HC Deb 26 October 1982 vol 29 cc903-9


Lords amendment: No. 1, in page 3, line 33, at end insert "Bus".

4.21 pm
The Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mrs. Lynda Chalker)

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

This amendment is purely technical, and designed to correct a slip in the drafting. The mistake arose when amendments Nos. 7 and 8 were agreed to on Report. The amendments, which were intended to meet points raised by the Opposition, provided for the Secretary of State to consult the county councils in appropriate cases before issuing a direction to the bus company. As a result of the amendments the word "Bus" was inadvertently left out of the description of the company. "Bus Company" is the term used in major references throughout part I. It is defined in clause 7.

Mr. Albert Booth (Barrow-in-Furness)

I hope that I was not previously represented as being unduly critical of another place. Lords amendment No. 1 suggests that the other place has done public transport interests a singular disservice by drawing what is almost a fatal defect in part I of the Bill to the Government's attention. Had the amendment not been tabled, it would have been impossible for the Secretary of State to use the powers provided under clause 3 to direct the bus company. We should reject the Lords amendment knowing that by doing so we shall deny the Secretary of State power to issue instructions to the National Bus Company.

It is clearer now than when the Bill was last before the House that the Secretary of State intends to use the powers provided under clause 3 to instruct the National Bus Company to sell off two types of operation—first, its highly profitable long-distance coaching services and, second, its holiday services. We are not only worried about the loss of a further valuable, profitable, publicly owned industry, we are—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bernard Weatherill)

Order. We are dealing with a Lords amendment which is basically a drafting amendment. It is not in order to open up a wide debate on the major issue of the bus company. We are dealing with one amendment that inserts the word "Bus".

Mr. Booth

I am sorry, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if I did not explain the scope within which I was working. I intended to be extremely careful to show the balance of the argument. Clause 7—the interpretation clause—as presently drafted states that "the Bus Company" means "the National. Bus Company". That is to be found in line 24 on page 6 of the Bill.

Unless the Lords amendment is carried, clause 3 cannot possibly bite upon the National Bus Company. The Lords amendment enables the Secretary of State to give instructions to the National Bus Company under clause 3. If one is opposed to the Secretary of State giving such instructions, it must be in order to develop arguments as to why it would be wrong for him to have the power to give such instructions.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I am bound by the rules of the House. The amendment relates to page 3, line 33, to insert the word "Bus" into clause 3. We read "the Bus Company" throughout the rest of clause 3. We must confine our debate to whether the word "Bus" should be inserted before the word "Company".

Mr. Booth

Precisely. If the word "Bus" is not in subsection (1), the power for the Secretary of State to give instructions is circumscribed within the clause. As the Minister fairly pointed out, the remainder of the clause deals with consultations about instructions to the bus company. The clause gives the Secretary of State power to give a direction, and if one amends that to "Bus Company" it has a clear and specific meaning derived from the interpretation in clause 7.

If we amend the clause to read "Bus Company", we are unquestionably giving a power to the Secretary of State to instruct the National Bus Company. If the House rejects the Lords amendment it will be contended that the Bill does not give such a power. It could be challenged by the National Bus Company in the courts that the Bill gives the Secretary of State a power to direct it. That is important because of certain developments that have taken place between the time of the Bill leaving and returning to the House. The Secretary of State has proceeded on the assumption, presumably, that the Lords amendment would be carried. If that is so, the House must surely have the right to debate the amendment before deciding whether the Secretary of State is to be given such a power.

The Secretary of State could not possibly have such a power until the Bill becomes law. If the Bill becomes law without the Lords amendment, he will not have the power to direct the bus company. I want to argue briefly why he should not have such a power.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that this is basically a drafting amendment? The right way to register his objection would be for him to advise his right hon. and hon. Friends to vote against it.

4.30 pm
Mr. Booth

I accept your guidance, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and shall advise my right hon. and hon. Friends accordingly.

If the amendment is carried, it will make it clear beyond peradventure that the Secretary of State has the power to direct the National Bus Company under the definition in clause 7. If he so directs, as he has said and as we believe he is proceeding in his discussions with the NBC to do, it will mean a considerable loss of profitability from the sections that are sold off. The money is currently used to subsidise extensive stage carriage operations which are desperately required in a number of parts of the country.

If the amendment is carried, it will also raise the question for the House about whether the loss is to be made up by transport supplementary grant. The signs are that it will not be.

The extraction of the coaching services, which will be possible if the Lords amendrnent is carried, would make a number of valuable joint services uneconomic. Over the past year the stage passenger mileage has fallen substantially. The company's coaching operations have risen enormously from 46 million service miles in the financial year 1980–81 to 62 million.

I call on all hon. Members to oppose the Lords amendment.

Mrs. Chalker

I repeat that this is a drafting amendment. At an earlier stage the provisions for consultation with the National Bus Company were written into the Bill. Part I of the Bill is all about the NBC. The Secretary of State must have the power to require it to exercise its powers under sections 1 and 2 of the Act.

The problems that the right hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Booth) is worried about account for only 1½ per cent. of the group's working profit. From his comments one would have thought that the sum was much greater.

Mr. Peter Fry (Wellingborough)

Are there not individual companies within the group where the figure is much higher? One example is Southdown, where coaching makes a considerable contribution to overall profit. Will my hon. Friend confirm that the Government are aware of that fact and that it will be taken into consideration in any future allocation of TSG?

Mrs. Chalker

We are aware of the significant variations in different parts of the country. But the right hon. Gentleman was talking about the express and holiday sectors, and the figure for that is 1½ per cent. of the group's working profit.

Having taken a power to consult, we are in a better position to consider individual needs in the NBC's operations in different parts of the country.

Question put, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment:—

The House proceeded to a Division—

Mr. James Lamond (Oldham, East)

(seated and covered): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I should like to draw to your attention the fact that on the way to the Division from the Upper Committee Floor and in very good time to be here to vote the lift stuck with seven hon. Members inside. I wonder whether there is anything that can be done to ensure that those of us who were inadvertently prevented from voting are able to vote.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bernard Weatherill)

If that is so—I must take it as being so as the hon. Gentleman has raised the matter—the only solution is to have the Division again. Is that the wish of the House?

Hon. Members


Mr. Arthur Lewis (Newham, North-West)

(seated and covered): Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it not the case that if the two "usual channels" agree, it is possible for you to insert the hon. Members' names in the Division list without wasting the time of the House on another vote?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I have no power to direct that names be entered if hon. Members have not voted. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to press the issue, the only solution is to have the Division again. Does the hon. Gentleman wish to press the issue?

Mr. Lamond

(seated and covered): Since a number of votes will have to be taken this evening which will take a good deal of time, I am prepared not to press the matter.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

So be it.

The House having divided: Ayes 279, Noes 196.

Division No. 327] [4.35 pm
Adley, Robert Eyre, Reginald
Alexander, Richard Fairbairn, Nicholas
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Fairgrieve, Sir Russell
Alton, David Faith, Mrs Sheila
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Farr, John
Ancram, Michael Fell, Sir Anthony
Aspinwall, Jack Fenner, Mrs Peggy
Atkins, Rt Hon H.(S'thorne) Finsberg, Geoffrey
Atkinson, David (B'm'th,E) Fisher, Sir Nigel
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Fletcher, A. (Ed'nb'gh N)
Banks, Robert Fletcher-Cooke, Sir Charles
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Fookes, Miss Janet
Beith, A. J. Forman, Nigel
Bendall, Vivian Fowler, Rt Hon Norman
Bennett, Sir Frederic (T'bay) Fox, Marcus
Benyon, Thomas (A'don) Fraser, Rt Hon Sir Hugh
Benyon, W. (Buckingham) Fry, Peter
Best, Keith Gardiner, George (Reigate)
Bevan, David Gilroy Garel-Jones, Tristan
Biffen, Rt Hon John Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Glyn, Dr Alan
Blackburn, John Goodhew, Sir Victor
Blaker, Peter Goodlad, Alastair
Body, Richard Gorst, John
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Gow, Ian
Boscawen, Hon Robert Gower, Sir Raymond
Bowden, Andrew Grant, Anthony (Harrow C)
Boyson, Dr Rhodes Gray, Hamish
Braine, Sir Bernard Griffiths, Peter Portsm'th N)
Brinton, Tim Grist, Ian
Brittan, Rt. Hon. Leon Grylls, Michael
Brooke, Hon Peter Gummer, John Selwyn
Brotherton, Michael Hamilton, Hon A.
Brown, Michael(Brigg & Sc'n) Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)
Bruce-Gardyne, John Hannam, John
Bryan, Sir Paul Haselhurst, Alan
Buck, Antony Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael
Budgen, Nick Hawkins, Sir Paul
Bulmer, Esmond Hawksley, Warren
Burden, Sir Frederick Hayhoe, Barney
Butcher, John Heddle, John
Carlisle, John (Luton West) Henderson, Barry
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Chalker, Mrs. Lynda Hicks, Robert
Channon, Rt. Hon. Paul Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Chapman, Sydney Hill, James
Churchill, W. S. Holland, Philip (Carlton)
Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th, S'n) Hooson, Tom
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) Hordern, Peter
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Clegg, Sir Walter Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldf'd)
Cockeram, Eric Howell, Ralph (N Norfolk)
Colvin, Michael Howells, Geraint
Cope, John Hunt, David (Wirral)
Corrie, John Irvine, Bryant Godman
Costain, Sir Albert Irving, Charles (Cheltenham)
Cranborne, Viscount Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick
Crouch, David Jessel, Toby
Dickens, Geoffrey Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Dorrell, Stephen Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J. Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith
Dover, Denshore Kaberry, Sir Donald
du Cann, Rt Hon Edward Kershaw, Sir Anthony
Dunn, Robert (Dartford) King, Rt Hon Tom
Durant, Tony Kitson, Sir Timothy
Dykes, Hugh Knox, David
Eden, Rt Hon Sir John Lamont, Norman
Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke) Lang, Ian
Eggar, Tim Latham, Michael
Elliott, Sir William Lawrence, Ivan
Emery, Sir Peter Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel
Lee, John Rost, Peter
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Royle, Sir Anthony
Lester, Jim (Beeston) Rumbold, Mrs A. C. R.
Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
Lloyd, Ian (Havant &W'loo) St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Loveridge, John Shelton, William (Streatham)
Luce, Richard Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Lyell, Nicholas Shepherd, Richard
McCrindle, Robert Shersby, Michael
Macfarlane, Neil Silvester, Fred
MacGregor, John Sims, Roger
MacKay, John (Argyll) Skeet, T. H. H.
Macmillan, Rt Hon M. Smith, Dudley
McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury) Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st) Speed, Keith
McQuarrie, Albert Speller, Tony
Major, John Spence, John
Marland, Paul Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Marlow, Antony Sproat, lain
Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Squire, Robin
Marten, Rt Hon Neil Stainton, Keith
Mates, Michael Stanbrook, Ivor
Maude, Rt Hon Sir Angus Stanley, John
Mawby, Ray Steen, Anthony
Mawhinney, Dr Brian Stevens, Martin
Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Stewart, A.(E Renfrewshire)
Mayhew, Patrick Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Meyer, Sir Anthony Stokes, John
Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon) Stradling Thomas, J.
Miscampbell, Norman Tapsell, Peter
Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Moate, Roger Temple-Morris, Peter
Montgomery, Fergus Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M.
Moore, John Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
Morgan, Geraint Thompson, Donald
Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes) Thorne, Neil (llford South)
Morrison, Hon P. (Chester) Thornton, Malcolm
Murphy, Christopher Townend, John (Bridlington)
Myles, David Townsend, Cyril D, (B'heath)
Neale, Gerrard Trippier, David
Nelson, Anthony Trotter, Neville
Neubert, Michael van Straubenzee, Sir W.
Newton, Tony Vaughan, Dr Gerard
Onslow, Cranley Viggers, Peter
Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S. Wainwright, R.(Colne V)
Owen, Rt Hon Dr David Wakeham, John
Page, John (Harrow, West) Waldegrave, Hon William
Page, Richard (SW Herts) Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir D.
Parris, Matthew Wall, Sir Patrick
Patten, Christopher (Bath) Waller, Gary
Pattie, Geoffrey Walters, Dennis
Pawsey, James Ward, John
Percival, Sir Ian Warren, Kenneth
Peyton, Rt Hon John Wells, Bowen
Pink, R. Bonner Wells, John (Maidstone)
Pitt, William Henry Wheeler, John
Pollock, Alexander Whitelaw, Rt Hon William
Porter, Barry Whitney, Raymond
Price, Sir David (Eastleigh) Wickenden, Keith
Proctor, K. Harvey Wiggin, Jerry
Raison, Rt Hon Timothy Wilkinson, John
Rathbone, Tim Williams, D.(Montgomery)
Renton, Tim Winterton, Nicholas
Rhodes James, Robert Wolfson, Mark
Ridley, Hon Nicholas Young, Sir George (Acton)
Ridsdale, Sir Julian
Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey Tellers for the Ayes:
Roberts, M. (Cardiff NW) Mr. Anthony Berry and
Roberts, Wyn (Conway) Mr. Carol Mather.
Rossi, Hugh
Abse, Leo Bagier, Gordon A.T.
Adams, Allen Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)
Allaun, Frank Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (H'wd)
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Benn, Rt Hon Tony
Ashley, Rt Hor Jack Bennett, Andrew(St'kp't N)
Ashton, Joe Bidwell, Sydney
Atkinson, N.(H'gey,) Booth, Rt Hon Albert
Bottomley, Rt Hon A.(M'b'ro) Johnson, James (Hull West)
Bray, Dr Jeremy Johnson, Walter (Derby S)
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Jones, Rt Hon Alec (Rh'dda)
Brown, R. C. (N'castle W) Jones, Barry (East Flint)
Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith) Kerr, Russell
Buchan, Norman Kilroy-Silk, Robert
Callaghan, Rt Hon J. Lambie, David
Callaghan, Jim (Midd't'n & P) Leadbitter, Ted
Campbell, Ian Leighton, Ronald
Campbell-Savours, Dale Lestor, Miss Joan
Canavan, Dennis Lewis, Arthur (N'ham NW)
Cant, R. B. Litherland, Robert
Carmichael, Neil Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Carter-Jones, Lewis Lyon, Alexander (York)
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) McCartney, Hug
Clarke,Thomas(C'b'dge, A'rie) McDonald, Dr Oonagh
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (B'stol S) McGuire, Michael (Ince)
Cohen, Stanley McKelvey, William
Coleman, Donald MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor
Concannon, Rt Hon J. D. McMahon, Andrew
Conlan, Bernard McTaggart, Robert
Cook, Robin F. Marks, Kenneth
Craigen, J. M. (G'gow, M'hill) Marshall, D(G'gow S'ton)
Cryer, Bob Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)
Cunliffe, Lawrence Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Cunningham, Dr J. (W'h'n) Mason, Rt Hon Roy
Dalyell, Tam Maxton, John
Davidson, Arthur Maynard, Miss Joan
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli) Meacher, Michael
Davis, Clinton (Hackney C) Mikardo, Ian
Davis, Terry (B'ham, Stechf'd) Milian, Rt Hon Bruce
Deakins, Eric Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) Mitchell, Austin (Grimsby)
Dewar, Donald Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Dobson, Frank Morris, Rt Hon C. (O'shaw)
Dormand, Jack Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Douglas, Dick Morton, George
Dubs, Alfred Moyle, Rt Hon Roland
Duffy, A. E. P. Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick
Dunnett, Jack Newens, Stanley
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G. Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Eadie, Alex O'Neill, Martin
Eastham, Ken Palmer, Arthur
Edwards, R. (W'hampt'n S E) Parker, John
Ellis, R. (NE D'bysh're) Parry, Robert
English, Michael Pavitt, Laurie
Ennals, Rt Hon David Pendry, Tom
Evans, loan (Aberdare) Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Evans, John (Newton) Prescott, John
Ewing, Harry Race, Reg
Fitch, Alan Richardson, Jo
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Roberts, Allan (Bootle)
Ford, Ben Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)
Forrester, John Robinson, P. (Belfast E)
Foster, Derek Rooker, J. W.
Foulkes, George Ross, Ernest (Dundee West)
Fraser, J. (Lamb'th, N'w'd) Rowlands, Ted
Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald Sever, John
George, Bruce Sheerman, Barry
Golding, John Sheldon, Rt Hon R.
Gourlay, Harry Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Graham, Ted Short, Mrs Renée
Hamilton, W. W. (C'tral Fife) Silkin, Rt Hon J. (Deptford)
Hardy, Peter Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)
Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Skinner, Dennis
Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith Smith, Rt Hon J. (N Lanark)
Healey, Rt Hon Denis Snape, Peter
Heffer, Eric S. Spriggs, Leslie
Hogg, N. (E Dunb't'nshire) Stallard, A. W.
Holland, S. (L'b'th, Vauxh'll) Stewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles)
Home Robertson, John Stoddart, David
Homewood, William Stott, Roger
Hooley, Frank Strang, Gavin
Howell, Rt Hon D. Straw, Jack
Huckfield, Les Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
Hughes, Mark (Durham) Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Thomas, Dr R.(Carmarthen)
Hughes, Roy (Newport) Thorne, Stan (Preston South)
Jay, Rt Hon Douglas Tilley, John
John, Brynmor Tinn, James
Torney, Tom Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Urwin, Rt Hon Tom Williams, Rt Hon A.(S'sea W)
Varley, Rt Hon Eric G. Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)
Wardell, Gareth Wilson, William (C'try SE)
Wainwright, E.(Dearne V) Winnick, David
Walker, Rt Hon H.(D'caster) Woodall, Alec
Watkins, David Woolmer, Kenneth
Welsh, Michael Wright, Sheila
White, Frank R. Young, David (Bolton E)
White, J. (G'gow Pollok)
Whitehead, Phillip Tellers for the Noes:
Whitlock, William Mr. James Hamilton and
Wigley, Dafydd Mr. Allen McKay.

Question accordingly agreed to.

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