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Coal Industry Money

Volume 721: debated on Thursday 25 November 1965

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[ Queen's Recommendation signified]

Considered in Committee under Standing Order No. 88 (Money Committees).

[Sir SAMUEL STOREY in the Chair]

Motion made, and Question proposed,

That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to make provision with respect to borrowing by, and loans by the Minister of Power to, the National Coal Board, it is expedient to authorize—

  • (a) such increases in the sums which by or under any enactment are to be or may be issued out of the Consolidated Fund, raised by borrowing, or paid into the Exchequer, as may result from any provisions of the said Act with respect to—
  • (i) the lending by that Minister to that Board of any sums with that Board may require to borrow; or
  • (ii) the guarantee by the Treasury of the repayment of, and the payment of any interest on, sums borrowed temporarily by that Board otherwise than from that Minister,
  • subject to the limitation that the aggregate amount oustanding in respect of the principal of all sums borrowed or deemed to be borrowed by that Board under the said Act shall not at any time exceed £750,000,000;
  • (b) the remission of any obligation of that Board to make in respect of any period beginning on or after 28th March, 1965 payments under section 28(1) of the Coal Industry Nationalisation Act 1946 in respect of the amount in excess of £545,085,482 of the aggregate of the sums outstanding at that date in respect of—
  • (i) such expenses and liabilities as are referred to in paragraph (a) of the said section 28(1); and
  • (ii) any advances made to that Board by that Minister under section 26 or 27 of that Act;
  • (c) the payment into the Exchequer of any sums required by the said Act of the present Session to be so paid;
  • (d) the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of such grants not exceeding in the aggregate £30,000,000 by that Minister to that Board towards any increase of that Board's expenditure for any of the five years ending with 27th March, 1971 as it appears to that Minister will assist in accelerating the redeployment of the manpower resources of the Board and the elimination of uneconomic colliery capacity.—[Mr. John Morris.]
  • 10.1 p.m.

    Before we say goodbye to the Money Resolution—we would not wish to obstruct it unduly—may I ask whether it is not normal to have a Treasury Minister here to give details of the matter? Are we not entitled to some explanation from the Treasury? We on this side of the Committee have taken the broadest possible view of the Bill and have made it perfectly clear that we do not wish to obstruct its passage in any way, but this should not be taken as tantamount to inviting discourtesy on the part of the Government. We want to know who is available on behalf of the Treasury to answer what questions there may be on the Money Resolution.

    Perhaps I could also ask the Minister whether he could give some indication to the Committee how long he thinks the remaining stages of the Bill will take and whether we are to spend some time—

    am sure that no discourtesy was meant to the Committee or to the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton). I do not know what the practice is, but on this occasion I am prepared to try to answer to the best of my ability any questions asked by the hon. Member.

    Some of us have recollections of the past. I do not wish to hand back to the Government the same treatment as hon. and right hon. Members opposite meted out to us in the past, but it is fair enough to remind them that on a number of similar occasions the absence of the Financial Secretary, the Economic Secretary or some Treasury Minister was called to the attention of the Committee and was made a source of considerable delay. I am entitled to remind the Government of this. However, the Parliamentary Secretary is normally so courteous, as indeed is his right hon. Friend the Minister of Power, that as long as we have a certain and definite apology we are prepared to forget the matter.

    All I am seeking to establish is that someone should admit on behalf of the Government that a Treasury Minister should have been here—that is go through the courtesy of an apology.

    I have already indicated what my understanding of the position is. I do not know what the practice is, and it may well be that on some occasions a Treasury Minister is available and on some occasions he is not. I can certainly tell the hon. Gentleman on this occasion that no discourtesy was meant to him or to the Committee and that, if he has any particular question to put, I am prepared, to the best of my ability, to try to answer him. Let it be quite clear that no discourtesy whatever was meant.

    I am not concerned about whether any discourtesy was intended. The Bill writes off a sum of £415 million and it authorises further the borrowing of £200 million. If any Bill is a finance Measure, this surely is it, and I do not feel inclined, with the nod of the head, to approve a Money Resolution of this sort unless the hon. Gentleman is prepared to say that the Government have made a mistake and that a Treasury Minister should have been here. The hon. Gentleman will not expedite the passage of the Bill by this sort of thing. I am asking that the ordinary courtesies be observed and that, if the Government have made a mistake, they should say so, and apologise.

    On a point of order, Sir Samuel. Is it not a fact that the discussion on a Money Resolution is fairly narrow and the question of who should reply would be outside its range? Is it not further the case that, although the Money Resolution, as the hon. Gentleman rightly says, involves a great deal of money, the amounts of money to be voted on are incorporated in the rest of the Bill and, therefore, all the discussion which would arise on different items in the Money Resolution are bound to be covered by the several Clauses of the Bill? I imagine that that was the reason why the Government decided that it was the proper course for the Department concerned to be responsible for answering to the Committee on the matter.

    The question as to who replies on behalf of the Government is not a point of order. It is up to the Government to have some Minister responsible to answer any questions which may arise on the Motion.

    I think that the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) is wrong in suggesting that it must necessarily be a Treasury Minister. My hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) is quite right in pointing out that the Bill, of its nature, is a Finance Bill. Preparations have been made accordingly, and we, the Departmental Ministers, are perfectly prepared to answer questions on the Money Resolution. The hon. Gentleman is wrong in suggesting that there is any discourtesy or that a Finance Minister must necessarily be present.

    Question put and agreed to.

    Resolution to be reported.

    Report to be received Tomorrow.