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Orders Of The Day

Volume 739: debated on Tuesday 24 January 1967

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Iron And Steel Bill

As amended (in the standing Committee), further considered.

Clause 27—(Conditions Of Employment Rights, Etc)

4.28 p.m.

I beg to move Amendment No. 94, in page 25, line 32, at the end to insert:

'() The Minister shall not make regulations under the said section 40 of the said section 41 except after consultation with the Corporation and such organisations as appear to him to be representative of persons concerned'.
This is a simple Amendment which would require the Minister to consult the Corporation and the trade unions before making pensions regulations under Section 40 of the 1949 Act, as revived, or regulations under Section 41 for the payment of compensation to employees of the Board or a publicly-owned company who suffer loss as a result of nationalisation, the dissolution of the Board or the reorganisation of the industry in accordance with a report submitted by the Corporation under Clause 4 and under directions given by the Minister under Clause 5. It follows an Amendment which was pursued by my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar (Mr. Mikardo) in Committee. In speaking on that Amendment, the Minister said that he would consider taking the matter further on Report, and this Amendment is in pursuit of that undertaking.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause 28—(Re-Establishment Of Iron And Steel Arbitration Tribunal)

I beg to move Amendment No. 144, in page 25, line 46, to leave out from 'name' to 'and' in line 2 on page 26 and to insert:

'within two months after vesting date'
This Clause re-establishes the Iron and Steel Arbitration Tribunal which had been set up under the 1949 Act and whose functions came to an end. Those functions are to be revived under the Bill and under the provisions of the 1949 Act which are revived by Schedules 3 and 4. The Arbitration Tribunal will have a number of very important functions, all, I think, of a transitional nature.

4.30 p.m.

The Clause provides that the tribunal must be re-established as the Iron and Steel Arbitration Tribunal, and it shall be re-established—I come now to the words to be deleted by the Amendment—
"on such day as the Lord Chancellor may by order appoint for the purposes of this section."
As the Bill stands, therefore, the Government have a complete discretion as to how long should elapse between vesting date and the establishment of the tribunal. This is wholly wrong. The matters falling to be decided by the Arbitration Tribunal are fairly complex but they are matters which those concerned will wish to have settled as swiftly as possible.

The most important matter is the determination of compensation. It is the intention that Government stock in satisfaction of the compensation should be issued on vesting date, and, if there is any delay, there will be payment of interim interest. Because it is of the utmost importance that the compensation stock should be issued exactly when the Government wish to issue it, or as nearly as possible then, any question of dispute about it should be settled as rapidly as possible. The provision that, if such dispute cannot be settled between the stockholders' representatives and the Minister, the question has to go to the Arbitration Tribunal requires that the Arbitration Tribunal should be in existence as soon as possible after vesting date.

The Tribunal could well be re-established before vesting date, as soon as the Bill is passed. But we have proposed to limit the discretionary period within which the tribunal must be established to two months after vesting day. Disputes will hardly have got under way until then or, at least, they will not have gone much further than being ready for hearing, and the tribunal should then be in existence.

The Government are anxious to press the Bill forward. The Minister said yesterday—we took it with a handful of salt—that the Government have always felt that the Bill should be pressed for-ward with as much haste as possible. We are concerned to see that, as soon as they have it on the Statute Book and the various time tables under the Bill start rolling, there does not thereupon enter into the conduct of affairs a dilatoriness which would be wholly regrettable. As the Bill stands, the Lord Chancellor's discretion, is wholly at large and there is no time limit whatever.

I have mentioned compensation. There are other matters which may be of more relevance to firms which are not being taken over. There are various provisions in the Bill, which were described in Committee as common form provisions in nationalisation Acts, for giving the Corporation power, as it were, to claw back property which has been unreasonably disposed of by one of the companies being taken over during the period between 4th November, 1964, the date when the then First Secretary of State made his announcement immediately after the election, and vesting date. If companies have unreasonably disposed of properties or made imprudent transactions, there are provisions whereby the Corporation can claw the property back, it can nullify transactions, it can surrender leases, and so forth.

There are many such provisions in the Bill, and all disputes on them must be referred to the Arbitration Tribunal. These are matters which will affect people who may not otherwise be concerned with the nationalisation of the steel industry, people who may have bought property in good faith but who find nevertheless that it has to be returned to the Corporation under one of those provisions. It is most important that these matters should be determined as swiftly as possible, and for this reason, too, it is essential that the Arbitration Tribunal be set up within a finite time.

I need not enlarge on the case. It is a matter of administration after the Bill has become law. We want no dilatoriness to slip in at that stage in the Government's handling of the matter. Miserable and hateful as the whole Bill is, we think it right nevertheless that the machinery set up under it should work as efficiently and as expeditiously as

If I speak briefly on this matter, it is not out of disrespect for the points made by the hon. Member for Wanstead and Woodford (Mr. Patrick Jenkin). Except for his concluding remarks, there is no essential point of difference between the two sides of the House on this question. It is the Government's view that the Bill as it stands would provide for better expedition than the Amendment, which would require the re-establishment of the Arbitration Tribunal within two months of vesting date rather than on a specific date appointed by order of the Lord Chancellor for the purposes of the Clause.

For this reason and not for any of the reasons suggested by the hon. Gentleman, we find the Amendment not acceptable. We would prefer to allow the Clause to stand as it is to allow such an order specifying a date to be issued.

I give the assurance that, to a very large degree, the Amendment is pushing at an open door. It is possible—it is not for me to say at this stage—that the re-establishment of the tribunal could take place before vesting day. The Amendment would preclude this, and I hope, therefore, that it will not be pressed.

If I may speak again, with leave of the House, I do not follow the hon. Gentleman when he says that our Amendment would preclude earlier establishment of the tribunal. All we say is that it should not be later than two months after vesting day. However, the hon. Gentleman has said that it is, or it could well be, the Government's intention to establish the tribunal even before vesting day. If he will go a little further and say that he will draw this matter to his right hon. Friend's attention so that an undertaking might be given in another place, after the matter has been looked at again to see whether it is possible to meet the point, I think that we need waste no more time on it.

In the circumstances, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 32—(Exemption Of The Corporation And Publicly-Owned Companies From Building Control Act 1966)

I beg to move Amendment No. 95, in page 27, to leave out lines 35 to 39.

I can move this Amendment with a one-word speech.

Why?

In contrast to my comments on the last Amendment, I think that I must speak at somewhat greater length in response to the hon. Gentleman's very short question.

As I see it, the effect of the Amendment would be to delete this Clause, which was inserted as a result of a Government Amendment in Committee, and exempts the Corporation and the publicly-owned companies from the system of control introduced by the Building Control Act, 1966. I could speak at some length on this, but the essential point here is that, whereas prior to the Building Control Act, 1966, there were no general or specific controls—at least for quite a number of years—on the building industry, or on developers generally, there have been in the nationalised industries, or within the nationalised industries coming under the Minister, and indeed in certain other respects so far as Government activities are concerned, very tight controls over investments which involve building activities. It is this kind of control which is being continued and would have been continued even if there had been no Building Control Act applicable generally in the economy.

That, briefly, is the answer. It is unnecessary to require this double control when we already have the control within the nationalised industries.

I am very much obliged to the hon. Gentleman for that answer, which, oddly enough, is rather on the lines that I had expected. I think that appearances matter. When the Government introduce a great panoply of controls such as we know are dear to the hearts of the Socialist party, I look with a certain amount of jeolousy and suspicion at the suggestion that nationalised industries, or for that matter anyone whom the Government may particularly favour, should be exempted from those controls. This is not because I have a vindictive attitude to the nationalised industries, or that I wish to get in a dig at them at every possible opportunity; nothing of the kind. It is merely that when a statute like this is established as the law of the land it is most undesirable, from every point of view, that any particular organisation or organisations should be excluded from the operation of that Statute.

I think that ours is a justifiable complaint, and I am rather sorry that my exceedingly brief, but nevertheless relevant, speech has not elicited a more convincing explanation from the Parliamentary Secretary. The mere fact that there is a measure of control by the Government over the investments of the nationalised industries is not itself adequate. For financial reasons there is ample control over private enterprise building and investment from their own boardrooms and managements. It is quite another matter to exclude the nationalised industries from a statute which this House has solemnly, —in this case not in its wisdom; I think rather foolishly—decided to put on the Statute Book.

Though it be the one I expected, I find the hon. Gentleman's explanation very unsatisfactory indeed. The hon. Gentleman is not personally to blame; it is the Government's responsibility.

Effectively, what the Government are saying is that the nationalised steel industry may contract out of the form of building control which is to be applied to the private enterprise steel companies, notwithstanding the fact that the Government sector, the National Steel Corporation, will directly be in competition with those private steel manufacturing firms.

Why should there be one set of rules, Ministerially inspired, for the nationalised sector, and another set of rules, perhaps judged by different standards—because it will be a different body exercising the controls, it will not be the Minister of Power exercising them—for the private sector of the industry? The Corporation should have to apply through the machinery which applies in respect of building controls for the whole of private industry.

We are creating a situation whereby the Minister of Power will judge the efficacy or otherwise of an application for building in excess of a specified sum for the investment in the nationalised sector under the Ministry of Power, the electricity industry, the degree of control operated is very scant indeed.

4.45 p.m.

My second point is that the Ministry of Power has loosely controlled the capital investment programmes of the nationalised coal, gas, and electricity industries for the past 20 years, but it has not done so very well, and it does not do it in detail. If the Parliamentary Secretary has any doubt about that, he might read, if he has not already done so, the publications on nationalised industries by former civil servants who worked in the Ministry for many years. In those publications it is brought out with the greatest authority that in the case of the biggest investment in the nationalised sector under the Ministry of Power, the electricity industry, the degree of control operated is very scant indeed. This is my second point.

My third point, and I think the most valid of all, is that we have said all the way through the Bill, with a good deal of support from the Treasury Bench, that the intention is that the steel industry shall be operated as a commercial enterprise. If it is operated as a commercial enterprise, it should submit to commercial standards, and if commercial standards are to be applied on a profit-earning basis in the private sector of the steel industry, which admittedly is no more than 7 or 8 per cent., then the same standards should be operated in the nationalised sector of the industry, which is of the order of 93 per cent.

Is the Ministry of Power in a position to judge by commercial standards what is a desirable investment in building? The answer is that of course it is not. Civil servants never are.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. As he says, it has not the resources to do it, nor have civil servants the necessary training to do it. This is what is wrong with bureaucracy. They follow a set of rules in a rule book, and they advise the Minister accordingly, all within a generic and overall total sum of money which is impressed on them by the Treasury.

The commercial viability of an enterprise cannot effectively be judged by the bureaucracy, nor have politicians the wherewithal to judge it. Has the Minister of Power—or indeed his Parliamentary Secretary, or the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Technology—the commercial acumen, the foresight, the prescience, necessary to judge whether a particular building enterprise, possibly involving millions of £s, is a desirable venture?

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the Ministry of Power has not yet given approval to the capital investment programme of the Central Electricity Generating Board, which is normally approved by the end of the year? Does this not show that the Ministry is falling behind in its work, without having this additional burden imposed on it?

That is so. The capital investment programmes of the nationalised industries were the principal cause of the Chancellor of the Exchequer coming to this House on 2nd May last and asking for an overall surplus in the mammoth sum of £1,007 million to cover below-the-line expenditure, most largely the below-the-line expenditure of the nationalised industries. There is enormous extravagance today in the nationalised industry to which the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) referred, electricity generation, where I believe the Minister has called for sums of money three or four times greater than he actually needs. I can only raise this point in passing. It would be out of order to explore it in depth.

I give it as an example because, in my judgment, it demonstrates that the Ministry of Power does not have the facilities, nor its civil servants the training, to adjudge whether projects are commercially viable and enterprising and are likely to earn profits in the future. Having regard to all these circumstances, is it right that the Corporation should contract out—that is what it is—of the penetrating standards of examination which are applicable to the private sector of the steel industry?

I have no confidence whatever in the analytical capacity of the Minister in financial matters and my hon. Friends should at this juncture say, as a matter of principle, that Parliament requires closer scrutiny than a single, global, generic and empirical annual figure for the capital of the steel industry approved by the Minister, including building consents, remembering that once they have been approved they will be unchallengeable by this House.

On a similar point last night, when my hon. Friends were pleading for the affirmative procedure to be adopted, the Minister said, "We all know that the Minister can be challenged in the House of Commons; the Opposition can put down a Motion of censure". We do not want to do that on matters of capital expenditure authorised by the Minister for individual industries. That would make a mockery of the highest form of Parliamentary attack. We want Parliamentary instruments and methods of scrutinising what the Minister is authorising, but we will not have them according to the Bill as drafted.

I hope that the Minister will not reply by simply saying "No" but will endeavour conscientiously to meet the valid arguments that have been adduced. My hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) and I evolved a better system of controlling the expenditure of the nationalised industries, and while it took us 10 years, from 1951 to 1961, to make a small dent in this procedure, we are far from having enough annual Parliamentary control over matters of this sort.

I hope that my hon. Friends will not laugh this off as a minor Amendment simply because my hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil was so magnanimous in moving it; simply by using the word "Why". I have in the past used many thousands of words to justify the principle of the Amendment. Unless the Minister is more forthcoming, I hope that my hon. Friends will, to ensure the control of investment on a proper Parliamentary basis, vote on this issue.

Considering that, in addition to the right hon. Gentleman, there are five hon. Members on the benches opposite, I congratulate the Minister on the amount of support he has managed to muster on this occasion. At no previous time during this discussion has he had so much support.

I am not. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to comment on anything I have to say he should rise to his feet and say it Having listened to the whole of the discussion, I cannot understand why, since hon. Gentlemen opposite are so in favour of nationalisation, they do not bother to listen to what is being said on the subject.

I came to the House last night armed with notes for a couple of speeches in favour of an Amendment which stood in the name of a good Scottish hon. Member. On that occasion hon. Gentlemen opposite stated that although they had a great deal of sympathy for my hon. Friend's good Unionist proposal, they would not under any circumstances vote against the Government. For this reason we should oppose the Bill at every point.

No insults to Ulster, please.

The Minister will have listened to the reasoned remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Ulster (Mr. Forrest) and I would not like to fall foul of the Chair by elaborating his point about lack of support for the Minister. The Parliamentary Secretary's answer, though courteous, was completely unsatisfactory. When this matter was debated in Standing Committee on a new Clause moved by the Minister—the provision which the Amendment seeks to delete—the right hon. Gentleman said:
"…there is already, in the nationalisation statutes, power in the hands of the Minister to control capital development."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee D, 14th December, 1966; c. 2377.]
However, this part of the Bill is concerned with any building project of a kind covered by the Building Control Act, 1966, which costs more than £50,000. Will the Minister deal with matters of this kind—with every relevant building project by the Corporation or any of its subsidiaries costing more than £50,000? My hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) pointed out what we know to be the truth; that the Minister does not concern himself with matters of detail of this kind. Instead, they are considered by junior officials in the Ministry. The Minister accepts responsibility, but he would never know about a project as minor as this and we in the House of Commons would not have an opportunity of questioning him about it.

The Minister has repeatedly said that the new steel industry is to be operated on commercial lines. In that case, let it be operated subject to the same advantages, but also to the same multifarious and manifold Government hindrances, suffered by the private sector. There is only one way to ensure that this will happen, and that is by supporting the Amendment.

5.0 p.m.

I was in two minds about the Amendment until I listened to the powerful speech of the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Mr. Forrest), who not only convinced me of the strength of the case but also appeared to convince the Government Front Bench, because I noticed that when he resumed his seat the Minister and his colleagues cheered.

Since I came into the Chamber rather late, would the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) succinctly précis the point made by the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Mr. Forrest)?

The hon. Gentleman adduced a complicated argument. I do not think I have the experience of public speaking to summarise it in a way that would be intelligible to the Minister. I suggest we leave it to HANSARD; and we will read with interest the important words uttered by the hon. Gentleman.

On a point of order. Surely the people of Mid-Ulster are as entitled to be represented in this House as the people of Orpington.

That is not a point of order, although the hon. Gentleman's observation is quite correct.

I hope that the hon. Gentleman does not take anything I have said as being critical of his speech. I listened to him with the greatest respect and interest and look forward to reading the OFFICIAL REPORT of his remarks.

As the right hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Barber) pointed out, the Minister said in Committee that there already existed in the nationalisation Statutes power for the Minister to control capital development. That is perfectly true, but I submit that different criteria will be applied by the Minister in approving the capital development programmes of the Corporation than will be applied by the Minister of Public Building and Works in interpreting the Building Control Act, 1966.

The main purpose of the 1966 Act is to ensure that the load of work on the construction industry in areas where it is already overloaded is relieved so that building firms may concentrate their energies on essential projects, particularly housing, whereas the Minister, in giving his consent to building projects which would otherwise fall under the Act, will be thinking purely in terms of economics and about whether the investment in buildings will bring about for the Corporation the sort of return he thinks is necessary.

We shall, therefore, have one set of rules for the private sector and a completely different set—which might be good in themselves—for the public sector. If the Building Control Act, 1966, is to mean anything and if the load is to be taken off the construction industry in areas where it is overloaded, the same rules should be applied to both sectors. That being so, I support the Amendment and hope that the Minister will, in view of the strong arguments adduced by the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster, accept it.

I regret that I cannot accept the arguments, and we must resist the Amendment. A good deal of misunderstanding has been injected into the discussion. I do not wish to extend it widely over the question of building control any more than other hon. Members have done but will simply touch upon it.

It is quite wrong to suggest that by excluding the steel industry from control under the Building Control Act, 1966, a double standard is being applied, as was indicated by all hon. Members opposite who have spoken with the honourable exception of the Member for Mid-Ulster (Mr. Forrest).

Should not the hon. Gentleman have said "with the exception of the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster"?

He could have said "with the honourable exception of the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster".

Hon. Members opposite have made the point clearly. There is no question of a double standard here.

Over a good many years, ever since nationalisation was introduced for a number of industries, there has been close Government control over investment policies in these industries, just as there has been over a wide range of public expenditure and activity in building construction. One example, is local authority housing. A wide range of educational expenditure, and so on, can be added to the list. Such control has already existed. It continues to exist.

Neither in the case of the Ministry of Housing, the Department of Education and Science nor of any other nationalised industry are the activities concerned with building brought within the scope of the Building Control Act, 1966, for the very reason that they already were under control. The whole object of the 1966 Act was to provide some kind of control in this field outside the public sector.

Having made those general observations on the purpose or philosophy of the 1966 Act, I come back to the steel industry—

The hon. Gentleman made an error, I think, a moment ago when he said that the Building Control Act was not to apply to the steel industry. It is not to apply to the nationalised part of the steel industry, but it will apply to the private sector. The important point is that there is here direct competition between comparable companies of a sort which does not apply to education and the other sectors which the hon. Gentle- man has mentioned. It is for this reason and in the light of what has been said that I must advise my hon. Friends to divide in support of their Amendment.

There still continues to be a misunderstanding here. While it is true that different Acts of Parliament apply in the field of control, the fact remains that there will still be control. What we are saying is that that part of the steel industry which will become the public sector, should operate under the same conditions as other nationalised industries which are already subject to control in this way.

Where are the hon. Members on the Government side who represent steel constituencies?

Perhaps we can meet afterwards in the Lobby and discuss matters further.

I stress that there is no question of double standards. Controls already exist in the nationalised sector. They will exist in the nationalised sector of the steel industry just as they have been applied in different ways under the Building Control Act, 1966, which also is selective in its application. That, however, is a matter for another Minister and not for us this evening to go into detail.

The Building Control Act, 1966, provides that no building works except those for housing, industrial building and laboratories and any in development districts should proceed without a licence where the projects concerned are likely to cost £50,000 or more. All the nationalised industries as listed in the Schedule to that Act were exempt from this requirement. We suggest that the same thing should apply equally with regard to the steel industry.

The Parliamentary Secretary is not dealing with the point put forward by myself or the point made by any of my hon. Friends. I have with me the Schedule to the Building Control Act, 1966. It delineates all the nationalised industries. None of those industries, however, has a private sector against which to compete. That is the first essential point. The second essential point is that none of those industries is a manufacturing industry such as steel, which has to compete both in the United Kingdom and overseas. It is, therefore, wholly fallacious to compare the position of the National Steel Corporation with, for example, the North of Scotland Hydro Electric Board.

I need not repeat all the points I have been making. I repeat, however, that exactly the same type of control is being applied, or would be applied by the Ministry of Power, in this sector as is already being applied in other nationalised sectors and is being applied by the Ministry of Public Building and Works in the private sector.

The Parliamentary Secretary need not go into this at length. The question which he is not facing is our objection that this control which is imposed on private industry is imposed by different people for different purposes from different points of view. It is no good the hon. Gentleman going into the fact that these errors have been committed before. We did our best to discourage the Minister from pursuing this doctrine, which I can only describe as the perpetuation of past errors. There is nothing that

Division No. 247.]

AYES

[5.12 p.m.

Abse, LeoConcannon, J. D.Fowler, Gerry
Albu, AustenConlan, BernardFraser, John (Norwood)
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)Corbet, Mrs. FredaFreeson, Reginald
Alldritt, WalterCraddock, George (Bradford, S.)Gardner, Tony
Allen, ScholefieldCrawshaw, RichardGinsburg, David
Anderson, DonaldCrossman, Rt. Hn. RichardGourlay, Harry
Archer, PeterCullen, Mrs. AliceGray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)
Armstrong, ErnestDalyell, TamGreenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony
Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)Davidson, Arthur (Accrington)Gregory, Arnold
Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)
Bacon, Rt. Hn. AliceDavies, Harold (Leek)Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly)
Bagier, Gordon A. T.Davies, Robert (Cambridge)Griffiths, Will (Exchange)
Barnett, JoelDelargy, HughHale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)
Bellenger, Rt. Hn. F. J.Dewar, DonaldHamilton, James (Bothwell)
Bence, CyrilDiamond, Rt. Hn. JohnHarper, Joseph
Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton)Dobson, RayHarrison, Walter (Wakefield)
Bidwell, SydneyDoig, PeterHart, Mrs. Judith
Binns, JohnDriberg, TomHaseldine, Norman
Blackburn, FDunn, James A.Hazell, Bert
Boardman, H.Dunnett, JackHealey, Rt. Hn. Denis
Booth, AlbertDunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)Henig, Stanley
Boston, TerenceDunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e)Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret
Bottomley, Rt. Hn. ArthurEadie, AlexHilton, W. S.
Boyden, JamesEdwards, Rt. Hn. Ness (Caerphilly)Hooley, Frank
Braddock, Mrs. E. M.Edwards, William (Merioneth)Horner, John
Bradley, TomEllis, JohnHowarth, Harry (Wellingborough)
Bray, Dr. JeremyEnglish, MichaelHowarth, Robert (Bolton, E.)
Brooks, EdwinEnnals, DavidHowie, W.
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)Ensor, DavidHoy, James
Brown, Bob (M'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W)Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.)Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)
Buchan, NormanEvans, Ioan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley)Hughes, Roy (Newport)
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)Finch, HaroldHunter, Adam
Cant, R. B.Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)Hynd, John
Carmichael, NeilFletcher, Ted (Darlington)Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)
Carter-Jones, LewisFoley, MauriceJackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh)
Castle, Rt. Hn. BarbaraFoot, Sir Dingle (Ipswich)Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak)
Chapman, DonaldFoot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)Janner, Sir Barnett
Coe, DenisFord, BenJay, Rt. Hn. Douglas
Coleman, DonaldForrester, JohnJeger, Mrs. Lena (H'bn&St. P'crae, S.)

the hon. Gentleman can say to justify it. We had better divide.

No doubt hon. Members opposite want to divide, but if they keep on repeating points in error I must deal with them. I will not elaborate the point because I have dealt with it, but I repeat that the same kind of control will apply in the public sector of the steel industry as will be applied by the Ministry of Public Building and Works over the private sector.

The adequacy of the controls was questioned. I can only say that we in the Ministry of Power are just as capable of providing as adequate a control in the public sector as will be exercised by the Ministry of Public Building and Works in the private sector, and which hon. Members opposite would like us to follow for the nationalised steel industry.

I have covered the points as well as I have been able. There is no double standard. There will be no inadequate control. We must resist the Amendment.

Question put, That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill:—

Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)Morris, John (Aberavon)Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Strechford)Moyle, RolandSilverman, Julius (Aston)
Jones, Dan (Burnley)Murray, AlbertSilverman, Sydney (Nelson)
Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)Neal, HaroldSlater, Joseph
Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)Norwood, ChristopherSmall, William
Judd, FrankOakes, GordonSnow, Julian
Kenyon, CliffordOgden, EricSpriggs, Leslie
Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)O'Malley, BrianSteele, Thomas (Dumbartonshire, W.)
Lawson, GeorgeOram, Albert E.Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael
Ledger, RonOrbach, MauriceStonehouse, John
Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)Orme, StanleyStrauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.
Lipton, MarcusOswald, ThomasSwain, Thomas
Lomas, KennethOwen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)Swingler, Stephen
Loughlin, CharlesOwen, Will (Morpeth)Symonds, J. B.
Luard, EvanPaget, R. T.Taverne, Dick
Lyon, Alexander W. (York)Palmer, ArthurThomson, Rt. Hn. George
Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)Park, TrevorThornton, Ernest
McCann, JohnParker, John (Dagenham)Tinn, James
MacColl, JamesParkyn, Brian (Bedford)Tomney, Frank
MacDermot, NiallPavitt, LaurenceTuck, Raphael
Macdonald, A. H.Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)Urwin, T. W.
McGuire, MichaelPeart, Rt. Hn. FredVarley, Eric G.
McKay, Mrs. MargaretPentland, NormanWainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)
Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Mackie, JohnPerry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)Wallace, George
Mackintosh, John P.Prentice, Rt. Hn. R. E.Watkins, David (Consett)
Maclennan, RobertPrice, Thomas (Westhoughton)Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)
McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)Probert, ArthurWeitzman, David
McNamara, J. KevinRandall, HarryWellbeloved, James
MacPherson, MalcolmRankin, JohnWells, William (Walsall, N.)
Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)Redhead, EdwardWhitaker, Ben
Mahon, Simon (Bootle)Reynolds, G. W.White, Mrs. Eirene
Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)Rhodes, GeoffreyWhitlock, William
Mal1alieu, J. P. W.(Huddersfield, E.)Richard. IvorWigg, Rt. Hn. George
Mapp, CharlesRobertson, John (Paisley)Wilkins, W. A.
Marquand, DavidRobinson, Rt. Hn. Kenneth (St. P'c'as)Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Marsh, Rt. Hn. RichardRobinson, W. O. J. (Walth'stow, E.)Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)
Mason, RoyRodgers, William (Stockton)Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)
Mayhew, ChristopherRogers, George (Kensington, N.)Willis, George (Edinburgh, E.)
Mellish, RobertRose, PaulWilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Mendelson, J. J.Ross, Rt. Hn. WilliamWinnick, David
Mikardo, IanRowland, Christopher (Meriden)Winterbottom, R. E.
Millan, BruceRowlands, E. (Cardiff, N.)Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.
Milne, Edward (Blyth)Ryan, JohnWoof, Robert
Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)Yates, Victor
Molloy, WilliamSheldon, RobertZilliacus, K.
Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E.
Morris, Alfred (Wythershawe)Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N. E.)Mr. Grey and Mr. McBride.

NOES

Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)Campbell, GordonForrest, George
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)Carr, Rt. Hn. RobertFortescue, Tim
Astor, JohnCary, Sir RobertFraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone)
Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n)Channon, H. P. G.Galbraith, Hn. T. G.
Awdry, DanielChichester-Clark, R.Giles, Rear-Adm. Morgan
Baker, W. H. K.Clark, HenryGilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)
Barber, Rt. Hn. AnthonyClegg, WalterGilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)
Batsford, BrianCooke, RobertGlover, Sir Douglas
Beamish, Col. Sir TuftonCooper-Key, Sir NeillGlyn, Sir Richard
Bell, RonaldCordle, JohnGodber, Rt. Hn. J. B.
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos. & Fhm)Costain, A. P.Goodhart, Philip
Berry, Hn. AnthonyCraddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)Gower, Raymond
Bessell, PeterCrawley, AidanGrant, Anthony
Biffen, JohnCrouch, DavidGrant-Ferris, R.
Biggs-Davison, JohnCrowder, F. P.Gresham Cooke, R.
Birch, Rt. Hn. NigelCunningham, Sir KnoxGrieve, Percy
Black, Sir CyrilCurrie, G. B. H.Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)
Blaker, PeterDalkeith, Earl ofHall, John (Wycombe)
Body, RichardDance, JamesHall-Davis, A. G. F.
Bossom, Sir Clived'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir HenryHamilton, Michael (Salisbury)
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. JohnDean, Paul (Somerset, N.)Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.)
Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir EdwardDeedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford)Harris, Reader (Heston)
Braine, BernardDigby, Simon WingfieldHarrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)
Brinton, Sir TattonDoughty, CharlesHarvey, Sir Arthur Vere
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir WalterDrayson, G. B.Hastings, Stephen
Brown, St Edward (Bath)du Cann, Rt. Hn. EdwardHawkins, Paul
Bruce-Gardyne, J.Eden, Sir JohnHeald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel
Bryan, PaulElliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward
Buchanan, Smith, Alick (Angus, N&M)Eyre, ReginaldHeseltine, Michael
Buck, Antony (Colchester)Farr, JohnHiggins, Terence L
Bullus, Sir EricFisher, NigelHill J. E. B.
Burden, F. A.Fletcher-Cooke, CharlesHirst, Geoffrey

Hobson, Rt. Hn. Sir JohnMaxwell-Hyslop, R. J.St. John-Stevas, Norman
Hogg, Rt. Hn. QuintinMills, Peter (Torrington)Scott, Nicholas
Holland, PhilipMills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)Sharples, Richard
Hooson, EmlynMiscampbell, NormanShaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)
Hordern, PeterMonro, HectorSinclair, Sir George
Hornby, RichardMore, JasperSmith, John
Howell, David (Guildford)Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)Stainton, Keith
Hunt, JohnMorrison, Charles (Devizes)Steel, David (Roxburg)
Hutchison, Michael ClarkMott-Radclyffe, Sir CharlesSummers, Sir Spencer
Iremonger, T. L.Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir HughTaylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)Murton, OscarTaylor, Edward M.(G'gow, Cathcart)
Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)Nabarro, Sir GeraldTaylor, Frank (Moss Side)
Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)Neave, AireyTeeling, Sir William
Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)Nicholls, Sir HarmarTemple, John M.
Jopling, MichaelNoble, Rt. Hn. MichaelThatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir KeithNott, JohnTilney, John
Kerby, Capt. HenryOnslow, CranleyTurton, Rt. Hn. R. H.
Kimball, MarcusOrr, Capt. L. P. S.van Straubenzee, W. R.
King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)Orr-Ewing, Sir IanVickers, Dame Joan
Kitson, TimothyOsborn, John (Hallam)Walker, Peter (Worcester)
Knight, Mrs. JiltOsborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek
Lambton, ViscountPage, Graham (Crosby)Wall, Patrick
Lancaster, Col. C. G.Page, John (Harrow, W.)Walters, Dennis
Legge-Bourke, Sir HarryPearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)Ward, Dame Irene
Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)Percival, IanWeatherill, Bernard
Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)Peyton, JohnWells, John (Maidstone)
Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirral)Pink, R. BonnerWhitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Longden, GilbertPowell, Rt. Hn. J. EnochWills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
Loveys, W. H.Price, David (Eastleigh)Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Lubbock, EricPym, FrancisWinstanley, Dr. M. P.
McAdden, Sir StephenQuennell, Miss J. M.Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Mackenzie, Alasdair (Ross&Crom'ty)Ramsden, Rt. Hn. JamesWood, Rt. Hn. Richard
Maclean, Sir FitzroyRawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir PeterWoodnutt, Mark
Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)Rees-Davies, W. R.Worsley, Marcus
Maddan, MartinRenton, Rt. Hn. Sir DavidWylie, N. R.
Maginnis, John E.Ridley, Hn. NicholasYounger, Hn. George
Marples, Rt. Hn. ErnestRidsdale, Julian
Marten, NeilRodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Maude, AngusRossi, Hugh (Hornsey)Mr. R. W. Elliott and Mr. David Mitchell.
Maudling, Rt. Hn. ReginaldRoyle, Anthony
Mawby, RayRussell, Sir Ronald

Clause 33—(Location Of Offices Of Corporation)

I beg to move Amendment No. 96, in page 27, line 44, at the end to insert:

The Corporation shall not, without the permission of the Minister, locate its head office in the Greater London Area.
This is an Amendment to a new Clause I moved in Standing Committee. If the purpose of the Clause is to be put into practice, it is essential that the Amendment be accepted. The Clause provides that
"In determining the location of its commercial and administratve offices, the Corporation shall have regard to"
where the steel is produced and also to the desirability of distributing major offices throughout the United Kingdom.

It was a serious point I made. I am glad to say that more than half the members of the Standing Committee supported my contention. The Government accepted it. I was distressed to discover that one of the reasons why the Government felt able to accept it was that they believed that there was not much point in the Clause and that it did not oblige anybody to do anything. We must therefore press the Government by writing a little more specification into the Clause.

I accept that the Corporation must be free to take into account all relevant considerations in making its decision. The Amendment would allow full scope to the Corporation to make what decision it thought fit, except in one limited circumstance, namely, if it were to decide that the headquarters of its organisation should be in the Greater London Area. If the Corporation wanted to locate its head office in Wales, in Glasgow, in Sheffield, in Newcastle, or anywhere else in the United Kingdom, it would be free to do so. The only limitation we are putting on the Corporation is if it were to decide to locate its headquarters in London.

It would be short-sighted, irresponsible and economic madness for the Government to locate this headquarters office in the Greater London Area. If the Corporation were to decide to locate its headquarters in London, there would be a volume of protest from Rutherglen to the Rhondda Valley. The Government's good faith on the distribution of offices is at stake. This is the first major decision they will have to make on the location of a substantial headquarters of a local authority. The Government's good intentions and good faith will be on trial.

The Amendment should not be necessary, because all the arguments point to the headquarters of the organisation going elsewhere than London. What should the Government take into account? They should take into account, first, where the steel is produced. What are the alternatives? There are 31,000 men employed in steel in Scotland, 57,000 in Sheffield, 59,000 in South Wales, and 39,000 on the North-East Coast. The map which was issued with "Steel Statistics" showing where steel is produced indicates clearly that there is little, if any steel, produced south of a line drawn between the Wash and the Severn. To that extent, the alternatives would seem to be where the steel is produced. I am not making a special pleading for Scotland or for Glasgow. I ask the Government to do what they can to ensure that the offices will be located where the steel is produced.

The second factor the Government should take into account is where the steel is used—in other words, where heavy industry is located. This is certainly not in the Greater London area. The Government should take these factors into account. They should also take into account the desirability of distributing major Government offices throughout the United Kingdom.

On 1st October of last year there were almost 1 million non-industrial civil servants. This is a very substantial number of employed people earning money through the Civil Service. Obviously civil servants must be spread throughout the whole country. What worries me is that the top jobs with the high earnings tend more and more to be concentrated in the Greater London area. This means that the opportunities, the top jobs and the top salaries are not available throughout the country. Scotland has one-tenth of the United Kingdom's total population, yet the only major Government headquarters office, which we will have shortly, is the Post Office Savings Bank, thanks to a decision made by the Tory Government and being promulgated at present.

Emigration from Scotland is now running at 47,000 a year—an all-time high. This figure is increasing. This is worrying in itself. What is more worrying is the quality of those who are leaving. A higher proportion of Scottish young people go to university than in any other part of the country. It is essential that they have opportunities for the top jobs at the top salaries in Scotland. This applies to Wales and to the other development districts. This is why the Tory Government were right to make the decision in principle to distribute major Government offices throughout the country.

I should like to see the Labour Government showing, not only that they pay lip service to this principle, as I know that they readily will, but also that they are prepared to do something about it. The danger is that, because of the concentration of top jobs and top salaries in London, instead of having integrated factories in the regions, we are merely having workshops, while the decisions, the top salaries, and all the rest, are becoming concentrated more and more in the London area. This is happening in private industry as well as in the public sector. Something must be done about it.

For these reasons, we must put the responsibility fairly and squarely on the Government to make this decision, if the Corporation should decide to have its headquarters in the Greater London area. If the Government do not accept this, they will be shirking their responsibilities because, even though we have the Clause, unless the Government are prepared to take some initiative I fear that the headquarters of the organisation, like the headquarters of so many Government organisations, will be sited in London.

Everyone is familiar with the reasons why we do not want more offices to be concentrated in London. This is why the Government have introduced certain Bills affecting the private sector. We want the same principle to be applied to Government offices as well. The tragedy is that, although the Government try to discourage office buildings in our major city centres, when a building becomes vacant it is usually a Government office or a Government-sponsored organisation which moves into it quickly. We ask the Government to take the lead in the distribution of offices.

My final point relates to the simple question of justice. A large proportion of the population of the United Kingdom is situated in Wales. One-tenth of the total United Kingdom population is in Scotland On the North-East Coast there is a high proporation. Surely we are entitled to some share of the major Government offices, of the jobs they bring, and of the opportunities they bring. Unless we have these, the scope of opportunities in the regions will certainly not be the same as it is in the centre.

I want to make this the Government's decision. I do not say that under the Amendment we should prevent the Corporation from having its office in London. There might be such overwhelming reasons in favour of its being sited there that such a decision would be inevitable. However, there should be a thorough examination of all the arguments. This examination should be made by the Government.

I have explained that I am not at all happy with the Bill. It could be the beginning of the end for Scottish steel if the Government bring in differential prices, as with the other nationalised industries. This is why I am absolutely delighted that on this important Amendment, which is of significance to Scotland. the Minister of State, Scottish Office and two of the Under-Secretaries of State are present. This may be a belated indication that the Government are now aware of the desperate dangers to Scottish steel which the Bill presents.

I should like to have the assurance, which the presence of these three Ministers indicates can be given, that the Government are now becoming aware that the Bill could be disastrous for Scottish steel. I want in some way to temper that by ensuring that at least in regard to offices the Government are prepared to carry the responsibility themselves. This is what they should be prepared to do. If they believe in regional development, let them take the responsibility of undertaking a thorough examination of any proposal that the offices be located in London. I fear that the decision on the location of the headquarters might already have been taken. I want to ensure that there will be a thorough examination and a deep study of the interests of the regions in general and of Scotland in particular.

5.30 p.m.

I am surprised that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor) should have listed the Ministry of Social Security at Newcastle-up-Tyne and the Post Office Savings Bank in Scotland as examples of the Government's deciding where commercial enterprises should locate their offices. It is all right for Government Departments to be spread around. They are bureaucratic institutions. They do not have to compete with world industry. They do not have to meet traders and buyers. They do not have to deal with market research. I advise my right hon. Friend to reject the Amendment.

It would be disastrous if a Minister of the Crown made a decision on behalf of a vast commercial enterprise that it should establish its administrative centre on the same principle as we establish Government Departments. I dread to see the day when a commercial enterprise is run and located on the same basis as Government Departments. Furthermore, it would be disastrous if the head offices of the Steel Corporation happened to be located in the vicinity of one of the major steel plants. It is very often the experience that when one has a commercial enterprise with a number of production units it is always best to have the main administrative offices situated other than in the immediate locality of one of them. It is far better for the main commercial and administrative offices to be apart from the different production units of an industry. One could quote dozens of cases through the light engineering industry where that has been fatal.

Great concern would be caused to many people who take the wider view, rather than the parochial one of the hon. Member for Cathcart, if the administrative offices should be located on the decision of the Minister for purely party political cases and not based upon the commercial requirements of the production system or the industry with which that set-up is concerned.

Despite what the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) has just said, I submit to the Minister that my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor) has made a most powerful and incisive point. He has not asked for what the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East implied. He has not asked for such a decision. What he has asked is that it should not be done without the consent of the Minister.

I should have thought that the Government would he bound to accept not only the wording but the spirit of the Amendment. It goes even further than my hon. Friend said it did. If it should be decided to centralise the head office of this new Corporation in London, there would be a deprivation of valuable high quality office employment from the existing centres of the companies affected. To that extent the case is even stronger.

I am sure that my hon Friend is pleased to see certain Scottish Ministers present—

I wish that the Secretary of State or the Minister of State for Welsh Affairs was present to stake a claim for the Principality—and, conceivably, other Ministers concerned.

I hope that the Minister will look at this matter with extreme care. It has been said to be the policy of the Government to resist the development of large office buildings in London in particular and, as my hon. Friend said, they have pressed this on private industry. It would he deplorable if what they imposed upon private industry should be resisted by a great State board of this kind.

The hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East suggested that it would be intolerable for foreign buyers coming to this country, but I would remind him that it is far more difficult for a foreign visitor to get to the City of London than to many places which are just outside London.

I thought that I had made the point clear that those who manage the industry should decide the best location for their administrative offices and such things as their market research department. It should be a decision based on the commercial assessment which they make in the best interests of the industry.

It would be quite improper in this case. It would be far better that it should not be done without the consent of the Minister, in view of the great issues at stake, some of which have been referred to by my hon. Friend.

In Standing Committee, the Minister said that he was aware of the importance of this issue. He went on:
"I only make the point that no decision has been taken on the siting of the offices of the Corporation. Indeed, within the last two weeks, the Chairman-designate of the Corporation, who has taken this matter very seriously, has met deputations from Cardiff and Sheffield wholly and solely to discuss where the offices should be sited."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee D, 14th December, 1966; c. 2412.]
I hope that that is a hopeful sign that nothing has happened since he uttered those words to change the position radically. Therefore, as I said in my opening remarks, I hope that he will accept both the wording and the spirit of the Amendment.

Before the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) sits down, can he tell us whether there is anything at the moment which prevents the offices of the Steel Corporation being located in any part of the country, after due consideration? Secondly, may I ask him if he would transfer Steel House in part or wholly, at one fell swoop?

In the first place, my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart explained that this matter was of such importance that he wanted it to be beyond doubt. I echo those words. The second point does not arise, because here we have a new concentration in a totally different form.

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is there not a rule that hon. Members are not allowed to bring lethal weapons into the House? The hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Winterbottom) and the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. O'Malley) are in deadly peril so long as the right hon. Gentleman goes on swinging his chain round his arm. If it slips, someone will get hurt.

There was a long and heated discussion on these matters during the Committee stage, and obviously one would not want to listen to all the arguments that were put forward on that occasion. If my hon. Friend the Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) had been a member of the Committee—and I have had the privilege of serving with him on a number of Committees—all the indications are that the temperature in the Committee when this matter was discussed would have been even higher. I find it a strange argument coming from him that the head offices of an industrial organisation should preferably be sited some distance from the works. I cannot see the advantage in doing that.

I did not suggest that. What I said was that, in the case of an industrial complex with a number of units spread round the country, the decision about siting the market research department and the administrative offices must be that of the managers of that organisation and not one imposed upon them by someone outside.

If I may say so, that was the second point which my hon. Friend raised, and I shall comment on that briefly in due course. It is certainly true that the decision about where the headquarters of the National Steel Corporation are to be should be that of the National Steel Corporation. It would be wrong, however, for the corporation to take that decision unilaterally, without full discussions with the Minister. In his remarks in Committee, the Minister gave no indication that he expected or desired that such full discussions should take place.

I hope that the debate today will not be parochial. It was not during the Committee stage, because the hon. Member for Bournemouth, West (Sir J. Eden) suggested that the headquarters ought to be in Brussels, and the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) had an even more novel suggestion and thought that it ought to be in a caravan and move round the country.

I appreciate that this was a serious matter, and some of us did not like it being treated with such levity. Perhaps the unfortunate part of the proceedings in Committee was that, if there was any parochialism, it came from the Minister, who wanted it sited in Greenwich. It may be that that is the reason why the Minister, apparently, does not intend to reply to the debate and will leave it to his Parliamentary Secretary, because he is an interested party. We ought to ask the Parliamentary Secretary whether the Minister has been making representations to the National Steel Corporation for the siting of its headquarters in Greenwich.

If I may close with one very brief remark, the advantages and disadvantages of the siting of the headquarters of the Steel Corporation either in London or in the provinces, in one of the steel centres, were adequately discussed during the Committee stage. I hope that the Minister will bear the arguments in mind, and that the National Steel Corporation and the Organising Committee, in considering the matter, will bear in mind not only the arguments then put forward but also the feelings expressed on both sides during the course of them.

I believe that the decision should be taken by the National Steel Corporation in conjunction with the Minister, having listened to what the Minister has to say about overall Government policy on regional development and the moving of office employment out of London into the provinces, where often there is a pool of labour and where employment is badly needed. In addition, the Minister should not allow the offices to be in London unless it is demonstrated clearly that there are special reasons why they should be.

5.45 p.m.

I do not want to push this Amendment down my right hon. Friend's throat. I am not taking that attitude. But I hope he recognises that there are very cogent reasons why the headquarters should not be in London. I also know that there is a strong feeling in this House that the Government would be following their own regional policy if these offices were located elsewhere than in the capital.

But the Amendment would strengthen the hand of the Minister if the hon. Gentleman pushed it through.

That is only if the Minister is pushing the case for Greenwich. I do not know whether he is. He may feel inclined to intervene and say what the situation is. Unless there are very special reasons which can be demonstrated for having the headquarters in London, I hope that they will be sited in one of the great steel complexes.

I support the Amendment. It is straightforward and on both sides of the House there is a good deal of support for the principle behind it. If there are insurmountable difficulties on the practical side, that is another matter. But there is a strong feeling in the country that we have far too much concentration of offices in London, including Government offices, and that when there is an opportunity to do something about it, as there will be in this case, advantage should be taken of that opportunity. For that reason, I hope that the Government will look at the position very carefully.

There is a good opportunity here to do something by siting these offices outside the Greater London area. I am pleased to see two Scottish Ministers on the Front Bench. I hope this is an earnest of their interest in the issue for we know that they are very busy people. I hope that the Minister will consider this matter carefully. From the speeches we have heard in the debate, I cannot recall any practical reason why the Corporation should not have its offices outside the Greater London area.

I do not claim to have the practical knowledge of some hon. Members but there is, I know, a very strong feeling that this is a time when the Government should show their interest in other centres which happen to have strong claims and I put forward the claims of Scotland because Scotland would provide a practical site for these offices.

It might be as well if I intervene now in order to give a general assurance that there is no difference of policy between us. The only issue is whether the Amendment should be accepted, and we do not consider it necessary. Indeed, it could be harmful. The very reference to "head office" makes a false distinction. The point at issue here, both with regard to the steel industry and to dispersal generally, which has been discussed at some length, is where one gets the staff and where one gets the dispersal policy in operation.

The fact that one particular office is called a head office while another office is given some other name is a positive point. One can have a small head office in London while conducting a policy of dispersal. I give a general assurance that the views expressed in Committee are being taken into account very closely both by the Minister and the Organising Committee. In the thinking being given to the future of staffing and office arrangements, both the Minister and the Committee have very much in mind the idea of cutting down on the existing number of staff—2,000—established in London.

It is not for me to say today precisely what the resultant pattern will be as a result of the study being made by the Organising Committee, which will be a matter for report to the Minister, or of the talks on this and other matters going on between the Minister and the Committee. This is a very important point to take into account. The Amendment is unnecessary because we are pursuing the policy that all hon. Members have supported, but it might restrict by its terminological inclusion the very policies that hon. Members are seeking to establish.

I want to stress that there is a constant liaison between the Ministry and the Organising Committee, just as such liaison exists between the Ministry and the other nationalised industries on this matter. The important thing is to seek as far as possible to get dispersal into the right places but not to say whether the head office or the sales office, or any particular department, shall, with or without the permission of the Minister, go or not go to a certain part of the country. The important thing is to get dispersal, and I give the House an assurance that this policy is being and will continue to be pursued.

The Government are greatly indebted to my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor). He has given them a chance to convert a Clause which consisted of eyewash into something with a little meaning. He has rendered a valuable service to his constituents in Scotland and it is a great pity that the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) did not follow him in doing so.

I believe that we can carry this preoccupation with office location too far. There seems something quite indecent about it. In Standing Committee I suggested that perhaps the best solution would be a steel caravan going around the country like a travelling circus. It would have the great advantage that it would presumably discourage the enrolment of a very large and swollen staff.

I have been meditating on this important matter and have arrived at one or two other possible suggestions. One of them I do not put forward very seriously. It is that there should be a winter palace and a summer palace. That sort of conception would be quite in harmony with the general tone of Socialist bureaucracy.

But my real suggestion is that these offices should be located in the most uncomfortable, insalubrious place in the country. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where?"] I am not prepared to name it. Perhaps very near to the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East would be the answer. But this siting would really discourage a large swelling of the staff such as is only too apt to happen, despite the pious intentions of the Government whenever they introduce this kind of revolting Measure.

One should try to avoid adding to the clutter of London, which has languished under Socialist government for many years and must be one of the world's worst-governed cities in history. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."] Hon. Members opposite are sensitive on this point. I only threw it out on the spur of the moment and up they all got feeling very cross. They know how painful the truth can be to Socialist Ministers. We are always glad to have proof of the fact. I humbly return to the suggestion I made earlier—that the head office should be located in the most uncomfortable place that can be found in the United Kingdom.

As a London Member, I fully support the Amendment. It would be the greatest mistake to have the head office of this new Corporation cluttering up our beautiful capital city. We do not want another thousand semi-civil servants in our overcrowded city. If the head office is located in London, all the ancillary offices will be in the Home Counties.

The obvious place for the head office is probably in the North Midlands area, probably around Sheffield, which is a centre of gravity. Equally, the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) is right. We should not have it attached to a steel works—say, on the riverside at Rotherham, perhaps on the site of the old Rotherham steel works. But when one asks the chairman of a nationalised corporation why he has to have his offices in London, he says that he has to be near Whitehall to cook up answers to the Questions. We hope that the steel industry at least will be out of politics for a time and that questions and answers can be sent on the teleprinter.

The hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke) has put forward a point on behalf of the Midlands and Scotland. But a very large part of the industry is in South Wales—for instance, Richard Thomas and Baldwins and the Steel Company of Wales. The steel industry is very prominent in Wales. I hope that, if anything is done, these offices will go to Wales.

During the four years when I was at the Treasury, we set in hand the movement of a number of head and other offices of a smaller character out of London into the provinces and to Scotland. My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor) referred to the movement of the Post Office Savings Bank to Glasgow, a movement with which I was concerned, and I was delighted with the decision.

My hon. Friend and other hon. Members will know, therefore, that I am in considerable sympathy with the objective of the Amendment. But the location of the head office or any office of the National Steel Corporation should be decided on purely commercial grounds, subject only to such Government policy which is applicable to industry generally. Secondly, I believe that the same considerations should apply as are applied in the case of private enterprise.

6.0 p.m.

Furthermore, I take the point of the Parilamentary Secretary about the meaning of "head office" because, of course, one can have a comparatively small head office dealing with overseas trade and, outside, the accounts department, the statistics department, the general domestic sales, marketing, production departments, and so on. But I do not agree with him in a number of the points he made. He said that if we pass the Amendment it might restrict the policy of the Corporation. It would only do so if the Minister of Power refused permission to the Corporation against its strong wishes. All those factors are highly relevant.

I want to be brief, because there is still a considerable number of Amendments to get through and we hope to finish this business by about 7 o'clock. But there is one other overriding consideration. In practice we all know that it is inconceivable that the Corporation of a nationalised industry would ever be allowed to locate its head office in any place against the determined opposition of the Government of the day. That is a fact of life, and I have not the slightest doubt that, whether the Amendment is carried or not, if the right hon. Gentleman and his Cabinet colleagues were determined that for policy considerations the Corporation's head office should not be in a particular place, be it London or anywhere else in the United Kingdom,

Division No. 248.]

AYES

[6.3 p.m.

Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)Cary, Sir RobertGilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)Channon, H. P. G.Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)
Astor, JohnChichester-Clark, R.Glover, Sir Douglas
Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n)Clark, HenryGlyn, Sir Richard
Awdry, DanielClegg, WalterGodber, Rt. Hn. J. B.
Baker, W. H. K.Cooke, RobertGoodhart, Philip
Barber, Rt. Hn. AnthonyCooper-Key, Sir NeillGower, Raymond
Batsford, BrianCordle, JohnGrant, Anthony
Beamish, Col. Sir TuftonCostain, A. P.Grant-Ferris, R.
Bell, RonaldCraddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)Gresham Cooke, R.
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos. & Fhm)Crawley, AidanGrieve, Percy
Berry, Hn. AnthonyCrouch, DavidGriffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)
Bessell, PeterCrowder, F. P.Gurden, Harold
Biffen, JohnCunningham, Sir KnoxHall, John (Wycombe)
Biggs-Davison, JohnCurrie, G. B. H.Hall-Davis, A. G. F.
Birch, Rt. Hn. NigelDalkeith, Earl ofHamilton, Michael (Salisbury)
Black, Sir CyrilDance, JamesHarris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.)
Blaker, Peterd'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir HenryHarris, Reader (Heston)
Body, RichardDean, Paul (Somerset, N.)Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)
Bossom, Sir CliveDeedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford)Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. JohnDigby, Simon WingfieldHastings, Stephen
Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir EdwardDoughty, CharlesHawkins, Paul
Braine, BernardDrayson, G. B.Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel
Brinton, Sir Tattondu Cann, Rt. Hn. EdwardHeath, Rt. Hn. Edward
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col Sir WalterEden, Sir JohnHeseltine, Michael
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)Higgins, Terence L.
Bruce-Gardyne, J.Eyre, ReginaldHobson, Rt. Hn. Sir John
Bryan, PaulFarr, JohnHogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin
Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N&M)Fisher, NigelHolland, Philip
Buck, Antony (Colchester)Fletcher-Cooke, CharlesHooson, Emlyn
Bullus, Sir EricFortescue, TimHordern, Peter
Burden, F. A.Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone)Hornby, Richard
Campbell, GordonGalbraith, Hn. T. G.Howell, David (Guildford)
Carr, Rt. Hn. RobertGiles, Rear-Adm. MorganHunt, John

the head office would not be established there.

It is therefore important to take note of what the Parliamentary Secretary said, that in fact, "There is no difference on policy". That means no difference on policy between that outlined by my hon. Friend the Member for Cathcart who moved the Amendment with his usual ability, and the policy of the Government. Therefore, the Amendment does little more than to formalise the actual position. If it gives some measure of comfort and encouragement to those people who do not believe that this Government takes a sufficiently robust view of regional policy and the location of offices, there is a lot to be said for passing it.

I have deliberately outlined the case for and against the Amendment. In the light of the Parliamentary Secretary's statement that there is no difference in policy at all, and bearing in mind that in practice the Government of the day would be able to veto the location of the head office in a particular place, I believe that my hon. Friend would be right to press his Amendment to a Division.

Question put, That those words be there inserted in the Bill:—

The House divided: Ayes 212, Noes 270.

Hutchison, Michael ClarkMonro, HectorSharples, Richard
Iremonger, T. L.More, JasperShaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)
Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)Sinclair, Sir George
Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)Morrison, Charles (Devizes)Smith, John
Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)Mott-Radclyffe, Sir CharlesStainton, Keith
Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir HughSteel, David (Roxburgh)
Jopling, MichaelMurton, OscarSummers, Sir Spencer
Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir KeithNabarro, Sir GeraldTaylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Kerby, Capt. HenryNeave, AireyTaylor, Edward M.(G'gow, Cathcart)
Kimball, MarcusNicholls, Sir HarmarTaylor, Frank (Moss Side)
King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)Noble, Rt. Hn. MichaelTeeling, Sir William
Kitson, TimothyNott, JohnTemple, John M.
Knight, Mrs. JillOnslow. CranleyThatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Lambton, ViscountOrr, Capt. L. P. S.Tilney, John
Lancaster, Col. C. G.Orr-Ewing, Sir IanTurton, Rt. Hn. R. H.
Langford-Holt, Sir JohnOsborn, John (Hallam)van Straubenzee, W. R.
Legge-Bourke, Sir HarryOsborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)Vickers, Dame Joan
Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)Page, Graham (Crosby)Walker, Peter (Worcester)
Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)Page, John (Harrow, W.)Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek
Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirral)Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)Wall, Patrick
Longden, GilbertPercival, IanWalters, Dennis
Loveys, W. H.Peyton, JohnWard, Dame Irene
Lubbock, EricPink, R. BonnerWeatherill, David
McAdden, Sir StephenPowell, Rt. Hn. J. EnochWells, John (Maidstone)
Mackenzie, Alasdair (Ross&Crom'ty)Price, David (Eastleigh)Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Maclean, Sir FitzroyPym, FrancisWills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)Quennell, Miss J. M.Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Maddan, MartinRamsden, Rt. Hn. JamesWinstanley, Dr. M. P.
Maginnis, John E.Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir PeterWolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Marples, Rt. Hn. ErnestRees-Davies, W. R.Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard
Marten, NeilRenton, Rt. Hn. Sir DavidWoodnutt, Mark
Maude, AngusRidsdale, JulianWorsley, Marcus
Maudling. Rt. Hn. ReginaldRodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)Wylie, N. R.
Mawby, RayRossi, Hugh (Hornsey)Younger, Hn. George
Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.Royle, Anthony
Mills, Peter (Torrington)Russell, Sir RonaldTELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)St. John-Stevas, NormanMr. David Mitchell and Mr. R. W. Elliott.
Miscampbell. NormanScott, Nicholas

NOES

Abse, LeoCrawshaw, RichardGregory, Arnold
Albu, AustenCronin, JohnGrey, Charles (Durham)
Allaun, Frank (Salfort, E.)Crossman, Rt. Hn. RichardGriffiths, David (Rother Valley)
Afldritt, WalterCullen, Mrs. AliceGriffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llaneliy)
Allen, ScholefieldDalyell, TarnGriffiths, Will (Exchange)
Anderson, DonaldDavidson, Arthur (Accrington)Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)
Archer, PeterDavies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)Hamilton, James (Bothwell)
Armstrong, ErnestDavies, Harold (Leek)Harper, Joseph
Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)Davies, Robert (Cambridge)Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)
Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)Delargy, HughHaseldine, Norman
Bacon, Rt. Hn. AliceDewar, DonaldHazell, Bert
Bagier, Cordon A. T.Diamond, Rt. Hn. JohnHealey, Rt. Hn. Denis
Barnett, JoelDickens, JamesHenig, Stanley
Beilenger, Rt. Hn. F. J.Dobson, RayHerbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret
Bence, CyrilDoig, PeterHilton, w. S.
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony WedgwoodDriberg, TomHooley, Frank
Bennett, James (G'gow, Brldgeton)Dunn, James A.Horner, John
Bidwell, SydneyDunnett, JackHoughton, Rt. Hn. Douglas
Binns, JohnDunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough)
Blackburn, F.Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'clHowarth, Robert (Bolton, E.)
Boardman, H.Eadie, AlexHoy, James
Booth, AlbertEdwards, Rt. Hn. Ness (Caerphilly)Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)
Boston, TerenceEdwards, William (Merioneth)Hughes, Roy (Newport)
Bottomley, Rt, Hn. ArthurEllis, JohnHunter, Adam
Boyden, JamesEnglish, MichaelHynd, John
Braddock, Mrs. E. M.Ensor, DavidIrvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)
Bradley, TomEvans, Albert (Islington, S. W.)Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spento'gh)
Bray, Dr. JeremyEvans, loan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley)Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak)
Brooks, EdwinFinch, HaroldJanner, Sir Barnett
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas
Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W)Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)Jeger, Mrs. Lena (H'b'n&St.P'cras, S.)
Buchan, NormanFoley, MauriceJenkins, Hugh (Putney)
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)Foot, Sir Dingle (Ipswich)Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)
Cant, R. B.Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)Johnson, Carol (Lewieham, S.)
Carmichael, NellFord, BenJones, Dan (Burnley)
Carter-Jones, LewisForrester, JohnJones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)
Castle, Rt. Hn. BarbaraFowler, GerryJones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)
Chapman, DonaldFraser, John (Norwood)Judd, Frank
Coe, DenisFreeson, ReginaldKelley, Richard
Coleman, DonaldGardner, TonyKenyon, Clifford
Concannon, J. D.Garrett, W. E.Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)
Conlan, BernardGinsburg, DavidLawson, George
Corbet, Mrs. FredaGourlay, HarryLedger, Ron
Craddock, Ctorge (Bradford, S.)Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)Lestor, Miss Joan
Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony

Lever, Harold (Cheetham)O'Malley, BrianSilverman, Sydney (Nelson)
Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)Oram, Albert E.Slater, Joseph
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)Orbach, MauriceSmall, William
Lipton, MarcusOrme, StanleySnow, Julian
Lomas, KennethOswald, ThomasSpriggs, Leslie
Loughlin, CharlesOwen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)
Luard, EvanOwen, Will (Morpeth)Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael
Lyon, Alexander W. (York)Paget, R. T.Stonehouse, John
Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)Palmer, ArthurStrauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.
McCann, JohnPark, TrevorSwain, Thomas
MacColl, JamesParker, John (Dagenham)Swingler, Stephen
MacDermot, NiallParkyn, Brian (Bedford)Symonds, J. B.
Macdonald, A. H.Pavitt, LaurenceTaverne, Dick
McGuire, MichaelPearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)Thomson, Rt. Hn. George
McKay, Mrs. MargaretPeart, Rt. Hn. FredThornton, Ernest
Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)Pentland, NormanTinn, James
Mackie, JohnPerry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)Tomney, Frank
Mackintosh, John P.Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)Tuck, Raphael
Maclennan, RobertPrentice, Rt. Hn. R. E.Urwin, T. W.
McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)Varley, Eric G.
McNamara, J. KevinPrice, Thomas (Westhoughton)Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)
MacPherson, MalcolmPrice, William (Rugby)Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Mahon, Simon (Bootle)Probert, ArthurWallace, George
Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)Randall, HarryWatkins, David (Consett)
Mallalieu, J. P. W.(Huddersfield, E.)Rankin, JohnWatkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)
Mapp, CharlesRedhead, EdwardWeitzman, David
Marquand, DavidReynolds, G. W.Wellbeloved, James
Marsh, Rt. Hn. RichardRhodes, GeoffreyWells, William (Walsall, N.)
Mason, RoyRichard, IvorWhitaker, Ben
Mayhew, ChristopherRobertson, John (Paisley)White, Mrs. Eirene
Mellish, RobertRobinson, Rt. Hn. Kenneth (St. P'c'as)Whitlock, William
Mendelson, J, J.Robinson, W. O. J. (Walth'stow, E.)Wigg, Rt. Hn. George
Mikardo, IanRodgers, William (Stockton)Wilkins, W. A.
Millan, BruceRogers, George (Kensington, N.)Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Milne, Edward (Blyth)Rose, PaulWilliams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)
Mitchell, R. C. (Sth'pton, Test)Ross, Rt. Hn. WilliamWilliams, Clifford (Abertillery)
Molloy, WilliamRowland, Christopher (Meriden)Willis, George (Edinburgh, E.)
Moonman, EricRowlands, E. (Cardiff, N.)Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)Ryan, JohnWinnick, David
Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)Winterbottom, R. E.
Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)Sheldon, RobertWoodburn, Rt. Hn. A.
Moyle, RolandShinwell, Rt. Hn. E.Woof, Robert
Murray, AlbertShore, Peter (Stepney)Yates, Victor
Neal, HaroldShort, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)Zilliacus, K.
Norwood, ChristopherShort, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N. E.)
Oakes, GordonSilkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Ogden, EricSilverman, Julius (Aston)Mr. McBride and Mr. Howie.

Clause 34—(Miscellaneous Provisions As To Publicly-Owned Companies)

I beg to move Amendment No. 97, in page 28, line 17, to leave out from 'company' to the end of line 25, and to insert:

'or form, or take part in forming, a company '.
This does for publicly-owned companies what an earlier Amendment did for the Corporation in requiring the Minister's consent for the purchase or acquisition of interests in iron and steel companies as well as in companies not engaged in iron and steel activities. It meets a point made by the Opposition in Committee and I therefore hope that the House will accept it.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause 36—(Furnishing Of Information To The Minister And The Corporation)

I beg to move Amendment No. 98, in pave 29, line 1, after 'specified' to insert 'and'.

Before the Bill went into Committee, Clause 36(1), then Clause 34(1), provided for the Minister to collect certain information from Schedule 1 companies, their subsidiaries, any person with property or rights owned on or since 4th November, 1964, by a Schedule 1 company or its subsidiary and every other iron and steel producer.

In Committee, the Government accepted an Opposition Amendment to remove the last group of persons—other iron and steel producers—from the list of those subject to this obligation. The list was shortened by one and it therefore became necessary to insert the word 'and' before the new last item in the list. That is what the Amendment does.

Amendment agreed to.

6.15 p.m.

I beg to move Amendment No. 145, in page 29, line 28, after 'such' to insert 'iron and steel'.

The two Amendments which are being taken with this, Amendment No. 146, in page 29, line 31, after 'notice', insert:
'(being not less than 28 days)'
and Amendment No. 147, in page 26, line 31, after 'periodically', insert:
'(at intervals of not less than six months)'
are self-explanatory and I need say no more about them. However, I must explain the purpose of Amendment No. 145, which, although superficially of a minor character, is of considerable significance.

Under Clause 36(2), which the Amendment seeks to amend, the Minister has power to obtain from the 200 smaller iron and steel companies which are to remain in private enterprise details of their output and of their capacity not only of iron and steel products, but of anything else which they manufacture, either at present, or as a result of diversification at any time in future.

Whether the Minister should have this power to obtain details of output and capacity of iron and steel products is open to argument and we have already considered that question, but there can be no justification whatever for the Minister taking power to obtain commercially secret information about products which have absolutely nothing to do with iron and steel.

Over the years, many of the 200 private enterprise companies will diversify their activities and it would be an outrageous imposition for the Minister to take power to obtain information from the private sector about products which are wholly divorced from the iron and steel industry. Yet, under the Bill as drafted, the Minister is seeking just that power and, what is more, any person who declines to comply with the Minister's request will be liable to a criminal prosecution. For those reasons, I hope that the Minister will think that this is an error in the Bill and will consequently accept the Amendment.

I hope that the Minister will accept the Amendment. I cannot believe that he wants to have details of the diversified activities of the steel companies in the private sector.

I have been considering some of the activities of the steel companies in Sheffield, for instance. I am certain that he does not want to know about the ramifications of Jessop-Saville which is a member of the B.S.A. group. There is a well-known company making hand tools and garden tools and other engineering equipment, Spear & Jackson Ltd., which is also a steel manufacturer and I am certain that the Minister does not want to know anything about those activities of that company.

Another well-known company in Sheffield is Edgar Allen whose products range from butt-welded tools to cement machinery—it is engaged in making rotary dryers, electro magnetic chucks and pulverised fuel equipment and has diversified into fans and other equipment for the ventilation of mines. I am certain that the Minister would want to know details only of its steel making activities. Balfour Darwins products include tools and permanent magnets as well as alloy castings. Another well-known company is James Neill and I am certain that the Minister would want to know no details other than about its steel making in its subsidiary, Hallomshire Steel. My own company ventures into fabrications, the manufacture of steel castings, steel extrusions and small tools. Again, I assume that the Minister wants details of iron and steel products only.

The object of the Amendment is to make certain that the Minister will obtain details only of the iron and steel making activities. I sincerely hope that he will accept the Amendment which is in keeping with the views which he has expressed in Committee and on Report. I can see no justification for not accepting it.

The Amendment is acceptable. The Minister needs power to collect forecasts about the private sector's output of and capacity to produce iron and steel products because the development of the steel industry needs to be looked at as a whole and therefore he will need to know about the private sector's plans in assessing the Corporation's development plans under Section 4(2) of the 1949 Act revived. He will also need the information in connection with his control of the private sector's own development under Clause 13. These considerations arise from the special circumstances of the iron and steel industry and do not apply to products other than iron and steel products. It had always been intended that the Minister's power should be used only to collect forecasts relating to iron and steel products.

The other Amendment briefly touched on by the right hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Barber), Nos. 146 and 147, are not acceptable.

Amendment agreed to.

I beg to move Amendment No. 99, in page 29, line 32, at the beginning to insert:

'Subject to subsection (6A) below'.
This Amendment and Amendment No. 100 are purely paving Amendments for Amendment No. 101, which limits the Corporation's power under subsections (3) and (4) of Clause 36 to collect information from representative organisations of the iron and steel industry and persons providing common services for iron and steel producers to a period until two years from vesting date. The Amendment is a pure formality.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: No. 100, in page 29, line 43, at beginning insert:

'Subject to subsection (6A) below'.—[Mr. Marsh.]

I beg to move Amendment No. 148, in page 30, line 12, after ' officer ' to insert:

'having control of such organisation's records'.
This is a very narrow point but one which I believe the Government will consider with sympathy.

The obligation is placed on companies to make their records available to the Corporation for the purposes of the reorganisation of the steel industry. This obligation is subject to penalties which can be very severe—
"a fine not exceeding £50. or in the case of a second or subsequent conviction…a fine not exceeding £200."
The only person who should be subject to the liability to pay fines is any officer of the company who is responsible for the records which will have been called for by the notice served under subsection (3). To provide that the notice may be served on
"such officer of the organisation as appears to the Corporation to be appropriate"
might lead the Corporation to serve a notice on somebody who was inappropriate and who therefore might subsequently find himself subject to these penalities in circumstances in which he could do very little about it. It would not be difficult for the Corporation to select the right person on whom the notice should be served. In normal circumstances, in the case of a limited liability company, this is the secretary of the company.

As I say, this is a narrow point, but since penal sanctions are involved we should specify clearly the nature of the person on whom the notice should be served and who, therefore, would become liable to the sanctions.

Certainly the normal procedure would be for such notices to be served on the secretaries of the organisations in question, but I am advised that the Amendment cannot be accepted because the Corporation would not necessarily know who had control of the organisation's records and might have no means of finding out with certainty. It would clearly be sufficient if it were to serve the notice on a responsible officer such as the secretary of the organisation.

There is some uncertainty about the meaning of the expression
"officer having control of such organisation's records".
It might be taken to mean a servant of the organisation concerned with records but not with general policy and who had no general power of decision. The Corporation would want to impose a requirement on those with a general responsibility for the running of the organisation and not just those responsible for records to whom such responsibility would have been delegated. The normal procedure probably would be for the secretary of the organisation to receive such a notice.

Because of the difficulties which I have indicated on what has been said to be a narrow point, I ask hon. Members not to press the Amendment.

I understand the hon. Gentleman's point. However, it still seems possible that in the case of a trade association or something of that sort which the Clause covers there might be, through inadvertence or unawareness of the problem, a notice served on, say, a chairman who is chairman for only a year, or a president, or someone who holds a rotating office of that sort who does not have control at all. It is not unreasonable that the Statute should give an indication of the nature of the officer on whom notice should be served.

However, the Parliamentary Secretary said that he recognises that it is the intention that it should be the secretary or director-general, or somebody of that sort, on whom the notice should be served. If he would say that he will consider between now and the Bill going to another place whether it would be appropriate to indicate this, we would not feel it necessary to press the Amendment.

Without commitment, we shall consider very carefully what the hon. Gentleman has said.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment proposed: No. 101, in page 30, line 13, at the end to insert:

(6A) No notice shall be served by the Corporation under subsection (3) or subsection (4) above after the expiration of the period of twenty-four months beginning with the vesting date.—[Mr. Freeson]

We can consider at the same time the Amendment to the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Wanstead and Woodford (Mr. Patrick Jenkin), to leave out "twenty-four" and insert "twelve".

I should say a word of thanks to the Minister for introducing this Amendment as it goes a long way to meeting our fear that there seemed to be no time limit on when the notice could be served. Our only worry is whether the time limit is still of too great a duration. Many things can happen in 24 months, and one would have thought that the Corporation should have made up its mind about the type of information which it wanted a good deal quicker than in 24 months. However, we are grateful that a time limit has been imposed, and we are prepared to accept the Amendment in that spirit.

Amendment agreed to.

I beg to move Amendment No. 149, in page 30, line 16, to leave out from "shall" to "be" in line 17 and to insert:

"if it is proved that he had no reasonable excuse".
This is a very short, simple and, I trust, non-controversial Amendment. On the last occasion on which I had the pleasure of addressing the Parliamentary Secretary, he saw the point which I sought to put to him very quickly, and therefore I am sure that I shall not have to labour the argument on this Amendment. I hope that as we draw to the end of our lengthy discussions on Report he is in responsive mood.

Let me remind the hon. Gentleman, since he comes comparatively freshly to the discussions, that in brief this matter concerns the onus of proof, and particularly the onus of proof on a person who fails to satisfy the obligation imposed by the Clause.

6.30 p.m.

I do not need to tell the Parliamentary Secretary that the provisions of Clause 36 are very extensive. I know they have been whittled down in part as a result of persuasive argument in Standing Committee, but the fact remains that under subsection (7)
"A person who fails to satisfy an obligation .. shall, unless he proves that he had reasonable excuse for the failure, be guilty of an offence."
I want to say quite clearly to the Parliamentary Secretary that those words are totally unacceptable to us on this side of the House.

A person who is facing the penalties laid down in Clause 36, and under that subsection in particular, is placed in the position of having to prove that he has reasonable excuse for the failure, and that is quite unacceptable to us. That is why in our Amendment we reverse the order, so that it has to be proved that he had no reasonable excuse. I would have hoped that this point would not need elaborating, certainly at this hour. The Minister, in Committee, has already shown himself to be susceptible to argument on this. There are very major ramifications here; there are very extensive matters which are required to be produced; there are very extensive duties laid upon the persons who are covered by this Clause. It surely does not seem reasonable that such a person should stand accused, as it were, by the words of subsection (7) as they stand at present.

It is a short, simple and reasonable Amendment, and I confidently expect the Parliamentary Secretary to be able to accept it.

This is the kind of Amendment which I personally and, I am sure, all of us, would wish to support if it were possible to do so, because one sees the motivation of the remarks of the hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee) and his Amendment. Normally, of course, it is right that a person liable to a penalty should not have the burden of proof of innocence placed upon him, but, unfortunately, in this case no other way, I am advised, would be workable; no other arrangement could be adopted which would be effective.

Nobody except the person involved would have sufficient knowledge of the circumstances to be able to prove the case one way or another. No other person would be in the position to give the information required of him; it could not be collected and would be impossible to collect. Nobody else would be able to prove this, because nobody else would know whether the information was in fact available.

There is another point. The requirements likely to be imposed under Clause 36 are straightforward and very factual. Whether or not any person has met them is not a question requiring a balance of probabilities, or, indeed, a question of right or wrong; it would be solely a factual matter. Normally, it would be quite obvious whether a person involved had complied with the obligations imposed on him.

Division No. 249.]

AYES

[6.36 p.m.

Abse, LeoBarnett, JoelBowden, Rt. Hn. Herbert
Albu, AustenBellenger, Rt. Hn. F. J.Boyden, James
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)Bence, CyrilBraddock, Mrs. E. M.
Alldritt, WalterBenn, Rt. Hn. Anthony WedgwoodBradley, Tom
Allen, ScholefieldBennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton)Bray, Dr. Jeremy
Anderson, DonaldBidwell, SydneyBrooks, Edwin
Archer, PeterBinns, JohnBrown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)

Armstrong, ErnestBlackburn, F.Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.)
Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)Boardman, H.Buchan, Norman
Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)Booth, AlbertButler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)
Bacon, Rt. Hn. AliceBoston, TerenceCant, R. B.
Bagier, Gordon A. T.Bottomley, Rt. Hn. ArthurCarmichael, Neil

It is for the reasons which I have briefly stated, and not in any spirit of antagonism at all to the motivation here, that I hope that the Amendment will be not pressed.

The Parliamentary Secretary will, I hope, forgive me for saying that he has not really applied his very considerable faculties to this case in the way I think it deserves. He took refuge in rather vague advice that there is no other way of encompassing the object of the Amendment. Of course, from the point of view of the Government this is the very much more convenient way of doing it—placing the onus of proof this way round, on the suspected person. It always will be.

If I understood him aright, he argued that it would be impossible to prove whether the person had or had not produced the evidence required, but, after all, the Government have got first to be satisfied that that person has failed in his obligations. They have to have this information, anyway. They have to be certain that there is a prima facie case before they start. They will be in a position very well to judge whether the person had any reasonable excuse, and they should accept the onus of proof.

I am afraid that I must say quite definitely that the Government argument is merely on convenience and expediency, and I think there is a considerable point of principle here. It is only out of deference to the hour that I do not argue it further. I hope that my hon. and right hon. Friends will support me, for I have no intention whatever of withdrawing the Amendment.

Question put, That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill:—

The House divided: Ayes 271, Noes 214.

Carter-Jones, LewisJackson, Colin (B'h'ae & Spenb'gh)Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)
Castle, Rt. Hn. BarbaraJackson, Peter M. (High Peak)Prentice, Rt. Hn. R. E.
Chapman, DonaldJanner, Sir BarnettPrice, Christopher (Perry Barr)
Coe, DenisJay, Rt. Hn. DouglasPrice, Thomas (Westhoughton)
Coleman, DonaldJeger, Mrs. Lena (H'b'n&St. P'Cras, S.)Price, William (Rugby)
Concannon, J. D.Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)Probert, Arthur
Conlan, BernardJenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)Randall, Harry
Corbet, Mrs. FredaJohnson, Carol (Lewiaham, S.)Rankin, John
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)Jones, Dan (Burnley)Redhead, Edward
Crawshaw, RichardJones, Rt. Hn. SirElwyn (W. Ham, S.)Reynolds, G. W.
Cronin, JohnJones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)Rhodes, Geoffrey
Crossman, Rt. Hn. RichardJudd, FrankRichard, Ivor
Cullen, Mrs. AliceKenyon, CliffordRoberts, Albert (Normanton)
Dalyell, TamKerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Davidson, Arthur (Accrington)Lawson, GeorgeRobertson, John (Paisley)
Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)Ledger, RonRobinson, Rt. Hn. Kenneth (St. P'c'as)
Davies, Harold (Leek)Lestor, Miss LoanRobinson, W. O. J. (Walth'stow, E.)
Davies, Robert (Cambridge)Lever, Harold (Cheetham)Rodgers, William (Stockton)
Delargy, HughLewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)
Dewar, DonaldLewis, Ron (Carlisle)Rose, Paul
Diamond, Rt. Hn. JohnLipton, MarcusRoss, Rt. Hn. William
Dickens, JamesLomas, KennethRowland, Christopher (Meriden)
Dobson, RayLoughlin, CharlesRowlands, E. (Cardiff, N.)
Doig, PeterLuard, EvanRyan, John
Driberg, TomLyon, Alexander W. (York)Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)
Dunn, James A.Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)Sheldon, Robert
Dunnett, JackMcBride, NeilShinwell, Rt. Hn. E.
Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)McCann, JohnShore, Peter (Stepney)
Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & G'b'e)MacColl, JamesShort, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)
Eadie, AlexMacDermot, NiallShort, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N. E.)
Edwards, Rt. Hn. Ness (Caerphilly)Macdonald, A. H.Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
Edwards, William (Merioneth)McGuire, MichaelSilverman, Julius (Aston)
Ellis, JohnMcKay, Mrs. MargaretSilverman, Sydney (Nelson)
English, MichaelMackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)Slater, Joseph
Ennals, DavidMackintosh, John P.Small, William
Ensor, DavidMaclennan, RobertSnow, Julian
Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)Spriggs, Leslie
Evans, Ioan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley)McNamara, J. KevinSteel, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)
Finch, HaroldMacPherson, MalcolmStewart, Rt. Hn. Michael
Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)Stonehouse, John
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)Mahon, Simon (Bootle)Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.
Foley, MauriceMallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)Swain, Thomas
Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)Mallalieu, J. P. W.(Huddersfield, E.)Swingler, Stephen
Ford, BenMapp, CharlesTaverne, Dick
Forrester, JohnMarquand, DavidThomson, Rt. Hn. George
Fowler, GerryMarsh, Rt. Hn. RichardThornton, Ernest
Fraser, John (Norwood)Mason, RoyTinn, James
Freeson, ReginaldMayhew, ChristopherTomney, Frank
Gardner, TonyMellish, RobertTuck, Raphael
Garrett, W. E.Mendelson, J. J.Urwin, T. W.
Ginsburg, DavidMikardo, IanVarley, Eric G.
Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)Millan, BruceWainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)
Greenwood, Rt. Hn. AnthonyMilne, Edward (Blyth)Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Gregory, ArnoldMitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)Wallace, George
Grey, Charles (Durham)Molloy, WilliamWatkins, David (Consett)
Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)Moonman, EricWatkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)
Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly)Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)Weitzman, David
Griffiths, Will (Exchange)Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)Wellbeloved, James
Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Hamiton James (Bothwell)Moyle, RolandWhitaker, Ben
Hart, Mrs. JudithMurray, AlbertWhite, Mrs. Eirene
Haseldine, NormanNeal, HaroldWhitlock, William
Hazell, BertNorwood, ChristopherWigg, Rt. Hn. George
Healey, Rt. Hn. DenisOgden, EricWilkins, W. A.
Henig, StanleyO'Malley, BrianWilliams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Herbison, Rt. Hn. MargaretOram, Albert E.Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)
Hilton, W. S.Orbach, MauriceWilliams, Clifford (Abertillery)
Hooley, FrankOrme, StanleyWillis, George (Edinburgh, E.)
Horner, JohnOswald, ThomasWilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Houghton, Rt. Hn. DouglasOwen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)Winnick, David
Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough)Owen, Will (Morpeth)Winterbottom, R. E.
Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.)Paget, R. T.Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.
Howell, Denis (Small Heath)Palmer, ArthurWoof, Robert
Howie, W.Park, TrevorYates, Victor
Hoy, JamesParker, John (Dagenham)Zilliacus, K.
Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)Parkin, Ben (Paddington, N.)
Hughes, Roy (Newport)Pavitt, LaurenceTELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Hunter, AdamPeart, Rt. Hn. FredMr. Harper and Mr. Walter Harrison.
Hynd, JohnPentland, Norman
Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)

NOES

Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n)Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)Awdry, DanielBatsford, Brian
Astor, JohnBaker, W. H. K.Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton

Bell, RonaldGriffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)Nicholls, Sir Harmar
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos. & Fhm)Gurden, HaroldNoble, Rt. Hn. Michael
Berry, Hn. AnthonyHall, John (Wycombe)Nott, John
Bessell, PeterHall-Davis, A. G. F.Onslow, Cranley
Biffen, JohnHamilton, Michael (Salisbury)Orr, Capt. L. P. S.
Biggs-Davison, JohnHarris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.)Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian
Birch, Rt. Hn. NigelHarris, Reader (Heston)Osborn, John (Hallam)
Black, Sir CyrilHarrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)
Blaker, PeterHarvey, Sir Arthur VerePage, Graham (Crosby)
Body, RichardHastings, StephenPage, John (Harrow, W.)
Bossom, Sir CliveHawkins, PaulPardoe, John
Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir EdwardHeald, Rt. Hn. Sir LionelPearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)
Braine, BernardHeath, Rt. Hn. EdwardPercival, Ian
Brinton, Sir TattonHeseltine, MichaelPeyton, John
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir WalterHiggins, Terence L.Pink, R. Bonner
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)Hill, J. E. B.Powell, Rt. Hn. Enoch
Bruce-Gardyne, J.Hobson, Rt. Hn. Sir JohnPrice, David (Eastleigh)
Bryan, PaulHogg, Rt. Hn. QuintinPrior, J. M. L.
Buchanan -Smith, Alick (Angus, N&M)Holland, PhilipPym, Francis
Buck, Antony (Colchester)Hooson, EmlynQuennell, Miss J. M.
Builus, Sir EricHordern, PeterRamsden, Rt. Hn. James
Burden, F. A.Hornby, RichardRawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter
Campbell, GordonHowell, David (Guildford)Rees-Davies, W. R.
Carr, Rt. Hn. RobertHunt, JohnRenton, Rt. Hn. Sir David
Cary, Sir RobertHutchison, Michael ClarkRidley, Hn. Nicholas
Channon, H. P. G.Iremonger, T. L.Ridsdale, Julian
Chichester-Clark, R.Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)
Clark, HenryJenkin, Patrick (Woodford)Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Clegg, WalterJohnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)Royle, Anthony
Cooke, RobertJones, Arthur (Northants, S.)Russell, Sir Ronald
Cooper-Key, Sir NeillJopling, MichaelSt. John-Stevas, Norman
Cordle, JohnJoseph, Rt. Hn. Sir KeithScott. Nicholas
Costain, A. P.Kerby, Capt. HenrySharples, Richard
Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)Kimball, MarcusShaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)
Crawley, AidanKing, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)Sinclair, Sir George
Crouch, DavidLambton, ViscountSmith, John
Crowder, F. P.Lancaster, Col. C. G.Stainton, Keith
Cunningham, Sir KnoxLangford-Holt, Sir JohnSteel, David (Roxburgh)
Currie, G. B. H.Legge-Bourke, Sir HarrySummers, Sir Spencer
Dalkeith, Earl ofLewis, Kenneth (Rutland)Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Dance, JamesLloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)Taylor, Edward M.(G'gow, Cathcart)
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir HenryLloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirral)Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)
Dean, Paul (Somerset, N.)Longden, GilbertTeeling, Sir William
Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford)Loveys, W. H.Temple, John M.
Digby, Simon WingfieldLubbock, EricThatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Doughty, CharlesMcAdden, Sir StephenTilney, John
Drayson, G. B.Mackenzie, Alasdair (Ross&Crom'ty)Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.
du Cann, Rt. Hn. EdwardMaclean, Sir Fitzroyvan Straubenzee, W. R.
Eden, Sir JohnMacmillan, Maurice (Farnham)Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)Maddan, MartinVickers, Dame Joan
Elliott, R. W (N 'c'te-upon-Tyne. N.)Marples, Rt. Hn. ErnestWalker, Peter (Worcester)
Farr, JohnMarten, NeilWalker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek
Fisher, NigelMaude, AngusWall, Patrick
Fletcher-Cooke, CharlesMaudling, Rt. Hn. ReginaldWalters, Dennis
Fortescue, TimMawby, RayWard, Dame Irene
Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone)Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.Weatherill, Bernard
Galbraith, Hn. T. G.Mills, Peter (Torrington)Wells, John (Maidstone)
Giles, Rear-Adm. MorganMills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)Miscampbell, NormanWills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Glover, Sir DouglesMonro, HectorWinstanley, Dr. M. P.
Glyn, Sir RichardMore, JasperWolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B.Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard
Goodhart, PhilipMorrison, Charles (Devizes)Woodnutt, Mark
Gower, RaymondMott-Radclyffe, Sir CharlesWorsley, Marcus
Grant, AnthonyMunro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir HughWylie, N. R.
Grant-Ferris, R.Murton, OscarYounger, Hn. George
Gresham Cooke, R.Nabarro, Sir Gerald
Grieve, PercyNeave, AireyTELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Mr. Eyre and Mr. Kitson.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I should like to raise a point concerning the incapacity of the House of Commons to deal with marginal notes. It is one thing to be confronted with a Bill which does violence to common sense, but it is quite unnecessary to add to this by doing violence to the English language and introducing horrible words like "penalisation". There are perfectly good alternative words such as "penalty for" or "punishment for". I do not mind which words are used, but for the Government to launch this horrible word upon us is adding insult to injury.

May we have your guidance as to what powers those of us who still value the language have to amend marginal notes which contain such atrocious words as this?

The hon. Gentleman answered his point of order in the first words which he used, when he spoke about "the incapacity of the House" to amend marginal notes. Whatever the hon. Gentleman thinks about the word "penalisation" in the marginal note—and I express no comment on that—he cannot amend it. It is not part of the Bill.

Clause 39—(Service Of Notices, Etc)

I beg to move Amendment No. 135, in page 31, line 44, at the end to insert:

'and the provisions of the Recorded Delivery Service Act, 1962 shall apply to this Act as if the said section 56 as hereby revived had remained continuously in force from 24th November, 1949'.
I make no excuse for moving this apparently innocent and, one might almost say, trivial Amendment because, when the matter was raised in Committee, the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Power said, in answering a point put by me:
"The hon. Gentleman raises an interesting point which has created a great deal of discussion within the steel industry and among many people for some time past, and it is a very valid point."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee D, 14th December, 1966; C. 2342.]
The point, quite simply, is that the Recorded Delivery Service Act was passed after the 1949 Iron and Steel Act, substantial portions of which are revived by the Bill, had been declared to cease to have effect. Section 1(1,a) of the 1953 Act says:
"The Iron and Steel Act, 1949, shall cease to have effect…"
The Recorded Delivery Service Act provided that it should apply only to Acts passed before 1962, and the question therefore arises—and this is a legal point of some nicety—whether the 1949 Act has remained in force despite what was said in the 1953 Iron and Steel Act, or whether the provisions in the Keeling Schedule 4 to the Bill represent new legislation. If they do represent new legislation, then the Recorded Delivery Service Act cannot apply to them and the words in the Amendment are necessary if this method of serving notices is to be applied. If the words of the Act are, as a matter of law, taken to have remained in force ever since 1949, the Recorded Delivery Service Act will automatically apply.

This, therefore, is a peg on which one can hang the broad question: does the 1949 Act, these musty old bones, which my hon. Friend the Member for Peyton —[Laughter.]—I am sorry—

I certainly represent myself, but I represent a few other people as well.

From my reading of the paper this morning, I gather that my hon. Friend represents a few rainbow coloured rats as well.

And the House has no power to deal with those matters, Sir.

The point is quite short. Do the provisions of the 1949 Act as revived in this Bill represent new legislation or are they old legislation which has remained in force, though of no effect, and is merely revived by the Bill? If the latter, the Amendment will not be necessary. If the former, the Amendment becomes desirable and should be accepted.

Having heard the hon. Member for Wanstead and Woodford (Mr. Patrick Jenkin) quote words which I used in the early hours of one morning in Committee, I shall never again be guilty of irony at any hour of the day or night.

The hon. Gentleman has raised this issue in the belief that there may well be a legal inaccuracy in the Bill, and it is right that he should, as a lawyer, raise it. As he says, the question of interpretation is whether Section 56 of the 1949 Act is an enactment to which Section 2(1,a) of the Recorded Delivery Service Act, 1962, applies. Section 2(1,a) provides that
"this Act applies to the following enactments, that is to say,—
  • (a) the provisions of any Act…passed before or in the same Session as this Act".
  • In other words, the question to which the hon. Gentleman has drawn attention is whether Section 56 of the 1949 Act is to be regarded for the purposes of the Recorded Delivery Service Act, 1962, as having been passed before that Act.

    This matter has raised considerable public interest and concern, and we have given careful examination to it. Obviously, if one is presenting a Bill and it is found to be technically inaccurate, this is a good time to stop and do something about it. However, the point was carefully considered by the Parliamentary draftsman during the preparation of the Bill, and it was considered also in Standing Committee D. The Parliamentary draftsman was entirely satisfied then that Section 56 of the 1949 Act was a provision falling within Section 2(1,a) of the Recorded Delivery Service Act 1962. Since then, we have had the position examined again and, despite the arguments advanced in Committee, he has found nothing to cause him to change his view.

    I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for pressing the point because it is in the interests of both sides that legislation shall be technically and legally accurate. But I am advised that for the purposes of Section 56 of the 1949 Act Recorded Delivery will be an alternative to registered letter.

    As a gesture of magnanimity to the right hon. Gentleman, we thank him for what he said, and, in the circumstances, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    Clause 41—(Regulations And Orders)

    I beg to move Amendment No. 102, in page 32, line 19, after 'order' to insert:

    'and the power conferred by section 44(4) of the 1949 Act to make rules'.
    This is purely a technical Amendment, the effect of which is to require that rules governing the procedure of the Arbitration Tribunal are made by Statutory Instrument subject to the negative Resolution procedure in the normal way.

    Amendment agreed to.

    I beg to move Amendment No. 103, in page 32, line 23, after 'section' to insert:

    '(Publication by Corporation of lists of prices and conditions of sale and section'.
    This also is purely a technical Amendment, as is the next to follow, Amendment No. 104.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Further Amendment made: Amendment No. 104, in page 32, line 31, after '4', insert:

    'and that conferred by the said section (Publication by Corporation of lists of prices and conditions of sale)'.—[Mr. Marsh.]

    Schedule 2.—(TRANSITIONAL PROVISIONS IN CONNECTION WITH DISSOLUTION OF IRON AND STEEL BOARD.)

    I beg to move Amendment No. 105, in page 37, line 25, at the end to insert:

    ( ) The last foregoing sub-paragraph shall not entitle the Corporation to see or take copies of anything in a document being a thing which, in the opinion of the Minister relates only to, or cannot conveniently be severed from a thing which relates only to, the affairs of a company referred to in sub-paragraph (1)(a) above, not being a company engaged in doing anything as a common service for iron and steel producers or any group thereof.
    This Amendment meets a point made in Committee. Hon. Members opposite were concerned that documents held by the Iron and Streel Board relating solely to companies which were not coming into public ownership should not be shown to the Corporation.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Schedule 3.—(AMENDMENTS OF REVIVED PROVISIONS OF 1949 ACT.)

    I beg to move Amendment No. 106, in page 38, line 15, at the end to insert:

    Section 1(7) For the words from 'disclose the nature of his interest' to the end of the subsection there shall be substituted the following words 'declare the nature of his interest—
  • (a) if he is not the chairman, to the chairman;
  • (b) if he is the chairman, to the Minister;
  • (c) in any case, at a meeting of the Corporation;
  • and the member shall not take any part after making a declaration in pursuance of any of the foregoing paragraphs in any deliberation or decision of the Corporation with respect to that contract; and a declaration made in pursuance of paragraph (c) above shall be recorded in the minutes of the Corporation'.
    The question was raised in Committee whether, if a member of the Corporation found he had an interest in a contract and there was not a meeting of the Corporation for some time, embarrassment might arise for himself or the Corporation. This Amendment requires him to declare his interest to the appropriate person, so that there will be no embarrassment.

    Amendment agreed to.

    I beg to move Amendment No. 142, in page 46, line 49, after 'omitted' to insert:

    'in the definition of "net revenue" there shall be added at the end the words "and including, in relation to any publicly-owned company and any subsidiary thereof and any company in which the Corporation has acquired or holds any interest, an estimate of the cost of any services provided by the Corporation to any such company according to the extent to which it shall have made use of the same "'.
    As usual, although this Amendment relates to Schedule 3, it has the effect of altering Schedule 4 as well. We seek to ensure that, when subsidiary companies of the Corporation have the benefit of common services supplied by the Corporation or other subsidiary companies of the Corporation, a fair charge is made to those companies for the cost of the services. We have in mind not only the common services existing at present—B.I.S.C. or B.I.S.R.A., methods of dealing with scrap, and so on—but also the fact that one of the stated objectives of this nationalisation Measure is the reorganisadon of the industry, from which there may well flow further common services which will be available to subsidiary companies, not only those directly in the iron and steel industry but others owned by the Corporation and making use of them. One thinks of the common use of computers, for example, which may well develop over the years.

    There is a genuine fear strongly felt in the private sector that there will be inadequate costing on the part of some subsidiaries of the Corporation if there is no appropriate charge made in all cases for the use of these common services.

    7.0 p.m.

    As the hon. Gentleman says, this is a small Amendment, but quite an important one. With respect, though, it is based on a probable misreading of the Bill. The only places where the operative phrase "net revenue" is used in the Bill are in the provisos to Sections 18(2) and 19(2,a) of the 1949 Act revived. This is one of the problems of adopting this method of drafting the Bill. These sections are about dividends paid in respect of the period before vesting date when the Corporation does not hold any interest in companies, and there are, therefore, no circumstances in which the Amendment would apply.

    Amendment negatived.

    I beg to move Amendment No. 112, in page 47, line 12, to leave out from '3' to the end of line 13 and to insert:

    'after the word "shall", where first occurring, there shall be inserted the words "if the number of the members thereof exceeds ten, be such number, not being less than five, as the Corporation may from time to time determine and, if the number of the members thereof does not exceed ten"'.
    This Amendment, with which, with your permission, Mr. Speaker, it might be convenient to take Amendments Nos. 125 and 126, follows from the Amendment, made by the Committee which reduces the membership of the Corporation from 10 to 7. Under the 1949 Act as revived and amended by the Bill, provision was made that a quorum for the Corporation should be not less than five members. This was fixed when the maximum size of the Corporation could vary between 10 and 16, and it is obviously too high a figure if the membership comes near the new minimum of seven. On the other hand, it would be appropriate if the membership was more than 10.

    The Amendment provides that if the membership, including the Chairman, does not exceed 10, the quorum shall be at a level fixed by the Corporation at not less than 3, but if the membership exceeds 10 the quorum shall be at a level fixed by the Corporation at not less than 5.

    I take it that the House has no objection to considering with this Amendment, Amendments Nos. 125 and 126?

    Amendment agreed to.

    I beg to move, Amendment No. 113, in page 47, line 43, after 'stock', to insert:

    'after the word, in sub-paragraph (2), "before" there shall be inserted the words "the day on which the last payment of interest fell to be made before" and for the words, in subparagraph (3), from "be added" onwards there shall be substituted the words "at the expense of the Corporation be distributed by them amongst the persons to whom payments were made under the foregoing provisions of this paragraph so that each of them receives in the aggregate the amount which he would have received had the amount paid as aforesaid been equal to the amount so found to have accrued"'
    This Amendment is rather more complicated. It deals purely with the rights of the holders of securities to be vested where the value of their securities is not settled by vesting day. It is purely to protect the position both on behalf of the banks who issue stocks, and those who deal with them.

    Schedule 3 is practically incomprehensible. One must have the previous Act before one, and it is also necessary to have an amended copy of it. I do not think that many people looking through this Act will be able to understand it in the form in which it is presented to us. We have enough difficulty as it is. Will there be any document in which the amended provisions of the previous Act will be set out with such Amendments as are put into it by this Schedule?

    There is no specific intention to do that at the moment, but I shall, of course, look at it as a proposition. I think that on the whole most of the issues will be relatively easily understood by the sort of people who will have to deal with them. Whether a sort of "child's guide"—and I do not use the phrase offensively—should be produced is something which I am willing to consider.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Schedule 4.—(FORM IN WHICH PROVISIONS OF 1949 ACT HAVE EFFECT BY VIRTUE OF THIS ACT.)

    I am advised by the Opposition that they have no objection, if the Government have no objection, to taking all the Amendments to Schedule 4 together.

    With respect, Mr. Speaker, all the Amendments in the name of the right hon. Gentleman.

    Amendments made: No. 114, in page 50, line 4, leave out from 'knowledge' to end of line 9 and insert:

    'declare the nature of his interest—
  • (a) if he is not the chairman, to the chairman;
  • (b) if he is the chairman, to the Minister;
  • (c) in any case, at a meeting of the Corporation;
  • and the member shall not take any part after making a declaration in pursuance of any of the foregoing paragraphs in any deliberation or decision of the Corporation with respect to that contract; and a declaration made in pursuance of paragraph (c) above shall be recorded in the minutes of the Corporation'.

    No. 121, in page 71, line 46, after 'section', insert:

    being machinery for operation at national level or works level or a level falling between those levels and appearing to the Corporation to be appropriate'.

    No. 122, in page 72, line 3, after 'maintenance', insert:

    'for operation at any such level as aforesaid'.

    No. 123, in page 72, leave out lines 9 to 15 and insert:

  • (b) the promotion and encouragement of measures affecting efficiency, in any respect, in the carrying on by the Corporation and by publicly-owned companies of their activities, and the promotion and encouragement of measures affecting the safety, health and welfare of persons employed by the Corporation and by publicly-owned companies.
  • No. 124, in page 72, line 18, at end insert:

    (2A) Where it falls to the Corporation or a publicly-owned company to participate in the operation of machinery established under this section, and the operation involves discussion of a subject by other persons participating therein, the Corporation or, as the case may be, the publicly-owned company shall make available to those persons, at a reasonable time before the discussion is to take place, such information in their possession relating to the subject as, after consultation with those persons, appears to the Corporation or, as the case may be, publicly-owned company to be necessary to enable those persons to participate effectively in the discussion.

    No. 125, in page 83, line 7, after 'shall', insert:

    'if the number of the members thereof exceeds ten,'.

    No. 126, in line 9, after 'determine', insert:

    'and, if the number of the members thereof does not exceed ten, be such number, not being less than three, as the Corporation may from time to time determine'.

    No. 127, in page 85, line 14, after 'before', insert:

    'the day on which the last payment of interest fell to be made before'.

    No. 128, line 23, leave out from shall ' to end of line 25 and insert:

    'at the expense of the Corporation be distributed by them amongst the persons to whom payments were made under the foregoing provisions of this paragraph so that each of them receives in the aggregate the amount which he would have received had the amount paid as aforesaid been equal to the amount so found to have accrued'.— (Mr. Marsh.)

    Bill to be read the Third time Tomorrow and to be printed. [Bill 174.]

    Parliamentary Commissioner Bill

    As amended (in the Standing Committee) considered.

    Clause 1—(Appointment And Tenure Of Office)

    7.8 p.m.

    I beg to move, Amendment No. 29, in page 1, line 16, to leave out from "of" to "and" in line 17 and to insert:

    "Addresses from both Houses of Parliament".
    I must first apologise to the House if I propose the Amendment in a cursory form, but I am sure that the House will forgive me when it hears that I do so owing to the temporary illness of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kensington, South (Mr. Roots) who has managed to come here, but has not felt able to move the Amendment himself.

    The object of the Amendment is to place the Parliamentary Commissioner in the same position as other officers whose appointments are determined only on Parliamentary Resolution, and to substitute for the Resolution of one House in this respect, the Resolution of both Houses. I shall come back to the analogies and precedents in a moment, but there is one reason for moving the Amendment which I am sure will appeal to the House, or at least so much of it as hears the Amendment proposed.

    When the Amendment was proposed in Committee, the Committee divided, and the result of the Division was a tie. The result of the Division therefore remained to be determined by the Chairman of the Committee, who, in the mysterious and almost religious way in which Chairmen have to cast their votes, decided to vote against the Amendment in order to achieve a debate on the Floor of the House on the Report stage, as the HANSARD Committee proceedings duly records. Those who proposed the Amendment in Committee would be lacking in duty if they did not give effect to the wish of the Chairman of the Committee when he exercised his right in the event of a tie on a Division.

    Even more intriguing than that incident—which was in accord with precedent and rule—was the fact that the Minister, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, strongly supported the Audit in a carefully worded and well thought out speech. Having most seriously considered the matter, he voted for the Amendment in the Division which resulted in a tie. I feel sure that the Financial Secretary and his right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, who is seated beside him, will stick to their guns and not allow themselves to be frightened out of their manly support of what the Financial Secretary believed to be right in Committee.

    I will be disappointed if the Financial Secretary, the Leader of the House, and perhaps other occupants of the Front Bench opposite do not join us in the Lobby if the Amendment is taken to a Division. It would be a pleasure, although an unusual one, to welcome them to that Lobby, but we will extend that welcome because we know that they are men of principle and courage and are not afraid of some of their own supporters, who are never wearied of restraining them. As they have expressed their opinions on the Amendment—certainly the Financial Secretary, who voted for it —I trust that his colleagues will not abandon him now or compel him to vote against his opinions.

    The basis of the Amendment is, first, that the precedents are with us. The Parliamentary Commissioner is not a Commissioner of one House but a "Parliamentary Commissioner". He is, by definition to be wholly independent of the Executive. Ex hypothesi in this House the Executive have certain disciplinary powers over the working majority—which we recognise, although they are seldom acknowledged in the legal terminology of our legislation.

    If the Parliamentary Commissioner is, in truth and in fact, to be independent of the Executive, his appointment should be not merely subject to the will of the majority of this House but to the will of Parliament. This has been done not only with the judges of the High Court, who must deal with the rights of the subject—as has the Parliamentary Commissioner—but also, I understand, with the Comptroller and Auditor General. He provides a very close analogy with the Parliamentary Commissioner, not merely by reason of the personality of the first appointment but because throughout, in their advocacy of this scheme, the Government have founded their case and argument on this precise analogy with the Comptroller and Auditor-General.

    I should have thought that the precedent and analogy of the Comptroller and Auditor General applies, a fortiori, to the proposed Parliamentary Commissioner, since the former is precisely concerned with the Government expenditure of money from the Consolidated Fund, to see that it is not misused. This is and always has been, not merely by convention but by immemorial convention, the prerogative of this House, to the exclusion of another place. Yet when the appointment of the Comptroller and Auditor General is considered and the circumstances in which this appointment is to be terminated are defined by Act of Parliament, then I understand that a Resolution of both Houses is necessary.

    It is not surprising, therefore, that the Financial Secretary, when he came to reply to this Amendment in Committee, found the arguments compelling to such an extent that he felt bound to rehearse them in some detail in the case of the first, the independence of the Executive, and summarily in the case of the second, of the analogies.

    Let us consider the arguments advanced on the other side. They were, I suggest, based on a misunderstanding of the situation. The first was adduced by the hon. and learned Member for Stoke Newington and Hackney, North (Mr. Weitzman), who said that the Parliamentary Commissioner was, in effect, an official designed to deal with complaints made by the constituents of hon. Members and made through hon. Members. That is an error. He is a person who will deal with complaints of maladministration, whether or not they are from constituents. It is true that they must be channelled through an hon. Member, but they do not need to come from that hon. Member's constituents. Nor does the possession, of a vote in a constituency, or a vote at all, constitute a right to make representations to an hon. Member. As I understand it, there is nothing to prevent a peer, an alien, a bankrupt or a convict from making representations to an hon. Member from quite outside the constituency in which he lives. It is the prerogative of any hon. Member, as I understand it, to approach the Government in this respect.

    It is, therefore, wholly wrong to suggest that the Parliamentary Commissioner is the servant of individual hon. Members to give effect to the complaints of their individual constituents. To suggest that is misunderstanding the position. Moreover, although it is not apparent from the terms of the Bill, I have understood from the debates on the subject that although, in the first instance, the Bill provides that the complaints should be channelled through hon. Members—perhaps to sift them, give priority and not to take away the prerogative of the House —it was supposed in the end that, as in other countries, the complaints should come direct from members of the public. At any rate, this is something which may or may not be the case, but the first of the two arguments must be valid.

    The second reason adduced came, perhaps not surprisingly, from the ingenious mind of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman). He was so zealous of the reputation of another place and its good relations with this House that he was afraid that, if it were provided that a Resolution of both Houses was necessary before the appointment of the Parliamentary Commissioner could be terminated, this might give rise to some dissension between the two Houses. From the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne, that was welcome news indeed. He was so zealous for the good relations between the two Houses that he was anxious at all costs to prevent the possibility of dissension between them—a laudable objective.

    Since we are dealing with a quite serious matter, perhaps we should get the point clear. What is basic to the Parliamentary Commissioner doing a satisfactory job is that he should not be dragged into any kind of political controversy. If one found the continuance of his occupation in his post dependent on a Resolution of this House and also on a Resolution of another place, one must envisage the possibility of the two Houses coming to different conclusions. If that occurred, there would be a contest between the two and it is of the nature of such a contest that it would be conducted in political terms. The impartiality and objectiveness of the Parliamentary Commissioner would obviously be called in question in such a debate, and, if there were finally disagreement between the two Houses, the continuance of his Department might depend on a constitutional conflict between the two Houses, which we would all wish to avoid. [Interruption.]

    I do not know why the hon. Gentleman found it necessary to remind the House that this is a serious subject. Of course it is. But I found his argument rather less well-phrased than I did when I read it in the OFFICIAL REPORT of the Committee's proceedings, and less convincing because he did not frame it as well.

    Tht answer—which, had the hon. Gentleman not intervened, I would have given him at once, and which I hasten to provide—is that it would be a convincing argument if we did not have 250 years' experience of the appointment of judges who are, for this purpose, in exactly the same position, and if we did not have nearly 100 years' experience of the appointment of the Comptroller and Auditor General, who is certainly in this position. If it is said that for the serious and proper discharge of such offices they should be detached from party politics and from all suspicions of controversy, then this applies to the judges preeminently, but it has never been found in 250 years' experience that it was necessary to confine the termination of the appointment of the judges to one House to the exclusion of the other.

    Indeed, I believe that if it were desired to do so, the judges themselves would think that an important safeguard by which they could be kept out of public controversy had been removed from their appointments. The same thing would be true of the Comptroller and Auditor General. Thus, I do not know why the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne should be offended when I reminded him that, admirable as his desire is to prevent dissension between the two Houses, his fears ought to have been founded on two and a half centuries of experience of analogous appointments.

    The right hon. and learned Gentleman is making a completely fallacious analogy when he compares the position of the Parliamentary Commissioner with that of the judges. As I understand it, the Parliamentary Commissioner is an officer who receives complaints through hon. Members, which is completely different from the position of the judges.

    The hon. and learned Gentleman is not following my argument. I had already dealt with that point, which was a bad one when he made it in Committee. I was engaged on answering the point made by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne. The analogy is exact and I was taking the argument of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne seriously, as he asked me to do, and that hon. Gentleman was trying to say that, because of the need for the Parliamentary Commissioner to operate in a detached atmosphere, it was important not to involve him in any possible dispute between the two Houses.

    That applies exactly to the judges. As I said at the outset, it is true that under the Bill the Parliamentary Commissioner is a servant of this House, as is the Comptroller and Auditor General. However, we have passed from that, because I had answered that point and I will not weary the House with repetition, even though the hon. and learned Member for Stoke Newington and Hackney, North does not seem to have appreciated the relevance of what I was saying.

    The only other argument put forward was adduced by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin) who said that it would be unfortunate should the Parliamentary Commissioner turn out to be a peer and then take part in a debate in the House of Lords on a Resolution demanding his dismissal. I have dealt with all the other arguments, and if that is the only one left—and it must be, having, dealt with all the others—in opposition to the Amendment, then I do not take it very seriously, in spite of the danger of incurring the wrath of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne because, as everyone knows, public servants who are in another place—and there are a few—are restrained by strict rules from taking part in debates relating to their offices. The possibility of the Parliamentary Commissioner being a peer in the foreseeable future—at any rate, under this Administration—depends entirely on hon. Gentlemen opposite, and that would depend on whether they advised Her Majesty to issue a patent of peerage to the present incumbent. Therefore, that is not a serious point.

    This is a wholly reasonable Amendment. It commended itself to the Financial Secretary in Committee and if the Government have any sense of the preponderance of argument they will now accept it.

    I have no observations to make in this discussion, but I was about to interrupt the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg), who said that we did not follow his argument. He was right about that. Knowing the right hon. and learned Gentleman, I am sure that he would not wish to leave uncorrected his unwitting discourtesy to Her Majesty in his concluding words. He said that the question of who was a peer was a matter for hon. Members on this side. It is a matter entirely of the Royal Prerogative exercised on the advice of the Prime Minister. Nobody else can interfere.

    I thought I had made it plain that I was talking about the possibility of the present incumbent becoming a peer. I take it that this could not be done without the approval of the Government. I certainly was guilty of no discourtesy to the occupant of the Throne, nor would I have been in order had I been so.

    The right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) has stated so clearly the arguments which I put in Committee that I do not want to repeat them. The only answer that he has given to them is that he says he does not agree with them. I do agree with them. They are perfectly sound arguments. For that reason, the Amendment should be rejected.

    The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons
    (Mr. Richard Crossman)

    The right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) moved his Amendment with his usual good humour but said one thing which was misleading to my hon. Friends when he said that the name "Parliamentary Commissioner" should imply that the Commissioner is not for the House of Commons but is for Parliament as a whole. I was not on the Standing Committee but I have read the report of the debates. If that was the impression that the right hon. and learned Gentleman gained by reading the debate—and I have read it, the same as he has done—he has misread it, because great attention was paid to removing any idea that the Parliamentary Commissioner was in this sense responsible to both Houses of Parliament.

    I made it plain that I accepted that. I said that the Parliamentary Commissioner was in the same position from that point of view as the Comptroller and Auditor General.

    That is the nub of my argument. He is, in fact, in the same position as the Comptroller and Auditor General. We use the word "Parliamentary" in the title in the same way as we use the title "Member of Parliament". It is important to emphasise, although this is not a very profound point, that the Parliamentary Commissioner is a House of Commons person who works only for Members of Parliament.

    The right hon. and learned Gentleman talked gaily about that being a mere formality, but to us on this side it is an important part of the Bill that the Parliamentary Commissioner is an instrument of investigation which can be brought into action only through a Member of Parliament. As we shall be discussing later, we are to have a Select Committee of our own which will operate and conduct his proceedings. It should be clear that the use of the word "Parliamentary" means no more than when we use the title "Member of Parliament" about ourselves. He is a servant of the House of Commons.

    It would have been possible to give the Parliamentary Commissioner wider responsibility and to say that any Member of the House of Lords would have the right to ask the Parliamentary Cornmissioner to work for him. That was discussed at an early stage in Committee but the suggestion was dropped. It was made clear by the Government that we were not prepared to consider any kind of Amendment which would widen the work of the Parliamentary Commissioner into his being somebody who could serve not only Members of Parliament, but also members of the House of Lords.

    On balance, I think that my hon. and learned Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury was quite right in saying that simply because of the analogy of the Comptroller and Auditor General and to make assurance double sure, it is better to have the same routine. I doubt whether it will be used much in this Parliament by the recall of the two Houses but we want to put the Parliamentary Commission in the strictest sense comparable with the Comptroller and Auditor General. That is what the Clause does. It states that he shall be as independent as the Comptroller and Auditor General. He will be that kind of person.

    Because we want to emphasise that his office will be as dignified and independent and, at the same time, linked equally with the House of Commons, we should have the same procedure in this case. Therefore, solely for that reason, I advise that we should accept the Amendment.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Clause 3—(Administrative Provisions)

    7.30 p.m.

    I beg to move Amendment No. 1, in page 2, line 34, to leave out 'and servants'.

    Would it be convenient, Mr. Speaker, to discuss at the same time the following Amendments which deal with the same subject matter:

    No. 2: in Clause 5, page 3, line 21, after 'by', insert 'or on behalf of'.

    No. 15: in Clause 11, page 7, line 20, leave out 'his officers and his servants' and insert 'and his officers'.

    No. 17: in Clause 12, page 8, line 22, at end insert '"officer" includes employee'.

    I am obliged, Mr. Speaker. This is a group of four drafting Amendments to meet a point which was raised by a number of hon. Members in Committee. We are agreed that we intend "officers" where it is used in the Bill to include servants or agents. We believe that this is already the effect of the original word, but to make assurance doubly sure we have put down these Amendments.

    The logical way to approach the Amendments is to go first to the fourth Amendment, to the Interpretation Clause, and to say that "officer" shall include "employee". We have used that term rather than "servant" or "agent" because "servant" is not a very apt word to use in relation to people in the employment of the Crown. We wanted a word to cover persons employed, whatever their capacity, who might not be office holders. I have in mind messengers, for example.

    Logically we go next to the first and third of the four Amendments, which, in consequence, take out the word "servants" where it appears. The second Amendment, to insert "or on behalf of" in Clause 5, is designed to meet the point of agency which was discussed in Committee. We did not use the word "agent" as such because it has a wide range of meanings. Our intention is that there shall be included within the scope of the investigation of the Commissioner not only the acts of officers themselves and of Departments, but of anyone who is acting as a statutory agent of the Department: that is to say, a person or body which carries out a function on behalf of the Department by virtue of a statutory delegation and which is not simply doing the work by a purely contractual arrangement.

    Two examples were mentioned in Committee. One was the Bank of England when operating on behalf of the Treasury in exchange control work. Another was local authorities, which act in an agency capacity on behalf of the Minister of Transport in doing trunk road work. Other examples which have been drawn to my attention are veterinary surgeons in private practice appointed by the Minister of Agriculture to act as local veterinary inspectors and the motoring associations, the A.A. and the R.A.C., when exercising certain functions concerning international driving certificates. This is not an exhaustive list. I give it merely by way of example. I think that the Amendments now meet all the points which were raised in Committee.

    I am grateful to the Financial Secretary for the Amendments. There was considerable discussion of these matters in Committee, when a number of my hon. Friends were unhappy about the wording of the various Clauses. I hope and believe that the Amendments meet the points which we raised in Committee and I do not oppose them.

    Before we part with the Amendment, I should like the Financial Secretary to say whether those who serve in the Commissioner's Department will be his employees or civil servants or what else will be their precise status. With whom will they be in contract? It appears even from this Amendment that the intention is that they should be the employees of the Commissioner. It is of some importance to know what their position will be.

    I speak from recollection and subject to correction, but the right answer, I think, is that technically they will be civil servants. This is a matter which is of importance from the viewpoint of their pensions. They will be appointed, I think, by means of the certificate procedure which governs their pensions. They will be entirely under the direction of the Parliamentary Commissioner, who is an officer of this House, and it will be only in that formal sense that they will in any sense be civil servants.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Clause 4—(Departments And Authorities Subject To Investigation)

    I beg to move Amendment No. 36, in page 3, line 5, at the end to insert:

    ( ) Notwithstanding the provisions of this section and of section 5 of this Act the Commissioner shall have power to carry out any investigations directed by a Resolution passed by both Houses of Parliament and shall report thereon to both Houses as soon as his investigation has been completed.

    With this Amendment, it will be convenient to take also Amendment No. 39, in Clause 5, page 4, line 4, at end insert:

    'unless the Minister responsible for the department or other authority concerned authorises such an investigation to be made'.

    The object of the Amendment is to give a useful power to the Parliamentary Commissioner to be employed for special purposes and on special occasions which, we may find unhappily, are outside the scope of the Bill.

    We know all too well that there are many occasions when public interest and the pressure of Parliamentary opinion demands an inquiry. The only existing safeguard is in the Tribunals of Inquiry Act, 1921, which is a very heavy-handed hammer and which, the recent excellent Report of the Royal Commission presided over by Lord Justice Salmon has said, should be used only on the rarest occasions and on occasions of great public anxiety and interest.

    Between, therefore, the provisions of the Bill as it stands and the circumstances in which the Tribunals of Inquiry Act, 1921, may be employed, there is a very wide gap. It is, therefore, in view of the new Parliamentary Commissioner, with his knowledge and experience of investigations, with his staff and with his ability to conduct investigations of this sort, that we have thought it right to give a little latitude to the Bill.

    The Government constantly say that we must proceed cautiously and that the Commissioner cannot be allowed to jump into the wide seas of investigation but must be narrowly constricted. They have succeeded fairly successfully in ensuring that he does very little indeed. One could have drawn a Bill in the form that it gave a great number of powers which are to be operated only when the Government have introduced an Order in Council, but they have not even done that. They have given no elasticity of any kind to allow wider or more varied investigations than within the strict and narrow limits of the Bill.

    On occasion, therefore, perhaps not very regularly, the Amendment might well provide a useful provision. It is drafted on the basis that such a special inquiry should be conducted only on the basis of a Resolution of both Houses of Parliament. This is on the basis that legislation is being altered.

    It is right when there is delegated legislation, when there are extended powers which have not already been given by Parliament, that there should be affirmative Resolutions of both Houses. It also means in substance that the Commissioner would never be able to undertake a special inquiry under the Clause, unless the Government were in agreement to it, because we proceed on the basis that the Government will be in control of at least one House for the time being. Therefore, there cannot be an inquiry under the 1921 Act unless the Government agree to it. It is equally obvious that under this proposal it would be impossible, without the consent of the Government, for such a special inquiry to be embarked upon by the Ombudsman.

    Moreover, there are those who think that the Commissioner may be the beginning of a very important development in our Constitution and in the protection of citizens. It might well be useful to have this opportunity to experiment in the extension of his powers. The proposal gives some flexibility, left under the control of the Government. I therefore commend it to the House.

    I confess that at first sight this seems to me to be an excellent proposal. I should like to hear the Government's reply, because I do not claim any expertise in this matter. I can appreciate that one of the arguments which may be advanced against the proposal is that the Commissioner will not have the powers to summon witnesses, and so on, which a tribunal of inquiry may have. That itself is an excellent recommendation. There have been many cases where an inquiry by a trusted individual on documents, with a report that no further inquiry was necessary, might have been a very great improvement upon some of the tragedies that the Tribunals of Inquiry Act has perpetrated.

    The House is familiar with the history of that Act. It was conceived by this House in a moment of hystetria on an allegation which was not true. It was conceived after someone had demanded an inquiry into alleged misdoings in the sale of munitions, which proved extremely attractive material for the Press but in respect of which no single reliable witness ever came forward. If I remember, the Member of the House who raised the matter, and who was an old friend of mine, did not really attempt effectively to pursue the matter once the allegation had been made.

    I do not want to recall the whole history of these things. The House is one of the worst tribunals in the world when it gets excited. I was involved—not personally, but professionally involved as legal adviser—in the Lynskey Tribunal affecting Mr. Belcher. I thought that the whole thing was a tragedy. No one felt that any added purity to public life was produced as a result of it. A lot of ridiculous and wholly unsupported allegations were made. I took some part in suppressing many of these things by extremely improper means, which I will not now detail to the House.

    The House itself suffered when allegations were made against one of its Members, which were investigated by a High Court judge, who conducted a searching inquiry, who published a detailed report, and who played in that respect the sort of part the Commissioner could play.

    If the Commissioner wins public confidence and respect, as I expect and hope he will, though that I think the Bill will saddle him with real difficulties which will not make it easy for him to proceed with speed and always completely to the public satisfaction, it might almost become an accepted practice that, by resolution of both Houses, where allegations are made which involve the decencies of public life, such an official could immediately investigate. He might say almost immediately, "This is another of those hysterical allegations which are made". He might say, "I must inquire further". He might issue a report which I concede might necessitate a further inquiry—under the Tribunals of Inquiry Act, or a judicial inquiry, or by process of the courts. That would be inevitable.

    7.45 p.m.

    My only doubt about the Amendment is whether it is necessary, because I should have thought that, if both Houses passed a resolution of this kind, they could in that resolution give the power and the directions. I am not sure of that. On that matter the right hon. and learned Member for Warwick and Leamington (Sir J. Hobson) is much more likely to be right than I am. It may be that we should have to pass a special, tiny, formal Act of Parliament in each case. If this proposal were embodied in the Bill, it would save that procedure. It would save the rather unsavoury type of debate that might arise on that procedure.

    I hope that we shall never need to use these powers. I can visualise occasions on which the leader of any Government might be very grateful to have them. I am tempted to say this, and I say it with reticence and reserve, because I never took part in any speeches or talk about one of the last incidents which worried the House for some time. If the distinguished Prime Minister who was in office at the time that certain complaints were made against security, which I think in the end were proved to be manifestly untrue but in respect of which there was some gossip, some associations, some events, had had the power to say, "We will move a Resolution of both Houses that the Parliamentary Commissioner, who enjoys our confidence, shall look into this and tell us whether it might go further", one of the most unpleasant events in our Parliamentary lives—there are several of us who are ashamed of this event—might have been avoided.

    What I have reason to say emphatically is that the Tribunals of Inquiry Act is hopelessly and wickedly unsatisfactory. There is always something to be said for the private, quiet, preliminary inquiry by a person trusted and independent. There is nothing to be said for the perversion of the rules of evidence and justice over these issues, for roving questions on subjects one has never been warned about, for witnesses being brought whom one has been promised will not be brought, for a man's wife being fetched from her kitchen to testify against her husband who was a distinguished Minister of the Crown. Yes, indeed; that happened to John Belcher after I had been personally promised that it would not be done. Mrs. Belcher was fetched from 20 miles away and shoved hysterical into the box. Of course I must not pursue this. Of course I must not say that her mental health was affected. Of course I must not say that, and I will not. But some of us remember. These were evil things that were happening.

    I have three times been involved in inquiries under the Tribunals of Inquiry Act. I can say now after all these years that one of them seemed to be a put-up job from the start. However, our trusted method; of procedure should not be lightly abandoned. That is why I commend to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House the suggestion that we might take advantage of this opportunity to do something which imposes no obligation upon anyone but which provides an additional, and I think fruitful, method of dealing with exceptional problems, and dealing with them in a manner which might give confidence to the public.

    The Bill gives the Commissioner very wide powers. They are much wider than the powers which can be given by a Minister without special assistance from this House for the purpose of inquiring into some matter. But they are not so wide as the powers given under the Tribunals and Inquiries Act, and I think that there is plenty of room for an inquiry to be held where the inquirer has greater powers than what might be called the ordinary run of the mill powers, but less formidable powers than those given under the Act. Under the Bill, the Commissioner is prevented, by Clause 3, from inquiring into matters within the responsibility of certain Departments and, by Clause 5, from inquiring into certain matters within those other Departments which he can look into. What this Amendment does is to allow both houses of Parliament together by Resolution to remove the particular restrictions and so enable the Parliamentary Commissioner to hold just such a half-way house inquiry. I think that that would be very helpful, and I support the Amendment warmly.

    Let it be said that the Amendment is only permissive. It will enable Parliament to permit this to occur, but it will not in any sense compel the Commissioner to take action. It does not put the Commissioner into an awkward position.

    The Amendment standing in my name goes less far than that proposed by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Sir J. Hobson). My Amendment proposes to make an addition to subsection (3) of Clause 5, which provides:
    "Without prejudice to subsection (2) of this section, the Commissioner shall not conduct an investigation under this Act in respect of any such action or matter as is described in Schedule 3 to this Act."
    Schedule 3 set out a number of matters which it is generally agreed ought not to be inquired into.

    What my Amendment suggests is that we should add to that the words:
    "unless the Minister responsible for the Department or other authority concerned authorises such an investigation to be made".
    In other words, there may be cases where the Minister himself would be glad to use the machinery of the Commissioner. Under the Bill as it is now drafted, he is prevented from doing so. This will enable him, in effect, to waive the objection laid down by the Bill. It seems to me to be a moderate and sensible step which could easily be taken.

    My Amendment is not an alternative to that moved by my right hon. and learned Friend. It is in addition to it. Therefore, I support both Amendments, and I hope that both may be made to the Bill.

    The official Opposition Amendment is similar to one which we discussed in Committee. It was agreed then that we were discussing it against the background of the very rigid provisions which existed then and still exist in relation to Schedule 3, because, as the Bill stands at the moment, the exclusions in Schedule 3 are absolute exclusions, and it would only be possible for the Parliamentary Commissioner to examine cases falling within any of the categories in Schedule 3 if another Act of Parliament were passed enabling him to do that.

    As hon. Members will be aware, in response to requests made in Committee, we have put down an Amendment that we shall reach in a few moments in which we propose to take power to amend Schedule 3 by Order in Council. If it is found both desirable and practicable to extend the scope of the Commissioner's powers to include any of the matters at present excluded by Schedule 3, we will be able to do that by the Order in Council procedure, subject to a Resolution of this House. I respectfully suggest that that alters the need for any Amendment such as is now proposed.

    The official Opposition Amendment is an extremely far-reaching one. I am not sure whether hon. Members opposite realise just how far-reaching it is. Under its terms, one would introduce a concept which is alien to the whole structure of the Bill, because it would mean that there would be no limit to the kinds of matters which could be referred to the Parliamentary Commissioner by a Resolution of both Houses. For example, it is not limited to topics where the action to be investigated is action on behalf of the Crown. At the moment, that limitation is found in Clause 5, and it is excluded by the words of the Amendment. It would be possible for the House to order the Parliamentary Commissioner to investigate actions of local authorities, of nationalised industries and, indeed, of private companies—

    Effectively, it would be order. If there was a Resolution of both Houses that the Commissioner should carry out an investigation into some particular topic, from a practical point of view I suggest that this would have the effect of negating his discretion as to whether or not he investigated that matter. It would operate as an instruction to the Commissioner, and it could be an instruction to investigate the affairs of a private company. That would be a wide-ranging tribunal procedure with a vengeance.

    Schedule 2 would be completely overridden. There would not be the limitation which is provided by the requirement that there should be a complaint by an individual or a corporate body, which is the origin of the proceedings. That would go. It would not need a complaint by an individual and it would not even require that someone should be complaining of an injustice. Even if he were complaining of an injustice, it would not require his consent to the proceedings. That is an important safeguard which we have at the moment. The requirement that the target of the Commissioner's investigation should be maladministration would go, because that is in Clause 5. He could investigate anything, including discretionary decisions. He would be able to review decisions of the courts; he could be called upon to act as a court of appeal against the courts, because that limitation is in Clause 5. The time limits would go, together with all the exceptions in Schedule 3.

    Perhaps I have said enough to show that this is an extraordinarily widely drafted Amendment and, in effect, would be a recipe for a universal inquisitorial procedure.

    Whatever may be the faults of our present tribunals of inquiry system, we should not set up a kind of second class inquiries procedure without proper safeguards built into it. We have now the Report of the Salmon Committee, which has made important recommendations about the Tribunals and Inquiries Act procedure, but nothing of that kind is contained in the Amendment.

    I pass over the fact that it talks in terms of a resolution of both Houses, when I think that we are agreed that, operatively, the Parliamentary Commissioner will be an officer working to this House.

    The Amendment which we are discussing with—

    I remember that one of the arguments which impressed us on the Police Commission when talking about a national force was that if a Government behaved so badly in relation to a national force as people said in talking about the S.S., that Government could do anything, anyhow. If a Government and a House of Lords were so bad and so grossly incompetent that both Houses passed Addresses demanding an investigation into something which was manifestly improper under circumstances which were highly undesirable, by that time the Commissioner probably would have been hanging from a lamp post, if lamp posts still existed. Surely that is advancing into the realms of romance.

    8.0 p.m.

    I am obliged for what I take to be the support of my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale). For a moment, earlier, I thought that he was urging that we should accept the Opposition Amendment.

    If I might turn to the second Amendment which we are discussing, that of the hon. Member for Hendon, South (Sir H. Lucas-Tooth), it does not go nearly as far and is limited to giving an additional power to the Commissioner to investigate what might be called Schedule 3 cases—the cases in the excluded categories—if the Minister of the Department or other authority concerned consents to the investigation. On the face of it, this is an attractive proposal, because one can say, "What possible harm is there in it? It would be a useful additional power. The Minister might welcome this kind of investigation procedure, and he need never consent to it unless he wants to."

    The answer is that one must realise what in practice would be the result of passing a provision of this kind. It would mean that every dissatisfied complainant —we all know from our experience as Members of Parliament that there are many persistent dissatisfied complainants, and sometimes their persistence varies in inverse ratio to our own judgment of the substance of their complaints—would know of the existence of the power and would be pressing his Member of Parliament to raise the matter in the House, saying, "Why do you not press the Minister to consent to this investigation?" No doubt it would be raised in the House at Question time and in Adjournment debates.

    Often the Minister's reason for not wanting an investigation would be the knowledge that, if he allowed a particular case to be investigated by the Parliamentary Commissioner, he would be opening the door to a whole new procedure of a vast number of similar complaints being referred as well. As we know, it is our practice in Government in these matters to try and establish precedents and to operate on principle in accordance with precedent. I suggest that what is being argued as the very special case would not in practice be the very special case. Each one would open the door to a new class of cases.

    If this is what we want, the answer is that our new Amendment will provide the means to permit it. If it is found in practice that there is no reason why a certain class of Schedule 3 cases should not be investigated by the Parliamentary Commissioner, we will be able to make an Order, assuming that the House sees fit to pass the Amendment which we shall be considering shortly. For those reasons, I would advise the House not to accept either of the Amendments.

    I find the hon. and learned Gentleman's arguments totally unconvincing. It was not perhaps a great surprise that the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) succeeded in demolishing them totally by his intervention. It came as a surprise that the hon. Gentleman succeeded in doing so in two short sentences. It sometimes takes a little longer for him to deploy arguments which are so devastating in character.

    The fact is that the hon. and learned Gentleman has shown a wild mistrust of Parliament. Does the hon. and learned Gentleman really think that Parliament will behave in such an irresponsible way as to call upon the Parliamentary Commissioner to investigate matters inappropriate to him? That view would seem to be something of an insult to Parliament. It is absurd that the Parliamentary Commissioner cannot be called upon by Parliament to investigate anything that Parliament wants.

    In setting up the Parliamentary Commissioner, we are indulging in a great experiment. We shall be seeing the utility of this new office and will no doubt see it expand and become more and more useful. It may well be that, in due course, Parliament may think it appropriate to entrust the Parliamentary Commissioner with the investigation of a local government matter. Why not? It might be entirely appropriate that, after he has dug himself in with the full range of activities flowing from the Bill, Parliament may well wish to experiment and allow him, perhaps commission him, specifically to investigate some local government scandal or allegation of maladministration. It is this sort of matter we would wish to have referred to him.

    Why is it necessary to have the Amendment? If Parliament passes a Resolution asking the Parliamentary Commissioner to do something, why is it necessary to put it in an Act? Surely it could be done adequately by Resolution.

    This matter was raised by the hon. Member for Oldham, West. My view is that if the Parliamentary Commissioner were to undertake matters other than those in the Bill, he would be acting ultra vires. What would be required would be a short Act of Parliament. As I understand it, the Parliamentary Commissioner could not be authorised merely by Resolution of both Houses to undertake an investigation outside the ambit of the Bill. But perhaps the hon. and learned Gentleman the Financial Secretary will indicate whether that view of the law is correct or not rather than that I should have the invidious task of correcting the hon. and learned Member for Stoke Newington and Hackney, North (Mr. Weitzman) on a point of law.

    As I understand it, the Parliamentary Commissioner could not investigate a matter which was merely put forward by Resolution of both Houses. It could not be done except by Act of Parliament. It is absurd that Parliament cannot refer a specific matter to the Parliamentary Commissioner. As the office evolves and grows, as we see the way it becomes an effective instrument for good, why should we not, as Members of Parliament, by Resolution of both Houses, refer matters to the Parliamentary Commissioner which are outside the ambit of the Schedule—for example, a specific experiment such as a local government scandal which would be entirely appropriate? This is full justification of the Amendment.

    I do not know how it can be suggested that, if a Resolution passed by Parliament authorises the Parliamentary Commissioner to investigate a matter, it can possibly be said to be ultra vires.

    I have listened carefully and am persuaded by the argument of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Financial Secretary on what is clearly a constitutional matter. There is clearly a case for reforming the Tribunals of Inquiry Act, but that is a different matter from what we are discussing in this Bill and the Amendment. It seems wrong that Parliament should introduce by sidewind under another Measure a power as wide as that.

    The answer to the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) is surely that Parliament must be very careful not to give power for things to be done in its name, because one never knows what the future complexion of Parliament may be. I agree that it is hardly likely that a future Parliament would resort to measures which none of us here would approve of but nevertheless it remains our duty to make its task very hard if such a Parliament came about. It is surely a constitutional principle of this House that we give no more power than is necessary for the immediate purpose in mind. It is a wise principle and the Financial Secretary is absolutely right.

    In reply to hon. and learned Member for Stoke Newington and Hackney, North (Mr. Weitzman) I would say that surely a Resolution of both Houses could not give to the Parliamentary Commissioner any powers beyond what he has and therefore he could not, without the Bill, use any of the powers to be provided by the Bill merely because a Resolution of both Houses asked him to do so. That is surely plain law. Unless this is expressly put in an Amendment like this, the powers available under Clauses 7, 8 and 9—provisions about defamation and other matters which are of great importance—would not be attracted to an inquiry which was called for without the provisions of the Bill —an inquiry that the Parliamentary Commissioner conducted at the behest of Parliament.

    Supposing Parliament passed a Resolution that the Parliamentary Commissioner be asked to investigate a certain matter and gave him certain powers with regard to that inquiry. How could that be ultra vires?

    It is a new doctrine that, by Resolution of both Houses, we can confer power on anyone. I am sure that is wrong. I do not want to delay the House. We have had a good debate. I agree in principle with the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson)—that one wants to be careful about what powers one is conferring and I wish that the Government would take that much more to heart and themselves be more careful about the delegated legislation that they are pouring through the House at present with very little Parliamentary control.

    The point about the Amendment is that it would strengthen possible Parliamentary control. It would not be possible to have an inquiry by the Parliamentary Commissioner under the Amendment without a Resolution of both Houses. It is all very well the Financial Secretary saying, "What a terrible thing—there is no complainant". The two Houses of Parliament are the complainants. What better complainants are there? He says that it is terrible that there are no limits on what the Parliamentary Commissioner would be enabled to inquire into. But I agree with the point made by the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale). We have to rely a little on the sense of the two Houses.

    One cannot imagine them investigating the proceedings of a court of law and seeing whether an appeal decision to the court ought to be reversed. This is a tightly drawn Bill with great restrictions on the matters to be investigated. While I acknowledge the slight additional

    Division No. 250.]

    AYES

    [8.15 p.m.

    Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)Gresham Cooke, R.Neave, Airey
    Alason, James (Hemel Hempstead)Grieve, PercyNott, John
    Awdry, DanielGurden, HaroldOnslow, Cranley
    Baker, W. H. K.Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.)Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)
    Batsford, BrianHarrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)Page, John (Harrow, W.)
    Black, Sir CyrilHawkins, PaulPercival, Ian
    Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. JohnHeald, Rt. Hn. Sir LionelPink, R. Bonner
    Brinton, Sir TattonHobson, Rt. Hn. Sir JohnPym, Francis
    Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N&M)Hogg, Rt. Hn. QuintinRamsden, Rt. Hn. James
    Buck, Antony (Colchester)Holland, PhilipRidley, Hn. Nicholas
    Bullus, Sir EricHordern, PeterRoots, William
    Campbell, GordonHowell, David (Guildford)Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
    Clark, HenryHunt, JohnScott, Nicholas
    Clegg, WalterHutchison, Michael ClarkSharples, Richard
    Cooke, RobertIrvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)Sinclair, Sir George
    Cordle, JohnJohnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)Stainton, Keith
    Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)Summers, Sir Spencer
    Dance, JamesLongden, GilbertTaylor, Edward M.(G'gow, Cathcart)
    d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir HenryMcAdden, Sir StephenTaylor, Frank (Moss Side)
    Dean, Paul (Somerset, N.)Maddan, MartinTurton, Rt. Hn. R. H.
    Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford)Mawby, RayVickers, Dame Joan
    Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.Ward, Dame Irene
    Fortescue, TimMills, Peter (Torrington)Weatherill, Bernard
    Giles, Rear-Adm. MorganMiscamphell, NormanWhitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
    Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)Monro, HectorWills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
    Glover, Sir DouglasMore, JasperWilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
    Glyn, Sir RichardMorgan, Geraint (Denbigh)Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
    Gower, RaymondMunro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir HughWylie N. R.
    Grant, AnthonyMurton, Oscar
    Grant-Ferris, R.Nabarro, Sir GeraldTELLERS FOR THE AYES:
    Mr. Eyre and Mr. Kitson.

    NOES

    Albu, AustellBrown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)Cullen, Mrs. Alice
    Anderson, DonaldBuchan, NormanDalyell, Tam
    Archer, PeterButler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)Davidson, Arthur (Accrington)
    Armstrong, ErnestCant, R. B.Davies, Harold (Leek)
    Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)Carmichael, NeilDavies, Robert (Cambridge)
    Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)Carter-Jones, LewisDewar, Donald
    Bagier, Gordon A. T.Castle, Rt. Hn. BarbaraDobson, Ray
    Bence, CyrilChapman, DonaldDoig, Peter
    Bidwell, SydneyCoe, DenisDunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)
    Binns, JohnColeman, DonaldDunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e)
    Blackburn, F.Concannon, J. D.Eadie, Alex
    Boardman, H.Corbet, Mrs. FredaEdwards, Rt. Hn. Ness (Caerphilly)
    Booth, AlbertCraddock, George (Bradford, S.)Edwards, William (Merioneth)
    Boyden, JamesCrawshaw, RichardEllis, John
    Braddock, Mrs. E. M.Crossman, Rt. Hn. RichardEnsor, David
    Brooks, EdwinEvans, Ioan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley)

    loosening that there will be by the ability to remove things from the categories in Schedule 3, Schedule 3 is not the only restriction that the Bill imposes on the capacity of the Parliamentary Commissioner to conduct inquiries.

    We cannot foresee what circumstances may appear and what real necessity there may be to employ the great skill, knowledge and experience and staff of the Parliamentary Commissioner in having an inquiry which both Houses think is necessary. I am content to rely on both Houses and therefore I recommend my right hon. and hon. Friends to support the Amendment.

    Question put, That those words be there inserted in the Bill:—

    The House divided: Ayes 88, Noes 170.

    Finch, HaroldLyon, Alexander W. (York)Rankin, John
    Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)Reynolds, G. W.
    Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)McBride, NeilRhodes, Geoffrey
    Foley, MauriceMcCann, JohnRichard, Ivor
    Ford, BenMacDermot, NiallRoberts, Albert (Normanton)
    Forrester, JohnMcGuire, MichaelRobertson, John (Paisley)
    Fowler, GerryMackenzie, Alasdair (Ross&Crom'ty)Robinson, W. O. J. (Walth'tow, E.)
    Gordon Walter, Rt. Hn. P. C.Mackintosh, John P.Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)
    Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)Maclennan, RobertRose, Paul
    Gregory, ArnoldMcMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)Ross, Rt. Hn. William
    Grey, Charles (Durham)McNamara, J. KevinRowlands, E. (Cardiff, N.)
    Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)MacPherson, MalcolmShore, Peter (Stepney)
    Hamiton, James (Bothwell)Mapp, CharlesShort, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)
    Harper, JosephMarquand, DavidSilkin Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
    Haseldine, NormanMason, RoySilverman, Julius (Aston)
    Henig, StanleyMayhew, ChristopherSlater, Joseph
    Herbison, Rt. Hn. MargaretMellish, RobertSmall, William
    Hilton, W. S.Milne, Edward (Blyth)Snow, Julian
    Hooley, FrankMiltchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)Spriggs, Leslie
    Hooson, EmlynMolloy, WilliamSteel, David (Roxburgh)
    Houghton, Rt. Hn. DouglasMoyle, RolandStewart, Rt. Hn. Michael
    Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough)Murray, AlbertSwingler, Stephen
    Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.)Neal, HaroldSymonds, J. B.
    Howell, Denis (Small Heath)Norwood, ChristopherThorpe, Jeremy
    Howie, W.Ogden, EricTinn, James
    Hughes, Roy (Newport)O'Malley, BrianTuck, Raphael
    Hunter, AdamOram, Albert E.Urwin, T. W.
    Hynd, JohnOrme, StanleyVarley, Eric G.
    Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)Oswald, ThomasWainwright Edwin (Dearne Valley)
    Janner, Sir BarnettOwen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
    Jeger, Mrs. Lena (H'b'n&St. P'cras, S.)Paget, R. T.Watkins, David (Consett)
    Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)Palmer, ArthurWellbeloved, James
    Jones, Dan (Burnley)Pardoe, JohnWells, William (Walsall, N.)
    Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)Park, TrevorWhitaker, Ben
    Lawson, GeorgeParkyn, Brian (Bedford)Wilkins, W. A.
    Lestor, Miss JoanPavitt, LaurenceWinnick, David
    Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)Pentland, NormanWinstanley, Dr. M. P.
    Lomas, KennethPerry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)Winterbottom, R. E.
    Loughlin, CharlesPrice, Thomas (Westhoughton)Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.
    Luard, EvanPrice, William (Rugby)
    Lubbock, EricProbert, ArthurTELLERS FOR THE NOES:
    Randall, HarryMr. Whitlock and
    Mr Walter Harrison.

    Clause 5—(Matters Subject To Investigation)

    Amendments made: No. 2, in page 3, line 21 after 'by' to insert 'or on behalf of'.

    No. 3, in line 35 to leave out 'save at his discretion'.—[ Mr. MacDermot]

    I beg to move Amendment No. 4, in page 3, line 43 at the end to insert:

    Provided that the Commissioner may conduct an investigation notwithstanding that the person aggrieved has or had such a right or remedy if satisfied that in the particular circumstances it is not reasonable to expect him to resort or have resorted to it.
    The Amendment arises from Amendments which were carried in Committee, in respect of which I then had a somewhat rough passage. The Amendments which were moved by two of my hon. Friends went rather far and gave the Parliamentary Commissioner the right to intervene at his discretion in cases where there was recourse either to a tribunal or a court of law. As originally drafted, the Bill excluded from the Parliamentary Commissioner's powers all cases where there was a recourse to a tribunal and cases where there was recourse to proceedings in a court of law, unless he was satisfied that in the circumstances it was not reasonable to expect the complainant to take, or have taken, proceedings in a court of law.

    As the Bill now stands as a result of the Amendment in Committee, its effect is that the Parliamentary Commissioner could even investigate a case which had been heard and decided upon in a court of law and could in effect be called upon to act as a court of appeal following a decision of a properly constituted court of the land. I do not think that that position can possibly be accepted.

    Therefore, we have put down this Amendment, which restores to the Commissioner the guidance which the Bill originally gave him about the kind of case in which it was proper for him to intervene, that is to say, that if he was satisfied that in the particular case it was not reasonable to except the complainant to have pursued his alternative remedies. But we have accepted the decision of the Committee that this discretion should exist in relation both to tribunals and courts of law.

    I need not weary the House by repeating the argument on why we originally sought to draw that distinction. One of the factors that influenced us was that we were anxious that there should not be any occasion for a clash between the Parliamentary Commissioner and the Council on Tribunals. I undertook to the Committee to consult the Secretary to the Council as to whether it would see any objection to this extension. We are informed that the Council would have no objection to the provision, and we are accordingly putting forward the Amendment in this way.

    The result will be that where a person has an alternative remedy, whether to a tribunal or a court of law, that will not be an absolute bar to his case being investigated by the Commissioner, who will have a discretion in such cases as to whether or not to investigate. If he thinks that the case should more properly be dealt with by the alternative proceedings he will say so and, in the exercise of his discretion, will refuse to investigate. But if he is satisfied that there are good reasons why the complainant should not have recourse to those other remedies he will then be able to act.

    I hope that this will meet the substance of the argument put forward in Committee.

    8.30 p.m.

    I should first like to express my disappointment with the Government's decision to delete these words. We had a very full discussion about this matter in Committee when no one accepted the position taken up by the Financial Secretary. Even when there was not full agreement with the Amendment then proposed, there was dissatisfaction with his attitude.

    My hon. and learned Friend has endeavoured to meet the objection by this Amendment. There is some advance, but it is not enough. The provision gives the Parliamentary Commisioner the right to intervene in a case when he is satisfied that it is not reasonable to expect the person aggrieved to resort or have resorted to a tribunal, court of appeal, or whatever it may be. There is no right where the matter has already been dealt with by a tribunal or court. It is only when the person concerned could have resorted to it, or might resort to it.

    This seriously circumscribes the Parliamentary Commissioner's power and I would have thought that it was very much simpler to have said that where there were particular circumstances, it was right for the Parliamentary Commissioner to intervene. I fully agree that it would be wrong to constitute the Commissioner as an appeal court from the tribunal or court which hears the case, but there must be circumstances—and they were cited in Committee—when there are borderline cases when, in special circumstances, it could be left to the good sense of the Parliamentary Commissioner to deal with the matter.

    I would have been more satisfied if my hon. and learned Friend's interpretation of the powers of the Commissioner had been right. I quoted a certain case to him and he replied:
    "But he tells the Committee…that on the matters that he has considered, the case is so strong that he feels sure there must have been some error somewhere. All I can say to him is that if he were able to convince the Parliamentary Commissioner of the fact, if he could establish a prima facie case to the same extent, that this was a case which cried out for investigation—then, within his discretion, the Parliamentary Commissioner would be able to look into the matter and investigate it".
    He went on to say:
    "There is a possible administrative complaint which legitimately he could investigate. Is it being said, 'I am not complaining about the decision of the tribunal. What I am complaining about is that the administrative action of the Department was at fault, in failing to lay before the tribunal properly the information which it, the Department, had and which it alone had'. If that is what the allegation is, then, as I have said, that is a matter which can be investigated."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee B, 8th November, 1966; c. 160–2.]
    I said that I would be very much more satisfied if I felt that the Financial Secretary's interpretation was correct, but as I read the words I think that in such a case the Commissioner would be bound to say that he was debarred under Clause 5(2,a), because it was an action in which the person aggrieved had a right of appeal to a tribunal or court. It is doubtful whether that interpretation is right.

    Surely the proper thing is to try to clarify the position by inserting words which make it clear that the view which my hon. and learned Friend is putting forward is right. I can only express the hope that between now and discussion in another place he will look at the matter again to see whether he cannot clarify the provision by some further words.

    I rise only to ask the Financial Secretary one question. I am glad that he has proposed the Amendment for I think that it is an improvement. It says that the Commissioner may conduct an investigation

    "if satisfied that in the particular circumstances it is not reasonable…"
    I take that to mean that the Parliamentary Commissioner alone is the judge of what is or is not reasonable in such circumstances and that he may not be challenged on that and will not normall be expected even to give a reason. I think that that is most desirable, but I should like to have it officially stated.

    I am grateful for the crumbs which fall from the master's table, even if rarely. This Amendment is a great improvement and I congratulate the Financial Secretary on introducing it. I gather that he knows—and I gather that this is the view of the House—that it excludes from consideration any grievance arising before the date on which the Bill comes into force. I read it like that. I wish that my hon. and learned Friend would say who is a person who

    "has or had a remedy"
    which he has failed to pursue. The trouble is that a grievance may arise the day before. This may be a matter for experts. I never call myself a draftsman.

    The second problem which arises is: what is an unexhausted remedy, how does one know what remedies one has and what remedies are within reasonable power? I know that the question of the former Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance is excluded from the Measure, and there are powerful reasons for it, because, if it were not, the Commissioner would have about 50,000 more cases to deal with almost at once, some genuine, some far from genuine.

    May I quote a purely legal example from the Ministry to exemplify the point. It concerns a case reported in The Times ten days before Christmas on a decision of the House of Lords. The House of Lords, by a majority, affirmed the decision arrived at by the Court of Appeal, by a majority, which reversed the Divisional Court, which supported the Commissioner of National Insurance in deciding that the decision of the medical appeal tribunal supporting the medical referee and disagreeing on a point of fact with a previous decision of a commissioner which reversed the previous medical referee in agreeing with the medical report. This was an appeal to the House of Lords by the Minister which was lost. I could ask a few questions about the cost of it when I have a little time free.

    Who could have advised that lady about Mr. William Charles Crocker, who is very famous for some of his admirable legislative activities, that the applicant had not exhausted his right until he had been before four medical tribunals, two independent commissioners, two judges of the Divisional Court, three judges in the Court of Appeal and five judges in the House of Lords on an issue under an Act by which I was told, on the day I made my maiden speech, that we were cutting all the lawyers out and not having any more nonsense about going to the county court and getting a decision?

    I sit once a month in Oldham. People still think that I am a solicitor. I keep telling them I am not and the Chancery Division have said that I am not for Income Tax reasons. Day by day problems are postulated as to what are people's rights. When I get in a mess, I send them to the citizens advice bureau. Who knows the answer to these questions under this highly complex régime? How is the Commissioner always to be able to get a determination?

    If I have the privilege of catching your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, or Mr. Speaker's eye on Friday, I hope to develop a wholly different matter. Recently, on an urgent point of Customs duty, a man was asked for £30 by Thomas Cook and Son Limited in respect of a wedding gift valued at £29 10s. I approached the Board of Trade which said "There is tax involved. You should approach the Treasury". So I approached both of them and the Treasury said that it would look into the matter. I put down a Question about the tax and the Treasury said that it was looking into it. At the precise moment when it looked as though somebody might say something, a brilliant genius in the Civil Service said, "But you used Thomas Cook. They are a nationalised industry. This is a matter for the Ministry of Transport". My constituent, the nicest of men, was very grateful in the end—

    Order. I am having some difficulty in relating what the hon. Gentleman is saying to the Amendment. Would he kindly indicate how it relates to the Amendment?

    I do not think I should like to reply to that challenge precisely or to go into a dissertation in the strict terms of the Amendment. I thought that I was rendering a service to the House by delivering two speeches at once and as briefly as I could. I shall not therefore rise again when anything is called for discussion which will make these observations relevant.

    With the leave of the House to speak again, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Stoke Newington and Hackney, North (Mr. Weitzman), I think in his disappointment at the form of this Amendment, was really repeating a point of view which he expressed in Committee, which is that he would really like the Parliamentary Commissioner have power to act as a court of appeal from tribunals. With great respect to my hon. and learned Friend, I do not think this would be a workable system. We have a system of tribunals, and in some cases machinery of appeal from them, and there are supervisory powers and supervisory courts, and also we have the Council on Tribunals, from another point of view, supervising the work of those tribunals. I think, therefore, that there would be no end to this system if a disappointed complainant could at any time have yet a further stage and have his complaint heard and investigated by the Parliamentary Commissioner.

    His second question, on which he quoted some words of mine in Committee, related to a much narrower point. We were imagining the situation where there was before a tribunal a case in which the facts were peculiarly in the knowledge of the Department, as frequently they will be, where the case had been heard and decided by the tribunal against the complainant, perfectly properly decided on evidence presented, and then information came to light to indicate, for example, that the Department in error had omitted to lay before the tribunal some very relevant material—some medical reports, whatever it might be.

    I do not want to lay down the law for all cases, but certainly I think that in some such cases there would be no way to get a case reopened by the tribunal; it would not be a matter which could be the subject of an appeal to the tribunal itself. If that is so then it would not be excluded by the words of Clause 5(2,a), and accordingly the point that I was making was that in those circumstances that failure of the Department to lay the proper facts before the tribunal could be the subject of complaint on an administrative act by the Department. It would be a wholly exceptional case. This is a very fine point, but I was seeking to try to draw a distinction between the Commissioner acting as an appellate tribunal from the court itself or from the tribunal itself and as investigating some administrative failure in the steps leading up to the actual proceedings by the court.

    As to the other two points on which I was asked to give an answer, the hon. Member for Hendon, South (Sir H. Lucas-Tooth) asked whether I would confirm that the wording of the Amendment means that it would be solely for the Parliamentary Commissioner to decide whether in the circumstances it was reasonable for the complainant not to have pursued the alternative remedy. I do give that assurance: it would be entirely within his own discretion to decide.

    Finally, my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) suggested that the Commissioner would only be investigating matters arising out of cases occurring after the date of the passing of the Bill. I think that if he looks at Clause 6(3) he will see that that is not the case.

    Amendment agreed to.

    I beg to move Amendment No. 5, in page 4, line 4, at the end to insert:

    (4) Nothing in this section shall be construed as authorising or requiring the Commissioner to review by way of appeal any decison taken by a government department or other authority in the exercise of a discretion vested in that department or authority.
    This Amendment is largely a drafting matter and seeks to overcome the criticism that was made both on Second Reading and in Committee that the Bill as drafted does nowhere in terms exclude the discretionary decisions from the scope of the Parliamentary Commissioner's powers. We take the view that this is inherent in the word "maladministration" itself, but as there was obviously wide feeling among hon. Members on both sides that it was desirable to make this explicit, we propose adding these words which, we believe, will achieve that object. Perhaps the only point on the wording on which I might comment is the use of the words "by way of appeal". We have said that
    "Nothing in this section shall be construed as authorising or requiring the Commissioner to review by way of appeal any decision"—
    in effect, in exercise of a discretionary power. The reason why we put that in is that we do not want this Amendment to be limiting. As was made clear by my right hon. Friend the Lord President in moving the Second Reading, there are matters in relation to discretionary decisions which will be within the scope of the Parliamentary Commissioner. I can sum it up by calling them matters where the complaint is that the proper administrative procedures were not followed before the stage was reached when the discretionary decision had to be taken. We do not wish to exclude that. The intention of the Amendment and, I believe, its effect is that the Parliamentary Commissioner will be free to investigate all matters of administration —everything, in effect, except a discretionary decision itself.

    8.45 p.m.

    This is a very important Amendment, although the Financial Secretary may say that it is only a drafting one. It goes to the very root of what the Bill is intended to do. By its wording, as I read it and as the courts and the Commissioner would be bound to read it, if we remove all right of investigation into any matter concerning a Government Department or other authority which is exercising a discretion vested in that Department or authority, we impose a very heavy limitation upon the capacity of the Parliamentary Commissioner to protect the citizen and give him a remedy when a really silly decision has been made.

    The Financial Secretary has said that one can look at the procedural background to the discretionary decision, but it is a little difficult—as anyone who has ever administered a Department knows—to distinguish between what is the administrative background and what is a discretion. There is a discretionary element in the way in which any Department is run.

    Everyone knows that within each Department there are certain rules and regulations about what is done or not done, and the Minister decides that he will or will not in particular circumstances seek the advice of some other authority. Of course, that is a discretionary decision on his part and, to some extent, a policy decision on the way in which he will run his Department. Therefore, the whole of the preliminary machinery which any Government Department goes through before the actual final decision is taken is, of itself, part of the exercise of administrative discretions by the Minister.

    I have always thought that this provision in the Clause would emasculate the Bill. It will leave practically no circumstances in which a Minister will not be able to say, "I took that decision because I had the choice of consulting A or consulting a large class of people. I took that decision and, as a matter of fact, in this Department we never bother to ask the other Departments about questions of this sort. This is something that I have decided, and you, the ombudsman, are not entitled to investigate the matter."

    The words, "in the exercise of a discretion" could not be wider. A discretion means no more than liberty of choice. It means, according to the Oxford Dictionary, "The liberty of deciding as one thinks fit, absolutely or within limits". It also means something which is "to be settled or disposed of by the wish of" the individual.

    Pretty well everything within a Department is disposed of on the wish of the Minister and on each and every occasion when the ombudsman asks him, "Why did not you do this, that or the other", or asks why this or that step was not taken, the answer will be, "Because we decided that in cases of this sort we would not do that".

    I have always thought that the key to the position of the Parliamentary Commissioner was the extent to which he could look at the administrative decisions of a Department, both the internal administrative decisions and the decisions affecting the citizen. Unless he can do both, the citizen will be wholly deprived of any benefit of an investigation by the ombudsman. Only where the Minister is under an obligation to take a particular decision and, therefore, has no discretion himself will the ombudsman be able to complain. In any other case, if there is a choice of courses of action, the Minister can say, "This was my decision. You cannot look at that and there can be no investigation by you, the ombudsman".

    I appreciate the Government's desire to shield all Ministers and civil servants from the investigation of the ombudsman in any circumstances where it can be said that the Minister had any responsibility. I quite see that that is the basis upon which the Government are proceeding, but the result of their taking that attitude is that the ombudsman will be almost totally excluded from the files of Government Departments. The result of that attitude and this Amendment is that the Government are now seen to be thinking that discretion is the better part of valour and they are running clean away from the ombudsman.

    This is not a drafting Amendment. It goes to the heart of the whole Bill. I recall the words of the Lord President of the Council on Second Reading:

    "The knowledge that the Parliamentary Commissioner is there, eager to get to work; the knowledge that he can act only in response to complaints from Members and is, therefore, in the strictest sense a servant of the House; the knowledge that when he acts he will be able to go wider and further than anyone except the Comptroller and AuditorGeneral—this knowledge should surely put heart into those back benchers who feel they count for not much more than Lobby fodder."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th October, 1966; Vol. 734, c. 43.]
    Those words certainly put some heart into this back bencher. Foolishly, I sup-B, pose, we imagined that this brave new Bill would be a step forward and would give us greater power to control the Executive. No one knows better than the right hon. Gentleman how powerful Ministers can be. He was a very powerful Minister himself. He knows also—he has said it often—how weak Parliament is and how largely ineffective are our powers as Members to undertake detailed criticism.

    I had hoped, as many hon. Members on both sides did, that the Bill would be a real step forward to alter that situation. It is nothing of the kind. Moreover, if this Amendment, described so innocently as a drafting Amendment, is accepted, it will be the final nail in the coffin of the Bill.

    On this Amendment, Parliament has to take a very important decision, a decision fundamental to the whole Bill. Are we to take the narrow view and restrict the powers of the Parliamentary Commissioner to cases in which the Minister has no discretion at all? Is that the object? It seems to be the Government's view now, although it was not their view at the time of the Standing Committee. In Committee, the Financial Secretary said:
    "We do not want to exclude from his activities anything which relates to discretionary decisions, because we may get what are true faults of administration, leading up to a discretionary decision, with the result that when the decision was taken it was affected by a fault of administration. In other words, one can fault the manner in which it was taken."
    It is worth reading the whole passage because this is such an important matter. The hon. and learned Gentleman went on:
    "The hon. Member for Kensington, South, in moving his Amendment, gave some instances of the kind of thing he had in mind —that the person who made the decision had not all the relevant material before him, that some relevant evidence which ought to have been drawn to his attention was not, by the neglect or obtuseness of someone who ought to have laid that evidence before him, or that he based his decision on irrelevant matter, on irrelevant evidence. Now, if this can be shown, if this is the complaint, this is a matter to be investigated, as we conceive it, by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration, because he is looking to see whether the proper administrative process has been carried Out."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee 1st November, 1966; c. 69.]
    That was the argument put forward by the Financial Secretary, and it seemed a wholly good one at the time. Now he is putting forward a very much narrower interpretation of the powers. The alternative is to take the bolder course and rely simply on the exclusion provided in subsections (2,a) and (b) of this Clause.

    The cases which usually come to hon. Members concern planning decisions, because these are the ones which worry people most. Their livelihoods are affected by them, and yet these are the very cases in which we are utterly powerless to assist. A citizen applies for planning permission to build, say, a bungalow. The R.D.C. turns down his application. He appeals, and waits for five months. His appeal is then heard, and he waits another five months before the gets the result of the appeal. He learns that his appeal has been turned down, and he comes to see us. We then write to the Minister. I have done this on many occasions, as I expect most hon. Members have. We write to the Minister asking him to reconsider the appeal, and we get the same reply each time, "There is no power to look at the matter again".

    Rightly or wrongly the constituent feels that he has a genuine grievance, that somewhere along the line there has been a failure by the Minister to act in a proper way. It may be said that in those circumstances he has recourse to the courts, but, as the right hon. Gentleman said during the debate, this is a very cumbersome and expensive procedure, and these appeals do not go to the courts except in very few instances. The people affected live with their bitterness for the rest of their lives.

    The more I think about the Financial Secretary's speech, the more I am puzzled about the Government's attitude to this matter, and I am certain that many people outside the House will be equally puzzled. I feel that if the Amendment is accepted it will undermine the very purpose of the Bill, and I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman, who is an enthusiastic—

    All that the Amendment seeks to do is to make explicit the interpretation of the Bill which my right hon. Friend gave during the Second Reading debate and which was, inciden- tally, supported by a number of hon. Gentleman opposite in Committee. Indeed, I think that it puts into other words an Amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Hendon, South (Sir H. Lucas-Tooth).

    I realise that the hon. and learned Gentleman takes that view, but that was not the view taken by my right hon. Friend. The Amendment says:

    "Nothing in this section shall be construed as authorising or requiring the Commissioner to review by way of appeal any decision taken by a government department…"
    It says that nothing in this Section authorises the Commissioner to look at any decision.

    The hon. Gentleman must read the whole Amendment. It refers to

    "any decision…taken in the exercise of a discretion vested in that department or authority".

    That does not weaken my point. I am certain that there are many hon. Members on this side of the House, and perhaps on the other side, too, who are anxious about this. We will emasculate the Bill if we take away from the Parliamentary Commissioner the right to look at the exercise of a discretion by a Minister.

    It is not true to say that we would emasculate the Bill, because in the speech to which the hon. Gentleman referred I made it clear that discretionary decisions, as the Whyatt Committee recommended, were excluded from the Bill. I said:

    "Discretionary decision, properly exercised, which the complainant dislikes but cannot fault the manner in which it was taken, is excluded by the Clause."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th October, 1966; Vol. 734, c. 51.]
    9.0 p.m.

    After considerable discussion on this matter—in which we considered whether or not this was the proper thing to do —we made it clear, in Committee and on Second Reading, that this was the interpretation. The Amendment does not alter anything but merely makes unambiguous what we candidly told hon. Members was the way we should deal with the issue. We have accepted the Whyatt Report, which suggested that it should be dealt with in this way, and it is, therefore, unfair to say that it is being written into the Bill by this small Amendment.

    I am a solicitor and not a lawyer. The difficulty is that although this matter may have been fully argued and discussed—with undertakings and assurances given in Committee and on Second Reading—we must deal with the Bill as it appears before us. I may have got the wrong end of the argument, but as I see it—not as a lawyer—the Amendment does not have the purpose which the Financial Secretary is arguing it does have. I do not believe that it is a drafting Amendment. I have come to that decision having studied it carefully and I trust, therefore, that the Government will not pursue this Amendment.

    I am opposed to the Amendment on narrower grounds than those adduced by the hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Awdry). Whenever the ombudsman starts investigating a case, the Amendment could be immediately used as a shield by civil servants, who could say, "We are exercising our discretion", and many weeks would go by while the matter is being considered. In his intervention, the Leader of the House referred to his speech in Committee. I did not find the position enhanced by what he said about a discretionary decision being properly arrived at.

    Suppose it is exercised on wrong or erroneous grounds. We are concerned here with administrative injustice or injustice suffered as a result of maladministration. One of the things the ombudsman should be entitled to investigate is a discretionary decision vested in a Department which has been arrived at through a completely erroneous process. Suppose a decision has been arrived at through a mistake which could be put right. Is the ombudsman to be excluded from considering that?

    I am using the term which is in common use. In all the discussions before the Bill was introduced he was known as an ombudsman. In any case, it would be wrong for the Government to persist with the Amendment in the face of such criticism. If the Financial Secretary considers that the Amendment is not really necessary, it should be left out because the view is widely held that it will circumscribe the powers of the Parliamentary Commissioner and provide a shield behind which civil servants will be able to hide for many weeks.

    I regret that I was not a member of the Standing Committee. However, I have taken a great interest in the subject for a long time and, despite the attitude of the Leader of the House, I apprehend that we are entitled to discuss this matter at such length as we think proper.

    I cannot help being worried about this matter because we have for nearly two years been pointing out that the ambit of jurisdiction of the Parliamentary Commissioner should be seriously considered. In September 1964, a statement was published in the New Stateman by the present Foreign Secretary in which he said what it was intended that the Parliamentary Commissioner would be able to investigate. He stated:
    "The Commissioner will he concerned with those episodes where all the authorities have behaved correctly, yet the result is absurd or unjust."
    That right hon. Gentleman, for whom we have the greatest respect and who takes a keen interest in the rights of the individual, did not talk about "maladministration". He did not use any ambiguous language of that kind. He made it clear that if there had been an injustice it would be the job of the Labour Government's great Parliamentary Commissioner to right it. Since then we have been plunging in this morass of the expression "maladministration".

    Although I was not a member of the Standing Committee, I have read the OFFICIAL REPORT of the whole of the proceedings and I have found that there was intense discussion about the word "maladministration" and its repercussions in relation to discretion. We have been left in a great state of uncertainty. I share the fear of my hon. Friend the Member for Chippenham (Mr. Awdry) that the Amendment—although I accept that it is not intended to do this—might have the effect, and I believe it will, of creating a danger that the whole value of this system will be vitiated.

    Almost every decision that causes real hardship is a decision taken in the exercise of a Ministerial discretion. Sooner or later, somebody will have to decide whether or not it comes within the jurisdiction of the Parliamentary Commissioner. I do not think it could go to the courts and we may assume that the Parliamentary Commissioner will act in a judicial capacity. There is grave danger that, if we accept an Amendment like this, the Parliamentary Commissioner will take a narrow view of his duties. In reading what was said in Committee, I was astonished to find that on more than one occasion the reason given for not accepting Amendments was that to do so would overburden the Parliamentary Commissioner. In the case, for example, of the National Health Service, the reason given was not that he ought to be able to consider it, but that he would be overburdened. This great public benefit produced by the right hon. Gentleman and his friends to enable grievances to be alleviated is to be withheld because there would be too many complaints. What an astonishing thing. The Amendment, as I read it, would cut that down very much indeed.

    Time after time one hears the argument that the Minister in question had discretion and had the facts before him. Nobody suggests that he acted dishonestly or had improper evidence. He made his decision in the exercise of his discretion. The boundary of maladministration is a very difficult one to determine.

    I feel great anxiety about the acceptance of the Amendment. I acquit the right hon. Gentleman of the intention to do what I have suggested might happen, but surely this is the moment when we should be entitled to deal with these things.

    I end where I began. I was a little disturbed to find that when somebody got up and presented a logical and new argument the right hon. Gentleman said that this was all decided on Second Reading. These things are not decided on Second Reading. They are decided when the House of Commons finally expresses its opinion, and that is this evening.

    The Amendment proves the critics right when they said that in the production of the Bill the Government had gone back on their promise to the electorate. Clearly, the Amendment shows that from the very beginning the Government had no intention of giving us an effective Parliamentary Commissioner, the Ombudsman as he was called at the General Election by the Government.

    Almost the whole of the Bill will be pretty useless if the Amendment is passed. It would be interesting to know what the Parliamentary Commissioner would think about this and about his job if the Amendment is passed, because he will be in an awkward position to be told by any Minister or Ministry that they were only exercising their discretion—and that would apply not only to a Government Department, but to any authority. Those are the words of the Amendment. All the criticism which has been levelled from this side tonight will be amply justified if the Amendment is passed.

    I cannot think why the Lord President of the Council puts up the argument that as a defence of the Amendment he has to say, "I told you so". Of course, he told us that this was his intention. We still say, however, that it makes nonsense of the Bill. I hope that the Government will have the decency to withdraw it.

    When I was at my first school, we had a rather jolly schoolboy expression for "swindle". We called it "swiz". A swiz was not something which involved any particular moral turpitude on the part of those who were guilty of the swiz but meant that those who were the victims of the swiz somehow felt with justification that they had been swindled.

    As the House knows from my speech on Second Reading, I have always regarded the ombudsman as a swiz. Now we have arrived at the moment of truth. We were told originally, in a very grandiloquent speech by the Leader of the House, that the ombudsman would deal with maladministration. We have never really been told what maladministration is. It may be that some esoteric ritual inside the Civil Service has not been observed. I do not regard that as maladministration. If Government policy is involved and injustice is suffered thereby.

    we know that maladministration is not Government policy. If it requires legislation to put it right, that is not maladministration. I told the House on Second Reading that it excluded discretion, and I had the powerful support of the Lord President of the Council. The ghastly fact is that when that is excluded, nothing is left except a swiz. We on this side always knew that the whole thing was a swiz, but that was not spelt into the Bill. It did not write down in so many words in a Schedule, "This is a swiz".

    The Financial Secretary has described the Amendment as a drafting Amendment. Despite what has been said by one of my hon. Friends, I agree that it is a drafting Amendment. The Bill was always drafted to be a swiz, and now it is spelt into the Bill. I shall vote against it.

    The right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) was a Member of a Government which considered the proposals upon which the Bill is based. They were proposals made in the Whyatt Report published by Justice. [Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman says sotto voce that they were rejected. They were not rejected as being a swiz. Those proposals contained the important principle that the Parliamentary Commissioner should not act as a court of appeal to review every discretionary decision which was made in the course of Government.

    It was realised in those proposals, and the reasons were fully set out, why it would not be a workable system if it was sought to give that power to the Parliamentary Commissioner. The right hon. and learned Gentleman suggests that denuded of that power, the Parliamentary Commissioner is a swiz. That was not what his Government said when they rejected the idea. They did not say "We reject this because it would be a waste of time. We reject this because he would be a useless cipher if he did not have

    Division No. 251.]

    AYES

    [9.17 p.m.

    Albu, AustenBoardman, H.Cant, R. B.
    Anderson, DonaldBooth, AlbertCarmichael, Neil
    Archer, PeterBoyden, JamesCarter-Jones, Lewis
    Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)Braddock, Mrs. E. M.Coe, Denis
    Bagier, Gordon A. T.Brooks, EdwinColeman, Donald
    Bence, CyrilBrown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)Concannon, J. D.
    Bidwell, SydneyBrown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W)Corbet, Mrs. Freda
    Binns, JohnBuchan, NormanCraddock, George (Bradford, S.)
    Blackburn, F.Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)Crawshaw, Richard

    Power to investigate discretionary decisions".

    9.15 p.m.

    The first objection and the first reason given by the Tory Administration for rejecting it was that the setting-up of a Parliamentary Commissioner—it was specifically related to the Justice proposals—would seriously interfere with the prompt and efficient dispatch of public business. In other words, the Conservative Government considered that such powers as we propose in the Bill should be given to the Commissioner would hold up the whole machinery of government. That was their first and major reason for rejecting it. That is the meaningless swiz, apparently. It is remarkable how right hon. and hon. Members opposite change their tune when they go from government into opposition.

    I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for endorsing what I said at the outset, that this is a drafting Amendment. This is purely making clear and explicit that which we have said from the very outset was implicit in the Bill and was the scope of the Bill. A number of hon. Members opposite who have given careful thought to this have taken the same view as we have. I respect the attitude of those who, like the right hon. and learned Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald), take a different view and would like to see the Commissioner act as an appellate court over all discretionary decision. If the Commissioner were to have that power, it would require an enormous addition to his staff for him to be able to review the whole field of discretionary decisions in government. I suggest that that would be unworkable and would bring the whole scheme into disrepute. For these reasons, I urge the House to accept the Amendment.

    Question put, That those words be there inserted in the Bill:—

    The House divided: Ayes 156, Noes 92.

    Crossman, Rt. Hn. RichardJanner, Sir BarnettPentland, Norman
    Dalyell, TamJeger, Mrs. Lena (H'b'n & St. P'cras, S.)Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)
    Davidson, Arthur (Accrington)Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)Price, Thomas (Westhoughton)
    Davies, Harold (Leek)Jones, Dan (Burnley)Price, William (Rugby)
    Davies, Robert (Cambridge)Jones, Ht. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)Probert, Arthur
    Dewar, DonaldJones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)Randall, Harry
    Dobson, RayLawson, GeorgeReynolds, G. W.
    Doig, PeterLestor, Miss JoanRhodes, Geoffrey
    Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)Lewis, Ron. (Carlisle)Richard, Ivor
    Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e)Loughlin, CharlesRoberts, Albert (Normanton)
    Eadie, AlexLuard, EvanRobertson, John (Paisley)
    Edwards, Rt. Hn. Ness (Caerphilly)Lyon, Alexander W. (York)Robinson, W. O. J. (Waith'stow, E.)
    Edwards, William (Merioneth)Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)
    Ellis, JohnMcBride, NeilRose, Paul
    Ensor, DavidMcCann, JohnRoss, Rt. Hn. William
    Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)MacDermot, NiallRowlands, E. (Cardiff, N.)
    Finch, HaroldMacdonald, A. H.Ryan, John
    Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)McGuire, MichaelShore, Peter (Stepney)
    Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)Mackintosh, John P.Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)
    Foley, MauriceMaclennan, RobertSilkin, Rt. Hn. John
    Ford, BenMcMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)Slater, Joseph
    Forrester, JohnMcNamara, J. KevinSmall, William
    Fowler, GerryMacPherson, MalcolmSnow, Julian
    Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C.Mallalieu, J.P.W.(Huddersfield, E.)Spriggs, Leslie
    Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)Mapp, CharlesStewart, Rt. Hn. Michael
    Gregory, ArnoldMarquand, DavidSwingier, Stephen
    Grey, Charles (Durham)Mason, RoySymonds, J. B.
    Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)Mayhew, ChristopherTinn, James
    Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)Milne, Edward (Blyth)Tuck, Raphael
    Hamilton, James (Bothwell)Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)Urwin, T. W.
    Harper, JosephMolloy, WilliamVarley, Eric G.
    Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)Moyle, RolandWainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)
    Haseldine, NormanMurray, AlbertWalker, Harold (Doncaster)
    Henig, StanleyNeal, HaroldWatkins, David (Consett)
    Herbison, Rt. Hn. MargaretNorwood, ChristopherWells, William (Walsall, N.)
    Hilton, W. S.Ogden, EricWhitaker, Ben
    Houghton, Rt. Hn. DouglasO'Malley, BrianWhitlock, William
    Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.)Oram, Albert E.Wilkins, W. A.
    Howell, Denis (Small Heath)Oswald, ThomasWinnick, David
    Howie, W.Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.
    Hughes, Roy (Newport)Palmer, Arthur
    Hunter, AdamPark, TrevorTELLERS FOR THE AYES:
    Hynd, JohnParkyn, Brian (Bedford)Mr. Armstrong and
    Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)Pavitt, LaurenceMr. Ioan L. Evans.

    NOES

    Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)Onslow, Cranley
    Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)Hawkins, PaulOsborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)
    Awdry, DanielHeald, Rt. Hn. Sir LionelPage, John (Harrow, W.)
    Baker, W. H. K.Hobson, Rt. Hn. Sir JohnPardoe, John
    Batsford BrianHogg, Rt. Hn. QuintinPercival, Ian
    Black, Sir CyrilHolland, PhillpPink, R. Bonner
    Brinton, Sir TattonHooson, EmlynPym, Francis
    BuchananSmith, Alick (Angus, N&M)Hordern, PeterRamsden, Rt. Hn. James
    Buck, Antony (Colchester)Howell, David (Guildford)Ridley, Hn. Nicholas
    Bullus, Sir EricHunt, JohnRoots, William
    Campbell, GordonHutchison, Michael ClarkRossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
    Clark, HenryIrvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)Scott, Nicholas
    Clegg, WalterJohnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)Sharples, Richard
    Cooke, RobertJohnston, Russell (Inverness)Sinclair, Sir George
    Cordle, JohnKing, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)Stainton Keith
    Dalkeith, Earl ofKitson, TimothySteel, David (Roxburgh)
    Dance, JamesLongden, GilbertSummers, Sir Spencer
    d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir HenryLubbock, EricTaylor, Edward M.(G'gow, Cathcart)
    Dean, Paul (Somerset, N.)McAdden, Sir StephenTaylor, Frank (Moss Side)
    Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford)Mackenzie, Alasdair (Ross&Crom'ty)Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.
    Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)Maddan, MartinVickers, Dame Joan
    Fortescue, TimMawby, RayWeatherill, Bernard
    Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
    Glover, Sir DouglasMills, Peter (Torrington)Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
    Glyn, Sir RichardMiscampbell, NormanWilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
    Gower, RaymondMonro, HectorWinstanley, Dr. M. P.
    Grant, AnthonyMorgan, Geraint (Denbigh)Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
    Grant-Ferris, R.Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir HughWylie, N. R.
    Gresham Cooke, R.Murton, Oscar
    Grieve, PercyNabarro, Sir GeraldTELLERS FOR THE NOES
    Gurden, HaroldNeave, AireyMr. Eyre and Mr. More.
    Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)Nott, John

    I beg to move Amendment No. 6, in page 4, line 4, at the end to insert:

    (4) Her Majesty may by Order in Council amend the said Schedule 3 so as to exclude from the provisions of that Schedule such actions or matters as may be described in the Order; and any statutory instrument made by virtue of this subsection shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.
    I hope that we shall find that hon. Members opposite, who were so moved and so stirred by their anxieties about the Bill being narrowed and made ineffective, will applaud my efforts in this Amendment to widen its extent, and that we shall have enthusiastic speeches supporting it.

    The Amendment changes the Bill in an important respect. By it, we meet the feeling that, although it was wise in the first instance to have a very precise definition of the Parliamentary Commissioner's sphere of action, if we give him a sharp sword and powerful instrument and are precise about the areas that he should cover, we should also make it possible to extend those areas without a new Bill by including within his powers areas excluded in Schedule 3. That is what the Amendment does. It enables us by a negative Order—a simple Order in Council—to lay it down that either all or any part of the Schedule 3 areas which were excluded shall be included in the Bill.

    The right hon. and learned Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald) was rather hoity-toity at one stage, and suggested that the Government did not want to overburden the Commissioner, talking as though the Commissioner would have no work to do. We shall be interested to see, after one year's work and he reports to a Select Committee about the number of cases that he has dealt with, who is right. I do not think that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will find that the Parliamentary Commissioner will not get a long roll of cases.

    We have in Schedule 3 areas in which even the right hon. and learned Gentleman would think that the Parliamentary Commissioner and his subordinates would find a lot of work. For example, these areas include the actions of British consuls. This is one of the areas I would have liked to have covered, for it is one where people sometimes feel that they have been badly treated in going to a consul for help. Another area is in relation to overseas territories, while another covers the health services. We are including these in the Schedule in the sense that they can be covered by Order in Council. Other areas include the Civil Service and the Armed Forces.

    This Amendment means that we shall be able, if we see fit, to cover all these areas by Order in Council. I shall not dilate on this subject for long but I will point out that, in view of what the Opposition said on the last Amendment, they should welcome this one. If by any chance they were right and we have narrowed down unduly the Commissioner's powers to deal with cases under the present proposals, here we are now giving Parliament power to extend the areas of his work. 9.30 p.m.

    As my hon. and learned Friend the Financial Secretary has reminded us, there has been a remarkable change in the Opposition's attitude. Less than three years ago they were complaining that the whole idea must stop because it was dangerous to sound Government. Now they complain that the Commissioner will have too little work to do. The conversion is welcomed as an encouraging symbol of their support for this concept and their belief, expressed in, I suppose, words of great sincerity, that the Commissioner will have too narrow terms of reference. Now we are giving power to extend the terms of reference by Order in Council so that action can be taken if the Opposition's predictions are fulfilled.

    The Leader of the House claims certain credit for the Amendment and certainly one rives him credit for bringing it forward. But it will perhaps be known to the House—as he hinted—that the absence of any such power had caused great concern among the Opposition Members of the Standing Committee. He chose to twit us with, first of all, a disbelief in the principle of the ombudsman and what he might achieve. I see nothing inconsistent in being very suspicious of the ombudsman as a major constitutional remedy because, to use the simple phrase already applied, it was "a swiz." Possibly we may be able to shorten the word ombudsman to swiz, which would be an advantage, I suppose, in many respects.

    But if we are to have an ombudsman, then it is absurd so to limit his powers by exclusion that one turns him not only into the swiz he started off as but into a double swiz upon swiz. Our objective throughout has been that, if we are to have an ombudsman, it is wrong for the purposes of the public that they should be led to believe that they are going to get opportunities or rights through his powers which were not the case.

    I was somewhat amazed to find the Leader of the House suggesting that Schedule 3 was designed to assist the ombudsman in limiting the work he would do. [Laughter.] I gather from the laughter that the House shares the absurdity of that which I had seen. At this time of night, I do not propose to take up a great deal of time. The Amendment gives a glimmer that it may be possible to correct the over-limited ambit of the Commissioner's powers on which both sides of the Committee were thoroughly dissatisfied. To that extent, the Amendment is welcome.

    If the right hon. Gentleman is so desperate for some praise of the objectives of the Bill, he might have a few words of faint praise from me, but I am not much impressed by the terms of his argument. He has described this as a sharp sword for the Commissioner, but I see no danger, in the present state of the Bill, that the Commissioner will cut himself with it.

    I see the Amendment as an admission on the right hon. Gentleman's part that the powers in the Bill as it stands would scarcely suffice to pull the skin off a rice pudding. It is all very well to say that, at some future date, we may be able to give the public the things they really wanted to see in the Bill. This Amendment is indeed a sensible provision for which I argued in Committee. I said then that we should include such a provision, if the Government were so obstinate as to refuse these powers from the start. I should be interested to know what insuperable objection the right hon. Gentleman sees to bringing in now the actions of British consuls or matters of the Armed Services.

    Order. If the Lord President answered the hon. Member he would be out of order.

    I was merely observing that, the Lord President having tantalised us by declaring that he had certain views. I would be interested to hear them in due course. We shall no doubt have a debate on the matter then. To say that he has put in the Bill the means for Parliament ultimately to make it decent legislation is no commendation of it, but rather a condemnation.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Clause 6—(Provisions Relating To Complaints)

    I beg to move Amendment No. 7, in page 4, line 42, after 'Kingdom', to insert:

    or on an installation in a designated area within the meaning of the Continental Shelf Act 1964 or on a ship registered in the United Kingdom or an aircraft so registered'.
    It may be for the convenience of the House to consider with it Amendment No. 8.

    It is always as well if the occupant of the Chair knows beforehand, because he must protect the interests of the minority. If the Opposition have no objection, I have no objection. So be it.

    These Amendments are to meet points raised by hon. Gentlemen opposite in Committee. They are designed to ensure that the Parliamentary Commissioner will have power to investigate actions taking place on ships or aircraft registered in the United Kingdom, or on that part of the Continental Shelf which contains an installation or designated area within the meaning of the Continental Shelf Act, 1964.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Further Amendment made: No. 8, in page 4, line 43 at the end insert:

    'or on such an installation, ship or aircraft'. —[Mr. MacDermot.]

    Clause 8—(Evidence)

    I beg to move Amendment No. 9, in page 6, line 15, to leave out 'or produce any document'.

    It might be for the convenience of the House to discuss with it Amendments Nos. 10 and 11.

    The three Amendments are largely drafting Amendments, and are to meet a point which was raised in Committee by the hon. and learned Member for Northwich (Sir J. Foster). The intention of the Amendment is to make it clear that a mere passing reference to Cabinet proceedings would not be used to withhold from the Commissioner the whole of documents which otherwise were not related to Cabinet proceedings, and would enable any part of that kind to be blacked out. He could then consider the rest of the documents.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Further Amendments made: No. 10, in page 6, line 16, after 'Cabinet', to insert:

    'or to produce so much of any document as relates to such proceedings'.

    No. 11, in page 6, line 19, to leave out 'or document' and insert 'document or part of a document'.—[ Mr. MacDermot.]

    Clause 10—(Reports By Commissioner)

    I beg to move Amendment No. 12, in page 7, line 5, at the end to insert:

    (2) In any case where the Commissioner conducts an investigation under this Act, he shall also send a report of the results of the investigation to the principal officer of the department or authority concerned and to any other person who is alleged in the relevant complaint to have taken or authorised the action complained of.
    The Amendment arises indirectly from a point made in Committee. In the Bill as drafted, the Parliamentary Commissioner is told to send reports which he makes under Clause 10(1) to the Member who asked for an investigation but not to anyone else. As a result, a Department or individual officer against whom a complaint has been made might never see the Parliamentary Commissioner's final report in a case where it exonerated him and might never be able to make public use of it.

    It might occur that the complainant had sent a copy of his complaint to the Press, as sometimes happens, and that that had received publicity, but that when finally the report of the Commissioner came, completely exonerating the civil servant and refuting the report, he would have no means of knowing that, or of sending a copy of the exonerating report to the Press. It is therefore obvious that he, too, should be entitled to receive a copy of the report.

    Amendment agreed to.

    I beg to move Amendment No. 13, in page 7, line 14, at the end to insert:

    'and may from time to time lay before that House such other reports with respect to those functions as he thinks fit'.
    This is a new point which has arisen, I can inform the House, in effect out of a suggestion of the Parliamentary Commissioner designate. At the moment, under Clause 10, the powers of the Commissioner to make reports are, first, under subsection (1), in what might be called individual cases, to make an individual case report which would then be sent to the Member and the Department concerned. Normally, that would be an end of the matter as far as Parliament was concerned and normally the Select Committee as we envisage it would not he concerned with individual cases of that kind.

    Secondly, there would be the special report procedure under subsection (2) by which when the Commissioner considered that there was an unresolved injustice, that he had reached deadlock with the Department and that the Department was not taking sufficient action, he would report to Parliament and that report would be considered by the Select Committee. Thirdly, there is the Commissioner's annual report which would be laid before Parliament and, one envisages, considered by the Select Committee and perhaps debated by the House.

    The Amendment proposes a fourth kind of report, what I might describe as an ad hoc report by the Commissioner to Parliament in order to deal with some matter which he felt to be of sufficient importance that he should raise it with the House at once. In practice, this would mean raising it with the Select Committee. It might deal with procedural matters and, in the early stages of the working of the Bill, probably would. For example, one can see that it will be necessary for us, with the assistance of the Select Committee, to work out various procedural conventions about the way in which individual cases are handled. No doubt as a result of his experience and reflections on this matter the Commissioner would be able to lay before the House reports containing suggestions and proposals of that kind. As the Bill is drafted there is no procedure by which he can make a special report of that kind and that is a gap which the Amendment is intended to fill.

    Is it intended that interim reports of this character will deal with the sort of situation which could arise if there were a dispute between the Commissioner and the Department as to whether a matter was, for example, within a Minister's discretion and therefore subject to the Commissioner's investigation? Is that the sort of matter which the Financial Secretary envisages the Commissioner referring to Parliament in one of the interim reports to be determined by Parliament? If not, who does he envisage resolving such an issue?

    Mr. MacDermot
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