HC Deb 21 July 1961 vol 644 cc1622-4

Lords Amendment: In page 13, line 24, at end insert: but the Authority shall not, by virtue of paragraph (f) of this subsection, carry on activities with a view to making the best use of any of their assets except with the consent of the Minister.

Mr. W. Vane

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.

This Amendment also was made by the Select Committee. Clause 18 was subject to considerable debate in this House on Report. I can remember criticism of the width of the powers being given to the Authority. I hope, therefore, that the House will approve this Amendment which, to a certain extent, limits the exercise of the last power set out in paragraph (f) because the Authority, by the Amendment, shall not, by virtue of paragraph (f) of this subsection, carry on activities with a view to making the best use of any of their assets except with the consent of the Minister. The Amendment falls very much within the spirit of the criticism of the Clause which was voiced on Report. I do not think that it hampers the Authority at all in its straightforward duties, but it does mean that, where the Authority wishes to exercise the powers given under paragraph (f), which can, so it is represented, go a bit wide of the purposes of Parliament, it will have to come to the Minister and ask for consent. I do not think that that will create difficulty for the Authority, and I believe that the House will approve.

Mr. John Hall

I want further explanation of the full implications of the Amendment. As I read the subsection, by paragraphs (a) to (e) the Authority is given power to provide various facilities. Does the Amendment mean that, if the Authority wants to sell or only to rent some of the properties which come into its possession after vesting date, it will be able to do so only with the consent of the Minister? Does it mean that if in the course of the exercise of its powers the Authority provides various equipment and facilities such as vehicles, plant and machinery or accommodation of various kinds as laid down in paragraph (e), and then at a later stage it wishes to dispose of those assets in some way, it will have to ask the Minister's permission? Exactly how far does the restriction go?

Will the Minister require the Authority to consult him about the comparatively minor day-to-day ways of disposing of or properly using its assets which are not referred to specifically in paragraphs (a) to (f), or will the Authority be given guidance about the transactions in regard to which the Minister will expect to be consulted?

Mr. Mellish

I do not know whether the Parliamentary Secretary intends to reply to his hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall). As we on this side understand it, the Authority will already have more than enough to do under the Bill as it is now presented to us. The Amendment is a necessary safeguard. Paragraph (f) includes the words— to carry on all such other activities as it may appear to the Authority to be requisite … That could be fairly wide, the sort of thing which I should expect to horrify the hon. Member for Wycombe. The Authority might, perhaps, think it would be a good thing to have a betting shop in some part of its premises.

As I read it, the Amendment means that, in regard to anything the Authority wishes to do which is not specifically referred to in the Bill, it will have to ask the Minister's permission. It will have more than enough to do with the assets it has and its various activities and trading under the Bill already, without having to bother the Minister very much. I gather that the intention is that, in regard to anything else which the Authority might reasonably wish to do, it must obtain Ministerial sanction. Surely, that is quite right.

Mr. Vane

The hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) has given the reply which I think my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall) was seeking. As I understand it, the qualification is designed to apply to the second half of paragraph (f). Having in mind the criticisms voiced earlier, I expected it to be welcomed by the House. It is not intended to apply to the routine duties which the Authority will carry out and which, broadly, are described in the earlier provisions. It is intended to apply if the Authority, for some reason or another, wants to go a good deal wider than is comprehended by the sort of picture of its future which most of us here have today.

Question put and agreed to.