§ Mr. Ridley
I beg to move Amendment No. 13, in page 2, line 7, to leave out 'industrial'.
We can deal with this Amendment quickly. As far as I am concerned, it is purely interrogatory, because I do not quite see why it is that we need to confine the benefits of the Bill to indus 430 trial projects. I make it clear that I am against the principle of the Bill, but, as we are to distribute this public money, I do not see why it should be limited to industrial projects. The competent authorities under Clause 1 will often not be concerned with industrial projects. For example, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Ministry of Health do not have industrial projects or anything to do with them.
431 Perhaps a case could be made out for agriculture and fisheries. [HON. MEMBERS: "Groundnuts."] No doubt groundnuts will be high on the list for the Government, but they will be debarred if the word "industrial" remains in the Bill. I cannot see why the tourist industry should be left out. The point of the Bill is to…create, expand or sustain productive capacity or promote or support technological improvements…It seems odd, therefore, to confine these projects in the straitjacket of this rather curious word "industrial", which raises pictures of workshops, oil and dirt and cloth caps—the old Socialist traditional image—when surely we mean any project, whether it be by the City, by agriculture, tourism or almost any other activity. As I have said, I put this Amendment interrogatively rather than move it with any force.
§ Sir G. Nabarro
I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) has raised this point, because it is rather important for us to know what is an industrial project. My interpretation, if I were asked outside this House, is one which is governed by the requirements of the Factories Act. I do not suppose that anyone could really refute that. But I was pulled up rather sharply years ago when a woman in my constituency was killed. She suffered a particularly painful death. She was scalped as a result of her hair being caught in the pulleys of a hop-picking machine.
When I raised the matter at once with the Ministry of Labour, I was told that a hop-picking machine was not an industrial machine and that a hop-picking shed did not come under the Factories Act because that building in which it was contained was not a workshop within the terms of the Act. Later, the anomaly was put right by a special provision in an ensuing Act of Parliament. It is dubious to know what is an industrial project. For example, is a hop-yard project an industial project, because it is not an agricultural project?
I should like a definition to be given today. The word "industrial" appears several times in this Clause and in later Clauses. As I sit for a farming con 432 stituency, both agricultural and horticultural, I should like to know, in particular, whether farming is regarded, within the context of the Bill, as an industrial pursuit. This is a legitimate question, because Clause 1(3) names the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food as one of the competent authorities. Would a farming investment, be it agricultural or horticultural, be deemed an industrial project under Clause 2?
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Moonman
I did not subscribe to the view expressed by some of my hon. Friends when they said that Amendment 3 was frivolous. I thought it an important Amendment which raised definite differences of opinion. This Amendment, however, I do regard as frivolous. I cannot reconcile the argument advanced by the hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) with his Amendment to leave out the word "industrial". Perhaps the kindest comment one can make is that he is selecting certain aspects of the Clause and not reading the word "industrial" in relation to the rest of it. The reference in paragraph (a) is to theprofitability of an industry or section of an industry",and so on. He has referred in the Amendment only to line 7, where the reference is to "any industrial project".
There is no question of the Government trying to establish an "image" by Act of Parliament. This has nothing to do with any question of Socialist image. The word "industry" is perfectly clear, and the context in which it appears in the Bill shows that the intention is that, within an industry or section of an industry, a project should be produced. It is possible to cite all manner of extraordinary examples of projects arising in connection with, say, hospitals and other activities. The hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) raised the question of the interpretation of the law in another context. However, the word is perfectly clear here, and I can only regard this as a rather frivolous Amendment.
§ Mr. Benn
The Amendment is not, perhaps, as significant as the hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) thought, because the word "industrial" appears earlier in the Clause 433 and in later subsections. However, as one naturally wants, all things being equal, to accept Amendments which are moved by hon. Members who feel strongly about them, and as all other things are equal here, if it would help the hon. Gentleman I am ready to remove the word "industrial" as he proposes. I do not want to mislead him into thinking that this will be of great significance, because the nature of the schemes is fairly fully dealt with in other parts of the Bill. On that basis, I should be happy to accept the Amendment.
§ Dame Irene Ward (Tynemouth)
I am sure that we are all grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for accepting the Amendment, but will he remove the word "industrial" where it appears elsewhere in the Clause? The Amendment is to remove it from line 7, but in the whole Clause there are a good many references to it. What will the right hon. Gentleman do about all the other places where it appears?
Mr. J. T. Price
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In case we are in danger of losing more time on frivolities, may I submit to you that, as the Amendment has not been formally moved, and the hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley), in whose name it stands, chose not to move it, any subsequent debate about it is out of order?
§ Mr. Benn
No. The hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury moved his Amendment to delete the word in one line, partly in order to get clarification and partly because he thought that there was a point of substance raised by it. I have yielded to his suggestion, but it has no bearing on the use of the word "industry" or "industrial" in other parts of the Clause or the Bill. It will simply mean that the word "project" will stand on its own, instead of "industrial project". The hon. Lady's question raises far wider issues.
§ Sir G. Nabarro
My question was perfectly serious—there was no frivolity about it—and I should like the right hon. Gentleman to apply himself to it. Clause 1 names the competent Ministers, and one is the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. Is agriculture an industry? The President of the Board of Trade is another Minister named. Is tourism an industry? What is the position if we remove the word "industrial"?
§ Mr. Benn
I had better resist the temptation to go too far into definitions which may have different meanings in different Measures and in common parlance. Agriculture is an industry for this purpose. The hon. Gentleman knows that one may well find that certain advanced technologies are used over a wide range of industries and are used in operations which have not hitherto been regarded as industrial. For example, the development of a new bio-engineering project will be carried on with a view to its application in a health field, which is not industrial, whereas the stimulation of the project is industrial. An education technology may be technological in production but not industrial in application because it is used in schools.
I do not think that it has much bearing on the particular problem, but it is true that the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is one of the Ministers described as a competent authority for the purpose of bringing a scheme before the House.
§ Mr. Ridley
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Billericay (Mr. Moonman) thought this a frivolous Amendment. In my view, one can refer to agriculture or tourism as industries—they are industries—but no one would claim that they are industrial. This may be playing with words, perhaps, but the removal of the word "industrial" here will liberate the field a little. At the same time, the references toan industry or section of an industrycan be construed as referring to agriculture, tourism, the fishing industry or any other industry. I do not wish to take time. The Amendment has improved the Bill, and I am grateful to the Minister for accepting my suggestion.
§ Amendment agreed to.435
§ Mr. Peyton
I beg to move Amendment No. 14, in page 2, line 8, leave out'in the opinion of that authority '.When he was replying to the first debate, the right hon. Gentleman declared himself on a number of occasions as of opinion that the Bill was not controversial. I assure him that it is, and the controversy goes very much to the question of the competence of the authority. To start with, I object to the number of authorities capable of taking action under the Bill. It is the opinion of any one of those authorities with which we are here concerned.
I ask the right hon. Gentleman—he verged on the offensive just now towards one of my hon. Friends in a way that Ministers are ill advised to do when they are trying to get their business—not to construe what I am about to say as a great attack on the Civil Service or anything of the kind. I doubt that the Government machine is properly equipped to take such a large and increasing part in industry. At many points in earlier debates on the Bill, he has said—and this is true—that in the past different firms nave been helped in rather informal ways. There is nothing wrong in that in principle, but it is probably a wrong practice. The right hon. Gentleman now says that he is laying down ground rules which will cover these operations. What worries me is that the availability of the ground rules will encourage the Government even further down the same road and we shall have more Government dabbling in industry.
Let us consider the opinion of a so-called competent authority in the context of a specific example. The right hon. Gentleman brought this on himself, even if it would not have come from me anyhow, when he chided us a little while ago for not referring to individual projects. I take as an example which brings into question the judgment of the competent authority the Government's plan to embark on the Beagle aircraft project. I very much doubt whether in five or 10 years' time the Government will be able to look back on this with pride. I do not know quite what the legal position is as to whether they have the power to do what they have been doing and to occupy the position they have occupied over the past two years vis-à-vis Beagle Aircraft, 436 because the Act of 1949, I think it is, forbids the Government to take part in the manufacture of civil aircraft. If we are only now coming to the point of correcting that position I think that it has been left far too long.
§ Mr. Benn
We have not bought Beagle. Beagle is a private company which we are supporting under the Civil Aviation Act pending the authorisation of the House, if it gives it to us, to buy it. I assure the hon. Gentleman that, whether or not it was wise to decide to buy it, we have in no way been in breach of the law or customs of the House in what we have done in the interim period.
§ Mr. Peyton
I am obliged for that assurance.
I come to the point with which the Amendment is concerned, that is, whether the Government, which faces fearful problems in these fields, is wise to extend those problems in this way. If by the exercise of their judgment they are led into such projects as Beagle I believe that that fortifies the argument of those on this side of the House who do not like the Bill.
This is a matter of opinion. The right hon. Gentleman entitled to his, and whether or not he thinks that I am wrong I hold these views very strongly. There is some evidence that Government incursions into industry are not always all that fortunate in their results. I wonder whether the large market which the Government have foreseen for the Beagle type of aircraft will materialise. I am sure that the House would be delighted if the right hon. Gentleman could reassure us on this point, to show that the opinion which will be exercised by a competent authority under the Bill is justified.
The Minister chided us for not giving examples. I believe that one is perfectly justified in giving either Beagle or Cunard, or anything else specifically mentioned in the Bill, as an example of what the exercise of the judgment, the responsibility for which is put on the Government, leads to. Without going into detail about Beagle, one is justified in telling the Minister that here is one field into which he is being led by thinking with which we do not agree.
The Amendment would leave out the words "in the opinion of that authority". 437 I am concerned to leave them out in order to challenge the Minister's frequently stated judgment and opinion that the Government are a competent body to do this kind of thing. I believe that they take on themselves far too readily risks which are wholly unjustified, and that there is a very grave danger of their collecting lame ducks. The right hon. Gentleman is very much concerned with lame ducks. I have read through a great deal of the Committee proceedings and have found at least three references by him to lame ducks. On 20th February he said:The Treasury considers every scheme to see whether it stands on its own merits, that is to say, whether it is a good scheme or another potential lame duck."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee E, 20th February, 1968; c. 68.]I ask the House to note the words "another potential lame duck". The right hon. Gentleman's powers of apprehension were warning against what the Bill might lead him into. On 22nd February he spoke of "lame ducks promoted for political purposes", and later said:If we have lame ducks which do not fly, then politically it will be embarrassing."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee E, 22nd February, 1968; c. 102–7.]
§ Mr. Peyton
I know not whether the right hon. Gentleman was referring to any of his colleagues or to projects which could arise under the Bill. Those words are obviously in the Minister's mind, and the danger of the Government's selecting lame ducks or having lame ducks forced on them is what worries me now and lea me to move the Amendment. I am not talking about the mammoth things like Rolls Royce, which everybody with any sense must obviously welcome wholeheartedly. That is a splendid thing—there is no question of opinion there. What I am talking about is the Government just filtering into every field, into all sorts of projects, because a so-called competent authority has decided that it is a good thing to do so.
The Government will find that their opportunities to collect lame ducks are far greater than those of collecting successes and to me it is a matter of concern. I know that we have been told 438 for many a long day that the party opposite believes that the gentleman in Whitehall really knows best.
§ Mr. Peyton
That has been the doctrine for ages. I do not believe it. I believe that the tasks of Government and the hazards are great enough without the Government's allowing themselves to be tempted into a fearful and speculative activity which is not likely to yield them much glory or the taxpayer much profit, but is certain to leave the taxpayer with heavy losses to meet.
For those reasons I moved the Amendment. I am conscious that the right hon. Gentleman thinks that the Bill is non-controversial, because he is so satisfied with his own motives for bringing it forward, but I am not. I believe that it is a bad Bill, and I question whether the many authorities set up under it are competent or have the necessary judgment to exercise.
§ Sir G. Nabarro
The whole House should be grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) for the foresight he has demonstrated in seeking to exclude the words "in the opinion of that authority". I want to add a good deal to what my hon. Friend said, for who is that authority we are talking about? It might be the Minister of Technology, a Secretary of State, the Board of Trade, the Minister of Public Building and Works, the Minister of Transport, the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food or the Minister of Health. Those are the right hon. Gentlemen who ultimately are responsible for recommending to Parliament the future success of commercial and industrial enterprises which they seek to acquire under the Bill. What are their qualifications for making that judgment? Absolutely none.
§ Sir G. Nabarro
I did not say that. They are very worthy men. They are dedicated to Parliament. They are professional politicians who know nothing whatever about commerce, trade and industry. Parliament itself is very bad at debating scientific, industrial and commercial matters. Parliament does not 439 understand these things. Nor do Ministers understand them.
The greatest service to the nation, in a medium of mass news distribution, that has been performed in recent years was when the Daily Mail published a few months ago a picture gallery of every member of the Cabinet. Underneath every picture it sought to set down what was the business experience of the Cabinet Minister concerned. The sum total of any real industrial experience could easily have been written on the back of a 2½d. stamp. The article said that the Prime Minister at one time in his career had been an adviser to Montague L. Meyer Ltd., timber importers and distributors. It said that the present Chancellor of the Exchequer had at one time been an advisory director of the John Lewis Partnership—
§ Sir G. Nabarro
I am sorry, Sir, but I think that the names of most of the members of the Cabinet are on the back of the Bill. It is true that the names of the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer are not. I apologise to you, Sir, for mentioning them. There is a Money Resolution to the Bill and the Treasury ultimately has to find the money. I will not repeat the names of those two Ministers. They are the two exceptions who, according to the Daily Mail, had a modicum of industrial and commercial experience. None of the Ministers named in Clause 1, so far as I am aware, has ever been employed as an industrial executive. Yet those Ministers are the competent authorities under the Bill.
If it be argued that they themselves will not take the decision as to the enterprises to be acquired under the Bill but will be merely the Parliamentary spokesmen making the justification for acquiring the enterprises, I make this answer. I know that the Minister of Technology would never hide behind his Civil Service advisers but would take the full Parliamentary responsibility. That is why he is named first. He has no industrial experience on which to form a judgment. He would collect and collate all the information handed to 440 him by his Civil Service advisers and then would come to the House with his judgment and make his recommendation.
§ Mr. Benn
The hon. Gentleman is not, I hope, arguing that it would be wrong for this Government, made up of people whom he is in the process of criticising personally, to support industry, on the grounds that their own industrial experience would not justify it. I take it that he is not saying that, because I have not worked in the aircraft industry, I should not support the Rolls Royce aircraft engine for the American airbus. The basis of Ministerial responsibility is election. That is how we came here. That is the only reason why we are here. It is not our qualifications but the fact that our electors have chosen us.
§ Sir G. Nabarro
I have been debating happily with the right hon. Gentleman for many years—on television, in the House, and elsewhere. I know his tricks and his habits very well. He puts a question to me which goes very wide of what I was talking about. No Minister of the Crown can have detailed knowledge or experience of every kind of industrial enterprise. I will give the right hon. Gentleman precisely the type of example I have in mind. Last Monday week—I think that I have the date correct—the right hon. Gentleman made a statement about the computer consortium.
§ Sir G. Nabarro
You, Mr. Speaker, kindly called me to ask a supplementary question. I put it to the right hon. Gentleman straight away that he was infusing £15 million of public funds through the instrument of the Bill into the computer merger, as he calls it. I prefer to call it a consortium.
§ Sir G. Nabarro
I am doing this out of my head—£17 million, instead of £15 million. The question I put to the right hon. Gentleman was a fundamental one: why was not this £17 million raised through normal stock market channels in the City of London? The right hon. Gentleman came back with an innocuous reply to the effect that it was not possible to raise it. It was not—under a Labour Government. 441 The proven profits of these enterprises and their profit prospects for the future were more than adequate to raise that money through normal stock market channels.
I will tell the hon. Gentleman why he is adverse to the money being raised in that way. It is because it exactly attaches itself to my argument on the Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman is hostile to the Government not having a stake in this consortium or merger. He wants a part of it nationalised as a springboard for further nationalisation later. That is the gravamen of my charge against the Bill. That is why it is so odious to me and why I am opopsing it at every stage.
§ Mr. Benn
The hon. Gentleman will remember the answer that I gave him, which was that £10½ million of the £17 million was a research and development grant. I would like to find a merchant banker who would give a £10½ million grant to any business. The fact is that this operation would not have taken place without Government support, and the hon. Gentleman must know it.
§ Sir G. Nabarro
My reply to the right hon. Gentleman is that his intervention was poppycock. I will give him precisely the precedent for what I would have recommended in these circumstances. A few years ago a Dutch firm of nylon spinners wished to establish in a development area in Northern Ireland under a Tory Government. The name was British Enkalon. The firm advertised for prior charge funds. In its prospectus the firm stated unequivocally that there would be no servicing of the capital subscribed for a period of five years; in other words, people who invested would get no dividend for the first five years. The money the firm needed was over-subscribed in a few days. It is no good the Minister shaking his head. I have forgotten more about these things than he knows. Exactly the same thing could have been done with the £17 million on the computer merger.
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
To reinforce that argument, may I remind my hon. Friend that on the Rolls Royce deal in America only last week, Lazards, Lord Poole and 442 others committed through a consortium £50 million to under-write the purchase of aircraft which enabled the deal to go through.
§ Sir G. Nabarro
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. Of course, the money would be available through normal and conventional stock market channels, as the computer money would have been available had the Government wished it to be available. The right hon. Gentleman did not wish it to be available. He wanted to subscribe it—first to justify the Bill, and secondly in pursuit of his nostrum of nationalisation.
The Ministers of the Crown named in Clause 1 are not competent judges as to the viability and future profit prospects of enterprises to be acquired under the Bill. Nor is the Civil Service. My hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil touched on, though he did not spell out the words, the concluding part of subsection (1):any industrial project…would not be undertaken without such financial support as is authorised by this section.In other words, public funds are to be injected only into enterprises which cannot raise the money. That is a pretty state of affairs. All that the Minister will gather round him in future will be a large flock of lame ducks that cannot raise their money anywhere else, so they will go to the Government for it.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Sir G. Nabarro
The hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. J. T. Price) has sat in his place for a couple of hours bleating, "Wiggins Teape", "Wiggins Teape"—ad nauseam "Wiggins Teape". Wiggins Teape is a firm of paper manufacturers. There were very special conditions in the development area that made it desirable for Government money to be put into the firm. I was one of the hon. Members, at that time on the opposite side of the Chamber, who, year after year, pressed Tory Administrations for 100 per cent. depreciation arrangements for development areas in order to attract new industries. Wiggins Teape was a special case in a development area. We are not talking about Wiggins Teape today, but about a proliferation of nationalisation, and public funds being used for acquiring enterprises that cannot raise their money elsewhere 443 through normal, orthodox and conventional channels. Do let us understand what we are talking about.
Nor are the Minister's civil servants competent to judge. I have the utmost regard for the Civil Service—for the professional Civil Service—but—
Mr. J. T. Price
The hon. Gentleman seems to be enjoying himself a great deal. I suppose that the House, too, enjoys this sort of theatrical extravagance which he is so fond of using. He is condemning people who cannot raise the money on the money market in the ordinary way. He says that they are not worthy of support if they cannot raise the money in the City. Perhaps he will address that argument to the pioneers who started our atomic energy industry. His own Government, by Acts passed in this House, nationalised the atomic energy industry, which could itself never have raised the hundreds of millions of pounds necessary for its development. Public funds were needed there.
§ Sir G. Nabarro
I would be straying into the subject matter of later Amendments if I went in depth into the history of atomic development. Further, it would be largely irrelevant to this present argument, because the splitting of the atom at Cambridge in the 'thirties and all the consequences that flowed from it were so largely developed in time of war for weapons of destruction. That is not a question of the investment of private or of public capital. It is an entirely different consideration. Whether or not we were right to use the atomic bomb in 1945 is largely a moral issue. It is part of history, but it has nothing whatever to do with this Bill.
I say to the right hon. Gentleman that civil servants are ill qualified to judge commercial matters. How are they to judge them? They will take the accounts of the company perhaps for a period of five or 10 years. They will see whether there is a clear auditor's certificate. They may take merchant banking advice or joint stock banking advice on the particular enterprise, and examine and cross-examine its executives. All that will be done at Civil Service level. The company will then demonstrate that for this or that reason it cannot itself raise the money it wants through normal, orthodox 444 and conventional channels, but must have public money in order to survive. In the end, the Ministry will have to judge whether it is in the public interest, whatever that may mean, that public moneys instead of private moneys should be put into the company.
I am hostile to these processes. There is only one criterion for the injection of money into a commercial or industrial enterprise, and that criterion is the earning of future profits. As I expected, the right hon. Gentleman nods his head in dissent, but he is a Socialist and I am a Tory—
§ Sir G. Nabarro
It has something to do with it: it is political philosophy. The Minister believes in public enterprise, and I do not believe in public enterprise—
§ Sir G. Nabarro
I cannot on a narrow Amendment of this kind talk about the aircraft industry, but when it is in order I will take on the right hon. Gentleman, here or elsewhere, on aeronautics or computers. My knowledge is at least as good as his, historically and otherwise, and I dissent absolutely from his statement that there would be no aircraft industry in this country had not the Government—
§ Sir G. Nabarro
I agree, and I apologise to you, Mr. Speaker. The Minister, who is a Privy Councillor, should know better than to lead me astray.
I therefore hope that, for all the reasons that my hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) and I have explained to the House, the right hon. Gentleman will feel constrained to accept the Amendment, which is important. The debate has been a good exercise, because I do not believe that either a Minister of the Crown or his Civil Service advisers are competent to judge the future viability or profitability of an industrial enterprise.
Mr. J. T. Price
I ought not to be tempted to join in the debate at this hour, but I should like to congratulate the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) on taking this occasion to proclaim his prejudice once again in such loud and theatrical tones on such a narrow point as we have before us. He has taken great advantage of the Chair, and I hope that I shall not trespass in a similar way.
The hon. Member is very fond of arrogantly—if I can use that word in his presence, because I prefer to do that rather than use it behind his back—condemning lion. Members on this side for having no kind of business sensibility. To say that they have no knowledge of industrial organisation, no competence to express commercial judgment on matters after taking professional advice, is complete nonsense. The hon. Gentleman has great commercial experience. He has acted as chairman of directors of a very important company. Nevertheless, I will bet my bottom dollar, which is much lower in ray pocket than his dollars are in his pocket, that he has never in his life taken an important commercial decision with-cut consulting solicitors, accountants and engineers, and making use of all the apparatus available in the professional world for assisting people who are some-times very ignorant business men but who wield very great power in some great commercial corporation. When one meets some of them, one wonders how on earth they ever got to their position.
I do not want to be unfair to the hon. Gentleman, but it is nonsense on his part to speak like that to intelligent people who have been at least reasonably educated, who have moved about in the world, and have knowledge of industry. The hon. Gentleman knows that he cannot throw those epithets at me. I have knowledge of industry. I have met industrialists at all levels from top to bottom. They are all the same to me: I do not make a fuss of the man at the top because the man at the bottom wears a cap. The hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) made a disparaging remark about the cloth cap mentality of the Labour Party which I deplore.
The hon. Member for Worcestershire, South entertains the House. It is good 446 to have a few eccentrics in the place. If I may say so, there are too many people here who are so miserable in doing a serious job. One does not need to be miserable to do a serious job. If someone wants a polemical debate, I do not mind giving way to anyone who disagrees with me. If I may say so, the hon. Member earns my respect because he likes the knockabout and rough-and-tumble of politics, which is what this place is about. Too many hon. and right hon. Members—and I do not here refer to my right hon. Friend the Minister—come here with a stiffly prepared brief—
I apologise for that little animadversion, Mr. Speaker. I will not use Italian words, as the hon. Member for South Worcestershire did in my pre-sense in another debate, I can use one or two, but it would sound pretentious—
And spaghetti to you!
I only want to say, although I may be a heretic, that if the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South had lived in the Middle Ages he would have been highly qualified to exercise the powers of the Grand Inquisitor. He sees wicked Socialists under every bed, and every argument he ever advances in this place is directed to an ideological plane. This does not make sense in the modern world. In a society where we have a mixed economy it behoves us all, regardless of our previous positions or philosophic outlook, to do the best we can for our country within the context of what is possible at any given time. That is what my right hon. Friend is doing with this Bill.
I want to add this. I have sometimes, perhaps, in this House created a sense of being a little off beat, because of some of the things I have said, but which I honestly believe to be true, but the suggestion that we are ideologically committed to not raising money by any means other than through the Budget is something which I do not accept. There is a growing number of people on this side of the House who share my belief that, 447 to provide the necessary funds for financing industry and to meet commitments in our nationalised industries, we might do it in the way the Italians do in certain respects. The hon. Gentleman is quite wrong.
I do not speak only of the present Government or as a supporter of the present Government. The Italian and other Governments dealing with nationalised industries have sought some other means than the below-the-line budget procedure for raising the vast sums which are required. I have spoken on a number of occasions in this House, I hope temperately, of what the Italians have done about this, and it is quite wrong to suggest that we are committed not to use the money available in the market for financing these projects. I do not see why we should not go to the market, but perhaps that is a subject for another debate.
I only felt in duty bound to get up to try to dispel some of the grotesque illusions which the hon. Gentleman was trying to project. They do not apply to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Technology.
§ Mr. Victor Goodhew (St. Albans)
The hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. J. T. Price) hit one nail firmly on the head at the beginning of his speech when he told us that businessmen refer for advice to solicitors and accountants and so on, but what he omitted to say was that those businessmen are men of judgment and, at the end, having collected the advice, are competent to make a judgment.
Here we have a collection of Ministers 'who are supposedly, under the Bill, "competent authorities", but they are members of an Administration which has proved to be the most incompetent within living memory. This is perfectly true. Hon. Members opposite may laugh. I am glad they appreciate that it is perfectly true. It is not too much of a joke to the country. But this is so. Just consider what they have to form judgments upon—whether something willimprove the efficiency and profitability of an industry".Good heavens, the present Administration have brought the economy of this country to the verge of bankruptcy. They have succeeded in gradually grinding 448 down the profitability of this country by restriction and Government interference. They have showed their lack of judgment in the Budget which they introduced the other day.
§ Mr. Speaker
We cannot now debate the Budget. There is a Finance Bill coming for Second Reading some time.
§ Mr. Goodhew
I would not dream of debating the Budget. I was only citing it as an example of the lack of judgment by right hon. Gentlemen opposite, and as evidence of their incompetence. As to profitability, they are prejudiced against profit, in any event, and they display that in all their economic decisions and measures. It is very unlikely that they will ever be able to encourage profitability or to see how it can be encouraged.
Then the "competent authorities" are to judge what is calculatedto promote or support technological improvements".This selection of competent authorities among right hon. Gentlemen opposite comprises members of an Administration who cancelled the HS681, the P1154 and the TSR2, three of the most advanced aircraft ever under way in the British aircraft industry. They are to decide whether a particular industry or section of it will be able to improve its technological processes. Goodness me, even now, having cancelled the TSR2 three years ago, they are dodging from pillar to post, and have not decided what industry should be allowed to produce to replace it—three years later.
We cannot go on dithering in this way. This is something very much in the right hon. Gentleman's field, and something on which the country, certainly the R.A.F., depends. It is surely a matter of technological improvement, but the aircraft industry is stuck with the Government's constant interference. The Government are constantly changing their minds about what they want, and failing to judge exactly at the right moment what is needed.
Therefore, I support my hon. Friend's Amendment. I would wholeheartedly like to see these words "in the opinion of that authority" removed from the Bill, because I believe that it is sheer nonsense to list in the Bill these right hon. Gentlemen as "competent authorities".
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Moonman
At first sight, the Amendment would appear to be reasonable, as some of the statements which have been made would seem to be. One would have to put on one side the speech we heard from the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro), although he was, in a sense, being brutally frank about the Tory Party motivation towards both the Bill and the Government. He dislikes the "competent authorities" concerned being a number of Ministers, and civil servants who will advise in the taking of decisions. He wants to replace them with the myth of the miracle manager.
The myth of the miracle manager is something which I would have thought even the Tory Party, 1968 would have latched on to, but in fact this was always E very dubious proposition. It was a dubious proposition because, of course, the miracle manager was associated with the genius of an individual who built up a business, but that individual has not really been around for a number of years now. There are about 20 companies in this country with senior executives who may fall into this class, but they are changing at a pretty rapid rate. Indeed, one might argue whether certain companies could even afford the genius.
The whole concept in decision making, it seems to me, whether it be in Government or whether it be in industry, has changed. Therefore, I think it quite wrong to make the sort of attack which has been made upon the "competent authorities" and to suggest that the rôle of Ministers is any different from that of chief executives in business enterprise. There is no difference whatsoever. If hon. Members opposite find it rather distasteful that Ministers would have to collect advice and information, then I can only say that they do not really understand what is going on in modern society. The hon. Gentleman would only perpetuate the myth of the miracle manager, and perpetuate the myth of some sort of business in which the miracle manager operates. I put it to him that there is a very great difference in the way in which decisions are made in our affairs.
I agree that at an earlier stage of the Bill we had a very important debate when many of us expressed reservations about 450 the Bill, but there is the problem of how industry can make a meaningful contribution to government and how far the Government can bring about the right sort of discussion in industry, for it is one of the facts of life that over the last 10 years Government and industry have collaborated; industry has accepted the fact that the Government must have some influence in industry, and enlightened industrialists, including the C.B.I., are concerned with working out the right sort of rôle of Government and industry, rather than saying that the Government rôle does not exist. The idea that there is such a conflict and that the Government of the day can be ignored disappeared a long time ago.
Therefore, even with all the doubts and difficulties, there is no doubt that the competent authorities indicated in the Clause based upon the criteria laid down and amplified in the Clause, must afford some sort of guarantee although, perhaps, not as much as some of us would like.
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
I support what my hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) has said. We have heard from the benches opposite about taking advice. Anybody who injects money into a new industry, either partially or as a takeover, takes advice. The trouble with the Government is that they never take advice. They ask for it but they do not follow through.
I will give the Parliamentary Secretary an instance of the Government having a large majority holding in a company—Short Bros., of Belfast. I am glad to see that we have with us my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster), whom I always think of as the hon. Member for Short's. The Government had something like a 75 per cent. holding in the equity, but what did they do about it?
I remember the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. George Brown), three years ago almost to the day, from his position on the Government Front Bench as a Cabinet Minister, saying that it was only a question of time before the Government would do this, that and the other in the manufacture of machine tools at Shorts. Nothing more was ever said about it. It was simply a damp squib, like so many of the things which the Government say they will do. There is no follow-through.
451 Only last autumn, Short's was left several months without a chairman. It had the greatest difficulty in getting a new chairman after the Government had quarrelled with the very good one who was already there. The Government member of the Board resigned. It was a glaring instance of Government interference which could not be more exacting.
The Government have shown their failing all along the line. Not only did they cancel the TSR2, but they put a steamroller over the jigs and tools to make certain that had a Tory Government been returned when the country gave its verdict 18 months later, there would be no question of rebuilding the aircraft. It would have been a far cheaper proposition today compared with the cancellation charges of the F111A. We have not yet been told what those cancellation charges will cost, but it could well be between £50 million and £80 million. That takes a good slice of the gilt off the Rolls Royce contract.
When the Minister of Technology, who has now left the Chamber, made his statement about the Rolls Royce contract on Monday, he said what a clever Minister he had been. He might have said a little more about his hon. Friend the Minister of State, who has for three years played a major rôle in trying to get aircraft contracts, whether in the Middle East or elsewhere. The Minister of Technology, however, is arrogant. He talks to us like a schoolmaster who knows all the answers. It is wrong for a Minister to adopt the line taken by the right hon Gentleman.
It all boils down to a question of confidence. The Government do not have the confidence of industry. I recognise that there must be Government intervention in many projects, but as the years go by these things can be done only if there is confidence on both sides. At present, that is missing.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Economic Affairs (Mr. Edmund Dell)
It is a little unfortunate that the hon. Member is making the point when my right hon. Friend is absent. In his statement about Rolls Royce, my right hon. Friend paid full tribute to the part played by my hon. Friend the Minister of State.
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
I am sorry that the Minister of Technology is not present. 452 I did not ask him to leave the Chamber. He left of his own accord. If he wanted to follow the debate, he would sit here and listen. I thought that he could have paid a far greater tribute to his hon. Friend the Minister of State, and I am glad that the hon. Gentleman is here to hear me say it.
I hope that the Government will have second thoughts about this matter because it could lead them and the taxpayer into trouble. These things must be approached gradually and on a basis of confidence on both sides. Today, however, the confidence is missing.
§ Mr. Emery
There is no doubt that my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey) has put his finger very much on one of the main problems of any aspect of co-operation between Government and industry, and that is the need for confidence on both sides in working towards co-operation. The sort of cancellation of contracts which my hon. Friend the Member for St. Albans (Mr. Goodhew) has mentioned does little to build up that confidence.
There is one aspect of the excellent Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) which should be of considerable concern to the Government. To allow the competent authorities to be as many in number as the Government intend means that any Tom, Dick or Harry will be able to judge what is a competent scheme. There would be much more sense in having one authority to make a management decision on schemes of this sort instead of having all the Ministers, having to have all their advisers and, supposedly, all experts to cover all aspects—financial, economic, legal and accounting—that a scheme embraces.
In my view, it would be much more sensible to have simply one Minister, perhaps the Minister of Technology, or, if not him, the Minister of Technology and the President of the Board of Trade together, as the people who should make the judgment rather than to have as competent authorities every Secretary of State—presumably the Secretary of State for Scotland, the Secretary of State for Defence, the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, or for Wales or for Foreign Affairs. This seems to me to be a foolish, wide spread of authority 453 in the Bill. Therefore, the slight limitation proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil should commend itself to the House.
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Technology (Dr. Jeremy Bray)
As you remarked, Mr. Speaker, the Amendment addresses itself to a narrow point in the Bill. We are dealing with the question of whose judgment it shall be that an industrial project is likely to conduce to the benefit of, or, if the House accepts a subsequent Amendment, is likely to benefit, the economy and who should exercise that judgment, not simply as a matter of executive decision, but the responsibility as laid down by Statute and, therefore, a matter which might have to be adjudged and decided in the courts.
If the Amendment were accepted, what would happen would be that any project could he a matter for a court case. I do not think that any hon. Member opposite would like to leave the commercial judgment, which, they have quite rightly pointed out, is needed in this kind of project, to a court of law.
§ Sir G. Nabarro
The hon. Gentleman has not explained why it would have to be a court of law. Parliament decides the scheme.
§ Dr. Bray
Suppose that Parliament accepts a scheme and there is challenge as to whether it will conduce to benefit. It would certainly be a matter which would be taken to court. I take the point made by the hon. Member that some kind of tribunal could be set up to which judgment of a commercial character of this nature could be referred. I do not think that any hon. Member would suggest—certainly, no member of the Standing Committee which dealt with the Bill suggested—any such procedure. There is provision in the Bill for an advisory committee, and this surely is the right way to proceed on a particular project.
§ Sir G. Nabarro
Clause 1 is quite specific. It refers to schemeslaid before Parliament and approved by resolution of the House of Commons.As long as a scheme, as explained later in the Bill, is for the benefit of the economy of the United Kingdom, it is 454 valid and within the competence of the Bill. Why a court of law?
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Stanley McMaster (Belfast, East)
Is not this an administrative decision? Are such decisions usually referred to the courts?
§ Dr. Bray
It is an administrative decision and responsibility for it is clearly placed on the competent authority.
Much of the debate could more properly have taken place on Amendments about the advisory committee. I know that hon. Members opposite take the view that the provisions about the advisory committee should be somewhat different, although not in practice greatly different. However, I shall address myself to some of the wider issues and I shall deal first with the argument of the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) who said that the authorities were not competent.
The hon. Gentleman felt that the Rolls Royce example was obviously to the benefit of the United Kingdom, but as he enthusiastically embraced that project one had a shadow of doubt about whether in matters about which he was enthusiastic he would be as critical in his appraisal of projects as most of his hon. Friends would like him to be. Certainly there must be careful provision to ensure that Ministers are not carried away by untutored or incompletely informed enthusiasms.
§ Mr. Peyton
I do not know what the hon. Gentleman is getting at when he says that I am not as critical as my hon. Friends would like me to be. I assure him that I am very critical. I mentioned the Rolls Royce example only to show that I was not blindly so, that I was not dogmatic. I accept that Rolls Royce needs help. With all respect to the hon. Gentleman, what I was saying was that I did not fancy his judgments or those of his hon. Friends.
§ Dr. Bray
But the hon. Gentleman enthusiastically endorses my right hon. Friend's judgment in the Rolls Royce case. He questioned the decision about 455 Beagle and he did not express an opinion on the computer merger.
The hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) questioned the ability of Ministers to judge within the framework in which they operate, quite rightly advised by officials. I am sure that he is aware that Ministers are advised by the same professional advisers who are available to private industry, as my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. J. T. Price) has observed. The hon. Gentleman questioned whether in all the circumstances Ministers should be charged with responsibility for the final decision.
The advisers in the computer merger were Morgan Grenfell, Lazard Brothers, S. G. Warburg and the Government's own advisers, Cooper Brothers. It would not be easy to find a more competent set of professional financial advisers. As is likely with any project under the Bill, the computer merger involved technical and industrial knowledge and appreciations beyond the purely financial. Who in this country is competent to advise on the technical and industrial aspects of the computer merger? We had all the executives in the companies themselves intimately involved in the discussions of what was the appropriate merger to seek, which was not a problem with an obvious solution. We had professional advisers who were foremost in the computer indutry and who are the advisers to the Ministry of Technology on computers. Their unanimous conclusion was that this was the right merger and that the arrangements made the industrial objectives achievable.
We have demonstrated that the machinery of the Bill properly used by a Minister with all the range of advice available to him—and the House would be unwise to accept the dismissal by the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South of the value of our advice in these matters—enables a Minister to make the right kind of judgments on projects. We shall later have the chance to discuss the workings of the advisory committee, but it would be out of order to discuss them now.
My hon. Friend the Member for Billericay (Mr. Moonman) rightly emphasised the importance and scarcity of good management and the necessity to make 456 the best use of such knowledge and advice. That is certainly our intention. We keep closely in touch with company executives and we get a great measure of co-operation from them. My hon. Friend the Minister of State is well able to survive the embarrassing embrace of the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey), but perhaps that was a demonstration that hon. Members opposite are beginning to pick and choose projects. This is wholly right and one hopes that the attitude of the House will be that both sides will dispassionately judge the merits of projects as they are put up and that hon. Members opposite will support some Orders and oppose others. That will be as it should be. That very prospect establishes the fact that the machinery here provided for the opinion of the Minister to be the determinant of whether a project is to the benefit of the economy is the right machinery, and the House would be well advised to reject the Amendment.
§ Mr. David Price
The hon. Gentleman began and ended his speech by suggesting that without the phrase "in the opinion of that authority" it would be legally difficult to decide who should determine whether the criteria for proving efficiency and so on had been met. In normal administrative arrangements that argument would be valid, but the intervention of my hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) was relevant. This part of the Bill appertains only to a Minister promoting a scheme. A Minister cannot promote a scheme under Clause 1 without coming to the House and presenting an Order, and I should have thought that as a matter of law responsibility for certifying that a scheme adhered to the criteria laid down then passed from the Minister to Parliament collectively.
If I am right it is not necessary to have this phrase, "in the opinion of the authority".
§ Dr. Bray
The hon. Member asks: Why a court of law? Given the particular machinery of this Bill, where the objective criteria for making this Scheme or Order are laid down, the fact that Parliament has approved the Order or Scheme does not prevent it from being held ultra vires in the courts if the criteria are not satisfied.
§ Mr. Price
I do not wish to detain the House any longer on this point, because l suspect that neither I nor the Parliamentary Secretary are sufficiently learned in the law to pursue the argument any further. I am not persuaded of his argument in the instance of the procedures of this Bill, although I accept it in general administrative law, where general powers are given under an Act.
He and his right hon. Friends have been raising the computer merger. I do not intend, Mr. Speaker—and I would like to give you notice about this—to raise anything to do with the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman the other day. In due course we will have a proper opportunity to debate it. It is far too important and serious to be brought in through the back door, used to illustrate an argument, to make a point on either side. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman and the House will forgive me if I do not go further, however much anyone may try to provoke me into saying anything. If the argument is raised, I would say that the first question which I would wish to discuss is whether a national merger is necessary.
Hon. Gentlemen who did not take part in Committee proceedings may like to know that we discussed this point, and all that flowed from it. Most of the arguments were used in Committee. We attempted to narrow down the number of competent authorities from the
§ "Widdicombe Fair" Clause to one, because we believed that many of the arguments used would have been less valid if there was one authority and not many. We have lost on that. We have tried to tie the opinion of that authority, which is the phrase we are on at the moment, to having to get the positive recommendation of the advisory committee in each case. That, again, failed. Therefore, in Standing Committee we were not satisfied about this. Some of the arguments used then have been used again today, and I do not think that anything more can be added. On this side of the House we are not really happy about it at all.
§ Mr. Peyton
May I speak by leave of the House? The Parliamentary Secretary must recently have had a little practice in the art of: "If you are unable to answer an argument, then you alter it to one which you can." He certainly adjusted mine to suit his own convenience. The point is that one of the effects of the Amendment is to heighten the burden of proof that such an investment or project is really likely to conduce to the benefit of the economy.
What I want the Parliamentary Secretary to understand is that because on one or two occasions the Government have laudably taken good advice, and have even embarked upon profitable and successful schemes, this is no reason why Parliament should accept this sort of Clause in a Bill like this, which means that it is endorsing, under all circumstances a Ministerial "say-so". I do not like that, and for that reason I hope that, with the encouragement given by my hon. Friend, we shall vote in favour of the Amendment.
§ Question put, That the Amendment be made:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 148, Noes 198.459
|Division No. 105.]||AYES||[7.45 p.m.|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Brewis, John||Costain, A. P.|
|Astor, John||Brinton, Sir Tatton||Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)|
|Awdry, Daniel||Bromley-Davenport, Lt. -Col. Sir Walter||Crouch, David|
|Baker, K. W. (Acton)||Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Crowder, F. P.|
|Baker, W. H. K. (Banff)||Bryan, Paul||Dalkeith, Earl of|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N & M)||Dance, James|
|Bell, Ronald||Buck, Antony (Colchester)||Davidson, James (Aberdeenshire, W.)|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay)||Campbell, Gordon||Dean, Paul (Somerset, N.)|
|Bessell, Peter||Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert||Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford)|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Channon, H. P. G.||Digby, Simon Wingfield|
|Blaker, Peter||Chichester-Clark, R.||Doughty, Charles|
|Boardman, Tom||Corfield, F. V.||Eden, Sir John|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Jopling, Michael||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Emery, Peter||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Eyre, Reginald||Kirk, Peter||Royle, Anthony|
|Farr, John||Kitson, Timothy||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|Fisher, Nigel||Knight, Mrs. Jill||Scott, Nicholas|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Lane, David||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Fortescue, Tim||Langford-Holt, Sir John||Sharples, Richard|
|Foster, Sir John||Lubbock, Eric||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Galbraith, Hon. T. G.||MacArthur, Ian||Stainton, Keith|
|Gibson-Watt, David||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy||Steel, David (Roxburgh)|
|Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)||McMaster, Stanley||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M. (Ripon)|
|Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B.||Maddan, Martin||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Goodhew, Victor||Maginnis, John E.||Temple, John M.|
|Gower, Raymond||Mawby, Ray||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Grant, Anthony||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.|
|Grant-Ferris, R.||Mills, Peter (Torrington)||van Straubenzee, W. R,|
|Gresham Cooke, R.||Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)||Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)|
|Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Walker, Peter (Worcester)|
|Grimond, Rt. Hn. J.||Monro, Hector||Wall, Patrick|
|Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Walters, Dennis|
|Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Murton, Oscar||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere||Nabarro, Sir Gerald||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Hastings, Stephen||Neave, Airey||Webster, David|
|Hawkins, Paul||Nicholls, Sir Harmar||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel||Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael||Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William|
|Higgins, Terence L.||Nott, John||Williams, W. D. (Dudley)|
|Hiley, Joseph||Onslow, Cranley||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Hill, J. E. B.||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin||Osborn, John (Hallam)||Winstanley, Dr. M. P.|
|Holland, Philip||Percival, Ian||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Hooson, Emlyn||Peyton, John||Worsley, Marcus|
|Hordern, Peter||Pink, R. Bonner||Wright, Esmond|
|Hornby, Richard||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch||Wylie, N. R.|
|Howell, David (Guildford)||Price, David (Eastleigh)||Younger, Hn. George|
|Hunt, John||Pym, Francis|
|Hutchison, Michael Clark||Quennell, Miss J. M.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James||Mr. R. W. Elliott and|
|Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon||Mr. Jasper More.|
|Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas|
|Abse, Leo||Dewar, Donald||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Dickens, James||Hughes, Roy (Newport)|
|Alldritt, Walter||Dobson, Ray||Hunter, Adam|
|Anderson, Donald||Doig, Peter||Hynd, John|
|Archer, Peter||Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)||Irvine, Sir Arthur|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)||Eadie, Alex||Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh)|
|Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)||Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak)|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Edwards, William (Merioneth)||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)|
|Barnett, Joel||Ellis, John||Jones, Dan (Burnley)|
|Baxter, William||Ennals, David||Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)|
|Bence, Cyril||Evans, Ioan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley)||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Fernyhough, E.||Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West)|
|Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton)||Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)|
|Bishop, E. S.||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Lawson, George|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Foley, Maurice||Leadbitter, Ted|
|Booth, Albert||Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Ledger, Ron|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Ford, Ben||Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)|
|Boyden, James||Fowler, Gerry||Lee, John (Reading)|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Freeson, Reginald||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)|
|Brooks, Edwin||Galpern, Sir Myer||Loughlin, Charles|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Gardner, Tony||Lyon, Alexander W. (York)|
|Buchan, Norman||Garrett, W. E.||Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)|
|Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)||Gregory, Arnold||McBride, Neil|
|Carmichael, Neil||Grey, Charles (Durham)||McCann, John|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||MacColl, James|
|Chapman, Donald||Griffiths, Will (Exchange)||Macdonald, A. H.|
|Coleman, Donald||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||McGuire, Michael|
|Concannon, J. D.||Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)||Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)|
|Conlan, Bernard||Hamling, William||Maclennan, Robert|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Haseldine, Norman||MacPherson, Malcolm|
|Cronin, John||Hattersley, Roy||Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)|
|Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard||Hazell, Bert||Mahon, Simon (Bootle)|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Heffer, Eric S.||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)|
|Davidson, Arthur (Accrington)||Henig, Stanley||Manuel, Archie|
|Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)||Hooley, Frank||Mapp, Charles|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Marks, Kenneth|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough)||Marquand, David|
|Delargy, Hugh||Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.)||Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Dell, Edmund||Hoy, James||Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy|
|Dempsey, James||Huckfield, Leslie||Maxwell, Robert|
|Mayhew, Christopher||Pentland, Norman||Symonds, J. B.|
|Mendelson, J. J.||Perry, George H. (Nottingham, s.)||Tinn, James|
|Millan, Bruce||Price, Thomas (Westhoughton)||Tuck, Raphael|
|Miller, Dr. M. S.||Price, William (Rugby)||Urwin, T. W.|
|Milne, Edward (Blyth)||Probert, Arthur||Varley, Eric G.|
|Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)||Rankin, John||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)|
|Moonman, Eric||Rees, Merlyn||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Wallace, George|
|Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Robertson, John (Paisley)||Watkins, David (Consett)|
|Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)||Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)|
|Morris, John (Aberavon)||Rose, Paul||Wellbeloved, James|
|Moyle, Roland||Ross, Rt. Hn. William||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Newens, Stan||Ryan, John||Whitaker, Ben|
|Ogden, Eric||Sheldon, Robert||Whitlock, William|
|O'Malley, Brian||Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Oram, Albert E.||Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N.E.)||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Orme, Stanley||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)||Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)|
|Oswald, Thomas||Silverman, Julius (Aston)||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Owen, Will (Morpeth)||Slater, Joseph||Willis, Rt. Hn. George|
|Page, Derek (King's Lynn)||Small, William||Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.|
|Palmer, Arthur||Spriggs, Leslie||Woof, Robert|
|Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles||Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)||Yates, Victor|
|Park, Trevor||Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael|
|Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)||Stonehouse, John||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Pavitt, Laurence||Swain, Thomas||Mr. Joseph Harper and|
|Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)||Swingler, Stephen||Mr. Harry Gourlay.|
§ Mr. David Price
I beg to move Amendment No. 15, in page 2, line 8, after authority ' insert:'and after consultation with the advisory committee as defined in section 5'.In Committee we moved an Amendment which, if it had been adopted, would have made it mandatory on the competent authority to receive the recommendation of the Advisory Committee before introducing an industrial investment scheme. That Amendment did not appeal to the Government, although I think that it is fair to say that they were sympathetic to some of the purposes behind it. This Amendment does not go nearly as far, and I hope that it meets the legitimate objections of the Minister when he resisted cur Amendment in Committee.
This Amendment proposes that the competent authority shall consult the Advisory Committee before making a scheme. We are not saying that the competent authority must abide by the recommendations of the Advisory Committee. The Minister of Technology, in replying to our Amendment in Committee, gave one or two examples of the circumstances in which he felt that it would be improper for the Minister to be bound by the recommendation of the Advisory Committee. However, I hope that the phraseology of this Amendment will enable him to accept it.
In Committee, the Minister made three remarks which I hope will commend themselves to the House. He said:No one should think that in the Ministry of Technology we are raring to go with a lot 462 of schemes without getting industrialists to give their views".Then he said:The reason for the Advisory Committee is that we want to have access to advice.Later he stated:The second motive is that we want to reassure industry that, when we enter into this kind of relationship, it can feel that business minds will be brought to play on the problems with which we have to deal".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee E, 22nd February, 1968; c. 107.]It is in the spirit of the right hon. Gentleman's comments in Committee that I move the Amendment. I hope that it commends itself to the House.
§ Mr. Peyton
I feel slightly torn over this Amendment because I am not a great lover of committees, but, on the whole, I prefer this kind of committee in this kind of context to Ministers and their Departments. Therefore, I do not see why the Government should not accept this very mild Amendment. My hon. Friend the Member for Eastleigh (Mr. David Price) does not even make it mandatory for the Government to accept the committee's advice. What I presume he seeks to do is to make it slightly shaming for the Government to reject the advice of people who know much better than they do.
I should have thought that this was a very modest Amendment, although, as I say, I have the greatest reservation in my approach to committees. They involve a great waste of valuable time. One feels that the able and experienced men who 463 sit on them may be better employed elsewhere. In so far as they are manned by "doves", it is better that they do not exist in any case. My approach is slightly negative, but, on balance, I am willing to support this very mild Amendment, and I cannot see why the Minister should not accept it immediately.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Emery
I shall detain the House for only a few moments. It seems to me that my hon. Friend the Member for Eastleigh (Mr. David Price) has bent over backwards to meet the objections which the Government had in Committee to the Amendment I moved. They argued that it would be wrong to have a committee who could override the judgment of a Minister. I do not accept that at this stage. In Committee I mentioned the example of B.O.T.A.C. as the kind of thing which I would like to have accepted, but we lost the debate.
If we are to have this Advisory Committee, it is imperative that it should be used. If it is there, and is not used, it will be an absolute waste of time, and the fears expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) will prove to be justified. The Amendment seeks to do only one thing. It seeks to make certain that the Minister will consult the Committee he proposes to appoint. This seems a right and proper step, and one which will improve the Bill.
§ Mr. Lane
I support the Amendment because I think that it will make the Bill a good deal less objectionable than it is at the moment. A matter which has troubled me a good deal ever since the White Paper was published is the way in which the Government envisage the Advisory Committee being brought into use. When the White Paper was published, a lot was said about intentions, about the setting up of the Committee, and personalities were mentioned when there was talk about who would serve on it. We then saw the Bill, and the only mention of this Committee was in the Clause establishing it, which is Clause 5. The Committee is not specifically linked in at any other point in the Bill. During the Second Reading debate I did not think that the Government were convincing in their explanation of the way 464 in which they would bring the Committee into being, and during the Committee stage they were extremely coy about this issue.
There are two strong reasons for accepting the Amendment and ensuring that the Committee does not become merely a piece of window dressing. First, we all know of the doubts and misgivings which have been expressed in industry ever since the Government first talked about producing a Bill of this sort, many months ago. It will set some of these doubts and misgivings at rest if we put into the Bill the clear commitment of the Government at least to bring in the Advisory Committee for consultation over every scheme. Secondly, I do not believe that we will get men of the highest calibre to serve on this Committee unless the Government make it clear in the Bill itself that the Committee will be given a real job to do, and that real weight will be attached to its advice.
I hope that the Government are not being shy about accepting Amendments merely because they are moved from this side of the House. If they do not accept this reasonable Amendment, I shall begin to despair of the Government's moving even an inch to meet reasonable and constructive suggestions from this side of the House.
§ Mr. Benn
I appreciate the spirit in which the hon. Member for Eastleigh (Mr. David Price) moved the Amendment. I also appreciated the fact that he did not go back to the mandatory problem with which I tried to deal when answering the debate in Committee.
There is a difficulty about accepting the Amendment, and I shall explain it to the House and hope to carry hon. Gentlemen opposite with me. The difficulty is that some of the schemes under the Bill will be general schemes. They will arise out of an entirely independent inquiry, and I cite the Geddes Inquiry into the shipbuilding industry as an example of what I mean. I think it better not to indicate possible candidates, for fear that this might be misunderstood, but there are a number of industries which might suggest to us that there are things which we can do to strengthen their competitive position.
In those circumstances, the most important thing of all is to get a consensus 465 within the industry. Perhaps I can explain what I said earlier, when I probably did it badly. I did not mean that the Bill was not controversial in the sense that the party opposite did not like it. I meant that the operation of the procedure would not arouse controversy, certainly not with firms with whom we work, and I go so far as to say, though it is probably foolish to prophesy, that when the House sees the schemes, even the high passions which have been aroused at various stages may be cooled. That is my opinion, and I shall say no more about it than that.
If we are to try to seek a consensus, and I am speaking of a general industrial scheme, the proper thing to do is to have it looked at thoroughly, because it would be foolish to move with a voluntary Bill in an industry in which there was some good to be done by agreement unless we had a thorough examination. Is it meaningful at the end to be bound to refer the whole thing to an advisory committee? Would it have been sensible if the Geddes Report had been referred to the Advisory Committee? I think the House would feel that this was over-egging the pudding, that this was going to work on more than one egg.
In those circumstances, it seems to me that it would be wrong to have a statutory imposition even of what seems so reasonable a requirement to consult, because if the Advisory Committee had been asked to review the findings of the Geddes Committee, we all know what would have happened. It would have said, "We have looked at it, and have no comment to make", in which case it would not have been consultation, or it would have gene over the ground again, which would have been needless and delaying. I hope the House will accept that it is not practicable to have a mandatory obligation to consult.
There is one other point which I might make, and that is that were the Amendment to be passed in this form it would rule out schemes which had developed in the period between the Bill coming forward and its enactment. There is no advisory committee at the moment. There will not be one until the Bill is enacted. At least one project which the House will have to consider and decide on has come up in embryo form ready for presentation 466 to the House. To impose a retrospective statutory requirement to consult a committee which has not been set up about a project which has come forward after a year's negotiation will cause serious difficulties. One might try to get round this difficulty, but it could not satisfactorily be done.
The other case, which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs mentioned as a possible candidate, is the smelter project, where again one can see all sorts of aspects to this which are not necessarily appropriate or right for the sort of advisory committee function that is envisaged here.
Having said that, I want to stress to the House that the Advisory Committee is an immensely valuable and important, and, indeed, essential, part of this procedure. We have had some discussions about lame ducks. We have had a lot of fun with them, but a lame duck is no advantage to the Minister who promotes it. I assure the House that I have no desire to allow something to come forward which could be a lame duck. I recognise that the Government may be handicapped in their approach. There are pressures on the Government for political reasons, for scientific reasons, for regional reasons, and for employment reasons. The Government are always under this type of pressure. The purpose of the Bill is to promote commercial success and profitability in the industries in which it is to operate.
The Advisory Committee will be there for any of the Ministers who are rather comically called competent authorities, but the House will know that the Parliamentary draftsmen tickle our sense of humour. Ministers are bound to want the advice of this Committee to protect them from pressures which they will want to resist. In many cases I would much rather be judged as a Minister on the things that I have killed since I have been in the Department, than by the things which I have promoted, because it is only when one says "No" to things that ought not to come forward, and they never reach the light of day, and when one declines to support projects, that one gets any idea of whether one is really applying reasonable criteria to those projects. I suppose that it would be unreasonable to expect hon. Gentlemen opposite to be as generous as this in 467 assessing our motivation, but the motivation of the Bill is to provide, as far as possible, the means by which British industry can be competitive in key areas; in advanced technology and—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Eric Fletcher)
Order. I do not think that on this Amendment we want a general discussion about the objects of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman must confine his remarks to the narrow point raised in the Amendment.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The Amendment deals only with the necessity to consult the Advisory Committee. I suggest that we do not want a general debate about the functions of the Advisory Committee.
§ Mr. Benn
I will, of course, be guided by your ruling. I was trying to adduce as an argument for hon. Gentlemen opposite not to press the Amendment the fact that any Minister trying to operate the Bill would have a strong incentive to go to the Advisory Committee; the risk that a Bill which is designed for one purpose might, because of political or other pressures, be used in another direction. I was pointing out that a Minister might want the Advisory Committee to help him to resist something.
If the hon. Member for Eastleigh would accept that we intend to make the fullest use of the Advisory Committee—after all, it was our idea that there should be one—then this is the greatest security. Whether or not we had gone to the Advisory Committee would be a question to be asked when affirmative Orders are laid, whereupon Ministers will be accountable for their decisions. This is about as much as one can hope for in the operation of the procedure, for if a Minister comes forward with a scheme on an affirmative Order and hon. Members ask, "Did you go to the Advisory Committee?", and he replies, "No", he would be required to explain 468 why. Because there may be one or two occasions when it would be reasonable for the Minister to say "No" to that question, I hope that even this apparently modest statutory requirement will not be written into the Bill.
§ Mr. David Price
The Minister's main objection to the Amendment is in relation to general industrial schemes under Clause 3. That Clause requires the competent authority to make such inquiries as are thought lo be appropriate. It seems reasonable, therefore, that those inquiries should start from the Advisory Committee, even though it might decide that it did not have the facilities to conduct a proper inquiry.
The right hon. Gentleman gave the shipbuilding industry as an example. If these powers had existed at that time, would not the Minister have gone to the Advisory Committee before the Geddes inquiry was established'? The Minister would then have asked the Advisory Committee, "What are your comments on the problems of this industry?"—and, after its recommendation, the Geddes Committee would have been established. Equally, the Minister, having heard the problems of the shipbuilding industry from those involved in it—trade unions and some manufacturers—might have asked the Advisory Committee, "Do you think that this is the sort of matter into which I should make an extensive inquiry, with the possibility of using Clause 3?". For this reason I do not believe that the right hon. Gentleman's objection to the Amendment on the grounds of Clause 3 is valid.
Nor is his transitional problem argument valid because if a scheme had just been brought into being it would be proper for the Advisory Committee merely to look at the draft and not be desperately offended if it had only sufficient time to look into the matter briefly. On the other hand, if the Advisory Committee saw something terribly wrong with such a scheme, it would have the duty of pointing it out. Because I am not happy with the right hon. Gentleman's reply, I must advise my hon. Friends to divide the House.
§ Question put, That the Amendment be made:—470
§ The House divided: Ayes 144. Noes 194.471
|Division No. 106.]||AYES||[8.15 p.m.|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Gower, Raymond||Nott, John|
|Astor, John||Gresham Cooke, R.||Onslow, Cranley|
|Awdry, Daniel||Grimond, Rt. Hn. J.||Orr. Capt. L. P. S.|
|Baker, K. W. (Acton)||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Osborn, John (Hallam)|
|Baker, W. H. K. (Banff)||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||Percival, Ian|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Peyton, John|
|Bell, Ronald||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere||Pink, R. Bonner|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay)||Hastings, Stephen||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch|
|Bessell, Peter||Hawkins, Paul||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Higgins, Terence L.||Pym, Francis|
|Blaker, Peter||Hiley, Joseph||Quennell, Miss J. M.|
|Boardman, Tom||Hill, J. E. B.||Ramsden. Rt. Hn. James|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John||Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Brewis, John||Holland, Philip||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt. -Col. Sir Walter||Hooson, Emlyn||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Hordern, Peter||Royle, Anthony|
|Bryan, Paul||Hornby, Richard||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N & M)||Howell, David (Guildford)||Scott, Nicholas|
|Buck, Antony (Colchester)||Hunt, John||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Campbell, Gordon||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Sharples, Richard|
|Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)||Stainton, Keith|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M. (Ripon)|
|Corfield, F. V.||Jopling, Michael||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Costain, A. P.||Kershaw, Anthony||Temple, John M.|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Crouch, David||Kirk, Peter||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.|
|Crowder, F. P.||Kitson, Timothy||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Knight, Mrs. Jill||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John|
|Dance, James||Lane, David||Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)|
|Davidson. James (Aberdeenshire, W.)||Langford-Holt, Sir John||Walker, Peter (Worcester)|
|Dean, Paul (Somerset, N.)||Lubbock, Eric||Wall, Patrick|
|Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford)||MacArthur, Ian||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Doughty, Charles||McMaster, Stanley||Webster, David|
|Eden, Sir John||Maddan, Martin||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Maginnis, John E.||Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William|
|Emery, Peter||Mawby, Ray||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Eyre, Reginald||Mills, Peter (Torrington)||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Farr, John||Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Fisher, Nigel||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Winstanley, Dr. M. P.|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Monro, Hector||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Fortescue, Tim||More, Jasper||Worsley, Marcus|
|Foster, Sir John||Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Wright, Esmond|
|Gibson-Watt, David||Murton, Oscar||Wylie, N. R.|
|Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)||Nabarro, Sir Gerald||Younger, Hn. George|
|Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B.||Neave, Airey||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Goodhart, Philip||Nicholls, Sir Harmar||Mr. R. W. Elliott and|
|Goodhew, Victor||Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael||Mr. Anthony Grant.|
|Abse, Leo||Chapman, Donald||Evans, Ioan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley)|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Coleman, Donald||Faulds, Andrew|
|Alldritt, Walter||Concannon, J. D.||Fernyhough, E.|
|Anderson, Donald||Conlan, Bernard||Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)|
|Archer, Peter||Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)||Crawshaw, Richard||Foley, Maurice|
|Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)||Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard||Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Ford, Ben|
|Barnett, Joel||Davidson, Arthur (Accrington)||Fowler, Gerry|
|Baxter, William||Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stratford)||Freeson, Reginald|
|Bence, Cyril||Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Galpern, Sir Myer|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Delargy, Hugh||Garrett, W. E.|
|Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton)||Dell, Edmund||Gregory, Arnold|
|Bishop, E. S.||Dempsey, James||Grey, Charles (Durham)|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Dewar, Donald||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)|
|Booth, Albert||Dickens, James||Griffiths, Will (Exchange)|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Dobson, Ray||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)|
|Boyden, James||Doig, Peter||Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)||Hamling, William|
|Brooks, Edwin||Edwards, Rt. Hn. Ness (Caerphilly)||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Haseldine, Norman|
|Buchan, Norman||Edwards, William (Merioneth)||Hattersley, Roy|
|Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)||Ellis, John||Heffer, Eric S.|
|Carmichael, Neil||Ennals, David||Henig, Stanley|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Ensor, David||Hazell, Bert|
|Hooley, Frank||Marks, Kenneth||Ross, Rt. Hn. William|
|Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Marquand, David||Ryan, John|
|Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough)||Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard||Sheldon, Robert|
|Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.)||Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy||Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)|
|Hoy, James||Maxwell, Robert||Short, Mrs. Renée(W'hampton, N.E.)|
|Huckfield, Leslie||Mayhew, Christopher||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Mendelson, J. J.||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Millan, Bruce||Slater, Joseph|
|Hunter, Adam||Miller, Dr. M. S.||Small, William|
|Hynd, John||Milne, Edward (Blyth)||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Irvine, Sir Arthur||Moonman, Eric||Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)|
|Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh)||Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)||Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael|
|Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak)||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Stonehouse, John|
|Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Swain, Thomas|
|Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Morris, John (Aberavon)||Swingler, Stephen|
|Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)||Moyle, Roland||Symonds, J. B.|
|Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Newens, Stan||Tinn, James|
|Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West)||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Tuck, Raphael|
|Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)||Ogden, Eric||Urwin, T. W.|
|Lawson, George||O'Malley, Brian||Varley, Eric G.|
|Leadbitter, Ted||Oram, Albert E.||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)|
|Ledger, Ron||Orme, Stanley||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)||Oswald, Thomas||Wallace, George|
|Lee, John (Reading)||Owen, Will (Morpeth)||Watkins, David (Consett)|
|Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Page, Derek (King's Lynn)||Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)|
|Loughlin, Charles||Palmer, Arthur||Wellbeloved, James|
|Lyon, Alexander W, (York)||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)||Park, Trevor||Whitaker, Ben|
|McBride, Neil||Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)||Whitlock, William|
|McCann, John||Pavitt, Laurence||Wilkins, W. A.|
|MacColl, James||Pentland, Norman||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Macdonald, A. H.||Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)||Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)|
|McGuire, Michael||Price, Thomas (Westhoughton)||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)||Price, William (Rugby)||Willis, Rt. Hn. George|
|Maclennan, Robert||Probert, Arthur||Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.|
|McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)||Rankin, John||Woof, Robert|
|MacPherson, Malcolm||Rees, Merlyn||Yates, Victor|
|Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Mahon, Simon (Bootle)||Robertson, John (Paisley)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)||Mr. Joseph Harper and|
|Manuel, Archie||Rose, Paul||Mr. Harry Gourlay.|
§ Dr. Bray
I beg to move Amendment No. 17, in page 2, line 8 leave out 'conduce to the benefit of' and insert 'benefit'.
This Amendment is a grammatical tidying up. It has some substance to it, in that some hon. Members opposite in Committee felt the Government were tempering the rigour of the test on economic benefit. The meaning is made perfectly clear by removing the words conduce to the benefit of" and inserting "benefit".
§ Mr. Peyton
As I had a similar Amendment down, perhaps I might be allowed, briefly and rather exceptionally, to welcome the speech just made by the Parliamentary Secretary. This was a most unpleasant sentence to find even in such a Bill as this. What proliferation, verbosity, this is. If I may give vent to a suspicion which dawned on me two or three years ago, the worse the Government is, the more the pressure of legislation, and therefore the worse—
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)
The hon. Member should not give vent to 472 suspicions at the same moment as he is protesting about verbosity.
§ Mr. Peyton
I learned it from the hon. Member. I was expressing a suspicion which has been in my mind for some time that the worse the Government is, the greater the pressure of legislation, and the more do those unfortunate and hard-pressed creatures the Parliamentary draftsmen allow such horrors to slip through the net. I welcome this sign of good intentions and I am very glad the Parliamentary Secretary has moved in this direction.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Mr. Peyton
I beg to move Amendment No. 22, in page 2, line 27, leave out from 'Scheme' to end of line 28.
The Amendment is to delete the words "upon such terms as may be so determined". What do they mean? Why are they there? Will the Parliamentary Secretary please undertake to get rid of them? Nothing would be easier for him than to signify now that he will accept this Amendment. If he will give the slightest indication of his willingness 473 to do so, I will sit down immediately and be glad to abandon the argument.
§ Mr. Peyton
I only gave way for a moment. I must be allowed to express my gratitude that the Government have seen fit to delete these totally unnecessary words from a Bill which is just as unnecessary in my estimation. I am thankful for small mercies.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Dr. Bray
I beg to move Amendment No. 25, in page 2, line 33, leave out 'on the disposal' and insert 'in connection with the production'.
There is an incompatibility between this subsection and the similar provision in the Concorde Clause. In effect, the Amendment brings the two into line.
The loss on the disposal may not cover the whole case; for example, it might not cover a loss arising from capital investment which had been undertaken for the production of a particular product. It might merely cover a loss on the product itself. I hope that the House will find the Amendment acceptable.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Dr. Bray
I beg to move Amendment No. 27, in page 2, line 36, leave out 'make' and insert 'use or make arrangements for the'.
This Amendment is aimed simply at widening the provisions very slightly so that instead of simply purchasing goods from such persons or bodies or making use of services provided for them, it is also to use or make arrangements for the use of services provided for them. It is not necessarily simply a matter of making use of them, but arranging for other people to do so. I think that it is self-explanatory.
§ Mr. David Price
I wonder if the Joint Parliamentary Secretary can give us a little more explanation. In Standing Committee, we moved an Amendment to try and limit the effects of paragraph (d), which the House will recall is one of the methods 474 of support detailed under Clause 2(2). We tried to limit paragraph (d) to goods that would be required in the public service. We failed.
It seems to me that the change in wording which the hon. Gentleman proposes widens it even further. As I read it, it is not only a matter of making use of the services, but making arrangements for it, which suggests that concerns outside the public sector or ones in the public sector which are not under the direct control of the Central Government will be asked to make use of the services or buy the goods. This could lead to unfair discrimination against other people who are in the same sphere of activity. If the Government decided, for example, to support the new I.C.L. computer company by saying that every university was to use a machine made by it and not one made by any of its competitors, obviously it would be unfortunate. As I read it, that could be the effect of accepting the proposed words. I may have read too much into them. If I have, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will disabuse me.
§ Dr. Bray
Were a scheme like the preproduction order scheme for machine tools to be undertaken under the powers of the Bill instead of under the powers of the Science and Technology Act which covers it, it would be a matter of arranging for novel types of machine tool to be used by certain famous engineering companies in order to test them under working conditions. The purpose of the Amendment is to make it clear that that kind of arrangement is possible.
I do not think that the hon. Gentleman questions the advantage of schemes like the preproduction order scheme, but he is rather concerned about possible abuses which may arise under it. Again, that would be a matter where the Government would be closely concerned to avoid any such difficulties. I think that there have been no complaints sustained against the preproduction order scheme. There will be the general arrangements against discrimination for which the Advisory Committee will watch out, and, therefore, the hon. Gentleman need not fear that in this subsection there will be any cause for complaint on the ground of discrimination.
§ Amendment agreed to.475
§ Mr. Dell
I beg to move Amendment No. 28, in page 2, line 37, leave out from 'or' to 'purchase' in line 38.
I think it would be to the convenience of the House if we took with this Amendment Amendment No. 30, in page 3, line 3, at end add:'and no such scheme shall authorise the subscription for or purchase of shares in any company (other than a company to be formed pursuant to the scheme) without the consent of the company.(4) In this section "shares" include stock'.
§ Mr. Dell
It will be remembered that in Committee the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Sir T. Brinton) was particularly concerned that in Clause 2(2)(e) there is the phrase in brackets:(with the consent of the company concerned)following the words:to subscribe for orAt that time I emphasised that it was the intention of the Government that no scheme should take place without the consent of the company with whom the Government were co-operating and no other situation was possible because the Bill conveyed no compulsory powers.
Nevertheless, the hon. Member persisted in his point. He was concerned to ensure that in no conceivable circumstances could a company be forced to issue shares to the Government without its consent. Therefore, I agreed to have this matter further considered to make it clear if necessary beyond any possible doubt. That is the reason for this Amendment.
We are asking the House to leave out the words now in brackets and, instead of dealing with the matter in paragraph (e) to deal with it by the words in Amendment No. 30, which states that:no such scheme shall authorise the subscription for or purchase of shares in any company…Then there are the words in the brackets and then:without the consent of the company.It is clearly stated that the consent of the company applies in the case of a subscription for shares as well as for the purchase of shares in the market. The reason for the words in the brackets: 476(other than a company to be formed pursuant to the scheme)is that a joint company might be formed between the Government and a private company, a subsidiary, and this might be an instrument for pursuing a scheme. It would be absurd that the consent of a company yet to be formed should be necessary in that case. It would be like asking a child to give consent to its own birth.
We have also taken the opportunity to make clear that the word "shares" includes stock. This normally would be understood in any case, but to put the matter beyond doubt, as in the Shipbuilding Act, 1967, we have stated that in this Clause the word "shares" includes stock.
§ Mr. John Nott (St. Ives)
I fully understand why in Committee my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Sir T. Brinton) made this point, but I do not think the Government's Amendment is at all clear. It is not clear as to what is meant by the word "company" in this case. Is it referring to shareholders of the company or to the directors of the company? Surely the phrase should read, "with the consent of the shareholders of the company". Since the Parliamentary Secretary said clearly that no compulsory powers are contained in the Bill, the point surely is covered in paragraph (e) which refers to "purchase by agreement". I do not see why, if there are no compulsory powers, a purchase can be other than by agreement since if it is to be a purchase there must also be a seller. In his very admirable efforts to help my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary has allowed certain rather peculiar anomalies in the wording of the Government Amendment.
§ Mr. David Price
My hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Sir T. Brinton), who raised many issues of this nature in Committee, is, I am sure, grateful for the Under-Secretary's effort at meeting his fears. I am sure that the Under-Secretary will be able to comment on the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives (Mr. Nott) on the wording.
§ Mr. Peyton
Before the Under-Secretary does that, I want to reinforce what my hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives (Mr. Nott) said. I am sure that 477 the Government have acted from the best possible motives to try to meet a view expressed by the Opposition in Committee. However, I find this not only a singularly inelegant sentence, but also one that could be very misleading. One point which my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Sir T. Brinton) had in mind was that which my hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives has just made, namely, the meaning of "company". Does it mean shareholders, the board, or whom?
§ Mr. Dell
I entirely agree with the hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. Nott) that the previous wording covered the point, but the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Sir T. Brinton) had continuing doubts. We therefore tried to make it even clearer than it was in the original wording. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that purchase by agreement cannot mean anything but purchase by agreement, but in that case it would be purchase of shares by agreement of the existing shareholders, not necessarily with the consent of the company. That is why the wordsthe consent of the companywere inserted in relation to purchase of shares by agreement. We thought that it was clear, but doubts were expressed by hon. Members opposite and we thought it right to try to meet those doubts.
By "company" we mean the company in the legal sense of the term. In Committee we discussed whether the consent of the shareholders should be required or whether it would be sufficient for the directors of the company to express their consent in the ordinary way. We then argued that in all matters where it was required by law, or in all matters where it was required by the company's articles of association, or in all matters where the directors thought it right to consult their shareholders, the shareholders would be consulted, but that otherwise there should be the normal process of consent by the company, which means consent by the board of directors of the company.
§ Amendment agreed to.
Further Amendment made: No. 30, in page 3, line 3, at end add:
'and no such scheme shall authorise the subscription for or purchase of shares in any company (other than a company to be
formed pursuant to the scheme) without the consent of the company.
(4) In this section "shares" include stock'.—[Mr. Dell.]