HC Deb 28 July 1982 vol 28 cc1200-1

`Any costs incurred by the Treasury as a result of the operations of this Act shall be met jointly by the Treasury and the Duchy, these costs being shared between them in the same proportion as the excess of receipts over disbursements from the Duchy is shared between the Consolidated Fund and the Duke.'.—[Mr. Alan Williams.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

12.16 am
Mr. Alan Williams (Swansea, West)

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

We had a brief debate on this subject in Committee. I see no point in repeating at length the points that we discussed then. I told the Minister that we wished to give him time to consider his position, as he was not entirely unsympathetic to the idea of a sharing of costs. He suggested that it might be possible to think in terms of dividing the costs evenly. The point that I made to him at that stage was that any costs incurred are incurred at the request of the duchy, because it has initiated an application for consent. Therefore, it would seem appropriate, since the duchy, particularly at present, stands to derive three times as much benefit from any additional surplus as does the Contingency Fund, that any costs that arise should also be split in the same proportion. The Minister was kind enough to send me a letter stating how limited the costs have been so far, but I would make the point that if he examines clause 7, which will be debated next, and considers how potentially wide-ranging that clause is in its implications, he will realise that the costs that could be imposed are utterly unpredictable. In those circumstances, it seems to be a reasonable safegaurd to ensure that the costs are borne in the same proportion as the benefits are derived.

The Minister of State, Treasury (Mr. Barney Hayhoe)

As the right hon. Gentleman said, this point was raised in Committee. I said that I would give it consideration and take advice, particularly if it were thought that the costs were likely to be considerable. My inquiries have made it clear that in the past the demands upon the Treasury for carrying out its duties under the earlier legislation have been small. With regard to the Bill before us, it is not envisaged that there will be any substantial or considerable increase in that work. For example, no increase in complement within the Treasury is foreseen as a result of the Bill. It may be that if the provisions that the right hon. Gentleman is commending to the House were accepted, they would add considerably to the costs involved because of the exercise that would have to be carried out. In those circumstances, one does not envisage any significant extra expense as a result of the provisions, and the amendment could be time-consuming and costly in its own right. As I explained in my letter to the right hon. Gentleman, this would not exclude special arrangements being made by the Treasury if at some future time some heavy expense seemed to arise under the Bill. In these circumstances, I could not advise the House to give a Second Reading to the clause. I hope that it will be withdrawn or I shall recommend my right hon. and hon. Friends to resist it.

Mr. Alan Williams

In view of the Minister's assurances that the Treasury could impose an apportionment of costs if they were seen to be considerable, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.

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