HC Deb 16 July 1965 vol 716 cc1071-2
Mr. Powell

I beg to move Amendment o. 2, Clause 5, in page 5, line 16 after "may" to insert: for the purpose of carrying out any experiment". During the Committee stage of the Bill the Parliamentary Secretary indicated very clearly, I think to the satisfaction of the Committee, the purpose for which Clause 5 gives the Minister power temporarily, up to eighteen months, to suspend or reduce the tolls. It was, he said, in order to give the Minister power to experiment. I have searched his words carefully and I find that in his view it was to this purpose that the need for the power was limited.

That being so, it is the contention of this side of the House that it would be better if the purpose were to be specified in the Bill. When a suspensory power of this sort, even subject to safeguards, is given to a Minister by the House, it is always desirable in principle that the purpose for which he should exercise it should be as accurately and as nicely defined as possible.

I appreciate that the Government may have sought to meet this point by their Amendment to Clause 18 which has the result that an order made under this Clause could be annulled by Resolution of the House. We shall thus have more control over the Minister's exercise of this power. But, even so, it would be more in accordance with good legislation—unless there are some other purposes for this power, so far undisclosed—for the single purpose to be spelled out and written into the Bill.

Mr. Swingler

I quite understand why the right hon. Gentleman has moved to define the purpose in this way. It follows from what I said in Committee. Our conception is that a temporary suspension or reduction of tolls will be overwhelmingly for experimental purposes. But, in spite of what the right hon. Gentleman has said, we cannot be absolutely sure that this power temporarily to suspend or reduce tolls might not be required for other exceptional purposes which might arise with a river crossing of this kind.

It is because we wish the ambit of this power to be wide and because exceptional circumstances with the traffic flowing across this bridge may occur, requiring a temporary suspension which could not truthfully be said to be for experimental purposes, we prefer that such an order, which will be mainly for experimental purposes, should instead be subject to Parliamentary check as a safeguard, rather than that we should have the narrowing definition which the right hon. Gentleman has proposed.

On that ground and with the assurance that there will be the safeguarding provision for the House to subject any such order to the negative procedure, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be willing to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment negatived.