Clause 18. — (Accounts of the Board.)

Orders of the Day — Milford Haven Conservancy Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 11th December 1957.

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Photo of Mr Ness Edwards Mr Ness Edwards , Caerphilly 12:00 am, 11th December 1957

I beg to move, in page 20, line 41, after "year" to insert: which shall be laid before Parliament". We drew attention to the purpose of this Amendment when we had the Second Reading debate. Perhaps I may remind the Committee of what took place. We suggested then that the accounts which the Minister would receive at the end of each year should be laid on the Table of both Houses. We felt that, in those circumstances, the House would have some authority and supervision over what was being done by this authority which has delegated powers.

The Parliamentary Secretary, in his reply, said that he thought that the provisions of Clause 18 were sufficient to meet the point. I have made certain inquiries since then and I find that that is not so, and that the accounts are laid only when the Act compels them to be laid. In other circumstances, where there is no provision in the Act, they are not so laid and Parliament, in that sense, does not maintain a continuing supervision of what is done by the authority.

My right hon. and hon. Friends and I take the view that a matter of great principle is involved. When Parliament creates a non-parliamentary body and clothes it with very general authority and power, Parliament should have the right of examining how that power is being exercised. We do not think that it is sufficient for the Minister merely to have the accounts. After all, there is a responsibility set up between the authority and the Minister, but a link is missing in the chain. The Minister's responsibility to this House is not provided for unless there is a provision that he should lay the accounts on the Table of both Houses. In our view, Parliament can only maintain a supreme place with regard to the exercise of such delegated powers by a provision of the sort proposed in the Amendment.

I understand that the hon. Gentleman has considered this matter and I hope that the nature of his reply will enable me subsequently to say a few words about it.

Photo of Mr Airey Neave Mr Airey Neave , Abingdon

I have paid great attention to what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards) said in the Second Reading debate. It is, of course, quite true that we have made full provision in the Bill for the accounts and the auditors' reports to be kept available for inspection by the public without charge. He did, however, make the point in that debate, and I said that it would be considered, that the accounts should be laid before Parliament. There are certain precedents for that so far as dock and harbour authorities are concerned. In these circumstances, I propose at a later stage in these proceedings to move an Amendment which, I think, may be of assistance to the right hon. Gentleman.

As the Amendment stands, the Minister would have to lay only one copy of the accounts before one House of Parliament and there would, therefore, have to be some other copies supplied, for which provision would have to be made in the Bill. If the right hon. Gentleman will withdraw the Amendment, I shall have much pleasure in moving that at a later stage.

Photo of Mr Ness Edwards Mr Ness Edwards , Caerphilly

In view of what the Parliamentary Secretary has said, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 19 to 22 ordered to stand part of the Bill.