HC Deb 01 July 1975 vol 894 cc1205-67
Mr. Douglas Crawford (Perth and East Perthshire)

I beg to move Amendment No. 128, in page 1, line 6, leave out' a body' and insert 'bodies'.

Mr. Speaker

With this amendment, I understand it will be convenient to take the following amendments:

No. 129, in page 1, line 7, after second 'Board")' insert 'and the SDA'.

No. 130, in line 9, at end insert: 'as regards England, functions in Scotland to be carried out by the SDA which will be the direct responsibility of the Scottish Assembly, immediately upon the establishment of that Assembly'.

No. 131, in line 9, at end insert: '(1A) For the avoidance of doubt in this Act and its accompanying Schedules, in the furthering of the development of Scotland's economy and improving its environment, the SDA shall be the only statutory body of its kind. The Board shall exercise no power, jurisdiction, or control whatsoever over companies, institutions, partnerships, nationalised industries and all other industrial and commercial bodies operating in Scotland, irrespective of the geographical location of the head office or of the registered office of such companies, institutions, partnerships, nationalised industries and other industrial and commercial bodies'.

No. 164, in line 9, at end insert: '(2) The National Enterprise Board will have powers extending throughout England; it shall have no authority in Wales or Scotland where the functions of economic development shall be undertaken, by Welsh and Scottish Development Agencies, respectively'.

No. 132, in line 10, after 'Board', insert 'and the SDA shall each'.

No. 133, in Clause 2, page 2, line 19, leave out 'United Kingdom' and insert 'England'.

No. 134, in line 20, leave out 'United Kingdom' and insert 'England'.

No. 135, in line 21, leave out 'United Kingdom' and insert 'England'.

No. 136, in line 25 leave out 'United Kingdom' and insert 'England'.

No. 137, in line 39, leave out 'United Kingdom' and insert 'England'.

No. 138, in Clause 3, page 3, line 23, at end insert 'in England'.

No. 139, in line 24, leave out the first 'The' and insert 'These'.

No. 140, in line 28, at end insert 'in England'.

No. 141, in line 30, at end insert 'in England'.

No. 142, in Clause 4, page 4, line 39, at end insert 'in England'.

No. 143, in Clause 6, page 5, line 17, after 'functions', insert 'in England'.

No. 144, in Clause 7, page 5, line 38, at end insert: 'for England, this without prejudice to the budgets proposed for the SDA'.

No. 146, in Clause 9, page 7, line 10, leave out 'United Kingdom' and insert 'England'.

No. 147, in line 11, leave out 'United Kingdom' and insert 'England'.

No. 148, in line 12, leave out 'United Kingdom' and insert 'England'.

No. 149, in line 19, leave out 'United Kingdom' and insert 'England'.

No. 150, in Clause 10, page 7, line 26, leave out 'United Kingdom' and insert 'England'.

No. 151, in line 27, leave out 'United Kingdom' and insert 'England'.

No. 152, in line 40, leave out 'United Kingdom' and insert 'England'.

No. 153, in line 42, leave out 'United Kingdom' and insert 'England'.

No. 156, in Clause 17, page 13, line 19, after 'State', insert 'the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Secretary of State for Wales in England, Scotland, and Wales respectively'.

No. 157, in Clause 18, page 13, line 41, after 'State', insert 'the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Secretary of State for Wales in England, Scotland, and Wales respectively'.

No. 158, in page 13, line 43, leave out 'he' and insert 'they'.

New Clause 5—"Limitation on powers in sections 10 and 11."

Mr. Crawford

We are seeking a categorical assurance that there shall be no operations by the National Enterprise Board in Scotland. We are seeking to nail down the intentions of the Government, and also the situation in regard to the operation of the Scottish Development Agency in relation to the NEB. No doubt one of the Members of the Plaid Cymru will wish to say something about the Welsh Development Agency and its relationship to the amendments.

We were told by the Secretary of State in the debate on the Scottish Development Agency Bill on 25th June, My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry and I will be working out the details of that relationship and in due course we shall be issuing guidance to both sides. This will be done once the two bodies are established and are able to make their own suggestions about what the relationship should be. But the guidance will deal, among other things, with arrangements for the NEB's own functions in Scotland. This guidance will make clear that the SDA will normally be responsible for schemes concerning companies wholly or predominantly based in Scotland. Where its actions or the actions of the NEB could have an effect on employment in Scotland, the NEB would be expected to exercise its powers in full consultation with the SDA. One point worth stressing is that there will be no rigid demarcation between a class of companies or undertakings in Scotland which are the concern of the agency and others which are to be reserved to the actions of the NEB."—[Official Report, 25th June 1975; Vol. 894, c. 474.] We in the SNP want to put the matter beyond all shadow of doubt. Therefore, we have covered the situation in Amendment No. 131 and the wording contained therein. We are not interested in anodyne phrases such as "in due course" or "issuing guidance" or about the two bodies SDA and NEB making their own suggestions about what the relationship should be.

I refer to what the then Secretary of State said in intervention in my speech on the Industry Bill on 17th February 1975: I should not like the hon. Gentleman to continue his speech under a misapprehension. The Scottish Development Agency will be the subject of special legislation and the consultative document has been issued. Following the statement in the White Paper, power finder Clause 7 of the Industry Bill will be transferred to the Secretary of State for Scotland in July of this year when the necessary administrative arrangements have been made. Therefore, he must say what he has to say about the NEB against that back-ground."—[Official Report, 17th February 1975; Vol. 886, c. 1015.] If that is the case, I look forward to the support of the Secretary of State for Industry and his successor as Secretary of State in the Lobbies on these amendments.

The questions were raised when we discussed similar matters in the SDA debate last Wednesday. The hon. Members for Glasgow, Queen's Park (Mr. McElhone) and for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan) referred to the rôle of the SDA and NEB in relation to the rôle of multinational companies operating with United Kingdom-wide interests in Scotland. The question of British Leyland was mentioned by the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell). This referred not only to British Leyland in Scotland and Honeywell but also to Hoover, Ferranti, NCR, Borroughes and others who have their Scottish interests well looked after by the Scottish Development Agency. I am sure that the hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. Wigley) will make similar comments about Welsh interests.

The Scottish Development Agency should be a body with its own rôle and money beginning with an annual budget of £100 million rising to £300 million in the fifth year, and with offices throughout the world and in Scotland. A number of hon. Members in the debate last week regarded that idea as absurd, but we regard the suggestion as a necessity which we shall continue to press on the Scottish electorate.

Today the vote on this group of amendments will show the people of Scotland what party has their true interests at heart. We do not want to see control over our industries by the London-based NEB. Centralisation has gone far enough. What we propose is a practical suggestion and it paves the way for the time when—and it is not far distant—we shall have a sovereign Parliament in Scotland.

If these amendments are opposed, no longer will the Government spokesman be able to claim any autonomy for the SDA and no longer will he be able to claim that there will be any real independent or economic powers for the Scottish Assembly. We know that the Scottish Trade Union Congress wants the powers, but that the Scottish Labour Party does not require them. We do not know what the Scottish Tory Party wants because it has not yet made that clear.

I want the Minister to give a categorical assurance that monetary priority will be given to the SDA over the NEB and that, if anything must be cut, it must not be the Scottish Development Agency. Will the Minister consider increasing the budget of the SDA and will he give a firm assurance about the autonomy or otherwise of the agency?

If these amendments are not accepted we shall seek to divide the House to show people of Scotland that we do not want the NEB to have any say in the industrial economic future of Scotland.

Mr. Dafydd Wigley (Caernarvon)

I rise to support what has been said by the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. Crawford) and also to speak to an amendment which has been linked with the one that we are at present discussing, namely, amendment No. 164 which is in my name and the names of my hon. Friends the Members for Carmarthen (Mr. Evans) and Merioneth (Mr. Thomas).

To some extent I debated this matter in the Industry Bill Committee in an attempt to understand what would be the relationship between the National Enterprise Board and the Welsh Development Agency. The same attempt was made during Second Reading a few months ago in this Chamber. We had meetings with the then Minister of State, outside the Chamber, and last week, in the debate on the WDA, again we attempted to receive adequate answers about the inter-relationship that was intended between the NEB and the WDA.

Mr. Crawford

The hon. Member will also be aware that the Scottish National Party was denied membership of the Industry Bill Committee which was discussing this matter.

Mr. Wigley

Yes, I was very much aware of the fact that the SNP had been denied membership of the Committee. Indeed, I should have welcomed their presence to reinforce my case. I have no doubt that hon. Members of the Conservative Party will support the amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire, because I understand that the hon. and learned Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Mr. Fairbairn) put forward a similar amendment in Committee. Therefore, no doubt the Conservative Party will put the weight of its support behind the amendment.

What is in question is the relationship between the NEB, the WDA and the SDA. Statements have been made suggesting that the WDA will have responsibility for dealing with all companies that exist completely in Wales. All companies that straddle the Wales-England border, and operate in both Wales and England, apparently will come under the NEB. However, we are told that the WDA will have some function—it will be allowed to co-operate with the NEB.

I have had discussions with many companies in Wales and with people who have detailed involvement in industry. They are totally at a loss to know how they will deal with this undefined responsibility. I am referring to people who work not only in individual companies but who are concerned with the Welsh Development Corporation, the CBI in Wales and the trade unions. There is a big question mark which has not been adequately defined.

In the Bill, even as amended, there are powers which will go to the NEB but which will not go, in the case of Wales and Scotland, to the Welsh and Scottish Development Agencies. Therefore, companies that exist only in Wales or Scotland will be subject to some restrictive powers, whereas those that straddle the borders will be subject to greater powers that come under the NEB.

This position creates a great question mark. If those powers are desirable, we should want them in Wales for the WDA. If they are undesirable we should not want the NEB poking its nose into Wales and causing concern. The importance of this point will be appreciated by the Secretary of State and the Minister because, of the companies that employ over 100 employees in Wales, some 70 per cent. of them are companies that have branches or subsidiaries in Wales. Therefore, this question is of fundamental importance.

On the basis of the legislation that is proposed in this Bill, and also in the Bills that will come forward for the WDA and the SDA, I cannot see how it is possible to build up sufficient liaison between these bodies. There is only one way in which there can be a clearly defined and clear-cut solution and that is if the WDA has total responsibility in Wales for all these activities. If the responsibilities are sufficient for those companies, however large, that exist only in Wales, surely this body must have the strength to deal also with companies that straddle the border.

I ask the Secretary of State and the Minister of State what is the position of a company which has its head office in Wales but which may have a branch in England? Will that company come under the WDA or the NEB? What is the position of, say, a supranational company that has branches in Wales and Scotland but not in England? Will that company come under the WDA and SDA or the NEB? Satisfactory answers have not been given to those points. Moreover, how is the allocation of money to be made? Will the NEB have a certain proportion of the money allocated in the Bill for spending in Wales or Scotland, or is that money entirely for its activities within England with separate allocations under the WDA and the SDA? All these are important points which have not been adequately answered.

Time and time again, we have tried to get answers from the Government, but time and time again it has been made patently clear that the Government have not the foggiest idea how these bodies will work with each other. For that reason we have tabled amendment No. 164. I also support the amendments proposed by the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire.

Dr. Jeremy Bray (Motherwell and Wishaw)

I wish briefly to say that I am sure that it is the overwhelming view of the great majority of people in Scotland and Wales that the NEB should be able to operate with unfettered freedom to the benefit of the Scottish and Welsh people. The view that has been expressed by Opposition Members would confine the operations of the NEB and damage the interests of the Scottish and Welsh people.

Mr. Douglas Henderson (Aberdeenshire, East)

My first reaction on hearing the mercifully brief intervention by the hon. Member for Motherwell and Wishaw (Dr. Bray) was to recollect the effect which the British Steel Corporation—a centralised body—has had on the industrial life of Scotland. I think that the hon. Gentleman may have joined some of the criticisms of the corporation's rôle.

We are discussing the whole issue whether the economies of Scotland and of Wales should be centralised and controlled by a body which operates in London. It is very significant that the Government have introduced a Bill for a Scottish Development Agency, which we warmly support, and a Bill for a Welsh Development Agency. However, they have not introduced a Bill for an English Development Agency because the NEB would, in anyone's view, fulfil that particular function. I cannot understand the logic of saying that with a Scottish Development Agency and a Welsh Development Agency there will be a big brother—a massive, multipowered, well-financed well-heeled big brother—to take all the big decisions, whereas the WDA and the SDA are to be left with minor decisions and minor projects. It would be logical to have a National Enterprise Board for the United Kingdom, if there were also an English Development Agency, because then there would be a consistent relationship.

I see that the hon. Member for Motherwell and Wishaw (Dr. Bray) is indicating, from a sedentary position, that this legislation is coming. I do not know how privy he is to the Government's legislative programme, but we have had no sign of it yet, and there is nothing in the manifesto about it.

The people of Scotland and Wales have suffered for far too long from centralisation and from industrial and political decisions being taken outside their borders. In my view sometimes the nationalised industries get far too much stick from people who should know better. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the nationalised industries, what we have seen has been a centralisation of decision making outside of our borders, to the detriment of our countries. I should have thought it quite practical and feasible for the Government to recognise the wish of the people of both Scotland and Wales to have control of the public investment to be made in their countries without people in London making the decisions. I should have thought that they would understand that many other small countries have development agencies which deal with a vast host of multinational and other companies whether or not they have registered offices in those countries.

Mr. Crawford

I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Henderson) realises that in the context of registration he has an ally in the hon. Member for Glasgow, Queen's Park (Mr. McElhone) who, in the debate on the Scottish Development Agency, said: We must accept that cross-border companies and multinational companies must in time have separate Scottish company registration."—[Official Report, 25th June 1975 Vol. 894, c.520.]

4.30 p.m.

Mr. Henderson

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that telling point. Scotland has suffered from over-centralisation for too long. We have seen the concentration of investment, talent and power outwith Scotland to the extent that the Scottish Council has estimated that although Scotland has approximately 10 per cent. of the population of the United Kingdom. it has less than 2 per cent. of the decision makers.

The amendment should be accepted by the Government. I do not give up hope entirely, because the new Secretary of State is a well-known friend of Scotland and Scottish interests. If he accepts the amendment, he will thereby assure the Scottish people that the agencies which are to operate within Scotland's borders will have no interference from the National Enterprise Board.

Mr. John Horam (Gateshead, West)

The Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru have misunderstood the nature of the situation concerning the National Enterprise Board. I have considerable sympathy for the basic view that there has been too much centralisation and too many decisions taken in London. But I am sure that hon. Gentlemen opposite will agree that the North of England has suffered just as much as Scotland and Wales in that respect. Indeed, we are anxious to get some kind of devolution.

The NEB has a number of functions. Some are clearly national. While we retain the United Kingdom in its present form, decisions will have to be taken on a national basis. But some matters are regional. We must concentrate the resources of the Scottish and Welsh Development Agencies on their own regional problems. They must be the focus for their regional economic problems, just as the NEB concentrates on more national problems. We cannot break up a national company into its constituent parts and deal with the Welsh subsidiary by means of the Welsh Development Agency and the rest of it by means of the NEB. We must work out a regional strategy within the STA and the WDA and a national strategy within the NEB.

Mr. Crawford

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way, especially as he is a Fellow of the same college as I attended at Cambridge. Scotland is not a region; it is a nation. That is what differentiates Scotland and Wales from the North-East of England, the North-West, and so on.

Mr. Horam

We are entering on difficult ground. I should not care to pursue that sophisticated point.

Mr. Crawford

It is basic.

Mr. Horam

It may be basic, but it is also sophisticated in terms of this debate. We are talking about regional economic planning within the United Kingdom.

Mr. Crawford

We are not.

Mr. Horam

I am, anyway. I agree that fundamentally the two branches of the NEB exist to further regional economic concepts and devolutionary planning within Scotland and Wales.

Mr. Wigley

What does the hon. Gentleman mean by "the two branches"?

Mr. Horam

The Scottish Development Agency and the Welsh Development Agency.

Mr. Wigley

I wonder whether the Secretary of State would care to intervene on that point?

Mr. Horam

While it is true that the NEB must concentrate on national economic problems and the Scottish and Welsh Development Agencies must concentrate on regional problems within the borders of Scotland and Wales, none the less an immense gap is still left in regional planning. I should like to see the development of a mini-NEB on the lines of the Scottish and Welsh Development Agencies for the English development regions. I should like to see a North of England Development Agency, a Merseyside Development Agency and a South-West of England Development Agency. Those are the three development regions within the borders of England.

We need development agencies to pursue regional economic planning in those areas. That would be a logical set-up within the confines of present thinking. It would be a major development to expand the NEB in that way by spawning further NEBs. It would command considerable support not only from my hon. Friends but from some hon. Gentlemen opposite. It would make clear cut what I hope is the Government's view—it is certainly mine—that, as long as the United Kingdom remains as it is, the NEB should tackle national problems and that regional problems should be tackled by regional development agencies based in the regions, the North of England Development Agency being based in Newcastle.

Mr. Nicholas Fairbairn (Kinross and West Perthshire)

I support the amendment moved by the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. Crawford) whose faith in Scottish education required him to go to an English university.

Mr. Crawford

An international university.

Mr. Fairbairn

It became international when the hon. Gentleman went there. The hon. Gentleman was hurt at not having been a member of the Industry Bill Committee and having to restrict his attendance on the Community Land Bill Committee in order to be here this afternoon.

Socialist philosophy appears to be to remove from flourishing private industry by taxation the funds which would otherwise be available for investment and to set up a bureaucracy to invest those funds.

The National Enterprise Board is intended to meddle with flourishing private industry and to extend nationalisation and bureaucracy. One of the major problems in this country is the growing imbalance of bureaucracy and State interference, whether it be with industry or anything else. Under this Government we see it as an accelerating programme which vastly increases our borrowing requirement.

When the Bill first entered Committee, I do not think that the Government appreciated that Scotland would have these two agencies which essentially carry out the same activities. They will interfere in private industry in Scotland. One will be based in London and the other will presumably have its headquarters in Edinburgh. However, both will be bureaucratic organisations essentially answerable to nobody. Both will presumably have separate policies and will spend a good deal of their time discussing whether each should do what the other intends to do. I do not believe that either one of these agencies is a good idea.

If money is available for investment in industry in Scotland, let us have it. There are innumerable agencies in Scotland which can spend it without setting up mg one but two new fetters on Scottish in, dustry. If the Government have money available for investment in Scotland, let us have it. We do not need a brontosaurus bureaucracy in London and another in Edinburgh attempting to interfere with the sensible development of sophisticated go-ahead industry in Scotland. We believe that the agencies, not the funds, will do great harm to industry in Scotland.

Mr. Crawford

I should like to emphasise that, while we are grateful for the hon. and learned Gentleman's support, we support a Scottish Development Agency because we want more jobs and investment in Scotland. We do not want a National Enterprise Board in Scotland. While we welcome the hon. and learned Gentleman's support, we do not go all the way with what he is saying.

Mr. Fairbairn

The Conservative Party also wants jobs and investment in Scotland, but we do not need to set up another bureaucratic organisation to spend the money. That is where I part company from the hon. Gentleman. We have plenty of agencies for that purpose in Scotland. But if we must have one, we do not want both. To be Scottish for a moment, if we are to have any, let us have one in Scotland, not in London.

Mr. Gordon Wilson (Dundee, East)

The Government appear to be suffering from split decision making. They do not seem able to make up their mind whether there should be a development agency in Scotland and another in the United Kingdom. We have confusion drifting into the debate already on the ground that the Scottish Development Agency might be the second cousin twice removed of the NEB, which is the main relative. The trouble is that this confusion is likely to breed even more when we see the two organisations in operation.

My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Henderson) said that one of the main problems was that for many years Scotland had suffered from a lack of decision making and that there had been a drift of the decision making power towards the centre. On the one hand, we have the Government's intention to set up a Scottish Development Agency and a Welsh Development Agency. That would be a good start, because it would at least indicate that certain decision making powers would return to Scotland.

On the other hand, the Government have produced the Industry Bill, the terms of which do not exclude Scotland and Wales. It sets up the National Enterprise Board which will act as a development agency for England and, with its controlling and decision making powers, as a development agency for Scotland. Why should we have another agency for Scotland? The Government have already introduced two Bills, one in this House and one in another place, to give legislative sanction to the Scottish Development Agency. Now they are to introduce this confusion in the Industry Bill, and it goes much deeper than the basic administrative confusion which is likely to result.

One of the problems in Scotland has been that when private firms have been taken over, there is a systematic stripping away of functions. This happens in the multinational corporations where there is no competition between one branch and another. Centralised groups tend to hog certain functions to the centre. In the past these have included research, development, quality control, production planning, production control, stock control, resources allocation, materials buying, computer services and legal and tax services where they could be divorced from the Scottish legal code. A recent article by Dr. John Firn of the Economics Department of Glasgow University pointed out that nationalised industries are among the greatest centralisers which strip away decision making powers from Scotland. When the steel industry was nationalised, steel-making areas which had autonomy did not retain it. The industry was deliberately shaken up into another form and the resulting corporate divisions lost much of their natural efficiency and decision-making powers.

The planning division of the Scottish steel industry, which had been responsible for the planning and development of Ravenscraig and had also worked on planning projects with industries outside the United Kingdom, was dissolved. Its functions were taken away from Scotland and the skilled experts, organisers and technocrats had to move to other parts of the corporation.

If this is happening in multinationals in the private sector as well as in the public sector, what sort of salvation is there for Scotland in this Bill? The Scottish Development Agency is intended to be the means by which economic and decision making powers can be returned to Scotland. But it will not have power to control the activities in Scotland of multinational private firms or nationalised industries. These controlling and planning powers will be reserved for the National Enterprise Board. In the past, in both the private and public sectors there has been centralising activity and a transferring of powers from the periphery to the centre. What sort of help will Scotland get from the Board which will itself be a centralised body? It is intended that it should operate throughout the United Kingdom and have a guiding or advisory effect on multinationals and nationalised industries, but, by the nature of the beast, it will be a centraliser itself. What is the purpose of that?

The main concern in Scotland is to bring back power. This is what the Government's policy on devolution is supposed to achieve. It is supposed to remove power from this place and Whitehall and transfer it back to Scotland.

4.45 p.m.

The Government's intentions in industrial matters and their intentions on the political, administrative and devolutionary questions are plainly at variance. If they intend to set up a Scottish Assembly they must give it something to do. This afternoon I raised with the Prime Minister the fact that the STUC and the Scottish Council (Development and Industry), both representing, in their own ways, aspects of industrial activity in Scotland, wanted economic powers to go to the Assembly. One of the best ways of doing that would be to have a strong development agency answerable to the Assembly. What power can the Assembly have over the National Enterprise Board? If the board has statutory power to interfere with various important aspects of industry in Scotland, what power will the Assembly have to call it to task?

Are the Government to say that the board would be answerable to Scotland where it pursued Scottish objectives— answerable to the Minister of Industry for Scotland, the Chief Executive or Prime Minister of Scotland or the Secretary of State for Scotland, or whatever executive arm of government is to be used—and at the same time responsible to the Secretary of State for Industry in this House? This will place the board in a schizophrenic position. Surely the old Biblical adage is true enough that No man can serve two masters. yet the board is to be expected to do that in Scotland.

The Government can shrug off this matter and say that the board will be able to follow through its objective, as seen by the Secretary of State for Industry and Parliament, of being a medium for economic planning in the United Kingdom. But this might not be allowed by the Scottish people, and the employees of the board will be in a very difficult situation over the question of answerability.

Dr. Bray

The hon. Gentleman takes a very dim view of democracy. There is nothing against a master having two servants, so why should the Scottish people not be served by both the board and the agency?

Mr. Wilson

I am impressed by the question, but it brings us back again to the responsibility of these servants. The board will have two masters—the Secretary of State for Industry in this House and, possibly, the Scottish Minister of Industry in the Scottish Assembly.

Mr. Wigley

This point was raised in Standing Committee. We asked whether the term "Secretary of State", as it appeared in the Bill, referred only to the Secretary of State for Industry or whether it was an all-embracing term including the Secretaries of State for Scotland and Wales. The answer was that it was an all-embracing term. This would give the board triplicate responsibility which appears to me totally impossible.

Mr. Wilson

I am grateful to the hon. Member for that intervention. He served on the Standing Committee. Every hon. Member, from whichever party, who served on that Committee deserves a medal for the work done on that marathon. The hon. Member's intervention enhances the point I was making. We shall head for administrative and constitutional conflict.

One of the first things any Scottish Assembly would do would be to try to get its hands on any body which tried to conduct industrial policies which might be at variance with its own aims. The Scottish Assembly must by its nature be against centralisation. This line of thought is emerging from so many springs in Scotland that it is welling up into a torrent and it is one reason why the Government are bringing forward proposals for parliamentary as well as administrative devolution.

The SDA will be provided with either £200 million or £300 million for an indefinite period depending upon when and if the Government come back to Parliament for more money. Once the Scottish Assembly is established in Scotland, there will be a demand for it to have control over or access to the revenues coming from oil. I have no doubt that hon. Members will say that the SNP is off on one of its well-worn tracks again. The track may be well worn, but it is a very popular one in Scotland. As I mentioned to the Secretary of State for Industry before his change of responsibilities from energy matters, this question of access to oil revenues is a matter which has cropped up not only in the United Kingdom. It has occurred also in Canada where Newfoundland is denying the right of the Federal Government of Canada a share of any oil or natural gas which may be discovered off the Newfoundland coast. The same thing is happening in Australia where the Government of Western Australia is unilaterally confirming oil and natural gas exploration licences against the will of the Federal Government.

The first thing people in Scotland will want to know is what happens to the money from the oil. They will insist that it goes to the SDA, and the Government who are in power at that time will come under very strong pressure from the Scottish people and the Scottish Assembly, regardless of politics, for the money to be used for Scottish purposes. I never fail to be amazed at the way in which the Government take it for granted that if they set up a Scottish Assembly and if it is controlled by the Labour Party it will immediately fit in with the policies produced at Westminster. The same thing applies to the Conservatives. I can assure the Government and the Opposition that a Labour administration in the Scottish Assembly would automatically and very naturally seek to bring pressure to gain the maximum benefit for the people who voted for that administration.

This leads me to the difficult situation which the NEB will face in operating in Scotland. There will be two bodies responsible for administering industrial activity. They could not but help being at variance with one another. It may be hoped that the unfriendliness which stems from the clash of responsibilities will elide and it may be possible by negotiation to prevent the points of friction from getting too hot.

Sir Raymond Gower (Barry)

Has it occurred to the hon. Member that if the activity of the main authority is confined to England, and if the development authorities in Scotland and Wales are left to carry out all the development in those parts of the United Kingdom, the three authorities will be competing and that the much stronger resources of the English body will tend to prevail? In those circumstances would it not be an advantage for Wales and Scotland to have an authority, the writ of which runs throughout the United Kingdom?

Mr. Wilson

This situation will naturally always arise in any sphere of operations, and it has been a fundamental philosophy in favour of larger units, of rationalising and of cost benefits from cutting, for example, the research and development functions in Scottish factories. The belief is always that strength comes from the big unit.

Mr. Crawfordrose

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. George Thomas)

Order. I would remind the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. Crawford) that he has made about five interventions since he used his time to address the House, and that we are under the guillotine today.

Mr. Crawford

My intervention was on that very point, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I am simply reminding the hon. Member that if everybody behaved like that we would not get very far.

Mr. Wilson

I was about to give my hon. Friend one last chance of intervening, but instead I shall try to conclude my own remarks. I was dealing with the argument about the advantage of size. Many Scots went along with that argument for many years. For example in the 1920s the railways were amalgamated and rationalised. In the 1930s, the 1940s and the 1950s one industry after another in Scotland was taken over. The ultimate experience is that it is far better to have individual units which are capable of thriving and working and, if necessary, fighting alone to safeguard their own existence. The interests of the smaller parts are not always safeguarded by the policies of the larger units. That is fundamentally why I would disagree with the hon. Member for Barry (Sir R. Gower).

The second reason I oppose the argument for large units concerns the assumption that the Scottish Development Agency would necessarily be a weaker body in terms of finance. Let us not forget the question of the oil revenues. The SDA might well be a stronger unit in terms of available financing for industrial development. This point of having real money rather than paper money has occurred to many people in Scotland.

Bodies such as the Scottish Council Research Institute in considering economic planning in the United Kingdom have looked into the centralisation which has taken place in both the private and public sector. They have considered centralisation of Government Departments and the effect it has on Scotland where so much decision making power has been stripped away. The institute came to the view in the course of a report published only last year that it would be far better for the United Kingdom as a whole if local policies were pursued as far as possible because if there is efficiency in the component parts, the sum of the parts adds up to a much stronger whole. The advocacy of a total United Kingdom approach is a stance I rarely adopt in this House. I urge the House to accept the amendments.

5.0 p.m.

Mr. Andrew Welsh (South Angus)

The changed political climate in Scotland has shown the need for a change in outlook in London towards the needs of Scotland. It is important that there should be a Scottish oriented and mandated development agency. We need a development agency in Scotland to think seriously about Scottish conditions. It is important that that organisation should be equipped with a realisation of Scottish economic history, and our record of low wages, high emigration, high unemployment and poor environment. As the House will discover this week, much needs to be done in Scotland. Too often decisions have been made in London without a basic knowledge of Scotland and her background.

We need a workhorse organisation to get to the roots of these problems. If the agency is to do so, it must have adequate finance. If it has this equipment—the Scottish National Party amendment seeks to give it the necessary powers—the Scottish Development Agency can be of service to Scotland. It is important at all times that an organisation should be created to do a job of work for Scotland. We want to see an end to this branch factory mentality which has gone on for far too long and which has cost Scotland so much in past damage. An SDA with adequate decision-making powers, and free from the domination of the NEB in London, can undertake that task if it is allowed to take Scotland's needs and conditions into account.

We wish clearly to spell out the need for an end to the policy of London centralisation, to which we have grown used. We wish to see Scottish-based minds planning in Scotland for Scottish needs.

Mr. Michael Heseltine (Henley)

I wish to speak about the impact of these amendments and the attitude of my party to what was said earlier. Anyone who has considered the proposals contained in the Bill—it can be dissociated from a Scottish development agency and a Welsh development agency—knows that virtually all the powers which are necessary to help industry with its legitimate problems were dealt with in the Industry Act 1972. After that law, only one issue was open for serious debate—whether the powers of the Industry Act 1972 should be administered by an agency or by a Government Department. I understand the merits of that argument.

However, that is not the argument today. Today's argument is that, in addition to the Industry Act 1972, a range of new possibilities should be proposed. We must, therefore, concentrate on the argument whether the NEB will contribute to the Scottish or Welsh development agencies anything which it is not otherwise capable of doing, once we have accepted the need for an additional agency in excess of what the Industry Act 1972 provides.

I recommend the Opposition to support the amendment. If we accept that there is, in the proposals for the National Enterprise Board, nothing which adds meaningfully to the solution of industrial problems which is not provided under the Industry Act 1972 it is right to resist the temptation to allow the NEB to spread its remit into Scotland. In addition to the powers provided by the Industry Act 1972, or through the authorities that I have mentioned, one of the principal purposes of the NEB is to nationalise profitable manufacturing companies. That remit of the NEB is not mirrored in the Scottish or Welsh development authorities.

This is the most realistic interpretation of the debate. Should there be a London-based organisation, acting for Scotland and Wales, as well as England, with the function of buying into profitable, free enterprise companies in Scotland and Wales and to transfer the power of decision making of those companies to London away from Scotland and Wales?

My own view is that there is no shred of justification for saying to the people of Scotland and Wales that their flourishing private sector companies should not be run, managed and operated in Wales and Scotland but should be operated from the central administration in London. There is no evidence for that. I spent the weekend in Dumfriesshire. Tomorrow I shall go to Glasgow. I expect that the arguments I shall hear from all sides will be clearly to the effect that the people of Scotland are well content to manage their own affairs within Scotland.

I believe that this legislation, with the legislation for the nationalisation of the aircraft and shipbuilding industries, will transfer the control over the Scottish shipbuilding and aircraft manufacturing industries from the Scottish people to London. That is an additional reason why this proposal should be resisted.

The arguments are clear that there is only one motivation which encourages the Government to put this proposal before us. They want a vehicle intended to spread nationalisation to Wales and Scotland in a way that the development authorities of those countries are not empowered to do. We shall naturally resist that proposal.

I hope that the Minister will not say that the people of Wales and Scotland should be grateful to the Government, as there are now development authorities in their national names, and that they will also enjoy the benefits of the National Enterprise Board to be bestowed on them. The House will not find it acceptable if the Under-Secretary, in reply, argues along those lines, when the people of Wales and Scotland have already taken on board the industrial policies of the Government and when the Government's economic policies are in ruins.

Far from their being justified in talking about the regeneration of British industry or the expansion of investment opportunities, in reality investment will decline by 15 per cent. next year, and the people of Wales and Scotland will suffer most. The unemployment levels in this country will be the highest since the war. Unemployment will be highest in Wales and Scotland. The theory of this legislation, in view of the economic hardships which the people of Wales and Scotland will suffer as a consequence of the policies of the past 14 months, is a travesty of the industrial policies which the Government should bestir themselves to put forward.

Mr. Norman Buchan (Renfrewshire, West)

I expect to hear this kind of nonsense from the Opposition. Why must it be accepted so easily that unemployment must be more serious in Scotland and Wales? There are efficient Scottish trade unionists fighting these issues. If we take into account the other areas of England and Wales, the figures show that the worst unemployment is not in Scotland.

Mr. Heseltine

The only way in which we shall ever establish the facts is to wait. The hon. Gentleman must exercise only a little more patience before he discovers that what I have said is true.

The people of Scotland and Wales, living in the areas which have always traditionally suffered, will find that the impact of the economic policies now being pursued in this country will threaten more jobs and destroy more investment than have been threatened or destroyed at any time over the past two decades. It is frightening that hon. Gentlemen have not seen the dangers to Scotland and Wales of this legislation and of the economic strategy of the Government. The people of those countries will not be deceived.

To make the position of the Conservative Party clear I recommend that we support this amendment.

The Under-Secretary of State for Industry (Mr. Gerald Kaufman)

Before turning to the serious arguments put forward by the Members of the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru, I should like to deal with the remarks of the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine). The hon. Gentleman—who was not facing the Opposition, as I was—was not in a position to observe the amused contempt on the faces of the hon. Members representing constituencies in Scotland and Wales who share the Opposition benches with him when they saw the opportunism with which he reacted to their amendment, which they put down for the honest reasons which brought them to the House.

Mr. Fairbairnrose

Mr. Kaufman

I will come to the point raised by the hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Mr. Fairbairn) in a moment. The hon. Member for Henley is indeed himself a Welshman, as we know, but when he sought to be elected for a Welsh constituency he was rejected by a massive majority and he had to come to Oxfordshire in order to sit in the House of Commons, in the same way as the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. Crawford) had to come to Cambridge to be educated.

The hon. Member for Henley talked about unemployment. He is, in fact, an expert on unemployment. He was a member of the Government which produced a million unemployed very shortly after coming to office. I point out to him that when we had a million unemployed, as the result of the policies of his right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath), it was the North-East which had higher unemployment than Scotland.

Mr. Tim Renton (Mid-Sussex)

On a point of order. Is it appropriate for the Under-Secretary of State to talk in these terms about the past history of unemployment when we are under the guillotine and have a great number of amendments to discuss in a short time?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I am in the happy position that I am not responsible for what either side say, but both sides are aware that there is a guillotine.

Mr. Kaufman

The hon. Member for Henley spoke at some length about unemployment and I am perfectly entitled to reply. He said that when unemployment came, Scotland and Wales would be the worst hit. They have always been very unhappily hit by unemployment, and we recognise that. At the same time, I point out again that, when the right hon. Member for Sidcup gave us a million unemployed, the North-West had more unemployed than Wales. I do not boast about it. It is a fact.

These are problems which are shared by all the neglected areas of the United Kingdom, and it ill behoves us for opportunistic reasons to play to one gallery or another.

The hon. Member for Henley cut no ice whatever with Plaid Cymru or the SNP in his remarks. He appears to believe that the Industry Act 1972 was the last word in industrial policy in this country and that nothing more needs to be done following that. If that were the case, industry in this country would have been restructured as a result of that Act, and we should not be facing the grave problems of industrial restructuring that we face, to deal with which is one—but only one—of the objectives of the Bill before us.

The fact is that the hon. Member for Henley supports these amendments because he hopes that perhaps by uniting with the other parties on the Opposition Benches he may defeat the Government. He does not support them for any other reason. He, like the hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire, who is a good deal more open about it, simply wants to wreck this Bill. It can be done perfectly openly. The hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire made many extremely interesting speeches in Standing Committee in which he made no bones about this. It will not do to suggest that the Tory Opposition are supporting other Opposition parties—we have several of them, as the hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Wainwright) often points out—for reasons other than total opporttunism.

Mr. Fairbairn

Does the Minister appreciate that in Committee there was an amendment in my name and that of my colleagues to the same effect, and that it was not intended to wreck this Bill? But there is a saying that if one cannot keep a thief out of one's neighbour's garden one may want to keep him, out of one's own.

Mr. Kaufman

One of the delights of reading the hon. Member's speeches in Standing Committee was the stream of aphorisms, which I shall remember and use on suitable occasions.

But some serious arguments have been put by hon. Gentlemen on the third opposition bench below the Gangway, and by my hon. Friends on this side. The hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire, in moving this series of amendments, asked for categorical assurances that the National Enterprise Board would not operate in the areas north of the border and west of the border, if I may so describe them. I cannot give him those assurances. I cannot give him them for reasons which the Tory Opposition would appreciate but which hon. Members of this Party, the SNP and Plaid Cymru would not accept, namely, that this would wreck the purposes of this Bill.

5.15 p.m.

I know that, despite the separatism which they are elected to advocate in this House, they, and particularly the hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. Wigley) do not wish to wreck the purposes of this Bill. In fact, they support many of them, as indeed does the Liberal Party.

But among the purposes of this Bill which would be wrecked by abolishing the activities of the National Enterprise Board in Wales and Scotland would be three of the most important. The first is the restructuring or reorganising of industries on a United Kingdom basis. The second is the extension of public ownership into profitable areas of manufacturing industry. This is a public ownership Bill, not just a restructuring of industry Bill—the exercise of the State holding company function and the provision of investment capital to companies operating throughout the United Kingdom.

The hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Henderson) claimed that what we would be doing in this Bill, as he claimed we had done in the case of other nationalised bodies, would be to set up a centralised bureaucratic body which would be unaware of or oblivious to the problems of Scotland. He implied that the nationalised bodies are "big brothers" which ignore the interests of the three other countries of the United Kingdom and, indeed, perhaps the other regions of the United Kingdom. He cited the British Steel Corporation and made certain claims about it.

I point out to the hon. Gentleman that he and his colleagues have never cited the National Coal Board in this connection. The fact is that if it were not for our having a "Great Britain" National Coal Board the coal industry in Scotland would collapse and not be viable. It is the profitable coal areas of England, particularly of South Yorkshire and the East Midlands, which keep the Scottish coal industry and the Welsh coal industry going. This is as it should be, and this is the purpose of a nationally based nationalised body. There are reasons, too, why we need the National Enterprise Board in addition to the SDA and the WDA.

Mr. Gordon Wilson

I do not know whether the Minister is aware—probably not, from his remarks—that it has been the policy of my party for many years to have a Scottish coal board As to his arguments about the viability of the Scottish coalfields and the position of the National Coal Board, is he aware of the reputation of the National Coal Board for blunders and maladministration in Scotland, particularly in the 1950s, when it opened up many new pits and closed many that seemingly were quite efficient, and when the new pits ran into a great deal of trouble? Many of the difficulties which at present afflict the Scottish coal industry came from the maladministration of that national body, which applied to Scottish miners some of the procedures and techniques which were applicable to different types of seams and mining elsewhere in the United Kingdom.

Mr. Kaufman

I would not claim that the National Coal Board is a perfect body, any more than the SNP or the Tory Party. What I would say is that it cannot be denied—if the hon. Gentleman wants to maintain a separate loss-making Scottish national coal industry, good luck to him—that the Scottish coal industry is viable now as part of a British coal industry, under the National Coal Board.

The hon. Gentleman lives, I say to him in all friendliness, in a world of unreality. He talked, for example, about the national ambitions of Newfoundland, and its separatist ambitions. Newfoundland was a separate member country of the Commonwealth and it found its separatism so unviable that it decided to return and become a province of Canada. Newfoundland is an extremely bad example for him to cite in support of his case.

My hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, West (Mr. Horam)—who has explained to me why he cannot be present for this part of the debate—made some points which are very valid indeed in the light of what I said in reply to the hon. Member for Henley about the problems of neglected regions of England. In addition to the problems of Scotland and Wales, my own region, the North-West, is a deeply neglected region of England. We shall pay attention to this. In regard to the activities of the National Enterprise Board, we shall, for example, have strong offices of the NEB in both Merseyside and the North-East. What we shall not have is separate agencies of the kind which both Scotland and Wales will have.

Hon. Members who represent the SNP and Plaid Cymru are some of the least naive Members of this House, and they will not wish me to repeat what was said about the powers and the extent of the Welsh Development Agency and the Scottish Development Agency in the course of the Second Reading debates on the Bills last week. I could put them on the record, but they were made clear by my right hon. Friend the Minister of State in the debate on the SDA Bill and by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary in the debate on the WDA Bill, and in a guillotined debate it would be wrong to repeat the very lengthy assurances which were given.

All I say is that the remits of the SDA and the WDA will cover many of the matters which the hon. Members wish to do and will not be in conflict with the NEB, which will be able to work in partnership with them.

Sir Raymond Gower

I think that the hon. Gentleman made an involuntary remark which may betray his thinking about these matters. He said that there would not be separate agencies of the NEB in Merseyside and the North-West. Does that mean that he regards the SDA and the WDA merely as agencies?

Mr. Kaufman

No, and I did not say that. They will be separate bodies. They are called agencies, but they will be separate bodies, although working in partnership with the NEB.

As usual, the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson) made a powerful speech, and I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell and Wishaw (Dr. Bray) answered him amply. The hon. Gentleman asked how we could have a United Kingdom National Enterprise Board which was not answerable in Scotland if it was to be of use to Scotland. The answer is that NEB will be answerable, through my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, to the House of Commons. There are 107 Scottish and Welsh Members in this House. The few Members who are elected to represent the SNP and Plaid Cymru have shown that they can raise their voices in this House for Scotland and Wales. Those of my hon. Friends who represent Scottish and Welsh constituencies have never left us in doubt about the way in which they can speak on behalf of Scotland and Wales. Therefore, in addition to the answerability of the SDA and the WDA to their respective Cabinet Ministers, the NEB will be answerable through this House to 107 Scottish and Welsh Members.

I take it that we shall now have a Division based upon conviction on the part of the Scottish and Welsh Opposition Members and upon sheer opportunism on the part of Tory Opposition Members.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Before I put the Question, I must tell the House that I shall allow the customary eight minutes for the first Division. Then we shall return to what Mr. Speaker said earlier. This is because some hon. Members in the Norman Shaw Building may not be

aware of the shortened time for the Division.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 217, Noes 240.

Division No. 250.] AYES [5.24 p.m.
Adley, Robert Grylls, Michael Moore, John (Croydon C)
Aitken, Jonathan Hall, Sir John Morris, Michael (Northampton S)
Alison, Michael Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Morrison, Charles (Devizes)
Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne) Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester)
Awdry, Daniel Hampson, Dr Keith Mudd, David
Bain, Mrs Margaret Hannam, John Neave, Alrey
Baker, Kenneth Harvie Anderson, Rt Hon Miss Nelson, Anthony
Banks, Robert Hastings, Stephen Neubert, Michael
Bennett, Dr Reginald (Fareham) Havers, Sir Michael Newton, Tony
Benyon, W. Hawkins, Paul Normanton, Tom
Berry, Hon Anthony Heselline, Michael Nott, John
Biffen, John Hicks, Hobert Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)
Boscawen, Hon Robert Holland, Philip Parkinson, Cecil
Bottomley, Peter Hooson, Emlyn Pattie, Geoffrey
Bowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown) Hordern, Peter Percival, Ian
Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent) Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Peyton, Rt Hon John
Braine, Sir Bernard Howell, David (Guildford) Pink, R. Bonner
Brittan, Leon Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk) Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch
Brotherton, Michael Hurd, Douglas Prior, Rt Hon James
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Hutchison, Michael Clark Pym, Rt Hon Francis
Bryan, Sir Paul Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Rathbone, Tim
Buchanan-Smith, Alick Irving, Charles (Cheltenham) Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal)
Buck, Antony James, David Rees-Davles, W. R.
Budgen, Nick Jenkln, Rt Hon P. (Wanst'd & W'df'd) Reid, George
Bulmer, Esmond Jessel, Toby Renton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts)
Butler, Adam (Bosworth) Jopling, Michael Ronton, Tim (Mid-Sussex)
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Kaberry, Sir Donald Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Churchill, w. S. Kershaw, Anthony Ridley, Hon Nicholas
Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton) Kilfedder, James Ridsdale, Julian
Clark, William (Croydon S) Kimball, Marcus Rifkind, Malcolm
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushclifle) King, Evelyn (South Dorset) Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)
Clegg, Walter King, Torn (Bridgwater) Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Cockcroft, John Kirk, Petor Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Cooke, Robert (Bristol W) Kitson, Sir Timothy Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire)
Cope,John Knight, Mrs Jill Sainsbury, Tim
Cordle, John H. Knox, David Scott, Nicholas
Crawford, Douglas Lamont, Norman Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Crouch, David Lane, David Shelton, William (Stroatham)
Davies, Rt Hon J. (Knutsford) Langford Holt, Sir John Shepherd, Colin
Dean, Paul (N Somerset) Latham, Michael (Melton) Shersby, Michael
Dodsworth, Geoffrey Lawrence, Ivan Sims, Roger
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Lawson, Nigel Sinclair, Sir George
Drayson, Burnaby Le Marchant, Spencer Skeet, T. H. H.
Durant, Tony Lester, Jim (Beeston) Smith, Dudley (Warwick)
Dykes, Hugh Lloyd, Ian Speed, Keith
Eden, Rt Hon Sir John Luce, Richard Spence, John
Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke) MacCormick, lain Spicer, Michael (S Worcester)
Fairbairn, Nicholas McCrindle, Robert Sproat, Iain
Fairgrieve, Russell McCusker, H. Stainton, Keith
Farr, John Macfarlane, Neil Stanbrook, Ivor
Finsberg, Geoffrey MacGregor, John Stanley, John
Fisher, Sir Nigel Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham) Steen, Anthony (Wavertree)
Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N) McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest) Stewart, Donald (Western Islss)
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Made), David Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Fookes, Miss Janet Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Stradling Thomas, J.
Fowler, Norman (Sutton C'f'd) Marten, Neil Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)
Fox, Marcus Mates, Michael Tebbit, Norman
Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St) Mather, Carol Temple-Morris, Peter
Gardiner, George (Reigate) Maudllng, Rt Hon Reginald Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret
Gardner, Edward (S Fylde) Mawby, Ray Thomas, Rt Hon P. (Hendon S)
Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife) Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Thompson, George
Glyn, Dr Alan Mayhew, Patrick Townsend, Cyril D.
Goodhart, Philip Meyer, Sir Anthony Trotter, Neville
Goodlad, Alastair Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove) Tugendhat, Christopher
Gorst, John Mills, Peter Vaughan, Dr Gerard
Gow, Ian (Eastbourne) Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Viggers, Peter
Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry) Moate, Roger Wakeham, John
Gray, Hamish Molyneaux, James Warren, Kenneth
Griffiths, Eldon Monro, Hector Watt, Hamish
Grist, Ian Montgomery, Fergus Weatherill, Bernard
Whitelaw, Rt Hon William Wood, Rt Hon Richard TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Wigley, Dafydd Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton) Mr. Douglas Henderson and
Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E) Younger, Hon George Mr. Andrew Welsh.
Winterton, Nicholas
Allaun, Frank Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend) Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick
Archer, Peter George, Bruce Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King
Armstrong, Ernest Gilbert, Dr John Newens, Stanley
Ashton, Joe Ginsburg, David Noble, Mike
Atkins, Ronald (Preston (J) Golding, John Oakes, Gordon
Atkinson, Norman Gourlay, Harry Ogden, Eric
Bagler, Gordon A. T. Graham, Ted O'Halloran, Michael
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Grant, George (Morpeth) O'Malley, Rt Hon Brian
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood) Grant, John (Islington C) Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Bates, Alf Grimond, Rt Hon J. Ovenden, John
Bean, R. E. Grocott, Bruce Palmer, Arthur
Beith, A. J. Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Park, George
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N) Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife) Parker, John
Blenkinsop, Arthur Hardy, Peter Pavitt, Laurie
Boardman, H. Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Penhaligon, David
Booth, Albert Hart, Rt Hon Judith Phipps, Dr Colin
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Hatton, Frank Prescott, John
Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur Hayman, Mrs Helene Price, William (Rugby)
Boyden, James (Bish Auck) Hooley, Frank Radice, Giles
Bray, Dr Jeremy Horam, John Richardson, Miss Jo
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Howell, Denis (B'ham, Sm H) Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W) Hoyle, Doug (Nelson) Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)
Buchan, Norman Huckfield, Les Roderick, Caerwyn
Buchanan, Richard Hughes, Mark (Durham) Rodgers, George (Chorley)
Callaghan, Rt Hon J. (Cardiff SE) Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Rodgers, William (Stockton)
Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P) Hughes, Roy (Newport) Rooker, J. W.
Campbell, Ian Hunter, Adam Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Canavan, Dennis Irvine, Rt Hon Sir A. (Edge Hill) Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock)
Carmichael, Neil Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford) Rowlands, Ted
Cartwright, John Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln) Ryman, John
Castle, Rt Hon Barbara Janner, Greville Sandelson, Neville
Clemitson, Ivor Jay, Rt Hon Douglas Sedgemore, Brian
Cocks, Michael (Bristol S) Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Stechford) Selby, Harry
Cohen, Stanley John, Brynmor Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)
Coleman, Donald Johnson, James (Hull West) Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-u-Lyne)
Conlan, Bernard Johnson, Walter (Derby S) Short, Rt Hon E. (Newcastle C)
Cook, Robin F. (Edin C) Jones, Alec (Rhondda) Short, Mrs Renée (Wolv NE)
Corbett, Robin Jones, Barry (East Flint) Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)
Cox, Thomas (Tooting) Jones. Dan (Burnley) Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)
Craigen, J. M. (Maryhill) Kaufman, Gerald Sillars, James
Crawshaw, Richard Kelley, Richard Silverman, Julius
Cronin, John Kerr, Russell Skinner, Dennis
Crosland, Rt Hon Anthony Kilroy-Sllk, Robert Small, William
Cryer, Bob Kinnock, Neil Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)
Cunningham, G. (Islington S) Lambie, David Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)
Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh) Lamborn, Harry Spearing, Nigel
Dalyell, Tam Lamond, James Spriggs, Leslie
Davidson, Arthur Leadbitter, Ted Stallard, A. W.
Davies, Bryan (Enfield N) Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Steel, David (Roxburgh)
Davies, Denzil (Llanelll) Lipton, Marcus Stoddart, David
Davis, Clinton (Hackney C) Litterick, Tom Stott, Roger
Deakins, Eric Lomas, Kenneth Strang, Gavin
Dean, Joseph (Leeds W) Loyden, Eddie Strauss, Rt Hon G. R.
de Freitas, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Luard, Evan Taylor, Mrs Arm (Bolton W)
Dempsey, James Lyon, Alexander (York) Taylor, R. (Croydon NW)
Doig, Peter McCartney, Hugh Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Dormand, J. D. McElhone, Frank Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)
Douglas-Mann, Bruce MacFarquhar, Roderick Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)
Duffy, A. E. P. McGuire, Michael (Ince) Thorne, Stan (Preston South)
Dunn, James A. Mackenzie, Gregor Tinn, James
Dunnett, Jack Mackintosh, John P. Tomilnson, John
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C) Tomney, Frank
Edelman, Maurice McNamara, Kevin Torney, Tom
Edge, Geoff Madden, Max Tuck, Raphael
Ellis, Tom (Wrexham) Mallalieu, J. P. W. Urwin, T. W.
English, Michael Marks, Kenneth Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Evans, Ioan (Aberdare) Marquand, David Wainwrlght, Edwin (Deame V)
Evans, John (Newton) Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole) Wainwright, Richard (Coine V)
Ewing, Harry (Stirling) Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Walden, Brian (B'ham, L'dyw'd)
Fernyhough, Rt Hon E. Mason, Rt Hon Roy Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Maynard, Miss Joan Ward, Michael
Flannery, Martin Meillsh, Rt Hon Robert Watkinson, John
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Mikardo, Ian Weitzman, David
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Millan, Bruce Wellbeloved, James
Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin) Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride) White, Frank R. (Bury)
Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd) Molloy, William Whitlock, William
Garrett, John (Norwich S) Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Williams, Alan (Swansea W)
Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch) Wise, Mrs Audrey
Williams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford) Woodall, Alec TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Williams, W. T. (Warrington) Woof, Robert Mr. John Ellis and
Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton) Wrigglesworth, Ian Mr. Joseph Harper.
Wilson, William (Coventry SE) Young, David (Bolton E)

Question accordingly negatived.

Mr. Tom King (Bridgwater)

I beg to move Amendment No. 1, in page 1, line 13, at end insert: '( ) The members of the Board shall be appointed from among persons who appear to the Secretary of State to have wide experience of, and to have shown capacity in, industry, technology, commercial or financial matters, administration, or the organisation of workers'. This amendment can be moved briefly. The Under-Secretary has studied the proceedings in Committee and will be aware that this amendment merely inserts in the Bill the provision that the Government intended to have in it. It would ensure that the members of the National Enterprise Board—and the Government never cease to tell us what an important job this board will do—have some qualifications. The amendment makes it clear that: The members of the Board shall be appointed from among persons who appear to the Secretary of State to have wide experience of, and to have shown capacity in, industry, technology, commercial or financial matters, administration, or the organisation of workers'. The matter arose in Committee, when an amendment was proposed by the Under-Secretary's hon. Friends below the Gangway—if I can so describe their position in Committee—and at the first whiff of grapeshot the Government, in the shape of the former Minister of State, the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heller), collapsed. Without any explanation to the Committee as to why this provision had been thought necessary in the first place, he calmly said that he would accept the amendment. He took advantage of a situation in which we had made it clear that we were not happy about the clause because we would prefer to have seen it tightened. However, we did not wish to see all question of qualifications removed.

If this were a consistent policy on the part of the Government, we could understand it. However, since then they have introduced the Welsh Development Agency Bill and the Scottish Develop- ment Agency Bill. We would assume that if it were Government policy to require no qualifications to be inserted, they would not appear in the Bill either. However, what do we find? In the Scottish Development Agency Bill we find that: The members…shall be appointed from among persons who appear to the Secretary of State to have a wide experience of…". The Welsh Development Agency Bill states: The members of the Agency shall include persons who appear to the Secretary of State to have wide experience of…". Then it gives a similar range of qualifications.

I need not labour the point, because I trust that the Minister will accept it. This was the Government's original intention. They were in rather a difficult situation and were unsure of some of the Members on the Committee at that time. I hope that they are now more confident and recognise the need for this provision.

At the time the Minister of State made passing references to the Gas Act and the Post Office Act. However, those are single-purpose institutions. In both the Scottish Development Agency and the Welsh Development Agency and in the NEB we deal with multi-disciplinary and multi-purpose activities, as we did in the former IRC. It is in that range that the qualifications peed to be spelt out.

The House will knows that there was enough uncertainty over the Bill and the intentions of the then Secretary of State for Parliament to be far from happy to leave to any Secretary of State totally unfettered powers to appoint anyone he chooses. The powers of political patronage in this area—to appoint people without any qualifications—are obviously unacceptable. It is for that reason that we hope the Government will accept our support to reinstate their original intention in the Bill. The wording is identical to that which they had in their own Bill, and we believe that those qualifications should be included.

Mr. Tim Renton

I rise to support the amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King).

One of the strange things about this ill-conceived and misbegotten Bill to set up the National Enterprise Board is the way in which the qualifications clause disappeared in Committee—not with a bang and not even with a whimper from the Government. Therefore, we wondered why the provision was ever included in the first place if the Government considered that it was not necessary for members of this important board to have any qualifications whatever.

From the proceedings of the second Sitting of the Committee one finds that the qualifications were dropped because of pressure from the Tribune Group. The Government were frightened that the amendment might be carried against their wishes, so they caved in. The main argument advanced by the hon. Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Garrett) in moving that the qualifications clause should disappear was that if the qualifications stayed in the Bill, behavioural scientists would be excluded. He laid great stress on that, but it is not an adequate reason for removing the qualifications clause. As the hon. Member for Norwich, South was so worried about behavioural scientists, I hesitate to ask whether he is a behavioural scientist. In any case, I should have thought that a behavioural scientist would be covered by the description "technology" as a person versed in technology.

We are deeply opposed to the principle of the NEB but, if it is to come into being, it will act as a multifarious holding company, as has been said by many Ministers who have been concerned with the Bill. Our more substantial argument is that if the NEB is to be successful, surely the chairman of the board will need to have members of the board with many skills to support him. The Government should therefore have the courage to stand up against the omission of behavioural scientists, to risk the wrath of the hon. Member for Norwich, South, and to restore the original qualifications so that the chairman shall be able to call on fully-qualified people to help him to administer this conglomerate which the Government intend to create.

Mr. Giles Shaw (Pudsey)

In endorsing the remarks made by my hon. Friends I draw to the attention of the House that one of the major objectives of the National Enterprise Board, as the Secretary of State said several times in Committee, is to restore the confidence of industry. We have made clear our view that we hardly believe that industry will be confident in the operations of the NEB. To put the least value on it, it would be a vital ingredient of such confidence that the persons appointed to the board should be of proven worth and value in the professions listed in the amendment.

We are here faced with the possibility that no qualification will be required to enable a person to become a member of the NEB. In Committee we saw farce upon farce attending the passage of the Bill. When one of the longer running Whitehall farces eventually closed after a run of forty sittings to cries of "Author, Author", we were treated to a fusillade of shots from Downing Street when we attempted to find out what had happened to the previous author. I hope that we shall get a slightly more complimentary reply on the question who should compose the NEB than a discreet rolling down of the safety curtain. According to the Government, it does not matter, but we on the Opposition benches think that it matters a great deal that the people who are meant to be in charge of the enterprise should at least have the background of knowing that they have the confidence of industry in their talents.

Dr. Reginald Bennett (Fareham)

As one who has not had the privilege of serving on the Committee, I am interested to hear the controversy on this subject, particularly in relation to behavioural scientists. I have humble qualifications in psychiatry, but I must admit that I have never heard of behavioural scientists. Is a behavioural scientist someone who discusses the behaviour of scientists, because it is often political or eccentric, or is he a scientist who, not being psychiatrically trained or even psychologically trained, studies the behaviour of animals or the human species?

If that is the issue, I should be grateful if the Minister would give us a definition and tell us why alarm on behalf of behavioural scientists should rule out from any qualifications all future members of the board and preclude them from having any form of technical knowledge which might increase the confidence of this country and other countries in the board at a time when, as today has shown, confidence in the country needs to be stimulated.

5.45 p.m.

Mr. Kaufman

During this Report stage it will fall to me to request the House to reject amendments which were made in Committee, and I have no doubt that there will be a display of artificial wrath from Opposition Members who will say that we are spurning decisions made in Committee. On this occasion we ask the House to abide by a decision taken in Committee. It is right that decisions made in Committee should be accepted, except when there are strong reasons for their being reversed on Report. The speeches we have heard do not amount to strong reasons.

My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) in one of a series of extremely compelling speeches in Committee, both as Minister of State and after he ceased to be Minister of State, gave good reasons why the Government should accept the amendment which was made in Committee. The arguments put forward by the hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King) do not compare with those put forward by my hon. Friend. For example, the hon. Member for Bridgwater dismissed the precedents of the Civil Aviation Act 1971 and the Gas Act 1972—both Conservative Acts—which we are following as a result of the amendment which was accepted in Committee.

The hon. Member for Bridgwater cited Clause 1(4) of the Scottish Development Agency Bill as a reason for showing that the Government were being inconsistent in not accepting his amendment, but he significantly failed to read the entire relevant extract from that subsection He quoted the first part of subsection (4): The members of the Agency shall be appointed from among persons who appear to the Secretary of State to have a wide experience of, and to have shown capacity in, industry". Then his voice died away and he did not go on to read the following words which are: banking, accounting or finance, environmental matters, local government or the representation of workers, or any other field of activity which the Secretary of State considers is relevant to the discharge of the functions of the Agency. That subsection gives to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland in respect of the Scottish Development Agency no greater and no less licence than that which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry is given by the Bill as amended in Committee. This is a distinction without a great difference.

Mr. Tim Renton

Will not the hon. Gentleman accept that the function of the NEB is multipurpose? Therefore the analogy between the NEB and, for example, the Civil Aviation Act and the Post Office Act is totally irrelevant because the boards set up under those Acts were for a simple, straightforward monolithic purpose. Beyond that, the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heifer) advanced no reason for removing the qualifications from the Bill. He said that he would accept the amendment so as not to make the Bill too restrictive.

Mr. Kaufman

From my relatively short experience in the House, I have learnt that the analogies one makes oneself are relevant and that the analogies of Opposition Members are irrelevant. That is what the hon. Member for mid-Sussex (Mr. Renton) is saying.

I have had the great advantage of having read the entire proceedings of the 40 Sittings in Committee, which is rather like reading "War and Peace" three times over. To have read the proceedings is slightly more advantageous than to have attended the Committee. Many hon. Members do not seem to have been there a great deal, as I note that the Committee lost its quorum from time to time. The hon. Member for Tonbridge and Mailing (Mr. Stanley) had a strange capacity to empty the Committee whenever he rose to speak, as he had to admit from time to time. It was not the occasional organised absenteeism of my hon. Friends that accounted for the lack of a full attendance from time to time.

As I recall from reading the Official Report of the Standing Committee proceedings, the suggestions of additional qualifications for members of the NEB were so numerous that to embody them all would have been to lengthen the Bill extravagantly. It was sensibly felt that in this almost unique case it was better to follow the admirable precedents of the Conservative Government in 1971 and 1972 and to remove the subsection.

We seem to be having a great deal of huffing and puffing over very little, in view of the extremely irrelevant analogy quoted by the hon. Member for Bridgwater. I ask the House to reject the amendment.

Mr. Tom King

We have now had another speech from a Minister very similar to that made by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heifer), giving no explanation why that subsection was in the Bill in the first place. That point has never been answered. I shall gladly give way to the Minister if from the speech by his hon. Friend that he found so compelling he can give me one compelling sentence to show why it was included, and why it is now better to delete it.

The hon. Gentleman said that the Government preferred to rest on the precedents of Conservative Acts. My hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Renton) has already made the point, as I tried to do, that they concerned single-purpose activities—the Post Office, civil aviation, the gas corporation. The Government have not rested on those precedents. They have already gone beyond them with the Scottish Development Agency and the Welsh Development Agency. The Minister accused me of not reading the whole sentence in connection with the Scottish Development Agency. It is true that it goes on to include any other field of activity which the Secretary of State considers is relevant". But the hon. Gentleman chose not to read the WDA sentence, because that does not have that wording. The WDA Bill merely refers to: administration, local government and matters relating to the environment. I am not clear what the reasons are for precise qualifications. The SDA has a rather looser final subsection. At present the NEB requires no qualifications what-soever. The Government have given no explanation why they put the provision in originally.

It is no good the Government standing on the argument that it was done in Committee, because the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton gave us no explanation in Committee. Presumably the Government thought the Bill out and thought it right for the qualifications to be included—sufficiently right to continue to include them in the SDA and WDA Bills. It will not do to go back to an Act of 1971 and to say that that is the explanation. That has already been superseded by the Government's actions in two subsequent Bills. The Government are convicted of total inconsistency.

Worse than that, the Minister knows that there is concern in industry about the way in which the NEB may be operated—the standard of operation, the sort of people who may become involved in it. Not much more than two hours ago, we heard the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who faces a grave economic situation. One of the messages that came across loud and clear was that there must be confidence in industry if there is to be progress, if there is to be investment.

Here is an easy opportunity for the Government to recognise the concern of industry on a matter which arouses only fairly minor opposition from the Left wing of the hon. Gentleman's party. The Minister gave it away by saying that he sees this as huffing and puffing about what is not a major point. But it gives the Government their first opportunity in the Bill to show that they intend to recognise the interests and concern of both sides of industry.

The Government could make a gesture towards trying to re-establish confidence. Industry and the country will know that, on what the Minister admits is a minor matter, the Government decline to take that opportunity. For those reasons, we shall vote for the amendment.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 215, Noes 238.

Division No. 251.] AYES [5.55 p.m.
Adley, Robert Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Nott, John
Aitken, Jonathan Hampson, Dr Keith Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)
Alison, Michael Hannam, John Parkinson, Cecil
Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne) Harvie Anderson, Rt Hon Miss Pattie, Geoffrey
Awdry, Daniel Hastings, Stephen Percival, Ian
Bain, Mrs Margaret Havers, Sir Michael Peyton, Rt Hon John
Baker, Kenneth Hawkins, Paul Pink, R. Bonner
Banks, Robert Henderson, Douglas Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch
Bennett, Dr Reginald (Fareham) Heseltine, Michael Prior, Rt Hon James
Benyon, W. Hicks, Robert Pym, Rt Hon Francis
Berry, Hon Anthony Holland, Philip Rathbone, Tim
Biffen, John Hordern, Peter Rawlinson, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Boscawen, Hon Robert Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal)
Bottomley, Peter Howell, David (Guildford) Rees-Davies, W. R.
Bowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown) Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk) Reid, George
Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent) Hurd, Douglas Renton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts)
Braine, Sir Bernard Hutchison, Michael Clark Renton, Tim (Mid-Sussex)
Brittan, Leon Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Brotherton, Michael Irving, Charles (Cheltenham) Ridley, Hon Nicholas
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) James, David Ridsdale, Julian
Bryan, Sir Paul Jenkin, Rt Hon P. (Wanst'd & W'df'd) Rifkind, Malcolm
Buchanan-Smith, Alick Jessel, Toby Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)
Buck, Antony Jopling, Michael Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Budgen, Nick Kaberry, Sir Donald Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Bulmer, Esmond Kershaw, Anthony Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire)
Butler, Adam (Bosworth) King, Evelyn (South Dorset) Sainsbury, Tim
Chalker, Mrs Lynda King, Tom (Bridgwater) Scott, Nicholas
Churchill, W. S. Kirk, Peter Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton) Knight, Mrs Jill Shelton, William (Streatham)
Clark, William (Croydon S) Knox, David Shepherd, Colin
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Lamont, Norman Shersby, Michael
Clegg, Walter Lane, David Sims, Roger
Cockcroft, John Langford-Holt, Sir John Sinclair, Sir George
Cooke, Robert (Bristol W) Latham, Michael (Melton) Skeet, T. H. H.
Cope, John Lawrence, Ivan Smith, Dudley (Warwick)
Cordle, John H. Lawson, Nigel Speed, Keith
Crawford, Douglas Lester, Jim (Beeston) Spence, John
Crouch, David Lloyd, Ian Spicer, Michael (S Worcester)
Crowder, F. P. MacCormick, Iain Sproat, Iain
Davies, Rt Hon J. (Knutsford) McCrindle, Robert Stainton, Keith
Dean, Paul (N Somerset) McCusker, H. Stanbrook, Ivor
Dodsworth, Geoffrey Macfarlane, Neil Stanley, John
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James MacGregor, John Steen, Anthony (Wavertree)
Drayson, Burnaby Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham) Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)
Durant, Tony McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest) Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Dykes, Hugh Madel, David Stradling Thomas, J.
Eden, Rt Hon Sir John Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)
Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke) Marten, Nell Tebbit, Norman
Fairbairn, Nicholas Mates, Michael Temple-Morris, Peter
Fairgrieve, Russell Mather, Carol Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret
Farr, John Maudling, Rt Hon Reginald Thomas, Rt Hon P. (Hendon S)
Finsberg, Geoffrey Mawby, Ray Thompson, George
Fisher, Sir Nigel Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Townsend, Cyril D.
Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N) Mayhew, Patrick Trotter, Neville
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Meyer, Sir Anthony Tugendhat, Christopher
Fookes, Miss Janet Miller, Hal (Bromtgrove) Vaughan, Dr Gerard
Fowler, Norman (Sutton C'f'd) Mills, Peter Viggers, Peter
Fox, Marcus Miscampbell, Norman Wakeham, John
Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St) Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Warren, Kenneth
Gardiner, George (Reigate) Moate, Roger Watt, Hamish
Gardner, Edward (S Fylde) Molyneaux, James Weatherill, Bernard
Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife) Monro, Hector Welsh, Andrew
Glyn, Dr Alan Montgomery, Fergus Whitelaw, Rt Hon William
Goodhart, Philip Moore, John (Croydon C) Wigley, Dafydd
Goodlad, Alastair Morris, Michael (Northampton S) Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)
Gorst, John Morrison, Charles (Devizes) Winterton, Nicholas
Gow, Ian (Eastbourne) Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester) Wood, Rt Hon Richard
Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry) Mudd, David Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)
Gray, Hamish Neave, Airey Younger, Hon George
Grist, Ian Nelson, Anthony
Grylls, Michael Neubert, Michael TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Hall, Sir John Newton, Tony Mr. Spencer Le Marchant and
Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Normanton, Tom Mr. Richard Luce.
Allaun, Frank Golding, John Palmer, Arthur
Anderson, Donald Gourlay, Harry Park, George
Archer, Peter Graham, Ted Parker, John
Armstrong, Ernest Grant, George (Morpeth) Pavitt, Laurie
Ashton, Joe Grant, John (Islington C) Penhaligon, David
Atkins, Ronald (Preston N) Grimond, Rt Hon J. Phipps, Dr Colin
Atkinson, Norman Grocott, Bruce Prescott, John
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Price, C. (Lewisham W)
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife) Price, William (Rugby)
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood) Hardy, Peter Radice, Giles
Bates, Alf Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Richardson, Miss Jo
Bean, R. E. Hart, Rt Hon Judith Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Beith, A. J. Hatton, Frank Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N) Hayman, Mrs Helene Roderick, Caerwyn
Blenkinsop, Arthur Hooley, Frank Rodgers, George (Chorley)
Boardman, H. Horam, John Rodgers. William (Stockton)
Booth, Albert Howell, Denis (B'ham, Sm H) Rooker, J. W.
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Hoyle, Doug (Nelson) Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur Huckfield, Les Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock)
Boyden, James (Bish Auck) Hughes, Mark (Durham) Rowlands, Ted
Bray, Dr Jeremy Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Ryman, John
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Hughes, Roy (Newport) Sandelson, Neville
Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W) Hunter, Adam Sedgemore, Brian
Buchan, Norman Irvine, Rt Hon Sir A. (Edge Hill) Selby, Harry
Buchanan, Richard Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford) Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)
Callaghan, Rt Hon J. (Cardiff SE) Jay, Rt Hon Douglas Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-u-Lyne)
Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P) Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Stechford) Short, Rt Hon E. (Newcastle C)
Campbell, Ian John, Brynmor Short, Mrs Renée (Wolv NE)
Canavan, Dennis Johnson, James (Hull West) Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)
Carmichael, Neil Johnson, Walter (Derby S) Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)
Cartwright, John Jones, Alec (Rhondda) Sillars, James
Castle, Rt Hon Barbara Jones, Barry (East Flint) Silverman, Julius
Clemitson, Ivor Jones, Dan (Burnley) Skinner, Dennis
Cocks, Michael (Bristol S) Kaufman, Gerald Small, William
Cohen, Stanley Kelley, Richard Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)
Coleman, Donald Kerr, Russell Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)
Conlan, Bernard Kilroy-Silk, Robert Spearing, Nigel
Cook, Robin F. (Edin C) Kinnock, Neil Spriggs, Leslie
Corbett, Robin Lambie, David Stallard, A. W.
Cox, Thomas (Tooting) Lamborn, Harry Steel, David (Roxburgh)
Craigen. J. M. (Maryhill) Lamond, James Stoddart, David
Crawshaw, Richard Leadbitter, Ted Stott, Roger
Crosland, Rt Hon Anthony Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Strang, Gavin
Cryer, Bob Lipton, Marcus Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)
Cunningham, G. (Islington S) Litterick, Tom Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh) Lomas, Kenneth Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)
Dalyell, Tam Loyden, Eddie Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)
Davidson, Arthur Luard, Evan Thorne, Stan (Preston South)
Davies, Bryan (Enfield N) McCartney, Hugh Tinn, James
Davies, Denzil (Llanelli) McElhone, Frank Tomlinson, John
Davis, Clinton (Hackney C) MacFarquhar, Roderick Tomney, Frank
Deakins, Eric McGuire, Michael (Ince) Torney, Tom
Dean Joseph (Leeds W) Mackenzie, Gregor Tuck, Raphael
de Freitas, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Mackintosh, John P. Urwin, T. W.
Dempsey, James McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C) Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Doig, Peter McNamara, Kevin Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)
Dormand, J. D. Madden, Max Wainwright, Richard (Colne V)
Douglas-Mann, Bruce Mallalieu, J. P. W. Walden, Brian (B'ham, L'dyw'd)
Duffy, A. E. P. Marks, Kenneth Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Dunn, James A. Marquand, David Ward, Michael
Dunnett, Jack Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole) Watkinson, John
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Weitzman, David
Edge, Geoff Mason, Rt Hon Roy Wellbeloved, James
Ellis, John (Brlgg & Scun) Maynard, Miss Joan White, Frank R. (Bury)
Ellis, Tom (Wrexham) Mellish, Rt Hon Robert Whitlock, William
English, Michael Mikardo, Ian Williams, Alan (Swansea W)
Evans, loan (Aberdare) Millan, Bruce Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch)
Evans, John (Newton) Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride) Williams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)
Ewing, Harry (Stirling) Molloy, William Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Fernyhough, Rt Hon E. Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Wilson, William (Coventry SE)
Flannery, Martin Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick Wise, Mrs Audrey
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King Woodall, Alec
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Newens, Stanley Woof, Robert
Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekln) Noble, Mike Wrigglesworth, Ian
Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd) Oakes, Gordon Young, David (Bolton E)
Garrett, John (Norwich S) Ogden, Eric
Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend) O'Halloran, Michael TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
George, Bruce O'Malley, Rt Hon Brian Mr. Colin Jackson and
Gilbert, Dr John Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Mr. Joseph Harper.
Ginsburg, David Ovenden, John

Question accordingly negatived.

Mr. Kaufman

I beg to move, Amendment No. 2, in page 2, line 9, leave out 'the servant or agent of the Crown' and insert 'performing any function or exercising any powers (including powers under section 3 below), whether by direction of the Secretary of State or otherwise, as the servant or agent of the Crown or any government department,'. This amendment is intended to make it clear that in no respect is the NEB to be regarded as the servant or agent of the Crown.

The provision ensures that when the board gives assistance under Clause 3 it will do so in its own name. Therefore, if any dispute arises it will be the responsibility of the NEB to deal with it itself and not the Secretary of State's. This ensures that the NEB will have every incentive to act efficiently when it acts as a channel of assistance.

Mr. Tom King

In Committee we discused the rôle of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration, and particularly in relation to directives from the Secretary of State under Clause 3 to exercise powers under Sections 7 and 8 of the Industry Act 1972. Will the Bill put the use of those powers outside the scope of the Parliamentary Commissioner, where at present it remains? Does the amendment in any way affect that position? It would appear that there is a subsequent Government amendment to make it clear that the Secretary of State will remain liable for any exercise of Section 7 and Section 8 powers—albeit by the NEB, but the liability still rests with him—and therefore, any submission to the Parliamentary Commissioner would still be within his scope.

Mr. Kaufman

It is appropriate to clarify this matter, on which there was a good deal of confusion in Committee. The amendment clarifies the point that the board is not acting as the agent of the Secretary of State when providing financial assistance under Clause 3, and it is therefore not subject to investigation by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration. The Secretary of State's responsibility in giving directions will, however, be fully subject to investigation and the NEB could be required to furnish any information or documents relevant to the PCA's investigation of the Department.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Cyril Smith (Rochdale)

I beg to move, Amendment No. 173, in page 2, line 15, insert— '(9) The Board shall maintain a register of members' financial interests and shall ensure that all members of the Board enter statements of such of their financial interests as, were they Members of the House of Commons, they would be required to register in accordance with resolutions of that House'. While I have little sympathy with the Bill as a whole and believe that investment, about which we heard a great deal during Question Time this afternoon, would be improved by the Bill being jettisoned, nevertheless if we are to have the Bill we have to ensure that it is amended in a way that at least makes it credible, and certainly gives to the public as a whole the appearance—if I may use one of my own phrases—of everything being straight and above board. What we are talking about in this amendment is not unrelated to the question of investment in the sense that it raises the issue of public confidence.

The Minister will be aware that when this subject was discussed in Committee there was a great deal of support from hon. Members for the amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Wainwright) which was closely similar to that which I am now moving. The aim that he then sought to achieve, namely, the public declaration of interest by members of the proposed National Enterprise Board, was supported in principle by the hon. Members for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo), for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Hoyle), for Sudbury and Woodbridge (Mr. Stainton) and others.

The Minister dealing with the Bill at that time, the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher), gave an undertaking, as reported in c. 155 of the OFFICIAL REPORT of the Committee proceedings of 11th March, to which I would draw the Minister's attention, that the Government would return to this matter. The first thing I would like to know is what has happened to that promise? Why have not the Government put down an amendment to their own Bill in accordance with the promise given by the Minister, namely, that the Government would return to this matter—not that they would consider the matter and then decide whether to return to it.

In the last couple of hours I have read the whole of the Committee proceedings of that day and the Minister quite clearly said the Government had a great deal of sympathy with the amendment and would return to the matter. They have not done so. I would like to know whether that promise is like so many of the promises of the present Government. Is it a promise that they will do something that they will then do nothing about? Last week hon. Members opposite were all trooping into the Lobby to vote against a prices and incomes policy. This week we are to have a prices and incomes policy although there may be a difference of opinion on the form that it will take. We are quite used to the Government saying one thing one week and another thing the next. We are entitled to know why the Government should have promised to return to this matter and have not done so.

In thinking not only of this but of other events it appears that what the Liberals said yesterday the Government believe today and act upon tomorrow, but in this matter we shall be very happy to accommodate the Government in the hope that they will accept the amendment now before the House.

There can be no doubt that members of the National Enterprise Board will be very much on a par with Members of this House. They will take decisions that vitally affect the future of British industry. In the course of taking those decisions they will be spending public money to implement them. We believe, therefore, that it is right that members of the National Enterprise Board should have public accountability for who they are, what they are, where their holdings are and what shares they hold in companies—and the emphasis is on public accountability. It will not be acceptable to my hon. Friends and myself for the Minister to start quoting various schedules and parts of an Act that say that the Minister has power to require members of the board to disclose their interests to him. It is not the disclosure to the Minister that bothers us but the disclosure to the public of their interests.

6.15 p.m.

In the Committee discussion, the question arose of company directors having to declare their interests in private and public companies. I am all in favour of that. I believe that it is right. I believe in open government and in open management of industry, and at the Committee stage of another Bill I supported the Government on disclosure of information. It is right that information that is available that will not damage the best interests of a company should be made publicly available. I cannot believe that it is right or proper that a member of the National Enterprise Board should not be required to declare for public examination the interests he holds, which may have some effect on his decisions or may not. Nobody is making him serve on the board. If he does not want to come forward with a declaration of his interests he does not need to accept a seat on the board. But it should be made clear to any men or women who serve on the board that they are spending public money and should be accountable to the public, who are entitled to know who they are, what they are and what will be their motivating forces in the actions they take.

Mr. Max Madden (Sowerby)

I am sure the House is very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his contribution this evening. We are very sorry that his hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Wainwright), who laboured very long and hard on that Committee, has not had an opportunity to speak on this amendment although he did so in committeee. Does the hon. Member agree with me that whilst it is imperative that the public should have the information for which he has so rightly called, and that such knowledge of interest would be useful, even more important would be the extent of that interest? Does he agree with me that the Register of Interests for this place, and, hopefully, that which we shall secure for the National Enterprise Board, should shown the extent of the interest in addition to the interest itself? Does he agree with me that that is a very important advance that we should have?

Mr. Smith

I accept that. I entirely agree with what the hon. Member says and would go so far as to require that the spouse should declare her interest also! I cannot speak for the whole of my party in that respect, but my party would certainly support the idea that members of the board should declare where their interests lie and also the extent of that interest. That is very important because we need to know the extent of the interest to be able to make a judgment. If someone holds £10 in a company I cannot believe that he will corrupt himself for the sake of £10. Some may do so, of course, but they are few and far between. I agree with the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Madden) that the amount of a Member's interest in a company is certainly relevant here, and my colleagues and I would support the requirement for such a declaration of interest.

In passing, the reason I am moving this amendment instead of my hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley is simply that he has asked me to do so because he is serving three days on the Bill in the House and we thought we would give him a little rest. It is one of the few amendments which I can be called to move, whereas we should retain our greater competence for the more detailed amendments that follow.

I hope that I have said sufficient. If not, we shall certainly return to this issue at a later stage in the discussion. Basically, I am seeking from the Minister at this stage an explanation why the Government have not chosen to honour what was understood to be a promise given in Committee.

Mr. Ian Mikardo (Bethnal Green and Bow)

The arguments which have been used in support of the amendment by the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith), as might reasonably be expected from him, are weighty. The account which he has given of the transactions in Committee is precisely accurate. When a similar amendment was moved by the hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Wainwright) it attracted support from the back benchers of both sides of the Committee. We all had the impression that the Government spokesman was very much influenced by the weight of the arguments that were put forward. I share the surprise expressed by the hon. Member for Rochdale that on Report we do not find a Government amendment on this subject. Like the hon. Gentleman. I shall await with bated breath the explanation from my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State.

As my hon. Friend wanted me to speak before him I shall have to do the unwelcome job of guessing what he will say. I find it difficult to think of the arguments that can be used against the amendment. In fact, I can think of only two. Very soon I shall discover whether I have been a reasonable tipster in forecasting what my hon. Friend will say.

I suppose that my hon. Friend could say that the amendment would place an obligation upon members of the NEB that does not apply to the British Steel Corporation, the National Coal Board, the British Airports Authority or, for that matter, ICI and Unilever. The short answer to that is that we have to begin at some time and at some place. If my hon. Friend wanted to urge upon us that having given us this we should support him in extending the principle to all sorts of other organisations, and particularly those, as the hon. Member for Rochdale has said, in which people have the responsibility of spending public money, I am sure that he would find a measure of support from all of us which would be gratifying to him.

In every new piece of legislation we aways find some change and some refinement compared with previous legislation. After all, we should learn from experience. For example, in this Bill we have learnt from the experience of the nationalisation measures of 1946 to 1950 that there is no point in giving a Minister power to make only general directions. Therefore, in this Bill and, I believe, in the Offshore Petroleum Development (Scotland) Act, there is power to make specific as well as general directions. That is how we evolve. We learn as we go along, and we learn from experience.

The pressure for the open government of business, whether public or private, has increased rapidly. It is one of the results of that pressure that the House has done something that some of us have been urging for many years—namely, to establish a register of Members' interests. That is particularly sensible as regards the NEB. For example, the NEB may consider the purchase of part of the assets of the XYZ company. The XYZ company may be in competition with the ABC company. It is tremendously important that it should be known whether a member of the NEB has a beneficial interest in the ABC company whether by way of a remunerated directorship, remunerated employment or a substantial shareholding. That should be known, and it should be known at the point at which he is appointed or just before.

Of course, the sort of person that the Secretary of State will appoint to the board will be an honourable man, who will declare that sort of interest. I have no doubt about that. However, we have recently come to the conclusion that the declaration of interest, whilst it is important and valuable, is not enough in itself. Quite rightly, we have gone beyond it. Perhaps, as my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Madden) says, we have not gone quite as far as we might have done, but at least we have taken an important step forward. That should also be true as regards the NEB. I do not see why it should be out of the mainstream of the tide which has been flowing towards greater openness in public administration.

I agree with the hon. Member for Rochdale that a declaration of interest to fellow members of the board is all very well but not enough if it is not made available to the general public. The public are entitled to know. The employees of the XYZ company are entitled to know that their destiny is being partially decided by the director of a company that competes with the XYZ company. Therefore, I cannot see why the argument that this is a first time should be used, if it is to be used, against the amendment.

Secondly, my hon. Friend may say that we want to recruit the best people for the board and that some of the best people might not be willing to make their affairs so public. He might claim that this would put a limitation on the size of the pond from which we could trawl the talent to run the board.

Mr. Michael Grylls (Surrey, North-West)

When the hon. Gentleman talks about directors of companies having interests and that sort of thing, the House will be aware that every director's other directorships are in a register at Companies House. The shareholdings of direc- tors have to be published in annual reports. All the information that the hon. Gentleman suggests is secret is already widely known to the public. What he is suggesting is nothing new. If the public want to find this sort of information it is available either in company reports, in Companies House or in public documents. This is not such a revelation as the hon. Gentleman suggests. It seems that the hon. Gentleman is trying to make a mountain out of a molehill.

Mr. Mikardo

I accept that that is an accurate statement. However, I think that we can take this matter a bit further. I would like to see that happen because the number of people who have access to the information about which we are talking is limited. The hon. Gentleman says that the information is available at Companies House, but I put it to the hon. Gentleman that that is no reason for not extending it in the way that the amendment provides.

M. Cyril Smith

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that whilst this information is registered in the manner described by the hon. Member for Surrey, North-West (Mr. Grylls) it can be discovered only by going through the records of every company that is registered, whereas under this amendment the information would be filed under the name of the person concerned rather than under the name of the company?

Mr. Mikardo

That is precisely what I mean. Although I accept the situation as described by the hon. Member for Surrey, North-West (Mr. Grylls), I want it to go a little further. Clever people who are making some political or business point can always undertake the necessary research. The hon. Gentleman could do it and I could do it. The information can always be dug out, but that should not be necessary. This sort of information should be much more freely available. I should like to see that principle applied in many spheres.

If my hon. Friend says "We want to get all the talent we can, and there may be some chaps who will say 'I should like to serve on the NEB and I could make a good contribution but I am not willing to take the job because of this condition'", I would say "All right, that is fine, we shall do without you. You are not the sort of chap we want to have carrying the responsibility of spending public money."

If I have not correctly anticipated whatever reasons my hon. Friend is to give for not accepting the amendment I could be put up the spout altogether. May be my hon. Friend will accept the amendment.

I shall listen with bated breath to my hon. Friend's reply. It will have to be good to persuade me not to go into the Division Lobby with the hon. Member for Rochdale.

6.30 p.m.

Mr. Crawford

Since we must now accept that the National Enterprise Board will operate in Scotland, I wish to support Amendment No. 173 tabled by the Liberal Party.

I agree with the hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo). Too often in Scotland and elsewhere in the United Kingdom bodies such as that which is envisaged, both semi-public and public bodies, have been nothing but payrolls for giving jobs to the boys—not just jobs for the financial boys, but jobs for the political boys. I should like to have seen included in the Bill provision for register of members' political interests. I accept the Liberal amendment so far as it goes, and I hope that they will force it to a vote. I look forward to going into the Lobby with the Liberals and also with the hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow.

Mr. Mike Noble (Rossendale)

Both my hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo) and the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith) touched on the subject of confidence, which is at the heart of the thinking behind the NEB. I suggest that we in the Labour movement have a special responsibility to look at the question of confidence in terms of employees of the companies involved with the NEB.

I believe that one of the reasons for the tarnished image of industries taken into public ownership by Labour Governments is that often the workers in those industries have no confidence in the boards that run them. I believe that we should pursue the philosophy which has been outlined by previous speakers in this debate and open up this whole area to public scrutiny.

The amendment could afford a new opportunity to public enterprise. I believe that many people who were involved with the legislation in earlier stages felt that this would provide a new opportunity. The kind of thinking which led to a rejection of a promise which had been given earlier in Committee—namely, the proposal contained in this amendment—will turn people away from the concept pursued by the Labour movement. I look forward to supporting the amendment on a Division, unless my hon. Friend the Minister has a very good reason for saying that I should not do so.

Mr. Hugh Fraser (Stafford and Stone

Since the Minister apparently is being a little bashful in dealing with this question, may I add a word on the amendment.

There are two points which have not been mentioned. It is important that the interests of NEB members should be shown. The board may have to undertake difficult negotiations and it will be easier all round if there is a straight declaration of interests. Nothing is more dangerous to those persons than innuendo—and innuendo could easily arise unless there is a proper declaration.

The second point is also important—namely, that the public wants to know that people who are appointed to the NEB are fairly well qualified. It is important to see that money is well spent. One of the troubles of the RIC was that it was frightened of the employers, and some of its sub-committees were not up to the standard required for the decisions which they made. I am certain that if more of those who were later employed in the motor industry had assisted in earlier years in putting British Leyland together, the difficulties would never have happened.

I hope that the matter will be fully considered by the Minister, particularly in regard to the protection of the individual who serves on the NEB and also in protecting the public who should know that the people employed on the board are well-qualified and will not waste Government money, as has so often happened in the past.

Sir Raymond Gower

I wish to add my modest support to what has been said by earlier speakers on Amendment No. 173. Unfortunately, the Minister when replying to an earlier amendment, was not prepared to accept the proposal that qualifications should be written into the Bill. But the Minister could now make amends by agreeing to accept this valuable amendment. By the use of this device he could serve a double purpose. First, if the members have to declare an interest their qualifications will be apparent and, secondly, if there is any conflict board members can make clear that they are people of merit and ability and therefore not likely to be unduly biased.

The Government will be unwise to reject the amendment. I implore the Minister to take this matter seriously. By refusing to accept the amendment, the Government will give the impression that they do not care what impression the board makes. It is important that membership should be of such a nature that it will instil confidence in the public about board members. I hope that the amendment will be accepted.

Mr. Doug Hoyle (Nelson and Colne)

This is a very important amendment which we supported in Committee. The idea was that the register of interests should be declared by NEB members and also that the register should be open. I understand that in the discussion in Committee the Minister was not sure whether the register would be open to the public. On that basis he took the matter away to look at it again.

If we are to talk about "open government", we must begin somewhere. Indeed, if such a policy had been followed in the past, the situation would have been a good deal better. We certainly might have avoided some unsavoury incidents. Some of the people might not have reached their positions on public bodies if their interests had been known at an early stage. It is a good thing for the public to be fully aware of the background to the board's membership and that information should be freely available. I hope in the light of all that has been said the amendment will be accepted by the Minister.

Mr. Kaufman

I have listened with great interest to this debate, because I have always been a supporter of the disclosure of interests. I voted with the ut- most alacrity when this matter came before the House. I had the utmost ease in filling out the necessary forms, because I having nothing whatever to declare. I am highly sympathetic to the arguments put forward by the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith) and by my hon. Friends.

I considered this matter very carefully in anticipation of the debate and during the speeches that have been made today. When the matter was considered in Committee, my hon. Friend, the then Under-Secretary of State, undertook that the Government would look at this matter. I think that the hon. Member for Rochdale, quite unwittingly, slightly misquoted my hon. Friend when he indicated that my hon. Friend gave a specific assurance that an amendment would be produced. I do not seek to make much of this matter, but the hon. Gentleman is correct in so far as my hon. Friend certainly said that we would return to the matter. We should like to look at the matter further in the light of the arguments that have been put forward and in conjunction with Sir Don Ryder, between now and the stages in another place. We should like to look at the possibility of bringing forward a suitable amendment in another place which might cover the points that have been introduced during this debate.

Mrs. Audrey Wise (Coventry, South-West)

I remind my hon. Friend that this matter was discussed at the Third Sitting of the Committee on Tuesday 11th March. I am at a loss to understand why, at this stage, the Government are suddenly impressed with arguments that were put forward on 11th March. Moreover, the undertaking that was given on that date included the words: the Government are anxious to produce a formula which is completely acceptable and which will produce complete public confidence, and that we shall have a look at the exact wording and return to this matter".—[Official Report, Standing Committee E, 11th March 1975; c. 155.] I find my hon. Friend's statement that the Government now want to consult a trifle unconvincing.

Mr. Kaufman

I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, South-West (Mrs. Wise) would be the last hon. Member to believe that decisions on matters of legislation should be made by civil servants.

When I arrived in the Department of Industry a short while ago I did not find an amendment to deal with the matter that was raised in Standing Committee. Now that I have arrived in the Department, I wish, with my right hon. Friend, to look sympathetically at the arguments that have been put forward on this matter. I hope that my hon. Friend will take that point. I am not being unhelpful. I am seeking to be helpful in the light of the arguments that have been put forward and in the light of my reading of the reports of the Standing Committee, which I have been urgently doing since I was appointed to this job.

Therefore, I ask both my hon. Friend and the hon. Member for Rochdale—in the interests of being able to accede to the valid points that have been made, with which I am personally greatly sympathetic—to withdraw their amendment so that we can look at the matter with a view to being able, if possible, to table an amendment in another place.

Sir Raymond Gower

The hon. Gentleman has made a remarkable statement. Is he really suggesting that after the undertaking that was given several months ago, the matter was left aside and nobody bothered to do anything about it, and that it was only his arrival in the Department that brought the matter to light again?

Mr. Kaufman

I am certainly not saying that. Any hon. Member on either side of the House who has been involved in Standing Committee proceedings knows very well that when Ministers are involved in the kind of Standing Committee proceedings that took place on this Bill—100 hours or more, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo) pointed out—it is not humanly possible to prepare amendments as we go which will cover every assurance made in a Standing Committee. My hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) was involved in the Bill a great deal. The civil servants were also involved in servicing the Ministers as the Committee was sitting. We cannot operate in this way. All undertakings cannot be honoured on Report.

6.45 p.m.

Since I have been in the Government I have had the duty of dealing with five Bills which have gone through the House. Assurances have been given in Standing Committee, and in relation to a number of them it has been necessary to put down amendments in another place rather than on Report.

Mr. Mikardo

I am quite prepared to accept my hon. Friend's difficulty if he is prepared to accept ours. Our difficulty is that the undertaking we were given was that what the Government would produce would be acceptable to us. If they had produced it for today's Report stage, we should have been able to judge whether it was acceptable to us. However, if they produce it in another place, and it is in a form which is not acceptable to us, we have no means of amending it or of dealing with it at all. We have to take it or leave it. As has been pointed out, there have been nearly four months during which nothing has been done. That does not give me great confidence that the next two or three weeks will produce something acceptable to us.

Mr. Kaufman

I well understand and share the view of my hon. Friend, the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow, that once a Bill leaves this place and one has to rely on amendments in another place, the control of the House of Commons over the Bill is not as great as we should like. However, I have not spoken with ill-faith in what I have said. If my hon. Friend did not like the wording of any amendment that might be tabled in another place, as a parliamentarian of great experience, he knows that it would be perfectly possible for amendments to be moved in this place by back benchers as well as by the Government. I am not responding to my hon. Friend's argument in the sense of judging whether he is right or wrong, but if he believes that there is a majority in this place for an amendment of that kind he may wish to test it. If there is a majority for an amendment of that kind, there will be a majority for him to move an amendment to an amendment tabled and carried in another place.

When amendments from another place are brought here it is open to all hon. Members to seek to amend those amendments in this House, with a Division if necessary.

Mrs. Wise

I understand my hon. Friend's difficulties which are not his fault and which show the complete inadvisability of removing, during the course of an important Bill, three Ministers who are doing an excellent job in a Department. However, will my hon. Friend tell us what is wrong with the present wording? He has said that he does not like legislation by civil servants, but this amendment is not produced by civil servants and I do not understand what is wrong with it. Could he not reverse his argument and accept this amendment? Then, if some earth-shaking flaw were found, it could be amended in another place? If we can do all this in another place let us indicate the views of this House here and now.

Mr. Kaufman

I accept what my hon. Friend said. I do not wish to go into what happens when Ministers change office. I accept my hon. Friend's sympathy. I have given valid reasons why the three Ministers who were doing an excellent job in this Department did not bring forward an amendment, and why we did not find an amendment in the Department when we arrived there—there was not one.

Mr. Richard Wainwright (Colne Valley) rose

Mr. Kaufman

It is difficult to complete a sentence in this most interesting debate. Intermittently, I should like to complete one before giving way to another sympathetic intervention from one side or the other. I have indicated that we are sympathetic to the aims of the amendment. We would prefer the hon. Member for Rochdale to withdraw his amendment on the assurance that I have given, which I am sure he will accept in good faith.

Mr. Wainwright

The Minister alleges that his predecessors in the ministerial team in Committee were working so hard that they could not give a signal for an amendment in the spirit of the one to which his hon. Friend promised to return. Is he saying that on a matter of comparatively simple administration of this kind his highly talented predecessors were not capable of giving a signal to their staff to devise a better form of wording than we have tabled?

Mr. Kaufman

I am not saying that at all.

Mr. Hugh Fraser

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Kaufman

The right hon. Gentleman is a quite exceptional Member. I am sure that he will be good enough to allow me to reply to the hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Wainwright). This is guillotine time. If the Opposition wish to intervene, it is not for me to argue with them.

I have indicated my sympathy for the amendment. I have also indicated that it is our wish to table an amendment in another place to respond to the feeling of the House. If hon. Members on both sides prefer us to accept the amendment now and to consider whether to amend it suitably in another place, I should be ready to respond to that alternative. However, we wish to consider the matter between now and when the Bill goes to another place. The alternative lies between the hon. Member for Rochdale withdrawing the amendment now and our bringing forward an amendment later, or our accepting it now but reserving the right to bring forward an amendment in another place. If it is the will of the House that it should be the latter, then, in accordance with my own inclinations, I shall do that.

Mr. Tom King

We have had a most extraordinary interlude in this Report stage. The Minister said that he had carefully read the Committee proceedings before deciding his attitude towards the amendment. My impression is that he has a brief which tell him to resist this amendment, but, having read the temperature of the House on this occasion he realised that he would not get away with it.

Mr. Kaufman

When I read the Committee proceedings and saw this amendment, my inclination was to accept it. Unlike the Opposition, who have been against declaring interests, I have always been in favour of declaring interests. I wish to consider the matter further. I have been in the Department only a short time. However, I have responded to the feeling of the House. What is Parliament for if one does not do that?

Mr. King

The hon. Gentleman has clearly not read the Committee proceedings. If he had, he would know that I said that we were in favour of the amendment in principle. I made that absolutely clear. Therefore, the Minister cannot accuse the Opposition of seeking to refuse disclosure in this area. The hon. Gentleman spoke as though he were somehow an independent Member who was not a member of the Government. Does he accept responsibility for undertakings given by his predecessor? If so, a clear undertaking was given by the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) to return to this matter. There has now been a rapid change of view, because the Minister realised that the going was getting too tough. He was trying to repeat what his predecessor had told the Committee, in the belief that he could keep us quiet for another spell.

The Minister has put the Opposition in a difficult situation. Hon. Members who were present in Committee will know what we said. We pointed out that we did not like the wording of the amendment, but that we accepted it in principle. The first objection was that we were not convinced that exactly the same qualifications which apply to Members of Parliament were necessarily ideal for members of the National Enterprise Board. I think that hon. Members of the Liberal Party will agree that they are seeking to establish the principle. For instance, they are concerned only with the financial interest. I suggest that more than the financial interest may be extremely relevant to the procedures of the NEB. For instance, if the Secretary of State decided to appoint a union leader who had no financial involvement but had a direct political or union interest, that fact should be made known. That is one fault that we find with the amendment. We do not consider that it covers the range of interests which might be extremely relevant and should be declared. As I understand the situation—

Mrs. Wise rose

Mr. King

Perhaps I may complete this point. I understand that the Minister is willing to accept the amendment or to table an amendment in another place. The weakness about relying on a Lords amendment is that there is no guarantee that it will be carried. If the Lords amendment is not carried, there will be nothing for the House to amend, and that provision will not be inserted in the Bill. Therefore, we would be relying on the same assurance as was given in Committee, for which we have nothing to show.

Our difficulty is that there is no amendment which we find wholly acceptable. The Government have reneged, or failed to honour the undertaking given in Committee to bring forward an acceptable amendment. I think that the Minister will be pressed again on this matter. We shall have to wait and see which option he takes.

Mr. Kaufman

I recognise the hon. Gentleman's dilemma. When he thought that we might be defeated, he wanted to vote against us. Now that we are accepting the amendment, he wants to get out of it because he does not like it.

Mr. King

The hon. Gentleman should not accuse hon. Members of lack of principle.

Mrs. Wise rose

Mr. King

I should like to deal with the Minister's intervention. It is clear that the Government have no principles in this matter, save in so far as they count the votes behind them on all these issues and change their tune to suit them. It is not a question of our not having principles in this matter.

Mrs. Wise

I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way. In Committee he said that he did not like this amendment because it would lay obligations on members of the board without our knowing what those obligations were. We have not yet made the regulations relating to Members of Parliament. But we have now made those regulations and we are actually filling in our forms. Some of the hon. Gentleman's statements are therefore a little dated.

In addition, since he knew that the Government had not brought forward an amendment, if the Opposition were genuinely in favour of this principle, why did they not table their own Amendment? I suggest that my hon. Friend was quite right when he said that somebody's bluff had been called. The Opposition's bluff has certainly been called on this matter. They are now faced with an amendment which has been accepted with good grace by the Government. The Opposition should show equal grace by acknowledging the Government's action.

Mr. Cyril Smith

I agree with the hon. Member for Coventry, South-West (Mrs. Wise) that the Opposition could have tabled their own amendment.

I thank the Minister for the gracious way in which he dealt with the debate and assure him that we accept the spirit in which the Government have accepted the amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Back to
Forward to