HC Deb 04 March 1964 vol 690 cc1388-95
Mr. A. J. Irvine

I beg to move, in page 10, line 7, at the end to insert: and (notwithstanding any enactment to the contrary limiting the manner in which money may be borrowed) a harbour authority may borrow moneys by way of loan under this section".

Mr. Speaker

I think that this Amendment might be discussed with that in page 11, line 4 at the end to insert: and (notwithstanding any enactment to the contrary) a harbour authority may receive assistance by way of grant under this section".

Mr. Irvine

These two matters fall for discussion together. The point that we raise here I can deal with quite shortly, but I think it was a matter of some importance.

Clause 10 authorises Exchequer assistance by way of loan. I am speaking now to the first Amendment, but the point of principle applies to both. We raised in Committee the point that there might be provision in a large number of instances in local and private Acts controlling perhaps the power to borrow or making provision as to how money should be borrowed and how borrowed money should be dealt with. These local and private acts might on inquiry be found to stand in the way of the harbour authority borrowing under the powers conferred upon it by Clause 10.

I ventured in Committee to draw attention, as an illustration of this, to several enactments which arose in connection with the administration of activities of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board. In the course of our deliberations the Parliamentary Secretary said that he had little doubt that the harbour authorities would follow the points that we were discussing, and if any of them felt that any difficulty arose under the head which I suggested might be a source of difficulty, he expected that they would communicate with him.

I understand, because I have had the courtesy of a communication from the hon. and gallant Gentleman about this, that only one authority has written in on the point. But it is the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board. This has the consequence, which I hope the House will permit me to mention, that it introduces for me, in addition to wider factors, an element of significant constituency interest. The Mersey Docks and Harbour Board, operating in the Port of Liverpool, is one of the very foremost authorities in the country.

I invite the House to take the view that it was significant that the Board should have responded in this fashion to the invitation of the hon. and gallant Gentleman and written in to indicate that it thought that its local and private Acts might be placing some difficulty in the way of its exercising borrowing powers conferred by the Clause. It may be significant because, as I understand it, authorities and boards received no communication from the Department. It was simply left to those who happened to pick up the point from the report of our proceedings in Standing Committee to take the opportunity of making representations.

I understand that the reply which the Board received to its communication told it that it was the only authority which had raised the point, and indicated the Government's intention not to propose any amendment to the Bill but, instead, to invite the authority to set in motion the complicated procedures of amending its Local and Private Acts or to apply for a harbour revision order under one of the Clauses.

I cannot but think that was a somewhat unfortunate attitude to take. It is a rather laborious course of conduct to invite a board to adopt—to start amending its Local and Private Acts or to apply for a harbour revision order when its natural and not unimportant requirements could be satisfied without harm to anybody by a provision in the Bill that the borrowing powers conferred by Clause 10 should not be regarded as in any way inhibited or affected by provisions in existing private or local Acts.

I cannot see what would be lost it the form of words that we seek to put into the Bill were accepted. I suppose that at the very worst they could be argued to be merely superfluous. But putting them in would have no effect on the authorities whose Private Acts put no difficulty in the way of their new borrowing powers. If these words go in, they have the advantage, on the information hat we have, of being regarded as a convenience by the docks and harbour authority in the second greatest port of the country. Surely that is a matter that deserves careful consideration.

It seems to me that if the Government accepted the Amendment a considerable service would be done to one of our great harbour authorities. It is possible that by the same token a service would be done to some other authorities which have not yet wakened up to the difficulties that may lie latent in their private legislation with regard to their borrowings. It seems to us that from every point of view it would be an advantage if the Amendment were accepted.

Mr. David James (Brighton, Kemp-town)

While I have no constituency interest in the matter, I ask my hon. and gallant Friend to look sympathetically at the Amendment. It strikes me that the object of this type of legislation—it is almost a consolidation Measure—is to override the piecemeal legislation which has gone on in harbour administration over the last century. As the hon. and learned Member for Liverpool, Edge Hill (Mr. A. J. Irvine) pointed out, to bring in special amending legislation, which is an expensive and tedious business, or to apply for a harbour revision order seems to be using a sledge hammer to crack a nut. I should have thought that the wider objects of the Bill would have been served by the Amendment receiving favourable consideration.

Dr. King

I agree with every word said by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Liverpool, Edge Hill (Mr. A. J. Irvine) except his description of the port with which he is concerned as the second greatest port in the country.

I cannot see that the Minister can resist the Amendment. He wants the Mersey in the great scheme. He wants the Mersey to share in the benefits of the planned expansion of the ports. If there are all kinds of legalistic restrictions which would debar him, why does he not accept the simple solution proposed by my hon. and learned Friend and write this into the Bill? It may be, as my hon. and learned Friend pointed out, that there are other ports which have not yet wakened to the fact that they will be outwith some of the benefits of the Bill unless some provision like this is made.

Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett

The hon. and learned Member for Liverpool, Edge Hill (Mr. A. J. Irvine) is so persuasive that I feel reluctant to resist the Amendment, but I am afraid that I must do so. My hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Mr. David James) put his finger on the reason why the Amendment is resisted by his rather telescopic description of the purpose of the Bill. He said it was intended to override other legislation. That is not quite correct. The object is to provide a simplified machinery whereby the earlier legislation can be overridden, which is a very different thing.

The hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Dr. King) also reinforced me in my doubts about the Amendment when he said, quite fairly—we are very conscious of this—that there may well be other ports with legislation that affects their powers. We think it would be rather dangerous to sweep aside all this legislation without knowing what it is.

The hon. and learned Member was very fair. He pointed out that the Amendment has exactly the same effect as the one he moved in Committee and later withdrew when I gave an undertaking that we would look into the matter and find out what the port authorities had to say about it and whether there was a case for doing this. We have, as he said, received only one approach, from the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board. I think it probable that the Dock and Harbour Association would have drawn the attention of its member-ports to our proceedings in Committee. So I think it fair to say that the bigger and more highly staffed ports probably had a good look at their legislation, and it is probably fair to say that of the big ports the Mersey is the only one affected. In passing, I am glad to say that I am informed that the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board now understands why we are reluctant to meet this special point by amending the Bill.

This is why. If a harbour authority is precluded by its local Act or some other enactment from borrowing money from the Minister or if by some other means a statutory restriction is placed on its borrowing, we cannot think it would be right to override 'he provision in question by a blanket Amendment to Clause 10 as is proposed.

One reason, which the hon. and learned Member for Edge Hill may think rather pedantic, is that strictly speaking the Clause is concerned not with the power of harbour authorities to borrow but with the Minister's power to lend the money. If we accepted the Amendment it would be necessary to have another Clause in the Bill. But the real objection to removing the restrictions in this way is that it is surely better that an authority which wants them removed should do so, as we suggest, by means of a harbour revision order, which is not all that complicated for a big authority and should not involve much extra work or expense.

7.30 p.m.

The procedure we suggest would also give an opportunity for opponents of a scheme prepared by an authority to state their case. They would not have such an opportunity if the Amendment were accepted. The same argument applies to the restrictions in the case of authorities empowered to receive grants. It seems hardly conceivable that there can be any authority restricted in its ability to accept a grant.

Mr. A. J. Irvine

We feel that on this occasion the Parliamentary Secretary has rather uncharacteristically failed to detect what we think are the obvious advantages of our Amendment. This is a sufficiently important matter to justify

inviting my right hon. and hon. Friends to divide the House.

Question put, That those words be there inserted in the Bill:—

The House divided: Ayes 155, Noes 208.

Division No. 36.] AYES [7.33 p.m.
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Hayman, F. H. Parkin, B. T.
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Henderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur (Rwly Regis) Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)
Awbery, Stan (Bristol, Central) Hill, J. (Midlothian) Pentland, Norman
Bacon, Miss Alice Hilton, A. V. Popplewell, Ernest
Barnett, Guy Houghton, Douglas Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)
Beaney, Alan Howell, Denis (Small Heath) Prbert, Arthur
Benn, Anthony Wedgwood Hoy, James H. Pursey, Cmdr. Harry
Bennett, J. (Glasgow, Bridgeton) Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Randall, Harry
Benson, Sir George Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Redhead, E. C.
Blackburn, F. Hunter, A. E. Robertson, John (Paisley)
Blyton, William Hynd, John (Attercliffe) Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)
Boardman, H. Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill) Rodgers, W. T. (Stockton)
Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G. Janner, Sir Barnett Rogers, G. H. R. (Kensington, N.)
Bowden, Bt. Hn. H. w. (Leics, S.W.) Jeger, George Ross, William
Bowles, Frank Jones, Rt. Hn. A. Creech (Wakefield) Silkin, John
Boyden, James Jones, Dan (Burnley) Silverman, Julius (Aston)
Bradley, Tom Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)
Bray, Dr. Jeremy Kelley, Richard Skeffington, Arthur
Brockway, A. Fenner Kenyon, Clifford Slater, Mrs, Harriet (Stoke, N.)
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. King, Dr. Horace Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Lawson, George Snail, William
Callaghan, James Lee, Frederick (Newton) Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)
Castle, Mrs. Barbara Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock) Snow, Julian
Chapman, Donald Lever, L. M. (Ardwick) Sorensen, R. W.
Cliffe, Michael Lipton, Marcus Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
Collick, Percy Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Spriggs, Leslie
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) McCann, John Steele, Thomas
Cronin, John McKay, John (Wallsend) Stewart, Michael (Fulham)
Dalyell, Tarn MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling) Stonehouse, John
Darling, George Manuel, Archie Stones, William
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Mapp, Charles Stross, Sir Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)
Davies, Harold (Leek) Marsh, Richard Swingler, Stephen
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Mason, Roy Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Dempsey, James Mellish, R, J. Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)
Diamond, John Mendelson, J. J. Thompson, Dr. Alan (Dunfermline)
Dodds, Norman Millan, Bruce Thomson, G. M. (Dundee, E.)
Duffy, A. E. P. (Colne Valley) Milne, Edward Thornton, Ernest
Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly) Mitchison, G. R. Tomney, Frank
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Monslow, Walter Wainwright, Edwin
Edwards, Walter (Stepney) Moody, A. S. Warbey, William
Evans, Albert Morris, Charles (Openshaw) Weitzman, David
Fitch, Alan Movie, Arthur White, Mrs. Eirene
Fletcher, Erie Mulley, Frederick Whitlock, William
Forman, J. C. Neat, Harold Wilkins, W. A.
Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon) Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Galpern, Sir Myer Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Phillip (Derby, S.) Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)
Cordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C. O'Malley, B. K. Winterbottom, R. E.
Gourlay, Harry Oswald, Thomas Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly) Owen, Will Woof, Robert
Gunter, Ray Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.) Yates, Victor (Ladywood)
Hamilton, William (West Fife) Pargiter, G. A. TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Hannan, William Parker, John Mr. Grey and Mr. Ifor Davies.
Harper, Joseph
Agnew, Sir Peter Bishop, Sir Patrick Cote Norman
Allason, James Bourne-Arton, A. Cooke, Robert
Anderson, D. C. Box, Donald Cooper, A. E.
Arbuthnot, Sir John Braine, Bernard Cooper-Key, Sir Neill
Ashton, Sir Hubert Brewis, John Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.
Atkins, Humphrey Brown, Alan (Tottenham) Costain, A. P.
Awdry, Daniel (Chippenham) Browne, Percy (Torrington) Coulson, Michael
Barber, Anthony Bullus, Wing Commander Eric Critchley, Julian
Barlow, Sir John Butcher, Sir Herbert Cunningham, Knox
Barter, John Carr, Rt. Hon. Robert Curran, Charles
Batsford, Brian Cary, Sir Robert Dalkeith, Earl of
Bevins, Rt. Hon. Reginald Chataway, Christopher Dance, James
Bidgood, John C. Chichester-Clark, R. d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry
Biffen, John Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.) Deedes, Rt. Hon. W. F.
Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel Cleaver, Leonard Digby, Simon Wingfield
Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M Kirk, Peter Ridsdale, Julian
Doughty, Charles Kitson, Timothy Royle, Anthony (Richmond, Surrey)
Duncan, Sir James Lambton, Viscount Russell, Sir Ronald
Duthie, Sir William (Banff) Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry Shaw, M.
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Shepherd, William
Elliott, R.W.(Newc'tle-upon-Tyne, N.) Lindsay, Sir Martin Skeet, T. H. H.
Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn Linstead, Sir Hugh Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)
Errington, Sir Eric Litchfield, Capt. John Speir, Rupert
Farey-Jones, F. W. Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral) Stainton, Keith
Farr, John Longden, Gilbert Stevens, Geoffrey
Finlay, Graeme Loveys, Walter H. Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Lubbock, Eric Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm
Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton) Lucas, Sir Jocelyn Storey, Sir Samuel
Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D. McAdden, Sir Stephen Studholme, Sir Henry
Gibson-Watt, David McLaren, Martin Tapsell, Peter
Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, Central) Maclay, Rt. Hon. John Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife) Maclean, Sir Fitzroy (Bute & N. Ayrs) Taylor, Edwin (Bolton, E.)
Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham) McMaster, Stanley R. Taylor, Frank (M'ch'st'r, Moss Side)
Goodhart, Phillip Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax) Taylor, Sir William (Bradford, N.)
Grant-Ferris, B. Maddan, Martin Teeling, Sir William
Green, Alan Maitland, Sir John Temple, John M.
Grosvenor, Lord Robert Markham, Major Sir Frank Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Gurden, Harold Marshall, Sir Douglas Thomas, Sir Leslie (Canterbury)
Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough) Matthews, Gordon (Meriden) Thompson, Sir Kenneth (Walton)
Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.) Mawby, Ray Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)
Harris, Reader (Heston) Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin
Harrison, Brian (Maldon) Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C. Thorpe, Jeremy
Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Miscampbell, Norman Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)
Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.) Montgomery, Fergus Tilney, John (Wavertree)
Harvie Anderson, Miss More, Jasper (Ludlow) Touche, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon
Hay, John Morgan, William Turner, Colin
Henderson, John (Cathcart) Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.
Hendry, Forbes Neave, Airey van Straubenzee, W. R.
Hiley, Joseph Nicholls, Sir Harmar Vane, W. M. F.
Hirst, Geoffrey Nugent, Rt. Hon. Sir Richard Vickers, Miss Joan
Hogg, Rt. Hon. Quintin Oakshott, Sir Hendrie Wade, Donald
Holland, Philip Orr, Capt. L. P. S. Walder, David
Hollingworth, John Osborn, John (Hallam) Walker, Peter
Holt, Arthur Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth) Wall, Patrick
Hooson, H. E. Page, Graham (Crosby) Ward, Dame Irene
Hornby, R. P. Page, John (Harrow, West) Webster, David
Howard, John (Southampton, Test) Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale) Wells, John (Maidstone)
Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral John Partridge, E. Whitelaw, William
Hughes-Young, Michael Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe) Williams, Dudley (Exeter)
Hutchison, Michael Clark Peel, John Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Iremonger, T. L. Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Pitman, Sir James Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Jackson, John Pitt, Dame Edith Wise, A. R.
James, David Pounder, Rafton Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich) Powell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch Woodhouse, C. M.
Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Prior, J. M. L. Worsley, Marcus
Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.) Pym, Francis
Kaberry, Sir Donald Quennell, Miss J. M. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Kerans, Cdr. J. S. Ramsden, James Mr. J. E. B. Hill and
Kerby, Capt. Henry Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin Mr. MacArthur.
Kimball, Marcus Rees, Hugh (Swansea, W.)

Amendment made: In page 10, line 45, leave out from "is" to "marine" in line 46 and insert: neither a fishery harbour nor a".—[Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett.]