§ 9.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Willis
I beg to move in page 8, line 29 after the first "day", to insert "not".
I assume that the following Amendment, in page 8, to leave out lines 31 to 25, is included in this discussion.
§ Mr. Speaker
I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman. I ought to have said so. That is so, if the House so approves.
§ Mr. Willis
This Clause is what I call the "welshing" Clause of the Bill, inasmuch as it gives statutory sanction for welshing by the Secretary of State on the solemn obligation that he undertakes with the authorities when he authorises the building of certain house's. We are anxious about this ethical deterioration of the Government and we wish to save them from themselves.
This Clause makes it possible for the Secretary of State, by order, to stop the payment of subsidies, to reduce their amount or to reduce the length of time for which they are payable. It enables the Secretary of State to do this in respect of houses, after the order has been made, up to a period of ten years, after which it permits the Secretary of State to do this in respect of houses no matter when they were approved. That is why I say that it enables the Secretary of State to break the solemn obligations which he makes to local authorities when he approves houses for building and for grant purposes.
The object of the Amendment is to save the Government from themselves. If these two Amendments are accepted, it will mean that the Government cannot after ten years make retrospective any of their actions in regard to the changing of subsidies, the amount of subsidies or the length of time for which they are payable. We believe on this side of the House that this is a desirable thing to do.
The provision relating to the ten-year period is a new provision. I do not think that it appears in any previous legislation. Here, for the first time, the Secretary for State has taken to himself 578 power to say that in ten years' time he will stop paying subsidies for houses built ten or fifteen years ago. The Secretary of State can say, "I shall reduce the subsidy or pay it only for another year longer." These are enormous powers to give to the right hon. Gentleman. One of the obvious effects of giving them will be to make it almost impossible for any local authority to plan ahead.
Local authorities will be in a position where, if empowered to proceed with house building at certain rates of subsidy, they will not know what will happen at the end of a ten-year period. No longer is a local authority to be able to say that in respect of certain houses it will receive £x a year for sixty years. No longer will a local authority be able to plan ahead on the basis of revenue coming into the housing account in the form of subsidies for so many years, because the right hon. Gentleman proposes to take these new powers. I do not know what is the justification for them.
The Under-Secretary said that circumstances may be such as to justify this course of action.
§ Mr. Galbraith indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Willis
The hon. Gentleman says, "No". But of course they will be breaking their promise to the local authorities.
The Government ought to come to the House and ask for powers to do that in a way which would enable the matter to be debated on the Floor of the House. The hon. Gentleman says that we should trust the Secretary of State who would not act in an irresponsible fashion. But different people have different ideas of responsibility. The hon. Gentleman thinks that he is acting responsibly in relation to this Bill. We happen to disagree with him. It is not always easy 579 to decide what is responsible action and certainly this is something which ought to be decided on the Floor of the House and not be a decision taken only by a Minister. I ask the hon. Gentleman to think seriously about these powers and not to advance the same argument again.
Another point is that this sort of thing is decided by the Treasury and not by the Secretary of State. Even though the Secretary of State may not think it a desirable thing to do, he must comply or resign. The present "minnows" on the Government Front Bench would not resign even on such a matter as this. I suggest that these enormous powers should not be granted to the right hon. Gentleman and I am surprised that hon. Members opposite should allow this to happen. These powers could be used to weaken the power of local authorities over their own housing policies and programmes. This cannot contribute to the housing problem in Scotland. The local authorities will not have the confidence they ought to have in the future to enable them to plan ahead on any substantial scale.
Before embarking on a large housing programme—which, heaven knows, most local authorities in Scotland ought to do—I should have thought that a local authoritiy would wish to do so in the knowledge that at the end of ten years it would not lose all its subsidies. But under these provisions no local authority could do that, and it is an alarming state of affairs. We have had housing legislation and subsidies for forty years and in the past no Government have asked for these powers.
No Government in the past have asked for powers at the end of ten years suddenly to stop subsidies without coming to this House. Why the experience of forty years should have led to this conclusion I do not know. The hon. Gentleman has never given a satisfactory explanation; he certainly did not in Committee. What in those forty years has led to the Government now seeking to obtain these powers? So far as I know, there has been nothing. The hon. Gentleman has to justify this proposal very much more than he did in Committee before he can satisfy us. I do not think he can do that and I hope that my hon. Friends will vote for this Amendment.
§ Mr. Galbraith
The effect of this Amendment, if read with the linked Amendment, would be to remove the power of the Secretary of State to reduce or abolish subsidy or to pay subsidy for a reduced number of years, on houses which had already been approved under the Bill. It would do so by providing that the Order could not apply to houses in proposals received before the day on which the draft of the review Order was laid before Parliament. In short, what it seeks to do is to remove the allegedly retrospective power of the Secretary of State in relation to subsidies already in payment. As I said in Committee, I appreciate what is worrying hon. Members opposite, but I am afraid that I must again oppose the Amendment.
§ Mr. Galbraith
If the hon. Member will wait he will hear why. I hope that I shall satisfy him.
The provision in subsection (2) whereby the Secretary of State may, at any time after ten years from the passing of the Bill, abolish or reduce subsidies already in payment under the Bill, is admittedly a new power.
§ Mr. Galbraith
That is perfectly true. The reason for introducing it was explained in the White Paper on Housing in Scotland at paragraph 33. The fact that it is a new power does not necessarily mean that there is anything wrong with it. I am surprised that the hon. Member, who regards himself as being a member of a progressive party, should think that anything which is new is necessarily wrong.
§ Mr. Willis
I suggested that these were new powers and very big powers. I said that the hon. Gentleman had to justify them in a much better manner than he had justified them in the past before he can expect us to accept them.
§ Mr. Galbraith
The hon. Member said that, but he also seemed to think that because this was a new power it was wrong. I am saying that it is not necessarily wrong.
It could indeed be argued that these powers do not go far enough. For the £14 million or so which is being paid out annually in subsidies to local authorities under previous Acts will of course 581 be exempt, and some £3 million out of that £14 million is payable in respect of the cheap pre-war houses where the case for revision might well be held to be strongest, because the current cost of those houses is mow probably below the potential income from them. The earlier subsidy Acts provide quite categorically, however, that the contributions are to be made at the specified rate for forty or sixty years, so the Government would be exposing themselves to a charge of breaking faith if they invited Parliament to make retrospective changes in regard to those subsidies.
What subsection (2) of Clause 8 does is to give notice that if after a reasonable period the kind of economic change occurs which has already taken place in respect of the cheap pre-war houses, the Government reserve the right to seek Parliament's approval—I stress that because the hon. Member seemed to think that we were not seeking Parliament's approval—by means of an Order submitted for affirmative Resolution, to an appropriate reduction in Exchequer subsidies.
§ Mr. Galbraith
The hon. Member is quite right; the House cannot amend that. The change in circumstances leading to the need for review might, in practice, be so radical as to call for fresh legislation; but the existence on the Statute Book of the power to reduce by Order subsidies already in payment would protect the Government of the day against any possible accusation of bad faith in retrospectively reducing subsidies such as prevents the Government from reducing subsidies on pre-war houses if they wanted to do so. The new power cannot be used until ten years after the Bill becomes law, and it will be used only if the circumstances—for example the rent-paying capacity of the tenants—have changed so drastically that the maintenance of the present subsidy cannot be justified.
§ Mr. Willis
That is an astonishing argument. The hon. Gentleman says that it is necessary to do this because the Government lack the courage to face the country and to explain their actions to the people. "We should be accused", he said, "of not keeping faith if we reduced subsidies given before the war."
§ 9.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Galbraith
I said that subsidies under previous Acts were for a fixed period of years. Although the case for changing them may be strong, if we were to change them we should be open to the charge of acting retrospectively. We should be breaking our word. In the Bill we are not breaking our word because we are giving a warning that if the circumstances change we reserve the right to reduce the subsidy.
The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East suggested that this provision was a breach of contract with the local authorities. That is a complete misrepresentation. In fact, it is a warning placed on the Statute Book now that subsidies under the Bill may be changed. The result is that any future Government who find it necessary to use the power will be protected against an accusation that the reduction represents a breach of statutory commitment. Local authorities will know from the moment that a house is approved that the possibility exists, even if only very remotely, of a reduction in subsidy. When a specific advance warning is given it is nonsense for the hon. Member to speak about a breach of contract.
Again, there is no suggestion of retrospective legislation here, since the new power to reduce subsidies already in payment applies only to houses approved from the day the Bill was published. I sometimes think that hon. Members opposite use the word "retrospective" without realising exactly What it means, since the whole object of putting this provision in the Bill is precisely to avoid any suggestion that a future Government is acting retrospectively.
§ Mr. Galbraith
The hon. Member may not have used that word just now, but it was used in Committee, and I thought he gave the impression that that was his view. The hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) laughs, but he was not in Committee, and I can assure him that the word "retrospective" was used endlessly in Committee.
§ Mr. Galbraith
That shows that the hon. Member has not understood one word that I said. It is not retrospective.
§ Mr. Galbraith
Perhaps the hon. Member and I should have a discussion afterwards behind Mr. Speaker's Chair about the precise meaning of the word "retrospective".
§ Sir M. Galpern Is not the Minister telling the House that the purpose of the Clause is to give a guarantee of subsidies for ten years only? Is he not saying that after that guarantee anything may happen?
§ Mr. Galbraith
That is one way of looking at it.
I want to make it clear that there is no question of asking local authorities to pay back money. They will be able to retain all the payments made to them up to the date of the Order. In spite of what was said by the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel), I do not see how it can be regarded as retrospective to alter the amount of money which they have not yet received. To preserve flexibility it is necessary to have this power, and I therefore regret that I cannot accept the Amendment.
§ Miss Herbison
One of the points made by the Under-Secretary was that a local authority should know from the moment a house is built that in future its subsidy might be axed. Do the Tory Government want local authorities to build houses, or do they not? It seems to me that the Tory Government do not want local authorities to build houses. The Government have put into the Bill not only this Clause but other Clauses under the pretension that other bodies, such as housing associations, will build houses. In what position does the Under-Secretary think that the Government are placing every Scottish local authority?
Until now, in spite of this provision, which the Under-Secretary continually 584 tells us has been in other Bills but which he has had to say has never been used, local authorities have known when they have built a house that they would get a subsidy from the Government each year for sixty years. In other words, there was a partnership. They borrowed money from the Public Works Loan Board. They knew the interest rate they would have to pay on the money over sixty years. They knew exactly what subsidy they would get from the Government. It was a real partnership. They were not in any doubt. When they built houses, they knew what responsibility they were undertaking as a local authority.
§ Mr. Galbraith One thing which they did not know was the future capacity of the tenants to pay rent. I ask the hon. Lady to consider that. The tenants' capacity to pay rent may very well change over sixty years. She has left that factor entirely out of her calculations.
§ Miss Herbison
No. That does not alter my calculations. The Under-Secretary has not told us in what circumstances these subsidies would be axed. It may have nothing to do with incomes. It may be another economic crisis brought on by a Tory Government. Every local authority will be placed in the greatest uncertainty. The hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Mr. Hendry) spoke of old houses whose rents he wants to raise. Many of them need to be replaced by local government houses. How shall we get those houses if legislation such as this is put on the Statute Book, especially under the Guillotine?
The case made by the Under-Secretary was derisory. He said that the Government could go much further. That was indeed part of his case. He said that the Government were not going to take back from local authorities money which local authorities had already received. The fact that he has had to advance such a derisory argument shows how weak the Government's case is. I know that many of my hon. Friends would like to speak on this question, because it affects every local authority in Scotland. It affects the chances of many thousands of people 585 getting houses, but because of this dreadful Guillotine we shall now have to vote on the Amendment.
§ Sir James Duncan (South Augus)
I was not on the Committee. This point has been raised with me by local authorities in my part of the world. I want to get my mind clear about what is being done in the Bill so that I can decide what attitude to adopt on the Amendment. As I understand it, all existing houses built before November are sacrosanct because they are old contracts. The Government are not going to break their contracts. So far, so good. However, houses approved about the time of the introduction of the Bill are not sacrosanct. The Government are giving ten years' notice that there will be no change in the subsidies in the Bill, whether they be £42 or any other rate. There will be no change in the subsidy rates in the Bill for ten years. [Interruption.]
In this Bill the Government give notice that after ten years there might be changes. What are the safeguards? First of all, there is the ten-year period, certain. Then there must be a material change of circumstances—my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary has said so. Thirdly, there must be an affirmative Resolution—I suppose in both Houses—which gives ample opportunity for discussion, or for the throwing out of that affirmative Resolution by this House. I know that such a Resolution cannot be amended, but it can be thrown out—and it is an affirmative, not a negative, procedure that is being adopted.
I would only add that if the Government's only purpose in connection with this matter was to reduce the period of the subsidy, to do so by means of an Order is much simpler than having to go through all the paraphernalia of a Parliamentary Bill, and there is a good deal of justification for the Government adopting that procedure, particularly as it is a positive procedure. Another safeguard is that there should be consultation with the local authority. That is written into the Bill, which is unusual.
With all those safeguards, it seems to me that local authorities can have every confidence in going on building houses 586 for the needs of Scotland as they have done in the past, and I hope that they will intensify their efforts. I do not agree with the hon. Lady when she says that local authorities do not have that confidence. I believe that there is every reason for them to be confident, and I hope that they will continue to act as they have done in the past.
§ Mr. Hendry
I want to make only two points. First, the hon. Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) referred to the contract between the Government and the local authority in regard to a period of 60 years. She suggested that local authorities borrowed money for that period. Surely, she knows that local authorities very rarely borrow for longer than five years, which means that they are willing to take a risk in the hope that interest rates will come down. The Government's guarantee is for ten years, not for five years.
Secondly, we have heard a great deal, not only tonight but in Committee, about the "wicked Tories" proposing this procedure for altering subsidies. I have said it before, and I think that it is time for me to say it again in this House, that the "wicked" procedure was invented in 1924. It is contained in Section 5 of the Housing (Financial Provision Act) of that year, a Measure brought in by a Socialist Government—
§ Mr. Willis
In the interest of truthfulness, the hon. Gentleman knows that the ten-year limit is new.
§ Mr. Hendry
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me to develop my argument.
That Measure provided that the Government might, after consultation, by order alter the subsidy in respect of any house that had not then been completed. That was a house that had already been approved. Hon. Gentlemen opposite know full well that it takes anything from a year to 18 months to complete a house. There, there was a case of a house started by a local authority and not yet completed but, before that house could be completed, the Socialist Government of 1924 took powers to change the subsidy.
§ Question put, That "not" be there inserted in the Bill:—588
§ The House divided: Ayes 144, Noes 200.589
|Division No. 152.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Abse, Leo||Hannan, William||Pavitt, Laurence|
|Albu, Austen||Harper, Joseph||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Hayman, F. H.||Popplewell, Ernest|
|Allen, Scholefleld (Crewe)||Herbison, Miss Margaret||Prentice, R. E.|
|Awbery, Stan||Hill, J. (Midlothian)||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Baxter, William (Stirlingshire, W.)||Holman, Percy||Probert, Arthur|
|Beaney, Alan||Houghton, Douglas||Rankin, John|
|Benson, Sir George||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Reid, William|
|Blackburn, F.||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Rhodes, H.|
|Biyton, William||Hunter, A. E.||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W. (Leics, S. W.)||Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Roberts, Goranwy (Caernarvon)|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Brockway, A. Fenner||Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Rogers, G. H. R. (Kensington, N.)|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas||Rosa, William|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)||Short, Edward|
|Callaghan, James||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Cliffs, Michael||Jones, Elwyn (West Ham, S.)||Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Small, William|
|Craddook, George (Bradford, S.)||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Cronin, John||Kelley, Richard||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||King, Dr. Horace||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Darling, George||Lawson, George||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Steele, Thomas|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)||Stones, William|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Loughlin, Charles||Strachey, Rt. Hon. John|
|Deer, George||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Swain, Thomas|
|Dempsey, James||MCCann, John||Taverne, Dick|
|Diamond, John||McInnes, James||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Driberg, Tom||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John||MacMillan, Malcolm (Western isles)||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Edelman, Maurice||Macpherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Thompson, Dr. Alan (Dunfermline)|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg||Thomson, G. M. (Dundee, E.)|
|Evans, Albert||Manuel, Archie||Timmons, John|
|Fernyhough, E.||Mapp, Charles||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Finch, Harold||Marsh, Richard||Weitzman, David|
|Fletcher, Eric||Mason, Roy||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Forman, J. C.||Mayhew, Christopher||Whitlock, William|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Mendelson, J. J.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. Hugh||Millan, Bruce||Willey, Frederick|
|Galpern, Sir Myer||Milne, Edward||Williams, D. J. (Neath)|
|Ginsburg, David||Mitchison, G. R.||Williams, LI. (Abertillery)|
|Gooch, E. G.||Monslow, Walter||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Neal, Harold||Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Gourlay, Harry||Oram, A. E.||Winterbottom, R. E.|
|Greenwood, Anthony||Oswald, Thomas||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Grey, Charles||Owen, Will||Yates, Victor (Ladywood)|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Padley, W. E|
|Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Paget, R. T.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Hamilton, William (West Fife)||Parker, John||Mr. Redhead and|
|Mr. Charles A. Howell.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Cary, Sir Robert||Elliott, R. W. (Nwcastle-upon-Tyne, N.)|
|Aitken, W. T.||Chataway, Christopher||Emery, Peter|
|Allason, James||Chichester-Clark, R.||Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn|
|Arbuthnot, John||Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)||Errington, Sir Eric|
|Ashton, Sir Hubert||Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)||Farr, John|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Cleaver, Leonard||Finlay, Graeme|
|Barlow, Sir John||Collard, Richard||Fisher, Nigel|
|Barter, John||Cooke, Robert||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles|
|Batsford, Brian||Corfteld, F. V.||Foster, John|
|Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)||Costain, A. P.||Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)|
|Berkeley, Humphry||Coulson, Michael||Freeth, Denzil|
|Biffen, John||Courtney, Cdr. Anthony||Gammans, Lady|
|Bishop, F. P.||Craddock, Sir Beresford||George, J. C. (Pollok)|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Crowder, F. P.||Gibson-Watt, David|
|Bossom, Clive||Curran, Charles||Glover, Sir Douglas|
|Bourne-Arton, A.||Dalkeith, Earl of||Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham)|
|Box, Donald||Dance, James||Coodhart, Philip|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J.||d'Avigdor-Goldsmld, Sir Henry||Goodhew, Victor|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Deedes, W. F.||Gower, Raymond|
|Brewis, John||de Ferranti, Basil||Grant-Ferris, Wg. Cdr. R.|
|Brooman-White, R.||Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M.||Green, Alan|
|Brown, Alan (Tottenham)||Doughty, Charles||Gresham Cooke, R.|
|Buck, Antony||Drayson, G. B.||Gurden, Harold|
|Billiard, Denys||du Cann, Edward||Hall, John (Wycombe)|
|Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)||Duncan, Sir James||Harris, Reader (Heston)|
|Carr, Robert (Mitcham)||Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)|
|Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||McLaughlin, Mrs. Patricia||Royle, Anthony (Richmond, Surrey)|
|Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)||McLean, Neil (Inverness)||Russell, Ronald|
|Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||MacLeod, John (Ross A Cromarty)||St. Clair, M.|
|Hastings, Stephen||McMaster, Stanley R.||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Hay, John||Macpnerson, Niall (Dumfries)||Seymour, Leslie|
|Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Maddan, Martin||Shaw, M.|
|Hendry, Forees||Maginnis, Simon||Shepherd, William|
|Hill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe)||Maitland, Sir John||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)|
|Hill. J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)||Marshall, Douglas||Smithers, Peter|
|Hirst, Geoffrey||Matthews, Gordon (Meriden)||Spearman, Sir Alexander|
|Hobson, Sir John||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Speir, Rupert|
|Holland, Philip||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Stodart, J. A.|
|Hollingworth, John||Mills, Stratton||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Holt, Arthur||Miscampbell, N.||Summers, Sir Spencer (Aylesbury)|
|Hopkins, Alan||More, Jasper (Ludlow)||Talbot, John E.|
|Hornby, R. P.||Morrison, John||Tapsell, Peter|
|Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Dame P.||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Teeling, Sir William|
|Howard, John (Southampton, Test)||Nabarro, Gerald||Temple, John M.|
|Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral John||Noble, Michael||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Hughes-Young, Michael||Oakshott, Sir Hendrie||Thomas, Peter (Conway)|
|Hutchison. Michael Clark||Orr-Ewing, C. Ian||Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin|
|Iremonger, T. L.||Osborn, John (Hallam)||Touche, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon|
|Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|dames, David||Page, John (Harrow, West)||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Page, Graham (Crosby)||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Kerans, Cdr. J. S.||Panned, Norman (Kirkdale)||Vosper, Rt. Hon. Dennis|
|Kerby, Capt. Henry||Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)|
|Kerr, Sir Hamilton||Peel, John||Walder, David|
|Kershaw, Anthony||Percival, Ian||Wall, Patrick|
|Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Peyton, John||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Langford-Holt, Sir John||Powell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Leavey, J. A.||Profumo, Rt. Hon. John||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Leburn, Gilmour||Pym, Francis||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Quennell, Miss J. M.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Lindsay, Sir Martin||Ramsden, James||Wise, A. R.|
|Linstead, Sir Hugh||Rawllnson, Peter||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Litchfield, Capt. John||Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin||Woollam, John|
|Longbottom, Charles||Rees, Hugh||Worsley, Marcus|
|Longden, Gilbert||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Loveya, Walter H.||Ridley, Hon. Nicholas||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Ridsdale, Julian||Mr. Whiteiaw and|
|McLaren, Martin||Robinson, Rt Hn Sir R. (B'pool, S.)||Mr. Michael Hamilton.|
§ Mr. Galbraith
I beg to move, in page 8, line 43, to leave out "if he thinks fit".
May we take with this, Mr. Speaker, the following Amendment, in line 44, at end insert:with whom consultation appears to him to be desirable".
§ Mr. Galbraith
The effect of the two Amendments is to make it obligatory for the Secretary of State, before laying before Parliament the draft of a subsidy review order under Clause 8, to consult with any particular local authority with whom consultation appears to him to be desirable—in place of the present requirement to consult "if he thinks fit" with any particular local authority.
These Amendments are the result of an undertaking which I gave in Committee to see whether we could find a form of words to meet a point raised by the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross). The hon. Member had argued that the Clause contained a new power. He said:That new power is the power to specify houses within one particular area. If the 590 Secretary of State is to lay such an Order he already has that particular area in mind, and I think that he ought to be under an obligation to consult the local authority concerned."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Scottish Standing Committee, 15th March, 1962; c. 805.]I explained that, while we had considerable sympathy with the hon. Gentleman's point, the Amendment tabled by him to meet it would not be workable in practice because, before deciding to make a review order, the Secretary of State would want to consider whether a particular local authority should be treated in a way different from the rest. He could not, however, make up his mind on this until he had consulted the local authority or local authorities concerned, and he therefore might not think it right to include a particular authority in the draft order before he had consulted it.
Therefore, the form of the Amendment which hon. Members opposite suggested—which involved an obligation to consult any authority affected by the order—would not bite in the case where the authority was not included in the draft order, or where the Secretary of State had not made up his mind whether it should 591 be so included. In other words, as I said:There must be consultation before we can decide whether a particular local authority should be affected by a review order—not the other way round."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Scottish Standing Committee, 15th March, 1962; c. 804.]However, as I promised at that time, we have had another look at the point to see whether we could help the hon. Member for Kilmarnock. I have tabled these Amendments with the object of making it clear that, when there is a chance that a local authority may be affected by a review order in a way different from other local authorities, the Secretary of State will be under an obligation to consult that local authority before laying a draft of the order before Parliament. In this way, he will have an opportunity to hear what the local authority has to say before making up his mind to include it in the draft order.
I am grateful to the hon. Member for Kilmarnock and to his hon. Friends for highlighting this point, and I hope that they will agree that the Amendment represents an improvement on the wording in the Bill.
§ Mr. Ross
It would be churlish of me if I did not thank the Under-Secretary of State for what he has said and for having listened, on this occasion, to what we said. I only wish that he had listened on many other occasions in Committee to what we had to say. The hon. Gentleman will recollect that when I moved the Amendment I said that I appreciated that it did not exactly meet the point and that it would place a considerable burden of consultation on the Secretary of State. In view of What the hon. Gentleman has said, however, I think that we on this side should express our thanks to him and be prepared to support the Amendment.
§ Amendment agreed to.
Further Amendment made: In page 8, line 44, at end insert:
with whom consultation appears to him to be desirable".—[Mr. Galbraith.]