HL Deb 23 October 1973 vol 345 cc513-9

2.50 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Report be now received.

Moved, That the Report be now received.—(The Earl of Gowrie)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Clause 1 [Establishment of trading funds for certain services of the Crown]:

THE EARL OF GOWRIE moved Amendment No. 1:

Page 2, line 13, at end insert— ("(4) Where, in accordance with subsection (1) above, the responsible Minister proposes to direct that any of the operations of a service falling within subsection (3)(f) above shall be financed by means of a trading fund he shall, if he considers that those operations consist substantially of the proivsion of goods and services in the United Kingdom otherwise than to government departments, consult such persons as appear to him to be appropriate.")

The noble Earl said: My Lords, this Amendment and the consequential Amendment to Clause 6 comply with the Government's undertaking to table Amendments giving effect to the spirit of the Amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, and my noble friend Lord Balerno at Committee stage. This Amendment provides for consultation when a Minister proposes to transfer a trading operation falling within Clause 1(3)(f)— that is to say, the former Clause 1(3)(g)—to trading fund finance if such an operation consists substantially of the provision of goods and services otherwise than to Government Departments. The Amendment to Clause 6 provides for the laying of the results of those consultations. The main difference in the structure of these Amendments from those tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, arises primarily from the fact that the latter was modelled on the Maplin Bill, where the Orders are subject to Negative Resolution procedure, while in this case the Orders are laid in draft and are subject to Affirmative Resolution procedure. I beg to move.


My Lords, we are grateful to the noble Earl. and on behalf of my noble allies in all parts of the House I should like to express appreciation to him for the way in which he actually listened to the arguments outside the House, even though he did not appear to listen to them so closely inside the House. This has been a most satisfactory achievement and one for which I think your Lordships can take some credit. The words "Ordnance Survey" have now disappeared from the Bill. Although we made it clear that in principle we were not opposed to the Ordnance Survey in due course being financed by trading funds. we were very much opposed to an agreement in principle that it should be so financed until a great deal more investigation had taken place and a report of the consultations was laid before Parliament. The Government's acceptance of my first Amendment last week, and now their tabling of this Amendment, gives complete satisfaction and meets the objectives that I wish to achieve in the Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Molson, who took part on that occasion, has been prevented from being present to-day. He wishes me to apologise and to express his satisfaction.

My Lords, we do not want to delay the Bill, but I should like to ask the noble Earl to deal with one or two points. First of all, Parliament—and by "Parliament "I mean the House of Lords as well as the House of Commons, because we in this House were entirely cut out of the procedure in regard to the Order—will now have an opportunity to consider these examples of activities which are supposed to be financed by means of a trading fund, which affect considerable bodies and elements in the public, as opposed to the Royal dockyards. This is satisfactory. but I should like to know—and if the noble Earl cannot tell us today, I want to make it clear to him that we shall continue to press the point about the Government's consultation arrangements. They have promised us—the noble Lord did this in Committee—a review of the Ordnance Survey and of the policies that apply, and the results of the consultations; but this is to be a quite separate matter, as I understand from the Amendment which is now before us.

The Government have invited the Royal Society to provide a continuing review and consultation in so far as the activities of the Ordnance Survey affect the scientific community. I would wish to emphasise to the noble Earl a point which the Royal Society themselves accept: that whereas they can coordinate and together speak for the scientific community, there are a number of other bodies which will be greatly affected by policy concerning the Ordnance Survey which will not participate in that consultation because they are not scientific. These include not only such professional bodies as surveyors and others, but also those who are concerned with the use of maps in the countryside. We have particularly in mind active bodies such as the Youth Hostels Association, and ramblers and many others. I am not quite sure, anyhow, how far the Royal Society can speak for the education sector, which is one of the biggest users of maps. I would ask the Government to consider their methods of consultation. They have an annual map users' conference, but I suspect that there will be a need for rather more than that. I fully accept that the Government are most anxious within the limits of time and reason to now consult with everybody concerned, but, as the noble Earl knows, this has been one of the reasons for the dark suspicions that have been aroused. I would particularly ask therefore that the amenities societies, the Council for the Preservation of Rural England and others should have the opportunity to be consulted.

My Lords, there is one particular aspect of Ordnance Survey policy which I hope will be dealt with in the review; that is, the question of copyright policy. As I pointed out on a previous stage, anybody who reproduces a map is infringing copyright. This is an example of the dangers of almost a tax on knowledge or information. I am not averse to the Ordnance Survey properly raising what money it can through its sales to the public, but great anxiety is felt, and indeed, local authorities and others may find themselves in difficulties. I would therefore ask that in their review the Government will clearly publish how they interpret this policy. The noble Earl told us that in 1967, for instance, on another aspect, the cost of survey that was agreed was loaded on to maps. This survey was taken in the days of the Labour Government, and I suppose some Minister agreed to it. But, as I made clear, all Governments are liable either to lapses or less than frank explanation of what they are up to. I hope that we shall have an explanation as to how this decision is to be implemented.

I will not say more now. I am sure the noble Earl and his Department will take heed of this point. He will be aware that many bodies who participated in the approach to the Government about the changes that have been made to the Bill—which, I repeat, passed virtually undebated through another place—are concerned, but, at the same time, are very gratified at the success your Lordships have had.


My Lords, I must thank the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition for his kind words about me, even if there was a sting in the tail of them. I assure him that I always listen to what goes on in this House, as well as reading The Times at breakfast every morning. But, this said, he must of course be congratulated, together with my noble friend Lord Balerno, for the very helpful work they have done. The fact that the Government have given way in this matter does not mean they have not found this work helpful, because after all a great deal has been brought to the Government's attention which might otherwise have been passed over. I cannot directly answer the noble Lord's question about copyright at this moment, but I will take note of it and pass it on. I hope that it does not interfere with the spirit of the Amendment I moved and that my assurance will satisfy him.

As to consultations, the Ordnance Survey is aware, of course, of the need to consult with various sections among map users, and they do already consult very widely. Noble Lords will have noticed that my Amendment follows the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Shackle-ton, in leaving the form and extent of the consultation to the Minister, with the proviso that this must be fully debated by Parliament. Since the Parliamentary safeguard is the subject of my next Amendment, perhaps I need do no more than move the first one at this moment.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

THE EARL OF GOWRIE moved Amendment No. 2:

Page 6, line 8, at end insert: ("(4) Where by virtue of subsection (4) of section 1 above a Minister has held consultations in relation to proposals for the financing of any operations of a service by means of a trading fund, he shall, before laying, in accordance with subsection (2) above, a draft instrument containing the order giving effect to those proposals, lay a report of the results of those consultations, and of his conclusions, before Parliament.")

The noble Earl said: My Lords, this Amendment, as I said, complements the Government Amendment to Clause 1, providing for the laying of results of the consultations before both Houses. This means that although the Affirmative Resolution is primarily a matter for the other place alone—the Order deals with changes in the method of financing—it means also that your Lordships' House, if it so wishes, will have an opportunity to debate the consultative report before the Order is made, because it may be, for instance, that it will show that the proposal raises much wider and non-financial issues about the nature of the service. I beg to move.


My Lords, we are very much obliged to the noble Earl. This fully meets everything that we asked for.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Then, Standing Order No. 44 having been suspended (pursuant to the Resolution of October 15):


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

Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a—(The Earl of Gowrie.)


My Lords, there are many aspects of this Bill which I should have been interested in debating, but I think that, having scored our major successes, it would be unkind to pursue them further. I would only say this: the experiment of trading funds to which I referred on Committee stage and the particular procedures to be followed, involving public dividend capital and the valuation of assets, raise interesting and in some ways slightly risky concepts of a kind which, as I have previously mentioned, can sometimes be taken too far in industry. It is sometimes possible to rely too much on establishing distinctive profit centres, and this may not always work out as well as a more old-fashioned approach which involves management and leadership and proper trading accounts. I would only say to the noble Earl—and he is well aware of this—that I certainly wish this approach every success. At some stage, after we have had experience of these trading funds, it would be interesting to have some sort of report on how this new managerial concept actually operates. I am not saying that it should be now, but perhaps in two or three years' time. It may well be that the noble Earl will not then be the Minister responsible, but the Department have long memories. Possibly it would be of sufficient interest to become the subject of a report, conceivably included in the Annual Report of the Civil Service Department. I throw out that suggestion, and I wish this Bill every success.


My Lords, it only remains for me to thank the noble Lord again. I will certainly pass his suggestion over to my right honourable friend and his long-memoried Department.

On Question, Bill read 3a, with the Amendments, and passed, and returned to the Commons.