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ADVISORY COMMITTEE IN RESPECT OF s. 2(2)(b) SCHEMES

Part of Orders of the Day — SCOTTISH DEVELOPMENT AGENCY (No. 2) BILL [Lords] – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 21st October 1975.

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Photo of Mr Bruce Millan Mr Bruce Millan , Glasgow Craigton 12:00 am, 21st October 1975

I do not know what the hon. Gentleman means by "an extra safeguard". I have already said that the information will be publicly available in any case. The Agency will be operating in accordance with financial guidelines which will be available to the public and to this House under Clause 12. I am not in favour of laying down for the companies which will operate the industrial functions of the SDA obligations beyond those which would be laid on private enterprise companies, and therefore I cannot accept new Clause 2.

The hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton) asked me to explain who would establish the advisory committee under new Clause 5. It is not my new clause. The hon. Gentleman's name is attached to it, and I was going to ask him and his hon. Friends the question that he put to me. There is nothing in the clause to say who establishes the advisory committee, as the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland pointed out. Is it to be established by the Agency, the Secretary of State or somebody else? I am not responsible for the drafting of the clause. It is obviously defective from that point of view alone.

The clause is also defective because we should not write into the Bill obligations on the Agency to establish all sorts of committees, whether of the kind described in the clause or any other kind. It is certainly necessary to write into the Bill the power for the Agency to establish such committees as it may think fit, and that power is provided in paragraph 15 of Schedule 1, but we deliberately did not make provision for committees by writing into the Bill an organisational structure for the Agency, because we want it to develop its own organisational structure. If it feels that advisory or other committees are sensible, it will have power to appoint them, but we shall not write that into the Bill.

Speaking personally, I hope that the Agency does not operate through a whole series of committees, that it does not operate in a bureaucratic way. Particularly in matters of commercial judgment and so on, I want it to act in an enterprising way, certainly taking advice from outside if it feels it desirable in a particular situation, but not adopting a bureaucratic structure which would mean that matters would have to go to a committee for a decision before it could operate. I strongly resist any suggestion that we should write that sort of thing into the Bill, and therefore I cannot advise the House to accept new Clause 5.

I cannot recommend the House to accept Amendment No. 15. It would write into the Bill a second financial limit apart from the general one of £200 million to £300 million, and would direct that limit to a specific power in the hands of the Agency. It is not for me to anticipate what the Agency might spend on any of its functions. We shall have to discuss with the chairman-designate of the organising committee and the Agency the question of budgets, as we do in the case of every other public agency. Information about budgets will be available in the ordinary way through the White Papers on public expenditure and, as the Agency develops, it will produce accounts which will show to hon. Members how much is being spent on one function as distinct from another. All that information will be publicly available, and no doubt I shall be advised if the whole range of activities of the Agency are not debated in the House from time to time. Obviously that information will be available, but I am not willing to write into the Bill any additional restrictions on the Agency's powers.

If the Agency is to succeed, as I believe it will, it will have to be on the basis that the Government of the day have appointed the Agency on a given day with wide-ranging powers, powers that are accepted by a wide range of opinion in Scotland. It should be allowed to exercise enterprise and should not be continually restricted or inhibited by detailed control or intervention from Government. There should be nothing in the legislation, or indeed in the Government's attitude, to suggest that the Agency is not to be trusted, and can do what it wants only if it is subject to detailed control by the House or the Government of the day. It would set the Agency off on the wrong foot if we were to single it out for special attention by imposing on it a separate financial limitation.

I repeat that the spending figures will be publicly available as will our estimates of sums under various headings. However, we shall not act in a way which