HL Deb 18 May 1970 vol 310 cc905-51

3.18 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Shepherd.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The EARL OF LISTOWEL in the Chair.]

Clause 1[National Ports Authority]:

LORD DRUMALBYN moved Amendment No. 1: Page 1, line 12, leave out ("the harbour") and insert ("those harbours").

The noble Lord said: The purpose of this Amendment is to clarify what is meant by the word "harbour" and to obtain an explanation of what is meant by the words "the harbour" in this context. I suggest that as this Bill is all about harbours it is perhaps as well to remind your Lordships in what sense the word is used. Last century a Bill started off with a definition clause; and Orders often still do. It has the advantage of letting the reader of the Bill know straight away what Parliament means by an expression.

The Interpretation Clause in this Bill comes at the end and is Clause 63. It says that "harbour" has the same meaning as … for the purposes of the Harbours Act 1964". The definition in the 1964 Act is a long and complicated one; it says: 'harbour', except where used with reference to a local lighthouse authority, means any harbour, whether natural or artificial, and any port, haven, estuary, tidal or other river or inland waterway navigated by sea-going ships, and includes a dock, a wharf, and in Scotland a ferry or boatslip being a marine work, and, where used with reference to such an authority, has the meaning assigned to it by section 742 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1894". Noble Lords who have been studying the Merchant Shipping Act will perhaps be able to tell us what that meaning is.

The importance of that definition is that as there can be docks and wharves within harbours there can also be harbours within harbours. The relevance of that point will emerge in our discussions on the Bill, but it follows that every time the word "harbour" is used we have to consider in what sense it is used and what is the extent of its connotation. It can be used in a wide sense or it can be used in a narrow sense. The Joint Ports Committee has expressed doubt whether the definition is apt and has suggested that it should be: Any harbour under the direct control of a port authority". Perhaps the Government will consider this point and, if necessary, move an Amendment when we come to the Interpretation Clause. I appreciate the difficulties but it may be that for Parts I and II of the Bill, at least, some such definition would be better.

The second point is that the Bill starts by defining the functions of the National Ports Authority. The importance of the functions is that where a new public authority is created it has conferred on it powers, and those powers should be sufficient to enable the authority to perform its functions, and no more than sufficient. By the same token the functions must be clearly expressed. Here we have a rather curious use of words: There shall be a national Ports Authority who shall have the function at the harbours for the time being placed under their charge of doing the following things, that is to say … improving, maintaining and managing the harbour … One would have expected to find the words "those harbours". I am bound to confess that, as a Parliamentarian, at any rate when I am not a member of the opposite Front Bench, when an abnormal use is made of words my suspicions are aroused. Therefore, I would ask the noble Lord to explain precisely what is meant. I beg to move.


I congratulate the noble Lord upon his research during the weekend. My understanding of the words "harbour" and "harbours" is one and the same thing, but I am advised that I can accept the noble Lord's Amendment because although, as I have said, the two words mean the same thing perhaps it is more natural for the Bill to be phrased in the way the noble Lord suggests, in view of the fact that later on in the Bill we refer to "harbours". Therefore, I think it right that the same phrase should be used so that there may be no misunderstanding later on. I am happy to accept the Amendment.


If I may say so that is a very good start, and I hope that it will be a foretaste of more to come.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

3.23 p.m.

LORD DRUMALBYN moved Amendment No. 2: Page I, line 13, after ("providing") insert ("or securing the provision of").

The noble Lord said: The purpose of this Amendment is to make it clear that the National Ports Authority will not necessarily provide all the services and facilities themselves but will nevertheless be responsible to the nation for seeing that they are provided. May I just remind the Committee of the actual wording? It says: Providing services and facilities for or in connection with the loading or unloading of goods in or from ships".

Clauses 36 and 37 of the Bill make it clear that some port businesses will be excepted from the takeover. For example, at a cargo wharf which is managed to deal with goods manufactured by the person carrying on the business, or where harbour operations are carried out to deal with goods manufactured by the person carrying on the business, or to be used by the person carrying on the business for the manufacture or production of goods, or of electricity. In such cases it may obviously be more efficient and economic for the company concerned to provide their own services and facilities, especially as those services and facilities may be highly specialised. Apart from that, experience may well show that it would be better for a company loading or unloading goods from ships to provide at least some of their own services and facilities. So I suggest that it would be wise to make provision in this subsection for this to be done. As it stands, the subsection could be interpreted to mean that the National Ports Authority must exclusively provide all the services and facilities.

The Bill itself shows that that is not the intention. Over the weekend, as part of my researches, I have re-read the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, and I must again congratulate him on a splendid exposition of what the Bill means. He spoke with great clarity, and he made it clear again and again that the Government's intention was that the National Ports Authority—and I quote: should become the principal operators of port services and facilities within their ports, and, by virtue of this, the principal employers of port labour."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7/5/70, col. 314.] That clearly must mean that they will not be the sole operators of port services or the sole employers of port labour. I think that the opening words of the Bill make that clear. I hope that this Amendment will commend itself to the Committee and to the Government. I beg to move.


Clause 1(1) is meant to indicate as generally and as concisely as possible the purposes for which the N.P.A. is being set up. It is the intention of the Government that the N.P.A. should be the principal provider of the common user harbour services. It is therefore appropriate to speak here of the N.P.A.'s providing such services, but not, so to speak, of their securing such provision, presumably by means of agents or by inducing others to set up harbour services or facilities. I am glad the noble Lord repeated what I said during the Second Reading debate. The N.P.A. have the power to carry out their functions through other purposes. Section 14(l)(a) of the Transport Act 1962, applied to the N.P.A. by Clause 6 and paragraph 4 of Schedule 3, gives them power—and I quote to enter into or carry out agreements with any person for the carrying on by that person, whether as agent for the"— Authority— or otherwise, of any of the activities which the"— Authority— may themselves carry on". In my Second Reading speech I gave a clear indication as to what the Government's view would be of the N.P.A. and its role. I indicated the powers that the N.P.A. will have under this Bill to delegate duties and opportunities to others, and I would advise the Committee that the noble Lord's Amendment, while right in principle, is inappropriate, and I hope he will not feel that he needs to persist with it.


I should like to support this Amendment and to request the Government to think about it a little more. There are a great many foreign ports where berths are provided with specialised equipment, by corporations and companies which carry on an enormous trade there. If it were done in this country it would obviously save a good deal of money and capital of the National Ports Authority, but the berth, naturally, would still be owned by them and would be under their control. There would seem to me to be real advantages in inserting into the Bill at this point a provision which makes it clear that the same sort of thing could happen in this country. We have a great deal of specialised equipment going out of this country with our exports, and of course a great deal coming in, and I believe some arrangement like this would be possible and greatly to the advantage of our foreign trade. Therefore I should be grateful if the Government would think further about this matter.


I thought that the end of the noble Lord's speech was a curious non sequitur. He seemed to be leading up to accepting this Amendment also. I still do not quite understand why he has not done so. The ports under the charge of the National Ports Authority will presumably include ports at which special arrangements are made, such as Purfleet, where it has already been indicated that arrangements will be made with the consortium which imports newsprint. Where that is done, would it not in many cases be much more suitable for the consortium itself to supply the port services?

The noble Lord quoted words from the 1962 Act where it is said that an authority can arrange for the provision through agents or otherwise. Would this be wholly satisfactory? The services and the facilities there would probably be owned by the consortium and probably operated by the consortium. It is a curious use of words to say that they would in any sense be agents of the National Ports Authority. The Act says, "or otherwise". In what sense does that apply in this case? The National Ports Authority would not be providing the services; they would be securing the possession of the services. I really do not follow the noble Lord's argument and should have thought that this Amendment ought to be accepted.


I think the noble Lords, Lord Drumalbyn, and Lord Hankey, should consider what subsection (1) of Clause 1 of the Bill does. It provides for the duty of the N.P.A., and that is to provide services and facilities. It does not say how they should provide it; it is required so to provide. The way in which it secures or provides for these services which are placed upon it by subsection (1) is provided for in Clause 6 of the Bill, that part which gives the powers of the Authority. I was not in any way dissenting from the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn; I was saying that this Amendment was inappropriate and unnecessary because the N.P.A. already has, under Clause 6, the powers to provide and to secure the services. I think we are getting slightly mixed up with the duty and the power. We have deliberately separated them from each other by having the duty in Clause 1 and the powers in Clause 6.


I do not want to delay the Committee on what is almost a verbal point, although I think it could be token as much more than that. The difficulty is that when you state a function to provide services at those harbours you indicate that that function will be performed by the National Ports Authority. The noble Lord is saying that it need not be performed by them; that they may make arrangements for somebody else to do it. Why not say so? That is all my Amendment says. The noble Lord will no doubt have had legal advice, but I would suggest that he could ask his legal advisers to consider what has been said in this debate to see whether my Amendment is acceptable.


I do not think there is a great deal between us, and I shall be quite willing to have this looked at between now and the next stage.


I am much obliged to the noble Lord, and I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

3.35 p.m.

LORD DRUMALBYN moved Amendment No. 3:

Page 1, line 14, at end insert— ("( ) preparing or reclaiming and preparing land adjacent to harbours under their charge, for use in connection with the manufacture, production, processing or packing of goods or the production of electricity.")

The noble Lord said: My noble friend Lord Lauderdale asked me to apologise to the House. He is unable to be present to-day and he has asked me to move this Amendment on his behalf. My noble friend's enthusiasm for the whole MIDA concept is well known to the House and he could have moved this Amendment very much more eloquently than I can.

The concept is that this Bill should leave open the possibility of the National Ports Authority developing a Maritime Industrial Development Area at one or more of the harbours under its charge. I recognise that it may be two or three years before any work can start on any MIDA, and that it will not necessarily start at any of the harbours under the charge of the National Ports Authority. But it could, and I should have thought that the Bill should contain provision for the- preparation of land adjacent to one of the National Ports Authority harbours—preparation by the Authority—or for reclamation of land and its subsequent preparation. If the land was not already owned by the National Ports Authority, I understand from the 1962 Transport Act that the Authority could use the powers under that Act to acquire it for its purposes. Even if it has all the necessary powers, would it not be as well to state as one of its functions the preparation and reclamation of land adjacent to its harbours?

This idea has been described in glowing terms as imaginative, but it is still in the imagination so far as this country is concerned. Nevertheless, it would be a pity if it proved necessary to introduce additional legislation in order to cover this point. The noble Lord may say that such a function is implicit in the word "improving", but the word "improving" is linked to harbours, and the sort of industrial estate which is envisaged is neither a harbour nor part of the harbour, any more than the old Trafford industrial estate is regarded as part of the Manchester Ship Canal and the harbours having access to it. It is not that we think that the National Ports Authority owning all the main harbours can do it better than or indeed as well as, one of the main harbours could do it on its own. If nationalisation of the ports should take place we would wish the National Ports Authority to have the powers it needs to provide a Maritime Industrial Development Area in the vicinity of one of its harbours should it be considered desirable and necessary. I hope that what I have said will at least show that we want this bill, if it goes through, to serve the country as well as possible and that we are approaching it in no obstructive or destructive spirit.


I should like to support this Amendment. It is novel to hear the Opposition proposing to do anything to strengthen a nationalised authority. So far as I am concerned, what I am anxious for is that the National Ports Authority should be encouraged to look at things on a large scale and to look forward. So often we find cases where, for instance, shipbuilding yards cannot adopt modern shipbuilding methods because they have never thought of acquiring the land behind them, and there are old bits of town and old bits of railway, and so on, in the way. I should like to think that now we shall have an Authority in which serious forward thought will be given to do things on a proper scale for the growing industry in this country. I therefore support this Amendment.


I am bound to say that I am going to find myself in some difficulties. First of all, I must congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, on a most enlightened approach—clearly a dramatic move from the traditional attitudes of the Party opposite in the realm of public ownership and its role in the industrial field. Perhaps a few more years on those Benches will have a satisfying result. Having said that, I would add that I am not in any way against the principle of the inclusion of these functions for the N.P.A. in the Bill. The noble Lord himself has drawn attention to the Transport Act 1962, in which there are powers which enable the N.P.A., with the consent of the Minister, to acquire land adjacent to their own if they propose to develop any of their own land for use otherwise than for the purpose of their own business. It does not specifically refer to the preparation and reclamation of land for such purpose, but there is no reason why the N.P.A. should not be given this power.

The only question I would raise is this. I remember on previous occasions when we have been trying to give a nationalised authority wide-ranging powers to manufacture, noble Lords have always resisted by saying, "Let the Authority do what they were meant to do"—I remember this being said on the Transport Act—"Do not give them duties which would in any way remove them from what is their prime object". I fear that this is what I must say to the Committee. I think that the task which confronts the N.P.A., the very size of the problem, is formidable; anyone who has any knowledge of harbours and the need for developing our harbour installations will recognise that there is a formidable task in front of them. Therefore, I would hesitate very much in putting this as one of the primary duties, because that is what it will mean if this addition is made to subsection (1), giving it as one of its primary duties the preparation and reclamation of land adjacent to harbours.

I should like a little time to see whether it is necessary to add to the powers of the Authority. I am advised that power may already exist, but we certainly would like to see whether that is so. If it does not exist, I will consider very seriously moving an Amendment on Report stage to give the National Ports Authority, shall we say, reserve power. I think perhaps this would be better dealt with in Clause 7 than in Clause 1, for the reasons I have given; I think we should try to keep in subsection (1) the main issue that confronts the N.P.A. Having said that, may I thank the noble Lord and say how glad I am that he is becoming enlightened.


I am much obliged to the noble Lord for undertaking to give consideration to dealing with this point in another way. When he puts down an Amendment, perhaps he would consider a suggestion that I made when we debated the White Paper, that in certain circumstances the National Ports Authority might join with others in carrying out this proposal. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

LORD DRUMALBYN moved Amendment No. 4: Page 1, line 18, after ("Authority") insert ("but nothing in this Act shall empower the Authority to require any information from any port not under their charge or to exercise any control over any such port.")

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 4, which would make subsection (2) read: The National Ports Authority shall keep under review the suitability and adequacy in relation to the trade of Great Britain of the harbours of Great Britain, including those not under the charge of the Authority, but nothing in this Act shall empower the Authority to require any information from any port not under their charge or to exercise any control over any such port … and so on. As I read the Bill—and I may be wrong; I may have omitted something or passed over something—I am not aware that the Bill does give the National Ports Authority any such power. In my view, ii would be inappropriate that they should have it, for the very good reason that they are to some extent in competition with the independent ports and you do not normally require information from your competitors. On the other hand, the Minister will of course have very full information, and undoubtedly, if he is going to exercise the powers in this subsection to call for advice on the suitability and adequacy of harbours from the National Ports Authority, he will have to disclose some of the information that he receives from the independent ports. That is something that obviously will have to be left to his discretion.

I think that we are in a real dilemma here, as a result of the way in which this Bill is drafted. With the Authority controlling the major ports, and the remainder, apart from those at present under the British Transport Docks Board, being independent, there is a considerable difficulty in seeing how the National Ports Authority will be able to advise the Minister on the suitability and adequacy of the harbours of Great Britain. I do not know how to resolve this difficulty: I say that quite frankly. But it seems to me wrong in principle that there should be any power in the National Ports Authority to require information from ports with which that Authority is in competition. I beg to move.


I should like to support my noble friend in this Amendment. I believe that it strikes at the very nerve control of the independents. I must say that massive, well-informed, logically argued criticism was levelled at this Bill during Second Reading; it received, I suggest, a pretty frosty reception. If the National Ports Authority are to act, on the one hand, as an advisory body and giving advice to the independents, how on earth will they operate then in their second capacity as a direct commercial operator? Nearly every speaker during the Second Reading debate forecast that the result would not assist the industry as a whole, or the independents. I think the argument against creating the National Ports Authority in this dual capacity is so conclusive that one can only assume that Her Majesty's Government in the wording of this subsection, have overlooked the circumstances in which the Authority will operate.

My noble friend has described the prime purpose of this Amendment, which is of course to retain some vestige of independence for the independents from the plodding giant State corporation—and by retaining some vestige of independence I have in mind some protection against being forced to give valuable commercial secrets to their direct competitors. For unless some protection is given (and it would not be enough for the Minister just to give an undertaking at this stage; it must be written into the Bill) the very future of the independents and the very valuable contribution they can offer to the industry in the future will be undermined.

Under this Bill the position of the independents is, I believe, to a large degree similar to the position of the independent operators in civil aviation. We have there independent operators who wish to apply for a scheduled service. They apply to the Air Transport Licensing Board, and then the Minister has the final say. The Minister to the Board of Trade is again in this delicate position of having a dual role: on the one hand, he has the responsibility for the national air corporations, and on the other hand, he is the final judge on appeal from the A.T.L.B. Almost invariably the State Corporation appeals against any application by an independent operator, and almost invariably the Minister, on appeal, refuses in favour of the State Air Corporation. So the system to a large degree has become farcical. I believe that here this same dual responsibility could lead to the same result. I support my noble friend.

3.52 p.m.


The Amendment seeks to add: but nothing in this Act shall empower the Authority to require any information from any port not under their charge or to exercise any control over any such port. First, I want to make it quite clear that there are no powers whatsoever in this Bill for the N.P.A. to exercise control over any port which is not under their charge. Nor is there any power under this Bill for the N.P.A. to obtain any information from a port not under their control, except as provided for in Clause 58. Clause 58 lays down that information shall be given when the N.P.A. are preparing a Clause 29 scheme—that is, for future takeover—or documents required in connection with it; or preparing an application for a vesting order for a port business under Part II; or determining whether a business is or comprises a port business for which the N.P.A. have a duty to apply for a vesting order. Those are the only cases in which the N.P.A. can require information from a harbour that is not under their control.

The powers in Clause 58 are necessary if the N.P.A. are at some stage to be required by the Minister to consider further development, an extension of harbour control, in the national interests, or if the N.P.A. think that it would be right so to do. Apart from Clause 58, which we have yet to consider, there is no other power in this Bill which requires anyone to give any information to the N.P.A. and, as I have said, the N.P.A. have no power to direct or control a port or harbour that is not under their physical control. With those words I hope that the noble Lord will feel satisfied. Whether Clause 58 goes far enough is clearly a matter to be gone into when we come to consider that clause.


When we come to Clause 58, we shall obviously have to look at this matter rather carefully, because it is difficult to see which is the hen and which is the egg in this. Are the National Ports Authority going to have to decide, or is the Minister going to have to decide, without information, that such-and-such a port should be added to the list, or is information to be sought so as to enable them to make the decision and to make the preparatory plan? I am bound to say that I did not really understand how Clause 58 was intended to work. In theory, of course, it would be quite possible for the National Ports Authority to get information from all the ports on the basis of their studying the possibility of acquiring. There is nothing to prevent that from happening. Obviously, they have other things to do to start with; but clearly we are concerned also with the longer term. But the noble Lord has not covered the question that I put to him to which this Amendment relates; namely, how is the Authority to give advice on the suitability and adequacy of a harbour if they do not have access to information? How is this to be done? I wonder whether the noble Lord can just deal with that point.


It is true that the N.P.A. will be a nationalised Authority and that there will be the independents. For myself, I would not visualise each of them carrying out their obligations, either to their shareholders or (as in the case of the nationalised industry) to the State, without quite a high degree of cooperation. Certainly this is what I should like to see. And if there is an interest in development I should have thought that the bodies would co-operate and consult together, exchanging information that might be helpful. When we were drafting this Bill the question was whether we should give the N.P.A. full authority to acquire any form of information from a competitor, without that competitor's wish or desire. I think that that would be utterly wrong. Therefore Clause 58 has been drafted so that information may be obtained only when it is required for a specific purpose, and, under the law, the N.P.A. could ask for that information from an independent only if it were required for that specific purpose.

There is a problem here. I personally should have thought that what is laid down in the Bill is about right, and that any other information which the various harbour authorities could give to each other would be given on a voluntary basis. At this stage I think it would be wrong to decree by Statute that the N.P.A. should be able, at their will, to obtain information from their competitors for any particular purpose. I think that if the Authority are to be empowered by Statute to get the information, it should be for a specific purpose. These specific purposes are outlined in Clause 58 of the Bill, which we can consider in detail when we reach it.

So far as the actual Amendment is concerned, if it were passed Clause 58 would become inoperative and any form of exchange of information would be ruled out. I would suggest to the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, that when we come to Clause 58 we should look at it to see whether it is too tight for what the noble Lord has in mind. If he thinks that it should be relaxed a little, I shall be very happy to consider his point.


The Minister has described the powers under Clause 58, and I am sure that the Committee will agree the National Ports Authority should have them. But surely his explanation makes nonsense of subsection (2), for the reasons that my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn has set out. How can the Authority advise the Minister at any time, and make recommendations to him, on matters affecting the suitability of harbours if the Authority do not have the powers? I am not advocating that they should have the powers. What I suggest is, that between now and Report the Minister should think about whether subsection (2) could not come out altogether.


I will certainly consider that, but clearly, in the end, the Minister has to decide whether extensions are to take place, whether new sums of money are to be found for capital development; and the N.P.A., which will be the professional body, those closest to the matter, are the people to give advice. Our dilemma here is what power should be given to this Authority, who will be in competition with private industry: whether they should have the power to collect all the information to convey to the Minister, which would mean that they would have greater knowledge of what is going on in the private field. I should have thought this matter was best left until we have a look at Clause 58, when we can consider whether it is too tightly drawn or whether it can be loosened a little to deal with the points that have been made about subsection (2).


With respect, I too think we shall revert to this matter when we come to the consideration of research and development. I think the Committee must recognise that this is one of the problems—we both described it as a dilemma—inherent in going from a non-operational Council to an operational Authority. The Council, of course, have these powers. There is now to be an operational Authority; and we on our side feel that the Authority should not be operational. This is one of the difficulties that is thrown up. Nevertheless, I am glad to have the noble Lord's confirmation—or virtual confirmation—and also some information from him on this point. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

THE EARL OF KINNOULL moved Amendment No. 5: Page 2, line 2, after ("any") insert ("such").

The noble Earl said: In the name of my noble friends I should like to move this Amendment which, as the Committee will have seen, is a very simple one. It is straightforward and, I hope, uncontroversial. Its purpose is to put beyond peradventure the scope of the term "harbour" under subsection (2). The vital word "such" suggested by this Amendment only confirms what I am sure was the intention of the Parliamentary draftsman, namely, that the references to "harbour" includes harbours under the National Ports Authority charge only. With that simple and, I hope, adequate explanation, I beg to move.


In view of that slight and adequate explanation of these two Amendments, I am happy to accept them.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move Amendment No. 6.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 4, after ("any") insert ("such").—(The Earl of Kinnoull.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

4.4 p.m.

LORD ABERDARE moved Amendment No. 7:

Page 2, line 7, at end insert— ("( ) In discharging their functions under the preceding subsections it shall be the duty of the National Ports Authority to consult with any body responsible for the physical, social or economic planning in the areas in which the harbours placed under the charge of the Authority are situated.")

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 7. This is one of a pair of Amendments with No. 20, which is in the name of my noble friend Lord Selkirk. He is, in fact, the godfather of this Amendment as well. It seeks to lay on the National Ports Authority an obligation to consult with planning authorities. No doubt at the National Ports Authority level this would probably mean with the Economic Planning Council for the particular region, and in the case of the port boards with the local planning authority. It seems to us of the highest importance that there should be mention in the Bill of the need to collaborate with the various planning authorities which, at the moment, are not referred to in it at all.

The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, was very helpful with our Amendment No. 3, and said that this power to prepare and reclaim land adjacent to harbours either existed or he would see that it would exist, but naturally one would expect any port board making use of those powers to consult and act in the closest co-operation with the relevant planning authorities. It clearly seems a truism to suggest this, but it is still of the utmost importance. The ports themselves are of first-rate importance, but they are in no way independent of their surroundings. The port itself is affected by adjacent planning decisions, and decisions taken in the port obviously affect planning decisions inland. The most obvious to come to mind are such things as road and rail communications with the port; manpower problems; and the provision of housing. I hope that the noble Lord will feel that this is a useful and constructive Amendment designed to ensure the proper liaison and proper consultation between the National Ports Authority and the planning authorities.


I am grateful for the explanation of Amendments Nos. 7 and 20. It is, of course, the intention that the N.P.A. and the port boards will consult with bodies of the kind mentioned in both Amendments when it is necessary or desirable for them to do so. Such bodies, for instance, could include local authorities, the Regional Economic Planning Councils, Development Boards, et cetera. The White Paper, in paragraph 21, spoke of encouragement to be given to these "subsidiary authorities"—that is, the port boards—to consult with the Regional Economic Planning Councils.

However, the problem is that the Amendment is not in precise enough terms to express a duty on the N.P.A.—for example, the "areas" in which the harbours are situated are not defined, nor is "social planning" defined. It is furthermore most unlikely that any such provision could be drafted at all in terms which would not cause confusion through lack of precision. As was often said to me when I was on the other side, if you include some of the organisations it can be construed that others, who are not mentioned, have been deliberately omitted. It was, therefore, considered better to leave it to the judgment of the N.P.A. and to the port boards which bodies should be consulted on any issue, within the basic policy that such consultation is desirable.

There are, as the Committee knows, user committees and other committees which have an important role in regional development, and I am quite certain that all these bodies, with all their joint responsibilities, will ensure that there is full and considered consultation between the parties and the N.P.A. and the port boards. I hope that the noble Lord will accept from me that the N.P.A. can be trusted to consult whatever bodies—whether they are commercial, social or economic—it would be advantageous for them to consult, but that it would not be an advantage to define any particular organisation specifically. It would be better to leave it as a general term with a general responsibility. I am quite certain that this would be the surest and safest way for us to proceed.


I am grateful to the noble Lord for his assurances. I thought that when he started he was making the case for me and that he was going to accept this Amendment. He gave me a good deal of assistance by mentioning the White Paper. However, he then criticised the Amendment for not being specific enough, and went on to find difficulty in making it more specific. I thought he might have accepted it in some sort of general form. I appreciate that there are difficulties, and perhaps we can think it over for the time being. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

4.10 p.m.

LORD DRUMALBYN moved Amendment No. 8: Page 2, line 17, after ("ships") insert ("other than petroleum").

The noble Lord said: I am afraid that this is an Amendment which will rupture the happy relations which have so far existed between the two sides of the Committee, and it is one on which strong views will be held. With the leave of the Committee, I should like to discuss Amendment No. 56 with this Amendment, which, as noble Lords opposite will no doubt be glad to hear, will avoid my having to speak to Amendment No. 56 when we come to it.

As I said on Second Reading, I fully recognise that the Government decided not to nationalise all the ports, and in that sense I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, that this Bill is not a doctrinaire measure. The Government have done well to resist the blandishments and efforts of some of their own members who wished at one time that all the ports should be nationalised. Then, later, they moved an Amendment to reduce the threshold figure of 5 million tons, inward and outward cargo in any period starting between July 1, 1966, and July 1, 1967. That threshold figure means, in effect, that if the rhythm of import, export and coastwise traffic, all taken together, exceeded 5 million tons between those dates, the port concerned would be nationalised under this Bill.

Having taken the decision not to nationalise all the ports, the Government were in some difficulty. Probably their best course, if they could have seen their way to do it, would have been to decide which harbours ought to come under the control of the National Ports Authority and to specify them in the Bill. But the effect of that would have been to make this a hybrid Bill, and I am advised that the only way of avoiding that is to define a class of ports to be taken over. So by introducing the formula of 5 million tons, the Government have been able to set aside a class to be nationalised.

This Amendment defines that class in a different way. The criterion is no longer 5 million tons of inward and outward cargo; instead, the criterion is 5 million tons of inward or outward cargo, less petroleum. So from the point of view of the criterion, oil would be taken out altogether when deciding which ports should be nationalised. If my Amendment No. 56 were carried, the Bill would then require to be referred to the Examiners so that they could decide whether it should be subject to the procedure for hybrid Bills. That would mean delay and, while I should be very happy if the Bill never reached the Statute Book in its present form, I do not suggest that in present circumstances much would be gained by delaying it in that way.

What we should like to see is the exclusion of the two oil ports authorities; that is to say, Milford Haven and the Medway. Milford Haven is almost exclusively an oil port, and the criticism about the efficiency of port services and facilities which is levelled against some other authorities cannot be laid against Milford Haven as an oil port. The figures given at Annex 1 of the White Paper show that, of the 27.8 million tons of inward and outward cargo handled at Milford Haven, all but 100,000 tons or so consisted of petroleum. In those circumstances, it really comes into the category of a port which is devoted wholly or mainly to one type of cargo. The Government may decide that while this port should come under national ownership, it should be dealt with in a special way and ought to be excluded from these provisions. If that is so we should like to hear about it, but we should prefer that it was made explicit in the Bill by this altered criterion that Milford Haven will not be taken over. It is of course conceivable that it could be developed as a general cargo port, or even as a MIDA, but that seems unlikely in view of its geographical situation and its communications.

As regards the Medway, all but 1.3 million tons of a total of 25.2 million tons of cargo handled in 1967 consisted of petroleum. There are, of course, arguments for treating the Thames on an estuarial basis, although I think there is some doubt about where that estuary begins. It is a matter of opinion and not of fact where the estuary is said to start. But the point of principle is that where a port is handling oil almost exclusively, then the oil interests are more likely to be able to ensure that they are properly served than if the port is subject 10 remote control by a port board a considerable distance away—as might well be the case with the Medway—which is, in turn, subject to direction and control by the National Ports Authority. If oil is taken out of the threshold of 5 million tons, then some of the ports which the Government propose to nationalise will fall short of the criterion. The Forth handled only 41 million tons in 1967 and 4.5 million tons in 1969, apart from petroleum. Bristol handled only 41 million tons in 1967 and 4.25 million tons in 1969, apart from petroleum. So by this Amendment they would be excluded from takeover. We should of course like the port of Bristol to retain its independence. There is not the slightest doubt in our minds that Bristol itself will suffer if the port is nationalised. It is the one port to be taken over which is owned by the local authority. It belongs to the citizens; and it is being taken away from them without compensation. We simply cannot believe that the interests of the port and of the city, which are so closely intertwined, will be so well served if the city loses control of its port. To the National Ports Authority it will be only one of many ports in their charge.

The Government have been vetoing the port's development. First of all there was the Portbury scheme, and then there was the West Docks scheme. In this connection the National Ports Council said, in their 1968 report: Although recognising that the direct and economic and financial case for the scheme"— that is, the West Docks scheme— appeared weak, the Council's consensus of opinion was to support approval on wider considerations, in particular because it was clear that only through the West Docks scheme could the Port of Bristol achieve a significant measure of further development. It looks very much that, if the Bill goes through in its present form, without my Amendment, Bristol will be condemned to carry on without further development.

On the other hand, the Forth Authority might join up with the Clyde, and it has been suggested that it would. But unless the Government are willing to accept our Amendment No. 21, it would not matter at all if the Forth were left out of the original list of ports to be nationalised. Clearly, if it was later decided that there should be one port board for the Clyde and the Forth, the National Ports Authority could take over the Forth under Clause 29 of this Bill. The fact that the Clyde, with 5.3 million tons of cargo other than oil, only just comes over the threshold for takeover does not matter in the least. In any case, in 1969 the cargo handled was well over the threshold: I believe that the total was 5.6 million tons. The reason we included Manchester and the Tees in our list in Amendment No. 56 was that they are both thoroughly efficient ports; they are both doing very well on their own. The total cargo, other than petroleum, handled on the Tees was 7 million tons in 1967, and 7.9 million tons in 1969; and that at Manchester was 6 million tons in 1967 and 5½ million tons in 1969, during which, noble Lords may remember, the Canal was blocked for a period. I hope that I have shown to the satisfaction of your Lordships that the exclusion of petroleum from the 5 million tons criteria would have no unduly inconvenient effects, and that it would be a good thing to do. I beg leave to move this Amendment.

4.24 p.m.


I should like to support the exclusion of petroleum, on purely petroleum grounds. This is a trade which is changing very fast: the size of ships is increasing enormously; the type of facilities which will be required are changing; and the specialisation is increasing very much. I think it will be much easier for the great oil companies to continue to provide the terminal port facilities, and probably also to operate them, than to expect the National Ports Authority to do it in a way guaranteed always to suit the oil companies. I think that if we want to keep up to date—and that is my main interest in this affair—it is better to leave the responsibility with the great oil companies.

There is another question. These enormous shipments of oil are extremely dangerous. We saw what happened when the "Torrey Canyon" ran aground. But if anything like that was to happen in the area of a port, it would be the most appalling disaster. I like to think that responsibility lands squarely on the company which is bringing all this stuff into the country, and that we know whom we can blame if anything goes wrong. If the company were able to blame the N.P.A., and the N.P.A. were able to blame the company, and the shipping company was standing off as third parties possibly responsible, the position would not be satisfactory. Therefore I think it is better to concentrate responsibility, and on those grounds alone I support the Amendment.


I am very grateful for the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, with regard to Amendment No. 56. He pointed out that if Amendment No. 56 was moved and pressed, no doubt with the usual consequences in your Lordships' Committee (the Amendment being successful because of the weight or strength of noble Lords opposite, not of argument but sheer voting strength), then we should be in considerable difficulties. Through hybridity, and the procedures we should have to go through, this Bill would be greatly delayed; and I am advised that if it was ever to be treated as a hybrid Bill it is doubtful whether, merely from the point of view of time—taking into account the time taken by Examiners, the hearing of cases, and so on—it would get through Parliament during the normal Session. I was glad that the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, said, as I think he did, that this would be a wrong way of delaying the passing of this Bill, to use what would be the consequences if Amendment No. 56 was passed. Therefore I will turn my attention basically to Amendment No. 8.

First of all, I am not quite certain, and I am not sure that the noble Lord was certain, what he meant by "petroleum". Every now and again he kept referring to the word "oil". In my understanding, oil and petroleum are two totally different things. Therefore, if this Amendment was to be acceptable some definition would have to be written into the Bill in order to define what we mean by "petroleum".

Before I come to the Amendment let us consider what the Government are seeking to do. We recognise, as I think do all those connected with the export industry, manufacturing, shipping and the like, that in general, despite the progress which has been made in recent years, our harbours and docks compare not very favourably with the ports and harbours on the Continent, and that there must be massive investment into those harbours and ports in the next few years. The Government take the view that this massive investment, this co-ordination, will not be achieved with fragmented harbours and ports authorities as we now have them. There may be a disagreement between us, but certainly the Government do not believe that this coordination will be achieved unless there is a central co-ordinating authority, with executive responsibility, answerable for the decisions that it takes.

If one accepts that, one then has to decide what harbours and port authorities it should take over. We have based our decision on a figure of 5 million tons per year. We may have come to it this way because of the problems of hybridity, but we have come to this figure because it seems to us to be the most sensible figure. Any of the harbours whose figures are below it are well below it, and therefore the 5 million tons is a figure that stands out as the most obvious one if you are going to use tonnage as the criterion for bringing harbours under a national authority. Let us recognise, too, that these harbours and authorities which we are taking over by this Bill represent some 95 per cent. of our export and import trade. Therefore I would suggest that there is solid ground for this figure of 5 million tons. The question is: should this eliminate certain types of commodity? You could make a case for petroleum and oil. Could you not, however, make an equal case—as the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, said, because we wish to be modern, to specialise—for other bulk commodities, like grain, ores, coal and so on which are to-day treated as though they were liquids? Once you start making exceptions, where should you or would you draw the line?

Having said that, I must point out to the noble Lord that if his Amendment were carried it would mean that Milford Haven Harbour would be excluded from the Bill, as would the Medway, the Forth and Bristol. All these four major ports would be taken from the control of the N.P.A. Would this be right? Would this be sensible? Let us consider this. Even those ports will need modernisation, will need vast sums of public money put into them for development. If they are excluded, is it not likely that the N.P.A. would put all the resources that they have, not into these particular harbours (because they would have no authority or responsibility for them) but into other ports and harbours for which they have direct responsibility, resources which perhaps should be invested in the very harbours which the Amendment seeks to exclude from the provisions of the Bill.

I would suggest that this would be not only retrograde in the national interest but, in the end, retrograde and unfair to the areas which are dependent on these harbours. If we are talking about the improvement and modernisation of the ports, we are not just thinking of those who work in the harbours, ports and towns—and I can understand the natural pride of the people of Bristol in their ports. These ports have a very large regional area which has a right to be consulted as to whether these particular ports and authorities are to be developed. Therefore I would ask the noble Lord not to press this Amendment, for not only would it exclude Milford Haven but also the other three ports which are not primarily petroleum and oil ports but general cargo ports. I think this would be a disservice not only to those ports themselves but also to the whole regional area which depends so much upon them for their industrial development. I hope that the noble Lord will not press this Amendment.


Before the noble Lord sits down may I ask the Government a question? Is it likely that anybody will put any money into developing a port which is just under the figure of 5 million tons? For if the figure of 5 million tons was exceeded they would then be nationalised and lose the advantage of their investment. What is the Government attitude on that?


I assumed that the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, who has intervened in our Committee stage, knew something about this matter and perhaps would have read the White Paper. He will find that if you draw the line at 5 million tons, the nearest to that figure is the Port of Blythe with 2.9 million tons. There are no ports anywhere within striking distance of this 5 million tons figure. That is one of the reasons why this figure was chosen.


I have read the Annexe to the White Paper and studied it closely; but I was not referring to that. This arises out of the Minister's own remarks. Is it likely that any port which is just under the 5 million tons figure ever will be developed? This is one of the things that has worried me about the Bill and it is relevant to this particular Amendment.


If he has studied Annexe "A", the noble Lord will now agree with me that there are no ports just within 5 million tons; and that therefore there should be no fear in any of these ports that they will be caught within this 5 million tons figure, the initial figure for vesting these authorities under the N.P.A. Of course, it can be varied; but then we have the various Parliamentary procedures and public inquiries involved. I would not myself think that any of these authorities outside the N.P.A. should have any fear about investment. As the noble Lord himself will know, despite what I might call the nationalisation measure here, all the independents will still have available to them the public help, the various grants and other forms of aid which are available through the Government for port development. These independents will still have these sums available to them.


Could the noble Lord clarify one point? Of the four ports he referred to, one was Bristol. As I understood the weight of his argument, it was that with the N.P.A. taking over these four ports it would give an opportunity for massive sums of money to be invested in them. This does not quite accord with our historical experience. Experience has shown that the Government have in fact debarred investment—as my noble friend has already said, in Bristol first by turning down the Portbury scheme and then the West Docks scheme. One's natural feeling is that if they have already turned those down they will not be keen for the N.P.A. to resurrect them or to resurrect anything of that nature. If that is not so, it is an important point in considering this Amendment. Would the noble Lord deal with that?


I cannot at this stage give an indication of where and when these massive sums of investment are going to be applied. Here we are setting up the National Ports Authority with specific duties set out in subsection (1). It will be for them to decide in the national interest. I could not go further than that. If Bristol were to be excluded from the Bill, clearly what sums are available to the N.P.A. would not, I should have thought, be available to Bristol or to any ports which are excluded.


I have been fascinated by the noble Lord's arguments. He seems to start by saying that if we take Bristol, the Forth, Medway and Milford out of the N.P.A. they will then suffer because they will not get the benefit of the massive investment.


I said that they might suffer.


The noble Lord says. "They might suffer". What does that mean? Does he mean that they might not get the benefits anyway: and if they do not they will not suffer; but if there is any chance of their getting the benefit, they would suffer. So I interpret those words. But that does not carry us very far. He then goes on to say, "I would not myself think that the authorities outside the N.P.A. need have any fear about investment." If that is so, what are the ports that are taken out likely to lose? Is it conceivable that these ports, such as Milford Haven and Medway which have had so much money put into them to develop them so far will go short of investment needed to help them develop further? I should have thought that this argument was an absolute non-starter. I come back again to the point indicated by my noble friend Lord Rochdale, that if Bristol comes under the National Ports Authority, it surely is very much more likely not to get the investment and development that it would like than if it is left independent. If that is so, I should have thought it fortunate that they will then fall below the 5 million tons threshold if oil or petroleum (we can decide on the right word later; I think we all know what is meant) is taken out.

I was rather amused by the noble Lord's description of how the decision on what the threshold should be is arrived at. Surely any Government decide what they want to do and then find the formula which will enable them to do it. They do not think up a formula and then say, "Now, let us see, will this do?" They decide on what they want to do, and the ports they want to take over, and then they find the formula that will enable them to do it. We do not like that formula because we do not think that the oil ports should be, or need be, included.

For reasons which have been long argued in another place, we do not think it desirable that Bristol should be brought within the National Ports Authority, for the reasons I have expressed earlier. As to the Forth, as I have already said, if it seems desirable that there should be a single port authority for Scotland, or if it seems desirable that on its own it should be taken over, it can be taken over by the National Ports Authority under the terms of the Bill and it does not need the formula, the criterion, at all. I submit that it is desirable to allow the principle that a port which wholly or mainly deals with one commodity should be excluded from the Bill. The Government's Bill itself admits that so far as harbours are concerned, and I do not see why it should not admit it for a collection of harbours, for a port. In those circumstances, I feel justified in asking the Committee to divide.


Before the noble Lord comes to a conclusion, may I say this? I have hesitated to put this to the Committee before; I sought to argue this case purely and simply on the question of principle, recognising that there are differences of opinion, and the noble Lord has himself recognised the problem about Amendment No. 56. I think he used the phrase that it would be wrong for this Committee to vote and create a delay for the Bill. As I say, I hesitated in the hope that I would not have to raise this issue with the noble Lord (perhaps I should have done so, shall we say, in the passageways; but I have not had an opportunity to see the noble Lord) but I am advised that there is a risk that this Amendment, if it were put into the Bill, could raise the question of hybridity. In other words, we should be back in the position created by Amendment No. 56 if that were passed.

I ask the noble Lord not to press this Amendment at this stage. It would be open to him to do so, after consultation, on Report. That would give us an opportunity to consider this matter and be able to give the noble Lord firm advice as to what effect this Amendment would have in terms of hybridity. In other words, I am asking that we put off the moment of decision until we can provide advice for the noble Lord on this matter; to put the matter off until Report stage. I hope that the noble Lord can meet me.


Having accepted that we do not want to delay the Bill by putting in an Amendment that would make it a hybrid Bill, I feel that I must accede to the noble Lord's request; which means that we shall put down this Amendment again in order to get the Government's advice. I hope that the noble Lord will not mind my saying that we shall also seek our own sources of advice, as this seems to be a matter on which there could be divided opinions. I would only say that when you describe a class, however you describe it, it is still a class. You could have all blue tits with one leg for example; or all blue tits; but they are both classes and I fail to see how this Amendment could possibly make this a hybrid Bill. On those terms I ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

LORD DRUMALBYN moved Amendment No. 9: Page 2, line 18, leave out ("excepted") and insert ("which at any time may be excepted by or under"). The noble Lord said: Subsection (3)(b) as amended, would read: all harbours in Great Britain at which in any period of twelve months beginning with 1st July 1966 or with any subsequent day not later than 1st July 1967 the aggregate quantity of the goods loaded in ships and goods unloaded from ships exceeded five million tons, other than harbours which at any time may be excepted by or under this Act. instead of: other than harbours excepted by section 24 of this Act. The point is, I think, quite a small one; it is simply that it is not clear that once the period in Clause 24 has lapsed it will still be possible to except harbours under the clause. We think it would be right to leave this possibility open so that harbours could be excepted at a later date, even though they are not excepted in the first instance. I beg to move.


As the noble Lord said, this is rather a complicated matter. I am advised that my right honourable friend would be happy to consider, without a commitment, whether a suitable Amendment could be introduced to give effect to the principle of the Amendment which the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, has moved. We will seek to do it on Report.


I am much obliged. I should also have mentioned that there is always the possibility that another harbour could be developed that should be excepted. So far as I can see, the Bill does not cover that at present. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

4.50 p.m.

LORD DRUMALBYN moved Amendment No. 10: Page 2, line 19, at end insert ("and harbours at which the goods so loaded and unloaded consisted wholly or mainly of one product").

The noble Lord said: I am not certain whether this Amendment is either appropriate or necessary, but I have put it down in the hope that the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, may be able to tell us whether this is the right stage at which this Amendment should be included in the Bill. It adds at the end of the words I have already quoted as being: other than harbours excepted by section 24 of this Act the words: and harbours at which the goods so loaded and unloaded consisted wholly or mainly of one product. This is another way of excluding harbours which are devoted wholly or mainly to the handling of a single product. I do not know whether the objection which the noble Lord has already put forward to an exclusion of oil in the criterion would apply to this particular Amendment.

The point is that this Amendment would make general what is discretionary in the Bill as it now stands. I should have thought that that would be desirable. At any rate, this will give us an opportunity to get a statement from the Government as to how they propose to operate the powers. It will be known that they have already excluded Purfleet and Erith, which is mainly devoted to newsprint. The same may apply in many other places. I am afraid that at this stage only the Government can tell us. There may be some harbours which deal almost exclusively with coal and so on. These would then be taken out of the criterion, or, at any rate, out of the ambit of nationalisation. I would ask the noble Lord to consider this proposal. I beg to move.


With regard to the point about the N.P.A. having a look at the ports that will be excluded, I may say that this is dealt with in another part of the Bill. We have split the Bill up among four Ministers, and perhaps we could deal with that point when we reach it in the Bill. What the Amendment does is to exclude Milford Haven and the Medway from the provisions of the Bill. I should have thought, therefore, that in principle it falls alongside Amendment No. 8, which the noble Lord on my appeal decided not to press this afternoon, so that we may have thoughts about it. I will be frank and say that I have not had an opinion given to me about the question of hybridity so far as this Amendment is concerned, but I cannot help feeling that the exclusion of these two harbours from the Bill would, as in the case of Amendment No. 8 raise the problem of hybridity. I am wondering, therefore, whether the noble Lord will agree that when we are considering Amendment No. 8 we may consider Amendment No. 10 also.


I willingly agree to what the noble Lord has suggested, and will revert to this subject on the next stage. Meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

LORD ABERDARE moved Amendment No. 11:

Page 2, line 19, at end insert— ("Provided that, notwithstanding the provisions of this paragraph, no harbour shall be transferred to the National Ports Authority until such time as a public enquiry is held to consider any substantial representations by local authorities or organisations representing workers or users to the effect that such a transfer could undermine the prosperity of the area concerned, and the Minister may approve or reject such transfers after considering the report of the relevant enquiries.")

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 11, which is similar to an Amendment moved on the Report stage in another place, to insert a new proviso. I make no apology for repeating it here, because of its evident importance. It seeks to give proper opportunity for a full public inquiry before any harbour is taken over by the National Ports Authority in cases where substantial representations are made to the Minister that any such transfer might undermine the prosperity of the area. What we are trying to do—and, as your Lordships will see as we go through the Bill, it is what we are trying to do in many cases—is to ensure that there is maximum consultation with everybody concerned and the maximum opportunity for democratic processes before any final action is taken. In this case it is to ensure so far as we can that where there are substantial objections, those who object are given every chance to air their objection before the particular ports are taken over. I would emphasise that there is nothing frivolous in what we are suggesting and it is not in any way intended to be a wrecking Amendment. I think the noble Lord will agree that so far we have tried to be as constructive as possible, and this is meant as a serious improvement to the Bill.

I would make three important points on the Amendment. The first is that the representations have to be substantial. Secondly, they can be made only by local authorities, trade unions or port users: In other words, these are the only responsible bodies who can make representations to the Minister, and even their representations have to be substantial. Furthermore, the only representations that they can make must be that any transfer would undermine the prosperity of the area concerned. We are not in any way attacking the principle of the Bill, although we are opposed to it. We are seeking to give greater flexibility and greater scope for these responsible authorities to make substantial representations where the prosperity of their areas is concerned. If they might succeed in convincing an inquiry and the Minister that the prosperity of their area would be affected by the proposals, why should they not have a chance to do so? The last point I want to make is that after this procedure has been gone through the Minister's powers are undiminished. It is still left for him to make the final decision, after any inquiry that may have been held. I beg to move.


If there is to be a General Election, I understand that one of the slogans of the Conservative Party is that action needs to be taken. Certainly, if my memory is right, that was one of the slogans of noble Lords opposite at the last General Election. I can well remember a photograph that caused a great deal of hilarity, of Mr. Heath with some ladies (I think it was in Bristol), and the headline was: "Ladies, begin action!" I am not certain whether the noble Lord is looking in this Bill for action, or delay, but if this Amendment were passed I wonder when we should complete the bringing together of the major ports of this country under one coordinating authority. I suspect that a mere inquiry in Manchester would certainly delay for many months, if not longer, the bringing together of this new structure of our harbours. That is a project on which I think we are all agreed, other than as to the method of doing it; and, so far as I understand it, the main point of difference between us is whether the N.P.A. should be basically an advisory body, with certain powers, or, as we think, an executive and responsible group. The only area between us is the superstructure of this organisation.

If this Amendment were passed, we should have a situation where Parliament had accepted that the 5-million ton criteria should be the dividing line between the major harbours and other harbours. So far as I know, there is between us no dispute on that figure. If this Amendment were to be carried it would mean that the Minister would have a power, in effect, to except various harbours from the provisions of legislation which Parliament itself had passed. That would be totally unacceptable to a Minister and to Parliament. I stand on the main issue that here we are all agreed that the major harbours need to be brought together under one central authority. Let us forget what type of authority it is. They should be brought together as quickly as possible for the economic development of those harbours and ports. Yet here we have an Amendment which would mean delay in bringing all of them into the responsibility of the N.P.A. until there had been a public inquiry.

It is true that the public inquiry would be only as a consequence of substantial objections by the workers' representatives. The term "Workers representatives" was put in, I suppose, to be an attractive offering to this side. Should not industry as a whole equally have this opportunity? What about local authorities? And what about the Regional Development Planning Councils? Where will you draw the line about which bodies should have the right to raise objections as to whether a particular port or harbour should be brought within the ambit of the Bill? This Amendment, while on the face of it sounding wonderfully democratic, would mean the frustration of many of the hopes which many people, both generally in industry and within the shipping industry, have for the development of these ports and harbours. I hope the Committee will not accept this Amendment.


One recognises that democracy often means delay: If people are going to have their say, it takes time. The issues here are very important. Nothing could be more local than a port Places themselves have grown up around the port. For many of them the port is their life blood. What has to be examined is not only opinions but also the facts which point to future trends and developments, also the likely effect of being taken under the umbrella of the National Ports Authority. It is not only a question of the expression of opinion; it is a question of the development of opinion in local places through all the measures of communication that exist there, so that the Government will be able to appreciate for themselves how this blind formula is affecting particular places. Parliament is passing a blind formula admittedly; we know what is gathered up in it. Within that formula there can be great differences in the attitude of the places which are being taken over. If at the end of the day the Government accept the local attitudes, having carefully examined and weighed them, they will be in a much stronger position to go ahead with their plans, knowing that they have full support in the areas where the balance of opinion is in favour of coming under the National Ports Authority.

So much is at stake for these particular places. One cannot help harking back to Bristol and Manchester. Both those places have been built up by local enterprise and initiative. Once that is taken away and port boards are appointed from the centre by the National Ports Authority, it cannot be doubted that that same enterprise and initiative will at least be blunted; it cannot be the same after that. It may well be that the places may wish it that way and would prefer it that way, but at least opinion should be tested in a local inquiry. Surely that makes sense in these days when there is so much criticism of communications, of decisions arbitrarily taken at a distance and of remote control. It is particularly important in these days that local opinions should at least be considered, and that those opinions should be reflected in the decisions taken.


The only words I would add to that are that what this country is suffering from at the moment is not action but cautious examination and delay. Therefore I am entirely on the side of the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd.


I am most grateful. I feel absolutely fortified by what the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, has said. May I say this to the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn? Is it not a fact that all these authorities and harbours we are taking over with the exception of one are already in public ownership? We have made clear what our policy is: that there should be the greatest degree of local autonomy, authority and responsibility. The role of the N.P.A. is basically that of a co-ordinating body. I should not think there are any grounds for the fears that the noble Lord has expressed. If this Amendment were passed it would frustrate for months, if not years, the bringing into being of the purposes of this legislation. I hope the Committee will not accept the Amendment.


My Lords, I am interested to hear what the noble Lord said. His main criticism of the Amendment was that it would impose an intolerable delay. He envisaged that in practically every case there would be these objections. I can only suggest that he does not have much confidence in the popularity of the measures he is putting forward if he thinks that all these responsible bodies mentioned in the Amendment would be able to put forward substantial representations that the prosperity of their areas would be adversely affected. He must find his case a rather poor one if he cannot stand up to that but allows that it will happen. After what has been said, I should prefer to think about this matter further. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.10 p.m.

LORD DRUMALBYN moved Amendment No. 13: Page 3, line 8, after ("date") insert ("not being earlier than the first day of January 1971").

The noble Lord said: This Amendment is to subsection (8), which reads: Except as otherwise provided by this Act, the vesting date shall be such date as the Minister may appoint by order made by statutory instrument". After the word "date" the Amendment would insert: not being earlier than the first day of January 1971". This is essentially a probing Amendment, at any rate at this stage. The Government must have some idea how long it will take to set up the machinery of administration. There is a lot to be done. The Minister has to appoint the National Ports Authority and the port advisory committees—and we shall come to them soon. The National Ports Authority have to make their devolution schemes, which must be confirmed by the Minister. The National Ports Authority have to appoint the port boards, after getting the approval of the Minister. The port boards have to be in a position to take over the control and running of the ports. The National Ports Authority may make agreements in advance of the vesting date. How long does the noble Lord think this will take?

I commented on this matter in my speech on Second Reading, and I say again that the one thing that would be unpardonable would be if the whole process were hurried merely to enable the vesting date to be achieved for a political purpose, particularly before a General Election, since on the vesting date the ownership of the actual ports to be nationalised, and much else besides, passes, and the eggs are then scrambled. Until vesting date the eggs are not scrambled. If we are to have nationalisation of the major ports, it is much better that it should be accomplished in due order. I quite appreciate that if the Bill becomes law, all directly concerned will want the transitional period to be as short as is consistent with an orderly handover and takeover. We withdrew our Amendment regarding inquiries, but the takeover ought not to be rushed. The foundations of the new system should be soundly laid, without undue haste.

I recognise that some preparatory work has been going on for some time, and the Minister may already have prepared the guidelines with which the National Ports Authority are to work; he has possibly even prepared, in outline at any rate, the devolution scheme. Even so, I doubt whether it would be wise to contemplate a date before January 1, 1971. It is a good thing to have a target date to work to—that is to say, to work to a date—and I should have thought it would be good to put it into the Bill in this form, but to say that that shall be the earliest date. Then, as I say, the process of planning and setting up the administration could go on with the target date in view, without unwise hurry and haste. I beg to move.


I must admit that when I saw this Amendment I thought it was designed, not as a probing Amendment but to seek to ensure that there could be no vesting until the country has had an opportunity to re-elect a Labour Government. Therefore I wondered why the noble Lord picked on January 1, 1971, because of course the latest date for the next General Election is April or May, 1971. Since, however, this is a probing Amendment to see whether I have any indication to give as to when the vesting will take place, I must say that I am afraid I cannot give an indication, certainly at this present moment, because I have not consulted with my right honourable friend as to the date he has in mind, if indeed he has a date in mind. Certainly I can give the noble Lord an assurance that we should not wish in any way to rush vesting day for political reasons. We shall certainly take due account of the need for proper planning and for ease in transfer of responsibility to the N.P.A., and in particular to the port authorities themselves. If I can give the noble Lord any indication as to the date, I will try to do so between now and the next stage. But I will be frank: I have no date from my right honourable friend. I know that he is particularly concerned about an easy and smooth transfer to the new Authority.


I am much obliged to the noble Lord. I think we all know roughly what the issues are. Either we have a General Election announced in the next hour or so, or there is a possibility of a General Election coming in October. Or, further, a General Election could be put off until the last possible moment or could come in between. As I said, what I thought would be quite irresponsible would be to rush the takeover so as to accomplish it before a General Election. Of course, this Amendment is designed particularly to cover the possibility of an October Election. I think the whole Committee will agree that it would be unduly rushing the takeover to appoint the day as October 1. We fully realise that it would have been unreasonable to expect the takeover date to be indefinitely postponed. In this present situation, with the clock standing as it is at the moment, it would be difficult to reach a decision on this Amendment. But if the circumstances are not such as we think they may be, we shall revert to this matter at the next stage of the Bill. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 2 [Port boards]:

LORD DRUMALBYN had given Notice of his intention to move an Amendment, No. 14: Page 3, line 14, after ("Authority") insert ("and duties connected with the discharge of those functions")

The noble Lord said: This Amendment would make the clause read: For each of the harbours under the charge of the National Ports Authority there shall be a port board, through which the Authority shall discharge in relation to the harbour or any matter connected therewith such functions of the Authority and duties connected with the discharge of those functions …". This Amendment was intended to relate to the duties that were provided for in Amendment No. 7. As that Amendment has been deferred, there is no point in moving this Amendment at the present time.

5.19 p.m.

LORD ABERDARE moved Amendment No. 15: Page 3, line 23, leave out ("and").

The noble Lord said: My noble friend Lord Selkirk is unable to be here and has asked me to move Amendment No. 20 on his behalf. This Amendment, No. 15, which is a paving Amendment for No. 20, seeks to leave out the word "and" between paragraph (a) and paragraph (b) of subsection (2) in order to make way for a new subsection on page 3, line 29.


If the noble Lord will permit me, perhaps I can assist on this. If I recollect correctly, when the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, spoke on Amendment No. 7 he associated Amendment No. 20 with it, and it seems to me that Amendment No. 15 is a paving Amendment for Amendments 17 and 18, about fixing charges and the power to employ persons. Am I not correct?


If Amendment No. 15 does not affect Amendment No. 20 then I do not think I need to move it.


I think the difficulty has occurred because inadvertently my noble friend Lord Selkirk put down "page 3, line 24,"in Amendment No. 17, when it should have been "page 3, line 23". In that case Amendments 17 and 18 would come before Amendment 16, and with permission I would propose to take that first Amendment together with the Amendment to leave out the word "and". Would it be in order to take Amendment No. 17 together with Amendment No. 15?


Amendments 17 and 18?


They are quite different points. The power to fix charges and the power to employ persons are quite different, and I would rather take them separately.


The noble Lord will perhaps find it convenient if Amendments 17 and 18 were renumbered 15A and 15B, and they will then follow Amendment No. 15.


I am much obliged.

5.22 p.m.

LORD DRUMALBYN moved Amendment No. 15: Page 3, line 23, leave out ("and").

The noble Lord said: This Amendment adds to the functions of the Authority that may be delegated to the Ports Board the power to fix charges. My noble friend Lord Selkirk has used the words "by users", presumably meaning payable by users—for any of the operations referred to in paragraph (a) above. The operations in paragraph (a) are: any power of the Authority to carry out harbour operations at the harbour or to regulate the carrying out of harbour operations there by others;

I thought it was implicit in what was said at the Second Reading that in fact the port boards would have these powers to fix charges conferred upon them. If that is so, I should have thought it was well to put it firmly into the powers that the Authority must delegate. This is the point of these particular Amendments.

If the noble Lord thinks that this is not a function that the Authority must delegate, can he say why? If it is thought that in general they will delegate them, and if the ports are to have the independence so far as operations are concerned that the noble Lord himself indicated on Second Reading they should have, I should have thought inevitably the power to fix charges should be conferred by the Authority on the port board. If the noble Lord sees any objection to this being included we shall be glad to know what it is. I beg to move.


The noble Lord is not moving Amendment No. 15?


Yes, I am moving Amendment 15.


I think there is a misunderstanding about the position here—I am not talking about leaving out the word "and", which is necessary if we are going to put in the other two powers. On the question of the extent to which there would be delegation to the port board to fix charges, it is quite true that we discussed this point at some length on Second Reading. If, however, the Amendment were agreed to, the National Ports Authority would have no say at all concerning the charges which might be made. Responsibility would be delegated in its entirety to the port board under the terms of this Amendment. The Government feel that it must be left to the discretion of the National Ports Authority to decide how far they should delegate—not whether they should delegate, but how far they should delegate—the charging function.

It seems to us, for example, that it would be perfectly reasonable that the National Ports Authority should have the power to lay down broad decisions on charging policy while allowing the port boards then to apply that policy in their own harbours. This does not imply that the National Ports Authority would either fix individual charges or seek to prove individual charges, but they could lay down these broad lines under which policy for charges will be fixed. I do not say they necessarily would, but we think it is desirable that the Authority should have the power. So long as port boards adhere to the broad policy they are free to make their own individual basis for charging within their port. That seems to us to be a perfectly reasonable way to regard the delegation of charges to a port board. If the Amendment were accepted the National Ports Authority would not be able even to give a broad line of guidance, and we think it is desirable that they should have this option open to them if they think it is in the best interests of the operation of the ports.

With that explanation, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, will feel that what we all said on Second Reading about the desirability of being able to fix charges at ports will be accomplished, even although the Amendment is not pressed.


I am grateful to the noble Lord for his explanation, which is quite convincing. Of course, it would be possible to re-draft the Amendment so as to require the Authority to delegate the fixing of charges and to add the words which I think appear in relation to the Minister elsewhere: along lines to be fixed by the National Ports Authority I would commend this to the noble Lord for his consideration, because I think it is important that it is seen among those subjects for which the Ports Authority are to be responsible, and must be responsible; namely, the fixing of charges. I do not know whether the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, intends to say anything on this before I withdraw the Amendment, but I noticed that he was leaning forward.


I am glad to support what the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, has said in appealing to the Minister to look at his point. This is a dilemma to which we are all used when we are devolving responsibility. If certain powers are held by the centre, then the devolved units do not have real responsibility for their financial results if they can say, "We had to adopt charges which you imposed upon us." If I may say so, I think the words suggested at 'the end of his intervention by the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, are exactly the requisite ones, and I hope that between now and Report stage the Minister may consider them favourably.


What the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, has suggested is perfectly reasonable. Having put forward the basis under which it might work, I accept that we should be under an obligation to see whether or not words to that effect could be incorporated in the Bill. If the noble Lord agrees not to press this Amendment now, perhaps I can have a word with him before the next stage to see whether anything is possible. I would also suggest that, before the noble Lord decides what he is going to do with regard to Amendment No. 15, he should speak to Amendment No. 18, because if that does not go into the Bill we shall not need to take out the word "and".


That is quite so. I think perhaps we ought now to deal with Amendment No. 17, or 15A, as it has become. I am grateful to the noble Lord and on these terms I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

LORD DRUMALBYN rose to move Amendment No. 15A:

Page 3, line 24, at end insert— ("( ) power to fix charges by users for any of the operations referred to in paragraph (a) above;")

The noble Lord said: Again I am speaking for my noble friend Lord Selkirk on this Amendment. He asked me to do so. This would insert as one of the functions to be compulsorily delegated, if I may put it that way, to a port board the power to employ such persons as are necessary for the proper operation of the port.


My Lords, I think we are confused. What I was inviting the noble Lord to do was to speak to Amendment No. 15B. The noble Lord at the moment, I think unintentionally, has withdrawn Amendment No. 15, and Amendment No. 15 is necessary if either No. 15A or No. 15B is to go into the Bill. We do not know whether we want to put No. 15 in until we know whether either No. 15A or No. 15B is to go in.

LORD DRUMALBYN moved Amendment No. 15B: Page 3, line 24, at end insert— ("( ) power to employ such persons as are necessary for the proper operation of the port;")

The noble Lord said: Perhaps I may now speak to the Amendment which appears as No. 18 and is now renumbered 15B, the power to employ such persons as are necessary for the proper operation of the port. The noble Lord will remember that my noble friend Lord Simon expressed a strong view that the employers in the port areas should be the port boards and they should be seen to be the employers and seen to have this responsibility. I have great sympathy with that view, and that is the point of view which my noble friend Lord Selkirk is employing here. I think he meant—though I cannot really speak to this—"all" such persons as are necessary for the proper operation of the port. A great many people are employed in the ports—in fact half the total number employed in the port areas—not under the dock labour scheme; so those persons, at any rate, whether or not the dock labour scheme continues, should be employed by the port board. Later on we shall be discussing whether the dock labour scheme should continue in its present form, and I do not want to deal with it now.

This Amendment would lay down that the power to employ such persons as are necessary for the proper operation of the port should be one of the powers compulsorily devolved upon the port board. Whether it is to be an exclusive power or whether the dockers are to be under the employment of the National Ports Authority is another matter. I have no hesitation in saying that I believe you will never get proper labour relations unless the people on the spot are responsible for them, and that means the port board. The port board should be responsible for the dockers as well as the other employees. We know very well that the emphasis was placed by the Donovan Report above all on the faotory agreement, and in this context the factory agreement means the port agreement. We on our side see no great virtue in national agreements except as a base from which to operate. We see no virtue in uniformity of terms and conditions or of the area of the ports, whether within only the major ports or in the ports as a whole. We see no great advantage in uniformity. Despite all the past history of the ports, we think that their future history must lie along the line Donovan indicated and that negotiations should take place at port level; and the people who are negotiating on the employers' side should negotiate as employers and not on behalf of employers. In other words, the port board should be the employers. I beg to move.


I should like to support the Amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, arising out of the excellent point made by the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, in the Second Reading debate. I think it is very important that the remarkably good labour relations established in some of our ports like the Tees should not be upset by any change of employer under this Bill. I am afraid that if the National Ports Authority are to become the employer those agreements may be upset, because there will be a desire to make them uniform over the whole of the United Kingdom and it is well known that the employees of the ports of London and Mersey have not been willing to adopt many of the practices, such as shift working, which are acceptable in the North. I believe that this is a matter of great importance to our trade. It affects our raw materials, our exports, our foreign markets and our balance of payments, so I would urge that the existing agreements should somehow be maintained. I would ask the Government whether they will be maintained when the existing authority, such as the Dock and Harbour Board, is replaced by a particular port authority—whether the existing agreements in the North will be maintained or whether they will be scrapped—and if not whether the Government can word this Bill in such a way that they will be maintained if possible.


It would probably be quite within the powers given to the National Ports Authority under the Bill for them to delegate to port boards the power to employ persons; but other provisions of the Bill, especially the pensions provisions, contemplate that the N.P.A. themselves will be the employers, and if we were to accept this Amendment it would follow that there would have to be substantial consequential Amendments made in other parts of the Bill. We think that in practice it would not be possible for the National Ports Authority to delegate this function in the Bill as now drafted. I said at Second Reading that, whatever was laid down in the Bill, the men at the ports would regard themselves as being in the employment of the ports boards, as is the position at the present time. The employees of the railway harbours regard themselves as local employees, and I do not think that there is anything in the Bill that will prevent the sort of relationship which the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, has stressed as being so important. Nothing in the Bill will prevent that relationship from continuing or being carried out.

Coming to the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, obviously it is impossible to predict what the course of future relations will be, but there is nothing in the Bill as drafted which will inhibit the local negotiations continuing if this was the proper way in which negotiation should take place. The noble Lord, Lord Hankey, himself stated that at certain ports employees did not wish to operate under conditions which were acceptable at others; I think he mentioned that employees at London and Liverpool would not accept the sort of conditions accepted on Tees-side. This itself would probably make it unlikely that any sort of uniformity could be imposed over the whole area. I hope, therefore, that the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, will accept that we are not disagreeing in principle with what he is advocating. We agree that it is desirable that there should be the greatest opportunity for the employees in the individual ports to regard themselves as employees of the port board. But it is desirable that there should be the flexibility which the Bill maintains.

The attitude of the Government throughout is that the National Ports Authority should have every opportunity to delegate where this is the best thing to do, but they would not necessarily accomplish this by saying that they must delegate some particular function, because this might not in fact achieve the best result. There might be circumstances, for instance, where a port was in financial difficulties, and the National Ports Authority might wish to express views or give instructions for rationalising the port's establishment. There is the question of employees who may be shared between one port and another, or at any rate employees employed by the National Ports Authority who can exercise functions not in relation to one port but in relation to a number of ports. There are quite a variety of circumstances where the National Authority are the correct employing authority. For all these reasons, I hope that the noble Lord will find it possible to withdraw this Amendment.


I have listened with great care to what the noble Lord has said. I confess that it does not quite meet the point I raised on Second Reading. He said that these people will regard themselves as locally employed. But they will have a contract of employment which names as their employer somebody whom they have never seen. In addition, the noble Lord spoke of different arrangements in different ports. I do not know whether he has considered the implications of Clause 42, in which it is laid down that the National Ports Authority shall negotiate terms and conditions. It seems to me very desirable that terms and conditions should be negotiated locally. I do not know what the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, proposes to do with this Amendment. I know that it is the wish of the Committee to dispose of it quickly, so I just leave that thought with the noble Lord.


I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, for his explanation. I should not have thought it wholly convincing to say that, because there may well be a central pension scheme, it is necessary not to provide that the port boards shall be the employers. After all, the example that immediately comes to mind is the teachers; the teachers are employed by the local education authorities, the education authorities in Scotland, but there is a central pension scheme. This is only a question of the way in which the Bill is drawn, not of what is ultimately going to happen. But I think we have got about as far as we can get on this particular Amendment at this particular stage. I moved it on behalf of my noble friend; I ask leave to withdraw it on my own behalf.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


I think perhaps it would be for the convenience and interest of noble Lords if I were to move at this stage that the House do now resume.

Moved, That the House do now resume.—(Lord Hughes.)

On Question Motion agreed to: House resumed accordingly.