§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
§ 7.4 p.m.
§ Mr. F. H. Hayman (Falmouth and Camborne)
I rise to draw attention to the school agreements Clause in this Bill, because I feel that there are many cogent arguments that the Select Committee which will eventually deal with the Bill should take into account. I do not intend to oppose the Second Reading, but merely to draw attention to this Clause which, in my view, ought not to be passed in any Private Bill.
§ Mr. Frederic Harris (Croydon, North-West)
The hon. Gentleman opposed the Croydon Corporation Act as a whole for that reason. Why is he not opposing this Bill as a whole?
§ Mr. Hayman
If the hon. Gentleman will be patient he will hear my reasons.
I feel that it is desirable that this question should again be discussed on the Floor of the House because at no time, either during the passage of the Education Act, 1944, or during the passage of the three subsequent Miscellaneous Provisions Acts, or at any other time, has a Minister of the Crown come to the House to ask for the powers which are now sought in this Clause, and which, I agree, have been conferred by other Private Bills. In some cases, a similar Clause has been disallowed.
The position about this kind of penalty Clause is that in days gone by private schools proprietors were able to go to the courts to claim damages if a parent broke an agreement to keep a child at school for a subsequent term or subsequent year, according to the terms of the agreement entered into. Later, that kind 1224 of power was conferred on the local education authorities, who were providing secondary education, mainly in the grammar schools. There was an element of damages and local authorities could go to the county courts and get redress in that way.
It so happens—as many who have listened to this kind of debate before will know—that I was a district education officer before coming to the House, and it was my job to deal with this kind of agreement, and Clause. It was my duty to see that a child whose parents refused to sign an agreement of this kind was refused entry into grammar school. It has been argued that a parent who will do such a thing is the worst type of parent, but I can assure the House that that is not so.
Very often, in the 1930s, a father who had, perhaps, been unemployed, or who might be unemployed, feared to enter into a binding agreement which would involve him in a penalty in five years' time. The parent who was careless would not bother about entering into any agreement. He would sign and that was the end of it. I have constituents today, however, who were denied a secondary education by me because I had to enforce the regulations of my local education authority.
I am not condemning the authority. This was the general thing that was done in those days. Today, however, there is a totally different position. The Education Act, 1944, abolished school fees altogether, so that there can be no question of a local education authority being involved in damages if a child is withdrawn from school before a specified time. Indeed, the whole argument in favour of the Clause is that it is a kind of deterrent to dissuade parents from taking their children away from school before the end of their children's school life.
An education authority is now required by Section 8 of the 1944 Act to provide secondary education suited to the age, ability and aptitude of the child. There is no reservation from that duty which is laid upon local education authorities by Parliament. The problem of early leaving has, nevertheless, caused a great deal of concern. 1225 When she was Minister of Education, Baroness Horsbrugh referred the question to the Central Advisory Council for Education in England. Two years later, the Council produced its Report, entitled "Early Leaving" and the House will see that that Report was exhaustive. I suggest to the hon. Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. F. Harris) and others who feel somewhat apprehensive about my arguments that they should read at least paragraphs 57 to 62 of that Report which canvasses all the arguments involved. The Council heard a great deal of evidence and took two years to produce its Report.
In the end, the Council's recommendation, in paragraph 185, was:… we … do not feel able to recommend … the general adoption of school-life agreements. …In paragraph 57 it said:… the power to enforce such agreements became a matter of legal doubt. The point has never been tested in the High Court. …By this Bill a local education authority is asking Parliament for powers which have never been sought by any Minister of the Crown on the Floor of the House and for something which has never been tested in the High Court. Paragraph 34 of the Report said:During the five to seven years of the grammar school course a large number of pupils have shifted their position in academic order.That is perfectly obvious to anybody who has had anything to do with schools. In one of his first speeches in the House, my hon. Friend the Member for Bootle (Mr. Mahon), in 1956, gave the history of some children in Bootle from the time they entered school until the time they completed the course. He showed that the child who barely scraped in often did brilliantly at the end, while some of those who entered with brilliant records were failures at the end. Anybody who thinks will realise that children are rapidly evolving, spiritually, physically and psychologically, in that time and cannot be expected to remain completely quiescent throughout those formative years.
It is one of the main purposes of my speech to quote from the report of the Minister of Education on the Oldham Corporation Bill. He said: 1226It is generally thought that such an agreement, under which a penalty is payable without proof of damage, is unenforceable without statutory authority, although there have been decisions to the contrary in County Courts.Part of my case is that this issue has never been tested in the courts and an ordinary parent cannot fight a local education authority. If a local education authority loses in the lowest court, it will go to the Court of Appeal, and if it loses the appeal, it will go to the House of Lords. What parent can afford to fight an authority as powerful as that? If I were a very wealthy man, I would be prepared to carry such an issue to the full test, but that is not the purpose of my speech and I am merely drawing attention to what the Minister himself said about the Bill.
The right hon. Gentleman also said:Moreover, there can, of course, be no compulsion on any parent or guardian to enter into such an agreement and refusal to do so would not affect the obligation of the Corporation to provide the pupil with education suitable to his age, ability and aptitude.I ask the hon. Member for Croydon, North-West to note that until last year or the year before no Minister of Education had ever sent a report to the Private Bill Committee dealing with an opposed Bill. That is an extra element compared with the case of the Croydon Measure in 1956.
§ Mr. F. Harris
The hon. Member opposed the Croydon Corporation Bill, which was supported by hon. Members and myself on this side of the House Even what he has now said still does not answer my question: why is he not opposing this Bill?
§ Mr. Hayman
The position has vastly changed, because the Minister of Education has now concluded that he should point out to the Private Bill Committee that this Clause is unenforceable, as a parent's refusal to sign the agreement would not affect the obligation of the Corporation to provide a pupil with education suitable to his age, ability and aptitude.
§ Mr. Dudley Williams (Exeter)
Will the hon. Member answer my hon. Friend's question? I am informed that it was only six weeks ago that he opposed the Croydon Bill. Why does he not oppose this Bill?
§ Mr. Hayman
I was thinking of a Bill in 1956, when there was a debate on the subject.
I now come to the Clause itself. It reads:Any agreement entered into by or on behalf of the Corporation with the parent or guardian of a pupil or intended pupil at any secondary school may make provision for the payment by such parent or guardian to the Corporation of any sum not exceeding ten pounds in the event of the pupil ceasing without the consent of the Corporation to attend such school before the date fixed by such agreement for the pupil to cease such attendance and the Corporation shall be entitled without proof of any actual damage incurred by reason of such pupil ceasing to attend such school to recover from such parent or guardian any sum not exceeding the sum specified in the agreement which the court may think fit to award in all the circumstances of the case.I am not a lawyer, but that seems to be a vague sort of power to give to a local authority. It does not even state the age to which the child will be required to attend school. It may be 16, 17, or 18, and yet the parent is required to sign the agreement when the child is 11 or, in the case of some authorities, 10. I am glad to say that my own local education authority is sufficiently progressive to give places in grammar schools to children of 10, if they are of exceptional promise.
Clause 123 (2) says:In this section the expression 'secondary school' means a school as defined by section 114 of the Education Act 1944 in which secondary education as defined by section 8 of the said Act is provided.I have already referred to that Section. That is the one which makes it obligatory upon the local education authority to provide secondary education suited to the age, ability and aptitude of the child.
Oldham Corporation has circulated a statement, paragraph 12 of which refers to the fact that a few years ago the proportion of early leavers was 40 per cent., but later figures are quoted showing that in 1955 the proportion in Oldham was 26.2 per cent. compared with the national average of 16 per cent., and that in 1959 the figure dropped to 15.1 per cent. for Oldham as against the national average of 10.3 per cent. We therefore have evidence, provided by Oldham Corporation itself, showing that in the last few years this figure has dropped from 40 per cent. to 15 per cent. 1228 The circular goes on to say:In fact, the figures for Oldham for the years 1955 to 1957 were probably greater than those mentioned because in the case of one school a number of children were admitted other than by the 11-plus examination and precise figures cannot be given.That emphasises the fact that, a few years ago, the figure was even higher than 40 per cent.
I do not wish to enter into a bitter controversy with the Oldham authorities. Nevertheless, as a House we should take these facts into consideration, and we should ask the Private Bill Committee which will deal with the Clause to take what I have said into account. Let us consider the precedents. There are 30 such cases, but 25 were granted before 1956 and only five have been granted since that date. Some were disallowed either by Opposed Bills Committees or Unopposed Bills Committees before 1956; three were withdrawn and four have been disallowed from and including 1956—and there were more before them. Three have been withdrawn in the last two years.
The party opposite pays much attention to what it calls paper work. I suggest that it should consider the immense amount of paper work involved for some officers of local education authorities in connection with school agreements. The parent cannot legally be compelled to sign. I therefore suggest that it is bad law to enact in Private Bills something which is probably unenforceable in the courts, as a Minister of the Crown has suggested.
A child ought not to be deprived of his moral birthright in any circumstances. It is now his legal birthright, and I hope that when the Private Bill Committee deals with this Clause it will pay special attention to what the Minister has said, and perhaps take into account the few remarks that I have made.
§ 7.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Ronald Bell (Buckinghamshire, South)
I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Hayman), but I go a little further than he does. I do not think that this is bluff; what he says about the agreements possibly being unenforceable at present is true. They might well not be enforceable. But let us make no mistake—if Clause 123 is passed they will be enforceable in Oldham. What is laid down 1229 in an Act of Parliament cannot afterwards be decided as doubtful in law. There i3 no question that the Oldham Corporation would be entitled to fine parents who take their children from school. Not only that; they will be entitled to fine parents if the child does not go to school, whether or not the parent has any part in its failure to attend.
The hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne is on a very sound and most important point. I am sure that he and I would agree about the importance of children remaining at school.
§ Mr. Bell
I do not think that anyone would disagree with that. But what must be wrong is that a matter of this kind should be dealt with in a few Private Acts. The Bill contains a provision allowing for a penalty. The general rule is that damages cannot be obtained unless somebody has suffered damage. Therefore, although this Clause uses the expression "agreements" and provides for damages for the breach of those agreements, it is in fact a local provision for fining parents.
The hon. Member was at some pains to point out that the statutory duty of an authority under Section 8 of the 1944 Act will be quite undiminished by this provision, as the Minister pointed out, and that is true. But a provision of this sort is not put forward unless there is some intention to make use of it. In practice, what the Corporation means to do, quite plainly, is to refuse a grammar school education to a child who is entitled to it. There is no other way in which the Clause can be used. The Corporation will say to the parents of a child who has won a place in the grammar school stream, "Your child may have passed the 11-plus examination, but he will not go to one of our grammar schools if you do not sign this agreement."
If the Corporation does not say that, the Clause is entirely inoperative. It is bound use the Clause as blackmail; it cannot be used in any other way. If the Corporation says, "Will you sign the agreement? If you do not it will make no difference; your child will go to grammar school just the same," no parent will sign the agreement. The Corporation must intend to say, "If you 1230 do not sign the agreement your child will not go to grammar school". If that were put forward as a general proposition in the form of an Amendment of the 1944 Act the House would reject it on principle.
It is wrong that local authorities should promote Private Bills seeking to introduce an Amendment of the 1944 Act in their own locality—and not merely an Amendment of the Act but of the very basic principle of that Act, namely, the entitlement of a child to be educated according to his capacity and his age. I would have thought that the great achievement of the 1944 Act was that it provided that until the age of 15 every child is entitled, without payment, to education according to his ability.
I should be interested to hear why Oldham thinks that this should not be the case in its area, and that a child who ought to have a grammar school education because he is fit for it is to be denied it because his parents will not sign the agreement.
Mr. J. T. Price (Westhough ton)
The hon. Member is putting a fair point temperately, as he usually does, but he is not painting the whole picture. If he is looking at this matter from a moral or ethical point of view, that is, the ability or opportunity of the child to have a grammar school education, he must also consider that if in fact children, having passed the test, are admitted to places in the school without any undertaking being given, then are taken from the school before they reach the period for which the contract has been made, there might be a number of other children excluded from the school because there are more successful candidates than places when the selection takes place. I think the hon. Member will be fair enough to agree that what he is proposing would have the effect of keeping other children out, because a child would take a place and not remain for the full time and an injustice would be caused to another child.
§ Mr. Bell
I see the point the hon. Member has made, but I am afraid it reinforces exactly what I feared. Up to the age of 15 a child must go to school. If he fails to do so, the school attendance officer has the remedy and the parents can be fined under the ordinary law governing school attendance 1231 under the 1944 Act. The only purpose of these agreements is that the child should stay on beyond the compulsory age. What the hon. Member and Oldham Corporation are saying is that if parents will not contract to keep the child at school beyond the statutory age, the child shall not go to the school at all. That would be defeating the object of Parliament in passing the 1944 Act. I think we all look forward to the day when schooling will go on for a longer time, but it is a matter of finding teachers. Oldham and a few other places want to say that up to the age of 15 will not do.
§ Mr. Bell
That does not alter my opposition, which is quite clear and on principle. The law is laid down for the whole country that up to the age of 15 a child shall be educated according to his ability. It is said in Oldham that he shall not be educated according to his ability up to 15 unless his parents undertake that he shall continue to be educated after 15. I think that is wrong, and so importantly wrong that I propose to vote against the Second Reading of the Bill unless I get some assurance from those responsible for it that the Clause will be withdrawn.
§ 7.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Dudley Williams (Exeter)
I do not want to get involved in the question of education, which has been dealt with adequately by my hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) and by the hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Hayman). I always feel that I suffered very badly from people trying to educate me and I am generally opposed to it.
I want to call the attention of the House to Clause 122, which I think is a monstrous Clause for any local authority to introduce into a Private Bill.
Subsection (1) states:As from the appointed day a person shall not carry on the business of a hairdresser or barber in the borough on premises occupied by him unless he is registered by the Corporation under this section and the premises are so registered.I do not think that this is a question for any Private Bill. If the matter is one 1232 which should be dealt with by Parliament at all it should be dealt with in a comprehensive Measure. A very serious penalty is to be imposed on hairdressers under the Clause. I have no personal interest in this except that I have my hair cut. Subsection (5) says:If any person contravenes any byelaw made under subsection (3) of this section he shall be liable to a fine not exceeding ten pounds and if he is registered the court by which he is convicted may instead of or in addition to imposing a fine order the suspension or cancellation of his registration and of the registration of the premises in which the offence was committed if they are occupied by him.The hairdresser can also have his registration suspended and be prevented from carrying on his livelihood. Subsection (8) provides:The occupier of premises registered under this section shall keep a copy of the said bye-laws and of the certificate of registration displayed in the premises and if he fails to do so he shall be liable to a fine not exceeding forty shillings and a daily fine not exceeding ten shillings.I think that the Oldham Corporation is taking rather a lot on its shoulders, and I do not think that this is a matter which should go into a Private Bill. There was a gentleman called Mr. Sparks who used to sit in this House as the hon. Member for Acton. He tried to promote a Bill called "The Hairdressers Bill" which would impose such restrictions on the activities of hairdressers all over the country. That Bill did not reach the Statute Book. I was not a Member of the House at that time and I do not know what particular line I would have taken on that Bill. I probably would have opposed it for some reason or other, but it is quite monstrous that in Oldham—not the rest of the country—hairdressers should have to be registered.
I want to voice a very strong protest against this monstrous suggestion by the local authorities of Oldham. If the Bill is not amended suitably and this noxious Clause struck out, I certainly shall have to consider whether it would not be desirable for me to vote against the Bill when it comes back to the House.
§ 7.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
I do not think that the challenge made by my hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Hayman) and by 1233 the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) ought to go without;3ome answer. Clause 123 is not aimed at keeping any child out of a grammar school. It is aimed at ensuring that the child shall get a grammar school education.
A child entering a grammar school will find that the grammar school course leading to the General Certificate of Education has a minimum requirement of five years. As my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. J. T. Price) pointed out, it is a hardship on other children if a parent takes a place for his child in a grammar school without intending that that child shall complete the grammar school course. Further, it is not fair to the parents who keep their children at school in order to complete the course when a child who has not completed the course at 15 years of age leaves the school, goes to an employer and says that he comes from X grammar school.
I regard this matter as very largely academic at present because most of us expect that in a few years the general level of the compulsory school age will have been raised to 16. At that time this grievance and the grievances with which I have previously dealt will disappear. I think that the figures quoted by the Oldham Corporation are sufficient to show that there is an evil in its midst along the two lines which I have indicated. This entitles Oldham to keep the Clause if the Committee which examines the Bill upstairs is prepared to pass it and include it in the Bill.
§ Mr. Ronald Bell
The right hon. Member said that the object of the Clause is not to deprive a child of a grammar school education but to ensure that he gets it. Would he not agree that the only sanction behind this arrangement is depriving a child of a grammar school education if his father is not willing to sign the agreement?
§ Mr. Ede
No, it is not. This does not compel the Corporation to insist if it believes in the good faith of the parent. In those circumstances it may not present the document. I have sat too often as a governor of various grammar schools—both denominational and county grammar schools—to which parents come as soon as a child has 1234 reached 15 years of age and claim to withdraw the child from the school with no other object than that of getting him into a job on the basis that he is a grammar school boy when, in fact, he has not completed the course which enables him to claim that status. If he goes to another school, which has a four-year course without a General Certificate of Education at the end and where the course is completed by the age of 15, he is not sailing under false colours.
I want to see the status of a grammar school, which in these days is concerned not so much with grammar as with science, reserved so that a child claiming to come from one shall have completed the course and shall have the necessary document to show that he has done so.
§ 7.41 p.m.
§ Mr. H. Rhodes (Ashton-under-Lyne)
I wish to comment on Part IV of the Bill, dealing with water, and particularly on Clauses 13, 14 and 15. My Comments are in no way strictures on the Oldham Corporation, because I have the greatest admiration for the foresight of the late councillors and aldermen of Oldham, who, years ago, handled the provision of water so well. They have led the field in that respect, as they have led it in others, such as mental health.
I have lived the whole of my life in this valley. One of my earliest recollections is of my grandfather taking me along the bank of the River Tame to tell me how he spread manure for his grandfather who had a small woollen mill at the time of the cotton panic. It was not long after the American Civil War that the legislation which we are considering was put through the House. Oldham was industrialising very quickly at that time and access was given to Saddleworth water irrespective of the future need in Saddle-worth. Now, eighty-five years after the Oldham Water Act was passed, Oldham demands more water. Oldham is entitled to it, but I should like one or two reassurances on the subject.
Since 1875 industry has developed on the banks of this stream. During the last ten or fifteen years there have been difficulties about effluent. It is proposed that the amount of water put into this stream as compensation water by the Oldham Corporation shall be reduced not only in amount, but also in time. May I be assured that the Mersey River Board has 1235 had adequate opportunity to assess the effect of this reduction and has given a guarantee that the purity of the stream will be improved as a result of what is to happen?
The village of Delph, where there has been a good deal of controversy during the last few years about objectionable smells from the river, could be in an even worse position after the Bill has been passed. Has the Mersey River Board given adequate consideration to the problem? Will it guarantee that the residents are not adversely affected by the Bill? I ask the spokesman for the Oldham Corporation to reply to those questions, because this means a good deal to the residents.
§ 7.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham, West)
May I at once point out to my hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Rhodes) that the spokesmen for the Oldham Corporation have no right to speak in the House. I, as a Member for Oldham, am not here as the spokesman of the Corporation. I was not consulted about the Bill and I do not think that it is my duty to defend it unless I think that it is in the interests of Oldham to do so. We are having a Second Reading debate, however, and for that purpose I will try to reply to the sincere criticisms which have been made of certain Clauses before I conclude.
I understand that we are to have the privilege of hearing the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government—and that is always a privilege. An Instruction has been tabled in relation to Clause 103. I am well aware, moreover, that the House wishes to get through other matters as well as this Bill—and I make no complaint about that. The debate has been instructive and helpful, and I am sure that the representatives of the Oldham Corporation who have been able to hear it, although not to intervene, will take note of every word that has been and will be said.
I have thought it perhaps for the convenience of the House—and this is by the gracious courtesy of my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Mapp)—to say that we each propose to speak once. I therefore rise to speak on Second Reading. In view of the dis- 1236 cussion, and if I have not replied sufficiently to it, it may be that my hon. Friend will also feel that he should speak on Second Reading. That apart, if it is for the convenience of the House, he will speak on the Instruction. I hope, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that you will not be too unkind on the Instruction if, for the convenience of the House, we try to limit ourselves each to one speech.
There are two Oldhams to which one always refers. There is the Oldham with its great tradition in literature and the arts, the Oldham which is a vigorous town and which has made great contributions to our national life. I have not the privilege to be an Oldham man, although I am proud of my own native county, but in Oldham we are proud of our virile life and of what we have contributed in almost every sphere of industry.
But there is the other Oldham—an Oldham which I beg hon. Members to go and see; because I am convinced—and I have said it before—that no one living in the South can ever realise the almost insoluble problems which confront our overcrowded towns. I do not wish to say one controversial word, but I would point out that we read in the newspapers about proposals for urban land. These may be important proposals and they may be controversial proposals. The fact is that in Oldham we have no urban land; there is nowhere we can build. We had a small extension in the last Act—and I had to fight for that Act. We have streets that need repairing.
For fifteen years I have been a Member for Oldham, and I know that the House will forgive me for saying with pride that it is the longest period of continuous service that any Oldham Member has had, but at the end of it all I shall be forced to say that there are so many problems left to solve. We sometimes go round and boast of our contributions to the collective life of the town. My hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne was good enough to talk about the new work in mental health which is being done in Oldham, and which is being admired all over the world. We are proud, too, of our old people's homes.
Sometimes I boast—I will not do so today—and tell the House what we have 1237 done. Then I look at the problems which remain. This Bill has come, as most Private Bills have come, because the Corporation has been driven to seek powers to deal with all these problems—streets, houses and the necessity of rebuilding. They are all powers which are vitally needed. To the Bill are added, as is always the case with Private Bills, Clauses which have been included in other Private Bills and passed by the House.
The hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. Dudley Williams) referred to the Clause dealing with hairdressers and barbers. I must confess that I am in a difficulty, because this is one of the Clauses on which I am personally committed. As the House will recall, the hairdressers sought registration powers, and they put up a case for having their own registration. I remember—it must have been twelve years ago—that Friday morning when we counted heads and decided that we should probably pass the Bill in their favour, and then my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) emerged with other members of the Labour Cabinet to go through the Lobby and defeat that little Bill. That infant Act suffered an unhappy death.
This is not an important Clause. I can only say that I have no instructions on it, and in the situation as it is I cannot have any instructions; it is a question for Committee. I am sure that hon. Members do not wish to vote against the Second Reading of a Bill with 115 Clauses because of a point of that kind.
§ Mr. Dudley Williams
I appreciate the courteous way in which the hon. Gentleman is dealing with the point which I raised. Will he undertake to do his best to see that this Clause, which I think is offensive, is removed? I am not against the hairdressers having an organisation, if that is thought desirable, but I think it most undesirable that these matters should be done by individual local authorities If the hon. Gentleman will give that undertaking I will not vote against the Second Reading.
§ Mr. Hale
As I have said, my difficulty is that I am already committed to the hairdressers on it. They want it. I committed myself ten years ago. I have not heard much about it since then. 1238 It seems to me to be a sensible and useful measure. I have taken note of the objections which the hon. Member has made. They are being listened to now. I promise him with complete sincerity that, without any observations for or against from me, I will see that his remarks are conveyed to everyone concerned. I say with very great respect to the hon. Member that I hope that he will think it over and not turn a Second Reading debate into a Committee debate upon a Clause to which I have not heard any objection from anyone else. Not a soul has ever written to me about this Clause. The hon. Member has never seen me about it, and I am not provided with any ammunition on it. For him to say that he will oppose the Second Reading of the Bill because of that Clause seems to be taking a step which might bring our procedure into contempt.
Perhaps I may explain the situation on the Clause on which my hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth and Cam-borne (Mr. Hayman) and the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) spoke. We have the deepest sympathy with what they have said. That always has been a point of view—and a point of view entitled to respect. The position concerning this Clause, I am informed, is this: about 30 corporations have it. The Oldham Corporation used to use these agreements, but has discontinued them for some years, and there has been genuine alarm since they discontinued them because the percentage of children prematurely leaving school has very greatly increased. In this connection, Oldham has some rather special difficulties—not only arising from migration, which is perhaps a small part of these difficulties, but because there have been vary fluctuating conditions of employment, which have sometimes influenced parents to try to get their children into employment.
§ Mr. Hayman
I am sure that my hon. Friend will find, if he will read the statement which his own Corporation has issued, that the numbers have very considerably decreased.
§ Mr. Hale
Yes, but they have all over the country. This is relative. Relatively, the Oldham figures are unfortunate. The Ministry of Education is now taking a, keen interest in this question. We shall 1239 not get the Clause in Committee unless the Ministry of Education is satisfied that we have established a special case. I give the undertaking that we never enforce these agreements if we can help it.
We think that the argument put forward by my right hon. Friend is the right argument and that when we are providing education in these circumstances there should be some sort of practice such as that. I remember these agreements many years ago. I know that they always raised legal points. The real point was that the county court judge used to say, "I do not know what liquidated damages are. Can you prove any damage?"
What we are doing under this Clause, which seems to be a great improvement on the old procedure, is to fix a maximum sum and not a minimum. The county court judge is entitled to say, "I will not give you a farthing". I am sure that the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South will appreciate that there is real protection in that. This is the way we should legislate, because it not only inhibits the county court judge from giving unnecessary damages but inhibits the Corporation from bringing unnecessary proceedings. Unless we have a case that ought to be brought to the court we cannot bring it under this Clause because the court can award such damages as it thinks fit not exceeding the figure named in the Clause.
§ Mr. Ronald Bell
The hon. Gentleman is mistaken. If the hon. Gentleman will look at the Clause he will see that it makes provision for the payment of any sum not exceeding £10. That is quite different, as the hon. Gentleman knows, from the court having any discretion to award such sum as it thinks fit.
§ Mr. Ronald Bell
May I complete my interruption? The remainder of the Clause makes it clear that no proof of any actual damage is necessary and will indeed be irrelevant. Therefore, this is, in fact, a penalty Clause, and the Court will grant whatever is the amount in the agreement.
§ Mr. Hale
The Clause says:any sum … which the court may think fit to award in all the circumstances of the case.The hon. Member knows that the county court judge is not especially favourable to the corporations. Therefore, there is a substantial protection. But this is a Committee point and I would ask hon. Members not to press their opposition at this stage.
The hon. Member for Southport (Mr. Percival) raised objection to Clause 103. I say immediately that it seemed to me, when he very courteously put the matter before me some months ago, that, on the face of it, the Clause was open to objection. The Clause deals with the redemption of the Corporation's debentures. This is a Clause which is put into quite a number of Bills. It is a Clause such as this House has passed in respect of a great many debentures. Having now got the whole of the facts, I must say that I see no possible objection to the Clause; indeed, it seems to be essential and necessary.
May I briefly tell the House why. Under the Act of 1880, the Oldham Corporation issued what were called debentures. They were technically debentures in the sense that the interest was charged upon the resources of the Corporation. But they were not debentures of the ordinary kind, because they were not redeemable. They were perpetual annuities. They were in many ways rather like the old French rentes.
The whole point of it was that they offered just a little extra interest to attract money. They offered 4 per cent., which, in 1880, was a very high rate. Consols were issued at 2½ per cent. They bore some relation to Consols. About £500,000 worth were issued between 1880 and 1886, and they have fluctuated with the interest rates of the country. They are transferable on the Stock Exchange. I am told, but I have not checked this, that the price has been as high as £140 and as low as about £60. They are subject to that sort of fluctuation. They have changed hands. A large proportion is now held in a limited number of hands. 1241 But there is no procedure for redemption.
If the Corporation wanted to pay them off for £100, it could not. It could not pay them off for £100 when they were worth £140, or when they were worth £60. Therefore, the Corporation has tried to devise a method to deal with this. It does not intend, and it cannot afford, to pay them all off quickly. Over £300,000 worth is still outstanding. The Corporation has brought back a few itself and extinguished them in that way.
I think that the Corporation has acted with great propriety. If one can make any criticism, it is that it is a pity that all the facts were not before us when the Bill was first produced, but the Borough Treasurer of Oldham, who is known and respected throughout the north of England as one of the most distinguished men occupying such a position, has gone into this with the greatest possible care and given us all the help he can.
There is no ordinary way out, and we have to find some method. They cannot be redeemed in the ordinary way. There must be statutory permission to do it. That is the statutory permission contained in the Clause.
§ Mr. Ian Percival (Southport)
I see what the hon. Member means, but it could be misunderstood. There is power to redeem under Section 227 of the Oldham Improvement Act, 1880, which says that the Corporation may redeem at any time by agreement with the stockholders.
§ Mr. Hale
I agree, but that is by agreement with the stockholders. [Interruption.] Let us face this. Do let us be reasonable about it. If the Corporation has to agree to any price fixed by the stockholders, it is helpless. I will tell hon. Members what the proposal is, because I know that they are interested and wish to be fair.
I will say at once on the details that if the hon. Member for Southport intends to say that there is some inherent unfairness in the selection of 21 per cent. Consols or 4 per cent. consolidated stock, I promise him at once that we will consider that in Committee, because we want to be absolutely fair.
Order. When Second Reading is passed, if it is passed, there will be a separate debate on the Instruction on Clause 103, and that will be the time when it will be most convenient to discuss these detailed points.
§ Mr. Hale
Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I rose to open my speech with the statement, which was heard by every person in the Chamber except you, that I was seeking for the convenience of the House to deal on Second Reading with any points raised. I said that I hoped that by so doing I should not have to defer later proceedings by rising again to make a second speech on the Instruction. Indeed, I have taken the highest possible advice on that for the convenience of the House.
I fully appreciate what the hon. Member says, but the trouble is that his speech is causing other hon. Members to rise on this point. Therefore, we are liable to have two debates on the one point, which is not desirable.
§ Mr. Hale
With respect, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, we have dealt with three Clauses on Second Reading. Though I have expressed my appreciation for the intervention of the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South and other hon. Members, the point I have been making is that they were really Committee points. It is a little hard on me if I have to listen for an hour to Clause after Clause being discussed without being able to mention the contents of the Bill when replying to the objections.
§ Mr. Hale
That may be. I am trying to secure the Second Reading of the Bill. I am passionately anxious to do so. That is why I most earnestly do not desire to say one controversial word.
We are about to hear the intervention of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. I beg hon. Members to remember 1243 that we are on Second Reading and that the Oldham Corporation seeks powers which are vitally needed.
One of the Clauses to which we attach great importance is that dealing with mill lodges, which is designed to save the lives of many children. Once every three months or so for years we have had inquests on children who have been attracted to unfenced waters or unbounded property of which we cannot trace the owners. It would be very unfortunate if a Measure of great importance to a town of Oldham's importance were jeopardised by Committee points raised on Clauses on which I have no doubt that hon. Members feel sincerely.
§ Mr. J. A. Leavey (Heywood and Royton)
I am very grateful to the hon. Member for giving way. He has given way many times already and I do not like having to interrupt him again. However, he has on several occasions said that we should not be intervening, because these are Committee points. That is precisely the difficulty which concerns the House, because the Committee procedure to which the Bill will be subject is substantially different from the ordinary Committee procedure which follows the Second Reading of a Public Bill. In the Committee procedure to which this Bill will be subject it is very difficult to deal by debate with the various Clauses. That is the very reason why we have the procedure, which we shall shortly follow, of moving that an Instruction be given to the Committee.
Therefore, I earnestly beg the hon. Gentleman not to rebuke us on that ground, because the cause of some of the anxiety expressed from both sides is that it is very difficult to make Amendments under the Private Bill Committee procedure in the way one would normally do so with a Public Bill.
§ Mr. Hale
I did not seek to rebuke. On the contrary, I said that I welcomed interruptions. The hon. Member will realise the difficulties under which I labour in this procedure. In a sense we are all responsible for it, because we helped to revise the Private Bill procedure. I am in the position of trying to defend a sorely needed Measure. I am trying to consult the convenience of the House, because I know that many hon. 1244 Members want to get on to other matters. I am trying to cover a whole series of Clauses in a fairly brief survey. I may fail in that.
However, my only observation on that was addressed to the hon. Member for Exeter. I begged him not to kill the Bill, however strongly he may feel about the hairdressing Clause. I promise him that we will seriously, honestly and fairly try to consider the points and objections he made. In the very nature of things, as I was not told about it before, I have not even had a chance of getting a word on it at this stage. I know that my colleagues on the Oldham Corporation will be most anxious to consider it, and I promise the hon. Member that they will.
§ Mr. Dudley Williams
I promise the hon. Gentleman that I shall not oppose Second Reading, but I shall oppose Third Reading if that Clause remains. I make my position clear.
§ Mr. Hale
I am obliged for that statement, which does make the position clear.
The water scheme is a mere recognition in statutory terms of an existing condition. Indeed, many Clauses merely bring up to date old Acts. We have notified and consulted every person concerned with the supply of water in the area. We have the approval of the Mersey River Board. The whole scheme has been discussed at length, and we have not received a single complaint.
May I, with your permission, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, make one other observation on Clause 103? Before the Bill was produced the Corporation wrote to every shareholder holding shares in the Oldham Corporation issued between 1880 and 1886, including one hon. Member who holds some. It would not be true to say that none of them had any protest. Two or three letters were received, but the Corporation feels that the explanations given satisfied everyone—
§ Sir Cyril Black (Wimbledon)
A constituent of mine is quite a substantial holder of these debentures. She has objected to the proposals, and I have objected to the Town Clerk of Oldham on her behalf. To suggest that these objectors have all agreed is quite beside the point.
§ Mr. Hale
I did not say that—I really did not. I am being misrepresented, I think. I had the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black) in mind. I have been fully informed about that case. The Town Clerk could not have given more information, though some of it, perhaps, a little late. I said that we had received letters about it. but I did not say there had been no objection. I said that no objection was seriously pursued—
§ Mr. Hale
I have made it perfectly clear that I take the view, and have taken it for a very long time, that this procedure of non-redeemable securities, whether called Consols, Daltons or what, is undesirable. I have made it quite clear that this sort of procedure, other than in exceptional circumstances, is one that I do not want to defend. I will go into partnership with the hon. Member if he likes, and try to protect the person on fixed income from some of the effects of—and I do not make a party point here—the policy followed over the years by Governments of both parties.
I think that these people have a case and, on the appropriate occasion, I will put that case, but I think that we should try as best we can, in a situation of very real difficulty, fairly, honourably and decently to meet all the suggestions that have been made, and to put forward a proposition which is fair. In those circumstances, I ask the House to give the Bill a Second Reading.
§ 8.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Emery (Reading)
I should like briefly to refer to the overall scope of this Bill. Whether or not there is precedent, it is not good that we should have omnibus Bills put before us with as many as 141 Clauses, four Schedules.
Mr. J. T. Price
If the hon. Member will take the trouble to go to the Library and consult the precedents, he will find many Private Bills, particularly county council Bills, running, not to 140 but to 300, 400 or 500 Clauses. Those Bills have all been examined but, as often as not, have gone through on the nod.
§ Mr. Emery
The hon. Member is absolutely right, and that is why I am speaking now. That is the whole point. 1246 I listened with great interest to the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale). He is passionately concerned about some parts of the Bill and, for the sake of his own constituency, he is in great need to see this Bill passed because of the great need there is for some of its Clauses.
Is it, however, really necessary that we should have Clause after Clause permitting only what the present law allows? In Part VI of the Bill there are Clauses entitled "Nuisance from pigeons etc."; "Emission of waste products of manufacturing processes", and "Silencers for internal combustion engines". All of those are already dealt with by the present law, as are "Offences in respect of telephone boxes, fire hydrants etc." The House should not be cluttered up with such matters when there are specific things that are absolutely essential.
In the same way, following on what several hon. Members have stated, I believe that in this Bill the law is being altered specifically for Oldham. We have already had reference to Clause 123 but, by Clause 48, Section 148 of the 1936 Act is being reinterpreted specifically for Oldham. Whether this has been done frequently before does not excuse it. In principle it seems to me to be a bad thing—
§ Mr. E. Fernyhough (Jarrow)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Is it not perfectly correct to say that there is no way in which the Oldham Corporation can get these powers except by this procedure? If the hon. Member has any complaint at all, it is against Her Majesty's Government for not introducing legislation to change the procedure for bringing in these Bills.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Sir William Anstruther-Gray)
In so far as that is a point of order, I think that the hon. Member is entitled to develop what he is now arguing.
§ Mr. Emery
I should like my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to say whether he thinks it is a good thing that Private Bills of this sort should be in this form of omnibus legislation, changing specific law for Oldham, and doing a lot of things that, in my view, are quite unnecessary, and which go a long way towards making a number of hon. Members likely to oppose the Second Reading when they really do not want to.
§ Mr. Hale
I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's philosophical discourse on this matter and I have great sympathy with his general point of view but, after all, the Oldham Corporation is not responsible for the Private Bill procedure. I am told that there is not a Clause in the Bill that has not been incorporated in other Acts in respect of towns in the North. We cannot blame the Corporation for pursuing a procedure pursued by every other town for all the fifteen years I have been in this House.
§ Mr. Emery
It seems to me that at some time or other a stop has to be made. Is every Bill that comes forward to include everything we have ever seen before in every other Private Bill which has come before the House? That seems to be the worst possible argument to put forward for making every Private Bill appear in this form of omnibus legislation. It is to that that I object specifically. If the point made by the hon. Member for Oldham, West is taken further and further, we shall in time get Bills that are not 140 Clauses, but 1,040 Clauses long.
That must be wrong, and I should like to see from now on the exact opposite being done with Private Bills, and the point of view taken that specific points that are important to the locality should be dealt with briefly and quickly. Those Bills would then get through without any problems on the Floor of the House, on Second Reading, during Committee stage and on Third Reading.
§ 8.19 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Sir Keith Joseph)
Strong feelings have been most eloquently expressed on this Bill, and perhaps I might venture to intervene now. This Bill is, after all, a fairly normal sort of Measure—a collection of miscellaneous powers which the Oldham Corporation thinks will help it to carry out its duties more effectively as a local authority. I know that a large number of hon. Members present are not in the mood to accept the argument that things that have precedents are necessarily good, but the fact is that nearly all of the very large number of Clauses in the Bill have not just one but many precedents.
1248 The Bill has already been considered in another place. Before that, my right hon. Friend had a number of discussions with the Corporation about details, as a result of which some Amendments were made. He then submitted a lengthy Report on the Bill calling attention to other aspects, as a result of which still further Amendments were made in another place. Others of my right hon. Friends have followed the same procedure, but there are still, in their view, a number of matters that will require to be considered and, if the Bill is given a Second Reading tonight, my right hon. Friend and other Ministers concerned will submit reports calling the attention of the Private Bill Committee to them. I am sure that the Committee charged with that duty, if the Bill is given a Second Reading, will not fail to consider the very strong feelings which have been expressed this evening. Perhaps I may refer briefly to the main items which have come up.
The hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Hayman), vigorously supported by my hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) holds very strong views about school agreements. He has spoken on this subject before. The House may like to know that after he spoke on the last occasion the Committee upstairs removed the Clause to which he objected. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Education will submit a report to the Committee. I cannot anticipate exactly what he will say, but I know that, although he does not feel as strongly on the subject as the hon. Member, he is in general not persuaded that these agreements serve a very useful purpose. This is very much a Committee point, and I know that it will be considered if the Bill is given a Second Reading.
My hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Mr. Dudley Williams) feels strongly about the registration of hairdressers. I can tell him that this is a well-precedented Clause. I am sure that the Committee will note his view about it. The hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Rhodes) raised a point about compensation water. I can reassure him that, as a result of discussions between the Corporation and the other interests concerned, the Corporation proposes to suggest an Amendment to the Bill which will vary the times, the days and the quantities in such a way 1249 as to satisfy the Corporation and, I understand, the other interests concerned. I hope, therefore, that the hon. Member will be satisfied.
My hon. Friend the Member for Reading (Mr. Emery), in a very lively intervention, questioned the whole value of these omnibus Bills. The fact is that this is the only way, in the short time that the House allows, that Corporations can at present obtain the powers they think they require, subject to Parliamentary control. I hope that hon. Members will allow me to accept some part of the responsibility for this because, if Parliament were to extend to all local authorities some of the most well-precedented and accepted powers which, one after another, local authorities have received by Private Bill procedure, the length of the Bills might be reduced and the time taken in the House might be saved.
In an earlier debate this Session, I said that my right hon. Friend fully accepts that this is a task which needs to be undertaken from time to time. I can report that a great deal of progress has been made in the preparation of two Bills to extend generally to all local authorities a considerable number of provisions which appear regularly in local Acts. I cannot tonight add to what has already been said on the subject, which is that the first of these two Bills, dealing with public health matters, will be introduced as soon as Parliamentary time permits.
If the Oldham Corporation Bill is given a Second Reading, we shall go on to discuss a Clause of it, and I will not attempt to anticipate that debate. Apart from that question, however, there are several other aspects which will require consideration. In the view of my right hon. Friend, they are all matters which can quite well be dealt with in the first instance by a Select Committee upstairs. A Select Committee, of course, can always give a Bill very much more searching and satisfactory examination than is possible for us on the Floor of the House.
I hope that the House will give the Bill a Second Reading.
§ Mr. Ronald Bell
By leave of the House. I should like to say that, in my view, the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) was on a very fair 1250 point when he said that it would be wrong to defeat the Bill on Second Reading in respect of one Clause. I feel just as strongly now as I did earlier about Clause 123, but the fact is that I failed to put dawn an Instruction to omit it, which is what I should have done.
In the circumstances, although if someone else chooses to divide the House I shall support him, I do not myself at this stage propose to do so. However, I reserve full freedom of action on Third Reading, if the Clause is not struck out in Committee.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time and committed.
§ 8.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Ian Percival (Southport)
I beg to move,That it be an Instruction to the Committee on the Bill to leave out Clause 103.My principal reason for moving this Instruction is quite short. The essence of it is that I believe it to be wrong in principle for the House to give to a local authority powers enabling it, in effect, to set aside its agreements with and its obligations to members of the public, in this instance debenture stockholders, and to substitute something else convenient to itself, whether the debenture holders like it or not. This is what Clause 103, in effect, is designed to do.
Before I go further, I should make it clear that, although we are dealing here with a local Private Bill, this is a matter of much wider interest. It is of interest not only to the inhabitants of Oldham. The debenture stock was offered to the public at large. The matter came to my attention because a constituent had a holding of it and objected to being treated in this way, and I know that others of my hon. Friends have constituents similarly placed.
I regarded this as a serious matter of principle. Before raising it in the House, I was at great pains to endeavour to consider every aspect of this case, and the views which I shall express were formed only after corresponding with the Parliamentary Agents of the promoters and after a meeting with the Town Clerk of Oldham held at his request, that correspondence and that meeting being designed, so far as I was concerned, for 1251 one purpose only, to give the promoters an opportunity to persuade me, if there were good grounds, that I was wrong.
I say at once that, despite the arguments then advanced, I remain entirely unconvinced. My views have been formed, also, only after personal investigation of every one of the so-called precedents for these powers, and only after a great deal of thought and discussion on the matter with all sorts of people.
I should first endeavour to acquaint any hon. Members who are, perhaps, not fully conversant with the matter with the present situation and how it arose. As the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) told us, it arose because in 1880 Oldham promoted the Oldham Improvement Act of that year under which it took certain powers. I think it important to look at the whole of that part of the Act which deals with money. The first thing that the Corporation did was to take power to borrow £370,000. A great many of the Sections dealt with how the money should be borrowed and how it should be paid back. Section 221 authorised the corporation to borrow all or part of the money by creating and issuing Oldham Corporation debenture stock. It went on to specify the conditions on which the stock should be issued, provisions for transfer, for payment of interest and for the appointment of a receiver if the interest was not paid.
Then Section 227 states that the Corporation may by agreement with any stockholder at any time redeem any part of that stock.
This type of debenture was not new. There are other kinds of debentures, known as perpetual debentures, which are well-known commercial means for raising money, which do not even have provision that the debentures may be redeemed by agreement.
Then—and this is significant—the Act of 1880 went on to provide in Section 234 that the Corporation should establish a sinking fund. Without going into detail on that Section, the way it was framed was that the Corporation had to set up a sinking fund, and the amount which it had to pay into it had to be worked out so that in time that sinking fund would be large enough to redeem the stock at par.
1252 Any member of the public who was then invited to subscribe for the debenture stock and who looked at the Act to see what his rights were would find that the only way in which the Corporation could redeem would be with his agreement and that the Corporation was obliged to set up a sinking fund which was obviously meant to meet such eventuality and would ultimately enable the Corporation to redeem the stock at par. So that he can have been left in no doubt as to what he would get if these were ever redeemed, namely, his money back.
It would be unnecessary for the Corporation to have these powers if there was any chance of the debenture holders agreeing to them. They are needed so that the debentures can be redeemed on these terms even if the stockholders do not want them to be.
This is not redemption; it is conversion. It is converting debenture stock into Consols of one kind or another. The Corporation is to be free to choose any one of these three, but I make no point on the choice of the three. It could redeem or convert by giving the holder of the stock such an amount of one of these three as would be appropriate. I believe that this is fundamentally wrong in principle.
The issue of debentures to raise and secure loans is a very common and useful commercial practice. Usually they are irredeemable except on the winding up of a company. When the hon. Member for Oldham, West says that although it is called a debenture it is not one because it is irredeemable, I am bound to say that I do not follow him. It is quite common in commercial practice to have perpetual debentures. I have one in my hand, called "2¾ per cent. perpetual debenture". When the company wanted to get rid of that debenture it had only one course open to it—to call a meeting at which the debenture holders were asked to agree to the redemption of that perpetual debenture. This, as far as I know, is quite normal practice.
The advantage of the practice from the lender's point of view is that, if he is not likely to want his money for some time and is willing to invest on a long-term basis, he knows that if ever the debenture is redeemed he will get his 1253 £100 back. It is the only advantage of this commercial device of the debenture. If the company ever wants to pay him out and to get rid of him it will have to repay the money.
The advantage from the borrower's point of view is that he gets the money on a long-term basis.
Mr. J. T. Price
Is there not a basic fallacy in this argument? It is fascinating, as a piece of historical research, that when one considers that these debentures were issued in 1880 and that the debenture holders to whom the promise was made and with whom a contract was entered into—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Surely the original owners must have either sold or transferred the debentures or have died many years ago. I am trying to follow the hon. Member's argument, but I cannot see the full force of it if these contracts do not apply to the people who originally held them.
§ Mr. Percival
The hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. J. T. Price) is, of course, entitled to his view. It is quite clear from his intervention that his approach to this matter and my approach to it are fundamentally different. [Interruption.] If the hon. Gentleman will permit me to continue, he based his argument on the fact that this stock was issued in 1880, but the perpetual debentures I was talking about were issued by a well-known public company not far from that date—in 1897. The position was quite clear, and I fail to see how it is any different in this case.
§ Mr. F. Blackburn (Stalybridge and Hyde)
I want to be quite clear what the hon. Gentleman is trying to do. If we delete that Clause, does he suggest that we should go back to the status quo? There is no guarantee that his client would get the repayment from Oldham, and we will be back in the present position, with no guarantee that Oldham will be able to come to an agreement with the holders of the debentures. Is that the position which the hon. Gentleman wants?
§ Mr. Percival
That may very well be the case, but if the hon. Gentleman took his argument a little further, he would agree that my constituent and all other debenture stockholders would then be holding what they want to hold, and if they did not want to hold it, they would 1254 sell it and buy Consols. It is entirely a matter for the Oldham Corporation. If it wishes to get rid of this debenture stock it can do it under the existing provisons of the 1880 Act by agreement, and it may very well be, though I do not know because I have not gone into the question with my constituent as to what terms he would accept, that it would be perfectly open to the Corporation either to negotiate terms with the debenture holders or to leave the position as it is. If it leaves the position as it is, the holders of debenture stock are left holding what they want to hold, because otherwise, ex hypothesi, they would have got rid of it on the best terms they could get.
§ Mr. Blackburn
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his reply to my question, but he did not say whether he wanted the status quo to remain.
§ Mr. Percival
Oldham now wants to repay this debenture stock, but wants to redeem it, otherwise than at par and otherwise than in accordance with the terms on which it was issued; that is to say, otherwise than by agreement. The reason why it needs these powers is because it could not do it otherwise. It amounts, in effect, to compulsory purchase of this debenture stock and to converting it into gilt-edged securities.
I have made one reference to public companies, and I should like to make another which I hope may strengthen my point. Debenture stock of this kind has been issued for a very long time by public companies. It is, in fact, a commercial practice which has been copied by the local authorities, rather than the other way round. In this particular time, if one takes the trouble to look, one finds that it is by no means infrequent for a public company to want to get rid of debentures and to be free to deal with the assets on which the loan was charged, but it has only one way of doing it—either by repaying the money or by getting the agreement of the debenture holders to some other terms.
§ Mr. Percival
If the hon. Gentleman is suggesting that the shareholders of the company could or should pass an extraordinary resolution to deprive the debenture holders of their rights, then, 1255 like the hon. Member for Westhoughton sitting next to him, he and I are not on the same wavelength at all.
§ Mr. Percival
To avoid any possible controversy on the point, I say that they have in practice no alternative but either to redeem it at par or to reach agreement with the debenture holders. If any one of them came to this House and said, "We should like power to convert into gilt-edged", I think they would be laughed out. As at present advised, I see no reason to treat this local authority, or for that matter any other, any differently.
I do not complain about the interventions because, I hope, they have enabled me to stress certain points. I have been a little longer than I intended, but I must nevertheless deal with the reasons put to me as to why the Corporation should be allowed to do this and to express a view about them. It is said in paragraph 8 of the promoters' statement that these provisions are precedented. Even if they were, I should not be particularly impressed by that argument unless they were precedented in hundreds of previous Acts over a long period. If they were precedented by four previous Acts I should be unimpressed.
I have examined each of the Statutes referred to in the statement as being a precedent. To say the least of it, the suggestion that the Statutes referred to are precedents is disingenuous. The Statutes referred to in the promoters' statement have provisions which are similar in one respect, and in one respect only, in that they have provision containing machinery such as is contained in Clause 103. What is so different is that what was to be redeemed under the provisions of those four Acts was not debenture stock and has no similarity to it.
The House might care to know briefly what those Acts were dealing with. The Halifax Corporation Act was dealing with the redemption of market stock. In 1853, when a market company was operating under a market Act, it was decided to vest the assets of that 1256 market company in the Corporation, which took over all the debts and obligations, and to dissolve the company. In this purely domestic matter, the consideration to be paid by the Corporation to the market company was £7,700 consolidated stock, which was the amount expended by the market company under the authority of the market Act. What was being redeemed under similar provisions in the Halifax Corporation Act was that £7,700 consolidated stock. To suggest that that is a precedent for taking the powers contained in Clause 103 of the Bill to redeem debenture stock, which is something to which the public are invited to subscribe, is, to say the least of it, misleading.
The Bolton Corporation Act is the next one referred to. That was a case of the redemption of gas annuities, something quite different from what is desired to be redeemed in the present case. I have looked all through these four Acts. It is interesting to note that in the Bolton Corporation Act the Corporation took powers to borrow money by issuing Bolton Corporation bonds, which is just what the Oldham Corporation did in 1880. The Bolton Corporation took those powers in 1949, but the Act which gave those powers went on to say that every sum so borrowed should be repaid by instalments of principal and interest or by creating a sinking fund sufficient to redeem them at par. In so far as there was anything in the Bolton Corporation Act similar to the present case it supports my proposition rather than the Oldham Corporation.
The Rochdale Corporation Act dealt with the redemption of water annuities. In that case the Rochdale Waterways Act, 1886, provided for the vesting of the waterworks in the local authority and in return perpetual annuities were to be issued. Again that is a quite different proposition. There was no question of inviting the public to subscribe for debenture stock on known conditions.
I should have doubted the last example if I had not seen it with my own eyes, but I assure hon. Members that I have done so. It is the Wolverhampton Corporation Act, 1950. What was being redeemed there was the yearly rent of the waterworks. The local authority had had to pay a rent to the 1257 water undertaking which was separate. Under that Act the local authority took over the waterworks and the waterworks company was dissolved. That left the question of the yearly rent which the Corporation had to pay to the company prior to that date. This was a purely local matter quite different from the matter with which we are concerned here and that was dealt with by a conversion similar to that which the Oldham Corporation wants to carry out under Clause 103.
These alleged precedents are no precedents at all. I go a stage further and say—whether I am right or wrong in saying that it is disingenuous for the promoters to put it in that way—that, when one finds that the reason given turns out to be not a very valid one, I think it roust have the same effect as the thirteenth chime of an old clock which cast doubts on all that has gone before it.
Then we come to the other reason given in the promoters' statement. In paragraphs 9 and 10 they say that the income will be the same. Then they introduce what I shall state openly is rather the surprising statement, that the only difference would be that the holders would be paid the income by the Government. I submit that that shows an almost contemptuous disregard for the rights of debenture stockholders who became stockholders at the Corporation's invitation and on terms stipulated in the private Act which was promoted by Oldham Corporation.
Oldham Corporation now ignorer all that. It gives the stockholders a security entirely different from that which they had before, and it entirely overlooks the fact that the Corporation's only right is to redeem by agreement and that the reason why that is its only right is that that is what the Corporation put in the Act of 1880 which it promoted.
Paragraph 10 of the promoters' statement says that the capital value might be a little more after the conversion is carried out. That is true, but it is only true and only relevant if the holders of the stock wanted to sell it, but they do not. If they had wanted to sell they would have sold it and these powers would not have been necessary.
This is the kind of stock which is bought, safe in the knowledge that the security is good and that if it is ever 1258 redeemed one will get par value, but now the moment has arrived when the Corporation wants to redeem the stock but does not want to redeem it on the original terms. These two paragraphs in the promoters' statement entirely ignore the fact that debenture stockholders have a legal right and that they must be the judges of whether whatever is proposed is acceptable to them; and what is proposed here is to take away the original terms and to substitute others whether the stockholders like it or not.
There is another side to paragraphs 9 and 10 of the statement, and because I feel it I will say straight out that in my view the statement and reasons of the promoters are open to criticism as much for what is omitted as for what is included. There is no reference in the statement to why the Corporation wants to do it this way and why it would be such a big advantage financially for it to do it this way.
I can illustrate my point very shortly and, I hope, clearly by taking an example. Suppose the Corporation exercised its powers to redeem by converting to 4 per cent. Consols. That would mean a straight exchange of £100 of 4 per cent. Consols for £100 of debenture stocks. One hundred pounds al 4 per cent. Consols can be bought for about £67. Accordingly, if these powers were given to the Corporation it would have the great advantage to the Corporation that it would be able to pay off at about 67 per cent. of the total outstanding. I feel that it might have been better if that fact, which no doubt must be a powerful reason in the minds of the Corporation, had been stated openly and clearly.
Mr. J. T. Price
I appreciate that the hon. Member is trying to be fair and logical in the way in which he is presenting a very forceful argument, but surely this is a purely academic point. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] It is academic. If hon. Gentlemen opposite will be as patient with me as I have been with the hon. Member for Southport (Mr. Percival) in listening to his very interesting discourse, I will try to be equally logical. Surely it is an academic point, because a great many holders of the existing debentures which are the subject of this debate did not buy them at £100 in 1880. Some of them probably 1259 bought the debentures only last week, perhaps at £62. An attempt to try to convince me, sitting on this side of the House—or even if I were sitting on the other side of the House—as a rational, thinking human being that this sort of person would suffer an injustice is "going some" to my mind. I do not think that the argument holds up at all in practical terms. It is purely an academic question.
§ Mr. Percival
It all depends from which side one approaches the matter. The hon. Gentleman has rather anticipated me by referring to "injustice". I have not used the word yet, but I shall do so before I finish.
I was simply pointing out that I think it would have been very much more fair and would have given the House a far more complete picture of the matter if this reason, which must be one of the practical reasons why the Corporation wants to do it this way, had been freely and frankly stated. Nevertheless, I have now stated it for the information of the House.
I would also draw attention to the sentence at the end of paragraph 10 of the statement which states:It is in the knowledge of the Corporation that the debenture stock has not as ready a sale in the market as the proposed substituted securitiesThat needs a little comment. I was informed by the Town Clerk in the discussion that I had with him at his request that the Corporation had for some years been buying all the debenture stock that was available for it to buy, and I find it a little difficult to appreciate what is meant by that sentence when we know that there is one very ready buyer, namely, the Oldham Corporation. I think it right that what might otherwise be very misleading should be explained to the House before it decides this matter.
Finally, the promoters in paragraph 19 of the statement submit that there is "no principle" involved. I submit that there is a principle here, namely, whether for the convenience of Oldham and to save Oldham money this House should permit it to put aside its agreements with and obligations to the public who have contracted with it at its invitation and to substitute these 1260 powers. The interventions of the hon. Member for Westhoughton make it clear that he would not regard it as a matter of principle to disregard the present right of the stockholders. But we differ about that.
Mr. J. T. Price
If the hon. Gentleman asks me rhetorical questions he must expect me to give him straight answers. I am as much concerned about this matter as a matter of public principle and public interest in respect of overriding personal private interests as any hon. Member of the House. I have no interests whatever in the Bill. I do not represent Oldham. I am merely another Lancashire Member who is sitting in the House interested in the debate. I am here purely for my own interest. We are here discussing a matter of principle. This is the first occasion when I have complained that the hon. Gentleman has been unfair in any of the observations which he has made.
§ Mr. Percival
I hear what the hon. Gentleman says and I will proceed with my argument. No doubt he will pay me the compliment of accepting that, whether he agrees with me or not, my convictions are as sincere as his. I shall listen to what he has to say. My constituents, and a number of other small holders, have complained about this proposal, as is evidenced by some of my hon. Friends. Some of the big holders have not objected and so it can be taken that they have agreed to this. I have no objection to this being done by agreement.
Those who object can fairly say that this stock, and their rights in relation to it, came into existence under powers given by this House and under provisions laid down by the House and that those powers and provisions provide only that the stock should be redeemed by agreement. The public was invited to lend money to Oldham and/or to put money into debenture stock on these terms.
§ Mr. Hale
In opening, I said that I had very great sympathy with this type of argument, and I believe that I told the hon. Gentleman that personally before this debate. But I hope, if he is to press his objection to this, that he will press his own Government to take some steps about the holders of Consols and other Government stocks who have been 1261 losers in just the same way through policies which have reduced their value. All that Oldham Corporation is saying is, "Instead of having the security of the corporation you shall have the security of the Conservative Government." The hon. Gentleman might do something about that.
§ Mr. Percival
The hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I resist the temptation to be turned aside by that red herring. My objection to this is quite a limited one; it is whether a local authority—and whether Oldham should be the first—should have the power to do this kind of thing whether the debenture holders agree or not. The debenture holders find themselves in this position because of the powers given to Oldham by this House and under provisions laid down by this House, and those who do not want to be redeemed in this way are entitled to the protection of the House. These terms should be honoured and not abandoned in the way which Clause 103 suggests.
There is a very important matter of principle involved. This proposal is certainly open to such objections as to justify the Instruction which is the subject of this Motion. It is for these reasons that I ask the House to accept the Motion. For a very long time the House has professed to safeguard the rights and liberties of the individual and the rule of law. In a small butt, none the less, important way, this is an opportunity to put those objects which we profess to admire into operation. In my respectful submission justice demands that we should do so.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Mapp (Oldham, East)
In rising to oppose the Instruction, I make it clear that I have a constituency but no other interest in the matter, as a ratepayer, for instance, apart from the over-riding interest that any Member of Parliament has in an area of his constituency
The Clause in question represents the unanimous view of Oldham Town Council over a considerable period, the view of a town council which has its share of differing opinions. This is not a matter which has arisen only in the last year or so. Oldham Corporation last had a Bill before the House in the 1930s and this and other Clauses have 1262 resulted from the experience of the local authority and are now placed before the House for the consideration of hon. Members.
Clause 103 represents a sensible and equitable solution to one of the problems which beset the old but nevertheless vigorous and thrifty town of Oldham. It represents a serious attempt by the local authority to clothe an old and ancient obligation, which still continues, with modern implements suitable for the modern age. The Corporation has no intention of not meeting its obligations to the holders of debenture stock.
In passing, I may say that the Bill attracted the attention of The Times, which on 11th January said of the compensation provisions that:… the terms of exchange are nothing if not fair, both to borrower and to lender.The stock was originally issued in about 1880 to 1886 at 4 per cent. Approximately 306,000 units remain unredeemed, so that it can be seen that over the years an endeavour has been made to redeem stock as it became available on the market. It is on this issue that the controversy arises.
In the Oldham Corporation Act, 1880, the stock is described as debenture stock. I am not a lawyer and I have been looking into the matter in the Library this afternoon, but I found no reference to perpetual debenture stock. So far as I can see, in practical day-to-day language, the debenture stock is largely the same as the annuities with which Clause 102 is to deal in the same way as the debenture stock is dealt with.
The Corporation has done everything to liquidate the stock by purchase. Nevertheless, in view of the fact that all other forms of security issued by the Corporation are redeemable, and also that the sound finances of a local authority justify making such stock redeemable, or fixing an age limit, the Corporation has come forward in 1960, in an endeavour to apply a remedy—and not in order to make some profit out of the transaction—to deal honourably with an obligation undertaken in 1880. Some of the reasons for the obligation were mentioned by the hon. Member for Southport (Mr. Percival), namely, to deal with some of the market liabilities that at that time became its responsibility.
1263 The need to give modern implements to local authorities in dealing with their finances is surely agreed to by hon. Members on both sides of the House. At this stage I should like to comment on the argument put forward by the hon. Member for Southport in regard to the obligations to the stockholders. First, let us consider the impact of history on the position. The stock was issued about eighty years ago. By the processes of change it will have lost its original par value of 100. A few months ago the market value was about 66. I venture to suggest that the argument of the hon. Member for Southport that for ever and a day, without any means of rectifying the problem, the stock should always be redeemable at par, is unjust, and that the situation should be remedied if we can find a proper means of doing so.
When the Corporation examined the position it had no precedents to go on. It still wanted to get a redemption date for this stock, and rightly looked around for the precedents which this House had set, if there were any. It found precedents which have been referred to by the hon. Member for Southport. But there is some question whether they really are precedents. My information is that the correct precedent to be followed in this case is that of the Halifax Corporation, and that the others, concerning Wolverhampton, Rochdale and Bolton, are based on annuities, which means that the problem dealt with there is a slight variation of that facing Oldham Corporation.
§ Mr. Percival
Will the hon. Member say whether he personally considers that the redemption of the Halifax market stock, the nature of which I have described, is in any way similar to redeeming debenture stock to which the public is invited to subscribe?
§ Mr. Percival
I have looked at the Oldham Inprovement Act of 1880. Some parts might have been connected with the market, but the enabling section enabled the Corporation to borrow up to £370,000 for the purposes and for the 1264 objects which were stated, one of which was for building a town hall. Only a small part was for market purposes. It was entirely different from this case.
§ Mr. Mapp
I am obliged to the hon. Member. I said that only part had arisen in respect of a market. I think that also there was a part arising in connection with some water undertaking responsibilities, but I am uninformed as to whether a town hall was built. All I can say is that the age of the present town hall seems to suggest that it was built long before that time.
Coming to the facts of the present problem, I have with me the document issued on 4th December last by the Town Clerk of Oldham indicating to every debenture holder the proposals of the Corporation and promising that the precise proposals before the House would be supplied to all who might require them. With due deference to the intervention of the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black), my information was, and still is, that some half dozen or so perfectly reasonable inquiries have been made of the Oldham authority and a great deal of explanation has been given but that the correspondence has terminated, with one exception, with those explanations. The one exception is in the case of a constituent of the hon. Member for Southport.
§ Sir C. Black
It is true that the correspondence that my constituent has had and that I have had with the Town Clerk, has terminated, but in an entirely unsatisfactory and negative sense. I wrote to the Town Clerk and asked whether the Corporation would not deal with this matter in the normal way of repaying pound for pound the money borrowed. The correspondence terminated with a letter from the Town Clerk, which said:The Corporation is not prepared voluntarily to redeem the Debenture Stock in cash at par, but, as mentioned in my letter of the 16th December, it is proposed to purchase the stock at the market rate for 4 per cent. Consols.It may be correct to say that the correspondence has terminated but it has terminated in a most unsatisfactory way.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Hirst (Shipley)
I have in my hand correspondence similar to that quoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black).
§ Mr. Mapp
I respect the factual information which is now forthcoming, but I should say to the hon. Members that, in order to preserve rights and ensure that protestations are really made, the correspondence referred to should have been presented finally to the Town Clerk of Oldham in such a way that he understood that protest was being made. I assure them that the authorities in Oldham—and I assure the House in that regard—have in good faith held throughout that only one objector to this procedure was prepared to come to the House and make his objection known. I assure the House that if the authorities in Oldham had known of any deep recurring protest about this, they would have considered the matter further. In a few moments I may use some words to indicate the reasonableness of the Corporation in that regard.
§ Mr. Dudley Williams
Is the hon. Member suggesting that if all the people who hold stock write to hon. Members, and hon. Members send their protests to the Town Clerk, it is likely that the Oldham Corporation will recant at the last moment and repay all these people in full?
§ Mr. Mapp
I am not at the moment saying that. What I am saying is that if hon. Members have made inquiries, as apparently they have, from the local authority, and have had some explanation which is good for the local authority but, as we now learn, not good for the hon. Member, then the local authority should have been informed that the constituent was dissatisfied and it would then be cognisant of the position.
§ Mr. Hirst rose—
§ Mr. Mapp
May I come to the one objector? The stock outstanding is £306,000, and as far as is known officially there is one objector holding £420 of stock. An examination of the list of stockholders shows that eleven hold 43 per cent. of this stock, and there is good reason to believe that in general they are satisfied with the arrangements proposed in the Bill. There is evidence that some of them, subsequent to the advice, have bought further stock in the 1266 knowledge that the House may or may not, in due course, provide the remedy contained in the Bill.
I do not seek to influence the House solely from this point of view, but I would point out that if, from the date when the Corporation was last in the market purchasing this stock, some time in April, the proposals in the Bill had been available, the stock holder would have achieved a capital gain, as the hon. Member for Southport conceded, of £8 or £9. That fact is well known and understood by those knowledgeable in the market.
I should like the House to send the Bill to Committee without any Instruction. I will quote from a document from the Oldham Corporation thatit is not intended, nor possible for the Corporation to redeem in the immediate future. The reason the proposal is made now is that it requires statutory authority.The document, referring to the Committee upstairs, continues:If the Committee, having heard the evidence of experts, decided (a) that some limit should be set on the power to redeem (e.g. by postponement until after a particular date) and/or (b) that the holder should be given the option of a cash payment, related to the value of the securities, the Corporation will accept their view and be prepared to suggest alternative methods of dealing with the matter, but they would wish to apply the same procedure to all holders of both annuities and debentures.In asking the House to reject the Instruction, I want to leave it with the feeling that, before the Committee upstairs, when the facts can all be presented on both sides of the argument, the Oldham Corporation is prepared to act reasonably and equitably in all the circumstances. In view of that, I ask the House to reject the Instruction.
§ 9.20 p.m.
§ The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Anthony Barber)
I hope that the House will think it convenient if I indicate quite briefly the views of the Government on the Clause which we have been discussing. Before I do so perhaps I might say two things.
First, I think that the whole House is indebted to my hon. Friend the Member for Southport (Mr. Percival) for his enterprise in raising this matter. There is clearly a difficulty, and again, I am sure that hon. Members on both sides 1267 will agree, there is a very important question involved in this Clause.
The procedure for Private Bill legislation, which was referred to during the debate on the Second Reading of the Bill, lays a very heavy duty on Parliament. It is certainly a duty which ought not to be, and, indeed, cannot be, Shouldered entirely by Ministers and the Government. It is of great benefit that there should be some hon. Members who are prepared to take the trouble to probe for what on the surface may not appear to be weak spots in Private Bills, and to bring them into the open so that they can be properly examined.
No one who listened to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Southport will doubt that he had taken very great trouble in preparing the case that he put to us. I should also like to say that no one who heard the speech of the hon. Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Mapp) on this point will doubt that he spoke with sincerity. I might mention that as long ago as January of this year my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Mr. Hirst) first drew my attention to this mattes and expressed his very grave concern.
Secondly, I want to say by way of introduction that, in my view, there is no suggestion that in putting this Clause in the Bill the Oldham Corporation is acting other than in good faith. There is certainly no question here of its trying to swindle its debenture holders or anything of that sort. If there were, we should not have the slightest difficulty in knowing what to do.
The question is more difficult than that. I do want to go over the whole ground again in detail to explain the position of the Corporation and its stock, but the Corporation inherited from its predecessors, some eighty years ago, the duty to service certain debenture stock—stock which is not redeemable, as my hon. Friend the Member for Southport pointed out, according to the terms on which it was originally issued, without the agreement of the stockholder.
What the Corporation now wishes to do is to be able to redeem this stock which it finds to be a source of administrative inconvenience and expense. To this end it has taken steps in recent years, with only partial success, to secure the voluntary agreements of stockholders 1268 to accept an equivalent holding of Government securities in exchange. It now proposes to take power in this Clause to pay off and redeem the stock by giving the stockholders, in exchange, an equivalent holding of one of three undated Government stocks so as to produce the same gross income.
I think that it is clear that in some ways this is not a bad bargain. The stockholder is assured of the same income as he is getting at present. That income is secured on the credit of the United Kingdom Government, and his holding is in a form which might well prove more readily marketable, if he wished to sell it, than it is at present.
As the hon. Member for Oldham, East mentioned quite properly, The Times in its City columns in January commented:The terms of the exchange are nothing if not fair to borrower and lender.There is, of course, one feature which could at least in theory beheld to damage the interests of a stockholder. Whereas at present the stockholder holds, as my hon. Friend has pointed out, a truly irredeemable stock, he would, after the proposed exchange, be holding a stock which could be redeemed at the option of the Government. This is a point which I think the Corporation might have been better advised to have mentioned in the letter which it very properly sent to all stockholders last September. I admit that that may seem rather academic in the case of 2½ per cent. Government stocks which it is proposed should be used at the Council's option, but it might, at some future time, look rather less academic in relation to the 4 per cent. consolidated stock.
§ Mr. Hale
I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman for the way he has presented this matter. That was in fact mentioned by the Corporation in a private letter to me. It rather took the view that it was not its business to forecast Government intentions, but it emphasised that it included 4 per cent. stock particularly because there was a prospect of a redemption date.
§ Mr. Barber
My advice to the House is not to make too much of this point, but I thought it worth while mentioning it, because this is the main respect in which stockholders would be getting something different from what they are at present.
1269 The real charge against the proposal is not against the terms proposed, which are not unfair, but against the breach which it represents of the principle that the terms of a contract between a lender and borrower cannot be subsequently altered without the consent of both parties. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I entirely accept the point that it is within the competence of Parliament to legislate in a way which affects the rights, even the contractual rights, of private individuals.
It can be argued, and indeed it was implicit in the speech of the hon. Member for Oldham, East, that it is precisely to meet this sort of case, where individual rights are or may be affected, that Parliament has evolved this elaborate procedure for criticising Private Bills. It is a quite different procedure from our procedure for dealing with Public Bills and is rather more akin to that of the courts. Under this procedure, it is true that it has been open to any stockholder who does not like these proposals to come along either in person or through counsel and voice his objection.
On the other hand, one must face the fact that to do that would seem a rather formidable procedure for the ordinary citizen, who may well be content to do what some stockholders have done, namely, to get in touch with their Members of Parliament and leave the matter to what I hope can be properly described as the good sense of Parliament.
It has been claimed that there are precedents for this type of proposal. My hon. Friend the Member for Southport contended that they were not helpful. The hon. Member for Oldham, East thought that they were helpful. I certainly accept—we must all accept—that there are precedents for altering the terms of a contract by private legislation, but I think that the question again is not whether there may be precedents but whether, even if there are, it would be proper or wise to follow them in the particular circumstances of this case.
On the general principle, the best advice I can give to the House is this. Where the passage of time and the change of circumstances make the original terms of a contract a source of unreasonable hardship or unfairness to one of the parties, it may be quite proper for that 1270 party to come to Parliament with a Private Bill and ask Parliament to amend the terms of the contract in a manner which is broadly equitable.
But to alter contractual rights with anything less than the full agreement of all the parties concerned is indeed a very serious decision. I think that Parliament is right to take a very cautious view of any such proposals and in effect to confine its sanction to those cases where the ill to be cured is one of substance and where no other remedy seems to be possible.
Applying this test to the present case, it is not clear that the continued life of these irredeemable stocks is much more than a source of some inconvenience and administrative cost to Oldham Corporation. The Government's view is, therefore, that the case for this Clause is not really strong enough and that the Corporation would be better advised to continue to follow the path of voluntary persuasion, as it has done in the past, than to ask Parliament for these very drastic statutory powers.
A judgment of this sort is essentially a matter for Parliament rather than for the Government. That is why I am glad that my hon. Friends have decided to raise the question this evening. What is at issue is, after all, not a question of Government policy. It is a principle, the sanctity of contract, which underlines the whole of civilised life. I repeat, of course, that it must be accepted that Parliament has power to over-ride that principle but, particularly in a case of this sort, I think that it is right that Parliament as a whole should make a collective judgment on the merits of the case.
For those reasons, I think that all would agree that this is essentially a House of Commons matter but, accepting that the Oldham Corporation is acting in good faith, I must say that I take the same view as did my hon. Friend the Member for Southport, that the circumstances of this case are not such as to justify the serious step of departing from the terms on which these loans were originally issued.
I therefore think that the House would be well advised to accept the Motion.
§ Question put:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 150, Noes 77.1221
|Division No. 120.]||AYES||[6.53 p.m.|
|Abse, Leo||Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||de Freitas, Geoffrey|
|Ainsley, William||Brown, Alan (Tottenham)||Delargy, Hugh|
|Albu, Austen||Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Diamond, John|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Dodds, Norman|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Donnelly, Desmond|
|Awbery, Stan||Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Driberg, Tom|
|Bacon, Mist Alice||Callaghan, James||Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John|
|Beaney, Alan||Chapman, Donald||Ede, Rt. Hon. Chuter|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Cliffe, Michael||Edelman, Maurice|
|Bence, Cyril (Dunbartonshire, E.)||Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)|
|Benn, Hn.A. Wedgwood (Brist'I, S.E.)||Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Edwards, Robert (Bilston)|
|Benson, Sir George||Crosland, Anthony||Edwards, Walter (Stepney)|
|Blackburn, F.||Crossman, R. H. S.||Evans, Albert|
|Blyton, William||Darling, George||Fernyhough, E.|
|Boardman, H.||Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Fitch, Alan|
|Bowden, Herbert W. (Leics, S.W.)||Davies, Harold (Leek)||Fletcher, Eric|
|Bowles, Frank||Davies, Ifor (Cower)||Foot, Dingle|
|Boyden, James||Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Forman, J. G.|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Deer, George||Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)|
|Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. Hugh||McInnes, James||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|George, Lady Megan Lloyd||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Ginsburg, David||Mackie, John||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Gooch, E. G.||McLeavy, Frank||Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)|
|Gordon-Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles)||Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)|
|Gourlay, Harry||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Small, William|
|Greenwood, Anthony||Mahon, Simon||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Grey, Charles||Mallalieu, J.P.W.(Huddersfield, E.)||Snow, Julian|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Manuel, A. C.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Mapp, Charles||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Griffiths, W. (Exchange)||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Gunter, Ray||Marsh, Richard||Steele, Thomas|
|Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)||Mason, Roy||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Mayhew, Christopher||Stonehouse, John|
|Hamilton, William (West Fife)||Mellish, R. J.||Stones, William|
|Hannan, William||Mendelson, J. J.||Strachey, Rt. Hon. John|
|Hart, Mrs. Judith||Millan, Bruce||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Vauxhall)|
|Hayman, F. H.||Mitchison, G. R.||Stross, Dr.Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)|
|Healey, Denis||Monslow, Walter||Summerskill, Dr. Rt. Hon. Edith|
|Henderson, Rt.Hn.Arthur (RwlyRegis)||Moody, A. S.||Swain, Thomas|
|Herbison, Miss Margaret||Morris, John||Swingler, Stephen|
|Hill, J. (Midlothian)||Mort, D. L.||Sylvester, George|
|Hilton, A. V.||Moyle, Arthur||Symonds, J. B.|
|Holman, Percy||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Houghton, Douglas||Oliver, G. H.||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Howell, Charles A.||Oram, A. E.||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Hoy, James H.||Oswald, Thomas||Thompson, Dr. Alan (Dunfermline)|
|Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Owen, Will||Thomson, G. M. (Dundee, E.)|
|Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Padley, W. E.||Thornton, Ernest|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Paget, R. T.||Timmons, John|
|Hunter, A. E.||Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)||Tomney, Frank|
|Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Pargiter, G. A.||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Hynd, John (Attercliffe)||Parker, John (Dagenham)||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Parkin, B. T. (Paddington, N.)||Warbey, William|
|Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Paton, John||Watkins, Tudor|
|Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas||Pavitt, Laurence||Weitzman, David|
|Jeger, George||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)||Peart, Frederick||Wells, William (Walsall. N.)|
|Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Pentland, Norman||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Jones, Rt. Hn. A. Creech (Wakefield)|
|Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Plummer, Sir Leslie||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Popplewell, Ernest||Whitlock, William|
|Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)||Wigg, George|
|Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Probert, Arthur||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Kelley, Richard||Proctor, W. T.||Willey, Frederick|
|Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Randall, Harry||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Lawson, George||Rankin, John||Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Ledger, Ron||Redhead, E. C.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Reid, William||Winterbottom, R. E.|
|Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Reynolds, G. W.||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)||Rhodes, H.||Woof, Robert|
|Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Wyatt, Woodrow|
|Lipton, Marcus||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||Yates, Victor (Ladywood)|
|Logan, David||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)||Zilliacus, K.|
|Loughlin, Charles||Ross, William|
|Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Royle, Charles (Salford, West)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|McCann, John||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.||Mr. J. Taylor and|
|MacColl, James||Short, Edward||Mr. G. H. R. Rogers.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Black, Sir Cyril||Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)|
|Aitken, W. T.||Bossom, Clive||Cole, Norman|
|Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.)||Bourne-Arton, A.||Collard, Richard|
|Allason, James||Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan)||Cooke, Robert|
|Alport, Rt. Hon. C. J. M.||Box, Donald||Cooper, A. E.|
|Amory, Rt.Hn. D. Heathcoat (Tiv'tn)||Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. John||Cooper-Key, Sir Neill|
|Arbuthnot, John||Boyle, Sir Edward||Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Brewis, John||Cordie, John|
|Balniel, Lord||Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Corfield, F. V.|
|Barber, Anthony||Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry||Costain, A. P.|
|Barlow, Sir John||Brooman-White, R.||Coulson, J. M.|
|Barter, John||Browne, Percy (Torrington)||Craddock, Sir Beresford|
|Batsford, Brian||Bryan, Paul||Critchley, Julian|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley (Southgate)||Bullard, Denys||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Gol. O. E.|
|Beamish, Col. Tufton||Bullus, Wing Commander Eric||Cunningham, Knox,|
|Bell, Ronald (S. Bucks.)||Burden, F. A.||Curran, Charles|
|Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)||Butcher, Sir Herbert||Currie, G. B. H.|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos & Fhm)||Butler, Rt.Hn.R.A.(Saffron Walden)||Dalkeith, Earl of|
|Berkeley, Humphry||Campbell, Sir David (Belfast, S.)||Dance, James|
|Bevins, Rt. Hon. Reginald (Toxteth)||Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)||Davies, Rt.Hn. Clement (Montgomery)|
|Bidgood, John C.||Carr, Compton (Barons Court)||d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Carr, Robert (Mitcham)||Deedes, W. F.|
|Bingham, R. M.||Cary, Sir Robert||Digby, Simon Wingfield|
|Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Channon, H. P. G.||Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M.|
|Bishop, F. P.||Chichester-Clark, R.||Doughty, Charles|
|Drayson, G. B.||Kershaw, Anthony||Rawlinson, Peter|
|du Cann, Edward||Kimball, Marcus||Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin|
|Duncan, Sir James||Kirk, Peter||Rees, Hugh|
|Duthie, Sir William||Lagden, Godfrey||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Eden, John||Lambton, Viscount||Renton, David|
|Emery, Peter||Lancaster, Col. C. G||Ridley, Hon. Nicholas|
|Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn||Langford-Holt, J.||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Erroll, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Leather, E. H. C.||Rippon, Geoffrey|
|Farey-Jones, F. W.||Leavey, J. A.||Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)|
|Farr, John||Leburn, Gilmour||Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)|
|Finlay, Graeme||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Robson Brown, Sir William|
|Fisher, Nigel||Lindsay, Martin||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Linstead, Sir Hugh||Roots, William|
|Forrest, George||Litchfield, Capt. John||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Foster, John||Lloyd, Rt. Hon, Selwyn (Wirral)||Royle, Anthony (Richmond, Surrey)|
|Fraser, Rn. Hugh (Stafford & Stone)||Longbottom, Charles||Russell, Ronald|
|Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||Longden, Gilbert||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Freeth, Denzil||Loveys, Walter H.||Sharples, Richard|
|Gammans, Lady||Low, Rt. Hon. Sir Toby||Shaw, M.|
|Gardner, Edward||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)||Shepherd, William|
|George, J. C. (Pollok)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Simon, Sir Jocelyn|
|Glover, Sir Douglas||McAdden, Stephen||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham)||MacArthur, Ian||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'rd & Chiswick)|
|Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.)||McLaren, Martin||Smithers, Peter|
|Godber, J. B||McLaughlin, Mrs. Patricia||Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood)|
|Goodhew, Victor||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Spearman, Sir Alexander|
|Gough, Frederick||Maclean, SirFitzroy (Bute&N.Ayrs.)||Speir, Rupert|
|Gower, Raymond||McLean, Neil (Inverness)||Stanley, Hon. Richard|
|Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R.(Nantwich)||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.)||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Green, Alan||Macleod, John (Ross & Cromarty)||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)|
|Gresham Cooke, R.||McMaster, Stanley R.||Stodart, J. A.|
|Grimond, J.||Macmillan, Rt.Hn.Harold (Bromley)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm|
|Grimston, Sir Robert||Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)||Storey, Sir Samuel|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)||Maginnis, John E.||Summers, Sir Spencer (Aylesbury)|
|Hare, Rt. Hon. John||Maitland, Cdr. Sir John||Sumner, Ronald (Orpington)|
|Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.||Talbot, John E.|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Markham, Major Sir Frank||Tapsell, Peter|
|Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||Marlowe, Anthony||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Marples, Rt. Hon. Ernest||Taylor, W. J. (Bradford, N.)|
|Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Marshall, Douglas||Teeling, William|
|Harvie, Anderson, Miss||Marten, Neil||Temple, John M.|
|Hay, John||Mathew, Robert (Honiton)||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Head, Rt. Hon. Antony||Matthews, Gordon (Meriden)||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Maudling, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Thomas, Peter (Conway)|
|Heath, Rt. Hon. Edward||Mawby, Ray||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Maydon, Lt.Cmdr. S. L. C.||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. Peter|
|Hendry, Forbes||Mills, Stratton||Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin|
|Hill. Dr. Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)||Molson, Rt. Hon. Hugh||Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)|
|Hill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe)||Montgomery, Fergus||Tilney, John (Wavertree)|
|Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)||Moore, Sir Thomas||Turner, Colin|
|Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Morgan, William||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Hirst, Geoffrey||Morrison, John||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Hobson, John||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Hocking, Philip N.||Nabarro, Gerald||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Holland, Philip||Neave, Airey||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir John|
|Hollingworth, John||Nicholls, Harmar||Vickers, Miss Joan|
|Holt, Arthur||Nicholson, Sir Godfrey||Vosper, Rt. Hon. Dennis|
|Hope, Rt. Hon. Lord John||Noble, Michael||Wade, Donald|
|Hopkins, Alan||Nugent, Sir Richard||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)|
|Hornby, R. P.||Oakshott, Sir Hendrie||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Derek|
|Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Patricia||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Wall, Patrick|
|Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)||Orr-Ewing, C. Ian||Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)|
|Howard, Hon. C. R. (St. Ives)||Osborn, John (Hallam)||Watkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold|
|Howard, John (Southampton, Test)||Osborne, Cyril (Louth)||Watts, James|
|Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral John||Page, John (Harrow, West)||Webster, David|
|Hughes-Young, Michael||Page, Graham||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Hulbert, Sir Norman||Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale)||Whitelaw, William|
|Hurd, Sir Anthony||Partridge, E.||Williams, Dudley (Exeter)|
|Hutchison, Michael Clark||Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Iremonger, T. L.||Peel, John||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Percival, Ian||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Jackson, John||Peyton, John||Wise, A. R.|
|James, David||Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth||Wood, Rt. Hon. Richard|
|Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Pike, Miss Mervyn||Woodhouse, C. M.|
|Jennings, J. C.||Pilkington, Capt. Richard||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Pitman, I. J.||Woollam, John|
|Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Pitt, Miss Edith||Worsley, Marcus|
|Johnson Smith, Geoffrey||Pott, Percivall||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Joseph, Sir Keith||Powell, J. Enoch|
|Kaberry, Sir Donald||Price, David (Eastleigh)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Kerans, Cdr. J. S.||Price, H. A. (Lewisham, W.)||Mr. E. Wakefield and|
|Kerby, Capt. Henry||Proudfoot, Wilfred||Mr. Gibson-Watt.|
|Kerr, Sir Hamilton||Ramsden, James|
|Division No. 121.]||AYES||[9.31 p.m.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Pike, Miss Mervyn|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)||Pitman, I. J.|
|Barber, Anthony||Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Pitt, Miss Edith|
|Barlow, Sir John||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Pott, Percivall|
|Barter, John||Harvie Anderson, Miss||Powell, J. Enoch|
|Bell, Ronald (S. Bucks)||Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Proudfoot, Wilfred|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos & Fhm)||Hendry, Forbes||Ramsden, James|
|Bidgood, John C.||Hill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe)||Rawlinson, Peter|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Hirst, Geoffrey||Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin|
|Bingham, R. M.||Holland, Philip||Rees, Hugh|
|Bishop, F. P.||Hopkins, Alan||Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)|
|Bourne-Arton, A.||Hornby, R. P.||Roots, William|
|Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan)||Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Patricia||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Box, Donald||Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral John||Russell, Ronald|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Hughes-Young, Michael||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Bullard, Denys||Iremonger, T. L.||Sharples, Richard|
|Burden, F. A.||James, David||Shaw, M.|
|Campbell, Cordon (Moray & Nairn)||Johnson Smith, Geoffrey||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Carr, Compton (Barons Court)||Joseph, Sir Keith||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'rd & Chiswick)|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Kerby, Capt. Henry||Smithers, Peter|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Kershaw, Anthony||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)|
|Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)||Kirk, Peter||Stodart, J. A.|
|Collard, Richard||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Cordle, John||Leavey, J. A.||Summers, Sir Spencer (Aylesbury)|
|Corfield, F. V.||Linstead, Sir Hugh||Talbot, John E.|
|Coulson, J. M.||Litchfield, Capt. John||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Critchley, Julian||Longden, Gilbert||Thomas, Peter (Conway)|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Loveys, Walter H.||Thorpe, Jeremy|
|Curran, Charles||MacArthur, Ian||Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)|
|Currie, G. B. H.||McLaughlin, Mrs. Patricia||Tilney, John (Wavertree)|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Maddan, Martin||Turner, Colin|
|Deedes, W. F.||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Doughty, Charles||Mathew, Gordon (Meriden)||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Drayson, G. B.||Mawby, Ray||Vane, W. M. F.|
|du Cann, Edward||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Vickers, Miss Joan|
|Duncan, Sir James||Mills, Stratton||Wade, Donald|
|Emery, Peter||Morgan, William||Ward, Dame Irene (Tynmouth)|
|Farey-Jones, F. W.||Morrison, John||Watts, James|
|Finlay, Graeme||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||Neave, Airey||Williams, Dudley (Exeter)|
|Gammans, Lady||Nicholls, Harmar||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Gardner, Edward||Nicholson, Sir Godfrey||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Gibson-Watt, David||Noble, Michael||Wise, A. R.|
|Glover, Sir Douglas||Orr-Ewing, C. Ian||Wood, Rt. Hon. Richard|
|Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham)||Osborn, John (Hallam)||Woodhouse, C. M.|
|Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.)||Osborne, Cyril (Louth)||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Goodhart, Philip||Page, Graham||Woollam, John|
|Goodhew, Victor||Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale)||Worsley, Marcus|
|Gower, Raymond||Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)|
|Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R. (Nantwich)||Peel, John||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Green, Alan||Percival, Ian||Sir C. Black and|
|Mr. Gresham Cooke.|
|Ainsley, William||Kelley, Richard||Redhead, E. C.|
|Blackburn, P.||Lawson, George||Rhodes, H.|
|Boyden, James||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Ross, William|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)||Short, Edward|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Loughlin, Charles||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||McCann, John||Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||McInnes, James||Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Donnelly, Desmond||Mackie, John||Steele, Thomas|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. Chuter||McLeavy, Frank||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Mahon, Simon||Stonehouse, John|
|Fernyhough, E.||Mallalieu, J.P.W.(Huddersfield, E.)||Stones, William|
|Fitch, Alan||Manuel, A. C.||Symonds, J. B.|
|Fletcher, Eric||Mapp, Charles||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Millan, Bruce||Temple, John M.|
|Gourlay, Harry||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Thornton, Ernest|
|Greenwood, Anthony||Noel-Baker, Rt.Hn.Philip (Derby, S.)||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Griffiths, W. (Exchange)||Oswald, Thomas||Warbey, William|
|Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)||Paget, R. T.||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Hannan, William||Parker, John (Dagenham)||Whitlock, William|
|Hayman, F. H.||Pearson, Arthur (pontypridd)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Hill, J. (Midlothian)||Peart, Frederick||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Howell, Charles A.||Pentland, Norman||Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Hoy, James H.||Popplewell, Ernest||Winterbottom, R. E.|
|Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Pursey, Cmdr. Harry||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Hynd, John (Attercliffe)||Randall, Harry|
|Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Rankin, John||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Mr. J. T. Price and Mr. Blyton.|