HC Deb 11 May 1964 vol 695 cc94-6

Lords Amendment: In page 1, line 8, after "charged" insert: with the duty of formulating and keeping under review, a national plan for the development of harbours in Great Britain and".

6.30 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Vice-Admiral John Hughes Hallett)

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

This is the first of 102 Lords Amendments which have reached us from another place. They fall into three clearly defined categories. Five groups of Amendments introduced by the Government are in fulfilment of undertakings given while the Bill was before this House; 88 are drafting or consequential Amendments; and I think only about nine are what might be called new Amendments.

This first Amendment is one of the new Amendments, although I think that hon. Members who were on the Standing Committee on the Bill when it was in this House will be familiar with the background. They will recall that the reason for referring to plans for individual harbours in the terms of reference of the National Ports Council was raised in the Committee. We are advised that the original wording in Clause 1(1) covered the formulation of a national plan and that objection to specifying the reference to a national plan was a legal one. There was a danger, if this had been done, that the Council might have been held to be inhibited from tendering advice to any individual harbour authority till such time as a complete national plan had been formulated.

In another place the same question was raised, and in response to widespread feeling that some reference to a national plan should be written into the Bill my noble Friend the Parliamentary Secretary undertook to look at the matter again. The result is to be seen in this Amendment, which, we are assured, cannot be construed as in any way inhibiting advice on an individual basis till such time as a complete national plan is drawn up.

Of course, hon. Members may argue that the Amendment is redundant inasmuch as it adds nothing to the effect of the Bill. While this may be so from a purely legalistic point of view we came to the conclusion that there is some merit in making reference to what is the main task of the Council. I therefore commend the Amendment to the House.

Mr. R. J. Mellish (Bermondsey)

We welcome this Amendment from their Lordships. Clause 1 had a very exciting career, as the hon. and gallant Gentleman will know. It was taken out, and reviewed, and then made into two separate Clauses. I think that now, at the end of the day, it is right that we should write in these words. Although the hon. and gallant Gentleman said it might not mean much legally, I think that it means a great deal to all of us who are keen on the future of our ports and dock industry, seeing that the National Ports Council is to be a new body charged with considering individual requirements of individual ports and harbours but will also, quite properly, be concerned with a national plan.

We would not have thought that the Council would have a blueprint of a national plan in front of it at this time, but it will have one in mind, and the work done on an individual port basis must have the national plan in mind, and we hope that it will not be long before we actually see that blueprint. I look forward to it. We welcome this Amendment enthusiastically.

Question put and agreed to.