HL Deb 30 October 1975 vol 365 cc630-2

[Nos. 9 to 12]

Clause 9, page 9, line 11, at beginning insert ("Subject to subsection (1A) of this section")

Page 9, line 13, after ("or") insert ("in the circumstances described in subsection (IA) of this section")

Page 9, line 22, at end insert— ("(1A) The circumstances referred to in subsection (1) of this section are that the Board has applied to the Secretary of State for a general authority for one of its subsidiaries to make a series of acquisitions of the share capital of specified bodies corporate, or bodies corporate of a specified class, some or all of which acquisitions would entitle the Board to exercise or control the exercise of 30 per cent. or more of the votes at any general meeting of the respective bodies corporate; provided that in the case of no such acquisition shall the value of the consideration exceed £250,000, nor would the total value in the series of acquisitions exceed £10.000,000.").

The Commons disagreed to these Amendments for the following Reason:

Because the restriction proposed by the Amendments on the acquisition of the share capital of bodies corporate by the National Enterprise Board or their subsidiaries is inappropriate.


My Lords, I beg to move that this House doth not insist on their Amendments Nos. 9 to 11 to which the Commons have disagreed for the Reason numbered 12.

My Lords, this was a matter that we discussed at considerable length at various stages of the Bill. I hope that I dealt with the arguments fairly and I am not certain that I can add anything to what I then said. I am bound to say that I was a little surprised when the Opposition in another place did not press this Amendment to a Division. I hope it will not be thought necessary to press it here.

Moved, That this House doth not insist on their Amendments Nos. 9 to 11 to which the Commons have disagreed for the Reason numbered 12.—(Lord Beswick.)


My Lords, I am grateful for what the noble Lord has said and also for what he has not said. In the other place their Amendments were subject to the guillotine; the whole proceedings were subject to the guillotine. Perhaps the Commons made out a list of their own priorities. They had a lot of Divisions in a very short time; there was an exceptionally long debate on Amendment No. 1 and the associated Amendments and perhaps it is not surprising that they did not pay much attention to this Amendment particularly as it resulted—and this may have confused the issue a little—from Amendments made to the original Government Bill in another place.

I find myself bound to disagree with the Commons Reason for disagreeing with us simply because I do not believe that these Amendments do impose a restriction. All that they do is to say that before you do something you must get the consent of the Secretary of State. This is accepted in principle. All that we were arguing about was: in what cases are you to get the consent? We were not arguing about the principle. We were arguing that to make Parliamentary control adequate in this case some Amendment of this kind was required. I said at the time that I was not at all certain that the Amendment as I drafted it was even viable. I did not expect everyone to agree with the figures that I put in the Amendment. All the same, I must express my disappointment that this matter was not considered further in another place; but having done that I can only express my hope that the Secretary of State will operate this clause in the kind of way that the Amendment indicates. I do not expect that I shall be very far wrong.

Viscount AMORY

My Lords, I do not want to delay your Lordships, but I should like to say to the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton, that while I share many of her enthusiasms on other matters I do not share her optimism about the future of the NEB. I can easily understand why Socialists are keen on the NEB for doctrinal reasons as an instru- ment for the extension of public ownership. I do not want to be a Jeremiah, but I have a personal horror of conglomerates. Their record is a dismal one. I should like to prophesy that the NEB is going to find itself in a few years with as amazing a rag bag of assets as one could possibly imagine or visualise. Without being too much of a Jeremiah, I should like to prophesy that the NEB, within a short number of years, will require radical reorganisation.


My Lords, I should not expect the noble Viscount, Lord Amory, to agree with me on this for there is obviously a profound difference in principle. But I do notice the modern tendency that when there is a disagreement one refers always to one's opponent's arguments as doctrinal. The ground of my argument, which is implicit in what I have already said, is practical and not doctrinal. I think that it is a simple way of dismissing something to refer to it as doctrinaire or doctrinal. My reason is not doctrinal.

Viscount AMORY

My Lords, may I invite the noble Baroness to call my remarks doctrinal, too; and then we will be quits.


My Lords, may I save time in the future by reminding noble Lords that we have a right to speak only once at this stage.

On Question, Motion agreed to.