HC Deb 09 July 1969 vol 786 cc1484-90

Question again proposed, That the Amendment be made.

Mr. Griffiths

I was about to say that, once again, the Minister is leaping fully clothed into a large and unknown experimental body of water, and we do not know how we shall fare. In view of that, it is only sensible to limit the length of time in which he will be floundering about in it. It is not an edifying thought to imagine that we shall have the Minister permanently floundering about in this experiment. For his good as well as the country's, I should like to put a very short term to it.

When the Minister was speaking to Amendment No. 26, which I also support, he said that he might want to keep it in being by Order … without having to come too often to Parliament. That was an extraordinary remark for a Minister who is responsible to this House. He should regard it as a privilege to explain to the House what he is doing. This House represents those who pay his salary as well as the salaries of the rest of us and who have to provide the money which he is chucking round in a haphazard fashion. Therefore, he ought not to take this view about coming to the House of Commons. He ought to explain to us in great detail what exactly he is doing.

Throughout his speech, I was struck by his display of what can only be called mindless optimism. He gave the impression that somehow it would be all right on the night and that, if only he was allowed these powers without having to explain them, the Corporation and this new experiment would be a howling success. That kind of mindless optimism has dogged the Government's steps for the last few years. It reminds me of the story of the so-called Socialist captain of the "Titanic", who explained to his passengers that he had stopped to take on ice.

Sir J. Eden

If my hon. Friends the Members for New Forest (Mr. Patrick McNair-Wilson), Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) and Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths) had not made such a strong case in support of the Amendments, the Minister's speech would have been reason enough for supporting them.

The case which has been made out has emphasised the state of uncertainty and confusion in which we still find ourselves about so many aspects of the requirements which the Government propose to place on the Corporation.

The most important point, well-emphasised by my hon. Friends the Members for New Forest and Yeovil, have centred on the experimental nature of public dividend capital. The Minister has approached it as a matter of pride in that it was introduced a short time ago in the British Overseas Airways Corporation as an experiment for a short period of time and that, before that time had expired other corporations in the public sector had come forward asking for the same dispensation; for the same means, as my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest put it, for evading their obligations on the initial capital debt. This it is that underlies the purpose in bringing this matter forward, certainly in the eyes of the Government, of the Minister and of the Chief Secretary.

The experiment, by its very definition, should be limited. If the Minister wants it to continue, he should tell the House

Division No. 316.] AYES [10.9 p.m.
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Currie, G. B. H. Hall-Davis, A. G. F.
Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n) Dalkeith, Earl of Harris, Reader (Heston)
Baker, W. H. K. (Banff) Dean, Paul Harrison, Brian (Maldon)
Balniel, Lord Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford) Harvie Anderson, Miss
Bell, Ronald Dodds-Parker, Douglas Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay) Drayson, G. B. Holland, Philip
Biffen, John Eden, Sir John Hordern, Peter
Biggs-Davison, John Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Howell, David (Guildford)
Black, Sir Cyril Elliott, R.W.(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.) Hunt, John
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.) Emery, Peter Hutchison, Michael Clark
Body, Richard Farr, John Iremonger, T. L.
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John Fisher, Nigel Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)
Brinton, Sir Tatton Fortescue, Tim Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter Gibson-Watt, David Jennings, J. C. (Burton)
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.) Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)
Bullus, Sir Eric Glover, Sir Douglas Kaberry, Sir Donald
Campbell, B. (Oldham, W.) Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B. Kershaw, Anthony
Carlisle, Mark Goodhew, Victor King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)
Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert Gower, Raymond Kitson, Timothy
Chichester-Clark, R. Grant, Anthony Knight, Mrs. Jill
Clark, Henry Gresham Cooke, R. Lane, David
Clegg, Walter Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds) Langford-Holt, Sir John
Corfield, F. V. Hall, John (Wycombe) Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry

fully his reasons for wishing it to continue. He should not seek to evade his obligations. My hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds rightly stressed how appalling it is that any Minister should brush aside his obligation to seek from the House further powers in a matter of this kind involving, as it does, such a very large sum of money. There is, therefore, every justification for shortening the period of the experiment, which the first Amendment seeks to do.

In addition to that, we find subsection (2)(a) wholly offensive. We would not wish to see this type of wide ranging power, no matter what its purpose, written into any Act. We do not like to give Ministers such sweeping, generalised, all-embracing powers. My hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil put it forcefully when he said that the Bill gives far too wide a discretion as it is, and this is a feature from which the Minister will get powers enabling him to enshrine as a permanency something which, in an earlier Clause, is introduced as an experiment. It is a wholly unjustified process. The Minister seeks not only to bring in an experiment but to run it indefinitely. Far too much self-perpetuating legislation is brought forward by this Government, and I strongly advise my hon. Friends to vote for the Amendment.

Question put, That the Amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 126, Noes 180.

Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Page, Graham (Crosby) Smith, John (London & W'minster)
McAdden, Sir Stephen Peel, John stainton, Keith
MacArthur, Ian Percival, Ian Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow, Cathcart)
McMaster, Stanley Peyton, John Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)
McNair-Wilson, Michael Pike, Miss Mervyn Temple, John M.
McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest) Pounder, Rafton Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.
Maddan, Martin Pym, Francis van Straubenzee, W. R.
Marten, Neil Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John
Mawby, Ray Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David Waddington, David
Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek
Mills, Peter (Torrington) Ridley, Hn. Nicholas Ward, Dame Irene
Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Miscampbell, Norman Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks) Williams, Donald (Dudley)
Montgomery, Fergus Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey) Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
More, Jasper Royle, Anthony Worsley, Marcus
Morrison, Charles (Devizes) Russell, Sir Ronald Wright, Esmond
Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Scott-Hopkins, James Younger, Hn. George
Murton, Oscar Sharples, Richard
Nabarro, Sir Gerald Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Neave, Airey Sinclair, Sir George Mr. Reginald Eyre and
Osborn, John (Hallam) Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington) Mr. Hector Monro.
Alldritt, Walter Fowler, Gerry McNamara, J. Kevin
Anderson, Donald Fraser, John (Norwood) Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)
Archer, Peter Freeson, Reginald Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)
Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.) Garrett, W. E. Manuel, Archie
Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham) Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C. Mapp, Charles
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth) Marks, Kenneth
Barnes, Michael Gregory, Arnold Marquand, David
Bence, Cyril Grey, Charles (Durham) Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside) Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert
Binns, John Griffiths, Will (Exchange) Mendelson, John
Bishop, E. S. Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Millan, Bruce
Blackburn, F. Hamling, William Miller, Dr. M. S.
Boardman, H. (Leigh) Harper, Joseph Milne, Edward (Blyth)
Boyden, James Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)
Bray, Dr. Jeremy Haseldine, Norman Molloy, William
Brooks, Edwin Hattersley, Roy Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)
Broughton, Sir Alfred Hazell, Bert Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Heffer, Eric S. Moyle, Roland
Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury) Henig, Stanley Murray, Albert
Buchan, Norman Hooley, Frank Neal, Harold
Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn) Houghton, Rt. Hn. Dougas Newens, Stan
Cant, R. B. Hoy, Rt. Hn. James Oakes, Gordon
Carmichael, Neil Hughes, Roy (Newport) O'Malley, Brian
Chapman, Donald Hynd, John Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)
Coleman, Donald Irvine, Sir Arthur (Edge Hill) Page, Derek (King's Lynn)
Concannon, J. D. Janner, Sir Barnett Palmer, Arthur
Conlan, Bernard Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hul', W.) Park, Trevor
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Johnston, Russell (Inverness)
Crawshaw, Richard Jones, Dan (Burnley) Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)
Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W.Ham, S.) Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred
Dalyell, Tam Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Pentland, Norman
Davidson, Arthur (Accrington) Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West) Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)
Davidson, James(Aberdeenshire, W.) Judd, Frank Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)
Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford) Kenyon, Clifford Price, Thomas (Westhoughton)
Davies, Rt. Hn. Harold (Leek) Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham) Price, William (Rugby)
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Lawson, George Probert, Arthur
Delargy, Hugh Leadbitter, Ted Rees, Merlyn
Dempsey, James Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton) Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Dewar, Donald Lee, John (Reading) Robertson, John (Paisley)
Diamond, Rt. Hn. John Lever, Rt. Hn. Harold (Cheetham) Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)
Dickens, James Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Ross, Rt. Hn. William
Dobson, Ray Lamas, Kenneth Rowlands, E.
Doig, Peter Loughlin, Charles Ryan, John
Dunn, James A. Lubbock, Eric Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)
Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter) Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.) Short, Rt.Hn. Edward(N'c'tle-u-Tyne)
Eadie, Alex Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N.E.)
Ellis, John McBride, Neil Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)
Ennals, David MacColl, James Silverman, Julius
Ensor, David MacDermot, Niall Small, William
Evans, Fred (Caerphilly) Macdonald, A. H. Snow, Julian
Evans, Ioan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley) McGuire, Michael Spriggs, Leslie
Fernyhough, E. McKay, Mrs. Margaret Steel, David (Roxburgh)
Finch, Harold Mackenzie, Alasdair (Ross & Crom'ty) Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)
Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Mackenzie, Gregor (Ruthergien) Urwin, T. W.
Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston) Mackintosh, John P. Varley, Eric G.
Ford, Ben Maclennan, Robert Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)
Forrester, John MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles) Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)
Walker, Harold (Doncaster) White, Mrs. Eirene
Wallace, George Whitlock, William TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Watkins, David (Consett) Wilkins, W. A. Mr. John McCann and
Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor) Williams, W. T. (Warrington) Mr. Ernest Armstrong.
Whitaker, Ben Woof, Robert
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