discuss in Committee is determined to a considerable extent by the terms of the Resolution, and by stating as we do in sub-paragraph (a) that this will concern only the Highlands and Islands and then detailing the actual counties, the Scottish Standing Committee—if it goes to the Scottish Standing Committee; of course, it may be taken on the Floor of the House—will be prevented from proposing any other places which may be badly served by public transport. Will the Secretary of State tell me how he feels about that, and whether or not he would be better advised to take the Money Resolution back and consider extending it? He is drawing it very narrowly indeed in respect of the places to which the benefits are to accrue. 311 Sub-paragraph (b) reads:in carrying out contracts for the building of ships for acquisition by him, in acquiring ships or in taking ships on charter.This is a wonderful power of patronage we are to give to the Secretary of State for Scotland, and, in view of his own shipping interest, I am surprised that he is prepared to take it. He is to put out contracts for the building of ships.
§ The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. John Maclay)
I must interrupt the hon. Gentleman because he is, I think unintentionally, casting a reflection on my personal integrity. I have no interest of any kind whatever in any shipbuilding firm, nor have I ever had. I hope that he will be very careful in future before he makes remarks which could reflect on the integrity of a Member of the House.
§ Mr. Ross
It still means that an amazing power of patronage rests in the Secretary of State. He is the man who is to agree to contracts for the building of ships. Presumably, they will be built somewhere. The Scottish Office will approve the actual contract, and a firm will have the contract for building the ship. That is bound to be so.
Are we to have a new Under-Secretary of State for Scotland whose function it will be to look after our shipping interests? Who will do it? Is it to be the Joint Under-Secretary who is concerned with agriculture, the one who is concerned with education, or the one who is concerned with the Home Department? The right hon. Gentleman is taking unto himself a new power to decide that contracts will be placed for ships, not only for the building of ships but in the acquiring of ships, that is, I presume, ships which are presently owned by somebody else. He will make up his mind whose ships he will acquire, at what prices, and all the rest. Parliament is providing the money for it.
As far as I know, this is not to be the work of a nationalised undertaking. It is to be done directly by the Secretary of State. It is to be even more direct spending by the Government than by any corporation. I do not know whether the Tory Party said at the General Election that it intended to do this kind of thing. 312 I am not surprised that the Secretary of State is embarrassed by our reminding him of what he is actually doing. If he is not embarrassed, he makes a good show of embarrassment. It may be just petulance again.
There is, in sub-paragraph (b), the reference to taking ships on charter, and then (c) reads:in maintaining, altering, modifying, converting or disposing of ships for the time being held by him".As far as I know, we have not in the Scottish Office anyone at all who has any knowledge of this kind of thing. If we pass this Resolution, we shall, I suppose, have to have a new department in the Scottish Office, with more civil servants to advise the Secretary of State for Scotland about this new power he is to have. There is more in this than just the expenditure of money or the power to spend money on these things.
Will the Secretary of State tell me how much he proposed to spend under (a), under (b) and under (c)? How much does he propose to spend in aggregate? It is important to have this information. Suggestions have been made about 1960–61, but, quite obviously, it is not what is contemplated under the Bill. I do not know of any ship which we should be able to acquire for £250,000. How much does the Minister expect that any ship that he acquires, either by purchase or by building, will cost in respect of the services listed under subsection (a)?
I am glad that we have had an opportunity of discussing this Money Resolution. I hope that the Secretary of State for Scotland will reconsider the limitations of his Money Resolution and undertake to withdraw it.
§ 10.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Manuel
I am also pleased that we have been given an opportunity to continue the deliberations that we embarked on on 16th December last when, very peaceably and expeditiously, hon. Members on this side of the Committee who represent Scottish constituencies did their duty and examined the Money Resolution in connection with the Bill which we had previously dealt with in the Scottish Grand Committee.
The Money Resolution refers to… persons wholly or mainly concerned …313 with certain things, but sub-paragraph (a) seems to be wide open for a host of people to be brought in for providing these very necessary services.
I support the intention of the Money Resolution which is to throw a lifeline to these northern and outer islands and revive dying communications. The Secretary of State for Scotland has literally been forced to bring in this Money Resolution so that he may have power to continue services that are either dying off or are likely to die off. I do not like right hon. and hon. Members opposite not being forthcoming enough to admit that this measure of public ownership is necessary because private enterprise cannot make a profit from operating these services. Hon. Gentlemen opposite ought to admit that fact.
There is not a single right hon. or hon. Gentleman opposite who has not gone on to the platform in his constituency in Scotland and said the most appalling things about public ownership. Not one of them is now prepared to eat his words. I certainly would be if I were in that position. I would think it most unfair if I had taken up the attitude adopted by hon. Gentlemen opposite and then not been prepared to admit that I had been wrong.
There is a stonewall case to justify the stand taken by the Secretary of State for Scotland on this occasion. I hope that we will not have the hypocrisy in the backwoods of Edinburgh that we have had—
§ Mr. Willis
I hope that my hon. Friend is not suggesting that the honest town of Musselburgh is one of the backwoods of Edinburgh.
§ Mr. Manuel
I was referring to the hinterland of South Edinburgh.
I hope that the Secretary of State for Scotland will manfully withdraw his statements, either elsewhere or in this House, and not lend himself to further deception on issues of this kind.
I am anxious that the service envisaged by the Money Resolution shall be a great success, but I do not see how the Secretary of State can know what finance will be necessary according to the wording of the Resolution in subparagraph (a), which says: 314in making advances, or carrying out contracts for the charter of ships, to persons who provide or propose to provide..Does he know who will propose to provide? If he does not, how does he estimate the number of those proposing to provide? Why should the Resolution be drafted in such a way that it can mean £X million being made available to the Secretary of State?
As I understand, the right hon. Gentleman is committing himself completely— or will he say, when persons propose to provide, that he did not mean that, and that he cannot allow them to provide? Is he envisaging some competition among persons who propose to provide? If so, I can assure him that he will not get it. I may not have a full understanding of the position. It may be that this inter-communicational trade in the Northern Isles and the Outer Isles will be more lucrative once the Secretary of State builds the ships and charters them. We do not know under what conditions he will charter them. It could be a nominal charter sum.
§ Mr. Manuel
Who will be the captain on the deck? The Resolution is much too loosely worded, and the word "proposes," which arises so often in it, is most misleading. I would have preferred the right hon. Gentleman to operate the ships after building them, instead of chartering them.
When we previously debated this Resolution I asked him one or two questions. I do not know whether he took a note of them.
§ Mr. Manuel
I said that I was most hopeful that sub-paragraph (a) would cover ferry services, especially those in the Outer Isles. Many of these services are very small undertakings, but unless they can continue there will not be much use in the right hon. Gentleman's providing money to build larger ships. The ferries at present operating some of the services in the Outer Isles need renewal. It would not involve the expenditure of large sums. Many of those operating 315 these ferries are crofters when they are not ferrying. I hope that they will be helped, and that the communications between the Outer Isles will become much better than they are at present.
Another point which has been mentioned is the building of ships by the Secretary of State. Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us what ceiling figure he envisages for the building of ships? He must have some idea, because this is not a blind leap in the dark. I am now talking about the building of ships, although the right hon. Gentleman may also charter. I take it that would be within the scope of this higgledy-piggledy Resolution. If we can be given that information, we may have a greater grasp of what the right hon. Gentleman is getting at and the sort of service we may look forward to in the Northern Islands.
§ Mr. William Small (Glasgow, Scotstoun)
I wish to know whether the word "persons" means companies, persons, or local authorities. Each county is named and the burghs therein. I suggest that the persons best able to assist are the local authorities to whom an appeal is made. I should like to know whether the local authorities undertaking to provide the services are provided for in the terms of the Resolution.
§ The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. John Maclay)
It may be convenient if I intervene now to deal with some of the questions which have been raised. I have been interested in the explanations given by hon. Members opposite about the events in December. They know very well indeed what happened and I am quite content to leave it to their consciences to settle it for themselves.
§ Mr. Manuel
On a point of order, Sir William. The Secretary of State is drawing conclusions and he is blaming everyone on this side of the Committee. I do not know whether anyone is to blame, but I wish him to exclude me from any question of conscience which he may have in mind.
§ 11.0 p.m.
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Major Sir William Anstruther-Gray)
Order. That appears to me to be a point of debate and not a point of order.
§ Mr. Maclay
If the hon. Member reads what I have said, he will find that 316 I did not impute any blame to anybody. I merely said that hon. Members knew what had happened and we could leave it to them to consider it. But I will try not to stray from the rules of order.
If hon. Members opposite do not understand the difference between what is happening under this Bill and State ownership as they advocate it, I shall never be able to explain it to them. But there is a profound and vast difference. It may be most convenient if I try to explain the terms of the Resolution and then deal with specific points not covered in my general explanation.
The general purpose of the Bill is to allow the Secretary of State to assist sea transport services in the Highlands and Islands. It is important to get clear just what the Bill is intended to do. Since it is an enabling Measure it is not possible to set out in detail exactly what expenditure will be incurred.
If hon. Members think carefully they will realise that this must be an enabling Bill if it is to do the job we want to do. As I shall explain later, the House will have every opportunity of considering that expenditure as the need for it arises. There is no question of giving the Secretary of State unlimited powers to do what he likes with untold money.
The first part of the Resolution makes it clear that, generally, assistance will be provided topersons wholly or mainly concerned with the provision of sea transport services serving the Highlands and Islands.I think that this will deal with the point made by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis). "Sea transport services" is, however, given an expanded meaning by Clause 1 (2) of the Bill and covers all public transport services, and their ancillaries, provided in an undertaking that includes toa substantial extent the provision of public transport by sea.That explains the use of that phrase in sub-paragraph (a) of the Resolution, to which the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) drew attention this evening and previously. A sea transport service could include a ferry, which deals with a point made by the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire.
The provision also relates to the "Highlands and Islands". For this purpose the Highlands and Islands are 317 taken as the seven crofting counties. The reason for this was explained after discussion in the Scottish Grand Committee, and perhaps I may expand it a little as it was raised again this evening. I simply repeat what my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State said. The tradition by which the Highlands are taken as the seven crofting counties has strong reasons behind it, because of the peculiar complex of problems these counties show. This complex is made up of the wide scatter of population, their remoteness, the nature of the land and soil, the existence of crofting tenure, the difficulty of communications of all kinds, the great dependence on sea transport, the financial needs of the local authorities and their whole historic background. It may be that one or more of these characteristics can be paralleled elsewhere, but no one can maintain that the combination of these circumstances is not unique to the crofting counties. It is this unique combination of circumstances which has justified the special treatment which they have always been accorded.
I come to the details of the Resolution. The payments which it may fall to the Secretary of State to make, and which are, therefore, the immediate concern of the Money Resolution, fall into three main categories, set out in the three sub-paragraphs of paragraph A of the Resolution. Under sub-paragraph (a), advances may be made to persons who provide public transport services by sea serving the Highlands. These may be by grant or loan and they may be made in connection with the chartering of ships. Payments may also be made in respect of the necessary ancillaries of sea transport services. Piers and buildings owned by companies which provide these services form an obvious example.
Under sub-paragraph (b), payments will have to be made in respect of any ships which the Secretary of State has built or otherwise acquired in order to charter them for use in the Highlands. As the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East asked some questions about it, I will come back to sub-paragraph (a) and possibly sub-paragraph (b) later. Some hon. Members asked about the words in the second line of sub-paragraph (a).
318 If a Money Resolution is either too general or too detailed, it is at once criticised by hon. Members opposite. It may be the habit of the Opposition to do that, and I should not like to look back on my own record in this matter. Nevertheless, there is a dilemma for any Government who want to do the proper thing by the House. If they draw the Resolution widely they are in trouble, if they draw it narrowly they are in trouble, and if they try to set it out precisely they are criticised as we have been criticised this evening. I suggest that there is no reason for criticism, and I will explain clearly what these words mean.
The words are,in making advances, or carrying out contracts for the charter of ships, to persons who provide or propose to provide …It is obvious that those who "provide" may be an existing company and those who "propose to provide" may be a company formed to do it. The next words are,or arrange for or assist in or propose to arrange for or assist in …This could be a local authority. It might be either individuals or bodies, and it would be extremely unwise to narrow too much by the terms of the Resolution the type of person who could come under the Bill.
In answer to the very reasonable questions of the hon. Member for Hamilton and the right hon. Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn), I want to make it clear that the channels through which assistance may be given under the Bill and Resolution are not confined to existing concerns operating in the Highlands. As for new concerns, there is nothing to prevent any company operating elsewhere from setting up a subsidiary which is concerned "wholly or mainly" with the Highlands or Islands. So this is not restricted to a very narrow group of people.
§ Mr. Woodburn
The Money Resolution states:… to assist persons wholly or mainly concerned with the provision of sea transport services serving the Highlands and IslandsDoes that not cover all the following subparagraphs, meaning that it must be a body mainly serving the Highlands and Islands? Does not that automatically 319 exclude some Scottish concerns which may cover both the Highlands and the Lowlands?
§ Mr. Maclay
It depends what the structure of the company might be. Certainly the words the right hon. Gentleman has pd are not restrictive of the words I have been quoting, in sub-paragraph (a).
§ Mr. Maclay
I imagine that if the Commission formed a separate organisation to do this and it waswholly or mainly concerned with the provision of sea transport services serving the Highlands and Islandsit would be eligible. Hon. Members must not assume that this is all nonsense. A great deal of thought is given to these matters. It is clear that one does not want to have a company whose main interests are operating in Fiji running this service as a sideline. If a company is to do this it must show an interest in setting up a coherent company operating in the Highlands and Islands.
§ Mr. Maclay
Local authorities may come in in various forms under the Bill. I should not like to state at this moment, in answer to quick questions, precisely how they can come in. Local authorities may be the bodies which most properly could help to provide such a service.
§ Mr. Maclay
I think that it would be better if I went on and finished what I have to say.
Sub-paragraph (b) is self-explanatory, and there is no need to go into it in detail. It says:in carrying out contracts for the building of ships for acquisition by him, in acquiring ships or in taking ships on charter.Those are obvious methods which may be necessary to secure the right type of ship at the right moment in the right place.
§ Mr. Maclay
I agree that there are several possible right places.
320 Lastly, the Secretary of State must be able to maintain and possibly modify, convert or dispose of any ships that he holds for the time being. That is to cover the interval when they have left the hands of the builders but have not yet been chartered. That answers the question asked on 16th December by the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross). He may have asked the same question this evening, but I have not looked at my notes.
I have been asked if I can say more precisely what amounts will be spent for various purposes, how much will be spent on building ships, how much on maintaining them, and so on. The Explanatory and Financial Memorandum gives an estimate of what is thought likely to be spent in the financial year 1960–61. Since this is an enabling Bill, estimated expenditure in the first year does not necessarily offer a reliable guide to the future. That must be clear. One cannot at this stage be certain what will happen next year.
§ Mr. Willis
I understand that new ships are needed on the Orkney and Shetland service. Are they to be provided within the next year or two?
§ Mr. Maclay
Hon. Members opposite should realise that they have not simplified the job of getting them ready this year if they are necessary this year. It is clear that I cannot be more precise about the cost of these ships, since the contracts for the new ships for Orkney will, in accordance with the normal procedure, be put out to tender and it would clearly be against the public interest to give any indication at this stage of what the Government expect to pay for the new ships. That is self-evident and deals with the question asked by a number of hon. Members. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East asked if they would be built this year. Time goes on. One cannot tell in relation to the Bill how quickly we might have to act. That is why we want to get the Bill through as soon as we reasonably can.
§ Mr. Willis
My question was quite fair. The right hon. Gentleman must know that there has been a report on the Orkney and Shetland steamship services suggesting that the boats should 321 be renewed. Is it the intention of the Government to proceed right away with their renewal?
§ 11.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Maclay
The hon. Member presumably listened to the Second Reading debate and he knows that we are anxious to get on with the job. The most important and urgent part of it is that service, but by what date it can be done I cannot say. We have to get the Bill through before we can do it.
The provision for payments made in any year will be carried on the Scottish Office Vote and will be examined by Committees of the House in the same way as every Vote can be examined. The Secretary of State is also required to lay before Parliament a draft of any contract which exceeds £10,000 per annum. Finally, it is envisaged, as in the present MacBrayne contract, that the books of any company with whom a contract may be made under the Bill should be examined by representatives of my Department and by representatives of the Comptroller and Auditor General, if he so desires.
Hon. Members opposite must know enough about procedure to know that certain things hang on the various stages of a Bill. Circumstances could arise in which it would be very important to get this Bill through very quickly indeed, and I am anxious to get it as quickly as possible. Hon. Members opposite say that I have not been held up. I agree that in the present circumstances I have not been held up, but I might well have been—[Laughter.] There is no point in laughing. Do not hon. Members opposite appreciate the problems of sea-faring? Do they not realise that conditions could arise in which it would be necessary to charter a ship very quickly to fulfil essential services? That is what I have in mind in all this business.
§ Mr. Maclay
I think that I have covered all the points. I have dealt with the questions about the £250,000 and with the media, a topic raised by the right hon. Member for East Stirlingshire and by the hon. Member for Hamilton, and with whether these provisions were 322 confined to existing companies or went wider than that. I have dealt with the questions of the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East fairly comprehensively. I cannot see a question with which I have not dealt. I hope that hon. Members opposite, having made it very clear in the last debate that they supported the Money Resolution—they went out of their way to say that time after time, and in spite of that ran into trouble—will now agree to the Resolution.
§ Mr. T. Fraser
I can understand the right hon. Gentleman feeling an obligation to his hon. Friends to continue to assert that the Opposition have impeded the passage of this Money Resolution, but he knows perfectly well that it was the incompetence of either himself or the Leader of the House which led to the Government failing to suspend the Standing Order on 16th December. which meant that the Resolution could not be got through before the Christmas Recess. The right hon. Gentleman invited hon. Members to pass a Resolution without being afforded an opportunity to debate it. He knows that that is perfectly true.
I am not wholly satisfied with the explanation which he has given of some of the restrictive words in the Resolution. In his defence of the words "wholly or mainly" was he defending a provision which will prevent hon. Members in Committee discussing reasonable Amendments of the Bill? Would it not have satisfied him if he had taken out those words so that he could have assisted persons concerned with the provision of sea transport services serving the Highlands and Islands?
What is important is that he should be enabled to assist persons who make it their business to provide shipping services in the Highlands and Islands. He does not need to show that the persons who get assistance are wholly or mainly concerned with that business. Why does he use these restrictive words? We are not saying that he should take power to assist shipping services everywhere in Scotland or everywhere in Britain. What we are saying at the moment—allowing that the services are to be subsidised— is that there is no reason why the Secretary of State should restrict himself to giving assistance to persons who make their whole or main business the provision of these services. 323 The right hon. Gentleman has spoken of the British Transport Commission, or any other large undertaking, forming a subsidiary. I should have liked to have had the advice of his legal advisers about whether the Transport Commission, having formed a subsidiary, would qualify. I should have thought that he would have been supporting the Commission. I should think that that is necessarily so, but we have not had the advantage of hearing the opinion of his learned Friends this evening. We have not been able to get an answer on that point.
In any case, why should the right hon. Gentleman make it obligatory on a shipping company running a service from, say, Leith to Aberdeen, to form a subsidiary to continue that same service to Kirkwall and Lerwick? There seems no reason why we should not have the same ships going all the way from Leith to Lerwick, calling perhaps at ports on the way. It may well be that a substantial part of the business will be between Leith and Aberdeen and not between the Highlands and Islands at all, unless they form a subsidiary for the northern part of the trip.
Why is it necessary to put this obligation upon them to form a subsidiary company to run the same vessels on that part of the journey north of Inverness? I ask that because, until they got to Inverness, they would not be in the area covered by this Resolution. They would be serving a far greater population between Leith and Inverness than they would between Inverness and Lerwick; so why must there be a subsidiary company concerned with services that are north of Inverness, or north of Dunoon on the west coast?
We are told that if we cannot understand the difference between the nationalisation which we supported and this nationalisation, the Secretary of State "gives up." But this nationalisation is nationalisation of the ships to be operated by the companies.—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Battersea, South (Mr. Partridge) seems perplexed, but I think that he cannot know what we have been discussing this evening.
The kind of nationalisation which we have supported all along was something 324 which I should have thought he understood very well; but this is a quite different kind of nationalisation. This is nationalisation of ships made available to shipping companies, at charter rates which we do not know, and at rents which we do not know, and which are not supposed to make themselves pay, because, apart from getting the ships at the expense of the State, they are to be subsidised in running the services.
This kind of nationalisation of shipping services would be very different from nationalisation of the land—allowing farmers to go on farming and paying a rent for the land on which they run their business—
§ Mr. Fraser
But, Sir Gordon, I thought that the right hon. Gentleman wanted us to show that we realised the difference—
§ The Chairman
I cannot help what the right hon. Gentleman wanted. It is a question of keeping within the bounds of order.
§ Mr. Fraser
We are considering a Money Resolution that will enable the Secretary of State to build ships which he will then make available to shipping companies which, to assist them to make a profit, will also get a subsidy. I was merely saying—and I did not think that I was out of order—that that would be exactly like nationalising the land, letting it on a rental basis to the farmer, and then giving him a subsidy to enable him to make a profit on his business.
The right hon. Gentleman also said that there was no reason at all why local authorities should not qualify for assistance under sub-paragraph (a), I thought that the main purpose of that sub-paragraph was to make advances to persons who provide public transport services by sea in the Highlands and Islands. Will the Secretary of State tell us which local authority in the Highlands and Islands has the statutory authority to provide these services? Which of the local authorities in the Highlands and Islands, or anywhere else, has the power—not the duty, but the power—to provide the kind of service he intends to subsidise under this paragraph?
§ Mr. Fraser
Yes, some have particular powers to run ferry services, but they have no power to do this.
I thought that the right hon. Gentleman skated over this point rather quickly, and when he reads the words he used he may agree that he was a little misleading. He was also very misleading in his explanation of the words that several of my hon. Friends have already read out from the subparagraph in which he takes powers to make advances to persons who do not necessarily ever provide any service at all, but merely propose to provide one. He did not explain that. He merely assumed, in quickly skating over the point, that all these persons would provide a service, but they do not have to do so.
In the first category they merely have to propose to provide, and the next category are those who arrange them, or who assist in the service, or who propose to arrange the transport. There are all these different categories of people to whom the right hon. Gentleman can make advances, but they are all people who may never provide a service at all in the Highlands and Islands. They will qualify for a grant merely because they propose to provide a service. Is it the intention that they shall be given a grant before they actually provide a service—
§ Mr. Willis
Do not these words cover a host of middlemen of whom we have no knowledge at all—people who arrange for the provision?
§ Mr. Fraser
I do not know whether they are middlemen, but they are not necessarily the people who provide the service. I had assumed that the subsidies would be given to those people who actually provided the service and not to those who merely proposed to provide one but never would—
§ Mr. Manuel
If some acute fellow from England, or, perhaps, from one of the Edinburgh districts, went to the Highlands and acted as a contact man amongst certain individuals up there, and managed to produce some proposed service, would he qualify for assistance by the Secretary of State?
§ Mr. Fraser
I am merely trying to get an answer to some of these questions. I want to see these services in the North of Scotland improved. I regard these shipping services to the islands off the west and north coasts of Scotland as an extension of our road and rail services. It is very important that these services should be provided. Inasmuch as the services to the northern islands are deteriorating and are likely further to deteriorate unless a subsidy is provided, of course I want a subsidy to be provided, but I want the subsidy to be given to the people who provide the services and not to the people who merely propose to provide them.
§ Mr. Fraser
My hon. Friend is ahead of me. I am at the beginning of the second line— "persons who … propose to provide" a service. In the next category are the people who arrange for public transport services. Who are the people who arrange? Is my hon. Friend right in thinking that these are middlemen?
§ Mr. Fraser
Are these people who will arrange the bookings from an office in Inverness or Kirkwall or somewhere else to get a grant merely for arranging for bookings? What kind of people does the right hon. Gentleman have in mind? He had an opportunity of explaining these things and I regret to say he did not take it. Who are the people who will make arrangements for public services and who will get grants under this Resolution? Who are the people who will get grants for assisting in the provision of the services—not providing them? How does the right hon. Gentleman break up the grant between the people assisting and the people who actually provide the services? We are entitled to know. Is there to be an extra subsidy for those who propose to arrange or propose to assist?
Power is taken to subsidise the people who propose to provide services but never do so. Then there is provision for giving a subsidy to people who arrange for public transport services. Then there is provision for a subsidy to people who assist in the arrangement of 327 these services. Then there is provision for a subsidy to be paid to those people who merely propose to arrange a service or only propose to assist in the provision of a service. If there are any lawyers on the benches opposite, they are bound to concede that that is the only possible construction to be put upon those words. Surely the Secretary of State has a duty to Parliament to tell us what he has in mind and why he has put these words into the Resolution.
What kind of people will make those arrangements, or make those proposals to which they will never give effect? If they do give effect to those proposals, surely it would be time enough to pay a subsidy to them when they actually provide the service. Will the Secretary of State tell us now why he wants those words "wholly or mainly" in the Bill? Is it not sufficient that he should limit payment of the subsidy to the area concerned and not put in this requirement about giving a subsidy to persons whose main or whole business is in the area? Will he tell us what he really had in mind when he talked about the local authority getting advances under subparagraph (a), and give an explanation about the type of people he has in mind who are to get grants and who propose to make arrangements or assist in the provision of some of these public services?
§ 11.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Maclay
I do not complain for one moment at the questions which the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) has asked, but I am a little surprised that he has asked such detailed questions about the second line. He has a good deal of experience of legislation and of the kind of drafting necessary in Money Resolutions to do the job required, and he must know that these words are used because they are necessary for the purpose.
He asked why the words should be "wholly or mainly." I did try to explain previously that it seems to me to be correct that it would not be right to have the possibility of helping in the way provided for in the Bill some company whose operations had nothing to do with the Highlands whatever. There could be argument about it, but I am certain that any company actually coming under 328 the Bill should be one wholly or mainly concerned with the provision of these services; and it is possible for a company to do that even though it is engaged in other operations. That, I am sure, is the right way to do it.
§ Mr. Maclay
What is an explanation. then? Anyone who has experience of working this kind of shipping company, I believe—
§ Mr. Maclay
Then I do not know what an explanation is. One can but give the reasons for something. I have given them. One can say that the explanation is not satisfactory, but that is another matter. The hon. Gentleman cannot say that it is not an explanation.
§ Mr. Fraser
If there is a shipping company running a service all the way from Leith to Lerwick, and most of the business happens to be between Leith and Inverness, but the shipping service is carried on from there to Lerwick, why on earth should there have to be a subsidiary company to run the services between Inverness and Lerwick before the company can have the subsidy?
§ Mr. Maclay
For no other reason than this, that it is very desirable to have a very clear accounting system which shows the operating results of the company engaged in these difficult services. and it would not be very desirable to have the subsidy merged into the operations of some very large concern It seems almost elementary. I am sorry that I did not say it earlier. I thought it was quite clear.
The hon. Gentleman asked about the words:provide or propose to provide".One can think of almost every conceivable condition and ask questions about it, and I shall not deal with all the possible ones because one could go on almost indefinitely. The words "propose to provide" are necessary because a company might well be set up in order to do the job but it might not yet be actually doing it. I understand that it would not be covered by "provide" if it was not providing the service at the moment.
§ Mr. Maclay
How can the company get on with the job of preparation if those concerned do not know what is going to happen?
I will make clear here—I think this may answer the hon. Gentleman's other points—that there is a safeguard, as I have already said, in that any contract for any substantial sum is bound to come before the House in one form or another. The House will have ample opportunity to consider whether the arrangements are the most effective and suitable to deal with something which, I think, the whole Committee wants dealt with properly, and whether they meet the requirements and financial standards proper for an undertaking of this nature. The House will be able to consider, also, whether the suggested assistance is proper assistance for the Government to give. I hope that, with that explanation, the Committee will now approve the Money Resolution.
§ Mr. E. Fernyhough (Jarrow)
I know that it is not usual for an Englishman to intrude upon Scottish debates, and, if the Secretary of State had given way earlier, he could have disposed of my point in a few moments.
Under the Bill, we shall be providing for the power to place contracts for 330 ships. The right hon. Gentleman has already said that. I know that they will be comparatively small ships and their value will not be very great. Nevertheless, there are on the Tyne some small shipyards which would be glad of contracts of this kind. All that I would like the Secretary of State to tell me is that he will, when these contracts are placed, bear in mind social and economic need. In other words, will he try to ensure that the contracts are placed where they will do the most good in providing employment where unemployment is at present high, as it is on the Tyne? He would then be following the aim behind the Local Employment Bill.
I hope that the Secretary of State will bear that in mind, and that when these contracts are placed the shipyards in need of orders will he considered.
§ Mr. Maclay
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will realise that it would be improper for me to give information about the tendering procedure that will be adopted.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Resolution to be reported.
§ Report to be received forthwith.
§ Resolution reported accordingly, and agreed to.