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Clause 35—(Commission's Licensing Powers As To Inland Waterways)

Volume 436: debated on Wednesday 30 April 1947

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I beg to move, in page 41, line 11, at the end, to insert:

"(5) For the purpose of this Section—
  • (a) the carriage of goods of a holding company by a subsidiary thereof, on the carriage of goods of such a subsidiary by another such subsidiary or by the holding company; or
  • (b) the delivery or collection by a person of goods sold or used or which have been, or are to be, subjected to a process or treatment in the course of a trade or business carried on by him,
  • shall not be deemed to be the carriage of goods for reward.
    In this Subsection, the expression "holding company" means a company which is the beneficial owner or not less than ninety per cent. of the issued share capital of another company, and the expression "subsidiary" in relation to a holding company, means a company not less than ninety per cent. of the issued share capital of which is in the beneficial ownership of the holding company.
    Where a subsidiary (as hereinbefore defined) is the beneficial owner of any shares of another company, those shares shall be treated for the purposes of the foregoing definitions as if they were in the beneficial ownership of the holding company."
    This is an Amendment, I think, of a non-controversial type, which is really concerned with a technical point that arises on carriage by canals. As the right hon. Gentleman is aware, it is a common occurrence in canal waterway traffic for a parent company to have certain subsidiary companies which own the barges. In the Amendment we are tying that up very tightly. We are making the qualification 90 per cent which is the highest qualification, I think, which has ever been put for a parent and subsidiary company, in order to ensure that the two are identified. The last thing we desire to do by this Amendment is to make a loophole for any persons to avoid the responsibilities of the licensing system for the inland waterways, if they are really carriers for hire or reward. We ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider whether it is not reasonable that if there is a 90 per cent. association, it is really equivalent to a business with departments, one department operating with another. That is the first point of the Amendment.

    7.0 p.m.

    The second point is even simpler and less contentious. It covers the delivery or collection of goods which have been, or are to be, subjected to a process of treatment in the course of a trade or business carried on by the person involved. We say that, in that case, the collection and delivery of such goods, which are either goods which have been processed or about to be processed, should not be treated in the ordinary way, but that they ought to be treated as the goods of the person who is carrying them, provided he is carrying them only for the purposes set out in the Amendment. I can appreciate that the right hon. Gentleman has to go into a point like this with care, because I see, just as he sees, that there are loopholes, and that the right might be abused. We have tried to make the mesh of the net as small as possible, so that it will take in what we want to include, and will let out only what should be let out. On that basis, I commend the Amendment to the right hon. Gentleman as something to which he might give favourable consideration.

    I agree that, except in the general case put forward by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, this would not prove too difficult a problem to meet. But, at the moment, no sufficient evidence has been submitted to me as to the kind of traffic involved, and I cannot say at the moment that I am clear whether I am considering this as a general assumption of something that may happen, or how far, in fact, it is reflected in actual business, or requirements, or services, or needs, on the canals and navigable rivers. Therefore, I am always rather disinclined to accept a proposal of this kind, unless I am satisfied exactly what its reactions are likely to be.

    At the moment I regret that I am not able to accept the Amendment, although I am generally sympathetic towards its intention. If, on examination, I find that it does not lead to any reactions that would cause me trouble elsewhere with regard to the licensing system of canal carriers, I should be prepared to deal with the matter in another place. There is no desire on my part to introduce the licensing system with regard to canal traffic for the type of undertaking to Which the right hon. and learned Gentleman refers. At the moment, I am not quite satisfied whether it is an issue of substance, or whether it is a matter of shadow and general assumption. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman would be satisfied with that assurance, and would let me examine the point in a little more detail, and see what evidence can be brought forward to support his contention, I should be happy to do so. I am not approaching the matter in any desire to frustrate the intention of the right hon and learned Gentleman.

    May I ask the right hon. Gentleman to bear in mind, when considering the matter, that this Amendment would cover sugar beet factories which have barges on the river, both for the purpose of carrying sugar beet and for other purposes, and also, that there are some rivers which are likely to become more navigable if the treatment which many people wish them to have is given to them. Therefore there may be a great many more undertakings should the rivers be developed

    I have indicated that there is no intention to impose a licensing procedure just for the sake of having it. I would welcome any evidence such as that indicated by the hon. and gallant Gentleman.

    In view of the assurance given by the right hon. Gentle- man, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.