HC Deb 26 June 1967 vol 749 cc184-8
Mr. Chapman

I beg to move, in page 23, line 21, at the end to insert: Provided that any agreement for lease or lease shall contain provision for at least two representatives of the Corporation on an organisation to be set up by the Company for the management of the undertaking on behalf of the Company after the construction of the works authorised by this Act. This Amendment is designed to ensure that in any agreement for lease or lease granted by the Corporation for the use of the foreshore and what lies under the sea—because the Corporation intends to get the land under the sea from the Crown—

Sir W. Teeling

Where did the hon. Gentleman get the phrase: …any agreement for lease or lease…"?

Mr. Chapman

The hon. Gentleman should read the Bill. That phraseology is already used in the Bill.

I was trying to explain that the Amendment would ensure that, in any lease granted by the Corporation, there shall be a proviso that two representatives of Brighton Corporation shall sit on the board of management of the project. Part of my aim, which I have made clear at successive stages, is to introduce a greater measure of public control and participation in the project.

The original assurance I have on this point came in a letter from the Town Clerk on 6th March. He wrote: The promoters have complied with every requirement put forward by the Council…and have welcomed the proposal that the Corporation should be represented on the organisation which is to be set up to operate and manage the project by two nominees who will look after the general public interest. Thus, this proviso was in effect agreed some three months ago by the town clerk in a letter to me. The purpose of the Amendment is to write it into the Bill in order that there need be no uncertainty about it. It should be written in because many other similar protections for the public are listed in the Bill in various Clauses and it is a very important proviso.

I can be brief about this Amendment because, half-an-hour ago I received from the agents acting on behalf of the Company a letter containing a suggested new Clause in which they offer, in effect, to carry out the whole of the suggestion in my Amendment.

The new Clause is to be called Appointment of directors by the corporation and consists of half-a-dozen subsections which effectively set out the way in which the nominees of the Corporation are to be appointed to the board and the necessary provisions for their retirement at annual meetings, their re-election, the filling of vacancies among their number, and so on.

The whole thing is perfectly satisfactory, and I only wonder why it was not brought into the Committee. It was already agreed on 6th March in that letter to me. The Committee stage took place in May and I suspect that it needed a prod from me before the proposed new Clause was put forward. I only hope that hon. Members representing Brighton will make it clear that the intention is formally to introduce the Clause when the Bill reaches the House of Lords. If that be the case and there is a formal undertaking to that effect, I should not wish to press my Amendment.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The Question is—

Mr. Chapman

I hope that an hon. Member from Brighton will explain whether this undertaking is to be given.

Amendment negatived.

Mr. Chapman

I beg to move, in page 23, line 21, at the end to insert: Provided that any lease or agreement for lease shall contain powers of re-entry by the Corporation in the event of dissatisfaction of the Corporation with the management of the undertaking, and if the Company consider that the Corporation are seeking to use unreasonably their powers under this provision, the matter shall be referred to and determined by the Minister. I would have thought that one of the hon. Members representing Brighton would have made the position clear on the last Amendment. Their attitude is rather discourteous when other hon. Members have tried to treat the House with courtesy.

This Amendment is designed to add to Clause 39 a simple provision that the Corporation shall have the right of reentry as the ground landlord, as it were, of the company and that if it seeks to use its powers of re-entry unreasonably the matter shall be settled by the Minister of Transport. I specify the Minister of Transport because powers of re-entry would effectively be confined to the harbour works, and the Minister of Transport is the effective Minister throughout the Bill on such matters. Thus, the final deter-minor of a dispute in any case of exercise of powers of re-entry would be the Minister of Transport.

Clause 58(4) says: If, pursuant to any provision contained in any agreement for lease or lease"— the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Sir W. Teeling) will note where those words come from— granted by the corporation to the Company in relation to the lands of the corporation shown on the deposited plans, the corporation exercise any power of re-entry conferred thereby… The subsection then goes on to specify further what happens in such an eventuality. As drafted, the Clause clearly envisages that the lease shall contain powers of re-entry—there is no doubt about that. It should be clear in the Bill that there are to be powers of reentry. It is clearly envisaged that there shall be such powers and also what is to happen in any dispute about the exercise of those powers. I am rather surprised that such a proviso is not in the Bill already. Just as the power under the first proviso to appoint directors ought to have been put in the Bill, so the power of re-entry which is envisaged in Clause 58 ought to have been elaborated and made clear in Clause 39, which deals with the lease.

I hope that the Amendment is acceptable. It is not a wrecking one. Its purpose is to make clear that there should be powers for the Corporation to take charge of this project in the event of mismanagement. I am not particularly envisaging mismanagement, but this is a huge project. Companies can go bankrupt: they can be mismanaged by the people in charge. This is such an important part of the foreshore that we ought to be clear that if the project goes wrong, and if the locally elected council thinks it has gone wrong, the council should have clear powers of re-entry. There ought to be provision about what is to happen if there is a dispute about the use of these powers. This is the purpose of my Amendment, and I hope that, as it is an inoffensive one, the House will accept it.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Mr. James MacColl)

My right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport has no desire to exercise these powers, and I do not think she would particularly want to see them in the Bill.

Mr. Chapman

Can my hon. Friend say from his knowledge what is to be the protection of the public in the event of mismanagement? What powers of re-entry are there, and who is to determine the exercise of them in the event of a dispute?

Mr. MacColl

I do not want to get involved in an argument about the Bill —it is not my Bill—but I am advised that in the construction of the Bill the Clause refers only to harbour works and, therefore, it is only in relation to the harbour that the problem would arise. I suppose that it would be for the courts to interpret the Act to determine what powers of re-entry there were. If there was a dispute between the Corporation and the company, presumably it would go to the courts. It is not a matter of the Executive interfering at all.

Mr. Chapman

I will not press the Amendment. I leave it that the matter will be ventilated in another place when the Bill reaches there. Again, I must express surprise that hon. Members representing the locality are not explaining any of these matters to the House. These Amendments are put in the most inoffensive terms and are not wrecking ones. They cover matters on which the public is entitled to protection and explanation. It augurs badly for the future of the Bill in another place if we cannot have any explanation about some of the most important matters in it. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.