HC Deb 28 July 1982 vol 28 cc1201-5
Mr. Alan Williams

I beg to move amendment No. 2, in page 3, line 32, leave out clause 7.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bernard Weatherill)

With this, it will be convenient to take amendment No. 3, in page 4, line 5, after 'vicinity of', insert 'or working on'.

Mr. Williams

When I was first asked to deal with this Bill on Second Reading, I little expected the excitement and attention that it would attract. I have been astonished this evening, as I have walked around the Corridors, to find the assiduous interest displayed by the servants of the House and even by the policemen on duty in the progress of the Bill and the amendments. I suspect that that is a tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton) for the lucidity with which he exposed the problems and paradoxes implicit in this legislation. I should have been slightly happier if the questions put to me had been addressed more to the potential quality of the debate than to the quantity. However, I have no intention of adding to the quantity because the import of both amendments is clear and was mentioned in Committee.

I asked the Minister to consider amendment No. 3 in Committee. We were grateful for the fact that he accepted the suggestion that there should be an amendment to ensure that those who live on duchy land or in its vicinity would have their interests taken into account by the Treasury when consent was being considered. Equally, it seemed appropriate that those who worked for the duchy should have such consideration. However, it also occurred to us that to move an amendment with the words "working for" would exclude many people on the estate who work for tenants and who would have an equal interest in decisions. For that reason we have included the words "working on" the estate.

Amendment No. 2, on which the House may have to divide, is important, because although we asked in Committee about the implications of subsection (1) of clause 7—the other subsections arise automatically from subsection (1)—we also asked the Minister to explain the implications of a transaction being permissible with Treasury consent although it would not otherwise be authorised. We asked about the limits on that power being given to the Treasury. The Executive is being given, in one subsection of an inconspicuous piece of legislation, power to set aside wide-ranging decisions of the Legislature. The Minister did not tell us in Committee about the limitations. In the notes on clauses that the Minister kindly circulated to Members of the Committee, it was made clear that the proposal was to cover contingencies that at this stage were not even envisaged.

Unless the Minister can tell us now precisely what he wants, however small the vote may be, it is important that we register our strong objection to the Executive being given that wide-ranging power to set aside legislative decisions.

Mr. Hayhoe

I should like to deal first with amendment No. 3, the less radical of the two amendments with which the right hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Williams) is concerned. I have a great deal of sympathy with the intention behind the amendment. It is very much in tune with the proposal made in Committee that the Treasury must have regard to the manifest advantage of the local populace". I explained to the Committee that this was a somewhat unworkable concept in the view of lawyers and advisers. I tabled an amendment that sought to make clear that there would be concern for persons living on, or in the vicinity of, the land. This was acceptable to the Committee. It also goes a long way to cover the point made by the right hon. Gentleman that there should be concern, in the Treasury's exercise of power under clause 7, for those people who work in the area and who could be affected by the decisions being made. I am advised that the words that we have already put into the Bill go a long way to cover the concern of the right hon. Gentleman.

I would also say to the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Penhaligon), who has much duchy land in his constituency, that the duchy, by its nature, is permanently exposed to the glare of publicity in its dealings and must endeavour to conduct its affairs in an exemplary Manner. The general expectation is that transactions conducive to the good management of the Duchy will have full regard to those working on, as well as living on, or near, the land concerned. Full weight will be given by the Treasury to those considerations in deciding whether to give consent to proposals under the Bill.

On the wider issue of the elimination of clause 7, the right hon. Gentleman referred to the fear expressed in Committee that "any transactions" would allow the procedures of the clause to be used to set aside even decisions of Parliament. I am advised that this is not so. The reference to Any transaction affecting Duchy property which would not otherwise be authorised is and would be interpreted as a transaction not authorised by the management Acts and not precluded by any other existing legislation. There would be no question of setting aside under clause 7 general provisions that this House had enacted. I hope that the clause will be allowed to go forward. It is a useful provision. Treasury approval is required for any particular item concerned. Accountability is written in as a result of an amendment moved by the right hon. Gentleman and accepted in Committee which means that a report of every authorisation under clause 7 will be made to the House. There has been consultation since the Committee stage with the officers of the House. It is now agreed that the duchy account in the new form prescribed by the legislation will, when it becomes law, be printed as a paper of the House and will then meet a number of the points raised by the hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton) about the circulation of the accounts and their availability to the public. I am happy to give that assurance, and I hope that on that understanding the right hon. Member for Swansea, West will not press the amendments. If he wishes to go to a vote I must advise my right hon. and hon. Friends to vote against them.

12.30 am
Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, Central)

In Committee I made the point repeatedly that there was no reference in the Bill as originally drafted to the local people. The Bill dealt with tidying up the management to provide additional profits for the estate's sole beneficiary. However much the Minister dresses up the language he uses to put the Bill before the House, the fact is that, whatever else might be claimed for the Bill, it is not a modernisation measure. The estate remains, as it always has been, a feudal enclave being ruthlessly exploited for the benefit of one person, with little regard—despite what the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Neale) said in Committee—for the tenants' welfare.

I have received numerous letters containing evidence that the tenants are grossly dissatisfied and sometimes frightened of the duchy. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Williams) will force a Division on amendment No. 2, which provides for clause 7 to be left out. I am not satisfied that it gives the tenants the protection that they should have.

I am not convinced by the Minister's arguments of the reasons for not accepting amendment No. 3. Why should those words not be inserted? How will a man working for a fanner be protected under the provisions of the Bill as drafted? It is thoroughly unsatisfactory and I hope that my right hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, West will force his amendment to a Division.

Mr. David Penhaligon (Truro)

Amendment No. 3 adds the words "working on" and I have no objection to their being added to the Bill. They cannot weaken the Bill, and I do not understand why the Minister cannot accept the amendment. It does not affect the major problem of farm amalgamations, which I tried to raise in Committee. I am not crazy enough to suggest that Treasury permission should be required before the Duke of Cornwall takes six acres off one farm and adds them to another, or carves up a smallholding if he thinks fit. That seems to be well within the province of sensible local management. I dread to think what would happen to farming if the House should ever give a Minister that much power.

I expressed my anxiety in Committee, and I do so again. The major effect that duchy policies have had in my county in the past decade during which I have taken a close interest has not been on the selling or buying of property, but on farm amalgamations. One could make the speech in other circumstances, too, but I believe that the estate of the Duchy of Cornwall does the community a disservice by leading the trend towards farm amalgamations. Occasionally economic forces make amalgamation popular, and in some cases it is necessary.

I ask the Minister to consider the amendment favourably. I cannot see what harm it can do. A significant proportion of my constituents and many other people in the South West rely on the duchy estate for their living. I see no reason why they should not be protected.

Having listened to the Minister, I am not a great deal wiser about clause 7 or how the Bill is supposed to work. I ask him to think again about amendment No 3.

Mr. Alan Williams

I am grateful to the Minister of State for what he said about amendment No. 3, and shall not press it further in view of his assurances.

The hon. Gentleman has done his best to convince us about amendment No. 2, but he will not be surprised to learn that he has failed. We have won the argument. In view of the hour, it would be in everyone's interest if we allowed the matter to be decided by the brutal adjudication of the Division Lobbies.

Mr. Hayhoe

The hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton) referred to "ruthless exploitation". There is no evidence of that. Far from thinking that, I believe that the local populace would wish to join us in wishing the Duke of Cornwall a happy wedding anniversary.

We are sympathetic to amendment No. 3, but the phrase "working on" is too vague. People working on duchy property in Kennington would include building surveyors, test match cricketers, lawyers, doctors, painters and so on. The concept behind the amendment was referred to by the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Penhaligon). It will be taken into account.

I hope that my hon. Friends will support me in seeking to maintain clause 7.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 16, Noes 83.

Division No. 297] [12.38 am
Campbell-Savours, Dale Martin, M(G'gow S'burn)
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (B'stol S) Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Cryer, Bob Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Dixon, Donald Skinner, Dennis
Dormand, Jack Williams, Rt Hon A.(S'sea W)
George, Bruce
Hamilton, W. W. (C'tral Fife) Tellers for the Ayes:
Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Mr. Allen McKay and
McCartney, Hugh Mr. George Morton.
Alexander, Richard Marlow, Antony
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Marshall, Michael (Arundel)
Ancram, Michael Mather, Carol
Bendall, Vivian Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Benyon, Thomas (A'don) Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Berry, Hon Anthony Mayhew, Patrick
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Mills, Iain (Meriden)
Blackburn, John Moate, Roger
Boscawen, Hon Robert Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)
Brinton, Tim Murphy, Christopher
Brown, Michael(Brigg & Sc'n) Neale, Gerrard
Bruce-Gardyne, John Neubert, Michael
Cadbury, Jocelyn Newton, Tony
Carlisle, John (Luton West) Normanton, Tom
Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (R'c'n) Osborn, John
Cope, John Parris, Matthew
Dorrell, Stephen Penhaligon, David
Dover, Denshore Proctor, K. Harvey
Dunn, Robert (Dartford) Rhodes James, Robert
Faith, Mrs Sheila Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Fletcher-Cooke, Sir Charles Rossi, Hugh
Fraser, Peter (South Angus) Rumbold, Mrs A. C. R.
Good lad, Alastair Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Griffiths, Peter Portsm'th N) Sims, Roger
Gummer, John Selwyn Sproat, Iain
Hamilton, Hon A. Stanbrook, Ivor
Hawkins, Sir Paul Stevens, Martin
Hawksley, Warren Stradling Thomas, J.
Hayhoe, Barney Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Heddle, John Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
Hooson, Tom Thompson, Donald
Hunt, David (Wirral) Townsend, Cyril D, (B'heath)
Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas Trippier, David
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Waddington, David
King, Rt Hon Tom Waldegrave, Hon William
Lang, Ian Waller, Gary
Lester, Jim (Beeston) Ward, John
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Wells, Bowen
Lyell, Nicholas Wheeler, John
MacKay, John (Argyll) Wickenden, Keith
Major, John Wolfson, Mark
Younger, Rt Hon George Brooke and
Mr. Tristan Garel-Jones
Tellers for the Noes: Mr. Peter

Question accordingly negatived.

Motion made, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

[Queen's Consent, on behalf of the Crown, and Prince of Wales' Consent, on behalf of the Duchy of Cornwall, signified.]

Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 56 (Third Reading):

The House divided: Ayes 80, Noes 11.

Division No. 298] [12.49 am
Alexander, Richard Marshall, Michael (Arundel)
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Ancram, Michael Mayhew, Patrick
Bendall, Vivian Mills, Iain (Meriden)
Benyon, Thomas (A'don) Moate, Roger
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)
Blackburn, John Murphy, Christopher
Boscawen, Hon Robert Neale, Gerrard
Brinton, Tim Neubert, Michael
Brooke, Hon Peter Newton, Tony
Brown, Michael(Brigg & Sc'n) Normanton, Tom
Bruce-Gardyne, John Osborn, John
Cadbury, Jocelyn Parris, Matthew
Carlisle, John (Luton West) Penhaligon, David
Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (R'c'n) Proctor, K. Harvey
Cope, John Rhodes James, Robert
Dorrell, Stephen Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Dover, Denshore Rossi, Hugh
Dunn, Robert (Dartford) Rumbold, Mr[...] C. R.
Faith, Mrs Sheila Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Fraser. Peter (South Angus) Sims, Roger
Garel-Jones [...]stan Sproat, Iain
Goodlad, Alas[...]air Stanbrook, Ivor
Griffiths, Peter Ports[...]'th N) Stevens, Martin
Gummer, John Selwyn Stradling Thomas, J.
Hamilton, Hon A. Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Hawkins, Sir Paul Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
Hawksley, Warren Thompson, Donald
Hayhoe, Barney Townsend[...]ril D, (B'heath)
Heddle, John Trippier, David
Hooson, Tom Waddington, David
Hunt, David (Wirral) Waldegrave, Hon William
Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas Waller, Gary
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Ward, John
King, Rt Hon Tom Wells, Bowen
Lang, Ian Wheeler, John
Lester, Jim (Beeston) Wickenden, Keith
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Wolfson, Mark
Lyell, Nicholas
MacKay, John (Argyll) Tellers for the Ayes:
Major, John Mr. Anthony Berry and
Marlow, Antony Mr. Carol Mather.
Campbell-Savours, Dale Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (B'stol S) Skinner, Dennis
Cryer, Bob Williams, Rt Hon A.(S'sea W)
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)
Dixon, Donald Tellers for the Noes:
Hamilton, W. W. (C'tral Fife) Mr. George Morton and
Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Mr. Allen McKay.
McCartney, Hugh

Question accordingly agreed to.

Bill read the Third time, and passed.

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