HL Deb 16 November 1976 vol 377 cc1194-6

39 Page 11, line 18, at end insert "and which the Corporation is legally entitled to disclose"

40 Page 11, line 34, at end insert "and he shall refrain from giving any direction if the publication would be against the national interest or the commercial interests of the Corporation."

The Commons disagreed to these Amendments for the following Reason:

42 Because they are unnecessary.


My Lords, I beg to move that this House doth not insist on their Amendments Nos. 39 and 40, to which the Commons have disagreed for the Reason numbered 42.

Clause 8, with which we are now dealing, is precedented; it follows very closely Section 4(3) of the Railways Act 1974 and to some extent Section 6 of the Iron and Steel Act 1975. We oppose these Amendments both because they are undesirable and because they are unnecessary. It would be wrong, surely, to suggest, and certainly wrong to incorporate the suggestion in legislation, that any Secretary of State would, knowingly, use Clause 8 to require a Corporation to break the law, and a prohibition is there fore unnecessary. Furthermore, we feel that the national interest and the interests of the Corporation are already quite adequately safeguarded. As your Lordships will see from Clause 8, the provisions in the clause for publication are not automatic, but they operate at the discretion of the Secretary of State. It must be presumed, surely, that he will act in the national interest as he conceives it.

As Clause 8(3) is now drafted, before publication the Secretary of State must consult the Corporation. If the Corporation were to indicate to the Secretary of State that publication was thought to be against its commercial interests, it can surely be assumed that the Secretary of State would insist on publication only in the rather unlikely event that some reason of national interest overrode the Corporation's commercial interests. For those reasons I hope that noble Lords will not insist upon their Amendments Nos. 39 and 40.

Moved, That this House doth not insist on the said Amendments, to which the Commons have disagreed for the Reason numbered 42.—(Lord McCluskey.)


My Lords, we are not going to insist on these Amendments from this side and I wish to say only three things to the noble and learned Lord. First, I do not think that the railways or the iron and steel industry are particularly happy precedents, and I sincerely hope that we are not going to find the shipbuilding and aircraft industries going the same way as the railways. Secondly, we are grateful for the assurance from an eminent lawyer that the indemnification that we were seeking in Amendment No. 39 is indeed unnecessary. Whether the noble and learned Lord has satisfied the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, that he has in fact defined what he means by the word "unnecessary" I rather doubt. However, he has gone some way towards reassuring us, I am certain. Finally, he makes certain assumptions about the Secretary of State, and I am very glad that he has this kind of confidence in the Secretaries of State that we have had from time to time. I only wish that I could share his unbounded trust and optimism in the good sense and wisdom of all the Secretaries of State we sometimes have.

On Question, Motion agreed to.