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Nothwithstanding anything contained in section eight of the principal Act or in any other enactment a local authority shall not at any aerodrome established by them carry on the business of supplying fuel, lubricants, equipment, or spare parts for aircraft, or of repairing aircraft, or letting aircraft on hire, but a local authority may, if they think fit, grant a lease or licence at the best rent obtainable to any one or more persons or companies of part of the land or buildings comprised in the aerodrome for the purpose of carrying on any such business
Provided always that in granting a lease of or letting the right to supply fuel and oil on such undertaking the corporation shall insert a condition to the effect that no proprietary brands or grades shall be excluded and that fuel or oil shall not be sold at a price in excess of that generally prevailing for similar grades and under similar conditions in other parts of the United Kingdom.—[Mr. H. G. Williams.
I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
I should like also to consider the next Clause, ("Prohibition of municipality carrying on the business of hotels"), which stands in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Bury (Mr. Chorlton), who is unable to be present and asked me to look after it for him. It might meet the general convenience of the Committee to have one discussion on the two Clauses, and if there is need for it the second Clause can be moved formally, without discussion. They both cover the same point of principle.
With great respect, if you do not propose to call the second Clause I submit that there is no reason whatever why it should be discussed. It raises a vitally different point and an entirely different subject, and I submit that if you do not propose to call it, because it is a matter of total irrelevance to this Bill, it ought not to be discussed. I understand that there are certain Amendments which you and your colleagues of the Chair have decided are irrelevant and ought not to be called. I understand that you have already considered this particular Clause, and I submit that if you do not propose to call it at a later stage that the hon. Member for South Croydon ought not to be allowed to discuss it.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN:
I am only suggesting that, if the Committee think fit, the principle of the two Clauses might be discussed together. I have no power of selection. I receive my instructions, and I cannot myself decide the matter. If it is the wish of the Committee to discuss these two Clauses together, I have no objection.
I raised the point because I thought that I might save a little time. The sale of alcoholic spirit and the sale of petroleum spirit raises different issues, I admit, but as in both cases it is suggested that there should be prohibition of sale by a municipality they raise the same political issue. I am, however, moving only the first Clause and I shall say nothing about the second. A very large number of people are engaged to-day, more particularly in the motor car business, in meeting the requirements of the motorists. If you travel round the country there is little or no need to maintain any supplies of these things, because you can get them so frequently. There is a highly organised garage industry. It is obvious, therefore, that if municipal aerodromes are established there will be no shortage of people willing to undertake what I would call the garage work for the aeroplanes in the ordinary way, just as provision is made by garages for the motor cars. There is no particular reason why the municipalities should enter into this new business, of which in general they have no experience. As long as there are available ample numbers of people who can do this thing in the ordinary way of business, it seems to me very much better that municipalities should not enter into the business. I do not believe in the expansion of municipal trading.
I think as a rule it is worse done than that which is done by private enterprise. I think the man who has the unnecessary degree of security which apparently every national or municipal enterprise provides for him, walks where he ought to run. In other words, it tends to make a man more idle than otherwise he would be. Some people are the apostles of idleness, and many of them are on the benches opposite. I rejoice in that because they practice what they preach.
Our security is what we make for ourselves, in the long run. Unless people feel the urge to do things and take risks, they do not make much progress in this life. In general, municipal enterprise and national enterprise are mere copyists; they are not originators. They are cuckoos, and we do not want more cuckoos than we need. [Interruption.] I do not know why hon. Members opposite do not like the line of thought I am adopting. We are really amazingly tolerant in listening to hon. Members opposite criticising the capitalist system, and they should be a little more patient when we endeavour to indulge in a denunciation of a quasi-Socialist system. An essential principle of democracy is a willingness to be criticised.
However, to come back to petrol. This is a routine business for many people, and it is obvious that it is a business which can be undertaken better by people with existing organisations and the necessary experience. It is much better, therefore, to leave the business to those who are experts at it. So far as the people who are to receive a lease are concerned, it is obvious that the law should impose upon them the condition suggested in the proviso, that there should be no special treatment for one class of owners of oil over another, that there must be fair opportunities for the sale of all kinds of necessary supplies. If there is to be one seller it would be undesirable that he should restrict himself to one particular kind of fuel or lubricating oil. A would-be purchaser should have a free choice. The case for the new Clause is one which will commend itself to hon. Members on this side of the Committee but not, I imagine, to hon. Members opposite, because they desire to see one gigantic monopoly. That is what they live for. That would be the destruction of freedom and personal liberty. I do not want to argue the whole case against the Socialist system, but I do want to take such steps as I can to see that it does not creep in unnecessarily into these municipal aerodromes.
This new Clause is as absurd in construction as it is reactionary in principle, and that is saying a very great deal. I trust that the Government will refuse to accept it. As it stands, a municipality could, if they so desired, license one of their officials and thus get completely round the hon. Member's new Clause.
If such a foolish new Clause as this were ever inserted in a Bill, any local authority, which desires to keep control over its own land and the purposes for which it may be used, could quite easily defeat the intention of the hon. Member by licensing one of its officials to conduct the business of supplying fuel and spare parts to aircraft using the aerodrome. But there is something even more foolish about the Clause than that. In the proviso there is a condition that the private contractor to whom the municipality is to be compelled to let its land must stock all proprietary brands of fuel and oil; none are to be excluded. Imagine what that means. It means that the private contractor under the terms of this silly new Clause would be compelled to stock 50 and 60 grades of oil and petrol.
What is the hon. Member's objection to the municipality which has purchased the land, who are the owners of the land, using it to the best advantage of the citizens? By the new Clause a municipality is to be restricted in the uses to which it might put the land, and they are restrictions which are not to be imposed on private owners of aerodromes who may now supply fuel and spare parts. If a municipality owns the land, then it is to be restricted in the uses to which it may put public property. Such a proposal is wholly inadmissible, and I am certain will not be supported even by hon. Members opposite. It seems to me that the hon. Member has put this new Clause down more as a leg-pulling Motion than anything else, in the hope of getting a. discussion on Socialism. I am sure that he has no hope of carrying it, and if it were carried it would be received with indignation by Conservative municipalities throughout the country who may be actually or potential owners of municipal property. I hope the Government, without further ado, will give this new Clause the dull, sickening thud which it merits.
In so far as the proposed new Clause is designed to prevent any possible mis-use of their powers by local authorities, I have some sympathy with the hon. Member, but I regret that I shall not be able to accept the Clause because I consider it would be a severe hindrance to the development of air transport in this country. The types of business which would appear to be legitimate as subsidiary or ancillary to the maintaining of an aerodrome are the provision of fuel and lubricants, the provision of spare parts and equipment and also the repair of aircraft. Probably cases will arise when the arrangements for the carrying on of a business such as the supplying of petrol and oil may not be possible, at any rate at all seasons of the year, either because of the remoteness of the aerodrome or for some other reason. Therefore, it seems to me essential that in those cases the local authority must be in a position to make provision to fill the gap.
I also suggest that it must not be assumed that local authorities are at all likely to wish to misuse their power in this direction. I will at the same time assure hon. Members who support the new Clause that the Air Ministry will take any action it can to discourage local authorities from embarking upon undertakings which could perhaps be more suitably left to ordinary commercial enterprise. The present position is that under Section 8 (2) of the 1920 Act a local authority providing an aerodrome has the power to carry on in connection with that aerodrome a subsidiary business which is certified by the Secretary of State as being a business ancillary to the maintaining of an aerodrome. In fairness to the local authorities I would like to emphasise that they have shown no general tendency to carry on such businesses. I am stating facts. In the whole of the 16 years since the passing of the 1920 Act only one certificate has been issued and that was for the sale of petrol and lubricants. However, the effect of this Section of the Act which I have quoted is that once a certificate has been issued in respect of a particular business on the application of a particular local authority, all local authorities maintaining aerodromes are automatically empowered to benefit from that certificate and to transact the business which is covered by it without themselves having to make any individual application.
We have come to the conclusion that perhaps that procedure can be improved upon and a clearer indication given of the policy of the Air Ministry in this connection. Therefore, I shall move on the Report stage an Amendment to Section 8 (2) of the 1920 Act, the effect of which will be that a local authority will not be empowered to carry on subsidiary businesses such as I have indicated except when it has made application to the Secretary of State for an Order in relation to a particular aerodrome. The result of that would be that in future any Order would not be of general application, but would apply only to the particular aerodrome in question. It will be given with reference to a particular aerodrome after full consideration of all the circumstances by the Air Ministry, in consultation with 'the Ministry of Health. I hope in that way the position will be adequately safeguarded and perhaps the wishes of the Mover of this new Clause will be secured without jeopardising or prejudicing the free and unfettered development of air transport.
The hon. and learned Member for East Leicester (Mr. Lyons) is quite in order in putting another question and no doubt the right hon. Baronet will answer both.
I understand there are very many municipal aerodromes in this country which have arranged for tenancies in respect of the supply of accessories in those aerodromes. Is it not a fact that the municipal aerodromes which have already let to various tenants the right to sell accessories and to make repairs in those aerodromes have in each case obtained satisfactory results? In those circumstances is there any ground for apprehension as to the letting to tenants of the right to sell in these municipal aerodrome?
I would like to make this matter clear to the Committee in case there should be any misapprehension as to what I said. I am not suggesting anything new; what I am suggesting is already contained in Section 8 (2) of the 1920 Act which says:
A local authority providing an aerodrome under this Section shall have power to carry on in connection therewith any subsidiary business certified by the Air Council to be ancillary to the carrying on of an aerodrome.
I am suggesting that when a certificate is given in a particular case it shall have an ad hoc application instead of a general application.
That statement, bad as it is, was prefaced by a, declaration by the right hon. Baronet that he, representing the Air Ministry, would do his utmost to prevent the municipalities from, as he put it, misusing their powers. In this Measure a restriction is to be placed upon the powers which the municipality may have over its own land.
I think the hon. Member is getting away from the Clause. From what the Under-Secretary of State said, I gather that the Government will resist the proposed new' Clause and that on the Report stage the Under-Secretary will put forward certain proposals. He mentioned that in giving his reasons for not accepting the Clause. The hon. Member cannot now discuss something which is to be put forward on the Report stage.
I accept your Ruling, but I would draw attention to the fact that, apart from the proposed new Clause which, as I understand, is to come on the Report stage, we had a declaration of policy from the right hon. Baronet to the effect that he and the Air Ministry propose in future to restrict the rights, powers and privileges which municipalities may have over their own land, restrictions which he does not propose to place upon private individuals who own land for aerodromes.
I appreciate the right hon. Gentleman's point, but as these matters are to be brought up on the Report stage it would be out of order to discuss them on this new Clause. The reason given by the Under-Secretary for resisting this new Clause was that he intended to propose something else on similar lines at a later stage and what that is going to be we cannot discuss now.
What the right hon. Baronet said was that an order passed now, under Section 8 of the Act of 1920, applied to all aerodromes and what he proposes to do on the Report stage is to alter the law to this extent, that where an order is issued, it is to apply only to one aerodrome and not to all. I do not, however, propose to discuss that point now.
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Stirling (Mr. Johnston) that on the Report stage he would be in order in discussing whatever proposal is then made, but we have now before us a particular new Clause and we must stick to that new Clause in this discussion.
With great deference, I do not propose to discuss now what the Government intend to do on the Report stage. I accept your Ruling in that respect. What I am discussing is the statement of policy made by the Minister.
May I move, "That the Chairman do report Progress and ask leave to sit again"? I do so in order to call attention to the serious statement made by the Minister and to give the Committee an opportunity of considering that statement. We are not hidebound in the rules and customs of the House of Commons, and as we have not an opportunity of discussing this question in an orderly manner on the new Clause which is now before the Committee, we ought to allow the Minister time to consider the matter further and to give us some clearer elucidation of what he means than we have had up to the present. I think it is the custom when a Minister declares a matter of policy that the Committee or the House should immediately ask for an opportunity for consideration of the matter and also for the right to express their view upon it. The right hon. Gentleman has told us that the Air Ministry, in future, is to take action contrary to that which it has been their duty to take in the past. We are told that between now and the Report' stage we are to consider the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, which is simply to the effect that the local, authorities are good enough when you want a piece of public work done, but only just so far as the policy of the right hon. Gentleman and the Air Ministry allow them to do that work. That is the most extraordinary statement I have ever heard from a Minister.
I want to point out to the Committee why we ought to have more time before we proceed further with this Bill. I understand that the establishment of municipal aerodromes is necessary because private enterprise has failed to give us the aerodromes which are required. Whatever my views may be about military aviation, and I hold strong views on that subject, I hope I have enough intelligence to support whole-heartedly civil aviation. I hope to see considerable development in that respect but how are you to develop it without aerodromes, and how are you to get your aerodromes without public assistance from the local authorities, and how can you expect those authorities to accede enthusiastically to your request and come to the nation's help in this matter, if you are to confine them in this ludicrous manner? Who are the Air Ministry, I should like to know, that they should say to the local authorities "We shall use you as far as we think right; we shall use your powers of taking over land and providing accommodation, but when it comes to a question of supplying a few quarts of oil or a few gallons of petrol or giving facilities for the repair of aeroplanes, you are not to be considered in the matter unless their high-and-mightinesses of the Air Ministry give you permission "? Do hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite think that the corporations of Manchester and Liverpool or the London County Council or even the Poplar Borough Council will allow themselves to be dealt with in that manner?
I recommend hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite to read the article on Joseph Chamberlain which appeared in the "Observer" of Sunday last, and to learn what one of their own greatest men did in matters of this kind. Always, when private enterprise is unable to do a job the State or the municipality has to take it in hand. The railway stations were built by private enterprise—miles away from where the people live in many parts of the country—and hon. Members opposite apparently want the aerodromes to be built in the same manner. They talk about wanting the young people of the nation to become air-minded. What they are actually trying to do is to suffocate the enthusiasm of the young people with red tape and with a lot of hindrances. I thought hon. Members opposite would be ashamed to allow themselves to be led in a matter of this kind by the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. G. Williams), whom I admire for the tenacity with which he attempts to stop progress in the House of Commons. I am surprised that they should line up behind him, but when the right hon. Baronet, who is at the head of a great Ministry, concerned with the great new industry, falls into the trap laid for him by the hon. Member—well, I am ashamed of him. I have always said that he was a good Air Minister because he was enthusiastic and devoted to aviation and gave no end of time, energy and enthusiasm to it. To-night he has succumbed, not to the guile or the wiles, but to the stupidity of the hon. Member for South Croydon who is like Mrs. Partington trying to sweep back the waves with a broom.
I hope that the Committee will agree to a Motion to report Progress as a protest against the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman and will inform him by their vote that they do not intend to allow him to bring in any proposition such as he has laid down to-night. Either the municipalities can be trusted to get the land and put up the aerodromes and administer them or they cannot. If you cannot trust them, do not allow them to do the job at all. But when Parliament has said that they may do it, I think it would be the height of absurdity for this Committee to give one minute's consideration to the ridiculous suggestion of the right hon. Baronet.
I gather that the right hon. Gentleman wishes to move to report Progress. As I have tried to explain to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Stirling (Mr. Johnston), the policy which it has been suggested will be brought forward on the Report stage does not concern us now. The question before us now is the new Clause which I understand the Government intend to resist. If there were a necessity to discuss that policy now, I would accept a Motion to report Progress, but as the matter does not come on until the Report stage, I do not propose to accept such a Motion on this occasion.
I rose before you put the Question. I asked that I might move to report Progress, and I moved it. I made a speech which I thought had something to do with that Motion, giving reasons why it should be carried. Do I understand that, having allowed me to move it, you can then at the end of my speech say that you practically rule it out of order, and put the original Question? I am not competent at the moment to be able to say what the position is but I can say I have never seen a situation such as that either in the Committee or the House before.
I think my position is perfectly clear. Under Standing Order 22 I have various options, and the option that I have exercised is that, as this matter will come up on the Report stage, I am not accepting the Motion to report Progress.
But you really had accepted it by allowing one to move it. I thought you had accepted my Motion and had allowed me to make my speech in support of it, and that by so doing you had allowed me to move it. I thought that your option was either to allow a discussion or put the question forthwith.
How would it be possible for you to know what the right hon. Gentleman was going to say before he said it? Would it have been fair to deprive the Committee of the pleasure of listening to him?