Provision for Vesting Port Businesses in National Ports Authority

Clause 33 – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 29th April 1970.

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Photo of Hon. Anthony Berry Hon. Anthony Berry , Southgate 12:00 am, 29th April 1970

I beg to move Amendment No. 66, in page 48, line 45, at end insert: (8) Before making an order under subsection (1) above, the Minister shall arrange for public enquiries to be held in areas where substantial representations are made by local authorities or organisations representing workers or port users to the effect that the consequences of the transfer of the port businesses concerned to the Authority could affect adversely the prosperity of the area in question, and he shall be under an obligation to consider the reports of any such public enquiry before making an order. This is an important Amendment, which deserves to be closely considered. Some hon. Members may think that they have recently seen a rather similar Amendment, and they would be right. The fact that the House did not feel, to my surprise and regret, able to accept the Amendment moved so eloquently by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor) yesterday, makes it all the more important to consider this Amendment in much more detail. This is a serious proposal which would be of great benefit to the industry. It is not like the other one, a wrecking Amendment.

The areas of inquiry are very limited and the Amendment carefully defines the type of person whose representations could lead to such an inquiry. They are representations by local authorities or organisations representing workers or port users. We only want inquiries to be held if they are really wanted by those with a genuine right to demand them.

Perhaps I can answer some of the points made by the Minister last night and anticipate his arguments. We are not suggesting that each time the Government introduce an Act a public inquiry should be held into it all over the place. Our intention is to see that inquiries be held following representations such as I have described. I can assure the Minister that in the election manifesto on which the Conservative Party will fight and win the next election we will not include such a promise. The fact that hon. Gentlemen opposite said that they had not received demands for such inquiries is irrelevant because it probably had not occurred to people that there was any possibility of the Government accepting such a suggestion until now.

Photo of Mr Bob Mitchell Mr Bob Mitchell , Southampton, Test

Would the hon. Gentleman help the House to follow more closely his argument by telling us what he means by the word " substantial " in line 2 of the Amendment?

Photo of Hon. Anthony Berry Hon. Anthony Berry , Southgate

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary got into a little trouble last night with that word and I had not intended to mention it out of the kindness of my heart. As attention has been drawn to it, I would point out that the same question was put to my hon. Friend the Member for Tavistock (Mr. Michael Heseltine). He reminded the House—

Photo of Mr John Ellis Mr John Ellis , Bristol North West

Would it not be true to say that this Amendment is the same as the one we debated last night? Would it not save a lot of time if my right hon. Friend went out of the Chamber, got a copy of yesterday's HANSARD and read about the debate which we are to have?

Photo of Hon. Anthony Berry Hon. Anthony Berry , Southgate

The hon. Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Ellis) is in a state of completely unwarranted euphoria. I cannot understand why. I am sorry that he will not be with us in the next Parliament—he nearly lost his deposit at one point in Committee. I do not blame him for doing what he can in his last few speeches here.

The Minister has already shown that he is making exceptions of certain types of business. In Committee I moved two Amendments dealing with fish and the right hon. Gentleman agreed to look at this and subsequently accepted the principle behind them. He has shown that he can be flexible and we would like him to go just this little bit further. The business of ports is an integral part of the commercial activities of many firms. This Bill is putting its finger on the main artery of industry throughout the country. It is important that those people involved in business should be able to control the progress of their goods and that is why we welcome the changes so far made.

Port authorities and users have a real interest in the ports and should have the opportunity of making their case to the Minister. Hon. Members opposite say that the workers in the industry do not object to the takeover of the ports, but I doubt whether many workers, at Tilbury, for example, are as much in favour of public ownership as hon. Members opposite would have us believe. Then there are the companies carrying on port businesses alongside other activities. This shows the complexity, and a public inquiry could give an indication of a proper division of labour and might save men from losing their jobs. A company could be ruined by having its structure divided in this way and the satisfaction of handing over the whole business to the authority will be no consolation at all. But the Minister would be obliged by this type of inquiry to listen to all concerned before taking over a port business.

5.30 p.m.

The port user does not usually have much choice about which port he uses. That also applies to a certain extent to the terminal or stevedoring facilities which he has to use. Nevertheless, there are independent operators and they provide an element of competition. I do not believe that the troubles of this industry will be solved by nationalisation. Nor do I believe that the way in which the Minister is setting about this matter is the best answer. But I am convinced that inquiries of this kind would prevent some of the worst aspects of the Bill from coming to fruition—and there are some very bad aspects indeed. The acceptance of the principle of public inquiries would be of major benefit to this great industry.

Yesterday, the Government refused to accept our Amendment No. 6 dealing with public inquiries into the takeover of harbours.

Photo of Hon. Anthony Berry Hon. Anthony Berry , Southgate

My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor) is right. The fact that the Government refused to accept Amendment No. 6 is an even stronger case for asking them to accept this one. Yesterday, the House unfortunately accepted that the National Ports Authority should take over the harbours.

Photo of Mr Charles Mapp Mr Charles Mapp , Oldham East

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It arises from Amendment No. 66. I have delayed my submission because I have been consulting Erskine May. The words of the Amendment are precisely similar to those of Amendment No. 6, which was moved yesterday and rejected. The only material difference is that Amendment No. 6 referred to subsection (7) whereas this Amendment refers to subsection (1). The words are otherwise alike and, for the purposes of argument, carry precisely the same intent based on the same premises. Erskine May states on page 482, referring to selection of Amendments, that Amendments were not selected …as the questions raised by them had been covered by a previous decision ". That is surely normal common-sense reasoning and on that basis I submit that we debated the matter raised by this Amendment yesterday. Perhaps I should have raised this point of order earlier and I do not raise it now for light reasons. There is here the ruling of Erskine May, however, and there is the complete similarity of the wording of the two Amendments. The arguments on No. 66 are bound to be along the lines of those raised yesterday on Amendment No. 6. I submit that you should therefore consider re-ruling on whether Amendment No. 66 is in order or not.

Photo of Mr Teddy Taylor Mr Teddy Taylor , Glasgow Cathcart

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The arguments on the two points raised by Amendment No. 6 and Amendment No. 66 are not identical in any respect. In Amendment No. 6 we were dealing with ports. On Amendment No. 66 we are dealing with port businesses. The second and more material difference between the two is that yesterday, in respect of the ports, the Minister could not exercise a discretion after such an inquiry because Clause 1 lays down which ports are to be nationalised, whereas, in the case of port businesses, he has such discretion. The arguments put forward for an inquiry in a case where there is no Ministerial discretion are quite different from those for a public inquiry in a case where there is discretion. Thus, we have one argument relating to a flexible position and another relating to an inflexible position and there is a world of difference between them.

Photo of Mr Sydney Irving Mr Sydney Irving , Dartford

I cannot enter into the merits of the submissions made by either the hon. Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Mapp) or the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor). What is at stake here is the question of Mr. Speaker's selection. I am not empowered to select or not to select, and therefore I am unable to vary his selection. I must rule that the Amendment is in order.

Photo of Hon. Anthony Berry Hon. Anthony Berry , Southgate

I am obliged to the hon. Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Mapp). It is a new experience to have Erskine May quoted at me and I enjoyed it. I am indebted to him for his close interest in my speech.

The fact that Amendment No. 6 was not accepted yesterday—to my regret—emphasises the importance of No. 66. The Authority will have the responsible task of dealing with our harbours and ports without much delay, so one pre., sumes, in view of what the Minister has had to say, and it is understandable that he should want vesting day to be reasonably soon. The authority will have quite enough in dealing with harbours without having to take on the port businesses as well. Surely, therefore, a year following vesting day would be ample time for inquiries to be made. I do not know why the Government are so worried about inquiries.

Photo of Mr Fred Mulley Mr Fred Mulley , Sheffield Park

I do not want to abbreviate the hon. Gentleman's speech because, as I have said, under a guillotine the Opposition must decide how to employ their time. But the hon. Gentleman might add that, in all those cases where orders are to be made, if the person principally concerned—the owner of the business—objects, there is procedure for a public inquiry. We are not afraid of inquiries. It is simply a question of whether the person whose business is concerned is the person who should demand the public inquiry rather than the rather vague people the hon. Gentleman puts into the Amendment.

Photo of Hon. Anthony Berry Hon. Anthony Berry , Southgate

I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman should consider organisations representing the workers in this industry to be classified as vague. The noises from the benches opposite have not given us that impression these last two days. I accept what the right hon. Gentleman says about the procedures already in the Bill but there is no way for organisations representing workers or port users to make representations for a public inquiry to this effect. I believe that the Labour Party is so seriously concerned about what the reaction would be from those giving evidence at these inquiries that it is reluctant to hold them. This is patently clear. We all realise by now that the Government are very reluctant to have these inquiries. I hope that these inquiries will nevertheless become part of the Bill and then we shall see something which the Labour Party will not like one little bit.

Photo of Mr William Wilkins Mr William Wilkins , Bristol South

I can probably tell the hon. Member for Southgate (Mr. Berry) why we are concerned about the proposal which he has put forward. It is unfortunate that the Opposition Front Bench decided to put up the hon. Member for Southgate to speak to this Amendment. A better choice might have been his hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor) who is thought by some of us to have been vaccinated with a gramophone needle, and who might have put up a better show.

It is very strange that when we propose to take over the ports, some of which are municipally owned, the apostles of free enterprise should object, and give reasons why it should not be done unless and until public inquiries have been held. We might be prepared to listen more closely to the representatives of big business who sit in the House if they practised what they preached. I am a member of an industry in which the hon. Member for Southgate and his family have been involved for many years. When I worked for the Bristol Evening Times and Echo, suddenly what we knew as the Berry Group descended and took over the paper literally overnight and within a few weeks closed it down without the slightest consideration for the people who were employed there. Then the hon. Member for Southgate has the audacity—

Photo of Mr Michael Heseltine Mr Michael Heseltine , Tavistock

On a point of order. Is not it intolerable than an hon. Member should make a quite personalised attack upon the family of one of my hon. Friends on a subject which is not suitable for discussion in this place and which it would be quite unwarrantable for my hon. Friend to try to deal with?

Photo of Mr Sydney Irving Mr Sydney Irving , Dartford

I can only rule that what the hon. Gentleman said was not out of order. I was a little more concerned with whether he would relate it to the Amendment.

Photo of Mr William Wilkins Mr William Wilkins , Bristol South

I was trying to show how phoney is the argument that has been advanced by the hon. Member for Southgate. Amendment 66 reads thus: Before making an order under subsection (1) above, the Minister shall arrange for public enquiries to be held in areas where substantial representations are made by local authorities or organisations representing workers … This is a new principle to be advocated by hon. Gentlemen opposite, who never talk in these terms when they are making their take-overs. I am quoting an instance which I know about. I am not in any way imputing any motives to the hon. Member for Southgate. All I have said is true. There was an established newspaper organisation which we knew as the Berry Group which took over a local paper without a public inquiry and with no consultation with the employees. If the hon. Member for Southgate wants to know why we object to this, it is because we do not trust hon. Gentlemen opposite. Why should there be inquiries, for example, into the nationalisation of ports when there are no public inquiries into industries that are taken over by private enterprise? The argument is completely phoney and utterly indefensible by the three hon. Members on the Front Bench opposite. This is why we are opposing it—at least I hope it is. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. If the Conservatives want inquiries into what is taken into public ownership, they must agree to have them when their friends take over other industries.

Photo of Mr Teddy Taylor Mr Teddy Taylor , Glasgow Cathcart

Mr. Edward M. Taylor rose

Photo of Mr William Wilkins Mr William Wilkins , Bristol South

The hon. Gentleman has had a good innings. I know that I am making an attack, but I am doing so because the Amendment is utterly spurious and unsubstantiated in private enterprise. Nobody has a voice, very often not even the shareholders, never mind the workers, on take-overs in private enterprise. If this principle is to be adopted it should apply throughout industry.

5.45 p.m.

Photo of Mr Raymond Mawby Mr Raymond Mawby , Totnes

The hon. Member for Bristol, South (Mr. Wilkins) in his personal references to my hon. Friend—

Photo of Mr William Wilkins Mr William Wilkins , Bristol South

Mr. Wilkins: They were not.

Photo of Mr Raymond Mawby Mr Raymond Mawby , Totnes

They were. I see them as having a personal reference.

Photo of Mr William Wilkins Mr William Wilkins , Bristol South

On a point of order. You have known me long enough, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to know that I do not make personal references. What I have said is the truth, and it refers to a group known as the Berry Group.

Photo of Mr Sydney Irving Mr Sydney Irving , Dartford

These matters are for debate and not for the Chair.

Photo of Mr Raymond Mawby Mr Raymond Mawby , Totnes

I do not want to go out of order, nor do I want to waste the time of the House, but that was my impression. The hon. Gentleman was not comparing like with like. The Government have set up the I.R.C., which deliberately encourages mergers. The I.R.C. may have advised the Government to change the law so that public inquiries are held when the I.R.C. advises mergers, but no change in the law has been put forward by the Government to change the conditions about which the hon. Member for Southgate complains. If he has any complaint, it is therefore against his own Front Bench, who have appointed the I.R.C. to bring about mergers—I am not saying whether this is right or wrong—without changing the law in relation to consultations with those who may be affected by the merger, including the workpeople.

The hon. Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Ellis) made the most sensible remark that he has ever made. I know that he is in a state of euphoria because the gag is off and the Whips are no longer causing him to remain quiet. He said that as the Amendment was so close in terms to an Amendment which was moved yesterday it might be as well if we did not repeat ourselves. I draw his attention to col. 1130 and onwards in yesterday's HANSARD, in which I put forward cogent reasons why that Amendment should be accepted. If hon. Members will read that column they will realise that the Government were wrong yesterday in resisting the Amendment which, I hasten to add, deals with harbours, and will therefore accept Amendment No. 66, which deals with port businesses.

Mr. Heller:

In yesterday's debate on a similar Amendment the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor) said: I am not suggesting that this is in any way a wrecking Amendment which will provide opportunities for long, time-wasting public inquiries simply to delay nationalisation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th April, 1970; Vol. 800, c. 1122.] I am a very suspicious man and when the hon. Member for Cathcart says that it is not intended to be a wrecking Amendment I immediately jump to the conclusion that that is precisely what it is, because he " doth protest too much ". It is quite clear that the Amendment with which we were dealing with yesterday and Amendment No. 66 which we now have before us are wrecking Amend- ments intended to prevent implementation of the Bill. It is reasonable for hon. Members opposite to try to wreck the Bill because they are not in favour of it. They do not like our proposition involving public ownership of the ports.

Let us look at the argument about the need for a public inquiry. I am a great believer in public inquiries on the right occasion, when they are essential and when there are elements of doubt. But everybody knows that a public inquiry about the nationalisation of the ports has been going on for the last 40 years. In the recent past the Labour Party carried out a very good public inquiry and published a report by the Port Transport Study Group. The result of that inquiry was that the overwhelming majority of people in the ports industry were all in favour of public ownership.

The Conservative Party also conducted a public inquiry in the port of Liverpool. I believe the hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) came up to Liverpool on that matter. I do not remember him meeting any dockers, but he met a lot of port employers. He came out with a report which was the very opposite to the Labour Party report. I am not suggesting that it was biased from the start. I am not suggesting that before he went to Liverpool he had any preconceived ideas about public ownership. But, by some mischance or coincidence, he happened to come down against public ownership and did not believe that it was necessary.

The Conservative Party is deliberately putting forward this Amendment in order to wreck the provisions of the Bill. That is the real reason behind it. All the rest is so much flapdoodle, a smoke-screen which cuts no ice at all [Interruption.] I know that I am mixing my metaphors, but it does not matter as long as the House has got the point. It is a smoke-screen that is being put up merely to indicate that they hope that at this late hour the Government will go sufficiently far to meet them by accepting the Amendment. It would mean wrecking the Bill, and we shall not allow them to do so.

I am all for consultations with the workers in the industry. My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South (Mr. Wilkins) raised the valid point that too often workers are not consulted. Often a situation develops in which workers instead of being consulted are just informed that something is going to happen, or indeed has happened. At that stage without any consultation at all they are faced with mass redundancies. That is quite wrong.

There has been plenty of consultation with workers' organisations. Hon. Members opposite the other day complained about dockers coming to the House for consultations about the Bill. They were then saying " They're all going on strike and coming to the House of Commons, these common fellows with their big boots, demanding nationalisation ". But they were consulting their Members of Parliament. That was their form of consultation. They were telling us in no uncertain terms what they wanted the Government to do about the Bill.

This Amendment is spurious, and I hope that hon. Members opposite will be sufficiently intelligent, though I doubt it, to withdraw it since we have seen through their little game.

Photo of Sir Frederick Burden Sir Frederick Burden , Gillingham

The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heifer) seemed to find something curious in the fact that the Conservative report on nationalisation differed from that issued by the Labour Party. He implied that the Tory line was always biased. That charge could equally be levelled against some Labour Members of Parliament who have the one idea in their minds that practically everything should be nationalised.

The hon. Member for Bristol, South (Mr. Wilkins) in an interesting speech spoke about trusting Tories. It is extraordinary how many people do not trust the Labour Party, as will be shortly shown if there is a General Election.

The Labour Party describe nationalisation as public ownership. What a misnomer. The public have no control whatever over the nationalised industries which they are supposed to own. They are charged through the nose for using them and suffer diabolically when they do use them. The hon. Member for Walton laughs and rocks back in his seat. But I suggest that he goes to my constituency and hears what is being said by some of the commuters who come up every day on the transport—

Photo of Mr Sydney Irving Mr Sydney Irving , Dartford

Order. The hon. Gentleman is discussing the main principles of the Bill. The Amendment is concerned with making mandatory the question of public inquiries.

Photo of Sir Frederick Burden Sir Frederick Burden , Gillingham

Of course, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was merely illustrating the necessity to have such inquiries. The Labour Party should agree to this Amendment. They would then realise how little confidence and faith people have in any benefits they derive from so-called public ownership because such people would welcome public inquiries. We are not only concerned in this Bill with dockers alone, unless the Labour Party is saying that the general public are not to be consulted and that only those who work in the industry shall own and control it. This is not the case and surely the general public have a right to express its view.

Mr. Hefter:

Mr. Hefter indicated assent.

Photo of Sir Frederick Burden Sir Frederick Burden , Gillingham

The hon. Gentleman agrees. Therefore, he accepts the implication of the request in the Amendment that there should be an inquiry so that the public shall have an opportunity to say whether an industry should be nationalised.

6.0 p.m.

Mr. Deputy Speaker, when you called me to order just now I was about to illustrate my remarks by pointing out that I am sure that, if the people who now have to commute on our railways had known the conditions in which they would have to travel after nationalisation, how little of the ownership would be theirs, how few of the benefits would be theirs and how fares would rise, at a public inquiry they would have said, " We want no more of nationalisation." If the people really have an opportunity to express their views on whether there should be nationalisation, I am convinced that vast numbers of them would be against it.

We have heard it suggested that this Amendment is unnecessary because the people trust the party opposite in their nationalisation procedures. That is the greatest fallacy of all. I do not believe that the people feel that nationalisation is in their interests, and certainly they do not trust the party opposite.

This is a very good Amendment. The people should have an opportunity to express their views definitely and specifically on any more nationalisation after the experiences of the past.

Photo of Mr John Ellis Mr John Ellis , Bristol North West

We have been accused of being let off the leash tonight because there is a Guillotine and we can take up as much time as right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite. It is true that when this and similar Amendments were proposed in Committee, hon. Members on the Government side often sat quiet. We did that because we wanted this Bill, and I am now at liberty to say why.

We have listened to a number of speeches explaining the kind of Amendment that this is said to be. When Amendments are moved in Committee, there is always an explanation of the kind of Amendment that it is. Some are said to be probing Amendments. That is when hon. Gentlemen opposite wish to stick a knife into the Minister in order to see how he ticks. Then there are what are described as substantial Amendments. In those, great principles are involved. Then there are consequential Amendments, and those are Amendments which flow from others. I have even heard of paving Amendments, which are intended to prepare the way for others.

If ever there was a repetitive Amendment, it is this one. It is much the same as one that we discussed yesterday. However, it is also an example of a different kind of Amendment. It is what might be called a crocodile Amendment. Sometimes, a crocodile lies in the water like a log. At other times, it is liable to snap off a leg of anyone who ventures near.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South (Mr. Wilkins) objected to the Amendment because he saw clearly that it was a crocodile Amendment. In the opinion of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, when an industry is to be nationalised and the shareholders are to be deprived of their loot, we need searching public inquiries. They say that an Amendment like this is necessary so that it can behave like a crocodile and " get stuck in ". However, if a number of men are working for a com- pany which is taken over by another and they lose their jobs, there is no question of a public inquiry.

In that way, we have two different sets of rules. When there is a takeover, it is described as business efficiency—

Photo of Sir Frederick Burden Sir Frederick Burden , Gillingham

Does not the hon. Gentleman recall that the Government have a very large stake in shipbuilding on the Clyde, which is now declaring its intention to sack some 3,000 men?

Photo of Mr John Ellis Mr John Ellis , Bristol North West

But that is the difference in philosophy to which I am pointing. We are discussing a Bill which provides for the taking over of the dock industry. According to right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, we must have a most searching inquiry into that. My point is that in coal mining, for example, it may be necessary to consider closing certain pits. However, a different spirit applies there from that of the concept of profit which always guides right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite.

Turning to Bristol, I take exception to the Amendment when it refers to organisations representing workers having a view. I think that the Amendment is unnecessary, because no inquiry is required among the workers in the Port of Bristol. Their views are well known.

The Port of Bristol is municipally owned. In view of that, say right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, why do we need to take it over? Over the years, there have been subventions from the rates, but never has a penny been put back into the rates. The committee of the council which runs the port has provided facilities. It has dredged the harbour and improved it. From time to time, it has made subventions from the rates. The only people to have made a direct profit in financial terms have been those stevedoring firms in the private sector operating in the dock. The ratepayers have received nothing.

Photo of Mr Michael Heseltine Mr Michael Heseltine , Tavistock

Can the hon. Gentleman say what contribution has been made to the rates by the stevedoring companies over the years?

Photo of Mr John Ellis Mr John Ellis , Bristol North West

They have contributed to the rates, of course, but no more pro rata than any other ratepayer. I pay rates in Bristol. In running the port, the only people to have made a profit are the stevedoring firms using the facilities provided by the Bristol Port Authority; in other words, the ratepayers. Those profits have been paid out to their shareholders.

Photo of Mr Keith Stainton Mr Keith Stainton , Sudbury and Woodbridge

I presume that the money put in by Bristol Corporation did not go to plug losses. It went to build up the assets of the port business. Those assets are attributable to the ratepayers of the City of Bristol, and they have that clear gain.

Photo of Mr John Ellis Mr John Ellis , Bristol North West

I agree. The port has brought wealth, trade and employment to the city. But when it comes to money values, the people who make a profit in hard financial terms are the stevedoring employers.

The dock will still be in Bristol and Avonmouth. The city dock is losing £200,000 a year at present. The Citizen Party is promoting a Private Bill so that it shall be excluded from the provisions of this Measure, which means that the charge will continue to fall on the ratepayers. However, the employment and trade which comes to Bristol will still come. The only difference is that the private stevedores will be out of business. We shall have the advantage of having one employer on the dock and a better and more rational system. I have talked with many of the employees, and it is clear that they wish to see this happen speedily. They would be averse to a public inquiry, and I support them.

Mr. Geoffrey Wilson:

The hon. Members for Oldham, East (Mr. Mapp), Bristol, South (Mr. Wilkins) and Bristol, North-West (Mr. Ellis) have either not read the Amendment or misunderstood what it says. It has nothing to do with the Amendment that we moved on Clause 1, because that dealt with ports. This Amendment deals with port businesses. The mere fact that the form of words is similar to another form of words relating to a different subject does not mean that it is the same Amendment.

The proposal is that, before the Minister can take over a port business, if substantial representations are made to him by local authorities or organisations representing workers or port users to the effect that the consequences of such a takeover would be adverse to the prosperity of the area, there should be a public inquiry. There is no analogy with the merger of a newspaper. It is not similar in any way. The takeover or merger of a newspaper does not adversely affect the prosperity of the area, or, if it does—[Interruption.] Other newspapers, presumably, can be purchased in the area. We are dealing with the National Ports Authority, which is a public concern. I do not think that we have any nationalised newspapers at present. If there was a nationalised newspaper seeking to take over other newspapers there might be good reason for an inquiry, but we have not got one.

If a substantial number of people of certain classes think that the prosperity of the area will be affected by the taking over of certain businesses—and presumably they could only do so if they produced substantial reasons—

Photo of Sir Frederick Burden Sir Frederick Burden , Gillingham

The hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson) has a peculiar habit of sitting recumbent murmering throughout the debate. It does not impress me. The proposal is that it should be shown by an inquiry to be in the public interest to be nationalised. This is what it comes down to. This is surely a good thing.

Mr. Wilson:

But it is not the public that can ask for an inquiry. It is a limited number of people of various categories.

Photo of Mr Roy Hughes Mr Roy Hughes , Newport (Monmouthshire/Gwent)

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that one provision in the election manifesto of the Labour Party was that the docks should be taken into public ownership?

Photo of Miss Irene Ward Miss Irene Ward , Tynemouth

That does not make it right.

Mr. Wilson:

That has nothing to do with dock businesses. This is merely saying that if the local users or local authorities think that if a certain dock business, being one of the various businesses referred to in the Bill is taken over by the National Ports Authority and the prosperity of the area would be worsened if it is taken over, then there can be an inquiry. That seems a reasonable provision which has not so far been dealt with in the debate. The Minister, in an intervention, said that there will be public inquiries in certain circumstances. But that is only if a particular person is aggrieved. Certain classes of people are mentioned. If the person whose business is taken over complains, an inquiry can be held.

Photo of Mr Peter Mahon Mr Peter Mahon , Preston South

Is the burden of the hon. Gentleman's complaint that no searching inquiries have been made? In the first instance, a man of impeccable legal probity, knowing little or nothing about the docks, in the person of Donovan, made the most searching inquiries and relevant questioning of the dockers and all concerned, including the National Dock Labour Board. To say that there were no searching inquiries made prior to nationalisation is begging the issue.

6.15 p.m.

Mr. Wilson:

The hon. Gentleman is talking about another subject. I think that he meant Devlin, not Donovan. At any rate, it was nothing to do with port businesses.

The Minister will correct me if I am wrong, but I thought he was saying that if a person who owns a port business has any objection to being taken over, he can raise his objection. But the proposal in the Amendment is rather wider. It enables local authorities to say, " It is all very well for Mr. X who is giving up his port business, but we do not think that it will be in the interest of say the Port of Bristol ", or whatever it may be.

For those reasons, I think that we have rather got off the actual words in the Amendment. I believe that the Amendment should be looked at again.

Photo of Mr John Mendelson Mr John Mendelson , Penistone

I think that it is useful from time to time, if only briefly, that some hon. Members who did not serve on the Committee should get a word in edgeways if the Report stage is to have any meaning at all. I have always understood the doctrine of the Report stage to be not for repetition of exchanges which have already taken place in Committee, but for the House to pass judgment on the work of the Committee. We should maintain this doctrine as far as possible.

I want to make two comments on the Amendment, because I find it rather strange Tory doctrine. I will take the opportunity in my area of South Yorkshire to discuss this at public meetings and to quote it as Tory doctrine that I have heard put forward responsibly from the Opposition Front Bench.

What the Minister said was quite clear. In his intervention he said that there is provision for any individual owner, if he disagrees with the proposal, to object, and that there will be an inquiry.

Photo of Mr Keith Stainton Mr Keith Stainton , Sudbury and Woodbridge

Mr. Stainton: On what grounds?

Photo of Mr John Mendelson Mr John Mendelson , Penistone

The Minister said that if an individual owner of a business objected to the proposal there would be an inquiry. This is in line with custom and practice and with a great amount of legislation with which we are all familiar. We sometimes hear from aggrieved constituents who are not satisfied either with the original inquiry or with the final decision of the Minister. But in other cases where they are well satisfied we hear less about them. It is the normal legal procedure to which everybody is accustomed.

I have always thought that it would be natural doctrine of the Tories, as the defenders of individual private enterprise, to welcome the provision that the individual owner of a business who feels aggrieved should have the right to object and that an inquiry should follow as the result.

What do we find in the Amendment? Whether it has been argued on a different Clause matters not. I am addressing myself to the Amendment in the context in which it has been moved today. Provision is sought not to allow the individual aggrieved owner to ask for an inquiry, but for general organisations, agglomerations of people, after Parliament has decided, to demand a further inquiry. This is new Tory doctrine.

Mr. Geoffrey Wilson:

Am I not right in saying, regarding town planning, that persons other than the one whose house is affected can have a venue and can make representations at an inquiry?

Photo of Mr John Mendelson Mr John Mendelson , Penistone

No. In the cases to which the hon. Gentleman refers, it is the aggrieved person who has to take the initiative. No one can take it for him. This is an important provision. There have been some jocular exchanges this afternoon, but we are here dealing with a serious matter. The Bill protects the rights of the individual owner. This is something about which there is agreement, and it is extremely valuable. The right was made clear by my right hon. Friend in his intervention earlier.

We are now being presented with a novel doctrine which seems to be moving almost in the direction of a referendum. After organisations have put up candidates, after they have put their programmes to the people, after the most democratic inquiry has taken place, that of a General Election campaign and ballot, and after the Government have introduced legislation for which they have a mandate the Opposition say that there must be this further inquiry if it is demanded by various organisations. if this practice were adopted we should never be able to carry on the democratic business of the House because the Government would never have the right to implement the legislation for which they had been given a mandate by the electorate.

There is no reason why the Opposition should make this proposal, unless they are undertaking an exercise similar to debates in the Oxford Union, or they are not really serious. I have been a Member of this House under several Conservative Administrations. I am surprised that those who lead the Opposition, not in this debate, but centrally—for example, the right hon. Member for Bexley (Mr. Heath)—should authorise an Amendment of this kind. The hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Geoffrey Wilson) is smiling. That means that he agrees with me. He and I have been Members of the House for a long time, under various Conservative Prime Ministers, and he knows that they have never dreamed of saying that they have a mandate for certain legislation but they will not carry it through without making provision for further public inquiries to be held at the insistence of certain organisations. To adopt this practice would make nonsense of our constitution.

That is all that needs to be said about a wholly unnecessary and misguided proposal.

Photo of Mr Fred Mulley Mr Fred Mulley , Sheffield Park

I agree with those who say that the Amendment is different from the one moved yesterday, because this Amendment is even less moderate than that one. Yesterday's Amendment was designed with a view to holding public inquiries to delay the vesting day of the ports. I am sure that, on reflection, hon. Gentlemen opposite will recognise that the constitutional philosophy behind the Amendment is a serious matter. It would mean that after Parliament had decided the principles of legislation it would be for a public inquiry and the Minister to decide whether the will of Parliament was to be carried out. In short, it is a proposition that the status of the House should be reduced to that of a parish council, and that I could not support.

There is even less of a case for this Amendment than for the other one, because in addition to providing for a public inquiry we are giving a port owner the right to ask for a private hearing if he does not want his business to be washed in public.

At the request of the Opposition we have provided for the vesting Orders to be made before ports are vested in the authority. We are now being asked to say that no Order can be made without a public inquiry. It would not be too difficult for ports users, and so on, to make representations and to bring this machinery into effect.

I reject the idea that the transfer of a particular business from private to public ownership will have an adverse effect on the prosperity of the area. It would be wrong to argue this in too much detail. I think that it will operate in the opposite direction, and that greater efficiency will benefit the area. The proposition that if a port business is transferred to public ownership it will lead to less prosperity in the area is an open question, and not a matter that one can write into the Bill as though it were a fact.

In short, I invite the House to reject the Amendment for two simple reasons. First, if the owner of a business wants a public inquiry he can have one by registering an objection to the take-over process. Second, if the owner of a business is content to consent to this arrangement, it would be wholly improper, and an invasion of private rights to allow other people to demand a public inquiry into why he has agreed to transfer his business to the authority. If these two propositions are embodied in Conservative policy, electorally they will result in a fine evening out, and I shall be delighted to explain from an electoral platform why they are not only nonsense, but dangerous nonsense.

Photo of Mr Teddy Taylor Mr Teddy Taylor , Glasgow Cathcart

The Minister has put up an unconvincing case. He has put forward one argument, and not two, against it. He asked why we should bother to have public inquiries under this procedure as there is already provision for them, but he did not go on to say in what circumstances a port business could ask for a public inquiry.

A port business cannot ask for a public inquiry if it thinks that the nationalisation of its business will damage local prosperity, or if it will have an adverse effect on employment prospects. It can apply for a public inquiry only if it can show that it is exempt under later provisions of this Measure. This is the only basis on which a public inquiry can be asked for by a port business. I therefore suggest the Minister's answer is not only irrelevant, but an insult to the intelligence of the House.

What we are proposing is that there should be an opportunity for a public inquiry if it can be proved by a local authority, by workers representatives through a trade union, or by port users, that the nationalisation of a particular port business could be damaging to the prosperity of an area. In these circumstances, and only in these, can a public inquiry be held.

Photo of Mr Fred Mulley Mr Fred Mulley , Sheffield Park

The hon. Gentleman's proposal is to put the legislative function of the House into the hands of a public inquiry in any area which seeks to have one.

Photo of Mr Teddy Taylor Mr Teddy Taylor , Glasgow Cathcart

The Minister is being ridiculous about this. He should realise that we are not discussing a drafting Amendment. The Minister's estimate is that he will spend £50 million of public money in buying port businesses. If by any chance the report of the Bristol committee comes into effect, as a result of the joint endeavours of the First Secretary of State and the right hon. Gentleman the figure will be, not £50 million, but £100 million, or more. Government spending has risen from £6,000 million in 1964 to £1,500 million this year. This means for every £ raised in 1964 we are now raising 45s.

The time has come for us to be careful and think twice if the Government want to buy more private industries and more port businesses. We are simply suggesting that, where a case can be made that such nationalisation would damage the prosperity of an area, there should be an inquiry. It is a reasonable request and one which I hope my hon. Friends and all reasonably-minded Members will support.

Question put, That the Amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 175, Noes 226.

Division No. 112.]AYES[6.32 p.m.
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)Campbell, B. (Oldham, W.)Foster, Sir John
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)Fry, Peter
Amery, Rt. Hn. JulianCary, Sir RobertGalbraith, Hn. T. G.
Archer, Jeffrey (Louth)Chataway, ChristopherGilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)
Astor, JohnChichester-Clark, R.Glyn, Sir Richard
Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n)Clark, HenryGodber, Rt. Hn. J. B.
Awdry, DanielClegg, WalterGoodhart, Philip
Baker, W. H. K. (Banff)Cooke, RobertGoodhew, Victor
Balniel, LordCooper-Key, Sir NeillGower, Raymond
Batsford, BrianCordle, JohnGrant, Anthony
Beamish, Col. Sir TuftonCraddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)Gurden, Harold
Bell, RonaldCrouch, DavidHalt, John (Wycombe)
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay)Crowder, F. P.Hamilton, Lord (Fermanagh)
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Cos. & Fhm)Currie, G. B. H.Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)
Berry, Hn. AnthonyDalkeith, Earl ofHarrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)
Biffen, JohnDance, JamesHawkins, Paul
Biggs-Davison, JohnDavidson, James(Aberdeenshire,W.)Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel
Blaker, PeterDean, PaulHeseltine, Michael
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.)Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford)Hiley, Joseph
Body, RichardDrayson, G. B.Hirst, Geoffrey
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. Johndu Cann, Rt. Hn. EdwardHogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin
Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir EdwardEden, Sir JohnHolland, Philip
Brewis, JohnElliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)Hornby, Richard
Brinton, Sir TattonElliott,R.W.(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,N.)Hunt, John
Bruce-Gardyne, J.Eyre, ReginaldIremonger, T. L.
Buchanan-Smith, Alick(Angus, N&M)Fisher, NigelIrvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)
Bullus, Sir EricFletcher-Cooke, CharlesJenkin, Patrick (Woodford)
Burden, F, A.Fortescue, TimJennings, J. C. (Burton)
Johnson Smith, G. (E, Grinstead)Nabarro, Sir GeraldStodart, Anthony
Jopling, MichaelNicholls, Sir HarmarStoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.
Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir KeithNoble, Rt. Hn. MichaelSummers, Sir Spencer
Kershaw, AnthonyOnslow, CranleyTapsell, Peter
King, TomOrr-Ewing, Sir IanTaylor.Edward M.(G'gow,Cathcart)
Lane, DavidOsbom, John (Hallam)Temple, John M.
Langford-Holt, Sir JohnPage, John (Harrow, W.)Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy
Lawler, WallacePardoe, JohnTiltney, John
Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.
Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)Peel, JohnVaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John
Mackenzie, Alasdair(Ross&Crom'ty)Peyton, JohnVickers, Dame Joan
Maclean, Sir FitzroyPike, Miss MervynV/addington, David
McMaster, StanleyPowell, Rt. Hn. J. EnochWainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)
McNair-Wilson, MichaelPrice, David (Eastleigh)Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek
McNair-Wilson, Patrick (NewForest)Prior, J. M. L.Walters, Dennis
Maddan, MartinPym, FrancisWard, Christopher (Swindon)
Maginnis, John E.Rees-Davies, W. R.Ward, Dame Irene
Marples, Rt. Hn. ErnestRidley, Hn. NicholasWeatherill, Bernard
Marten, NeilRidsdale, JulianWhitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Maude, AngusRossi, Hugh (Hornsey)Wiggin, Jerry
Mawby, RayRoyle, AnthonyWilliams, Donald (Dudley)
Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.Russell, Sir RonaldWilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.St. John-Stevas, NormanWinstanley, Dr. M. P.
Mills, Peter (Torrington)Scott, NicholasWolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Miscamphell, NormanScott-Hopkins, JamesWorsley, Marcus
Montgomery, FergusSharples, RichardWylie, N. R.
More, JasperShaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)Younger, Hn. George
Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)Silvester, Frederick
Morrison, Charles (Devizes)Smith, Dudley (W'wick& L'mington)TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Mott-Radclyffe, Sir CharlesSmith, John (London & W'minster)Mr. Hector Monro
Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir HughSpeed, Keithand Mr. Timothy Kitson.
Murton, OscarStainton, Keith
NOES
Abse, LeoDavies, Ifor (Gower)Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)Hughes, Roy (Newport)
Alldritt, Walterde Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir GeoffreyHunter, Adam
Allen, ScholefieldDelargy, H. J.Hynd, John
Anderson, DonaldDell, Rt. Hn. EdmundJackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh)
Archer, Peter (R'wley Regis & Tipt'n)Dewar, DonaldJackson, Peter M. (High Peak)
Armstrong, ErnestDobson, RayJanner, Sir Barnett
Atkins, Ronald (Preston. N.)Driberg, TomJay, Rt. Hn. Douglas
Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)Jeger,Mrs.Lena(H'b'n&St.P'cras,S.)
Bacon, Rt. Hn. AliceDunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e)Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)
Bagier, Gordon A. T.Eadie, AlexJenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)
Barnes, MichaelEdwards, Robert (Bilston)Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)
Barnett, JoelEdwards, William (Merioneth)Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)
Baxter, WilliamEllis, JohnJones, Dan (Burnley)
Beaney, AlanEnglish, MichaelJudd, Frank
Bence, CyrilEvans, Fred (Caerphilly)Ke'Hey, Richard
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony WedgwoodEvans, loan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley)Kenyon, Clifford
Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton)Fernyhough, E.Kerr Dr David (W'worth, central)
Bidwell, SydneyFinch, HaroldKerr, Russell (Felham)
Bishop, E. S.Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)Lawson, George
Blackburn, F.Foley, MauriceLee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)
Blenkinsop, ArthurFoot, Michael (Ebbw vale)Lee John (Reading)
Boardman, H. (Leigh)Forrester, John
Boston, TerenceFraser, John (Norwood)Lestor, Miss Joan
Boyden JamesFreeson, ReginaldLewis, Ron (Carlisle)
Bradley, TomGalpern, Str MyerLomas, Kenneth
Brooks, EdwinGardner, TonyLyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)
Broughton, Sir AlfredGarrett, w. E.Mabon Dr. J. Dickson
Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper)Ginsburg, DavidMcBride, Neil
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)Golding, JohnMacDermot, Niall
Brown, Bob(N 'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.)Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C.Macdonald, A. H.
Buchan, NormanGray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)McElhone, Frank
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)Gregory, ArnoldMcGuire, Michael
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)Grey, Charles (Durham)McKay, Mrs. Margaret
Cant, R. B.Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)Maclennan, Robert
Carmichael, NeilGriffiths, Will (Exchange)McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)
Castle, Rt. Hn. BarbaraHamilton, William (Fife, W.)MacPherson, Malcolm
Chapman, DonaldHamling, WilliamMahon, Peter (Preston, S.)
Coe, DenisHarper, JosephMahon, Simon (Bootle)
Coleman, DonaldHaseldine, NormanMallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)Hattersley, RoyMallalieu,J.P.W.(Huddersfield,E.)
Cronin, JohnHazell, BertMapp, Charles
Crosland, Rt. Hn. AnthonyHeffer, Eric S.Marquand, David
Crossman, Rt. Hn. RichardHenig, StanleyMarsh, Rt. Hn. Richard
Dalyell, TarnHobden, DennisMaxwell, Robert
Davies, E. Hudson (Conway)Hooley, FrankMayhew, Christopher
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)Houghton, Rt. Hn. DouglasMellish, Rt. Hn. Robert
Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.)Mendelson, John
Davies, Rt. Hn. Harold (Leek)Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)Millan, Bruce
Miller, Dr. M. S.Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)Symonds, J. B.
Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)Price, Thomas (Westhoughton)Thomas, Rt. Hn. George
Molloy, WilliamPrice, William (Rugby)Tinn, James
Moonman, EricProbert, ArthurTuck, Raphael
Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)Randall, HarryUrwin, T. W.
Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)Rankin, JohnVarley, Eric G.
Moyle, RolandRhodes, GeoffreyWalden, Brian (All Saints)
Mulley, Rt. Hn. FrederickRoberts, Albert (Normanton)Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Murray, AlbertRoberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.)Watkins, David (Consett)
Neal, HaroldRobertson, John (Paisley)Watkins, Tudor (Brecon A Radnor)
Newens, StanRobinson, Rt.Hn.Kenneth(St.P'c'as)Weitzman, David
Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. PhilipRodgers, William (Stockton)Wellbeloved, James
Oakes, GordonRose, PaulWells, William (Walsall, N.)
Ogden, EricRoss, Rt. Hn. WilliamWhitaker, Ben
O'Halloran, MichaelRowlands, E.White, Mrs. Eirene
Oram, BertSheldon, RobertWhitlock, William
Orme, StanleyShinwell, Rt. Hn. E.Wilkins, W. A.
Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)
Page, Derek (King's Lynn)Short, Mrs. Renee(W'hampton,N.E.)Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)
Palmer, ArthurSillars, J.Willis, Rt. Hn. George
Panned, Rt. Hn. CharlesSilverman, JuliusWilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)Slater, JosephWinnick, David
Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)Small, WilliamWoodburn, Rt. Hn. A.
Peart, Rt. Hn. FredSpriggs, LeslieWoof, Robert
Pentland, NormanSteele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)
Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)Strauss, Rt. Hn. C. R.TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)Summerskill, Hn. Dr. ShirleyMr. J. D. Concannon
Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg.Swain, Thomasand Mr. James Hamilton.