§ 1 Clause 1, page 2, line 6, leave out paragraphs (a) to (c).1120
§ 2 Clause 1, page 2, line 21, leave out paragraph (e).
§ The Commons disagreed to these Amendments for the following Reason:
§ 3 Because the Amendments would prevent the effective constitution of either Corporation.
§ Lord WINTERBOTTOM
My Lords, I beg to move that this House doth not insist on their Amendments Nos. 1 and 2, to which the Commons have disagreed for the Reason numbered 3. The Government cannot accept that the Secretary of State's regulation-making power under Clause 1(3) should be restricted solely to the disclosure during Board deliberation of Board Member's interests in contracts. Your Lordships argued against most of subsections (3) on the ground that it gave excessive power to the Secretary of State. But, apart from two parts which I shall come to in a moment, the subjects which your Lordships removed from the scope of the regulation-making powers are matters which have been covered in previous nationalisation Statutes; namely, provision for the appointment and tenure of offices, quorum, Board proceedings and related questions. In most cases these are covered in detail in a Schedule. In the Gas Act 1972, a Conservative measure, these same questions were covered in precisely the same way, by regulations, as we seek to deal with them in this Bill.
The Government consider that the Secretary of State should have the power to determine not only these questions but other matters covered in Clause 1(3). These are the power to determine the size of the Board and the power to appoint members of the Corporations to particular offices.
We are departing in a small way from precedent here in that the Bill allows these questions to be settled by regulations. In previous legislation, the size of the Board and the particular offices to which the Secretary of State may nominate Board members have been specified in the Statute. Your Lordships ascribed unjustifiable significance to this change. We conceived of it as a logical extension of the regulation-making powers introduced under the Gas Act 1972 which would provide a small but useful element of flexibility. This is particularly useful in the context of this Bill which covers two industries likely to develop in very different ways 1121 and therefore whose board size and nature may well need to change one way or the other. We have provided a sensible means of covering this contingency by doing no more than extending a principle which has already been accepted.
I should add that as the Bill is left by your Lordships' Amendments the Secretary of State is not empowered to appoint even Deputy Chairmen (which he appoints in all other similar legislation) and there is even doubt as to whether he could specify terms and conditions to his appointment of Chairman and Members—whom, in consequence, we might have to appoint for life. It is essential that the legislation should provide for all these subjects and for these reasons I recommend that your Lordships' House should not insist on Amendments 1 and 2.
§ Moved, That the House doth not insist on the said Amendments, to which the Commons have disagreed for the Reason numbered 3.—(Lord Winterbottom.)
§ Lord STRATHCONA and MOUNT ROYAL
My Lords, I think the House will be very disappointed at this reaction on the part of the Government. Later we are going to deal with the question of Parliamentary control and I have no doubt the Government will say that they do not believe that certain extra Parliamentary control provisions are needed. Yet here is the noble Lord saying that he needs what he calls a "logical extension". Indeed it is an extension. I do not think he has answered at all the issue of what we called "swamping" when we discussed this at earlier stages, which seems to me to be an entirely appropriate matter to bring up at this moment when there is some suggestion that the same techniques might be applied to certain other bodies that I could think of.
Furthermore, the noble Lord has not mentioned once the issue which I think worried us most of all and which was raised by my noble friend Lord Carr; namely, the power of the Secretary of State to appoint executive directors in these Corporations. One has to ask the noble Lord what it is that makes him think that the Secretary of State is the proper person to appoint the directors in these enterprises, and is it not entirely at variance with the Mackintosh report (of which, I confess, I have only read 1122 Press reports)? Is it not entirely at variance with what we understand is to be recommended and the worry which is being expressed at the undermining of the powers of the chairmen of these Corporations?
With regard to the noble Lord's last point, I believe it ill behoves him at this juncture to start making detailed criticisms about the way in which the Amendment is worded, saying that possibly it takes away certain powers which would be needed. It could quite easily have been corrected if only the Government had seen the wisdom of the principle which underlies the thoughts behind the Amendment. Surely at this juncture we cannot discuss nit-picking details like the fact that the length of the appointment of the chairmen could be affected by the way this Amendment has been phrased.
§ Lord WINTERBOTTOM
My Lords, I am rather surprised that we should be asked to wait for the Mackintosh report when time is running so short. What we have done is to take a provision in a previous Conservative measure, modified it in a minor way and used it for the purpose of this Bill. I honestly do not see who on earth is going to decide about appointments other than the Secretary of State. He is ultimately responsible to your Lordships' House as he is to Parliament as a whole, and for that reason I see no other person who could be charged with those responsibilities. I do not think we are nit-picking; we are just building on precedents created by noble Lords opposite to a small degree. I cannot see the reason for the dislike of the present situation.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ 3.4 p.m.