HC Deb 08 May 1969 vol 783 cc799-808

Queen's Recommendation having been signified

Motion made, and Question proposed, That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to make new provision in relation to the finances of the British Steel Corporation and certain of their subsidiaries, it is expedient to authorise— (1) the substitution for the commencing capital debt of the British Steel Corporation to the Minister of Power of £833,988,359 4s. 1d. of a commencing capital debt of £133,988,359 4s. 1d.; (2) the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of— (a) sums required by the Minister of Power for the making of payments by him to the British Steel Corporation, being sums the aggregate of which, taken together with—

  1. (i) the amount outstanding in respect of the principal of any money borrowed under section 19 of the Iron and Steel Act 1967 by the British Steel Corporation (other than money borrowed for the payment off of any part of the debt assumed by them under section 18 of the Iron and Steel Act 1967); and
  2. (ii) the amount outstanding in respect of the principal of any money borrowed under section 19 of that Act by the publicly-owned companies (within the meaning of that Act) otherwise than from the British Steel Corporation;
does not exceed £500,000,000 or such greater sum, not exceeding £650,000,000, as the Minister of Power may from time to time by order (made by statutory instrument) specify; and (b) any sum required by the Board of Trade for making to the British Steel Corporation, in respect of an asset vested in them by virtue of the said Act of the present Session or in pursuance of arrangements approved by the Minister of Power, being an asset of a company in public ownership within the meaning of the Iron and Steel Act 1967 in respect of which a grant might have been made under section 1, 2 or 6 of the Industrial Development Act 1966 had the asset not vested in the British Steel Corporation and, in a case in which capital expenditure is incurred with reference to the asset by the British Steel Corporation, had it been incurred by the company, a grant of the like amount as the Board might have made to the company in those circumstances; (3) any increase attributable to the provisions of the said Act of the present Session in the sums which, under provisions of the Iron and Steel Act 1967, fall to be paid out of the National Loans Fund or the Consolidated Fund; and (4) the payment into the Consolidated Fund of any sum received by the Minister of Power under the said Act of the present Session.—[Mr. Freeson.]

10.15 p.m.

Mr. Michael Shaw (Scarborough and Whitby)

I am sorry to delay the House, but I have one question to ask the Minister. Does the Money Resolution empower the Steel Corporation to spend the additional sums which it will have at its disposal for buying the additional fringe companies relating to its other activities? We should like to know the answer to this since it affects the debate which will take place eventually on the Committee stage of the Bill.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Power (Mr. Reginald Freeson)

The answer is quite simple. The passage of the Money Resolution does not alter the position which has obtained up to now with regard to the B.S.C. purchasing or negotiating for the purchase of what the hon. Gentleman has called a fringe company. Any such move is subject to the Minister's authority and he has to be satisfied that it is an appropriate way to conduct the B.S.C.'s activities, in the same way as has occurred in the past when there has been a movement out of the public sector into the private sector.

Sir Keith Joseph (Leeds, North-East)

The Parliamentary Secretary has not answered my hon. Friend. Will we be able, under the Money Resolution, to debate the question on the Committee stage? We are asking whether the Money Resolution is drawn widely enough to permit debate on capital acquisitions on borrowed money. The second question is whether in Committee the Money Resolution permits us to discuss the point which the Government have not answered, which is set out at the bottom of page 43 of the Annual Accounts—[Interruption.]—namely—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The right hon. Gentleman is addressing the House and it must be most difficult against the amount of conversation which is now taking place. Sir Keith Joseph.

Sir K. Joseph

—namely, the matter of the £130 million of accumulated losses which are referred to on that page.

This, so far as I can see, is outside the terms of the Money Resolution, but we shall want to probe the treatment of that sum of money. I should like an assurance from the Parliamentary Secretary that the treatment of the loans connected with the four new steel plants which are referred to on that page will be within the Money Resolution.

Mr. Freeson

Strictly procedural matters are not for me to deal with categorically this evening. If there are any doubts about the points which might appropriately be raised in debate in Committee, I should have thought it was a matter for the Chairman of the Committee to give a ruling at the appropriate time.

Sir Harmar Nicholls (Peterborough)

The Parliamentary Secretary might not be in a position to answer the procedural question, but the House ought to have an answer. The Treasury Bench is full and the Minister himself is responsible. [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. I am listening with acute interest to the hon. Member for Peterborough (Sir Harmar Nicholls), but I want to hear him.

Sir Harmar Nicholls

The Minister in charge of the Bill is in his place and is flanked by many colleagues from other Departments. The figure about which we are talking is not a niggling amount, and I hope that I am giving the right hon. Gentleman time to get an answer. We know how these things are done. There are ways and means of getting advice. He ought to be using the time which I am now giving him to get the answer. In the interests of Parliamentary responsibility for this huge amount of money, the procedural question ought to be answered before we grant it.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. There is a host of hon. Members seeking to catch my eye. I must choose very carefully. Mr. John Peyton.

Mr. John Peyton (Yeovil)

I very much hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to supply the answer to this question. It is no good his saying that this is a procedural matter which can be disposed of in the Standing Committee. Although it is unusual for a Bill of this kind to go to a Standing Committee at all—

Mr. Speaker

Whether the Bill goes to a Standing Committee or not, the moment for deciding that momentous question has passed.

Mr. Peyton

Mr. Speaker, surely even a Member of Parliament is entitled to an obiter dictum. I know that we are not entitled to very much. We do not even get the papers—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I hesitate to make a terrible pun and say that it might be an obituary if the hon. Gentleman does not come to his point.

Mr. Peyton

I am not at the moment seeking to write my own obituary or anyone else's. The writing of obituaries is a matter for which the Treasury Bench is well qualified at the moment.

We are giving the Parliamentary Secretary all the time that we can. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will answer the question, or call up some powerful allies from the Treasury, who are accustomed to conducting these debates, so that it can be explained on behalf of the Administration to what extent those of my right hon. and hon. Friends who will have the inestimable privilege of serving on the Standing Committee will be able to discuss the matter to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph) has referred. Until the Parliamentary Secretary or some other Government spokesman—

Mr. Speaker

Order. It will be for the Chairman of the Committee to which the Bill is sent to decide which Amendments are in order and which are not. The hon. Gentleman may ask general questions about the scope of the Money Resolution.

Mr. Peyton

That is the point, Mr. Speaker. The Parliamentary Secretary has the responsibility of defining what the Money Resolution does and the extent to which it confines those of my right hon. and hon. Friends who will serve on the Standing Committee. At the moment, the look of perplexity on the face of the Parliamentary Secretary gives one the impression that perhaps he is in deep water and that the torrent of advice to which he is presently being subjected will not necessarily facilitate his easy response to the question posed by my right hon. Friend.

All that I wish to do is put him at his ease and make him feel that he is well able to answer the penetrating question put to him by my right hon. Friend. I acknowledge the smile on the face of the hon. Gentleman—

Mr. Speaker

Order. We are not discussing the Parliamentary Secretary. We are discussing the Money Resolution.

Mr. Peyton

Unfortunately, there is a very close association between the two. At any rate, we will be glad to receive from the hon. Gentleman a much better idea than we have at present about the extent of the discussion which it is possible for the Chairman of the Standing Committee to allow, bearing in mind the fence being erected by the Money Resolution.

Mr. Peter Blaker (Blackpool, South)

As I understand it, the Government are asking the House to pass this Money Resolution. My right hon. and hon. Friends are asking whether it is the right Money Resolution and whether it is framed in a satisfactory way. That is the purpose of the questions that they have asked.

Before deciding whether to vote on the Money Resolution or whether it should go through unopposed, surely this is a relevant question for the Government to answer. It cannot be satisfactory for the Parliamentary Secretary simply to say that it is a matter for the Chairman of the Standing Committee to rule upon when the Bill gets to the Committee. We are not in Committee yet, and the question which is before the House is about the form of Resolution that the House should pass, which in turn will be binding on the Committee and will be guidance to which its Chairman will have to refer.

Unless the Parliamentary Secretary is able to answer the questions put to him by my right hon. and hon. Friends, I fear that the horrible suspicion that the Parliamentary Secretary does not have a clue about what is going on will be confirmed. Will he kindly answer the question?

Mr. Freeson

We will have our fun. Mr. Speaker.

I have nothing to add to the specific points that were put earlier in the debate. The fringe activities, the sale or purchase of plants and factories, etc. outside or inside the public sector is not changed by the drafting of the Money Resolution.

The £130 million, to which reference has been made, is covered by the capital debt in the accounts.

The detailed manner in which any such points shall be raised in Committee is not for me to include or exclude. It is for the Chairman to decide whether hon. Members are in order when they raise certain matters in Committee.

Mr. Michael Shaw


Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member has exhausted his right to speak.

Mr. Peter Emery (Honiton)

I do not think that the answer given by the Parliamentary Secretary makes any sense in relation to the question that was asked. We know, from the same Ministry, the problems we have had with Money Resolutions in the past. For instance, when a question was put on certain aspects of the Mines and Quarries (Tips) Bill

Mr. Speaker

Order. One Money Resolution is enough.

Mr. Emery

I realise that, Mr. Speaker. But the Ministry of Power has previously been unable to answer properly whether certain matters would be allowed to be debated by the drawing of a Money Resolution. At that time the Minister said that it would depend on interpretation by the Chair. Therefore, I ask the Minister: does he believe—I am not asking what he believes anybody else believes, but does he believe—that the drawing of the Money Resolution will preclude the Committee discussing peripheral purchase by the Corporation of other activities? If so, I shall want to vote against the Money Resolution. If this can be discussed in Committee, we may allow the Money Resolution to go through. But will the Minister give his view on what the Money Resolution will allow on that subject?

Sir John Eden (Bournemouth, West)

I am sorry that the Minister has not been able to answer the question: what will be the scope for debate as defined by the terms of the Money Resolution? He has answered a number of other questions which were not put to him. In the circumstances, we cannot possibly allow this Money Resolution to go by. Therefore, I must ask my right hon. and hon. Friends to vote against it.

Question put:

The House divided: Ayes 241; Noes 98.

Division No. 204.] AYES [10.28 p.m.
Albu, Austen Fraser, John (Norwood) Millan, Bruce
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Freeson, Reginald Miller, Dr. M. S.
Alldritt, Walter Gardner, Tony Milne, Edward (Blyth)
Anderson, Donald Garrett, W. E. Molloy, William
Ashton, Joe (Bassetlaw) Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C. Morgan, Elystan, (Cardiganshire)
Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.) Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth) Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)
Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham) Gregory, Arnold Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)
Bacon, Rt. Hn. Alice Grey, Charles (Durham) Morris, John (Aberavon)
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside) Moyle, Roland
Barnett, Joel Griffiths, Will (Exchange) Murray, Albert
Beaney, Alan Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Newens, Stan
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood Hamilton, William (Fife, W.) Norwood, Christopher
Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton) Hamling, William Oakes, Gordon
Bessell, Peter Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Ogden, Eric
Bidwell, Sydney Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith O'Malley, Brian
Binns, John Haseldine, Norman Oram, Albert E.
Bishop, E. S. Hattersley, Roy Orbach, Maurice
Blackburn, F. Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis Owen, Will (Morpeth)
Blenkinsop, Arthur Hooley, Frank Page, Derek (King's Lynn)
Boardman, H. (Leigh) Hooson, Emlyn Paget, R. T.
Booth, Albert Horner, John Palmer, Arthur
Boston, Terence Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Parkin, Ben (Paddington, N.)
Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur Howie, W. Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)
Boyden, James Hoy, James Pavitt, Laurence
Bradley, Tom Huckfield, Leslie Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)
Bray, Dr. Jeremy Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey) Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred
Brooks, Edwin Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Pentland, Norman
Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper) Hughes, Roy (Newport) Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)
Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.) Hunter, Adam Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)
Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury) Hynd, John Prentice, Rt. Hn. R. E.
Buchan, Norman Irvine, Sir Arthur (Edge Hill) Pursey, Cmdr. Harry
Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn) Jeger, Mrs. Lena (H'b'n & St. P'cras, S.) Rankin, John
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford) Rees, Merlyn
Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.) Rhodes, Geoffrey
Carmichael, Neil Jones, Dan (Burnley) Richard, Ivor
Carter-Jones, Lewis Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West) Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy
Chapman, Donald Kenyon, Clifford Robertson, John (Paisley)
Coleman, Donald Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham) Robinson, Rt. Hn. Kenneth (St. P'c'as)
Conlan, Bernard Kerr, Russell (Feltham) Rodgers, William (Stockton)
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Lawson, George Roebuck, Roy
Crawshaw, Richard Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton) Rose, Paul
Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard Lee, John (Reading) Ross, Rt. Hn. William
Darling, Rt. Hn. George Lestor, Miss Joan Rowlands, E.
Davidson, Arthur (Accrington) Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.) Ryan, John
Davies, Ednyfed Hudson (Conway) Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Lipton, Marcus Sheldon, Robert
Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford) Lomas, Kenneth Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Loughlin, Charles Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)
Delargy, Hugh Luard, Evan Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
Dell, Edmund Lubbock, Eric Silverman, Julius
Dempsey, James Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.) Skeffington, Arthur
Dewar, Donald Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Slater, Joseph
Diamond, Rt. Hn. John McBride, Neil Small, William
Doig, Peter McCann, John Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)
Dunn, James A. Macdonald, A. H. Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael
Dunnett, Jack McGuire, Michael Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John
Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e) McKay, Mrs. Margaret Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.
Eadie, Alex Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen) Summerskill, Hn Dr. Shirley
Edelman, Maurice Mackie, John Taverne, Dick
Edwards, William (Merioneth) Mackintosh, John P. Thomas, Rt. Hn. George
Ellis, John Maclennan, Robert Thomson, Rt. Hn. George
English, Michael McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.) Thornton, Ernest
Ennals, David MacPherson, Malcolm Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy
Ensor, David Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.) Tinn, James
Evans, Fred (Caerphilly) Mahon, Simon (Bootle) Urwin, T. W.
Faulds, Andrew Mallalieu E. L. (Brigg) Varley, Eric G.
Fernyhough, E. Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.) Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)
Finch, Harold Mapp, Charles Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)
Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Marks, Kenneth Walden, Brian (All Saints)
Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston) Marquand, David Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard Wallace, George
Foley, Maurice Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy Watkins, David (Consett)
Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale) Maxwell, Robert Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)
Ford, Ben Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert Wellbeloved, James
Forrester, John Mendelson, John Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Fowler, Gerry Mikardo, Ian Whitaker, Ben
White, Mrs. Eirene Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin) Woof, Robert
Whitlock, William Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Wilkins, W. A. Willis, Rt. Hn. George TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.) Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton) Mr. Ioan L. Evans and
Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch) Wilson, William (Coventry, S.) Mr. Joseph Harper.
Williams, Clifford (Abertillery) Winnick, David
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Hastings, Stephen Peel, John
Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n) Hawkins, Paul Peyton, John
Balniel, Lord Hay, John Pink, R. Bonner
Batsford, Brian Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos. & Fhm) Higgins, Terence L. Price, David (Eastleigh)
Biggs-Davison, John Hiley, Joseph Pym, Francis
Black, Sir Cyril Hill, J. E. B. Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Blaker, Peter Hirst, Geoffrey Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)
Body, Richard Hornby, Richard Russell, Sir Ronald
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John Hunt, John St. John-Stevas, Norman
Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford) Sandys, Rt. Hn. D.
Braine, Bernard Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.) Scott-Hopkins, James
Buck, Antony (Colchester) Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)
Bullus, Sir Eric Kaberry, Sir Donald Silvester, Frederick
Burden, F. A. Kershaw, Anthony Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)
Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn) Kirk, Peter Stodart, Anthony
Carlisle, Mark Knight, Mrs. Jill Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.
Clegg, Walter Lane, David Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Cooke, Robert Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow, Cathcart)
Costain, A. P. Longden, Gilbert Temple, John M.
Crowder, F. P. Maclean, Sir Fitzroy Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.
Currie, G. B. H. McNair-Wilson, Michael Waddington, David
Dalkeith, Earl of McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest) Wells, John (Maidstone)
Dance, James Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford) Mawby, Ray Williams, Donald (Dudley)
Digby, Simon Wingfield Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Eden, Sir John Monro, Hector Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard
Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.) Morrison, Charles (Devizes) Wright, Esmond
Emery, Peter Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles Wylie, N. R.
Eyre, Reginald Neave, Airey
Farr, John Nicholls, Sir Harmar TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Foster, Sir John Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael Mr. Jasper More and
Glover, Sir Douglas Osborn, John (Hallam) Mr. Bernard Weatherill.
Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds) Page, John (Harrow, W.)