HL Deb 25 February 1971 vol 315 cc1169-71

My Lords, I beg to move that the Manchester Corporation (General Powers) Bill be now read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Earl of Listowel.)

3.29 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to raise an issue on this Bill, of which I have given Notice to the noble Earl the Chairman of Committees. It is an issue which is causing some concern and relates to the present drafting of Clause 76(1) of the Bill. May I remind the House shortly that this clause grants the Manchester Corporation the power to acquire or subscribe to shares, stocks, debenture stocks, and so on, in a development company which is carrying out development within the City of Manchester. Although similar powers have been granted already in other Private Bills to local authorities, notably the Durham County Council, I am advised that Clause 76(1) of this Bill as at present drafted goes a great deal wider in its scale. Because of the present drafting of the clause, it is feared that the result could lead to a considerable extension of municipal ownership and the possibility that, if the Manchester Corporation so chose, it could become a local Industrial Reorganisation Corporation, which I am sure was not the intention of the Promoters of the Bill.

The specific objections to the present drafting of this subsection which I should like to place on record and to draw to the attention of the House and of the Committee that will be examining this Bill are, in the first place, that there is no precise definition of "development", and this would appear to open the door for the Corporation to acquire an interest in any company expanding in that city, and, in the second place, that there appears to be no apparent limitation to the size of the holding. The Corporation may take in any development company within the city, and in consequence it would be free, if it chose, to take control of any company in which it had an interest.

The third point is that although the intention granted under similar powers to other local authorities was to give security for any loan granted for developments, the Corporation under this clause has apparently no obligation to have the loan liquidated and then to relinquish its holding. I am advised that to ensure that there would be no opening under this clause for the extension of municipalisation, it is suggested that some undertaking should be written into the Bill under this clause, so that the clause will not be used to claim more than a temporary security during the life of a loan to a development company. For instance, a limit should be set both to the time a local authority can hold the shares in the company and the size of that holding. My Lords, the purpose of raising this matter to-day is both to draw the attention of the House to the drafting of the clause and to express genuine concern at the effect of it. It is not to stimulate debate but simply to place the matter on record.


My Lords, I have no doubt that the noble Earl's observations will be noted both by the Promoters of the Bill and by the Select Committee to which the Bill will be referred if your Lordships give it a Second Reading.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Select Committee.