That is correct. We must first deal with the matter of Second Reading. If the Bill is read a Second time we shall proceed in the manner described by the hon. Gentleman.
|Division No. 98.]||AYES||[7.15 p.m.|
|Abse, Leo||Foley, Maurice||Kenyon, Clifford|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Foot, Sir Dingle (Ipswich)||Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Ford, Ben||Lawson, George|
|Atkinson, Norman||Fraser, Rt. Hn. Tom (Hamilton)||Leadbitter, Ted|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Freeson, Reginald||Ledger, Ron|
|Baxter, William||Galpern, Sir Myer||Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)|
|Beaney, Alan||Garrett, W. E.||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)|
|Bence, Cyril||Garrow, A.||Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||George, Lady Megan Lloyd||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)|
|Bennett, J. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)||Ginsburg, David||Lomas, Kenneth|
|Bessell, Peter||Gourlay, Harry||Loughlin, Charles|
|Binns, John||Gregory, Arnold||Lubbock, Eric|
|Bishop, E. S.||Grey, Charles||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson|
|Blackburn, F.||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||McBride, Neil|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly)||McCann, J.|
|Boardman, H.||Griffiths, Will (M'chester, Exchange)||McInnes, James|
|Boston, T. G.||Grimond, Rt. Hon. J.||Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)|
|Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W. (Leics S.W.)||Gunter, Rt. Hn. R. J.||Mackie, John (Enfieltl, E.)|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Hale, Leslie||MacMillan, Malcolm|
|Bradley, Tom||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Mahon, Peter (Preston, s.)|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Hamilton, William (West Fife)||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)|
|Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper)||Hamling, William (Woolwich, W.)||Manuel, Archie|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Glasgow, Provan)||Hannan, William||Mapp, Chares|
|Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & Fbury)||Harper, Joseph||Maxwell, Robert|
|Buchan, Norman (Renfrewshire, W.)||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Mellish, Robert|
|Buchanan, Richard||Hart, Mrs. Judith||Mendelson, J. J.|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Hattersley, Roy||Mikardo, Ian|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Hazeil, Bert||Miller, Dr. M. S.|
|Carmichael, Neil||Heffer, Eric S.||Milne, Edward (Blyth)|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Henderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Molloy, William|
|Chapman, Donald||Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret||Monslow, Walter|
|Coleman, Donald||Hill, J. (Midlothian)||Morris, John (Aberavon)|
|Conlan, Bernard||Hobden, Dennis (Brighton, K'town)||Murray, Albert|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Hooson, H. E.||Newens, Stan|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Horner, John||Noel-Baker,Rt.Hn.Philip(Derby, S.)|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Oakes, Gordon|
|Dalyell, Tam||Howarth, Harry (wellingborough)||Ogden, Eric|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Howarth, Robert L. (Bolton, E.)||Oram, Albert E. (E. Ham, S.)|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Howie, W.||Orbach, Maurice|
|Delargy, Hugh||Hoy, James||Orme, Stanley|
|Dell, Edmund||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Oswald, Thomas|
|Dempsey, James||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Owen, Will|
|Doig, Peter||Hunter, Adam (Dunfermline)||Page, Derek (King's Lynn)|
|Donnelly, Desmond||Hunter, A. E. (Feltham)||Paget, R. T.|
|Driberg, Tom||Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Palmer, Arthur|
|Duffy, Dr. A. E. P.||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Park, Trevor (Derbyshire, S.E.)|
|Dunn, James A.||Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Parker, John|
|Edelman, Maurice||Jackson, Colin||Parkin, B. T.|
|Ensor, David||Janner, Sir Barnett||Pavitt, Laurence|
|Evans, loan (Birmingham, Yardley)||Jeger, George (Goole)||Pentland, Norman|
|Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Jeger,Mrs.Lena(H'b'n&St.P'cras,S.)||Perry, Ernest G.|
|Fletcher, Sir Eric (Islington, E.)||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Popplewell, Ernest|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Fletcher, Raymond (llkeston)||Jones,Rt.Hn.SirElwyn(w.Ham,S.)||Probert, Arthur|
|Floud, Bernard||Kelley, Richard||Rankin, John|
|Redhead, Edward||Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)||Urwin, T. W.|
|Rees, Merlyn||Small, William||Varley, Eric G.|
|Rhodes, Geoffrey||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Richard, Ivor||Snow, Julian||Walden, Brian (All Saints)|
|Robertson, John (Paisley)||Solomons, Henry||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Robinson, Rt. Hn.K.(St. Pancras, N.)||Steel, David (Roxburgh)||Wallace, George|
|Rogers, William (Stockton)||Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)||Warbey, William|
|Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)||Stones, William||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Ross, Rt. Hn. William||Summerskill, Dr. Shirley||Whitlock, William|
|Rowland, Christopher||Swain, Thomas||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E.||Swingier, Stephen||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Shore, Peter (Stepney)||Symonds, J. B.||Willis, George (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Short,Rt.Hn.E.(N'c'tle-on-Tyne,C.)||Taverne, Dick||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hmpton.N.E.)||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)||Zilliacus, K.|
|Silkin, John (Deptford)||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Silkin, S. C. (Camberwell, Dulwich)||Thornton, Ernest||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)||Thorpe, Jeremy||Mr. Charles R. Morris and|
|Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)||Tinn, James||Mr. Rose.|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Goodhart, Philip||Monro, Hector|
|Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.)||Goodhew, Victor||More, Jasper|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)|
|Anstruther-Gray, Rt. Hn. Sir W.||Gurden, Harold||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles|
|Astor, John||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Murton, Oscar|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Hall-Davies, A. G. F.||Neave, Airey|
|Awdry, Daniel||Hamilton, Marquess of (Fermanagh)||Nicholson, Sir Godfrey|
|Baker, W. H. K.||Hamilton, M. (Salisbury)||Nugent, Rt. Hn. Sir Richard|
|Barlow, Sir John||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Onslow, Cranley|
|Batsford, Brian||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Osborn, John (Hallam)|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Maccles'd)||Page, John (Harrow, W.)|
|Bell, Ronald||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Page, R. Graham (Crosby)|
|Berkeley, Humphry||Hawkins, Paul||Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel||Peel, John|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward||Percival, Ian|
|Bingham, R. M.||Hendry, Forbes||Peyton, John|
|Blaker, Peter||Higgins, Terence L.||Pickthorn, Rt. Hn. Sir Kenneth|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. J.||Hiley, Joseph||Pitt, Dame Edith|
|Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward||Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch|
|Brewis, John||Hirst, Geoffrey||Prior, J. M. L.|
|Brinton, Sir Tatton||Hobson, Rt. Hn. Sir John||Pym, Francis|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James|
|Bruce-Gardyne, J.||Hopkins, Alan||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick||Hordern, Peter||Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David|
|Buck, Antony||Howard, Hn. G. R. (St. Ives)||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas|
|Bullus, Sir Eric||Howe, Geoffrey (Bebington)||Robson Brown, Sir William|
|Burden, F, A.||Hunt, John (Bromley)||Roots, William|
|Buxton, R. C.||Hutchison, Michael Clark||St. John-Stevas, Norman|
|Campbell, Gordon||Iremonger, T. L.||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Carlisle, Mark||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Sharples, Richard|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Jennings, J. C.||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick|
|Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)||Johnson Smith, G. (East Grinsteead)||Smyth, Rt. Hon. Brig. Sir John|
|Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)||Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)||Speir, Sir Rupert|
|Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith||Stainton, Keith|
|Corfield, F. V.||Kaberry, Sir Donald||Stanley, Hn. Richard|
|Costain, A. P.||Kerr, Sir Hamilton (Cambridge)||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthone)||Kershaw, Anthony||Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow,Cathcart)|
|Crawley, Aidan||Kilfedder, James A.||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Crowder, F. P.||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Cunningham, Sir Knox||Kirk, Peter||Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon,S.)|
|Curran, Charles||Lagden, Godfrey||Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)|
|Dance, James||Lambton, Viscount||Tilney, John (Wavertree)|
|Davies, Dr. Wyndham (Perry Barr)||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.|
|Dean, Paul||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F.||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||Longbottom, Charles||Walder, David (High Peak)|
|Doughty, Charles||Loveys, Walter H.||Walters, Dennis|
|du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Eden, Sir John||MacArthur, Ian||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||McLaren, Martin||Webster, David|
|Elliott, R. W.(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,N.)||McNair-Wilson, Patrick||Whitelaw, William|
|Emery, Peter||Maginnis, John E.||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Errington, Sir Eric||Maitland, Sir John||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Farr, John||Marten, Neil||Wise, A. R.|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles (Darwen)||Mathew, Robert||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Sir John (S'pton)||Mawby, Ray||Wylie, N. R.|
|Foster, Sir John||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Younger, Hn. George|
|Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||Mills, Peter (Torrington)|
|Gardner, Edward||Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Giles, Rear-Admiral Morgan||Miscampbell, Norman||Sir Charles Taylor and|
|Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, Central)||Mitchell, David||Sir Walter Bromley-Davenport.|
|Glover, Sir Douglas|
I beg to move,
That it be an Instruction to the Committee on the Bill to leave out Part II of the Bill.
Part II deals with what the rubric to Clause 5 calls the "Acquisition of land for development," but that Clause and the other Clauses of Part II go a good deal further. I should like, first, to refer very briefly to the five Clauses in Part II and then deal with them in more detail. Clause 5 deals with acquisition by compulsory purchase, subject to confirmation by the Minister, for the purposes set out. There is precedent in other Measures for Clause 5, but I submit that the Manchester Corporation has no special case for this Clause.
Clause 6 deals with the acquisition of land for improving the appearance of derelict, neglected or unsightly land, and I will merely say of it that the general law making provision for this to be done was passed by this House as recently as 1963 in the Local Authorities (Land) Act. That Act gives local authorities quite sufficient power, and there seems to be no justification for Manchester Corporation to ask for a slight alteration in the general law for its own purpose.
Ancillary to Clause 5 are Clauses 7 and 8. Clause 7 gives to the corporation power to lend to enable purchase of, or to enable a person to build upon, land. Clause 8 refers to the corporation's power to lend or grant money for building, extending or improving an industrial building.
Clause 9 is wholly unprecedented. It is entitled, rather innocently, "Agreements with developers". It sets out the conditions which may be inserted in an agreement between the corporation and the developer and the consequences that may follow from such an agreement. As the Clause stands, both the original grant of town planning permission and the hearing of an appeal to the Minister from a refusal of town planning permission could be dependent upon the developer entering into such an agreement. It looks rather like a sort of legalised blackmail concerning the granting of town planning permission. Those are the Clauses with which we are concerned and, having briefly referred to them, perhaps I may now deal with them in more detail.
Under Clause 5 there are stated the purposes for which the corporation may,
by means of an order which must be submitted to the Minister and confirmed by the Minister, purchase land compulsorily for the purpose of building or carrying out works on that land
for the benefit or improvement of the city.
That is one puppose which is set out in the Clause. But the purposes go much further than that of purchasing land and building on it for the benefit and improvement of the city. The second purpose, under paragraph (b) is:
facilitating the provision of premises for occupation by any undertaking carried on or to be carried on there or for otherwise meeting the requirements of such undertaking.
It seems that the corporation is seeking power to acquire land for the purposes of a private undertaking, perhaps an undertaking subsidised and supported by the corporation. Subsection (3) says:
In this section the expression 'undertaking' includes any trade or business, or any other activity providing employment.
This is a very wide Clause. There are five precedents for it in previous private Bills. The first was in a Bill for Jarrow in 1939. I do not think Manchester Corporation would claim that Manchester is in the same state in 1965 as Jarrow was in 1939. Undoubtedly. at that time, such a Clause was necessary to attract industry to the Jarrow area in order to provide employment there. The Clause did not occur again in Private Bills until 1960, when Lancashire County Council sought to include it in the Lancashire County Council Bill of that year. The case made by Lancashire was that there were areas in the county where it was necessary to attract industry so as to provide employment for a percentage of unemployed higher than in the rest of the country.
The same applied to three following Bills, Durham County Council Bill, 1963, West Riding County Council Bill, 1964, and Cumberland County Council Bill, 1964. In connection with each of these county council Bills there was the justification of need to attract industry by reason of unemployment in the area of the county. In three out of four of those cases since 1960 the time in which the powers under this Clause could be exercised was limited to a period of five years. That limit does not appear in the Manchester Corporation Bill. I do not believe that this is genuinely required by Manchester Corporation on the grounds on which the Clause has been justified previously for Private Bills, to provide employment where there is a attract industry to the area in order to high rate of unemployment.
I think that this Clause is required by Manchester solely for city centre development. For that reason I ask the House to instruct the Committee to reject the Clause. If there is a genuine case and Manchester Corporation needs land or buildings for this purpose there are two methods by which it can take exactly this step under the general law. It can go through the process of designating the land for compulsory purchase and holding a normal public inquiry. Why does Manchester Corporation want to avoid a public inquiry which every other corporation would have to go through if it required land for this purpose? Is it afraid in some way of bringing this matter before the public at an inquiry?
Secondly, the corporation could ask the Board of Trade to act under Section 2 of the Local Employment Act, 1960. The Board of Trade can take exactly these steps to acquire land for the corporation to support undertakings which will attract employment to the area. So there are two ways under the general law by which Manchester Corporation can carry out what it wants to do under this Clause and there is no special case why it should have this Clause. One can see how this Clause might operate by promoting subsidised competition for some favoured undertaking if one refers to the following Clauses, especially Clauses 7 and 8. Those Clauses give the corporation power to lend money and Clause 8 gives power to make grants for the purpose of development by other undertakings.
By Clause 8:
the Corporation may. if requested so to do by any person—
may lend or grant money
for the provision or improvement of services or facilities on which any trade or business carried on or intended to be carried on in such building.
This is a power given to the corporation to support business undertakings by grants not necessarily for building, but to provide services in connection with that business.
I do not think that I need refer to Clauses 7 and 8 again. They are ancillary to purposes which to me are objectionable in Clause 5. But I must couple with Clause 5 a subsection of Clause 9, namely, subsection (3) whereby
The Corporation may take or acquire shares or other securities in any company incorporated in the United Kingdom with which an agreement is entered into under this section.
The corporation might acquire the shares in some private undertaking and buy land for that undertaking, erect buildings for it, provide the services for it and run any business it chooses.
This would place Manchester in the position of being able to build anything it chose, to trade in anything it chose, to indulge in take-overs and practise monopolies. The purely logical reading of the Bill gives Manchester all those powers.
In addition, Clause 9 is entirely novel. Such a Clause has never been seen before in any Private Bill. So far as I know, no promoter of a Private Bill has endeavoured to obtain from Parliament the powers which Manchester Corporation seeks to obtain by this Clause.
From a statement issued by Manchester Corporation, I understand that it is prepared to remove certain subsections and paragraphs of Clause 9. It is prepared to remove paragraph (a) of subsection (1) and also to remove subsection (4). I must, however, refer to these because they show the intention of the Clause as originally drawn, an intention which I submit still remains in the Clause even when those paragraphs and the subsection have been removed. In Clause 9(1) it is said:
The Corporation and any person having an estate or interest in any land within the city may enter into an agreement which may provide for …
Then there are set out a number of paragraphs, of which the first says:
granting permission to carry out development of that land or of that land and other land within the city;
This is obviously intended to be an agreement whereby there will be a contract, as it were, between the corporation
and a developer who applies for town planning permission as to the terms on which the corporation will grant that permission. Without paragraph (a) it would be open to the corporation to say, "We will not grant you town planning permission, unless you enter into this agreement containing the provisions of the rest of Clause 9".
The Town and Country Planning Act, 1962, lays down clearly the conditions upon which town planning permission can be granted. It cannot be made subject to any other conditions than those provided in Sections 17 and 18 of that Act. What the corporation was here trying to do was to choose its own conditions, in disregard of the general town planning law. If Clause 9 meant anything at all, it meant that Manchester wanted to impose conditions which are not within the law, not within Sections 17 and 18 of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1962.
It may be said that this agreement provided by Clause 9 is intended to be only voluntary. If a developer liked to enter into an agreement with the corporation, he could do so. If he did not want to, he need not do so. If the corporation refused him town planning permission, he could appeal to the Minister. But then, as the Clause stood before this offer to remove subsection (4), had the applicant appealed to the Minister he would have been faced with subsection (4):
Where an appeal is brought under section 23 of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1962, the Minister may before allowing or dismissing the appeal or revising or varying any part of the decision require the applicant to enter into an agreement with the Corporation.
So the corporation, as it first drew Clause 9, was endeavouring to dictate to the Minister what he should do on an appeal from an applicant who had been refused planning permission by the Corporation. It was an impudent Clause to put before the House. Now that the Corporation has withdrawn, or intends to withdraw, subsection (4), it may look, on the face of it, to be a little better.
What is left of the Clause now? Before I look at the wording of the Clause again, let me remind the House of the general law about agreements between local authorities and developers. It is set out clearly in Section 37 of the Town aid Country Planning Act, 1962. This gives corporations a very wide power to
enter into agreements with developers. The Section says:
A local planning authority may, with the approval of the Minister, enter into an agreement with any person interested in land in their area for the purpose of restricting or regulating the development or use of the land, either permanently or during such period as may be prescribed by the agreement; and any such agreement may contain such incidental and consequential provisions (including provisions of a financial character) as appear to the local planning authority to be necessary or expedient for the purposes of the agreement.
One would think that that was wide enough for any corporation, including the Manchester Corporation. It gives the corporation power to enter into agreements containing almost anything relevant to development. But the important provision in Section 37 is that the local authority can do this only with the approval of the Minister. If it intends to enter into such an agreement, it is under the supervision of the Minister. It is that which the Manchester Corporation leaves out of Clause 9.
What is the corporation afraid of? Is it afraid that the Minister will not give approval to right, proper and reasonable agreements which it makes with developers? It seems so from the drafting of Clause 9, otherwise there is no purpose in it. The corporation can do all it needs under the general law.
When one looks at some of the express provisions which the corporation wishes to insert in its agreements with developers, one can see a reason for the Clause. One finds this sort of thing. Under paragraph (d) the agreement can include a provision.
that the estate or interest of that person"—
that is, the developer—
in that land shall not be conveyed or assigned except by way of mortgage or legal charge to any person unless the Corporation shall first have satisfied themselves that that person has or can command sufficient financial resources to carry out the development for which permission is granted and to implement all the provisions of the agreement".
What happens if the owner of the land dies? Are his personal representatives tied to an assignee or a purchaser nominated by the corporation? There is not in the Clause even a provision that the consent of the corporation or the approval of the corporation is not to be unreasonably withheld. There is no provision for an appeal. This
is dictation by the corporation as to the person to whom the owner of land shall sell the land.
Paragraph (e) provides that the agreement may contain provision for
the maintenance and cleansing of the public rights of way …
This is right outside ordinary town planning law and could not be imposed under the normal conditions of Sections 17 and 18 of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1962.
Subsection (2) begins in this way:
An agreement entered into under the last preceding subsection may contain",
and it first sets out a provision that positive covenants shall be enforceable against successors in title. This is a complete change of the general law. It may be a good change, but this is a change in the general law to which the corporation is not individually entitled and it cannot show a case for it above any other local authority.
Then there may be a stipulation that if there is a
resolution of the council that the development … has not been completed by the time determined by the agreement … the Corporation may … estimate the cost of carrying out all the development … which has not been completed … and … declare that sum to be a legal charge
on the property. It is to be
a first charge on the estate",
no matter what other first mortgagee there may be. Then:
any person … may appeal to the tribunal".
However, having appealed to the tribunal and won his appeal, there is this:
but a decision of the tribunal shall not preclude the Corporation from making further declarations by resolution of the council if circumstances change.
The change in circumstances is to be entirely at the discretion of the corporation, with no appeal at all from it. An unfortunate developer, having a charge placed upon his property, appeals to the tribunal and wins his case, but the next day is told by the corporation that the circumstances are changed and that it will not obey the tribunal's decision.
Under Clause 9(2,b)
the Corporation may … enter on the land and do the work in default and the expenses incurred by the Corporation shall be recoverable by them from the person in default or from the owner of the land.
Apparently the corporation can recover the costs of completing the work as well as place a charge on the property for the estimated cost of the work and do it twice over. The man can go on appealing again and again and pay twice for work which he has not completed.
This is the sort of provision which by this Clause Manchester Corporation wants to include in agreements which cannot possibly be described as voluntary agreements. Suppose that the developer goes before the corporation with an application for general planning permission and he is invited to enter into this so-called voluntary agreement and he declines to do so and he is then refused town planning permission. Everyone knows how long it takes him to appeal from that and get the Minister's final decision. Of course, there is pressure on him to enter into an agreement of this sort. This is not the sort of provision which should be brought before the House in a Private Bill. It is an entirely new Clause. It has no precedent. I originates in the minds of the Manchester Corporation and should not be approved by the House.
This is the final Clause of Part II. I have described Clauses 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 and I ask that the Committee be instructed to leave out the whole of Part II of the Bill.
I intend to confine my remarks entirely to Clauses 5 and 6 because I know that many of my hon. Friends are anxious to speak. Hon. Members who live in or represent constituencies in the Manchester conurbation will only be too well aware of the legacy of industrial squalor which the city corporation faces. They will know, moreover, that no amount of piecemeal development will create the wholesome and esthetically satisfying environment which should be the heritage of those who live and work in the industrial North. It is exactly the scrappy piecemeal approach which we must discard in the Buchanan age where new concepts of planning and technical requirements demand a new approach to the whole question of land ownership.
We need planned comprehensive development, and the new powers sought by the Manchester Corporation must be at the corporation's disposal if we are to get on with the job. These powers are additional to those which are available under existing enactments. It is inevitable that the use of these additional powers will interfere with the vested interests of a few individuals, but the overriding need is to provide modern amenities in a modern city. We have to provide in the North an alternative magnet to the swollen South-East. This is more than ample justification for these very limited additional powers sought, particularly in Clauses 5 and 6. Some exception has been taken to Clause 5 on the ground that its effect would be to permit the corporation to engage in trade on the acquired land.
On the need to revitalise these areas of Manchester, which I do not dispute for a moment, could the hon. Gentleman explain in a little more detail why the existing power for the designation of this area as one for comprehensive development is inadequate?
That is precisely what I was going to deal with. I want to deal first with some of the objections to the Clause, and I will deal with that point in the correct order.
Municipal trading has been regarded as one of the objectives here and this is anathema to those who always prefer private profits to go into the private purse rather than towards helping the ratepayer. This is something of a red herring, apart from the doctrinaire nature of the objection, because it must be emphasised strongly that this is not the object of the Clause.
Clause 5 seeks to empower the corporation to purchase land by agreement, or, with the consent of the Minister of Housing and Local Government, compulsorily, for the benefit, improvement and development of the city. The city has possessed the former power over the past 40 years but this Bill will give it compulsory powers to begin sound, much-needed development and redevelopment projects. One of the problems frequently facing an authority like the Manchester Corporation is that large-scale private development of an approved kind is often held up because the developer cannot get the freehold of one or two small sites which may be a tiny proportion of the whole. It would be wasteful of time and effort if it had to turn to the only other course of action by designating the site as an area of comprehensive development and then purchase the land and lease it in a building agreement to a developer.
I would say in answer to the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page), who has referred to this difficulty, that there is a right of petition against the Bill, and those who are responsible for Manchester's affairs are only too anxious to present their plans to a Select Committee to show why these powers are needed. The effect of voting against the relevant Clause would be that these powers would go out entirely. We ask that Manchester Corporation be entitled to bring its plans forward and to demonstrate why these powers are necessary. This is all we ask at this point.
The sort of projects envisaged by Manchester hardly come under the heading of municipal trading. They include such things as a new centre for the B.B.C., a new headquarters for the Union of Lancashire and Cheshire Institutes, a new teaching centre and an imaginative proposal for a new arts and cultural centre in the city.
The hon. Member will appreciate that this is an entirely new reason for the Clause. The five precedents which I quoted for the Clause were justified entirely on the need for industrial development to attract employment. This is entirely new and that is why I am objecting to it.
Manchester Corporation is only too anxious to demonstrate why this is necessary and by voting against the Clause hon. Members will be denying the corporation that facility. The hon. Member for Crosby forgets the real and difficult problems faced by the corporation. He forgets that this is a particularly difficult legacy which is confined to the industrial North. We need real powers. We need teeth. It is not merely a question of bringing in industry.
One of the problems of urban renewal in Manchester stems directly from a go-ahead programme of large-scale slum clearance in the centre of the city. It is desired to get on with these proposals and there are large numbers of small businessmen who will be forced to seek alternative accommodation in the city. The Bill offers one solution of that problem. The objectors, among whom I understand is the Manchester Chamber of Commerce, are in great danger of causing distress and hardship to a large number of small business men in the city because of their doctrinaire objection to the possibility of municipal trading. I, for one, would oppose any attempt to deprive these small businessmen, dispossessed by Manchester improvement schemes, of the opportunity to seek their legitimate livelihood within the city.
Many firms have already been displaced, and in plans up to 1971 it is estimated that there are 650 small industrial and warehousing firms which will be affected by slum clearance and other major projects. It is only just that these people who built up their businesses in the city should be accorded the right to remain in the city which gave them their prosperity and to which they have contributed and, I hope, will go on contributing. Clause 5 would be a very useful addition to the corporation's existing powers to meet these requirements. The hon. Member for Crosby has said that the Clause is unprecedented. The conditions which make the Clause a necessity may be different, but the Clause itself is not unprecedented. It follows Section 6 of the Durham County Council Act, 1963, and also the West Riding County Council (General Powers) Act, 1964.
I turn now to Clause 6. We are here concerned with very forward-looking and imaginative proposals to rescue Manchester from the squalid legacy of Victorian industrialism which the laissez-faire economics of some hon. Members opposite bequeathed to us. Those who have spent their lives in Manchester know what conditions are like in areas like Red Bank or the Valleys of the Irk and the Medlock. We know the twilight areas on the periphery of the city and the problems which are faced there, problems which, of course, are to be found in many of our large cities. In my own constituency, I have the problem of a derelict site in Croft of Lily Lane which I hope that certain people will take note of. All these things have to be dealt with, and those hon. Members who have seen what the problems involve know that it is time that a concerted effort was made in cities like Manchester to improve their appearance and make them places of which we can be proud.
Manchester Corporation is planning a magnificent scheme for the improvement of the Irk Valley, where there are large tracts of derelict land and large tracts of land which is not derelict which have to be obtained by the corporation. The idea of this scheme is to create what have been called green fingers stretching out from the congested centre towards the suburbs, in other words, to create new linear parks. I look forward to the time when my constituents in Blackley, those who reside near Boggart Hole Cleugh or Heaton Park, will be able to walk from there to the centre of the city in pleasant green surroundings. If powers for this purpose are secured under Clause 6, it will one day be a real possibility.
I refer to Clause 6 in this context because the corporation must secure the necessary powers if these projects are one day to be a reality in our city. The problem is not so much one of the derelict land. The corporation can carry out work on derelict land which it owns. There is no great problem on derelict land owned by others because even there, by agreement, it can carry out work or it can even take over the land. The problem arises in relation to non-derelict land. If we are to have a comprehensive scheme, if the corporation is to have a situation in which it can deal with derelict, neglected or unsightly land coming within the scope of the existing powers, it is desirable also to incorporate in the same project areas of vacant land which are not themselves derelict, neglected or unsightly and which are, therefore, outside the powers of acquisition which at present exist.
The Irk Valley scheme, for example, would be entirely impossible without the powers sought for in the Bill. It is essential in this connection that both derelict
and non-derelict land should be treated together as one area for the purposes of improvement. I know that the corporation will be only too pleased to present facts, maps and plans to a Select Committee of the House. I hope that in this case, as in all the others in respect of which objections have been made, hon. Members opposite will not allow blind vested interest, lack of knowledge of the problems facing Manchester or doctrinaire stubbornness against the principle of municipal trading to stand in the way of the well-being of my constituents and the constituents of hon. Members on both sides who reside in or represent parts of Manchester and who want to see the improvement of our city so that we may all live in a healthier, happier, and more beautiful place.
I agree with the general sentiments which have been expressed by the hon. Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose). One of our great disabilities—this applies not only to Manchester but to all our industrial areas in the North—is that we have the oldest capital assets in the world and we must replace them. This is a task which, in its vast comprehension, faces no other industrialised nation. When I listened to my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page), whose judgments and opinions on so many matters are much respected in the House, I felt how much I wished that I could imprison his great energies in this task of recreating "Buchananising", if anyone likes the word—a great capital city like Manchester. Those who may have seen or travelled through Manchester recently will know that it has become a wilderness of vacant land and cleared sites, that the fulfilment of slum clearance is almost on the point of completion. Here is a glittering golden opportunity to recreate in full our great capital city.
I am setting my sights high in this, almost on an idealistic plane, but I am convinced that we must approach all these problems now. I have to divorce myself from views which I once held and expressed in the House. My hon. Friend the Member for Crosby referred to our work years ago in regard to Jarrow, for example, when the mood dominating both sides of the House was concentrated upon mass unemployment. Any expedient, either through a Private Bill or a Government Measure, which any hon. Member cared to put before the House of Commons which would add a little improvement in that situation of mass unemployment was accepted. But those problems, fortunately—they were not the good old days—no longer exist. Now we have a much bigger and much wider challenge to face.
I have had the privilege of representing part of Manchester and its immediate area in the House of Commons for the last 30 years. I have been very proud to do so. But, again and again, in going through that area, the question has occurred to me: how are we to re-create its capital assets for a modern society? Anyone who has thought about these things knows that a similar pattern exists not just in Manchester but in the North-East, in the surrounding areas of Glasgow and Edinburgh, and elsewhere. No matter where one turns, one sees this enormous out-dated capital asset which must be replaced. We can no longer procrastinate about it.
I was a little surprised that my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Sir C. Taylor) divided the House on the Second Reading. He and his hon. Friends are old friends of mine, and I have participated in many votes with them. Why, having blessed nine-tenths of the Bill and having put upon the Order Paper three Instructions which we can debate, they should divide against the Second Reading of the Bill in toto, a Bill to which they had already given their blessing, I do not really understand.
I was unaware of that, and I hope that my hon. Friend will forgive me. I did not know that he had had negotiations of that kind. But I had hoped that the Second Reading would pass without a dissenting voice here. There are great problems now coming upon us. I assume—I hope that the House will forgive me for doing so—that, in regard to the implications of some of the matters in the Bill which are the subject of contention, Manchester City Corporation would behave most honourably. By a sinister, difficult and perhaps spiteful authority in another part of the country, these powers could be misused, but I must assume that Manchester Corporation will discharge honourably any of the duties underlying the Clauses, particularly in Part II, which have been objected to—perhaps rightly so from its point of view—by Manchester Chamber of Commerce.
I hope that, confronted as we are with enormous challenges, we shall, in considering this Bill, divorce ourselves from past attitudes belonging more appropriately to 25 years ago, that we shall not read sinister implications in the Bill and that the House will examine it fairly and objectively. If there is any aspect of Part II which could be further refined, there will be opportunity to do so.
I am surprised that my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby should have sought examples in Jarrow and other places once stricken by unemployment. We are in a completely new and different situation. Unless we were able to look at this Bill in terms of a completely new situation in which we must rebuild the capital assets of our country and recreate our provisional capitals, I would be depressed for the future work of the House. I hope that, perhaps with further refinement, we shall, in spite of the Motions on the Order Paper, get this Bill for Manchester Corporation. I think that the House should know that the Bill has the blessing of all three parties in Manchester City Council.
Normally, the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) and I are on common ground, as I have always known him to be a man who is balanced, understanding and appreciative of most earthly situations. I am sorry to tell him now that he has not put forward a reasoned case against this Bill, contrary to his usual practice, but has presented a case of spleen against Manchester Corporation, accusing it of wanting to do something on its own outside general legislation and of wanting to dictate right, left and centre simply for the sake of dictating.
I am grateful to my friend and neighbour, the hon. Member for Manchester, Withington (Sir R. Carey) for the reasoned way in which he put the sorry position in which Manchester finds itself today in relation to redevelopment. That situation is transitional but these empty spaces in Manchester, may well affect not only Manchester itself but the position of our country in the eyes of the world.
The hon. Member for salubrious Eastbourne (Sir C. Taylor) has been to Manchester frequently because he likes doing trade there. I do not know how often the hon. Member for Crosby has been there but I think that every dispassionate person who comes to our City, with its great and famous traditions not only in trade but also in great moral messages and leadership, will agree that it is a matter of the greatest consequence that Manchester should be rebuilt according to modern requirements and be the shop window not only for Manchester and the North-West but for Britain and the Commonwealth as well.
Manchester attracts millions of people every year to do business, much of it in exports which are so important. But what kind of a picture do foreigners see? They find it somewhat flat because of the age of the buildings and because, apparently, nothing is or can be done swiftly under existing legislation in order to expedite the rebuilding of the City of which we are so very proud.
Manchester is a very progressive city. It has a progressive corporation. I am very glad that the hon. Member for Withington pointed out that the Bill has the unanimous approval of the Conservative, Liberal and Labour Parties in Manchester. This is not a proposition which has merely been passed on the nod. All the implications of the Bill were carefully examined by the corporation's general parliamentary committee, of which I have the honour to be a member and on which all three parties are represented. The committee was unanimous in support of the Bill.
Then the Bill had to go before the City Council. It could not be passed by a majority of those present at the time. It had to be passed by a majority of the full Council. The Council passed it unanimously after considering it.
I cannot agree to that. I do not think that you have any knowledge of procedure on this matter. The Bill has received its Second Reading and your efforts to prevent it were without success, which is all I wish you in Future. After we have defeated your attempts to put the brakes on—
Just a minute. You will have your chance when you catch Mr. Deputy-Speaker's eye. I have it now and it is my opportunity to speak for Manchester. The hon. Gentleman may speak for Eastbourne.
The procedure is that, even when these Instructions are defeated, the Bill must go before a Select Committee of this House. That Committee must be satisfied not by mere speeches but by evidence in support of all the Clauses. It will not be impressed merely by speeches and airy nothings. Every Clause must be proved to that Select Committee before the Bill can become the law of the land.
It is not correct to say that if these Motions are defeated tonight the Bill will automatically become law. All we are asking is that we should be allowed to prove our case and to bring evidence before the Select Committee, but apparently your Motions are intent on preventing us and on stifling us so that we cannot produce the necessary evidence. We from Manchester are prepared to bring evidence, chapter and verse, in support of every Clause to the satisfaction of the Select Committee. If the Select Committee is not satisfied that Manchester has made out its case, it will delete such Clauses as it thinks fit, but you do not want to let us—
I am sorry, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I should have said that the hon. Member for Eastbourne and the hon. Member for Crosby do not want to let us, but I hope that their colleagues will not agree with them. What is wrong with the Bill going to a Select Committee? I should have thought that it was the British right to be heard, certainly for a corporation anxious to rebuild its city.
What is wrong with Clause 9? This is not a matter of dictation or compulsion. All the Clause does is to empower the corporation to encourage developers to rebuild the city more speedily in the interests not only of Manchester and Lancashire but Britain, including Eastbourne and Crosby. Quite clearly, what we are doing is to serve the national interest by making Manchester attractive to the world, as we would like it to be and as would be in accordance with its great traditions for commerce and industry.
I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman about the importance of redeveloping Manchester as a beautiful city, as he wants it to be redeveloped, but he has not addressed his mind to why Manchester cannot do it under the existing general law, and particularly, in connection with Clause 9, why Section 37 of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1962, is not sufficient for it to be done in Manchester as it is being done in Liverpool.
I will deal with those matters, but I wanted first to address the House on the general attitude towards the Bill.
It will encourage agreements with private developers. There is no reason why a voluntary agreement between the corporation and a private developer should not be reached, and I should have thought that this opportunity for the extension of private enterprise would have found a welcome spot in the hearts of some hon. Members opposite. The hon. Member for Crosby said that the Bill would damage the general law of town and country planning, but it would not do so. If an application for development were made, Manchester would have no right to say, "We will give you general planning permission on condition that you conform to this, that and the other". That would be ultra vires and hon. Gentlemen know it.
The case made out by the hon. Member for Crosby is that this has never been done before. But this is not the first time that Manchester has been the pioneer in terms of human betterment. The fact that it has never been done before does not mean that it should not be done now if it is in the interests of the community. The argument of hon. Members opposite is that because it has not been done before, Manchester cannot take the lead. The hon. Member for Crosby let the cat out of the bag, because he said, "Liverpool can do it, so why cannot Manchester?" If Crosby were moved nearer Manchester, the hon. Gentleman would probably support the Bill.
This is an attempt to rebuild a famous city by means of agreements, voluntarily made and without prejudice to the general law on town and country planning. If developers want to reach agreements with the corporation, why should they not do so? The agreements say that there should be an agreed order in which the development should be carried out. What is wrong with that? The time by which the development is to be completed is to be determined. We cannot wait all our lives for some developer to complete a project.
The agreements say that land shall not be conveyed or assigned except by way of mortgage or legal charge unless the corporation is first satisfied that the person can command sufficient financial resources. Over the years how many projects have lain derelict simply because those who embarked on them were not able to complete their contracts, to the detriment of the community and the defacement of our cities and towns?
What is wrong with the corporation saying that it is prepared to dedicate, even at its own cost, public rights of way over any parts in which development takes place? The agreements say that arrangements are to be made for the provision, maintenance and use of facilities for the parking of vehicles in connection with development. I should have thought that that was most desirable. The hon. Member for Crosby would want all parking sites in all our redeveloped cities to be excluded from the application——
I must correct the hon. Gentleman. I do not object to that because it is in the general law. The corporation has the right to make conditions about parking spaces under the general law. It does not need to make provision for it in a Private Bill. What I object to are paragraphs (d) and (e).
I cannot see, with my long experience of Manchester and the law and knowledge of the conditions in which people are operating in the City, why there can be any objection to this proposal, whether it is in the general law or not. If it is included in the Bill and is also in the general law, instead of abrogating the general law it confirms it. I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman would be very pleased about that.
Subsection (2,a) says:
An agreement entered into under the last preceding subsection may contain—(i) positive and negative covenants …
These can be registered as local land charges. The hon. Member for Crosby appreciates that this is normal legitimate conveyancing practice in certain similar circumstances. Subsection (2,a)(ii) says that in the event of
a stipulation that in the event of the Corporation declaring by resolution of the council that the development or a part of the development has not been completed by the time determined by the agreement
it will do something about it. A local authority would be guilty of a very grave dereliction of duty if an agreement was entered into for the development of an area and nothing was done about it for
months. It would be failing in its duty it it did not take cognisance of the situation with a view to action being taken.
The Bill then deals with the situation if a developer has any difficulty or does not agree with the action of the corporation. The hon. Member for Crosby gave the impression that there could be no right of appeal. He gave only part of the story until I intervened with regard to the Tribunal. A developer can appeal to the Lands Tribunal. After the matter has been to the Lands Tribunal and the corporation finds that the conditions have been varied, it can alter the terms and the developer can appeal against those terms. This is nothing new. If a person applies for town planning permission under the general law and his application is turned down, he can vary his application.
I want to give others the opportunity of speaking. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Those who say Hear, hear "show that their zeal for Manchester is no less great than mine, and I feel that it should be given full expression, because the future of Manchester and the appearance of our great city depends so much on this Measure which will have an effect, not only on the lives of the people of Manchester but on the rest of the people of this country.
I should like to make a short statement. I have no interest in or concern with any of the three Instructions on the Order Paper. Nor do I intend to vote if a vote is taken. But I must tell the House that by accident I voted on the Second Reading, which took place a short time ago. I did not realise at the time what the Division was on. I know that that was my own fault. After I went through the Lobby, I heard that it was a vote on the Second Reading of the Bill. I thought that the two Divisions which took place were connected.
I apologise to the House, because I have no interest in this matter at all. I do not wish to take sides on the Bill. Since I understand that I might well be placed on the Committee, I should tell the House that my vote on Second Reading was an accident. I apologise to hon. Members for having gone through the Lobby. if it were within my power to cancel the vote, I should certainly do so.
I hope that the House will allow me to intervene at this stage for a few moments and to state the case as the Government see it.
The hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Gurden) is to be admired for his frankness and honesty in saying that he did not know what he was doing when he went through the Lobby. It is not the first time that that has happened. It happens to hon. Members on both sides of the House.
This is a Private Bill, containing 58 Clauses. I think that we all agree that the majority of them are not in dispute. If the Bill is enacted, these uncontested Clauses will confer on the Manchester Corporation powers which are useful though of relatively minor importance. Only a few Clauses in the Bill have provoked differences of opinion.
If hon. Members are apprehensive about provisions in a Private Bill, they have every right to raise the matter in the House. I concede that at once to all those who have spoken. It is, however, the practice of the House to allow Private Bills to go to a Select Committee, where the arguments for and against the disputed Clauses can be heard in detail. A Committee may spend several days listening to detailed arguments, evidence and witnesses. My right hon. Friend does not think it right that we should attempt to settle these detailed local issues on the Floor of the House.
The Manchester Corporation should be given the opportunity to state its case to the Committee on the Bill and the Committee should be free to arrive at its own decisions after hearing the arguments put forward by the corporation and the objectors who have petitioned against the Bill.
I should like to say a little about the detailed matters in the Bill. As has been said, there are precedents in other local Acts of Parliament for most of the Clauses in Part II. The powers in Clause 5, for example, are already available to the County Councils of Lancashire, Durham, Cumberland and the West Riding. The Committee on the Bill may well decide that Manchester does or does not need these powers. I do not know what the Committee will decide, but it should be free as a Committee to reach its conclusions after hearing the evidence. It would be wrong for the House to give the Committee a ready-made decision by means of the Instruction which we are discussing.
In Part II of the Bill, the only Clause for which there is no precedent is Clause 9. In the Bill as deposited, the Clause would have permitted the corporation to make agreements tied to the system of planning control. It is not the corporation's intention, I understand, to try to force into an agreement people who apply for planning permission. The corporation is, therefore, prepared to amend the Clause so that there is no link with the machinery of planning control. As amended, the Clause would permit the corporation to enter into agreements with developers, as a matter of simple contract betwen the two parties, to secure that when land is to be developed under a comprehensive planning permission, the whole development and not just parts of it will be carried out.
I said earlier that it is the right of hon. Members to debate any Bill which comes before the House and, if they have objections, to say what they are. The day that we take that right away will be the day when we have destroyed what this House is all about.
What I am asking is that Manchester Corporation—it is not for me to praise the corporation; it has some wonderful stalwarts here who have done that—should have every right to put its case before the appropriate Committee and for those who object to do the same.
This assurance which the hon. Gentleman has given about amendment of the Clause is the first we have heard of it. We have had three hon. Members who have spoken on behalf of Manchester Corporation, but they have made no mention of this. To what extent can we take this as an assurance that these Amendments will be submitted to the Committee?
The hon. Member will know enough about Government practice to recognise that I am aided and abetted by first-class civil servants and a Department who have obviously informed me of the facts. If they have not properly informed me, there will be trouble with the civil servants concerned. I assure the hon. Member that that is what we now understand. It is as a result of consultation with the corporation. There can be no doubt, therefore, that, having said it in the way I have, this will be done.
It is not for my right hon. Friend to defend or justify the Clauses in the Bill. That is for the corporation to do before the Select Committee. We honestly feel that there is nothing outrageous here for which Manchester is asking. I beg the House to give the corporation the opportunity to put its case to the Committee. If there is a vote, as there may well be, I ask the House to vote against the Instruction.
I rise to speak for only two minutes because I do not wish to detain the House for very long, but I feel that in answer to the right hon. Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. L. M. Lever)—
Because of a previous appointment the hon. Gentleman was designated right honourable, and I thought that it lasted for a lifetime. If I am wrong, I am sorry that it does not.
It is the duty of every Member of the House to look at these corporation Bills. I expected to be thanked by the hon. Member for Ardwick for raising this matter, because it gave him a chance to make the wonderful speech that he did in support of his constituency. Instead of lambasting me as he did, I should have thought that he would have thanked me.
Some of my hon. Friends and I study these corporation Bills very carefully. The object of the exercise is to ensure that there is nothing objectionable to the House in enabling corporations to take unto themselves powers which they should not take without the permission of Parliament. I think that in raising this issue we have done a service to the House and to Parliament, and, even though I am the Member for Eastbourne, I make no apology for raising this matter of the Manchester Corporation Bill.
I beg to move,
That it be an Instruction to the Committee on the Bill to leave out Clause 48 of the Bill.
This Clause has nothing to do with the beauty of Manchester, but I think the House will agree—and in fact the Minister has made it clear that he considers this to be so—that all Private Bills presented to the House should be scrutinised very closely. Some of my hon. Friends and I spend a great deal of time vetting Bills presented to the House with the intention of bringing what we consider to be objectionable Clauses to the notice of the sponsors of the Measure, and frequently they amend them without the matter having to be raised on the Floor of the House.
I cannot give way at this stage. I shall do so later.
We go to a great deal of trouble to study these Bills. These Bills which come before the House become Acts of Parliament, and hon. Members should recognise that it is their duty to study these Measures as carefully as they study public business. I was rather surprised to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Gurden) apologise for intervening and say that he was not concerned with the Bill. We are all concerned with any legislation—
I am rather puzzled by what the hon. Gentleman has said. He takes the view that all hon. Members should have an opportunity of examining Bills of this character, but the action taken by the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends in voting against the Second Reading of the Bill, as they did a short time ago, could have prevented—
Under Clause 48 the corporation
may enter into and carry into effect agreements with any manufacturer or supplier of smokeless fuel or liquid fuel for the manufacture or supply of such quantity or quantities as may from time to time be required or be likely to be required and may guarantee, in such manner and subject to such conditions as may be agreed, the payment for, or sale of, any smokeless fuel or liquid fuel to which the agreement relates.
(3) Any solid smokeless fuel or liquid fuel which is manufactured or supplied in pursuance of an agreement under subsection (2) of this section may be sold by the Corporation to any local authority or to any person.
(4) The Corporation and any local authority may enter into an agreement under subsection (2) of this section for the sale and purchase of any solid smokeless fuel or liquid fuel.
In subsection (1,b), "smokeless fuel" means,
any fuel for the time being declared by regulations of the Minister of Power under the Clean Air Act, 1956, to be an authorised fuel for the purpose of that Act.
This would give the corporation tremendous powers, for which there is no precedent. The corporation claims, as a reason for the introduction of the Clause—I quote from its declaration—that
It is apprehended that the demand for smokeless fuel for use in normal or improved open grates will exceed the supply and the Corporation are anxious to encourage manufacturers, by giving them a guarantee that there will be a market, to increase their plant capacity so as to increase the supplies. By the clause the Corporation seek power to make agreements with a manufacturer or supplier of smokeless fuel or liquid for these purposes. It is also proposed by the clause to empower the Corporation and any other local authority to make agreements for the sale and purchase of smokeless fuel which may be the subject of an agreement or guarantee with a manufacturer.
In the first sentence of that declaration the corporation refers to a possible shortage of smokeless fuel for improved
open grates. This is the only solid fuel in respect of which it says specifically that there is likely to be a shortage.
If this is the case, why is it that the corporation asks for these powers to be extended to liquid fuels? It says that there is likely to be a shortage of some solid fuels, and it goes on to say that it is anxious to encourage manufacturers by giving them a guarantee that there will be a market. This seems an extraordinary argument. In the first place, the corporation says that there is likely to be a shortage of this fuel and then says that in order that there shall be no shortage of the fuel it must give this undertaking. Smokeless zones are being extended throughout the country, by order of the Government, and there is bound to be an increasing demand for these fuels.
Let us deal first with the position concerting liquid fuels, in respect of which the corporation asks for powers to enter into agreements with manufacturers and purveyors. I do not think that any hon. Member could put forward any argument, or any facts, to show that there was any shortage of liquid fuel anywhere is this country.
Manchester is at the moment experiencing a serious shortage of solid smokeless fuel. Can the hon. Member guarantee that in future there will he no shortage of liquid fuel?
If the hon. Member will contain himself for a moment, he will find that I am coming to the question of smokeless solid fuel. He asks whether anyone can give a guarantee that there will be no shortage of liquid fuel in future, although there is none now. In fact there is no shortage at present, but the argument on which the Manchester Corporation is, presumably, asking for the insertion of Clause 48 in the Bill, is because of an imaginary shortage.
This is a highly specialised trade, both wholesale and retail, involving the use of tankers, bulk storage facilities and filling stations and there is a door-to-door delivery on a large scale. The hon. Member asks whether one could give any undertaking that there would be no shortage of liquid fuel in future. I say that this is extremely unlikely, but in any case, does the hon. Member say seriously that the Manchester Corporation—in case there should be a shortage at some stage in the future—put into effect immediately all the paraphernalia connected with the distribution of liquid fuel in Manchester? Should the corporation construct large underground storage tanks, purchase bulk storage vehicles and create filling stations and an organisation and hold it at tremendous cost in case, at some time in the future, there should be a shortage of liquid fuel?
I have given way to the hon. Gentleman. He should look into the matter and ask the Manchester Corporation—if he lives in Manchester to provide him and the people of Manchester with an idea of the capital cost involved and the charge on the rates which would result.
There is also the fact that the people engaged in this trade—
I am sorry, I have already given way to the hon. Gentleman. I suggest that he asks the Manchester Corporation to provide him with the information—[HON. MEMBERS: "He is a member."] The distribution of liquid fuel is a highly technical matter and the men engaged in this business have built up the "know-how" over many years. They have established an efficient and flexible delivery service, not only for Manchester but throughout the whole country, which is fully satisfactory to the public. I doubt whether any person in Manchester who requires liquid fuel for any purpose has expressed dissatisfaction with the service he obtains. I am certain that if the Manchester Corporation was to undertake the distribution of liquid fuels with any chance of success—
My hon. Friend says that it would not, and if it would not why should it put this into the Bill? This is the whole point, and this is the point which I am making. It would involve Manchester—
This is not specified in the Bill. I am merely making the point that this is a matter for Manchester Corporation. This is what we are discussing. If they had wished to specify that, they should have specified it in the Bill and we should have discussed it accordingly.
I cannot give way to the hon. Member again.
It is also the ratepayer's money which is involved in this—[An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear."] The hon. Member says, "Hear, hear". If that is the case, the ratepayers of Manchester are entitled, before they commit themselves to any such vast expenditure, to know what the capital expenditure is likely to be, what benefits they are likely to derive, and how the capital expenditure involved would be charged on the rates. I would suggest that that part of Clause 48 which deals with liquid fuels is not justified. There is certainly no shortage and it would be reasonable to expect that there is likely to be no shortage in the future.
I should now like to turn to the question of solid fuels. The corporation wants the same powers to make arrangements and to enter into contracts with makers of solid fuels. They declare in the Bill that authorised solid fuels will be indicated from time to time by order made by the Ministry of Power. There has been one Statutory Instrument, No. 2023, which came into operation on 31st December, 1956 and which laid down the range of solid fuels which were available. The Bill is based on those solid fuels. But the Corporation's case apparently rests on the statement that demand for smokeless fuel for use in normal or improved open grates will exceed the supply.
Suppose that we accept that, for the sake of argument. Through these powers which Manchester Corporation wants to obtain it would get more than its fair share of a commodity which is in short supply. This can be the only reason. If Manchester Corporation is saying that this smokeless solid fuel is in short supply and that it will therefore enter into an agreement in order to obtain better supplies for Manchester, it would, by this very act, be creating a corner in solid fuel for Manchester and thus denying to many other areas their fair share of a scarce commodity.
This, I would submit, is something to which even hon. Gentlemen opposite would object strongly, particularly if their own constituencies were found to be short of solid fuel because the Coal Board or some other supplier had made an agreement to supply Manchester with more than its fair share of the scarce commodity. If it will not give the corporation more than its fair share and it would not get any more from the manufacturers by having this arrangement, why does it need this Clause? If that happened it would merely exaggerate the shortage in other towns.
I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman for allowing an hon. Member who represents a Scottish constituency to intervene. Does he agree that in the preparation of solid fuels, of which there is a scarcity, it would be useful if a market could be guaranteed to any manufacturer who was prepared to expand his productive capacity?
I have been in business all my working life and have found that when manufacturers find a shortage in any market they set about trying to increase their output in the quickest possible way.
If the hon. Gentleman will control his impatience I will try to show him precisely what is taking place now.
As with liquid fuels, so with solid fuels. Experts have set up the whole machinery of distribution and it has been found, when the fuel has been available, that the media of distribution have worked satisfactorily. Suppose Manchester Corporation stated, "We are going to distribute". Have the hon. Members who represent Manchester considered that that would involve Manchester Corporation in considerable cost?
My hon. Friend says that that would happen only through the factors but, with respect, that is not true because in a statement which Manchester Corporation issued in the last few days it was stated that it was prepared to enter into agreements with local distributors. Those were exactly the terms the corporation offered, for it stated:
…before selling direct to the public any smokeless fuel acquired by them under the clause to offer it first to the trade for distribution and sale at a price which would have regard both to the cost to the Corporation and the market prices of the fuel obtaining at that time".
Thus, there is no question at all of it being mandatory on Manchester Corporation to sell only through the normal distributors. This would give it power to set up its own selling organisation.
I draw my hon. Friend's attention to Clause 48(3), which states:
Any solid smokeless fuel or liquid fuel which is manufactured or supplied in pursuance of an agreement under subsection (2) of this section may be sold by the Corporation to any local authority or to any person.
It is no use hon. Gentlemen opposite saying "rubbish" because it is laid down in the Bill that the Corporation will have these powers. If that is not so, how do hon. Gentlemen opposite explain why provision for that is made in the Bill? I have described what might happen and if the powers in the Bill are exercised the Corporation will have the wherewithal to take those steps.
It should be remembered that this would mean the establishment of very large dumps and the creation of an expensive selling organisation with all the attendant expenses, including costly vehicles and so on. Here again, the people of Manchester might find themselves involved in considerable cost, with increased rates, for no useful purpose.
Suppose, for the sake of argument, that we accept that if there were an acute shortage the corporation would be justi- fied in doing this. Is a shortage likely? It has been stated by one or two hon. Members opposite, who obviously have not looked at the subject very closely, that there will certainly be an acute shortage. It is, perhaps, unfortunate that some of the information now to hand about the obtainability of smokeless fuels was not available when the Bill was drafted. If it had been, I hold that Clause 48 would never have been inserted in the Bill at all.
All the evidence shows, however, that the shortage was for solid fuels for use in open grates. There was a shortage there, and to a certain extent there still is, but this is the only shortage, and the Manchester Corporation is not asking for powers to deal with this fuel only but goes far beyond that. The fact remains that this is the only fuel of which there has been any evidence of any shortage, and that shortage is now being rapidly overcome.
I have here Circular No. 13 dated 17th March, 1965, produced by the hon. Gentleman's Ministry. It is headed "Clean Air Act, 1956", and states:
The Parliamentary Secretary made it cleat to the Clean Air Council that the producers' present forecasts of fuel availability were based on the assumption that for purposes of the Clean Air Act grant the present freedom of choice between fuels and appliances would continue to operate when future smoke control areas were established.
The interesting point is that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Power has made a statement within the last few weeks, in which he had some very pertinent observations to make about the position with regard to smokeless fuels.
Speaking of "Domestic Fuel Supplies and the Clean Air Policy"—Command 2231—he said:
This forecast that supplies of smokeless fuels of all types should be adequate to meet demand, with the exception of the open-fire solid fuels.
There, again, he indicated that there is only the one shortage, that of open fire solid fuels—no shortage of liquid fuels in regard to which Manchester Corporation is also asking for powers under Clause 48. The hon. Gentleman said:
I am pleased to be able to tell the Council that the National Coal Board and the private producers are now going forward with plans
for increased production of open-fire fuels which should materially improve the situation predicted in the White Paper.
He also said:
These prospects … indicate that supplies of open-grate fuels should be adequate to meet expected demand, although consumers may sometimes have to buy more expensive varieties a reactive fuel when their first preference would be the cheaper gas cokes.
That was issued—[Interruption.] There are lots of things that the hon. Gentleman, who has not been here for a great length of time, may not think it right to be raised in Parliament, but I believe that it is correct that there is no great shortage——
That may be so. If I have taken so long to say so little I apologise to the hon. Gentleman. The statement continued:
but I am also advised by producers that they expect regional difficulties in the supply of reactive open-grate fuel to be largely overcome during the next two years.
So the total time for which Manchester Corporation asks these powers under Clause 48 to operate is only two years at a maximum. The evidence shows that there is no shortage of liquid fuel, nor is there likely to be. The only solid fuel of which there is any shortage at the moment is the open grate solid fuel and the Government have themselves stated as a result of investigations that the shortage will disappear entirely within the next two years. Lord Robens and others engaged in the manufacture of smokeless fuels have stated that they are increasing very considerably their production to meet the demand. In the circumstances, I suggest that Clause 48 is entirely unnecessary.
I shall try to answer the arguments of the hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden) as quickly as possible because I know that hon. Members wish to discuss the very important Clause 41. The hon. Member began by saying that this Clause had nothing to do with the beauty of Manchester. In saying that he was almost as inaccurate as he was in so many other passages of his speech.
The hon. Member ought to know that the architectural beauty of a city can be marred to the extent that the atmosphere is polluted. He ought to know that Manchester has a good record in implementing the Clean Air Act. Manchester Corporation has a smoke-control plan which contemplates that nearly a quarter of a million premises will be subject to smoke control orders by the end of 1969. At the end of 1964 there were already 61,660 premises covered by smoke-control orders. My hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, East (Mr. Conlan), who is a Mancunian but does not represent a Manchester constituency, has reminded me of the dramatic illustrations one may find of the value of smoke-control.
My hon. Friend has pointed out that the Manchester Town Hall extension, built about 30 years ago, is already scarred and stained by pollution and eight years ago some remedial work was carried out to the facade of the building. In eight years during which smoke control has been in operation the repaired facade has been unblemished by the traditional pocking and ruining of the stonework which is so much a feature of industrial areas of the North. The hon. Member for Gillingham should appreciate that this is very much a question of beauty and, of course, of the health of the community.
This Clause would simply enable the corporation to enter into an agreement with manufacturers or suppliers of smokeless fuel and oil. The hon. Gentleman at great length sought to demonstrate, first, that if the Corporation had the Clause Manchester's ratepayers would be involved in very considerable expenditure. The hon. Gentleman is under a misapprehension. Secondly, the hon. Gentleman advanced lengthy reasons why it was unnecessary to have the Clause—because there was in reality no shortage of smokeless fuel. As I listened to the hon. Gentleman—I sought to intervene, but he would not give way—I thought how clearly this showed what my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary said, that these expert opinions are precisely the matters that should be probed by the Select Committee. If we were here for a long time, which we are not, I could go to the Library and examine the hon. Gentleman's proposition. I think that it was only part of the story. It is precisely for the reasons the hon. Gentleman gave that these matters should be examined by the Select Committee.
As the hon. Gentleman knows, I gave way a considerable number of times. Has the hon. Gentleman with him at this moment a copy of the Bill? If so, would he look at page 31, line 36, which lays it down that the corporation will have the power to sell to anybody? If it has the power to sell to anybody, it means retail also, as I see it. If not, why should it not be designated?
I am not myself particularly worried about that sort of consideration. The hon. Gentleman may know that the corporation has said categorically that it has no intention of entering the distribution trade. For the protection of the trade, the corporation has said that it would be prepared to agree to the insertion of a provision requiring the corporation
(a) to consult with representatives of the wholesale and retail fuel trade before entering into any agreement under subsection (2) of Clause 48, and
(b) before selling direct to the public any smokeless fuel acquired by them under the clause to offer it first to the trade for distribution and sale at a price which would have regard both to the cost to the Corporation and the market prices of the fuel obtaining at that time.
That is a definite undertaking given by the corporation.
The hon. Gentleman was rough on his hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Withington (Sir R. Cary) when he accused him of not knowing what was in the Bill, because the hon. Member for Withington knew that the corporation was prepared to give that undertaking.
This is very extraordinary, because the hon. Member for East-bourne (Sir C. Taylor) is an experienced Parliamentarian. It is in the Vote Office. It is a statement in which the Corporation says of Clause 48 that it would give these guarantees. This is available to all hon. Members.
I am no great expert, but I am advised that because of technological changes in the gas industry coke is becoming scarcer. Despite the fact that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Power has urged the electricity supply industry to use more coal, I should have thought that there will be a general rundown here. Inevitably coke is becoming scarcer.
I understand that the Government's policy is to regain the momentum in the establishment of smoke-control areas. There was, because of changes in fuel policy, a cut-back of smoke-control areas but I understand that the Government are now anxious that their establishment should go ahead. Manchester Corporation wants to complete its programme by 1969 and it seems to me perfectly reasonable that the Corporation, if it satisfies the Select Committee after producing witnesses and evidence, should have the powers.
As the corporation puts it,
The object of the Clause is not to enable the Corporation to enter into competition with the trade in the retail distribution of smokeless fuel but to encourage manufacturers and suppliers to invest their capital in plant and equipment to produce the additional supplies of smokeless fuel which will be required by rigorous application of the smoke-control policy in future.
This is what the Government want.
I am reading from notes supplied to me by the Manchester Corporation. The hon. Gentleman cannot have it both ways. On the one hand, he says that Manchester Members do not say anything about the Bill and do not answer the case, but when a Manchester Member tries to give him the case from the Manchester point of view he appears to think that there is something disreputable about it.
The Minister of Housing and Local Government will not confirm smoke-control areas or extensions of them unless he is satisfied that there is an adequate supply of fuel available. Therefore, if Manchester is to complete its programme it is important that it should persuade the Select Committee that it should have these powers. We know that the Coal Board is engaged on the extension of plants for the production of smokeless fuel and it is significant that the Board does not petition against the Bill. I have already said that supplies will be marketed through normal commercial channels. Manchester City Corporation gives an assurance about that. I quite understand that the apprehensions of hon. Members opposite, which I do not share, will not be allayed unless these words in the Bill are amended. I have quoted to the House certain undertakings which the corporation is prepared to give, which may or may not satisfy hon. Members. I should have thought that the undertakings went a long way, if not entirely, towards allaying the apprehensions of people in the retail and wholesale trade.
The hon. Member quoted from the latest statement issued by the Manchester Corporation which is available in the Vote Office and he said that the corporation has given an undertaking not to engage in retail trade. I also quoted from that document. The corporation said it was prepared to include a provision requiring it
before selling direct to the public any smokeless acquired by them under the clause to offer it first to the trade for distribution …
There is certainly no undertaking whatsoever in that statement that the corporation would not engage in the retail trade.
Hon. Members opposite profess to have considerable regard for the interests of the ratepayers. I put it to the House and to the hon. Member for Gillingham in particular, that if the House decides to give Manchester Corporation the powers contained in the Clause, and if the corporation gave these undertakings to the trade which it promises to do, then if the corporation failed to secure the co-operation of the trade it would have a perfect right to dispose of the fuel itself to protect the interests of the ratepayers. What is wrong with that?
I quite agree, but, unlike the hon. Gentleman, I rely upon the good sense of the people in the distributive trade. I do not think that they will make such heavy weather of this. I do not believe that those whom the hon. Member for Withington calls the factors would be so unwilling to co-operate as is suggested. They have been terribly harassed in the smokeless zone in the Wythenshawe area by their customers begging them to get supplies which they have not been able to get. I should have thought that not only would the manufacturers of the fuel be delighted to have an assured market but that the distributors would as well. Hon. Members are making heavy weather of this.
I have been interrupted many times. I conclude in this way. I beg the House not to accept this Instruction to the Select Committee for the reasons which the Parliamentary Secretary advanced when we were discussing the previous Instruction. There is here so much that a Select Committee can decide better than we can when the expert witnesses come before it.
I support the Motion moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden). The hon. Member for Manchester, Exchange (Mr. Will Griffiths) bent over backwards in trying to explain that there were all sorts of conditions which would prevent Manchester Corporation from embarking on municipal trading. If that is the intention of what is set out in the document from which the hon. Gentleman read, why is it necessary to have Clause 48 in the Bill at all? I am extremely concerned about Clause 48. Not only would it provide for the setting up of municipal trading in Manchester but it might well create a precedent so that we had municipal trading coming in all over the country. In a sense, it is a form of creeping nationalisation.
Like many hon. Members, I welcome the Bill in its general terms. I come from a local authority area, Greater London, every bit as proud as Manchester, and I fully appreciate all the observations and arguments advanced by hon. Members from the Manchester area about the importance of the Bill to them. But the inclusion of Clause 48 will have repercussions of a very significant political nature and going far beyond the needs of Manchester.
I shall state my three basic contentions before dealing with the detailed points about solid smokeless fuel. This form of municipal trading is outside the scope of the activities of a normal local authority, or it should be. It could easily give rise to a situation in which there was competition between the local authority and its own ratepayers, people in the distributive trade. If the Clause were accepted, Manchester Corporation or any other local authority might well regard it as a very successful exercise and look for other ways of making excursions into commerce in its own area.
Coming from a large local authority area where the rate burden is already enormous, I can only say that I simply do not believe that any efforts in municipal trading in the Greater London area would improve matters.
It has been said by several hon. Members that the intention of the Clause is to help the corporation to institute smoke-control areas in the city. This, of course, is something which should be welcomed. I am advised that any shortages which exist can be put right, that the distributive trade is quite able to carry on the business of getting the fuels to the householders and that the manufacturers are in a position to meet the orders if required. The very good relations which the hon. Member for Manchester, Exchange spoke about between the distributive trade and the Corporation and the manufacturers will surely ensure that this takes place.
The danger under this Clause is that the corporation will have priority in the supplies of smokeless fuel.
The hon. Gentleman was not in the House earlier. [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes, he was."] He is making from his point of view a well argued speech, but is he not aware that the apprehensions he is describing are not shared by his Conservative colleagues of Manchester City Council? They are quite satisfied with this Clause. Has he also never heard of the Birmingham Municipal Bank, founded by Joseph Chamberlain, and of all sorts of other municipal enterprises founded and supported by far-seeing and enlightened Conservative statesmen who were far more progressive than some of the young Tories who have come to the House recently?
I am grateful to the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. J. T. Price) for improving my knowledge of history. But what he spoke of took place some time ago and I am not so worried about Birmingham as about the precedent that this Bill, particularly Clause 48, may have for all of us, in London and elsewhere as well as in Manchester. Incidentally, I have been here since the debate started.
I am also worried about the possibility of the local authority cornering the supply of a fuel. One could have a situation of acute shortage with Manchester Corporation, under Clause 48, being in a position of monopoly in the supplies of smokeless solid fuel. I hope the situation would never arise in which tenants of the corporation were getting solid smokeless fuel while others, who might well be ratepayers, could not get it. In such a situation real hardship could exist in Manchester.
But most objectionable of all is that the Clause creates a precedent. If it goes through, other local authorities will want these powers and if they get them those who do not come within the orbit of those authorities will be at a great disadvantage. We should be creating a system of municipal trading with local authorities possibly taking away the livelihoods of distributors throughout the country and in a position to corner supplies of certain fuels. They would be in a position to build a network of nationalisation of the distributive trade in solid smokeless fuel and perhaps in many other things as well.
It is also possible, for example, that Manchester Corporation might get hold of a supply of a highly reactive fuel and operate smokeless fuel zones through open hearth fires as opposed to room heaters as suggested in the White Paper on Domestic Fuel Supplies and Clean Air Policy. We might see a situation in which a local authority was able to do this and to apply smoke-control policies more cheaply than those areas which were having to do it with room heaters, which are a more expensive system. One would get a rush of other local a authorities seeking to do it as cheaply.
It may be enterprise, but it is not an enterprise that protects the ratepayer. This is creeping nationalisation. If this provision goes through. we will get a system of municipal training tantamount to Government trading at the distributive end of the coal trade.
If Manchester gets this power, the solid fuel business in Manchester will be dominated by the local authority. Whatever hon. Members like to say about it, that is what will happen. It will deprive the existing distributive trade or a livelihood and, regardless of all the conditions which have been read to us, there will be a situation in which the corporation will tend to enter this trade more and more.
That could lead to friction between those who are tenants of the corporation and those ratepayers who are not. It could lead to a situation in which other authorities wanted these powers. As hon. Members are well aware, the Manchested Chamber of Commerce has stated its objections to the Clause at some length and I very much hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to tell us something to encourage us, or that at some later stage we shall be able to make sure that Clause 48 does not become part of the Manchester Corporation Bill.
I intervene only briefly because we have another Instruction which we have to dispose of before ten o'clock.
This Clause would allow the Manchester Corporation to make agreements to guarantee a market for specified quantities of solid smokeless fuel or liquid fuel. As we understand it, the object is to encourage manufacturers of these fuels to increase their capacities. As the House knows, one of my right hon. Friend's responsibilities is for clean air and from that point of view we find the Clause unobjectionable. Smoke control is not going forward as fast as it should, particularly in the North-West. If Manchester Corporation—and I say "if"—thinks it has devised a scheme to remove all doubt about the sufficiency of supplies of smokeless fuel, it should be allowed to argue its case before the Select Committee.
The Clause has met some opposition from fuel distributors. We are aware of that and I know that the corporation has been discussing ways and means of meeting those objections, but so far, I understand, it has not obtained the agreement of the distributors. This is precisely the sort of issue which should be considered by the Committee and I ask the House, if there is a Division on the Instruction, to reject it.
The hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden) and I have been closely associated. I had him oppose me at a General Election and I have great affection for him, because on that occasion he lost his deposit. I hope that on this occasion he will lose his Instruction, if he presses it to a Division.
I want, first, to align myself with those who have said that, in essence, this is a first-class Bill, which we all thoroughly welcome. It is the Bill of a great city and contains plans to transform a large area of the city into a thoroughly up-to-date development of which, when it is completed, we shall be proud.
But it is our duty to look further than that into the Bill and to study the implications, and the implications are probably more important than the expressed intentions. We have to study the actual wording of the Bill and what can happen if it is implemented as introduced. There is no doubt that it contains a number of provisions which are far removed from town planning, provisions which, if brought into effect, would further Socialism in Manchester and provide an important precedent for many other organisations.
I was quite surprised at the wording of Clause 48, because it is revolutionary. I was still surprised when I read the details which we received from Manchester Corporation telling us what was intended, because its reason for putting the Clause in the Bill is apparently to ensure a supply of solid fuel and for that purpose it proposes to subsidise the fuel by guaranteeing a market to manufacturers to encourage them to increase output. This faces the ratepayers with the possibility of a heavy call being made on the rates. The only advantage is the attempt to ensure a continuity of supply. The ratepayers will have several thoughts before being willing to enter into an unknown responsibility and liability in this way.
We all support the clean air policy. It is thoroughly right in principle. But I have had many complaints from my constituents about this matter. Solid fuel is not welcomed all that much as a lillywhite and wonderful product of the future. I have had complaints about its quality. I am told that it will not burn and that it creates an extraordinary number of fumes in the room, although it is supposed to be smoke free. The price is very unpopular, especially with pensioners. I have had grave complaints about its inefficiency and its burning capacity.
I do not believe that the corporation needs to give a guarantee. Private enterprise is capable of increasing its productivity if it can see a ready market. I am sure that the situation will very quickly be put right. In fact, we have intimations that a solution is on the way and that there will be no shortage in two years. If the Bill goes through, the corporation will still have the right to open up in competition and to open a chain of petrol garages, and not only in Manchester. It seems to me from reading the Bill that it can also sell liquid fuel. There is no restriction. Surely this is outside the bounds of the corporation's requirements.
I believe that the Bill goes far beyond what is necessary. It is a thoroughly good Bill in principle, but we should not allow Socialism to be pushed into odd corners of it in this way. If these little dirty corners of the Bill which make it a parallel in many ways to the infamous Clause 4 in another document are cleaned up, perhaps in Committee, it will receive a great welcome in the House and we should all be only too pleased to help push it through with the maximum efficiency and in the minimum time. But while it contains these examples of pure Socialism, many of us on this side must hold back the wholehearted support for it which we should like to give.
It is time that a Conservative Member from Manchester joined in the debate, which has been going on for some time. Hon. and right hon. Members opposite have claimed the right of a Member of Parliament to criticise any Government. No one disagrees with that. No one suggests that it is an abuse of the House. But I believe that what has happened tonight has been a misuse of the House. Some hon. Members are getting into a rut. To use a term in their own profession, they are becoming vexatious litigants. They spend time discussing proposals and then, not having the courage of their convictions and putting them to the vote, withdraw them having received no more information at the end of the debate than they had at the beginning of it. This is a waste of time.
This matter has been debated and criticised by hon. Members opposite from Crosby, Gillingham, Eastbourne, Run-corn, Darwen and Shipley.
to the best of my knowledge, I have not spoken so far. I am waiting to speak on the next Instruction. I should like to point out to the hon. Gentleman, first, that my constituency is as near to Manchester as his, and, secondly, that I am a ratepayer in that city. I very much doubt whether he is.
I challenge the hon. Gentleman on that. My home town borders Manchester and I have worked in that city for the past 14 years. I believe that the hon. Member's name appears to an Instruction which, to put it in the most generous way, is a criticism of the Bill. I have referred to hon. Members who have put their names to Instructions for discussion tonight. That is criticism. I am simply suggesting fairly that it was time a Conservative Member from Manchester gave his point of view. There are not quite so many Conservative Members from Manchester now as there were some little time ago. They are equally capable of putting their point of view without a great deal of help and assistance from anyone outside.
When hon. Members have referred to smokeless fuel and whether there is a shortage of it, they have not been quite fair. There are many type of smokeless fuel. The majority of them have been available and are usable in the open type of grate which we have in the North, but there has been, and there still is, a shortage of that kind of fuel.
Clause 48 refers to
any manufacturer or supplier of smokeless fuel or liquid fuel".
Twice in the Clause liquid fuel is mentioned. Manchester has been built by hard work on an island of coal. I suggest to my hon. Friends that Manchester could well do with giving support to its own industry, because it has one of the finest coal mines in the north of England or anywhere else.
I never was able to understand the reasoning of the hon. Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover), and I do not follow it now.
I suggest that rather than going in for liquid fuel from abroad, Manchester, which has a coal mine, less than a mile from the city centre—Bradford Colliery, one of the deepest, with some of the best seams, to which we can arrange a visit for anybody who wants to go—should support is own ratepayers, workpeople and employment.
I hesitate to intervene in the affairs of the City of Manchester, and I certainly would not say whether it is a beautiful city. The Amendment, however, is not about keeping the buildings clean. It is a question of who is to supply the smokeless fuels for the smokeless zone. This is a matter which very much concerns all hon. Members and people throughout the country. My hon. Friends are right to raise this matter and to follow it up, because this is not a parochial matter concerning Manchester but a question of principle which the House has every right to debate.
The Joint Parliamentary Secretary, in what must have been about the shortest speech on record, said that the object of the Clause was to give the corporation power to encourage the manufacture of smokeless fuels. I hesitate to correct the hon. Gentleman, who has the whole weight of his Department's advice behind him, but as I read the Clause it gives the corporation power to buy smokeless fuel, both liquid and solid. It gives the power to guarantee the sale of a quantity, which entails financial commitment. It gives the corporation power to sell to other local authorities and they in turn would have to get rid of those smokeless fuels. It therefore gives the corporation a power to indulge in trade in its own right. It gives the corporation power to trade in solid and liquid fuels throughout the whole of the United Kingdom. If that is the same as the Joint Parliamentary Secretary's definition of the Clause, I do not understand it. Nor can the hon. Gentleman slide out of this by saying that it is a technical decision which could be left to the Committee to decide. It is a great question of principle as to whether a corporation, and one only throughout the country, should be given these wide powers.
I have read the statement on behalf of the promoters of the Bill and the only argument that has been put forward for the Clause is that they apprehend that the demand may exceed the supply. Whatever else may be true, this certainly is not true of oil. My hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden) made this point with great force. Nobody can conceive that there will be a shortage of oil in the foreseeable future, and I think that much the same comment applies to coal. But, even if there were to be a shortage of coal, it would not necessarily be the right way to handle the shortage to give one corporation, and one only, throughout the whole of England, Scotland and Wales the power to preempt if it can scarce supplies from the National Coal Board or other suppliers.
My hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. McNair-Wilson) developed this argument very well and forcefully, and I think that it is wrong to allow one corporation this power if we are not bringing this in as a public Bill to apply to all local authorities so that, in the same way, they can preempt supplies of fuel for their own purposes on an equal and fair basis, going back to a form of rationing as it were.
The hon. Member for Manchester, Exchange (Mr. Will Griffiths) referred to two provisos which the Corporation had offered. With respect to the hon. Gentleman, they do not go any distance to meet the objections which my hon. Friends have made to the Clause. The first proviso simply says that the corporation will consult representatives of the wholesale and retail fuel trade before entering into any agreement under subsection (2) of Clause 48. To consult is not enough. We all know that mere consultation does not go anywhere near giving the wholesale and retail trades the assurance which they need.
The second proviso is simply to offer fuel to the trade for distribution and sale at a price which would have regard both to the cost to the corporation and the market price of fuels obtaining at that time. If the corporation is able to dictate the cost at which it is going to offer the fuels it possesses to the distribution trade, it can easily price the other people out of the market and continue in its monopoly as a supplier.
I do not believe that these two provisos go anywhere near meeting the objections of principle which my hon. Friends have put forward. If the Corporation had offered the House some more substantial guarantees that it would not enter into municipal trading in fuel, both liquid and smokeless, we would have been happy to let the Clause go unchallenged, but there is no comfort to be derived from these two provisos.
I submit that it is inexcusable to include oil in this Clause. There seems to be no reason why Manchester Corpora- tion should not make a bargain with the Sheik of Kuwait, build a fleet of tankers, build a refinery, and import oil into this country. The Bill gives the Corporation power to do that. We all know that it probably will not want to use this power, but I ask hon. Gentlemen opposite to consider the effect on the rates in Manchester if the corporation decided to exercise that power. This is not the purpose of a corporation.
There is a minimum economic unit for doing these things. One cannot market oil in 2d. packets, nor can one set up a coal merchant's business on a very small scale. This operation has to be carried out on a sizeable economic scale, and the capital investment might be very large. This is surely a question on which the ratepayers of Manchester Corporation have every right to be consulted before it is put in a Bill of this sort.
If we are to have this sort of backdoor nationalisation of fuel distribution, it should be done in a public Bill. We should have an opportunity of debating the principle as a whole. I do not know whether the hon. Members for Bosworth (Mr. Wyatt) and Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly) would agree with it, but at least they should be given the opportunity to read this in a Public Bill, and not in a Private Bill of this nature. I do not believe that Clause 48 has been anything like well enough thought out. If we are going to nationalise fuel distribution in Manchester let us think the Clause out, in respect of matters such as compensation and fair trading. This is not at all the right way to proceed with the Bill.
It is never possible to contemplate competition between a municipal body and private traders engaging in the same trade. We shall never be told how the overheads are allocated, or how much of the taxpayers' capital has been allocated to the fuel business, or what is the exact profit or loss made on that part of the corporation's activities which deals with its trading in fuel. It will be impossible to determine the true cost of the activities of the corporation. Therefore, all competition, by its very nature, must be phoney.
I thought that the hon. Member was raising a point of order. I am delighted that I gave way to him. That is not so—because if a certain number of people occupy a building it is impossible to discover how much of the cost of providing that building is due to municipal activities and how much to trading activities. If a large amount of capital is invested by the corporation it is impossible to determine how much of the interest is due to its activities as a local authority and how much to its activities as a trading institution. We cannot separate and isolate the costs in the case of an institution such as a corporation which is trying to do both things at the same time. Therefore, it is not right that Manchester Corporation should take power under the Bill to set up a State trading organisation in fuel.
I seriously suggest that the House would be unwise to give the corporation powers as wide as those which I have outlined. If the corporation wants fewer powers it should put fewer powers in the Bill. There was nothing to prevent its explaining much more carefully than it has done what it really wanted, and inserting limited powers in the Bill to which the House could agree with pleasure.
This debate has been an interesting exercise in flights of imagination. One hon. Member attempted to intimidate the House by suggesting that if Manchester Corporation was given the limited powers of the Clause it would make a corner of smokeless fuel in short supply and restrict supplies to its own tenants.
The reasonable inference is that rioting would break out in the streets, and that this would be mollified only by persons seeking tankfuls of fuel supplied by hypothetical petrol pumps of the corporation, which, in turn, would be shipping in vast quantities of oil by reason of an agreement entered into with the Sheik of Kuwait.
Far from persuading me to shackle the Committee which will now be examining the Bill, I would have thought that these complex and imaginative threats required the closest examination.
I would have thought that in view of the fears voiced by hon. Members opposite they would have welcomed the closest scrutiny of this Clause by a Committee of the House, so that its manifest evils and dangers, if any, should be exposed before the public gaze and the threat that the Manchester Corporation is, according to them, making to the lives and liberties of the citizens whom it is supposed to represent should be widely known.
In those circumstances, the House having decided that this Bill shall be committed to a Select Committee, I am very anxious that without any sort of shackle or any hindrance—
It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.