HL Deb 06 April 1965 vol 265 cc21-5

3.20 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.


My Lords, I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen to acquaint the House that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the Airports Authority Bill, has consented to place her interest, so far as it is concerned on behalf of the Crown, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.


My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill be now read a third time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 33. —(Lord Beswick.)

On Question Bill read 33, with the Amendments.

Clause 8:

Accounts and audit

8.— (2) The accounts of the Authority shall be audited by auditors appointed by the Minister, and a person shall not be qualified to be so appointed unless he is a member of one or more of the following bodies—

LORD BESWICK moved, in subsection (2), after "Minister" Ito insert "after consultation with the Authority". The noble Lord said My Lords, this Amendment was discussed in principle on Second Reading and again at subsequent stages of the Bill. We are all quite well aware of what is involved. The question of the appointment of the auditor has been presented as one which concerns the status of the Authority and the degree of trust and independence granted to it. The matter was first raised by the noble Lord, Lord Reith, and subsequently by Lord Hurcomb, Lord Selkirk and Lord Beattie.


Lord Jellicoe.


I beg the noble Earl's pardon—Lord Jellicoe. I hope no offence is taken; it was the wrong Admiral. They all pursued the same line of argument, and my noble friend Lord Brown, from his industrial experience, put another point of view. The Amendment which I now move will, I hope, satisfy all concerned. Very properly, it leaves ultimate responsibility with the Minister, but at the same time it recognises the standing and rights of this Authority. In moving this Amendment I should like to thank again the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, for the way in which he was good enough to accept my undertakings on the Report stage and for withdrawing his own Amendment. I hope that he is satisfied with the wording I now bring forward. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 7, line 21, after ("Minister") insert ("after consultation with the Authority").—(Lord Beswick.)


My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, for this Amendment. He has been as good as his word, and I am most grateful to him. This provision for consultation has now become more or less standard practice in public authorities, and I believe that it is a good thing that it should be formally incorporated in statutory form. Therefore it is a good addition to the Bill.


My Lords, I should like to support the Amendment, but I am only using it as a peg (because I have not had an opportunity to speak on this measure before) to welcome the noble Lord, Lord Beswick. Fifteen years ago, he and I were colleagues at the Ministry of Civil Aviation, and I should like to tell him and the House how pleased I am that the Prime Minister has appointed him to his present position and that he is speaking for civil aviation. He knows a great deal about the subject and his heart is in it. Throughout the discussions on the Bill the House has been able to see with what authority the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, has spoken. I wish the new Authority every success, and I wish the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, the same.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill do now pass. I think that it would be inappropriate to let the Bill go from us back to another place without a few words of farewell and good wishes. It has been subjected to a most rigorous examination whilst it has been before your Lordships' House. The procedures of this House have been used to the utmost. I must say that, coming from another place, it has been quite an experience for me to find no fewer than four stages at which a Bill could be amended. I think we should all agree that it is a much better Bill now than when it was first brought before your Lordships' House. If I may say so, the other day my right honourable friend the Prime Minister said something about noble Lords having the bit between their teeth when voting in this House. If he was thinking of the War Damage Bill, I must confess that I, too, thought I saw some tell-tale marks around certain noble mouths. But on this particular Bill it is not so much the bit between the teeth that I could picture, but more the pencil behind the ear, because I must say, if I may be allowed to do so, that many noble Lords seem to have spent a good deal of time through the watches of the night doing their homework on this Bill.

I was asked on Report stage by the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, whether or not it would introduce into the Bill an element of hybridity if the grant-attracting areas were specified in the Bill. In answer to an interjection by the noble Earl, when replying on the Amendment, I said that as then advised it almost certainly would introduce this hybridity, but that this was not the argument which we had in mind when we first introduced the clause as it now stands. I went on to say: The basic argument for this clause is that there should be flexibility, as the noble Earl requires, and that flexibility is best obtained by spelling out the details in a Statutory Instrument."—[0FiriciAL REPORT, Vol. 264 (No. 60), col. 1239; April 1, 1965] The noble Earl will realise that his question about hybridity was hypothetical. For that reason, and because the question of hybridity is one to be decided by the House authorities and not by Her Majesty's Government, I could not then, and I cannot now, give a precise answer. It will depend very largely on the drafting. In view of the hypothetical nature of the question, I cannot properly go further than to say that if the grant-attracting areas had been spelt out in the Bill, the House authorities might have felt it necessary to refer the Bill to the Examiners.

Having said that, I should like, finally, again to wish well those who will be responsible for this new Authority which the Bill will establish. No amount of words in this House or in the other place will count as decisively and as importantly as the work which all those concerned, in the boardroom and on the airports, will put into the service of this new Authority. I am sure that I speak on behalf of the whole House (and I know that my noble friend Lord Ogmore, whose kind words I appreciate, will agree with me in this) when I say that we wish every success to this new public Authority which we propose to establish.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(Lord Beswick.)


My Lords, I need not detain your Lordships long. As your Lordships know, this Bill came to us as a broadly agreed measure, and it is perhaps surprising that we have taken so long in discussing it. But although we agree on the principles behind this Bill, my noble friends and I had three areas of doubt when the Bill came to us. We had some doubt whether the responsibilities of the new Authority were clearly enough defined; and these doubts my noble friend Lord Selkirk ably expressed. We had some doubts whether the financing—and, above all, the initial financing—which the new Authority was to receive was adequate; and we had some doubt whether the status being conferred on the new Authority was adequate for a body of the standing we all wished such an Authority to have. I cannot, in honesty, say that the discussions in this House have done a great deal to resolve our doubts on the first two points, though I think they have done something to resolve our doubts about the status of the new Authority. That applies not least to the last Amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, for which I, like my noble friends, are grateful.

We have also been detained, of course, upon the important new clause introduced by the Government to enable householders around Heathrow to soundproof their houses. I suspect that this new principle, which has been introduced into the Bill, might prove even more important as time goes on than we at present think. But, having expressed some doubts about some aspects of this new clause, I would certainly confirm that we accept its principle. I am a little disappointed that the noble Lord has not been able to give me a more definitive ruling on the question of hybridity. But this is a point which another place may well wish to take up, if they wish to specify in the Bill the areas to which the clause should apply.

That said, my Lords, I should like to add only two points. The first is to echo what the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, has just said, and wish this new Authority the best of all possible good fortune. I would add that, in my view, its success will stem not so much from the adequacy of this particular Bill, but, even more so, from the adequacy of its membership. I very much hope that the Minister of Aviation will soon be able to announce that he has been able to recruit really first-class people to this important new Authority.

The second thing I would say is that, although there have been two Ministers in charge of this Bill, I think that most of the heat and burden of the day has fallen upon the noble Lord, Lord Beswick. This has been the first Bill which he has piloted through this House, and I should like to thank him for the invariable courtesy which he has extended to myself and my noble friends. He has always been courteous, not only in accepting our suggestions—on the rare occasions when he has done so but also when, more frequently, he has "stonewalled". I should like to say how much we appreciate his handling of this measure.

Qn Question, Bill passed, and returned to the Commons.