HL Deb 23 October 1968 vol 296 cc1494-6

[No. 45]

Leave out Clause 48.

The Commons disagreed to this Amendment but proposed the following Amendments to the words so restored to the Bill:

[Nos. 46–51]

Page 69, line 1, after first "person", insert "and to sell to outside persons petrol, oil and spare parts and accessories for motor vehicles, and for that purpose to purchase any of those things".

Page 69, line 3, after "and", insert "the Waterways Board shall have power to sell goods of any description to outside persons, whether or not persons using their waterways, at any place where persons using those waterways may require facilities for the purchase of those goods, and for that purpose to purchase any such goods; and".

Page 69, line 8, leave out "or subsection(6)" and insert "and other than the provisions of this subsection relating only to the Waterways Board".

Page 69, line 39, leave out subsectitons (6) and (7).

Page 70, line 20, leave out "or (6)".

Page 70, line 29, leave out from beginning to first "to" in line 31 and insert "subsection (2) (which relates to the powers of the Water-ways Board".

3.28 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that this House doth not insist on its Amendment No. 45 to which the Commons have disagreed, and I suggest it would be convenient to discuss at the same time the Commons Amendments Nos. 46 to 51. The Government have considered the various points which were made by noble Lords in Committee, but they still feel that in the public interest these publicly owned undertakings could be enabled to use to the full the resources which they have. We still believe that they must be freed from the unreason able, as we think, restrictions of the 1962 Act. The Government intend, however—and I am glad to make this clear—that the competition with the private sector shall be fair, that all the activities under Clause 48 shall be conducted on fully commercial principles and that there shall be no unfair subsidisation with public money.

And there are ample safeguards, I suggest, in Clause 48 to ensure that these intentions can be put into effect.

I am suggesting, therefore, that the House agrees that Clause 48 shall stand part of the Bill, but there are two points to which I should like to draw your Lordships' attention. First, the duty of an authority, when it engages in activities under these new powers, to act as if it were a company engaged in a commercial enterprise has, by Amendments made in another place, been deleted from this clause and inserted instead in the new clause on this subject which we introduced in this House on Report. Secondly, there is one important change in Clause 48 as it was restored in another place, and this change has been made in accordance with the statement made by my noble friend Lord Shepherd at the Committee stage in this House.

In Clause 48, as it then stood, subsection (4) required the Boards to submit proposals to the Minister from time to time as to the manner in which they intended to use the new powers of manufacture and repair in subsection (2). This obligation, however, did not apply to activities under subsection (6). The noble Lord, Lord Nugent, sought to apply subsection (4) to activities under subsection (6), and it was said by my noble friend Lord Shepherd, on behalf of the Government, that we accepted the principle of what the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, was suggesting. Therefore, we did take this into account. The former subsection (6) has been omitted and its substance incorporated in subsection (2). As a result, subsection (2) now contains the entire range of new powers in the clause and all the safeguards in the clause apply to all the powers. There are a number of small changes to other parts of the Bill consequential upon the restoration of Clause 48. I beg to move.

Moved, That this House doth not insist on its Amendment No. 45 to which the Commons have disagreed, but doth agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 46 to 51.—(Lord Beswick.)


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, for explaining the effect of these Amendments to Clause 48 and, in so far as they introduce an additional safeguard with regard to the point on subsection (6), I should like to thank him. Perhaps I should say that I do not think it necessary for me to make another half-hour speech on this subject. I think the requirement in Clause 134 in the new Bill, that the subsidiaries shall operate as commercial enterprises, will be a substantial safeguard. I should have preferred to see Clause 48 removed altogether from the Bill, but I recognise that its application is likely to be much narrower than I had originally expected. To that extent I feel that it is less objectionable. For those reasons we do not propose to dissent.

On Question, Motion agreed to.