HC Deb 13 May 1960 vol 623 cc859-61

There shall be defrayed out of moneys provided by Parliament any increase attributable to this Act in the sums payable out of moneys so provided by way of Rate-deficiency Grant or Exchequer Equalisation Grant under the enactments relating to local government in England and Wales or in Scotland.—[Mr. Nabarro.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Nabarro

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

The Committee will remember that the Money Resolution was provided by my right hon. Friend and was agreed to yesterday evening. This Clause, entitled "Expenses", is in the usual form. It deals with any increase in the Rate-deficiency Grant or Exchequer Equalisation Grant resulting from expenditure by local authorities and its enforcement under the Bill.

Mr. Reader Harris (Heston and Isleworth)

I wonder whether, between now and the Report stage, my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) will look again at this new Clause. Naturally, I support it, but I do not like the wording, as I have been caught out by similar wording before. We recently dealt with the Offices Bill in Standing Committee. I then moved a whole series of Amendments giving to fire brigades and fire authorities duties and rights of inspection and entry similar to the rights given to fire brigades and fire authorities by the Factories Acts. My Amendments were not called, on the ground that they were outside the scope of a Money Resolution almost identical with this one.

In the Bill as at present drawn—I do not wish now to refer to the next new Clause on the Order Paper—certain duties are laid on local authorities, and it may wall be found in practice that the right and proper people to perform them are the fire authorities, and that the actual department—even of a county borough, which is a fire authority under the definition in the Bill—is the fire department.

On the occasion to which I refer I was informed by the Public Bill Office that my Amendments were oat of order on the grounds that the Government contribution to the cost of a fire brigade was by means of block grant and not by way of rate-deficiency grant or Exchequer equalisation grant. It seems to me, therefore, that as the Bill is now drawn the fire brigade department is expressly excluded by the wording of the Clause. That is not good enough, because I am sure that, in practice, we shall find that the fire brigade is the right body to deal with this.

My hon. Friend will remember how he and I in 1959, during the passage of the Factories Bill, made great sport of the unfortunate weights and measures inspectors in local authorities, who knew nothing of fire prevention and who had the duty of inspecting premises for means of escape in case of fire. The great point then made was that the right people in the local authority were those in the fire brigade department, although we recognised that Parliament could not possibly lay down who was to do the job. I do not want to see words accepted that will exclude the right people from doing the job.

Mr. A. Evans

Before the hon. Gentleman sits down, may I ask if it has occurred to him that the fire authority is the county authority?

Mr. Harris

Yes, that is quite true.

Mr. Evans

The county authority could, therefore, arrange for one of its inspectors to do the inspection, and for other aspects to be taken care of by the fire section of the county authority.

Mr. Harris

That is not quite the position, because the fire authorities are counties and county boroughs, but the definition in the Bill refers to a county borough and a county district, and not to a county. However, my point is that if this form of wording goes through it is possible that even the fire department of a county borough could not be given the work.

Mr. Doughty

I merely wish to say that I support the new Clause.

Mr. Nabarro

I agree that my hon. Friend the Member for Heston and Isle-worth (Mr. R. Harris) and I were closely identified on a similar point during the passage of the Factories Bill but, with respect, that was a matter of escape from premises in the event of fire. We are here discussing appliances that will be appropriately marked for identification pur-