HL Deb 20 May 1976 vol 370 cc1470-544

3.28 p.m.

The LORD CHANCELLOR (Lord Elwyn-Jones)

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. (The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The EARL OF LISTOWEL in the Chair.]

Clause 1 [Establishment and general function of Development Board for Rural Wales]:

Lord ELTON moved Amendment No.1:

Page 1, line 15, leave out from (" as ") to end of line 16 and insert (" having regard to their character and proximity to the said counties and districts, the Secretary of State may, by order made by statutory instrument, from time to time designate after consultation with the local authorities in the area for which the Board is at that time responsible and those in the area or areas which it is proposed to designate.")

The noble Lord said: We have tabled this Amendment in order to protect, and indeed advance, the interests of the local authorities in the area for which the Board is to be responsible. We are aware that the area for which the Board is responsible is not a fixed entity but one which may be expanded at will by the Secretary of State. Therefore, we feel that in the area as it stands initially, and as it is subsequently expanded or, indeed, reduced, the Secretary of State should have the benefit of the advice of the local authorities so greatly affected by his decisions on the extent of the area which is to be administered by the Board.

We have worded the Amendment in order to make it proper that the Secretary of State shall extend the area only to other areas of a similar character to that of the area for which the Board is originally responsible. We introduce the Statutory Instrument procedure with an eye to our third Amendment, which links the extension and reduction of the area, which are fundamental to the working of the Bill, to the Affirmative Resolution procedure in Parliament. I think, though brief, that is probably a sufficient introduction for the discussion of this Amendment. I beg to move.


May I begin by welcoming the noble Lord, Lord Elton, back into the Celtic fringe which he has illuminated in our recent debates upon Welsh affairs. May I also inform the Committee that I have had a letter from the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran, saying that he is unavoidably absent through family illness, which I hope will go satisfactorily, and it may well be that we shall have the benefit of the assistance of the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, as we did on the Second Reading debate. The noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, has also written to me to express his regret that, through absence abroad, he cannot be present.

The main purport of the first Amendment is to require the Secretary of State to consult local authorities before designating additional areas. I can assure the Committee at once that that consultation will and would take place; there is every intention to consult local authorities before adding to the Board's area. But if the Amendment is accepted it could indeed have the effect of unnecessarily restricting the desirable consultations which ought to be undertaken before designating an extension of the area of the Board. It would not, for instance, be sufficient to consult only those local authorities within the Board's area or proposed area. It is interesting that the Consultation Document relating to the Government's present proposals elicited replies from no less than 29 local authorities, and altogether 58 bodies responded to that Document. It is a comforting thought that there is no lack of vigorous, involved and concerned democratic and indeed representative activity in Wales and indeed in England, which is a vital feature of our democratic way of life.

Local authority organisations would in any event have to be consulted. For example, the Government will be consulting the Welsh Counties Committee—that is the committee of county councils—and the Council for the Principality, which represents the borough and district councils, in making five of the appointments to the Board itself. The Welsh Development Agency would have to be consulted, because any extension of the Board's area would result in the probable transfer to the Board of advance factories which the Agency administers. I think the noble Lord will readily recognise that many other bodies would also be interested—agricultural bodies, the TUC, the CBI, the environment interests, the Land Authority for Wales and indeed other bodies. Similar consultation and advice would be sought and no doubt given in regard to any proposal to reduce the Board's area, consultation about which is the object of the second Amendment. I hope, therefore, that in the light of these assurances, which I give on behalf of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Wales and the Government, the noble Lord will not feel it necessary to press this matter to a Division.


Could I learn from my noble friend whether it is the intention that the consultation in this regard will take place only with the bodies that are representative of local authorities and not with the county councils and the districts which would be immediately involved in such an extension of the area? This seems to me to be of some importance. I have received a communication about this from my local county council, who feel very deeply that they ought to be consulted if such an extension is to take place which would involve their area. I think we ought to go beyond consulting the national bodies, the bodies that are representative of local authorities as a whole, and come down to the root of the matter, the people who will be actually involved.


I am grateful to my noble friend for his intervention. As I said, the intention is that there will be consultation with the Welsh Counties Committee, on which the relevant county councils will be represented. I will draw attention to the concern of my noble friend that the county councils directly involved should be sure to have a place in the consultations.


In his reply to this Amendment, the noble and learned Lord assumed that the terms of the Amendment were exclusive, and that nobody might be consulted whom the Secretary of State was not enjoined to consult in the terms of the Bill as it would be amended by the Amendment. That was not the intention, nor indeed would it be the effect of the Amendment, and if it were so interpreted by the Secretary of State he would be at fault. However, it is nice to have on the record the specific undertakings of the noble and learned Lord, to the audible approval of those sitting close to him who shared his feeling that we had wanted to restrict rather than to expand.

I take the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Champion, and which I think he is to raise later on a specific Amendment. We are concerned that the local authorities themselves—and they are defined later in the Bill—should be consulted, rather than that this consultation should be supplanted by consultation with any body either actually or by purport representing these authorities. We are engaged in the exercise of rendering democracy more effective. The most democratic institutions concerned here are the local authorities. It would seem proper that they should be brought into the consultation by Statute. If we can count on their being brought in anyway, 1 think it might be a waste of Parliamentary time to insist at great length that this should go into the Bill, since we know that we can rely on the undertakings of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor.

However, there is implicit in this clause a power which rests in the Secretary of State alone, after taking advice. If the Board is to have little impact on Wales it may be that that is enough, but if in fact it is to have the dynamic and regenerative effect, which is hoped for it by all, and claimed for it by some, then it becomes an instrument of Government in which Parliament has an interest. If its effective area is to be increased, or indeed reduced, by the Secretary of State, having taken advice which he may or may not act upon, then at Report stage we may find it necessary to take the opportunity to make this a move which he can make only with the concurrence of both Houses of Parliament. I will give the noble and learned Lord an opportunity for rejoinder by sitting down before I withdraw the Amendment.


I did not address myself to the third Amendment, to which the point just made by the Lord relates. It may be convenient for the purposes of discussion, as he has indicated, that we should consider that at this point in the debate. Amendment No. 3 is in two parts. The first requires: The power to make an order should include the power to vary or revoke any order … and should be exercisable by Statutory Instrument. That power is already provided for in Clause 27(1) of the Bill which provides: The power to make regulations or orders … shall be exercisable by statutory instrument. Clause 27(4) provides: Any power to make an order … includes a power … to vary or revoke the order. The second part of the third Amendment requiring that the orders shall be by Affirmative Resolution procedure, in my submission takes the extent of Parliamentary control rather further than is strictly required. Negative Resolution procedure is, I would submit, sufficient and effective control exercisable by Parliament in this particular field.

The Committee will see in due course that in regard to Clause 10, which deals with the provision of increase of public funds for the Board, the necessity for Affirmative Resolution procedure is spelt out and is required. I submit that for the purposes we are now considering we shall certainly be following precedent if the matter is dealt with by way of Negative Statutory Instrument procedure, and the burden upon Parliamentary time, and indeed the burdens that would be imposed by way of time delays, et cetera, required by the Affirmative Resolution procedure would be unhelpful to the achievement of the work of the Board, which I note the noble Lord also hopes will be successful and effective.

I entirely agree with him, looking at the matter generally, that of course it is essential to carry the people around, the communities around, in this project; that is at the very heart of the plan. As I ventured to say on Second Reading, it would be an idle exercise merely to throw another planner into the works, and it is intended that this Board should be closely in touch with the people of Mid Wales whom it is intended to help. I hope accordingly that my assurances that the Parliamentary procedures by way of Statutory Instrument and the control that is given by the Negative Resolution procedure, coupled with the assurances I have given about consultation, will reassure the noble Lord and my noble friend that there is no intention to bulldoze these proposals through the community but that there will be full consultation with those who will be concerned both directly and indirectly.


My noble and learned friend did not reply to the invitation that was held out to him by the noble Lord, Lord Elton, that he might consider the possibility of including this provision in the Bill. It is nice to have an undertaking given in the Committee, but I always like to see it in an Act of Parliament so that eventually I can refer to it as part of the Act. I just wondered whether my noble and learned friend might respond to the invitation of the noble Lord opposite to consider this matter again between now and Report, and perhaps, after further consideration, include some appropriate words in the Bill itself.


Of course, I shall willingly comply with the first part of my noble friend's request that it should be considered. However, I am afraid that I cannot give him an undertaking that we will spell out into the Bill the bodies, one by one, that need to be consulted. There are several counties, county councils, for instance, affected in the area, and although of course there will be consultation I was hoping that my noble friend and the noble Lord opposite would be satisfied that my own assurances, speaking on behalf of the Government, were sufficient to make them content. I will certainly consult with my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Wales between now and the Report stage, and we can look at this matter again at that point of time, but I fear without undertakings on my part.


I have listened with close attention to what the noble and learned Lord said. I am grateful to him for expanding, as perhaps I should have done, the debate to cover our third Amendment. I brought in the matter of the order procedure because it is in fact mentioned in the third line of our first Amendment. Since we are on that ground, I recognise that the provision for variation and revocation of orders would in some sense be superfluous since it is covered elsewhere; namely, in Clause 27. However, I should like to commend him to consider carefully the words of the noble Lord, Lord Champion, which must bear greater weight coming through his right ear, where he now sits, than if it comes from in front of him. Secondly, I would ask him to reflect between now and Report on his remarks about the amount of time that would be wasted, or the superfluity of the Affirmative Resolu-tion procedure in Parliament where the Secretary of State intends to vary the area covered by the Development Board.

It seems to me, first of all, that it is very unlikely indeed that there will be a series of small and piecemeal adjustments. I would imagine the intention of this power is to extend by a considerable area perhaps the area of a county, or to reduce it by a significant portion, and that this will not happen often. A Negative order is an order upon which one may have a debate; an Affirmative order is an order on which one must have a debate. In other words, the mesh of the net is a good deal smaller with an Affirmative order.

It is arguable that if it was such an important change to the conditions in which the local inhabitants live they would be unlikely not to notice a Negative order. But I should like time to consider this between now and Report and to see what in fact are the provisions for the publication of an intention of an order, and whether, as sometimes happens even with the present planning regulations, planning orders, although subject to publicity, do come by surprise on people who are closely affected by them from time to time. One would not wish this to happen. It is a matter of how government is administered. I should like, therefore, while withdrawing the Amendment at this stage, to claim your Lordship's indulgence if I feel that I should return to the matter at Report.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

3.48 p.m.

Lord ELTON moved Amendment No. 4: Page 2, line 6, after (" measures ") insert (" as agent of, or after consultation with, the Welsh Development Agency ").

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 4 brings us on to the matter of the relationship between the Welsh Development Agency and the Board. It is, therefore, the intention of the Amendment to probe this, and to give the noble and learned Lord an opportunity to clarify one or two points which were raised at Second Reading on which we are still somewhat in the dark. The effect of the Amendment is to make an insertion on page 2, line 6, which makes the Board act, in some respects, either as the agent of, or after consultation with, the Development Agency. It therefore stands in one area as a subordinate of, and in the other as an equal of, the Welsh Development Agency, but at no stage can the policies of either fail to take note of those of the other.

This may seem elementary and I am sure that it will be advanced that, since both organisations are run by people of intelligence and good will, the consultations will take place. It is however the function of Parliament to provide a machinery which will be effective even if there is a lapse on the part of the intelligence, good will or concentration of the people running it. I suppose it would be possible to set up the whole organisation with scarcely one clause in the Bill and say that it would be run by people of good will and intelligence, and hard working at that, and that nothing further need be said. But I think that if it is not to be in the Statute Book, then it should be in Hansard, and we wait with interest to hear what the noble and learned Lord has to say about this. I beg to move.


I wish to declare my interest as the chairman of the Development Commission which will in effect be handing over the powers in the Bill to the new Development Board for Rural Wales and, in accordance with the conventions of the Committee, I will not be talking about the work of my own body, the Development Commission. I hope that the Amendment will not be pressed, for what the noble Lord is suggesting is that this body, the Development Board for Rural Wales, should in some way become the agent of the Welsh Development Agency.

The noble Lord should reflect that the essence of the Bill is that it is broadening the activity of the Newtown new town Board; it is confusing when the description and the name are the same. Newtown is a new town, in terms of the new town Acts, in Wales and the essence of the Bill is that it is broadening the activity of the Board of Newtown to cover a much wider area and to take over the work that my organisation does in the area. It would be most inappropriate for the board of a new town to be in some way the agent of the Welsh Development Agency. No other new town board—and I use the words in the general sense—in the whole of this country is the agent of some other agency. Where will this stop? If the noble Lord says that there should be consultation with it, surely that is provided for in the terms of the Bill because there will be contact with the Welsh Development Agency all the way through and there will he an identity of membership. I hope that the noble Lord will reflect on the essence of what this body is doing and will then realise that the Amendment is not appropriate.


Perhaps the Committee will permit me to answer the noble Lord, Lord Northfield, at this stage. I said at the outset that it was a probing Amendment, and probing Amendments are not pressed, so the noble Lord may rest assured on that. I would draw his attention to Clause 21(4) where the Agency is specifically appointed an agent for the Development Board for Wales, so this principle is already in the Bill. It is nothing new. It is simply that we wish to see that there are no interstices where it is not clear in what capacity or what relationship with the Board and the Agency the Development Board is acting.


In the provision Clause 21, to which the noble Lord, Lord Elton, referred, it is not a direction or limit on the work and role of the proposed new Board; it is just a provision that on an odd occasion this sort of relationship may be useful for ad hoc purposes. The noble Lord is trying to make it a general subordinate of the Welsh Development Agency, and that would be totally inappropriate.


I hesitate to intrude on what is developing into a most interesting but somewhat exclusive exchange. I see the point of the Amendment, if it is a probing one; probing Amendments are a Parliamentary technique that is valuable to ascertain precisely what is best to do in order to make more workable a Bill which has broad support. At the same time, my noble friend Lord Northfield has answered many of the points that I felt I needed to answer, particularly the last point he made most cogently; that is, that what is provided in the Bill in the form of agency status for the Board is ad hoc—it is a particular item of activity which is placed in that position and relationship—and that the central purpose of the Bill is to create a Board which will be charged with a quite special responsibility, that of promoting the wellbeing of rural Wales.

On Second Reading the proposals for a new Board were described by my noble and learned friend as a two-pronged attack on the development problems of Wales, the Welsh Development Agency being seen as a method of dealing primarily with industrial matters and with the larger problems of the urbanised areas of Wales, and the Development Board being seen as operating on a smaller and more intimate scale appropriate to the needs of the area it serves. Those of us who are familiar with the area as now designated well understand the need for what I would call a particularist body with certain powers to tackle particular problems in that particular area. Indeed, the Board will have powers that are not available to the Agency. I will not go through them but will give a few examples. It will have power to create schemes or to make provision for housing subsidy, as under Clause 16, to improve the infrastructure of the area, to undertake and complete the development of Newtown and of any other new town designated within its area—this links with the point made by Lord Northfield—and a number of other powers which the Agency does not have. It would he necessary to engage in quite a surgical operation to change the nature of the Agency in order to make it an appropriate parent body from which could be devolved agency activity by the Board.

The heart of the noble Lord's remarks was, I thought, a proper endeavour to find how consultation and co-ordination will proceed and I can assure him at once that it is accepted that the Board will concert its efforts most closely with those of the Agency. This is already recognised and embodied in the proposals in the Bill, particularly the proposal to appoint to the membership of the Agency the Chairman of the Board and this proposal, we think, goes perhaps a little further in some respects than the suggestions made in the form of the Amendment by the noble Lord. Indeed, we think it would be more effective, in that we shall have in the Agency the leader of the Rural Board, the Chairman of the Board, so that there will be that very strong and authoritative link between the two. Clause 2(6) requires the Board before it prepares or submits proposals to the Secretary of State to consult local authorities and other bodies as appear to the Board to have an interest and advice is to be issued by the Secretary of State to both the Agency and the Board to ensure that their activities are closely co-ordinated. I feel that that is an indication of the closeness and thoroughness of the consultation and of the coordination of activity that will be possible between the two bodies.

We have looked carefully at the state of opinion in Wales in regard to this proposal that the Board should in some way be subordinate to the Agency. We do not find that more than a minority opinion was ever expressed in favour of that particular relationship. Indeed, the vast majority of representative opinion and, certainly, local authority opinion was against it and, of those who express themselves as in favour of something on the lines suggested by the noble Lord, most did not persist at all strongly with their arguments. So, all in all, with the assurances that I have been able to give on behalf of the Secretary of State and the Government and the fact that there is in Wales no more than a small and rather indeterminate body of opinion in favour of this change, I hope that the noble Lord will rest content with the fact that he has extracted the assurances which he set out to obtain.


I am much obliged to the noble Lord. I shall of course read with close attention everything he has said. I feel that to give the exchange of opinions the right balance I should draw attention to the fact that the effect of the Amendment would not necessarily be to make the Board subordinate to the Agency, but to make it subordinate to the Agency when the Board did not consult the Agency on equal terms. It would not be the intention to put the Board into a subordinate position but merely to ensure that it should march in step with the Agency. The noble Lord has gone far to explain how this will be done. There may be some nuts and bolts about which I should like to ask him and I may perhaps do so in correspondence, because this is either a very simple or a very technical matter according to how one looks at it.

I should also like to thank the noble Lord. Of course his experience in the Foreign Office has given him the flair for reducing what might have been an aerated conversation to common sense and productive exchanges. I just wonder whether the intrusion of the Foreign Office on to the Front Bench at this time in such a senior and commanding role foreshadows anything about the role of Wales after devolution. I hope not. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

4.4 p.m.

Lord LYELL moved Amendment No.5: Page 2, line 13, leave out subsection (6).

The noble Lord said: It may be for the convenience of the Committee if I speak to Amendments Nos. 5 and 6 together. Amendment No. 5, in the names of my noble friend Lord Elton and myself, is merely a paving Amendment for Amendment No. 6 which, as the Committee will see, contains an entire new clause. It has been drafted—and we hope that it has been correctly drafted and is relevant—on the basis of a similar piece of legislation, the Highlands and Islands Development Act, which refers to another possibly to be devolved part of the United Kingdom, Scotland. The Committee will see that there are two major points in this Amendment. First, we want to make sure that the Secretary of State has to consult with the Board and then to take action. We believe that this process of consultation wherever the Secretary of State is concerned is essential and we are not entirely satisfied that there are, in the clause as it stands, adequate safeguards for this process of consultation. As the new clause seeks to suggest, we wish to ensure that the Secretary of State is merely to give directions of a more general character in regard to his functions and duties, leaving the details of the policy to the Board itself.

The clause also refers to the Consultative Council which we shall be mentioning later on in the course of the Committee's discussions. That again was lifted straight from the Highlands and Islands Development Board in Scotland. In our Consultative Council, we have included agricultural interests which we intend to be a little wider than mere farming interests. We hope that the Consultative Council and the process of consultation which we believe to be relevant also to rural Wales will include landowners, farm workers, forestry workers and other industrial workers who might be concerned. Most importantly, we wonder why Wales should not have the same type of Council and processes of consultation as have already been established in Scotland, where they have, I believe, been very effective. I beg to move.


Once again, I want to draw the attention of noble Lords opposite to the fact that the precise purpose of the Bill is to broaden the activities of a new town corporation into a surrounding rural area. What noble Lords are doing by this Amendment is to graft a new advisory body on to one of our new town organisations. With respect, I do not feel that that, on an individual Bill, is the sort of thing which should be clone by a back door. First, this is a matter of principle that we should approach widely if we intend to do it, rather than by doing it in the case of one particular new town. That would be the effect of the Amendment.

Secondly, I suggest that my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor made it clear on Second Reading that this Development Board for rural Wales will, be appointed by, and accountable to, the Welsh Assembly."—[Officia/ Report, 6/5/76; col. 6541 Are we now going to have, from an Opposition which does not want any more proliferation of bodies, a Welsh Assembly watched over by a Consultative Council watching over a new town's activities in a broader area? I suggest that, if the noble Lord will look at the Amendment in terms of its practical effects, he will see that it is most inappropriate.


We are, for convenience, now discussing three Amendments, Nos. 5, 6 and 41. They relate, in effect, to the present subsection (6)——


I alluded to what we intended in Amendment No. 41 because I believed that the Consultative Council was better defined in Amendment No. 41, but I did not move that Amendment and I hope that I made clear what was intended.


I am entirely in accord with the noble Lord that we have, as part of our procedure, the happy possibility of discussing, without formally moving the Amendment or clause in question, those matters which can, for convenience, be discussed together. Then, when we come to taking the voices in due course, the Lord Chairman will see that we are kept properly in our places and do not decide matters in advance of their being arrived at in their proper and normal place.

Coming to the matters which we are discussing, the basis of the discussion is the present provision in Clause 1(6) that, The Secretary of State may, subject to paragraph 17 of that Schedule,"— that is, Schedule 1— give the Board directions as to the discharge of its functions, and it shall be the duty of the Board to give effect to any such directions. What is proposed is to limit the expression "directions" by giving power only to give directions of a general character; also, the consultation must be with the Board. The difficulty is that it would not be sufficient merely to have a power to give general directions. Clause 27(5) gives the Secretary of State power to give directions either general, or specific, or conditional, or subject to conditions, and does not restrict the power to giving general directions only. The difficulty is that, first, specific directions have to be given from time to time, and, secondly, general directions have sometimes been found to be specific in nature, and then the litigious minded can intervene and say that the direction would be ultra vires. Accordingly, I think it better for the efficient relationship between the Secretary of State and the Board, and for the running of the Board itself, that the language of subsection (6) should remain; namely, the power to give the Board directions.

Consultation with the Board is suggested, indeed required, in the Amendment. The Committee will see that paragraph 17 of Schedule 1, which relates to this matter, provides that: Before giving any direction to the Board under section 1(6) … the Secretary of State shall consult the chairman of the Board (or, if the chairman is not available, the deputy chairman of the Board) unless he is satisfied that, on account of urgency,… consultation is impracticable. That seems to us to be an effective way of dealing with matters, instead of having a requirement that the whole Board should necessarily be consulted. The chairman, or, alternatively, his deputy, is more likely to be available than would be all the members of the Board gathered together. There may well be occasions when there might not be sufficient time for consultation with the whole Board. If this structure is to operate effectively, it would be undesirable if the Secretary of State had to be restricted in his power to exercise powers of direction by a statutory requirement to consult the Board in all cases, and one can imagine the delays that could result from that requirement. The provisions of Clause 1(6) and paragraph 17 of Schedule 1 are precedented in Sections 4, 2 and 3 of the New Towns Act 1965.

I turn now to the suggestion that a consultative council be brought on to the scene. I agree with my noble friend Lord Northfield that this would be adding a body to a scene in which, in the Second Reading debate, the noble Lord, Lord Elton, was complaining about the proliferation of authorities, although he put it in rather more elegant language. I fear that that would indeed be so; it would be mounting Pelion upon Ossa in a field where there are indeed a large number of authorities already in existence.

I have every sympathy with the idea behind the Amendment: that there should be the maximum local participation in the work and activities of the Board, but I doubt whether a consultative council, constituted as suggested in the Amendment, would be effective. I also doubt whether it would be acceptable to elected local authorities. Many bodies other than local authorities and those connected with agriculture would have an interest in the work of the Board and would seek representation on it.

The Government's proposals for the constitution of the Board permit the appointment to it of members with wide experience of the locality, and of people of the kind to whom the noble Lord, Lord Lyell, was referring. The Board is to consist of no fewer than 11 members. The Highlands and Islands Development Board is a smaller body, having only six members, while this Board will have no fewer than 11 and no more than 13. I consider that that number should suffice to allow the appointment of members who would reflect the interests of the area as a whole. As I have already indicated, provision has already been made for five members to be appointed by the Secretary of State after consultation with organisations representative of local authorities in Wales. That is provided for in paragraph 3(3) of Schedule 1. To put the matter at its lowest, it is highly likely that several of the members of the Board will have an interest in agriculture. In an area so dominated by agriculture it would be astonishing if that were not the case, and I am confident that, in making his appointments, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State will seek to secure a wide representation of local interest on the Board and will give consideration to any nominations he receives.

Under the terms of Clause 2(6) of the Bill, it is already the case that the Board is required to consult widely on any proposals before submitting them to the Secretary of State for approval. So there will he a massive opportunity for consultation. We shall want to see some action. We do not want to clutter up the machine with a massive series of interviews, and consultations here and there, all required as a statutory provision, restricting both the power of the Board itself to get on with the job and the Secretary of State in playing his part.

As my noble friend Lord Northfield pointed out, and as I said on Second Reading, it is the intention that after devolution the Board will be fully accountable to the elected Welsh Assembly, and like my noble friend I should think that that would indeed diminish the need for a consultative council. However, in introducing this aspect I am looking into the long, uncertain, and perhaps far future, but what I mention is something which the Government certainly have in mind. In all those circumstances I hope that the noble Lord will feel that the matters which cause him concern are reasonably provided for in the provisions of the Bill as it stands.

Viscount SIMON

I should like to support the noble Lord, Lord Lyell, on one aspect of this matter. I was not greatly impressed by the argument of the noble and learned Lord, that there would not be time to consult the Board and that it would be sufficient to consult the chairman or, if he was not available, the vicechairman—or, presumably, if he was not available, nobody. I do not conceive that the Secretary of State will be rushing to give him directions right, left and centre, and I should have thought that there was no real difficulty about consulting the Board. Presumably, if he gives notice that he wishes to consult the Board a meeting of the Board can be convened, whatever its arrangements are, and the Board can be consulted. I should have thought that that aspect of the Amendment was one which we ought to consider afresh if we do not settle it today.

With regard to the rest of the Amendment, I agree entirely with the noble and learned Lord and with the noble Lord, Lord Northfield, though in his case perhaps for slightly different reasons. He has twice emphasised to the Committee that the main object of the Bill is to extend the new town procedure in rural Wales, but that is only one of the objects of the rural Board. There are those who think that perhaps the extension of the new town procedure is not the best way to proceed. But with great respect to the noble Lord, Lord Lyell, I think that it is quite unnecessary to introduce a new consultative body because, as the noble and learned Lord said, at a later date the Assembly will be in existence; and, even before that, here is a new body which will be widely representative, and there really seems to me no reason whatever to set up another body which they have to consult.


Despite the freedom and the courtesy of your Lordships' Committee, there are some straight lines which one has to tread, and, as a member of the Welsh Development Agency, I, too, would observe the Addison Rules. I wish to say, though, having been born in Wales and having lived all my life there, that the sense of urgency felt there is for action which will resolve the problems which the Bill is designed to meet. There is a great sense of urgency in Wales; and I welcome the intention of my noble and learned friend on the Front Bench, not because of service in foreign fields, such as London, but because of his experience, identity and empathy with the problems of rural and industrial Wales. It is in this sense that I should like to say that there is evidence already that the attentions of the Bill would remove some of those very bodies which are complained of when noble Lords make the point that they do not wish to create further bodies.

I have before me a list of 12 bodies currently functioning in Wales in areas in part covered by some of the provisions of the Bill, and some of these will be removed immediately if the Bill becomes an Act. I will not quote them all, but, for example, there is the Development Commission, which will be going because we are here setting up the Development Board for Rural Wales. The Mid-Wales Industrial Development Association, the county councils body, is likely to go; the Mid Wales Development Corporation is to be dissolved; the Welsh Development Authority, in Wales, will take over some of the activities which are now devolving on the COSIRA body, which is being withdrawn into England; and there is, of course, a very important body, the Land Authority for Wales, which has been described to me (without, of course, wishing to refer to the noble Baroness who is its chairman) as the handmaiden to all these bodies.

We wish to see these bodies come under the control of the Welsh Assembly; and I believe that the best way in which we can help to stimulate the growth is to follow the guidance of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor and to put into operation the two-pronged attack of which he and his noble friend on the Front Bench have spoken here this afternoon. To spearhead this attack we have to bring together the agencies which are at present working, so that we can resolve the problems which have rested with us in Wales all our lifetime.


Noble Lords opposite may have interpreted our intentions a little wrongly in their response to the Amendment that my noble friend has ably advanced. We are aware that Schedule 1, paragraph 17, lays down provisions, to which the noble and learned Lord referred, for consultation with the chairman; but, like the noble Viscount on the Liberal Benches, we do not see why the Board itself should not be consulted if it is to be directed by a direction from the Secretary of State which it must by Statute follow. Moreover, since the Board is to be appointed by the Secretary of State himself, albeit following advice taken from other bodies, then it seems that there may be some good reason for having another body to be consulted on an occasion such as this.

Noble Lords speak as though this was some great innovation. We are in fact following the Highlands and Islands Development Act, Section 2(1), and the provisions made there. So the noble Lord does not have to look very far from his own Bench for the authorship of the organisation which he used as a precedent later on in the arguments which he himself advanced. I agree that we do not want a proliferation of authorities. Authorities have executive power: the Consultative Committee would not. It may be argued that we do not want a proliferation of bodies, either. What I do think should be quite clear at this stage of the afternoon is that, although we are aware of this sense of urgency which has just been referred to with eloquence and relevance by the noble Lord, Lord Parry, to act in haste in the half-day or the two half-days on which we are to consider this legislation is not to meet that urgency. We want to look at this in some detail.

Finally, I should like the noble and learned Lord to make some response to the statement of the noble Lord, Lord Northfield, which has also been referred to earlier in this debate; and I should like to say to the noble Lord, Lord Northfield, if I may, that I am aware that he tried courteously to get in touch with me earlier on, but it has not been possible for me to establish contact (which in fact would have been helpful to both of us) owing to pressure of work both here and elsewhere. But he said, as I heard him, that it was the intention of the Bill to extend the activities of the Newtown Corporation into the surrounding country. That is not how we on this side see the intention of the Bill at all. Perhaps we could be put right about that as well.


On the last point, I am bound to say that I am inclined to agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, as to the general objects and purposes of the Board, but it is certainly the case that a crucial part will be taking over the Newtown powers and organisation, though it is intended to have a wider range of activities in both the industrial and the social field of the kind that the Bill has indicated. I do not know that my noble friend Lord Northfield was seeking to limit its aims and objects in any way by the terms of his intervention.

I am sorry that I cannot, as at present advised, meet the suggestion so moderately made by the noble Viscount, Lord Simon. I have little doubt that on matters of importance the Secretary of State would consult the Board as a whole, but a statutory duty that in respect of all directions there should be consultations with the Board as a whole could provide difficulty in the operation of the Board in its relationship with the Secretary of State, and vice versa. I am afraid, therefore, that as at this moment I cannot indicate that I would accept that suggestion. However, lam willing to talk with my noble friend the Secretary of State to see whether it could be indicated that, as a general intention, the purpose would be to consult with the Board; that, in conditions of difficulty or urgency, he should then be able to act as indicated in the Schedule. I am certainly willing to discuss that possibility with my noble friend the Secretary of State and to deal with it when we come to consider this again at the Report stage.


Since the noble Lord was questioning what I had said about the new town effect of my remarks, perhaps I should explain what I was trying to say; namely, that when one looks at this Bill one must have regard to the fact that a major effect of it is on the new town of Newtown—that is, that its area of activity is being broadened. Therefore, every Amendment has to be looked at, not only because of its effect on the rural areas but also because of its effect on the functioning of that new town. That is why I do not want to see, if I may say so, Amendments which affect the whole new town movement (I use those words with small letters; all the new towns) brought in as a side wind on some other Bill, because that would be the effect of some of the Amendments that the noble Lord has been moving.

4.30 p.m.


I have listened to this discussion with some interest, having a long acquaintance with Wales, and, I must say, with a completely open mind —a vacant mind to some extent—on this subject. I must support the noble and learned Lord and the noble Lord, Lord Northfield. The problem in Wales for a long time has been not the possibility of a dearth of consultation but too much consultation. In fact, if we had someone to put on to the situation in Wales Mr. Churchill's label, "Action this day!"things would have been much better. Lloyd George once called us a nation of quarrelsome nightingales. At all events, I do not think there is likely to be any lack of consultation or discussion in any matter affecting Wales. Therefore, I feel that the less that we have in the way of new consultative bodies, the better.

We are, in this case, in the same position as we were some years ago in this House when the Local Government Bill came in. We had in the back of our minds the knowledge that in Wales and Scotland there would be Assemblies in the near or distant future and we were trying to fit in how these local government bodies would operate within the sphere of the Assemblies. We are the same today. We know the Assembly will be coming forward in a few years and we do not know quite how these various bodies mentioned in the Bill will fit in. We have heard that they will fit in somehow. I suggest that it would be better to leave the matter in as broad terms as possible, as the noble and learned Lord has suggested. Any attempt as in the Amendments to create another new body, the Development of Rural Wales Consultative Council, would be a great mistake.

Some years ago I remember speaking in this House and mentioning part of this area where there was a total population in a county of 18,000, with 22 local authorities. They could, if they had wanted, have had 30 local authorities. We must realise that it is not a problem in rural Wales of too few bodies; it is a problem of too many bodies. I welcome the day when the Assembly will be brought into being to bring all these bodies into one, as it were, and then cut away from a lot of the peripheral bodies at present constituted. I would ask the Committee to reject the Amendments and to support the Government in this particular issue.


It is some time since I addressed your Lordships' House, but as a de-tribalised Welshman and as an ex-Under-Secretary of State for Welsh Affairs, I feel that it is possibly permissible to say just a word on this question. I must say, frankly, that I entirely support what has been said by my noble friend Lord Ogmore. The trouble in Wales in the past has been that we have had far too many committees, far too many bodies, far too many people consulting, and far too little done. I should like to see in rural Wales a great deal more done and a great deal fewer committees. That is all I need say on this Amendment; but if my noble friends were to press it then I am afraid that I should have to support the noble and learned Lord.


May I say how agreeable it is that two—I was going to use the unkind word "authentic" —Celtic voices have been raised in support of my resistance to these Amendments. I doubt not the good will that inspires them, but, as a Welshman, I am aware of our strengths in the matter of expressing opinion and of our weakness.


May I say, as an adopted Celt for the purposes of this Bill, that I have learned that the Welsh Members of this House are particularly learned and they always seem to be particularly eloquent. I sought in moving my Amendment merely to safeguard what we saw as the consultative functions of the Secretary of State before he directed the Board to take a particular action. Nevertheless, we do see that there is a need for action in this Board and the dangers of an additional tier or layer of consultation. Particularly in view of the eloquence that it has brought forth and the long time that this Amendment has taken this afternoon, I think it would be the Committee's wish that I should beg leave to withdraw this particular Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Lord ELTON had given Notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 6: After Clause 1, insert the following new clause: " Directions and advice to the Board.

  1. .—(1) The Secretary of State may, after consultation with the Board, give to the Board directions of a general character as to the exercise and performance of their functions, and the Board shall give effect to any such directions.
  2. (2) To advise the Board on the exercise and performance of their functions, there shall he constituted a Development of Rural Wales Consultative Council (in this Act referred to as "the Council").
  3. (3) The provisions contained in Schedule (Provisions as to the development of Rural Wales Consultative Council) to this Act shall have effect in relation to the Council."

The noble Lord said: I had thought that I had moved this Amendment in conjunction with Amendment No. 5, which has just been withdrawn. I hope it will be for the convenience of the Committee that I do not move Amendment No. 6.

The PRINCIPAL DEPUTY CHAIRMAN of COMMITTEES (Baroness Tweedsmuir of Beihelvie)

One can speak to more than one Amendment but one should, in fact, move the Amendments in rotation.

Clause 2 [Duties of the Board]:

Lord ELTON moved Amendment No. 7:

Page 3, leave out lines 20 to 22.

The noble Lord said: This also is a probing Amendment the intention of which is to elicit an explanation of the position of Her Majesty's Government and it is a paving Amendment for the later Amendment standing in my name on the Marshalled List to leave out Schedule 2. The two Amendments together, in effect, ask the Government to make clear what is the status of the personnel who are dealt with under Schedule 2; that is to say, members and staff of dissolved development corporations. I thought it best to tackle the subject in this way to enable the noble Lord to pick out any points of complexity in the Schedule which need elucidation.

As I read it, it amounts in fact to a guarantee of continuation of employment; and there are similar provisions for other personnel later in the Bill. I think that the noble Lord might find it opportune at this stage to explain how it is that if the function of the Board is not to be the function of the dissolved development corporation, it is not necessary to replace skills already in existence there with other skills relevant to other areas of authority. The answer may be that it is intended to recruit these skills elsewhere and to make them additional within the rather narrow terms of the extent to which the Government have said that the total staff may be expanded in the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum and in the Consultative Document.

I think that it is fair to say that there are some in Wales who feel that this is an opportunity for a revision of structure, for the importation of new skills by advertisement and recruiting and also an opportunity to give to the Board, by means of recruiting these skills whether in addition to or in the place of those already there, a stature, an importance obviously equal to that of the Agency. I do not wish to be contentious about this. I repeat that it is a probing Amendment. I hope it will provide an opportunity for the noble Lord, whose skills as a Celt I did not wish to belittle when I emphasised those of his in the foreign affairs fields. He may welcome this opportunity.

4.40 p.m.


The purpose of this Amendment would be to delete the provision in Clause 2(4) which applies to Schedule 2, making provision with regard to members or staff of development corporations dissolved by order under the provisions of subsection 2(2). There is one such development corporation in the Board's area, the Mid Wales Development Corporation. While there may be varying views as to how large new towns' policy and activity may loom in the new Board's programme, nevertheless it will be part of it. How far it will extend is a matter for opinion at the moment and from experience of the workings of the Board and the needs of the area. However that may be, there is need to make provision for the transfer of staff from the old organisation to the new one. Schedule 2 makes provision which is generally applied in circumstances where one statutory body is subsumed by another. This is the position in the transition we are effecting in this area. The precedent for this which immediately comes to mind is that embodied in Schedule 2 to the Welsh Development Agency Act 1975.

As regards staff, an obligation is imposed on the Board by Schedule 2 to employ each person transferred to it on terms and conditions which, taken as a whole, are no less favourable than those on which they were employed by the development corporation at the time of transfer, until such time as new terms and conditions of employment are issued. Should staff suffer a loss or reduction in their emoluments, paragraph 3 gives the Secretary of State the power to pay compensation. As regards members of the Board of the Mid Wales Development Corporation who may now lose their position, the Secretary of State may pay—and this is a permissive power—compensation for loss of office to any member of that development corporation dissolved by an order under this Act.

I do not know whether the noble Lord wants me to go further in response to his probing. I recognise the need to make clear what we intend to do about the staff and possibly about the members of the old corporation. He may have in mind what happens to the services which the Cwmbran Development Corporation have been rendering to the Mid Wales Development Corporation. That has been assistance which has been rendered to the Mid Wales Corporation, and the staff of the Cwmbran Development Corporation at no time were part of the staff of the Mid Wales Corporation and therefore do not come into this transfer from one corporation to another. I mention that just in case the noble Lord had that in mind. His central point was: what do we intend to do about staff; what is the precedent? It is very respectable and indeed recent. This is the right way to get the continuity leading to the point where new terms and conditions are negotiated.

The noble Lord raised the point about recruitment of new personnel and, in particular, new skills. We recognise the validity of that point. It is less valid in an area like this where the difficulty may well be to retain existing skills rather than to make available opportunities for new personnel to exercise their skills. In many areas of local government, not least rural area, the difficulty is to recruit—certainly at some levels—the skills which are necessary. I think we would be very well advantaged if we were able to transfer to the Board most, if not all, of the skills and the personnel which have hitherto served the bodies which are now to be subsumed. I would lay the emphasis from my own experience and impressions on that side of the matter rather than to look unduly for opportunities to attract what is sometimes called "new blood". Certainly it would he new personnel which might not be available.

The noble Lord asked whether this was a guarantee of indefinite continuation of employment. Of course this is not so. Paragraph 3 of Schedule 2 contemplates loss of employment in consequence of the dissolution of the development corporation. This is a genuine point of compensation because of what happens as a result of statutory action; namely, the ending of one corporation and its subsumation in another. So there is no open-ended guarantee of continuation of employment. I appreciate the spirit in which the noble Lord has moved and spoken to this Amendment. I hope that have given him at least part of the information that he has been seeking.


I am much obliged for that very helpful response. In short, there are many employees who will wish to know what is to happen to them. The noble Lord has made that clear. A lot of people are affected by the new body and they will wish to know how it is served, and whether it is to be the same people doing the same job with the same "in" and "out" trays in front of them. The noble Lord has answered that and reassured them as well. I am obliged for his response and beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

4.48 p.m.

Lord LYELL moved Amendment No. 8: Page 3, line 33, leave out (" such ") and insert (" all ")

The noble Lord said: It may be for the convenience of the Committee if we discuss Amendments Nos. 8, 9 and 10 together, because they seem to be fairly simple and relevant. The technical term is that they hang together. The purpose of these three short Amendments is merely to tighten up Clause 2(6)(b) and its particular provisions on the processes of consultation about any proposals of the Board for, first of all, the economic, and then the social development of the area in Clause 2(1)(b): for the economic and social development of the area or any part of it;". As Clause 2(b) is drafted, we believe, in spite of what we have been discussing earlier, that there is a danger that action might be a little precipitate. Before the Committee decides this particular point we feel that we should like to hear the noble and learned Lord's opinion on whether further consultation should be necessary when the Board is going to take action as part of its duties, which we regard as wholly admirable. We believe every local authority which may have its powers impinged should be consulted. For that reason, I beg to move Amendment No. 8.


The effect of the Amendment is to require the Board, before preparing or submitting proposals to the Secretary of State for approval, to consult all other local authorities and all other bodies as appear to the Board to have an interest. This Amendment, I submit, does not really impart any greater precision in the Board's discretionary power to consult, but it could be interpreted as suggesting that, for example, all other local authorities should be consulted, however minimal their interest. I would ask the noble Lord, Lord Lyell: does this mean, for instance, that every community council, district council or county council is to be consulted? I imagine the noble Lord would regard that prospect as really so burdensome and disruptive of the work of the Board as to be, putting it at its lowest, ill-advised. But if the intention is to consult with all and sundry, the clause in its amended form, if accepted, would be contradictory. On the one side, it appears to require consultation with all local authorities, yet leaves the Board with discretion to consult those who are likely to be affected by the Board's proposals.

In my submission, the intention of the Bill as it stands is quite clear; namely, that the Board will exercise its discretion in deciding what bodies it will consult. But, of course, it must consult with the planning authorities. That is the crucial requirement, and that is provided for in Clause 2(6)(a). Again, I think there is a great danger in so over-elaborating the machinery of consultation that nothing will work, nothing will move and Mid Wales will relapse into a prolonged slumber.


I am most grateful for the very lucid explanation the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor has just given to us. I would hasten to point out to the Committee that in no way do we seek to allow Mid Wales to relapse into slumber. We merely thought there might be some intermediate bodies, district councils perhaps, which might in some cases find their interests subordinated by actions which might be too precipitate. In some cases the Board might be tempted to cut corners, and it was this that we were slightly worried about. However, the noble and learned Lord has pointed out that our Amendment could be ill-advised, and of course we defer to him in his opinion on such matters and in the interpretation of the law. In view of what has been said, I beg leave to withdraw this Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Whether Clause 2 shall stand part of the Bill?

4.54 p.m.


Before we allow this clause to become part of the Bill, I should like to make one or two comments regarding the duties of the Board, as they are set out. We should be grateful for some comments on the relationship between the Board and the Welsh Develop ment Agency. These two bodies may well overlap in their work and activities for the benefit of Mid Wales, and we feel there may be need for a little clarification as to the powers and duties of the new Board, particularly in relation to the possible overlapping powers of the Welsh Development Agency in some aspects. We believe there is a need to be a little clearer as to where the duties of the two authorities will overlap and may possibly interlock. This is not a particularly serious matter, of course, since we agree that both bodies are seeking to work for the benefit of Mid Wales, and particularly of the rural districts. However, we should like to see where there is the possibility of the overlapping of duties and powers, as set out in Clause 2, and to know what are the margins and the borders of those various duties.


I would hope to emulate the noble Lord's brevity and conciseness in putting what could be rather a complex and comprehensive question and reply. I entirely agree with him that it is necessary progressively to make clearer all the time what the relations of the two bodies should be. These will become more clear as they co-operate together and co-ordinate certain activities. Without attempting a spot summary of the contents of the Welsh Development Agency Act 1975 and of the Bill now before us, listing the points of difference and of activity, plus the points of consultation and co-ordination, I could not do that today. But I think the noble Lord has done a service in emphasising that clarity is needed in regard to the purpose, powers and activities of bodies of this kind.

One has to remember, of course, that when the Assembly comes into being—the Assembly to which the noble Lord, Lord Elton, has already begun to appoint people; and of course I took his remark in the spirit in which he made it—it will be running this particular Board and, therefore, ensuring that it coherently concentrates on the duties which the Bill imposes upon it: those are to attend particularly to the developmental needs of the rural areas of Wales, beginning with the designated area that we have in mind. Naturally, as the noble Lord has suggested, from time to time, there will be a certain overlap, but only where that is organically necessary. We would hope that the specific gravity of the activities of the Agency, on the one hand, and of the Board, on the other, would be understood by them in the terms of the two enactments, and indeed in the terms of the Directives which they receive from time to time from the appropriate Minister.

I can only give the assurance that, where there is overlapping, we very much hope that it occurs as a result of the need for co-ordinated activity. We are trying to provide, by a certain common membership, particularly at the authoritative level —the chairman of one body being a member of the other body—that this overlap does not become confusing and untidy. But I take the point. It is necessary constantly to make clear what is the ambit of activity and purpose when we set up these bodies. I have every confidence that, if I may borrow a phrase which the noble Lord used, with the intelligent and practical people who will be attracted to service on this Board, such as those attracted to service on the Welsh Development Agency, there will be no real difficulty about ensuring that coordination and consultation do not degenerate into wasteful overlapping.

Viscount SIMON

Before the noble Lord sits down, I wonder whether he can explain a little further the words he used. We have already heard that the Assembly will in due course be appointing the Board, but the noble Lord has just said that the Assembly will be running the Board. Of course, we cannot understand this till we have the legislation setting up the Assembly, but that would seem to imply that the Assembly as such will be an executive body. Otherwise, I do not see how it will run the Board.


A much more accurate way of putting it is that the Board would be answerable to the Assembly.


Perhaps I may be forgiven for raising this point. It seems to me, if I heard the noble Lord, Lord Lyell, correctly, that he spoke of the urban Board for Wales and the rural Board for Wales, which might account for some of the misunderstanding that seems to be attaching to the Front Bench opposite. Did the noble Lord use the term "urban Board"?


Not consciously.


The point I am making is that the noble Lord, Lord Elton, also said earlier that it was possible the negative influences might be missed in Wales. The impression should be corrected that these Boards are in some way opposed to one another, in that one looks after the urban areas and the other the rural areas. In fact, they are both national Development Boards having similar interests, and where those interests overlap they will be co-ordinated. In fact, the word "concert" not only appears in the Bill but has appeared over and over again in the discussion. It is a fact that where there are areas of overlap they have already been noticed and inquired into, so there are people who are aware of possible difficulties arising and who have already engaged in these.


I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, for his kind welcome to my simple query as to possible confusion over the duties of the Board. I understand that this is what the Board must or shall do as part of its remit, and that this does not necessarily cover the powers. I referred in the course of my remarks to the powers, which I see on closer scrutiny come under the next clause that we are to discuss, so I was possibly a little out of order. I hope I am in order in replying to the noble Lord, Lord Parry. I do not remember using the term "urban Board". I had understood that this Development Board for Rural Wales would have other interests and duties which might not lie exclusively in a rural field, and might lie in light industries or service industries. I am quite clear in my mind as to the duties of the Board.

There is one further point of confusion which was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts. When the Assembly is ultimately set up, as I believe it will be, in the next few years, we shall once again need to have a further session of winnowing out possible overlaps and confusions. But it seems to me that should there be any common membership of this Board and the Welsh Development Agency, and any further agencies or authorities that are set up to report to the Welsh Assembly, or if any members of the Welsh Development Agency or of the Board are also members of the Assembly, the word "confusion" will be pre-eminent in the discussions on the duties of the Board. Nevertheless, I am very grateful for the explanations which the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, has given.

Clause 2 agreed to.

Clause 3 [General powers of the Board]:

5.5 p.m.

Lord ELTON moved Amendment No. 12: Page 4, line 4, at end insert (" other than for agricultural or horticultural purposes ").

The noble Lord said: On Second Reading, it was clear that the Government had taken on board the lesson learned in 1965; that is, that any inclusion of agriculture within the purview and power to intervene of a statutory body in this area would be immensely unpopular. The Government and the noble and learned Lord were at pains to point out that there was no such intention; that the Government would not do this; that the Bill would not be used for this purpose. The effect of Amendments Nos. 12 and 13 —and 1 think it would be to the convenience of the Committee if I spoke also to Amendment No. 35—would be to put that statement into the Bill. They would not alter in any way any function which the Government say they wish this Board to perform.

We are aware that this is a rural and therefore an agricultural and, to a lesser extent, horticultural district; that it is the function of the Board to underpin the rural—that is to say, the agricultural and horticultural—activities of the society which lives therein, and to maintain its numbers in good health, economic, physical and moral. But it is not the function of the Board to participate in agricultural or horticultural activities, and we have been given an assurance that it will not do so. Therefore, I beg to move an Amendment which will put this point of view specifically into the Bill without altering anything else at all.


I hope that the noble Lord will allow me once again to chide him for putting forward Amendments which are really impractical. If he will pay regard to the duties of this Board, which may be to acquire land in order to develop houses attached to a new town, he will realise that it is often the case that land has to be bought in large quantities at a certain time. One has sometimes to buy up a whole farm in order that part of it shall be later developed for housing purposes. It would be totally impractical to insist that, having acquired that land, the Board was unable to manage it for agricultural purposes until such time as it wished to use part of it.

What does the noble Lord want? Does he want it to lie waste? Does he not want the land, if it has to be acquired in that way, to be used properly? I am sure that all that is needed in a case like this is a statement of intent that the Government do not intend a Board to enter into the business of agriculture and nobody would expect a Board to want to do so. Anybody building a new town knows that one has at times to acquire land in that way, and the best thing one can do until it is used or disposed of is to manage it as profitably as possible in the public interest. Therefore, I submit to the noble Lord that his Amendment, which may have good intentions, is impractical.

Viscount SIMON

I should like to support the noble Lord, Lord Elton, in the Amendment. But I see the difficulties which the noble Lord, Lord Northfield, has explained and there must be some way of getting around these. What I think the noble Lord, Lord Elton, is trying to ensure is that the undertaking which was given, that this Bill was not intended for the purpose of going into agriculture or interfering with it, will be observed. As the noble Lord has said, I accept the point of view that there may at times be difficulty in acquiring land for housing or for a factory without temporarily acquiring some agricultural land which is aftenvards to be returned to agriculture. I do not believe that difficulty can be insurmountable if the Board is concerned with acquiring the land which it needs for this purpose. It may be that the wording of the Amendment will need to be modified but I hope that the noble Lord who is to reply for the Government will be able to confirm that the intention is that the Board should not enter into the agricultural field. He will recollect, as we all do, the objections which were raised to an attempt to do this some years ago, an attempt which eventually foundered largely because of the tremendous objection from the agricultural interests in the area. I hope that some means can be found to write into the Bill in an acceptable form, with sufficient flexibility to meet the point which was made by the noble Lord, Lord Northfield, the assurance we were given on Second Reading that this was not the intention of the Bill.


Some time ago I found myself in very great trouble with noble Lords on the opposite side of the House because I said in connection with land acquisition for building purposes that one could not exclude agricultural land—even, at times, good agricultural land. That was considered heresy and almost treason. I am sure that noble Lords realise that, together with my agricultural colleagues, I want our land to be preserved for agricultural purposes and for amenity purposes, too. Therefore, when they hear what I have to say noble Lords must not think that again I am uttering heresy.

As it has been moved, the Amendment is quite impossible. It cannot be that an authority of this kind cannot ever, under any circumstances, acquire or operate upon agricultural land. This would be an absurdity. I listened with interest to what the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, said. It may be that we can find a better form of words and I leave that task to my noble colleagues on the Front Bench. However, as an agriculturalist, I want to make the point again that, much as we love the land and want to see it used for agriculture, we cannot take up the position that never, under any circumstances, can an authority acquire agricultural land for amenity purposes.


If I may intervene, there is no suggestion in the Amendment that agricultural land should not be purchased. The suggestion is that the land should not he purchased for agricultural purposes. That is different.


May I check with the noble Lord, Lord Elton, that he is taking together Amendments Nos. 12, 13 and 35 and ask him, through the Chairman, what are his intentions regarding Amendment No. 16?


I think that Amendment No. 16 merits separate discussion.


Therefore we are addressing ourselves to Amendments Nos. 12, 13 and 35. The first of these three Amendments, which have a common purpose, is general in intention and its purpose is to confine the Board's activities to non-agricultural purposes. This Amendment would preclude the Board from acquiring, holding, managing, developing or disposing of land or other property for agricultural or horticultural purposes. I am advised, however, that its effect would be wider than that intention. It would also hamper new town development by preventing the Board from managing, as agricultural units, land acquired for new town development which it is not yet ready to develop. This applies to a lesser extent to land that it will acquire for development outside new towns.

Like the noble Lord, Lord Elton, the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, sought assurances. The noble Viscount asked for alternative drafting. I do not think that better drafting than that which is contained in this provision is possible. Perhaps noble Lords will not press this when they have once more heard specifically the points of assurance which the Government have already made very explicit. However, I repeat these assurances. The assurance given in the Consultative Document,Rural Wales, which outlined the Government's proposals for the Board—that the Board will not engage in agriculture, forestry and fishing—can be repeated and is now repeated. It is not intended that the Board should acquire land for the purpose of managing it as a farm. The Board will need to acquire land, sometimes farmland—it will not be the first development corporation, this time in the form of a Board, to do this and to have to do it—for the development of any new town in its area, and elsewhere within its area for industrial and housing development in support of its general function; otherwise what is the object of the Bill? The Board, however, would be unduly hampered in its work if it were denied by status the power, having acquired land for its principal purposes, to manage it, if necessary, as agricultural land until such time as it was required for development purposes.

I think that so far I carry the noble Lord and the noble Viscount with me. The point of specific assurance that they seek—if the intention, having bought agricultural land, is not to farm it but to use it for developmental purposes—is what happens in the meantime, for the shorter or the longer period, between the purchase and the possibility of development? What does the Board do with the land? I join my noble friend in saying that the Board should be free to make the best and most obviously practical and feasible use of such land while it is in its possession awaiting development.

The purpose of this Board is not agriculture but development. Agricultural and horticultural activity come into this in a marginal but essential way and I will deal with that point in a moment. I hope that we shall take the same view about the powers of this Board in regard to agricultural land which it has acquired as we have so far about the powers, in this respect, of development corporations and that we shall not exempt it from taking a very reasonable and, indeed, necessary power to deal with agricultural land which comes within its possession in the way and for the purposes I have indicated. If the Board is inhibited from proceeding in this way, one can imagine results which I am sure no one here would wish to happen; that is, it could not even use land for horticultural purposes which are necessary in connection with the development of a new town or, indeed, of a housing estate.

If this is deleted from Amendments Nos. 12, 13 and 35, then all that power is taken away and we return to the point made by the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, as to whether there is an alternative drafting which will satisfy all of us. I do not think there is because the drafting grows from the experience of the past. I defer to my noble friend, who is an expert in these matters, but I think it ranges back to 1912 and it would be difficult to indicate an example of abuse in this matter. No development corporation can fairly be shown to have acquired agricultural land and then to have used it for any purpose except development purposes or the marginal but necessary horticultural or interim agricultural purposes. To redraft this power for the Bill is perhaps being rather specific and somewhat over-censorious as to the prospective activities of a Welsh Board. I think a Welsh Board may very well contain people and carry ideas in regard to the proper use of agricultural land and who should use it and perhaps —and certainly in Mid Wales—be more careful about the husbanding of agricultural land. My noble friend Lord Collison emphasised this point.

Of course there is a very strong feeling in the countryside and among the kind of people who will be serving on this Board that the acquisition of precious agricultural land must not lightly be undertaken. I will not take the Committee through all the checks and statutory provisions for public inquiries and the proper consultation of agricultural interests which are embodied in a whole series of Statutes. There is a very strong feeling in the countryside that agricultural land must be carefully husbanded and used for the best possible purposes. Indeed, I would say that the survival of this essential rural area—an area of agriculture and amenity, bounded by Cardigan Bay and Offa's Dyke and to the North by the old Caernarvon and Denbighshire boundaries and the northern boundaries of Glamorgan, and, I think, Carmarthen in the South—its development as an agricultural and amenity area, which is how we want it to be preserved and developed, depends on there being a certain amount of urban industrial development. This means that a certain small amount of agricultural land in the area shall be acquired by the Board in order to provide the services, the facilities, the buildings—and I am referring now to Amendment No. 13—that are necessary in order to serve the survival of the countryside. The countryside will not survive in vacuum; it must be serviced, especially today, and Mid Wales is a classic example of agriculture and amenity declining as the little urbanity available there has declined.

In a way I would say that we need to invest a little precious farmland in the survival of the countryside. It is inescapable that we should detach here and there a few acres and on occasion a little more than we want to, in order to create the basis for an attractive life for the young people of the area. I value very much the way in which these Amendments have been moved. I accept that Amendment No. 16 should be moved and discussed separately. I hope that what I have said on the other three Amendments will help to supplement what assurances the noble Lord will need on Amendment No. 16.


May we get one thing clear at the outset: On this side of the Committee it is our wish to establish, as I think I said earlier, a healthy community in this area and we are anxious that if the Bill comes into being it shall come into being effectively. One necessary prerequisite for this is that it should have the confidence of the agricultural community which in the end it is to serve. It is that community which requires the assurances for which I have been asking—not merely this Committee—and I would submit that it is no good going into a field full of rabbits, carrying a gun and telling them that you only intend to shoot pheasants. What we are intending to do is to stop up the barrel which might shoot the rabbits.

Having said that, I think possibly the noble Lord opposite underestimates the ingenuity of his drafting staff. If they look at (I would say) the fifth paragraph in Hansard of what he has just said, they will also find the paraphrase of a drafting which would satisfy us. Neither we nor the Government wish the Board to indulge in large agricultural undertakings. It is clear that it may he necessary to purchase relatively—and I stress, relatively—large tracts of agricultural land prior to using them for development for residential, industrial or amenity purposes. I see no reason why some such proviso should not be the basis of an approach to an acceptable Amendment. Of course, I should like to take advice and to reflect before committing myself to accepting it, but I think it is necessary to make it clear that there are not the means to indulge in commercial agricultural activities; where the parcel of land is required to be bought for development—and, of course, it is always questionable whether it is advisable to do this if there are other means—and there are no other means, then it should he clear that that is the only purpose for which it can be retained. Indeed one would reflect on whether the Board should in that case act as landlord rather than manager or farmer.


If the noble Lord will allow me to interrupt him, I can see the drift of his argument: He would like to suggest that an Amendment be found which would put a restriction on purposive acquisition of agricultural land; but he used the word "horticultural" as well. That, for example, is an Amendment which, in any event, would prevent the new town corporation, or the body which is to succeed it, having its own tree nursery to grow the shrubs, as every such body has, in order to carry out its landscaping programme. How will the noble Lord get round that, whatever Amendment he tries to draft?


The noble Lord has kindly anticipated what I was about to say. I see no difficulty at all in making a provision for that purpose, which is, in fact, an amenity purpose. I have already covered that. There is a distinction between growing trees to plant in parks and growing trees to sell. I am sorry; I do not wish to delay the Committee in a continuing debate on this subject. This is something which can be looked into when the House is not sitting and an Amendment can be drafted with this end in view. I do not think we can hammer it out syllable by syllable, subsection by subsection on the Floor of the House.

We have conducted this exchange to a celestial commentary which happily has left us dry, if somewhat diminished in stature. I hope that something of this grandeur will come through the columns of Hansard as the draftsmen read what the noble Lord has said, so they may produce an acceptable Amendment. But the principle is quite clear. We wish to reassure those concerned that they are not being faced with a juggernaut which will compete with them in their chosen field, or consume what is in effect their raw material, their capital investment, unless it is necessary so to do in order to make the whole of that rural area viable. We accept that there is need for some expansion. Possibly we concede that expansion in the industrial sphere as being on a slightly more modest scale than do noble Lords opposite, but that is a matter for policy; it is not a matter for legislation. It would be possible to put into the Bill an Amendment, on which I would he happy to give my views to the noble Lord afterwards, and which would enable Her Majesty's Government to present it to the people affected by it so that they can preserve their credibility without any difficulty at all. Having said that, and as no other noble Lords wish to intervene further, will the noble Lord bear in mind until Report stage what I have said? I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.32 p.m.

Lord GORONWY-ROBERTS moved Amendment No. 14:

Page 4, line 7, leave out paragraph (d) and insert— (" (d) to provide finance—

  1. (i) for the taking by any local authority or statutory undertakers of such measures as the Board considers will contribute to the economic or social development of that area; or
  2. (ii) for such activities of other persons as the Board considers will contribute to the social development of that area; ").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 14, and with this I think we might take Amendment No. 36, if that is agreeable to your Lordships' Committee and to the noble Lord opposite.


Yes, of course.


Perhaps we might also take Amendment No. 42. It might be convenient if we address ourselves to the matters arising from those three Amendments which are proposed from this Bench and, of course, to move them in order as they are reached. The purpose of the Amendments is to extend the range of purposes for which finance may be provided by the Board from the category of services for land to the wider purposes included in the range of measures the Board considers will contribute to the economic or social development of the area.

As the clause is at present drafted the measures taken by local authorities and statutory undertakers may go beyond … the provision of services for any land or other property;". How far these measures will go beyond what is contained in that phrase is a matter of opinion. I should not think that it will in any way loom large in the totality of the action taken by those two bodies or authorities. The present provision would enable the Board to provide financial assistance, for example to a local authority, in undertaking expenditure to provide access to an area for development, or to a statutory undertake in extending a sewage works to meet the needs of anticipated developments, but would not cover other responsibilities of those bodies which the Board might well wish to assist.

The amended provision would empower the Board to provide financial assistance for the acquisition by a local authority or statutory undertaker of any land for any purpose that, in the view of the Board, would contribute to the development of the area. The amended provision would enable the Board to assist a local authority to take advantage of an opportunity to purchase land required to open up an area for commercial or for residential development, where the local authority is not in a position to finance the purchase itself. In the case of small local authorities with small resources, we have often seen an inability to purchase at the right time land which everybody knows is likely to be necessary for needed development of the kind I have described. Mid Wales is eminently such an area. If its powers were not really enlarged, but defined in the way we suggest in these Amendments, the Board could step in and help in cases of that sort. It would also enable the Board to contribute sums towards the provision of local services along the lines of action taken by development corporations in new towns.

The consequential amendments of Clause 31 will be required to bring forward to that clause the definition of "local authority". At present, this is contained in Schedule 3, at page 55, lines 39 to 42. Powers such as it is now proposed to give to the Board are available to development corporations under Section 3(3)(a) of the New Towns Act 1965. Development corporations can contribute to any expenditure incurred by any local authority or statutory undertaker in the performance of their statutory functions, including the acquisition of land. This power has been used widely, but with discretion.

In exercising this power, the Board will complement and support the work of local authorities and statutory undertakers. There is no intention that it will in any way usurp their powers. The power would be used as a pump-primer, initiating developments which the authorities themselves are anxious to undertake, but which could be stultified because of the lack of resources. The intention of the Amendment is to empower the Board to assist the financing of key infrastructure and other projects on which the further development of a particular area may depend, and along lines of the powers already available to development corporations.

Generally, the Secretary of State—in this case, the Secretary of State for Wales—does not intervene, and does not wish to influence the decisions taken by individual local authorities or statutory undertakers. He would not seek power to assist local authorities and statutory undertakers in a particular area. The power now being sought would be a necessary ingredient of the general powers of the Board, which is to be established to deal with the particular problems of rural Wales.

Although that is the basis of the need for these Amendments, I do not see that they strengthen the powers of the Board as much as define them in such a way that the purpose of the Bill is clarified, and the functions of the Board are thereby clarified also. I hope that the noble Lord and the Committee generally will find it possible to support these Amendments.


I am sure the Committee will be very grateful for the very full way in which the noble Lord, Lord GoronwyRoberts, has set out this series of Amendments, and, of course, we agree with him that it is for the convenience of the Committee that we should take the three Amendments together. I note that the noble Lord did speak earlier of drafting precision. Looking first of all at Amendment No. 14, it seemed at first glance to be very vague; it seemed to many of us to lack the conciseness of the earlier clause. Various doubts arose in our minds as to why this Amendment was necessary. I must admit that the noble Lord's explanations have gone some way to clarifying those doubts in my mind, but I think the Committee will see that there are other points and other worries that we have.

The noble Lord referred to "anticipated developments", local authorities seeking to acquire land, quite legitimately and quite reasonably, for purposes which they could foresee in the future. As we understood it, this would also imply anticipated borrowing. The noble Lord referred to the opportunities to purchase land for development which I think he said may or might occur. This seemed to me just a little vague. The noble Lord's words were "as everybody knows". If there is a definite need and a definite desire for, I think he said, access to be acquired and land to be opened up, I would understand that the local authority, and indeed the Board, would have these powers and that finance would be available. We are seeking reassurances. What new powers is the local authority seeking through these clauses, if indeed any new powers are being sought? Is it not the case that the Board already has powers to acquire land and to utilise funds which it has borrowed, and indeed it can delegate to local authorities these powers to acquire land, to develop land, to hold land for any purposes which may be necessary. I wonder why the local authorities need this new power. I think the noble Lord will be able to set at rest our doubts on this.

With regard to Amendment No. 14, there are two other points I should like to ask the noble Lord about, and I am sure he can clear them up. First, does the term he has brought in, "statutory undertakers", mean the same as "any other body of a public nature" in the old subsection (3)? Some of us have doubts as to whether it is as precisely drafted as we would hope, but we have discussed drafting, and the noble Lord might be able to set our minds at rest on that. Secondly, there is reference in the Amendment to "other persons". Could he enlighten us as to the significance of those "other persons"; I think it is in paragraph (ii). I apologise that these points are a trifle detailed, but there are these three or four points which give us cause for concern.

Viscount SIMON

Before the noble Lord replies could I ask him one question. I think the Amendment is a very valuable one. But when we talk about providing finance, the Board's own finances are obtained, as I understand it, by loans from the Secretary of State. I take it that the finance that will be supplied to the local authorities or other people concerned will also be by way of loans, and that the local authority, or whoever it is, will have the responsibility of repaying the loan to the Secretary of State. Otherwise, it would seem that the Secretary of State would in effect be giving money to local authorities and so relieving ratepayers of what they would normally have to pay, for sewerage services or whatever it is.


I can at once assure the noble Lord, Lord Lyell, that no new powers are conferred by Clause 3 on the local authorities or indeed the statutory undertakers. As to the other bodies of a public nature, again one is in a difficulty about attempting a list or a schedule. I am not sure whether I would be helpful if I were to attempt at this stage to address myself to that particular point. But I see the importance of it, and I rather think there will be a number of opportunities, in the course of the Committee stage and certainly on Report, to be more helpful than I think I can be at the moment. I think I have answered the question on powers as succinctly as possible. I have quite a paragraph here, but I repeat the exemplary brief sentence which has providentially reached me from higher sources, which is that no new power for a local authority is contained in Clause 3.

What is provided in the Amendment is that the Board should be enabled to provide finance to enable a local authority or a statutory undertaker to exercise its existing powers in relation to some programme or project which at that time, or possibly for some time, might prove impossible for the authority or the undertaking to tackle because of lack of resources. It is the power of the Board to assist local authorities or statutory undertakers to exercise their existing powers that we are speaking of. I am most grateful to the noble Viscount for his contribution. I am sure we shall want to consider what he said very carefully between now and the closing stages of this Bill.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

5.48 p.m.

Lord ELTON moved Amendment No. 15:

Page 4, line 20, leave out paragraph (g).

The noble Lord said: In speaking to Amendment No. 15 it is necessary to refer to Amendment No. 16, but one cannot move them together because one is dependent upon the decision we make on the other. The paragraph which this Amendment aims to strike out of the Bill is that which gives the Board authority "to carry on any undertaking or business". As drafted, it seems that the Board can turn its hand to any occupation which it feels would amuse or enlighten it. I know this is not the purpose of the Bill, but it is necessary to draft legislation in a form in which it is safe to put it on the road, as it were. We on this side are extremely alarmed by the breadth of the powers which this subsection gives to the Board. It may be argued that there are areas within this vast area which are precluded to the Board by other parts of the Bill. I should like to know what they are. Even if they are very large, I do not think that we could accept this subsection in its present form. That, in sum, is our objection to it.

The noble Lord may suggest that we should substitute some other Amendment. He may say that amputation is brutal surgery, and that what we want is something more ameliorative. In that case I shall listen with interest to hear what that ameliorative process may be. But this subsection, as it now stands, seems to us to be similar to the powers which local authorities recently and unsuccessfully sought to gain. We do not believe that they are necessary to the Board, nor do we believe that the Board requires them, nor do we think that the Board wishes to attract to it the suspicions of those who feel it may be tempted to use powers which it does not in fact intend to make use of. I beg to move.

5.51 p.m.


Once again I rise to suggest to the noble Lord that he is suggesting an Amendment which will have unfortunate consequences if it were carried. Let us take an example of the area in which the Board will operate. To my knowledge, one of the things that that area lacks is a bus service—or other areas may well lack a bus service. This is a problem that faces every new town particularly those which are primarily rural; that is, they are small enough for what one might call an urban-sized bus service to be impossible, and, therefore, for a bus service to be totally unprofitable in the accepted sense. The National Bus Company does not want to run it; local bus operators do not want to run it, and so a New Town Corporation, which is what this body will be in the area of Newtown, is forced back, willy-nilly, on the job of providing a small bus undertaking which will not only serve that small town but probably link it to rural areas.

In a debate not many weeks ago, noble Lords on both sides of the House were saying that we want imaginative new proposals to allow bus services to be run, or substitutes for bus services to be run, in the rural areas. This is one area that needs that kind of help. It may well be that there is no alternative than that the Board shall run exactly that kind of undertaking. It would be most unfortunate if the power to solve a desperate social problem in that area were taken out of the Bill. The noble Lord will get poor thanks in that part of Wales for that sort of excision from the Bill.

Let me take another example. It often happens that in undertaking developments of this kind car parks are needed. If the people on the outskirts can drive in and shop in the new town because of the car parking carefully provided that is something which makes a new town rather attractive. Very often it is not proper or sensible for this to be provided as some sort of subsidised service; it may need to be provided in some limited form as an undertaking, perhaps even by a small limited liability company under the control of the relevant Board. That again would be totally taken away from the powers of the Board if this Amendment were passed.

May I take another example. In cases like this it often happens that the only way—and I speak with some experience of this—in which certain developments in the town, and perhaps even in the wider rural area which the Bill covers, can be taken is in a joint enterprise with private enterprise. Sometimes in order to attract a first hotel to anew town the Corporation—and this body would be its successor and, therefore, the same conditions would apply —needs to say, "Well, the only way we are going to get a hotelier to come in here is to take a certain equity in with it, or we will never have an hotel".

A further example is that it sometimes happens that if, for example, the body wished to give advice—and this is part of the Bill, and it certainly would apply in any similar area —to local small industry and set up a service for that purpose, the very body which is mentioned in part of the Bill, COSIRA, the Council for Small Industries in Rural Areas, is in fact a private limited liability company. It is a public service run in that form, and nobody takes any objection to it. But if this Amendment were passed, that too would be excluded from possibility. I say to the noble Lord that once again he has strayed from thinking what might be desirable into a path which leads him into something totally impracticable, and in fact deeply against the interests of an area which needs sometimes an injection of this kind of activity in order to get development going. I plead with him not to press this Amendment.


I was not going to address your Lordships' Committee on this matter, but having listened to the noble Lord who has just spoken I must agree with what he said about buses in these rural areas. I think he is completely right. But the Bill does not say that. The Bill allows him to set up a chemist's business, refineries, laundries—anything he wants to do. Nobody is objecting to the fact that somebody must put some things in. All my noble friend is asking is that the Government should consider how we can get a right balance in this matter.


The emphasis is helpful and welcome that we all share the common purpose that we wish to see these developments take place, and wish to see this area revivified. I think that there is undue suspicion of what is in fact a holding clause. It is a clause which is intended only to reserve powers in hand which are in fact already conferred upon the new towns, and are in use, as my noble friend Lord Northfield has so eloquently told us. It would be a nonsense to create for the Principality a Rural Development Board which had less strength in reserve than the New Town Corporations that exist at the present time. If there is confidence in this House in the ability of the people administering the New Town Corporations; if there is confidence in their ability to work within the framework, then there should be equal confidence that it is not the intention of this clause to do more than to give the Rural Development Board the right to do those things which are at present vested in the New Town Corporations.

5.58 p.m.


The effect of this Amendment would surely be to deny to the Board the power to carry on any undertaking or business. The Board is not being given any power which has not already been available to bodies exercising similar powers elsewhere, as we have just heard. The Development Corporations are empowered under the New Towns Act 1965, Section 3(2)(d) to carry on a business or undertaking in or for the purposes of a new town. The Mid Wales Development Corporation, of which this Board would be a kind of successor state, has used these powers for the purpose of extending the availability of public transport in the area, so my noble friend's first example was particularly apposite. In fact, I do not know what the state of public transport in that area would be had it not been for the fact that the Mid Wales Development Corporation was able to exercise this power at least in this regard.

It is a matter of subjective and possibly ideological choice as to what kind of activity a public corporation should engage in; not that it should not be enabled to engage in such activity when private initiative falls short, no doubt for justifiable reasons, of supplying in an area what is, after all, a basic need. Not only is this power contained in the New Towns Act, under which development corporations operate, but also the Highlands and Islands Board is empowered, … to carry on or set up a business which will contribute to the economic or social development of the Highlands and Islands". That is in Section 6 of the Highlands and Islands (Scotland) Act 1965.

We must decide whether, in relation to this area in Mid Wales alone—not in the Highlands of Scotland and not in relation to new towns in England—this power can be accorded. I do not think the Committee will accept that position, particularly, I stress again, as the intention is that the Board will exercise the power only where it is unable to interest developers or businessmen in a proposition which the Board considers is in the interests of the area. Its role will be one of reluctant entrepreneur, forced to undertake a business because of lack of interest from the private sector and in small-scale projects suitable to the economy of a rural area.

The bus service is an excellent example. It is a small affair, but of immense importance to the local people who depend on it. If nobody comes along to provide it or if somebody who has provided it finds it impossible to continue—because the resources of even the most close-knit families, even in rural Wales, can be so disrupted, by death or illness, that a family service of that sort may suddenly and abruptly cease —then in such a situation, unless somebody comes along and says, "I will take this on as an enterprise", it is a matter of good sense and good policy that a Board able to step in to conduct such business in such circumstances is empowered to do so. Envisaging Mid Wales, one cannot imagine that the Board would reach out for a vast variety of direct action in the field of business. One can imagine that its discussions will necessarily, by the circumstances of the area, be about the necessary basic amenities as well as the statutory services, and good luck to it if it can find somebody, a private entrepreneur, to provide it, but if it cannot, to go ahead and itself try to provide it.

It is certainly not the intention that the Board will seek to take over from the Welsh Development Agency its function, the function of the Agency, of establishing industry, reorganising industries and generally acting as a pump-primer for industrial development in rural Wales, and this is one of the emerging points of clarity as between the operations of the Board and of the Agency. We constantly strike these facts of difference between their purpose and operations. I hope that we can carry the whole Committee with us in entrusting to a Board in Mid Wales the same powers as we have for so long entrusted to our friends in Scotland and to the new town corporations in England.


The noble Lord's last argument was probably his strongest, although it did not altogether persuade me. Nor do I think it will persuade the Mid Wales Area Committee of the CBI which has made representations of some alarm on exactly this subject, and they are not alone. It is quite clear that where people live in an area governed by a local authority, that local authority should have the power to provide the services which one expects a local authority to provide, such as a bus service—as we happen to have pitched on that example—and are able, I suppose, to fall back on the resources of the National Bus Company if this proves possible. I do not know. But it seems to me that when, for example, the Corporation of Birmingham wanted powers like these and were turned down because they were too sweeping, it seems rather odd that they should be permitted in this instance. We do not wish to inhibit the services which the community has a right to expect, but we wish to exclude from the Board the temptation and ability to indulge in competitive commercial operation when the competition exists; that, I should have thought, was common ground.

On Second Reading we went in great detail into the fact that the whole area is dependent for its survival on employers of very small numbers of people, very small businesses, enterprises which in this day when so many people, unlike myself, think that big is beautiful, many people may think are not viable. I think that they give to the area which we are trying to preserve precisely the character we are trying to preserve and I do not see that we further the purposes either of that population or of the Government, as expressed in the Bill, by giving them powers to carry on "any undertaking or business." It cannot be beyond the wit of mortal man and especially not beyond the wit of those whom I see ranged in such impressive order opposite me to devise a power which will not alarm those who believe that some competitive element should be preserved in the private sector without the threat of public money. I ask the noble Lord whether he will consider this a little further, whether he can meet us in any way, whether he insists that this body must be empowered to carry on any business or undertaking which, however bland and unthreatening it may appear, when it is translated to us by the admittedly Celtic and therefore superior rhetoric of noble Lords opposite, still, when one reads it, means that they can do anything. We do not think that they should be able to do anything but only some particular things which will serve the community without threatening the competitive basis on which it rests. Cannot the Minister think about this between now and Report?


I am sure that I can try, especially assisted by noble Lord, Lord Elton, who might indicate to me in what way the powers conferred on new towns under the New Towns Act 1965 differ from the powers which we propose to extend to this body. That would be most helpful. Perhaps he could, secondly, indicate to me—not necessarily now but when we get together to think about these things—in what way the phrase I quoted from the Highlands and Island (Scotland) Act 1965, … to carry on or set up a business which will contribute to the economic or social development of the Highlands and Islands", is inapplicable to us in Mid Wales. Certainly I should like a free seminar with the noble Lord to see whether we can in this regard improve on the phrasing of the New Towns Act 1965 and the Highlands and Islands (Scotland) Act 1965, both of which successfully survived the attentions of the Conservative Government from 1970 to 1974.


I am glad to be met, even if only a quarter of the way down the path. I do not know whether a "free seminar" will describe our discussions.


Knowing the noble Lord's background, I used the words to mean that he would be giving me a free seminar.


I should never presume to such arrogance in an area in which the noble Lord is so excellent. I do not think it will resemble that, but the frank and friendly discussions which we shall have will, I am sure, be productive. As a preliminary to that, I feel that I should say that we have a certain hesitancy about the way in which noble Lords opposite look at this piece of legislation. The New Towns Act deals specifically with new towns. This Bill is dealing with a very large rural area and what is proper to a relatively small and densely populated area is not necessarily relevant to a large and sparsely inhabited area. However, that is something which we can discuss and I feel that it would be wise to do so. I hope I have managed to convey to the noble Lord the fact that, on this and the last group of Amendments to which I spoke, we on this side of the Committee have fairly strong feelings and we feel that we are not alone either in the Committee or on this side of Offa's Dyke. I hope therefore that the noble Lord will pay particular attention to anything that he can do to ameliorate—and I use the term from our side of the Committee—this piece of legislation.

Viscount SIMON

Before the noble Lord asks lea1ve to withdraw the Amendment, as I imagine he is about to do, may I suggest both to him and to the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, that, in considering this difficult matter, it is largely a question of giving people confidence? The noble Lord might consider introducing into the Bill the words quoted from the Highlands and Islands Development Act which to a certain extent limit the undertakings and businesses which can be engaged in.


I shall certainly consider that suggestion. The thought had crossed my mind. I can give no gurantees until I have survived the seminar of which I spoke, but possibly the phrasing in the Highlands and Islands Development Act—which is a broadly analogous area—might be careul1y looked at to see whether we cannot adapt or use it in this connection.


I have never before attended a seminar at which all those present wished to be pupils and none to lead. However, I look forward to this novel experience. I am grateful to the noble Lords on both sides of the Committee who have already contributed their thoughts. For the time being, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

6.14 p.m.

Lord ELTON moved Amendment No. 17: Page 4, line 21, leave out paragraph (h).

The noble Lord said: The Amendment relates to subsection (1)(h). Here, we are not in such an aggressive mood. In military phraseology, we are fighting for information. In other words, I should like to probe this matter, reserving judgment for a later stage. In particular, I wish to see whether what I surmise to be the intentions of the powers given under this subsection are correct. The paragraph reads: to do anything which is likely to facilitate the discharge of the Board's functions or is incidental or conducive to their discharge.

I do not want to delay the Committee long on this point and I do not expect that the noble Lord will need to reply at length. However, it is, on the face of it, a fairly permissive power and we should like some indication of the way in which the noble Lord sees it being put into effect. I beg to move.


The purpose of the clause is to allow the Board to do anything which is likely to facilitate the discharge of the Board's functions or is conducive or incidental to their discharge. Examples would be the promotion of publicity for the area, the undertaking or the commissioning of research and the provision of advisory services in relation to the Board's functions. The provision is well precedented and is found in one guise or another in the New Towns Act 1965 and in the Highlands and Islands Development Act 1965. This provision goes no further than that in those two Statutes.


I am much obliged to the noble Lord for that reply. I believe that, when I have had a chance to read it, I shall find it satisfactory, though I am always very loath to commit myself at this stage. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord ELTON moved Amendment No. 18:

Page 4, line 24, leave out subsection (2).

The noble Lord said: The Amendment seeks to delete subsection (2). The subsection enables the Board to exercise its powers in relation to paragraphs (c), (d) and (h) of the previous subsection. Paragraph (d) has now been altered outside the area for which the Board is responsible. Again, what I am seeking is reassurance. I assume that the intention is that the Board shall be enabled, for instance, to have a tourist promotion office outside the area where it is operating, to promote—one would hope, in co-operation with the Welsh Tourist Board—the tourist industry inside the area. It may also be intended that land for providing services ancillary to the area should be used for the area—for instance, if a new new town (if I may be forgiven the tautology) is on the edge of the Board's area, it may be necessary for the waste disposal, the sewage works, the catchment area for water or the disposal of drainage to be outside its area, much as the Central Electricity Generating Board had to have a catchment area inside the Snowdonia National Park for which this House gave permission three or four years ago. Are those the two categories into which these powers, when exercised, would fall? Are they related to promotion and service? If there are others, I should be most obliged if the noble Lord can tell us what they are.


Yes, I think that that puts it fairly. In case I may be misleading the Committee or the noble Lord, I should say that the way in which the Board may exercise certain of its powers outside the designated area—namely, the powers under Clause 3(1)(c), (d) and (h)— can best be illustrated by examples. I have three before me which may be helpful. Clause 3(1)(c) is intended to allow the Board to provide services or equipment on or in connection with land. There may be occasions where it is necessary to go outside the designated area to provide, for example, an access road or a sewer for the area itself. It may be particularly necessary to do that on the perimeter of this particular area. I certainly think that this will be so in the North-West. So there is a provision which will allow the Board, if it is necessary in order to serve the area, to proceed marginally outside that area.

Paragraph (d) enables the Board, with the consent of the Treasury, to provide finance for local authorities and undertakings. The Board may wish to assist a local authority or statutory undertaker to provide a service for land in its area that that requires work to be done marginally outside that area—for example, a sewer or a gas supply. Clause 3(1)(h) enables the Board to do anything which is likely to facilitate the discharge of the Board's functions, or is incidental to them. We made that point when we exchanged ideas on the last Amendment. Examples of such activities that the Board may wish to carry out outside its area are promotion and research. It may wish to mount an exhibition stand at a trade fair at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham, or may wish to engage a university situated outside its area to undertake research related to its area.

The present designated area contains a university, or rather a constituent college of the University of Wales, which has extensive facilities for research, particularly of a social and economic character. But the Board might wish to commission a piece of research which might be best done by some other research centre, and I could call in mind one or two possibilities in that regard; and indeed, the University of Birmingham is not far situated from this area and, I am told, draws a number of its students from the area. The clause, specifically in regard to the provisions in paragraphs (c), (d) and (h) of subsection (1), provides for reasonable powers for operating outside the area in order to serve and promote the area itself.


I am much obliged to the noble Lord who has said much that I wished to hear said and to have in the record for those to read who are not familiar with this ground. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

6.22 p.m.

Lord GORONWY-ROBERTS moved Amendment No. 19:

Page 4, line 27, leave out subsection (3).

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 19. It may be helpful if with this Amendment we take Amendment No. 23, which involves the insertion of a new clause after Clause 6. The purpose of the Amendment which we now commend to the Committee is to substitute the new clause for Clause 3(3) in order to achieve two additional purposes. The first is to enable a local authority, development corporation, or other public body, without necessarily becoming the agent of the Board, to place its staff at the disposal of the Board. The second purpose is to enable the Board to appoint a registered housing association its agent to carry out the Board's housing function. The new Clause 6 then includes the power for the Board to exercise its powers through other public bodies, presently contained in Clause 3(3), and, additionally, achieves the two purposes I have mentioned.

As regards the first purpose, there is currently an arrangement whereby Cwmbran Development Corporation make available their staff to the Mid Wales Development Corporation. Cwmbran do not act in any agency role in this respect, however, so that there is no question, in the case of the Board, of the exercise of its powers through the Cwmbran Development Corporation. But it is anticipated that the Board will continue for some time the arrangement for the use of the Cwmbran staff, and the new subsection (3) gives the Board the necessary power to do this. Such power was not contained in Clause 3(3), which was confined to the exercise of the Board's powers through another public body. With regard to the second purpose I have mentioned, registered housing associations have been included in the bodies which can act as agents for the Board because it is desired that they, as well as local authorities, should assist the Board in the provision of housing for incoming key workers. To do so it is necessary for there to be a separate reference to a registered housing association to act as the agent of the Board in this respect, as a registered housing association is not a "body of a public nature for the purposes of subsection (1). This new clause will retain the powers in Clause 3(3) and add to those powers the two purposes which I have outlined.


I should like to use this opportunity to welcome Amendment No. 23, with particular regard to the Housing Corporation. We should offer warm thanks to the Housing Corporation for what it has undertaken in this part of Mid Wales in recent months. The situation was that the housing completion figures under a number of the authorities in the area needed to be boosted to enable development to take place successfully. After negotiations, and despite being restricted, like every other public body in this difficult financial period, in the new undertakings into which it can enter, the Housing Corporation has very kindly moved into this area of central Wales. Latest reports reaching me indicate that the corporation is setting up programmes in Welshpool, Rhayader, Brecon and other key growth towns of central Wales. This development is due to the enthusiasm of the Housing Corporation and of its regional representative, and it will add a new dimension to the housing programme in central Wales. The work is being done in partnership with, and with the support of, the local authorities which are responsible for housing. This is very good news indeed.

We should thank the Housing Corporation most warmly for coming into this area and for helping to ensure that development will get under way in the coming years. It is to be welcomed that the particular function of the housing associtions, which are now shepherded by the Housing Corporation, is being spelled out in the proposed new clause, and that they will be fully accepted as part of the new venture of improving this part of central Wales. I am delighted to see this new clause containing this important point, and it is pleasant to be able to pay tribute to the Housing Corporation at this time.

From my knowledge—and I know this area intimately from many visits to all these key towns and from trying to see their problems—these key towns all need a steady injection of employment opportunities. I am leaving aside Newtown, of course; I am talking about the smaller-growth towns. There are half a dozen of them—Aberystwyth, Bala, Rhayader, Welshpool, Brecon and Llandrindod Wells; I think those are the half a dozen. They all need a steady injection of job opportunities matched with a steadily-moving housing programme which will hold the young people who would otherwise leave these towns and their surrounding rural areas. These towns are the catchment points for young people who would otherwise leave the whole region, and it is a very good programme, if I may say so. It is very heartening indeed that in recent months we have been able to attract in the Housing Corporation to take a share of the burden. I am very grateful to my noble friend for pushing this clause along, and I hope it will have the full support of the Committee.


After the notable intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Northfield, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, for explaining this Amendment, or this series of two Amendments, so very clearly. Originally, I had considerable doubts about the very wide powers that the Government were seeking to obtain in subsection (1) of the new clause, and in particular the words: and that authority, corporation or body shall have power to do whatever is necessary". However, I think the Committee have gone through such concepts at considerable length this afternoon, and I would not want to pursue this point tonight.

There is a more specific point in subsection (3) of the new clause, where it says that any body of a public nature may, on being so requested by the Board, place the services of its staff at the Board's disposal … Of course, we support this interchangeability of staff, particularly between the Board as it may be set up and any other existing authorities, but we should like to know, if it is possible for the noble Lord to clarify this point for us, whether the staff is going to be temporarily or permanently attached to the Board from, it might be, the Welsh Development Agency, the Mid Wales Development Corporation or, it might be, an existing smaller authority.

We should like to know what will be the format of the staff and, if it is foreseeable, how many of them will be temporarily or permanently attached to the Board. Furthermore, when staff are made available to the Board, who will be responsible for the cost of employing that staff'? There is this particular worry that we have, in these times, of the burden on the rates, and we should not like to see the Board taking new powers, which it may need, to use the existing staff of local authorities or other existing authorities, thereby pushing up the rates which are paid by ratepayers and taxpayers to these authorities. Otherwise, we are quite grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy Roberts, for explaining this rather complicated series of Amendments, but we shall look forward to hearing what he has to say.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 3, as amended, agreed to.

Clausew 4 [New towns within the Board's area]:

6.34 p.m.

The LORD CHANCELLOR moved Amendment No. 20:

Page 5, line 13, leave out from (" Act ") to (" and ") in line 15.

The noble and learned Lord said: This is a purely drafting Amendment which does not involve any change of substance. It is designed to remedy a defect in the existing definition of "the new towns code" in Clause 4(2). I beg to move.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 4, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 5 [Acquisition of land]:

The LORD CHANCELLOR moved Amendment No. 21:

Page 6, line 34, leave out (" purchase ") and insert (" acquisition ").

The noble and learned Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 21, with which it might be convenient to discuss No. 22 and, indeed, the Manuscript Amendment, if that is permissible. These are minor drafting Amendments, the purpose and effect of which is to bring the wording of subsections (6) and (7) of Clause 5 into line with that of subsection (5) and other references in the Bill. The purpose is to make the wording of subsection (6) consistent with that of subsection (5) by substituting "acquisition" for "purchase" at all the material points to which I have referred. It has no matter of substance, but is purely a drafting Amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

The LORD CHANCELLOR moved Amendment No. 22:

Page 6, line 35, leave out (" purchase ") and insert (" acquisition ").

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

The LORD CHANCELLOR moved, as a Manuscript Amendment, Amendment No. 22A:

Page 6, line 41, leave out (" purchase ") and insert (" acquisition ").

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 5, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 6 agreed to.

The LORD CHANCELLOR moved Amendment No. 23:

After Clause 6, insert the following new clause: Assistance to the Board from public authorities and others

  1. —(1) The Board may appoint a local authority, development corporation of a new town or any other body of a public nature to discharge any of the Board's functions on its behalf and that authority, corporation or body shall have power to do whatever is necessary to enable it to discharge the functions it is so appointed to discharge.
  2. (2) The Board may, with the consent of the Housing Corporation, appoint a registered housing association to discharge on behalf of the Board the Board's function of providing housing under section 3(1) of this Act.
  3. (3) For the purpose of assisting the Board to discharge its functions (whether in pursuance of subsection (1) above or otherwise), a local authority, development corporation of a new town or other body of a public nature may, on being so requested by the Board, place the services of its of its staff at the Board's disposal on such terms as may be agreed with the Board.
  4. (4) In this section "housing association" and, in relation to it, "registered" have the same meanings as in the Housing Act 1974 as that Act applies to England and Wales.

The noble and learned Lord said: I beg formally to move Amendment No. 23, which has already been debated.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clauses 7 and 8 agreed to.

Clause 9 [Financing of the Board out of public money]:

The LORD CHANCELLOR moved Amendment No. 24:

Page 9, line 21, leave out (" to reimburse the Board for expenditure incurred by it in ") and insert (" in respect of expenditure incurred or to be incurred by the Board for the purpose of ")

The noble and learned Lord said: The purpose of this Amendment is to give the Secretary of State the power to pay to the Board sums in respect of expenditure to be incurred in addition to sums in respect of expenditure already incurred by the Board for the purpose of meeting its obligations or discharging its functions. The normal practice for the financing of a grant-aided body such as this Board is to provide finance at regular intervals from the grant-in-aid against estimates of expected expenditure.

As at present drafted, the clause precludes the Secretary of State from making such advances. Reimbursement of the expenditure of the Board in arrears would place the Board in the position of having to resort to its temporary borrowing powers to finance current expenditure. That, clearly, would involve the incurring of unnecessary expense and would also result in the Board being constantly in the red "which would be an unhappy state of affairs. This modest Amendment is intended to remedy that situation.

It may be convenient to discuss with this Amendment, Amendments Nos. 25 and 26; and I think that what I have already said covers all three. I may say that the provision for payment in advance of expenditure is well precedented. The Secretary of State, under the provisions of Section 42 of the New Towns Act 1965, for instance, may make grants for the purpose of enabling a development corporation to meet any current expenditure. Again, the Secretary of State is empowered, under the Welsh Development Agency Act 1975, to pay sums to the Agency in respect of the exercise of their functions. Extension of the present power only to reimburse the Board will not reduce the financial control exercised by the Secretary of State over the Board. The Board remains fully accountable to the Secretary of State for expenditure incurred and the Secretary of State will himself make payments with the consent of the Treasury. The effect of the Amendment is to remove an unnecessary and undesirable restriction on the power of the Secretary of State to grant aid to the Board. I beg to move.


We should like to thank the noble and learned Lord for the clarity with which he moved the Amendment. He has explained it briefly and with admirable conciseness. He may be surprised to know that we do, in general, agree that in such a case a Board may well need to spend a little in advance of its actual borrowing requirement in order to see that such development will take place as might be desirable. Subject to the usual Treasury scrutiny, I am sure that we are happy with this Amendment.


For me to say that what the noble Lord has said takes me by surprise would be most ungenerous. I concede that bursts of reasonableness do emanate from the Opposition Front Bench from time to time.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

The LORD CHANCELLOR moved Amendment No. 25:

Page 9, line 24, after (" incurred ") insert (" or to be incurred ").

The noble and learned Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 25 formally.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

The LORD CHANCELLOR moved Amendment No. 26:

Page 9, line 27, leave out from (" is ") to end of line 28 and insert (" expenditure incurred or to be incurred for that purpose.")

The noble and learned Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 26 formally.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

6.46 p.m.

Lord LYELL moved Amendment No. 27:

Page 9, line 28, at end insert: (" (3) Any expenditure incurred by the Board in consequence of subsection (1) of clause (Assistance to the Board from public authorities and others) is, for the purposes of this section, expenditure incurred in discharging the Board's functions.")

The noble Lord said: This Amendment is, in our opinion, somewhat more concise and briefer than Amendment No. 23 which we have already discussed. This Amendment seeks merely to redefine the new clause as far as are concerned (in the first subsection) the very wide power that has already been spoken about. In subsection (3) where expenditure were to occur as a result of delegation of power from the Board to any other authority, we were concerned that such expenditure should not fall on the local taxpayer but where possible should be borne by the general funds and the general borrowings from the Board. However, I hope that the noble Lord will agree that such funds should come from the borrowings which are set out in Clause 10 which we are about to discuss. I beg to move.


With respect, I submit that the proposed provision—that expenditure incurred by the Board in discharging its functions through another public body should be considered as expenditure incurred in discharging the Board's function—is unnecessary. It does no more than to state what, I submit, is the obvious conclusion to be drawn from the present provisions in the Bill. In appointing a local authority, development corporation or any other public body to discharge its functions, the Board is in fact discharging its functions through such body. It is delegating its functions to such body. Any expenditure which the Board incurs pursuant to any such arrangement is inevitably incurred in the discharge of its functions.

I submit that it is very important that this Amendment should be resisted for the reason that its inclusion would tend to confuse the basic distinction between the exercise of functions as of right and the exercise of functions on an agency basis. That distinction is apparent in subsection (1) of the new clause which was inserted after Clause 6 and approved by the Committee. The Amendment which is now proposed would cast doubt upon the obvious interpretation of that provision.

It may be that the Amendment was inspired by Clause 9(2) of the Bill. That provision was inserted for the sake of caution to provide for continuity on the dissolution of a development corporation. It was thought that an argument could arise that obligations initially assumed by a development corporation might not be accepted as obligations of the Board for the purposes of Clause 9 upon the dissolution of such development corporation: but that provision should not be taken as a precedent for an Amendment such as the one proposed which. I submit, is not only unnecessary but could cause confusion between the exercise of its functions by the Board and the delegation of functions for which clearly a Board would be financially answerable.


I hope that this might be the right stage at which to get elucidation. One of the worries behind this Amendment is this. The Board asks a local authority to provide it, let us say, with a detailed demographic or climatological map of the area. Two or three draughtsmen in the planning department of that authority may spend six months collating information and making the map. As a result of this, two or three other draughtsmen have to be brought in to discharge the functions which those draughtsmen would ordinarily have been discharging. What we should like to know is whether the rate bill will go up by the amount of these original three draughtsmen's salaries; or is that a charge on the Board which the local authority can levy, can require them to pay? One of the purposes of the Amendment is to establish whether, in fact, this is a sum which will fall on the rates and is not part of the Clause 10 financial provisions or whether it is a part of the maximum £40 million. It is a small matter in respect to the functioning of the Bill; but it could be a largish matter as regards a small local authority.


I would have thought that where that work was done for and at the request of the Board, the cost involved and the payment to the draftsmen would clearly be the responsibility of the Board under the provisions of Clause 10. Your Lordships may have observed that I looked in the direction of the place at the right of the Throne and received an affirmative nod; so what I have said seems to be accurate. I hope that may reassure the noble Lord.


We are grateful to the noble and learned Lord. We are particularly grateful for the indications he received from the place on the right of the Throne. With that, I beg leave to withdraw this Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Whether Clause 9, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?

6.50 p.m.


I should like to intervene at this point in search of knowledge. Maybe I should have given the noble and learned Lord warning of the questions, but as I asked them at Second Reading I hope that was sufficient advance warning. At column 663 of Hansard on 6th May, relating to the finances—and I take it this is an appropriate time to raise the matter—I said: … we should like to be told, first of all, from which votes these funds will be drawn, since it will not only be from the two funds to which the noble and learned Lord alluded, and where they figured in the public expenditure White Paper. I was unable to be present—a necessary discourtesy as noble and learned Lord will recall—for his reply, and to remonstrate or remind him at the time. I read the reply with care and am still not certain of the answer to these two questions.

I also asked whether the budgeted figure of from £25 million to £40 million included the old Mid Wales Development Corporation budget, and if so, to how great a sum? That was also a question to which he did not at the time have the means to reply. I further asked: what were the other funds referred to in the Consultative Document, at paragraph 21? My fifth question was regarding the staff costs of the Board: what they would be and how they would compare with the combined staff costs of the bodies whose functions the Board is to take over.

These are specific questions. I ought to have given notice of them; I feel equally the answers ought to be on record. It may be that the noble and learned Lord and his advisers anticipated my sustained curiosity and that he has the brief in his hand. It may be he would like to reply later and, since there is no "stand part" procedure at Report stage, he may feel it more in the interests of the Committee if I put down some probing Amendments at Report stage to elicit the answers. They are answers we should like to know, and it will be helpful to the other place to have them in advance since they are principally concerned with the finances of this operation.


I can answer a good many of the difficult and important questions that the noble Lord has raised. First of all, from what votes will the Board's funds be drawn? The Explanatory and Financial Memorandum at page 4 indicates that the sums provided will not involve additions to public expenditure but will be made available by means of transfers from provisions elsewhere. The funds of the Board will be drawn principally from financial provisions for relevant activities of organisations in the area of the Board; namely, the Mid Wales Development Corporation, the Development Commission and the Welsh Development Agency, first, for factory building and, secondly, for COSIRA activities which the Board will undertake as agent of the Welsh Development Agency.

I was asked about the funds from EEC sources and whether they would be taken into account. That was not expressly asked this evening but the noble Lord asked about it before. The answer is that the Board as a public body might be able to obtain regional development fund grants for suitable infrastructure projects and to borrow monies from EEC sources. It is not intended that the Board should be he vehicle for administration of EEC grants to individual businesses. As to the risk and fear that there might be competition for funds between the Board and the Welsh Development Agency, the question was asked: if there was, to which body would the Minister give preference? The need for close co-ordination of the activities of the Agency and the Board as recognised by the provisions of the Bill. Clause 21(2) and (3) relate to the appointment of the chairman of the Board to the Agency. Only in certain fields—that is to say, factory building—are there parallel activities in different parts of Wales. One of the main functions of the Secretary of State will be to adjudicate between claims of limited resources. He has the power in the final resort to direct the Board and Agency to accept his decision.

The question was raised whether the budget figure of from £25 million to £45 million includes the old Mid Wales Development Corporation budget, and, if so, to how great a sum. The Mid Wales Corporation budget is included. I am informed that expenditure in the year 1976–77 will be of the order of £3.2 million. Then, as to the question: what will the staff costs of the Board be, and how will they compare with the combined staff costs of the bodies whose functions the Board is to take over?—administrative costs are not separately funded. The effects of manpower are covered in the Explanatory Memorandum, and the Committee will have seen that they are indeed modest. As I said on Second Reading, we do not see the burgeoning of a new and vast army of civil servants as a result of what is proposed.

The noble Lord, Lord Elton, asked whether it could be made clear that there is no intention to surcharge the rates to pay for housing subsidies. That goes beyond what he asked today. The Board is being placed on the same footing as the development corporations, which means that the Secretary of State will make up by way of grant that part of the housing subsidy equivalent to the rate fund contribution paid by local authorities for local authority housing.

I hope that I have accurately read out the answers to the questions that the noble Lord put to me and that they have been adequately dealt with. If I have given him more information than he asked for, that is a rare display of generosity from these Benches!


The accuracy of the noble Lord's self analysis is matched only by the touching humility with which it has been given. There are only two supplementary questions which I want to raise, although the noble Lord, Lord Lyell, has another. The noble and learned Lord gave a short list of the sources of the funds. I should like to know whether it was exhaustive. I am not talking about "peanuts", but whether there are any large sources of funds that he has not mentioned. I think the answer will he. "No".

Regarding FEOGA, I shall be interested to know the arrangement of grants and loans from here. If the Board approaches the European body direct, then the budgetary ceiling imposed upon it by Clause 10 is not affected. But if that payment is made by way of central Government, that increases the indebtedness of the Board to the central Government as it would then become the lending or granting agency. This would in fact reduce not only, it is true, the cost to the central Government in other areas of the Board's activities, but also circumscribe the ability of the Board to act with greater force than if only the £25 million or £40 million were affected. I hope that I make myself clear on this. If the money is taken direct from Europe to Wales, central Government accounting is not involved. It is only Central Government accounting to which the budgetary clause relates. Therefore, this would be European money, additional to Central Government money; whereas if the structure of the European agencies, the grant-aiding and lending agencies, requires that the recipients of the loans and grants should be Central Government agencies, it seems to me that the money will go through Westminster and will technically increase the amount that Wales owes to Westminster. They will in turn reduce the financial resources available to the new Board.


As to the first question, I think I have listed all the sources and funds. Alas! there are no secret or undisclosed funds we can hope to draw upon. I only wish there were. As to the second matter, whereas the question raised by the noble Lord was perfectly clear, I am afraid I am not presently in a position to answer it. I should be glad to communicate with the noble Lord in writing as to the machinery whereby finance comes through the EEC. I will communicate with the noble Lord either directly or, if it is preferred, we can perhaps refer to it at Report stage, if the interest in the point is sufficiently general.


I should have thought the interest was fairly material.


In that case I should be very happy—if the noble Lord finds a means of raising the point again, and with his usual skill, I have no doubt he will do so—to provide the information.


I wonder whether I might raise the question of the Budget for the first year 1976–77. The noble and learned Lord said he thought it would be in the region of £3.2 million. Would he be able to inform us at some future time about this?—because I understand it will be difficult to give a detailed answer tonight.

It would be useful to know the year-by-year expenditure for the next five years, and whether it is likely to be rising sharply. We wonder whether we could be given some information on the pattern of the expenditure. Perhaps the noble Lord will be able to help us at a later stage.


Certainly, in so far as we can do so. How accurate and reliable forecasting over a future period would be really entails looking into the crystal ball—and the crystal ball sometimes presents a distorting image.


But we work on a budgetary system, do we not? Can the noble and learned Lord not tell us the figure?


I will try to do so, but at this stage it will have to be in the domain of estimate, obviously. However, I will certainly see that the information is provided.


I am sure that the noble and learned Lord will produce a very accurate and distortion-free crystal ball, and we look forward to receiving this information.

Clause 9, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 10 [Limit on public money made available to the Board]:

On Question, Whether Clause 10 shall stand part of the Bill?


I should like to make one point on Clause 10. We note that the limit on total borrowings at present is £25 million, and I understand there is a possible limit of £40 million. We are also able to see from the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum that there are only to be 55 staff and we should like to commend the Government for taking what might be called a very lean attitude towards the staffing of the Board. It seems to us that even on the first year's budget, each member of the staff will be responsible for a mere £60,000 worth of additional expenditure. I do not think any of us here would grudge this additional expenditure, particularly in relation to rural Wales, where we hope the value to be derived from it will be exceptionally high. I understand the total population which may derive benefit from the funds of the Board will be in the region of 200,000. Could the noble and learned Lord confirm that figure—again at a future time?


Yes, certainly, we do not see that the creation of the Board will result in any substantial increase in the number of civil servants. On my present information, the figure which the noble Lord gave is expected to be about the right one.

Clause 10 agreed to.

Clauses 11 and 12 agreed to.

Clause 13 [Powers of entry]:

6.56 p.m.

Lord ELTON moved Amendment No. 28:

Page 11, line 39, leave out (" 48 hours ") and insert (" 5 days ").

The noble Lord said: We now come to ground which the noble and learned Lord and I have previously visited together. I remember the virtuous and sonorous way in which he said he did not be responsible for the death of Welsh lambs, as I recall. I hope it may be for the convenience of the Committee to assume that, as the noble and learned Lord is familiar with the ground—although it may be necessary to return to the charge—and as, after consideration, he conceded exactly the points of this Amendment, and as this is the same territory, the same farmers and the same ewes, in fact, are concerned, the noble and learned Lord will be able to concede without further cudgelling or cajoling from me.


The manner in which the noble and learned Lord has moved this Amendment is immensely seductive, but I wonder whether I could persuade him to arrive at some compromise figure which I would be prepared to look at between now and the Report stage.

The effect of the Amendment is to extend the required period of notice for entry on to land from 48 hours to five days in respect of non-residential land: that is, farmers' fields; and from seven days to 14 days in the case of residential land. Looking at precedents, the New Towns Act 1965 provides for only 24 hours' notice to be given in all cases before authorised persons may enter on land to survey it; and that is all that is really contemplated here. That includes both residential and non-residential land. That provision was in the New Towns Act as part of the various powers provided for development corporations to enable them to get through as soon as possible the preparatory work required before work can be started on the new town. Of course, there will be new town elements in the work of this Board.

The Bill's provisions do follow the precedent of the Highlands and Islands Development Board which similarly require notice of 48 hours in respect of non-residential premises and seven days for residential premises. We have suggested 48 hours and five days. It was thought right to provide a less stringent provision than that in the New Towns Act, and we have endeavoured in the clause we are debating to strike a balance between the need for the Board to be able to proceed with its operations as soon as possible and the need to protect the rights of the citizen.

It is quite true that the noble Lord, Lord Elton, with his customary persuasiveness, achieved the figures that he has included in his Amendment. But there is a difference between the operations of the Welsh Development Agency and the expedited procedures which are provided in the New Towns Act for the acquisition and development of land for new towns purposes, and we followed the Highlands and Islands Board precedent as a middle course between the extremes of 24 hours and the longer period required for the Agency. However, I am prepared to look again at the matter to see whether we can meet what is suggested. Obviously, we do not want to ride roughshod over the comforts and reasonable consideration of occupants of land, especially residential land. So if the noble Lord is prepared to be content with my undertaking to look at this again, at Report stage, this time with a view to making some advance towards him, I shall be very happy to do so.

7.11 p.m.


I think I must tell the noble and learned Lord that what we achieved in the Welsh Development Agency Act was, in itself, in the nature of a compromise, because my Scottish friends settled for five days, whereas I would have had seven. I must say that I am genuinely disappointed, regardless of the charm with which the noble and learned Lord has rebuffed me. I would not dilate upon it now, were it not for the fact that at Report stage one can speak only once in an exchange and there may be matters that we wish to clear up between us, which require each of us to exchange information with the other.

Therefore I should like to say this. Clause 13(3) states that: The power conferred by subsection (1) above "— which is the power of entry— includes power to search and bore for the purpose of ascertaining the nature of the subsoil or the presence of minerals in it", and this, in turn, means that machinery and a number of people will be required. This is an area in which sheep are raised, and I think it is necessary to remind the noble and learned Lord of the argument which I adduced earlier, that the farmer who has stock in an area which happens, for instance, to be infected with lamb dysentry or pulpy kidney, and has reason to suppose that his stock is not immune and that the protective vaccines are ineffective or that he has not applied them in time, or, indeed, if he has reason to believe for any other cause that areas of his farm are not suitable for lambing, will require to find somewhere else to lamb his ewes. This may mean droving them very slowly a great distance after a great many telephone calls, and that is something which takes time.

We are here in the realm of practicality, and I have chosen the sheep farmer only because he seems to me the most obvious and cogent example. I am not crying in aid any vague or general right of the citizen to be free of the invasion of officialdom; your Lordships have heard sufficient arguments on those grounds. I am saying that there are circumstances, particularly in the likely sites of new towns, where sheep have to be on enclosed land for a period, where the available enclosed land is in limited supply and may amount to one enclosure of a few acres, with a hovel and a thatched shelter in one corner, and the only alternative place may he unsuitable for agricultural reasons, with which, as a shepherd with eight years' experience, I shall not bore your Lordships, but there are many. If a man is told, "My machinery is coming in tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow", and he cannot move them, the result will be that the flock will panic and they will slip lambs. That is all I am saying.

I am saying that this is giving a power which, if it is unreasonably exercised, will result in financial loss and a certain emotional shock and displeasure to the farmer. There are other forms of husbandry, and I should have thought the provision which I have suggested would protect those as well, but as a shepherd I felt that I could best argue the case of the sheep farmer. I hope that the noble and learned Lord will refresh his mind of the debate on the Welsh Development Agency, but I would think it less than generous if we arrived at a compromise on a mathematical basis, because I do not think that mathematics are what we are after. The fact that you have X in one solution and Y in another does not mean that you want X plus half-Y, if I have got my algebra right, as the just solution. This is rather like Solomon cutting the baby in half; you do not get the result that you want. I hope that the noble and learned Lord will relent and give us our Amendment at Report stage.


I certainly undertake to examine what the noble Lord has said. I know that he speaks from long and possibly bitter experience as a shepherd who watched his flocks, no doubt by day and by night. But without seeing the implications of this for new town development, I cannot at this stage make this concession. As I have said, under the New Towns Act only 24 hours' notice was provided for. But I certainly undertake to look sympathetically, between now and Report stage, at what has been said.


Before my noble and learned friend sits down will he, in having these discussions and giving further thought, pay particular regard to the emergency nature of the need for entry in some cases? In some cases, it would he quite dangerous to go too far in the direction suggested by the noble Lord.


I am mystified and very interested by the last intervention. Whether it would be necessary to discover within 48 hours that minerals were or were not present on a farm could only, I should have thought, be a matter of substance in the Klondike.


The noble Lord has not read the remainder of the clause. It does not deal only with entry in order to seek minerals.


It may be to seek town clerks—I do not know. I hope that this will be reflected on between now and Report stage, and I look forward to the noble and learned Lord's concession then. I do not want to delay the Committee longer. The noble and learned Lord can look at great length at what we said. I may say that his concession on the last Act was warmly applauded in his native hills, and I am sure that that brought a flush of pleasure to him which he will be anxious to repeat.


As I am always eager for a welcome in the valleys, I shall certainly bear that in mind.


I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord ELTON had given Notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 29:

Page 11, line 40, leave out (" 7 ") and insert (" 14 ").

The noble Lord said: This Amendment goes hand in hand with the previous Amendment, and again I wait with tears of anticipation in my eyes.

Clause 13 agreed to.

Clause 14 agreed to.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN of COMMITTEES (Lord Nugent of Guildford)

As I have no notice of any point to be raised on Clauses 15 to 21, I propose to put them before the Committee en bloc.

Clauses 15 to 21 agreed to.

Clause 22 [Transfer to the Board of industrial property of the Welsh Development Agency]:

7.18 p.m.

Lord ELTON: moved Amendment No. 30:

Page 16, line 1, leave out from (" to ") to (" industrial ") in line 2.

The noble Lord said: Breathless from our unaccustomed rapidity of progress, we now turn to an Amendment which seeks to elucidate the use of the phrasing of the Bill. My purpose is succinct and brief. I simply want to know whether the meaning of the subsection will be altered if we leave out the words, "property of the following descriptions, that is to say". There must be a reason for putting them in, and I should like to know what it is, because that will enable me better to understand the Bill. I should have thought that, This section applies to industrial sites, factories and land used for industrial purposes would have exactly the same import as the sentence if it were left entire. If it does not, there must be a purpose which I do not apprehend and I should like to know what it is.


The explanation is twofold. First, the word "property"— property of the following descriptions, that is to say, industrial sites, factories and land used for industrial purposes "— is a useful generic term to cover those diverse forms of property; and, secondly, because it is referred to in two other parts of the clause (in line 10 and again in line 14 running into line 15) that it avoids repeating in those lines the words 1 have just quoted, it is more convenient and, for the purposes of brevity, useful to repeat the generic word " property " which embraces all those forms of property. That is the only explanation for the way the clause is drafted. I think it is a sensible way to deal with it, otherwise it means repeating three times the category one, two and three kinds of properties. I am glad to say the explanation is as simple as that.


I agree entirely with the aims of this phraseology. I am always seeking brevity in Bills and I am much obliged to the noble and learned Lord for showing how this has been brought about. Therefore it pleases me very much, since I believe that this is the last Amendment with which we shall be dealing this evening, to thank the noble and learned Lord for his reply, and, happily, to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


My Lords, we seem to have made very good progress on this Bill and it may be convenient to your Lordships if we halt here. I beg to move that this House do now resume.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.