HC Deb 01 May 1962 vol 658 cc896-8
Mr. Peart

I beg to move, in page 4, line 7, to leave out subsection (8).

Clause 2 deals with the reorganisation of the White Fish subsidy for larger vessels, and in this Amendment we are again considering a matter which we raised in Standing Committee where an undertaking was given by the Government to consider whether a scheme providing for special subsidy payments should be made subject to the affirmative Resolution procedure. I know that this is an old argument always raised in Standing Committee; we often feel that that procedure should be the one to be adopted so that the House may be more fully informed.

No doubt the Minister has considered this. I assume that he has considered it very carefully. It may well be that it may be essential to bring in a scheme for a special subsidy rate very quickly and that the amount of money may not be large, but, nevertheless, we move the Amendment, again arguing for the affirmative Resolution procedure, because we should like to know what is in the Minister's mind and why the assurance which was given has not been fully undertaken. I am not saying that there has been a breach of faith, but as the Minister did say that he would consider it, we should like to know why he has not put down an Amendment.

Mr. Soames

We did say that we would reconsider this. It is a matter of balance. I think the hon. Gentleman is with me on it. On the one hand, we have the need for Parliamentary control over the money, and that leads one towards having the affirmative Resolution. Against that we have the point which he made, that this special fund is to be available to meet cases of urgency which might, for instance, arise in August. We should have to wait till the House met, perhaps late in November, before we could put the scheme into operation, and that might be to the disadvantage of the industry as a whole.

As to the money side, the special fund is for £2½ million over ten years, so it cannot average more than £250,000 or so over each year, with a maximum in any one year of £350,000. That compares with the present general subsidy level of £3½ million, so it is a comparatively small figure.

The main order will be subject to the affirmative Resolution procedure and will be discussed by the House. Very often, of course, this extra money for special rates will be included in the same order, following discussions we have with the industry prior to drawing up the order as to what is to be done each year. It may or may not be necessary to hold some money back but I think it unlikely that the major part of the sum would not be committed with the general subsidy itself. Therefore, it will be for the House to discuss it. It would be only in the event of some emergency that, say, £100,000 or £150,000 would be required to help some section of the industry in need, and that sum would be subject to the negative Resolution procedure.

Looking at it in perspective, I should have thought this to be about the right balance, and on balance we thought it best to leave it as it stands.

7.30 p.m.

Mr. Peart

The Minister has argued that we should take a balanced view. There are arguments for and against but we were anxious to have safeguards because, despite what the Minister has said, there is still a great deal of money involved. One cannot dismiss £2½ million over a period of ten years lightly, and even if we were arguing over £250,000 with a maximum of £350,000 it would still be a large sum. Hon. Members who have responsibility want to know the details of the scheme, but I appreciate what the right hon. Gentleman has said about the larger amount of money to be paid out to the industry being subject to affirmative Resolution.

In this case there is need to bring in a special rate quickly and the sum of money is small relative to the other large sum. We wanted to extract from the Minister an assurance that there would be safeguards. I assume that there will be consultation and that, even with the negative procedure, Parliament will have some measure of control. Accepting those assurances, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.