Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

HC Standing Committee [Transport (London) (recommitted) Bill]

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC Standing Committee A [51-54, 74-94]
Editorial comments: 1030-1040, 1145-1240. Two extracts from the Second Sitting. Where MT spoke to an amendment, the debate on that amendment is reproduced in full. She spoke at cc.51, 53, 76, 81, and 90.
Importance ranking: Minor
Word count: 7921
Themes: Privatized & state industries, Local government, Transport
[column 51] First extract

TRANSPORT (LONDON) (re-committed) BILL



Tuesday, 1st April, 1969

[Sir Beresford Craddock in the Chair]

10.30 a.m.

Mrs. Margaret Thatcher

On a point of order, Sir Beresford. In the Official Report, at the end of the list of Members attending our last sitting, there appears mysteriously the name, Mr. Thatcher. I was in Baltimore lecturing, and, in any event, although I was with you in spirit, the gender did not change. I think that someone had a mental aberration. I wonder whether the list can be changed.

The Chairman

Yes, indeed. I am sure that all Members will be as sorry as I am for that horrible mistake. I assure the hon. Lady that we missed her very much, and we thought about her at the time. We shall have it changed.

Clause 4

London Transport Executive

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to The Ministry of Transport (Mr. Bob Brown)

I beg to move Amendment No. 9, in page 3, line 22, leave out ‘body’ and insert ‘public authority’.

I do not propose to say anything on this Amendment. It is largely a drafting Amendment. Whatever the authority is called, it is, in fact, a public authority.

Mrs. Thatcher

I agree that it is a drafting Amendment. But may we know why the word “body” was put in in the first place?

Mr. Anthony Berry

I was wondering what was wrong with the word “body” , apart from the fact that the whole of last year's Transport Act was wrong, since it appears there in exactly the same way—

“who shall be a body corporate with perpetual succession” —

and so on. I wonder why the word is being changed.

[column 52]

Mr. Gresham Cooke

We all know the terms “body corporate” and “public authority” , but is there a phrase, “public authority corporate” ? Is that a correct phrase, and, if so, what does it mean?

Mr. Brown

These are largely technical terms and, clearly, the Parliamentary draftsman thought at the time of drafting that the word “body” would cover the subject fully. The purpose of putting in the words “public authority” instead of the word “body” is largely to cover the L.T.E.'s relationship with building societies. The basic purpose of the Amendment is related to the power of the Executive to guarantee loans made by building societies to employees of the Executive for housing purposes.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

Is the word “corporate” right, or is that a mistake which has been left in?

The Chairman

With respect, the word “corporate” is not in the Amendment. It does not arise.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

With respect, I understand that the Amendment is to take out the word “body” and to put in “public authority” , leaving the word “corporate” afterwards. Therefore, the whole phrase will be:

“the London Transport Executive who shall be a public authority corporate” .

The Chairman

I am much obliged, but I respectfully point out that it is the wrong line. Is there any further comment?

Mr. Brown


Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

With respect, I am sorry to pursue it, Sir Beresford, but you said that it was the wrong line——

The Chairman

Order. I am sorry, but we have passed it. We cannot go back, having agreed to it.

Mr. Berry

I beg to move Amendment No. 10, in line 26, leave out ‘eight’ and insert ‘ten’.

This Amendment refers to the number of people on the Executive, and we feel that [column 53]ten should be the maximum rather than eight. We are not suggesting that this should be a large board. We accept that in these days people find that streamlined bodies and boards of companies work much more efficiently. The main reason why we are approaching the matter in this way is that in last year's Transport Act we set up the four or more public passenger transport authorities in other parts of the country, and those had a maximum of nine. But those areas, important as they are, are not so large as London and they do not have quite the same responsibilities, which is why we think that this body should be a little larger. In particular, this authority in London will have responsibility for the Underground system, but there are no Underground systems in the other areas.

In our debates last year the late Mr. Swingler said, in discussing a similar Amendment:

“In our concept, it should be a small body. To be an effective managerial and professional executive, it should be reasonably small, although the importance of the undertaking may be considerable.” —[Official Report, Standing Committee F, 7th February, 1968; c. 481.]

In our view, the importance of this body is just that bit more considerable and, therefore, we feel that the Executive should be a little larger.

Mr. Brown

This is not an Amendment of great significance either way. The G.L.C. is happy with eight, and I see no great purpose in altering the number to ten, since the G.L.C. is the body with responsibility for London Transport under the terms of the Bill. The Minister is not greatly perturbed about it. The Amendment would give the Council nothing but a ceiling to work to, and if it decided in its wisdom that it wanted a maximum of only eight, it could apply that maximum, or less if it so desired. That being the case, the Minister might well have another look at this later on.

Mrs. Thatcher

I thank the Bob BrownParliamentary Secretary for that reply. I wonder whether he could look at it in connection with the Transport Act, 1962, Section 1(4) under which the present board has rather more possible members than the proposed new one. Under Clause 6 as at present drafted, this Executive, or the Council, will have much greater powers [column 54]than the present board, and it would seem rather strange, therefore, to reduce the number of people it is possible to have on the board. If the Richard MarshMinister will look at it again in connection with the Greater London Council, we shall not press the Amendment.

Mr. Brown

Yes, we shall do that.

Mr. Berry

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn. [column 74] Second extract

11.45 a.m.

Question proposed, That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill.

Mr. Berry

I have two points to make. We have had quite a good discussion on subsection (2), and I am pleased to see “financial” shown as one of the qualifications for members of the Executive. London Transport has suffered a lot in past years through not having a financial director, and I am glad to see that that has been put right in the Bill.

The other point about which I am not happy relates to pension rights. In subsection (5)(b) there is a rather long and cumbersome phrase concerning pension rights. Although I never thought the time would come when I should quote the 1968 Transport Act as being better, I feel that paragraph 4 of Part II of Schedule 5 of that Act—

“The Executive shall pay to or in respect of the members thereof such remuneration, allowances and pensions as the Authority may determine” —

is much more succinct and helpful. The new phrase may mean the same, but I should like to be assured that the pension rights, which are vital for anybody joining the Executive, will be protected.

Mr. Lewis

I support the Clause, as amended, in the hope that, when we come to the Report stage, the Minister will have a look at the question of the employees of the London Transport Executive being disqualified from membership of the G.L.C. I hope that some provision can be made to cover people who are [column 75]members of borough councils. My organisation encourages our members to take an active part in the civic life of their areas, and it seems incredible that, under the terms of this Clause, such people are deprived of their interest in that direction. I understand that a number of attempts have been made to get some relaxation of this ruling, notably through the T.U.C. It was recently reported that one of the clerical unions was making efforts to obtain exemption in respect of staff employed at the G.L.C. headquarters. But this situation involves all grades of staff, about 73,000 people, the majority of whom will be employed on duties which cannot have the remotest link with the running of the G.L.C. I hope that the Minister will say that those people can be allowed to contest borough council elections within the ambit of the G.L.C.

The Minister of Transport (Mr. Richard Marsh)

Just to clarify the position, there is nothing in this Clause which would prevent someone standing for a borough council in the G.L.C. area. The purpose of the Clause is to prevent an employee of the board standing for election to the G.L.C.; but he could do so with a borough council.

Mr. Lewis

I want this opportunity extended, if at all possible, to the G.L.C., because I see no reason why a person should be denied it. If someone is prepared to serve his civic authority, he should not be debarred because he is employed by the L.T.E. The Clause could lead to a most invidious position. A person employed on a British Railways line operating near or over the London Transport system would be permitted to contest a Greater London Council election, while a person employed by London Transport would be debarred. I hope that the Minister will see whether some means can be found on Report to ensure that members who wish to seek election to the G.L.C. are not debarred because of their employment.

Mr. Brown

Taking the last point first, I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Mr. Ron Lewis) for raising this matter, as Amendment No. 12 to Clause 4 was not taken. I assure him that my right hon. Friend is equally concerned about this problem, and he [column 76]proposes to consider this part of the Bill at a later stage to see what steps can be taken to deal with it.

On the point raised by the hon. Member for Southgate (Mr. Berry), the reference in paragraph (b) to entering into and carrying into effect

“agreements or arrangements with some other person for securing or preserving such pension rights for those members”

is desirable to allow the Executive, in the case of persons who come to the Executive from other pensionable employment and then move on to other employment after a period of service as a member of the Executive, to negotiate suitable pension arrangements on a personal basis. There are many forms of pension arrangements, and it is desirable that the Executive should be free to make such arrangements as the Council may approve to meet any particular set of circumstances.

Mrs. Thatcher

The Bob BrownParliamentary Secretary mentioned something which we did not discuss at all on this Clause, saying that the Richard MarshMinister would reconsider subsection (3). That is the first time we have heard anything about that. I understood that this had been agreed between the Ministry and the G.L.C. as being a subsection which it was necessary to put in. Could the Parliamentary Secretary, therefore, say what will be the position of a person who is an employee or a member of the Executive when it comes to voting in the Council? I know that if he had a pecuniary interest he could not vote in the Council, but there are many cases in which he would not have a direct pecuniary interest but on which he might have to exercise a vote while having another interest. Could the Parliamentary Secretary clear up the interaction between the two Acts if he is considering any Amendment of this subsection?

Mr. Brown

With respect, I have said that my right hon. Friend will look at it. If an Amendment were introduced on Report, that would be the time to discuss it.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule I agreed to. [column 77]Clause 5

General Duties of Executive and Other Bodies with Respect to Passenger Transport Services for Greater London

Mr. Berry

I beg to move Amendment No. 17, in page 4, line 33, after ‘principles’, insert ‘and policies’.

This is a simple Amendment. We feel that the Executive should be subject not only to the general guide-lines but also to the specific policies laid down by the G.L.C. It should comply not only with the spirit but also with the letter of G.L.C. enactments.

Mr. Marsh

I do not think that we are likely to have a great war on this point, but it will not be my intention to accept the Amendment. The word “principles” is intended to be interpreted very widely. What we have in mind here is that the G.L.C. shall set down policy guide-lines and that the Executive shall operate within them. This is very much what the hon. Gentleman wants. We see no difference between policies and principles. The principles which are laid down by the G.L.C. will be those within which it is intended that the L.T.E. shall operate. I do not think it is in the minds of hon. Gentlemen opposite that the G.L.C. should involve itself in the day-to-day management of an organisation such as this. That being so, I do not think there is any difference between us, given that the word “principles” is intended to be interpreted in a very wide fashion.

Mr. Berry

I am grateful to the Minister. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Berry

I beg to move Amendment 18, in page 5, line 8, at end insert ‘and costings’.

I should have thought that it was necessary for the Executive, the National Bus Company and British Rail to have access to each other's accounts and costings. For example, one can foresee important discussions about the possibility of continuing to run unremunerative services, and a further exchange of information would be vital to such a decision. If the Executive, the G.L.C. [column 78]and the London ratepayers are expected to make some contribution to the upkeep of unremunerative services, it is only right that they should see the figures in order to determine, first, whether the cost is a fair one; second, how it is arrived at; and third, how matters such as overheads have been allocated. For those reasons, this Amendment will be an important addition to the Bill.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

There is substance in this Amendment. For example, in my own constituency London Transport said that the services run by double-decker buses were unremunerative, and I obtained permission for a private operator to run a single-decker bus, which he did for many years. The single-decker bus was cheaper than the huge double-decker bus of London Transport. When the National Bus Company and London Transport's are discussing questions of that sort in fringe areas, the question of who could provide a service more cheaply should be considered as well as the timing and the type of service. There are many fringe areas, with new blocks of flats, on the very edge of London Transport's area where a few pence either way makes the difference between a service being remunerative or unremunerative. At the moment, with its rather centralised system, London Transport generally finds on examination of costings that other bodies could provide services more cheaply.

Mr. Marsh

Hon. Gentlemen opposite are on an important point here, but I hope to show them that the Amendment is not necessary. I accept that the purpose of this Clause is to place an obligation on the Executive, on the British Railways Board and on the N.B.C. to co-operate with a view to co-ordinating their services. This is in the context of subsection (1), which lays upon them the duty to operate

“with due regard to efficiency, economy and safety of operation, to provide or secure the provision of such public passenger transport services as best meet the needs for the time being of Greater London” .

Hon. Gentlemen have said that the costings are not unimportant in this. But the point is covered without the Amendment, because

“to afford to one another such information as to their services as may be reasonably required for those purposes”

[column 79]includes information on costings, in much the same way as it does anything else, because in the sort of example which the hon. Gentleman has just given the information would be valueless unless one had the costings. The intention of the Bill—I am informed that it is the only possible legal interpretation which could be placed upon it—is that in this case, if the costings are necessary for an examination of the services, the legal obligation is to provide those costings as part of giving information about the services.

The answer to hon. Gentlemen opposite is that, while one shares their view about the importance of this factor, the point is taken care of because information relating to services includes such things as costings if these are reasonably required by the other bodies.

12 noon.

Mr. Heseltine

I do not understand why the Minister does not accept the words which we have suggested. He advanced no argument against them. He merely said that the reference to costings was not necessary. It would make us happier if these words were inserted. Their insertion would not in any way detract from the strength of the legislation, and they would not conflict with any of the Minister's intentions. I do not understand why he cannot accept the Amendment.

I am not altogether satisfied that the immediate and short-term interpretations which he has placed on the Bill will be the interpretations placed on it by the various organisations—British Railways, the National Bus Company, and the L.T.E.—who have a duty to co-operate. Let us face the reality of the situation. In the last resort, those three organisations are answerable to themselves for the funds which they dispose of. No matter what statutory duty is imposed on them, they will enter into discussions with a view to reducing their commitments to the minimum. I hope that that will be their attitude. I suspect that it will be. I do not think that anyone would seriously believe that any of those three organisations would go to a meeting believing that it should be there with an ever-open purse to subsidise a service which it believes to be the responsibility of one of the other organisations.

In that event, they will not want to give more internal evidence of their [column 80]operations than they have to, and I do not blame them for that. In that situation, I should take the same view. I should want to keep my side hidden as much as I could from those with whom I was negotiating, because in that way I should be likely to do the best deal for the organisation I represented. If that was not the attitude of the men concerned, I should be distressed. I hope that they will take a fairly aggressive attitude to the services they provide. I hope that they will try to provide them as cheaply as they can having regard to the wide and laudable definition which the Minister read from subsection (1), but the fact is that, within that definition, almost anything is possible and, therefore, what we are suggesting neither adds to nor subtracts from the attitude of the men who will do the negotiating.

The Minister is right in saying that costings are the key to the negotiations. It is possible that the negotiations could take place without them, but they will not get very far unless all the figures are made available. To suggest that one provides all the information and all the costings goes a great deal further than suggesting that the organisation should provide such details and information about its services as are

“reasonably required for those purposes” .

We believe that, if the negotiations are to be frank and fearless, the people conducting them will want to probe deeply into such things as overheads and the bases on which the arguments advanced by those with whom they are statutorily co-operating have been put together.

The arguments are all in favour of adding these words to the legislation. I hope that the Minister will accept the Amendment, because by so doing he will enable us to get past this point. In the Minister's words, the Amendment will do no harm. It is completely within the spirit of what he intends. It can at best clarify an area which we believe should be clarified.

Mr. Marsh

It always grieves me to disagree with the hon. Gentleman, who always puts his case in a reasonable way, if not a convincing one. I should like to be able to accept the Amendment to make him happy, but there are two reasons for not doing so.

First, it is not necessary. The suggestion, rather a novel one, that we should add [column 81]something to a Bill because it does not do any harm is not one that we should like to follow too far.

There is a second and rather more serious point. At the moment, the Clause is clear. It says that these organisations should

“afford to one another such information as to their services as may be reasonably required for those purposes” .

Any information is covered by that which is needed for those purposes. Costings will sometimes be the key factor. At other times they will not be. If one starts sub-defining the word “information” by referring only to costings as part of the information which may legitimately be required, one begins to reach a situation in which one has to define what the other information is. At the moment, the Clause is clear. It refers to any information which is needed, and it says that it has to be made available if it is reasonably required. Picking on bits of information which are required makes it necessary to define more specifically the other forms of information.

I hope that hon. Gentlemen opposite will accept the assurance that the statutory obligation is clear. It is to make available information about the services, which may include costings. The information is to be made available as far as is reasonably required. The three bodies concerned will be able to decide what information is needed in any particular case. It would be a mistake to add these two words. First, they would add nothing to the definition. Second, by sub-dividing what is now a clear provision by having a special reference to costings, we should begin to cast doubt on all the other information, and why one was defined in the statute and others were not. I do not think that there is any point of substance between us, and I hope that, in the light of the assurance which I have given, hon. Gentlemen opposite will feel able to withdraw the Amendment.

Mrs. Thatcher

I am sorry to probe a little further, but I do not agree with the Richard MarshMinister when he says that in every case the word “services” includes costings. That is the substance of the right hon. Gentleman's argument. He says that the Amendment is not necessary, but he agrees with it in principle. He is saying that “services” in all cases includes costings.

[column 82]

Mr. Marsh

It does not.

Mrs. Thatcher

In that case the right hon. Gentleman is admitting that the word “services” does not always include costings.

Mr. Marsh

Neither does the Amendment.

Mrs. Thatcher

No. We want to make sure that costings are included in the information which has to be given. That is why we have included them. As I understand it, the Minister has turned his own argument on its head. He said that the Amendment was not necessary. Now he says that “services” do not in all cases include costings.

Mr. Marsh

The Clause is clear. The Statute will require these organisations

“to afford to one another such information as to their services as may be reasonably required” .

That means that in some cases it will be legitimate to argue within the statute that one of the things reasonably required, or the information reasonably required, relates to costings, and the organisations will then be under an obligation to provide that information.

The Amendment merely adds the words “and costings” after services. Costings would still not be available unless they were reasonably required. This is the point. The provision would not be changed. All that the hon. Lady is doing is saying that the organisations must afford to one another such information as to their services and costings as may be reasonably required. In some cases, costings will not be required because the argument will not relate to them. In cases where costings are part of the argument, the provision of information about them is covered by the wording of the Clause. In neither case is it suggested that costings should always be provided. They will not always be relevant or of any interest.

Mrs. Thatcher

I still do not agree with the right hon. Gentleman. If he looks back to the earlier part of the subsection, he will see that there are two duties. The first is to secure co-ordination under subsection (2)(a), and the other is to secure the proper discharge of the Executive's duty. If one is to have costings [column 83]included in services for the purpose of the Executive's duty, one has to look back to the word “economy” in subsection (1). As far as I can see, that is the only reason why costings should be included in services, to secure the need to run the London Transport Executive with due economy.

The duty in subsection (1) is laid upon the Executive. It is not a duty of economy laid on the Bus Company. The Bus Company may in certain cases argue that it does not have to provide costings within the meaning of the word “services” . Even on the right hon. Gentleman's interpretation, I do not think that “services” will always include costings, even though they may be reasonably required.

The right hon. Gentleman gave the case away when he said that it would be open to people “to argue within the statute” . Without the phrase “and costings” it would be possible for people to argue for so long that, by the time they were required, they would cease to be relevant. If the right hon. Gentleman agrees that at all times the costings should be given, will he look at this again to ensure that services include costings in the construction and context of the Bill as set out here?

Mr. Marsh

I do not want to continue this dialogue indefinitely, but I think that the dispute between us is based on a misunderstanding, and we are really on the same side. The words in subsection (1) are:

“… with due regard to efficiency, economy and safety of operation” .

Mrs. Thatcher

That is the Executive only.

Mr. Marsh

Yes, but the obligation is on the other bodies to co-ordinate with the Executive. That is the purpose of the Clause. From time to time, there may be issues involving the operation or the economy of the services. There may be a discussion about safety factors. There may be an argument about scheduling, or about many other things. All we are saying is that services do not include costings in every case because they will not be relevant in some cases. They may not come into the argument at all. But where they are relevant the key point is [column 84]that there is an obligation on the organisations to afford one another such unlimited information as to their services as may be reasonably required.

Mrs. Thatcher

It does not say “unlimited” .

Mr. Marsh

No. I am saying this in parenthesis.

Mrs. Thatcher

But it is not there.

Mr. Marsh

It is not there, but they are required to provide such information as to their services as may be reasonably required. That means that, where costings are reasonably required as part of the argument, the obligation is there to provide them. There is no point in putting on them an obligation to provide costings in every case, because they will not always be necessary. In any case, the Amendment does not provide for costings to be produced in every case.

Mrs. Thatcher


Mr. Marsh

We accept that. All that the hon. Lady is saying is that, where costings are necessary for the argument, they should be made available. What we are saying is that where costings are necessary for the argument they are

“information as to their services as may be reasonably required” .

Mr. Heseltine

Our concern is that, if one is looking for information about services, there should be a reasonable opportunity to obtain information about costings. If the information required took the form of costings, then costings would become one of a number of matters about which consultations could take place and about which one could obtain information.

It seems that there is a danger that, having obtained the information about costings, one would find oneself in a difficult situation in trying to probe behind the information, because costings are not elevated to a sufficiently substantial extent, and people negotiating would find it difficult to probe the information. Because we want to reach the stage at which costings are something about which full information is available, as opposed [column 85]to something which is presented by way of an addenda to services, we are proposing the Amendment.

12.15 p.m.

Mr. Marsh

I do not want to hold up the Committee indefinitely. There is a misunderstanding here, and there seems to be no dispute between us. We are both seeking to provide that, wherever costings are necessary as part of the information to be supplied, they shall be supplied. I have no doubt that the Clause as drafted achieves this. Obviously, we shall have time to re-examine the position, and I am prepared to do so, although I think that, after re-examination, we shall find that this provision already does what is wanted.

Mr. Berry

This has been a helpful discussion, although the more the Minister went on, the more I was confused about why we needed the word “services” . Why should they not just have to provide “information” . If we have “services” , why not “costings” as well? Perhaps we can come back to this. In the meantime, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Berry

I beg to move Amendment No. 19, in page 5, line 38, at end insert:

‘but the Executive shall have power to exploit the findings of any research by either the sale or lease of those findings’.

This Amendment is concerned with research which has come about through subsections (3) and (4). Under subsection (3), the Executive may, with the Council's approval, do research connected with its functions and this has to be turned to account. I agree with that. Subsection (4), having underlined the encouragement for such research, limits it rather peculiarly in the last lines; and this is what we seek to alter.

We do not suggest that the Executive should have power to exploit the findings of any research which may lead to it engaging in commercial activities with no strict bearing on its principal functions of providing passenger services, but we still feel that it would be eminently fair if it could secure some return on the results of the research, and, still more important, allow the public to benefit from the sale [column 86]or lease, as appropriate, of the findings to private concerns.

Mr. Marsh

I was in some difficulty with this Amendment, because I was not sure what hon. Members had in mind. The Amendment would allow the Executive to have power to exploit the findings of any research, but the implication is that the Executive would not have power to exploit the findings of such research for its own purposes within its own organisation. The Bill gives the Executive a positive duty to carry out research and resultant development. Under subsection (4) it can do the research and development itself or arrange for it to be done by other people, to whom it can give financial assistance. The limitation placed on the Executive—this will not offend hon. Members opposite unduly—is that it cannot, itself or through a subsidiary, do any development outside the field of the powers contained in the Bill. The reason is clear.

Therefore, the Executive's powers in relation to exploitation are channelled as the Bill stands. Under Clause 6(1), it can construct, manufacture and produce anything for the purposes of that subsection either for itself or for its subsidiaries, the national transport authorities or the Greater London Council and, under Clause 6(2)(c), it can enter into agreements with the national transport authorities or subsidiaries and so on. Therefore, the hon. Member's concern to ensure that the Executive shall have power to exploit research is met in the Bill. This is an important point, and the limitation is only in relation to research going outside its own area.

Mr. Hugh Rossi

Could the Minister explain what he has in mind in using the word “research” ? This did not come clearly out of his explanation. If it is envisaged that the Council will have a department engaged in original thinking in technical matters, doing research along these lines, perhaps it would be desirable for it to have not only the right to exploit those ideas in the way mentioned in the Amendment but also the right to patent or copyright those ideas. I am not certain whether the Bill gives powers to the Council to patent or copyright such ideas. If it has that right, it has a saleable commodity. If not, perhaps this is something we should consider.

[column 87]

Mr. Heseltine

Perhaps it would have helped if I had waited for the Minister to reply, as he looks as if he will, about the question of this right. I am not sure that the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey (Mr. Rossi) goes as far as the Amendment intends. The Amendment would provide, in the event of research and development producing an off-shoot quite outside the powers of the Executive—a fluke or coincidence, which can happen—not only that the Executive and the G.L.C. should have the right to patent their discovery but that the results should not stay in patent form without being exploited.

If this research were to give them knowledge to exploit something, but they were precluded from doing so under Clause 6, no matter what patents there were, they could not arrange for this piece of research to be exploited. That is why the Amendment was put down. Some other part of the Bill might enable the Executive to find an outside organisation to take on this research, in which case the Amendment is unnecessary.

Mr. Marsh

I am grateful for the comments of hon. Gentlemen opposite. They are a clear indication that, when we discuss the manufacturing powers in the Bill, some of our long debates on the Transport Bill last year will show their effect and we shall see a change of heart.

Mr. Heseltine

The reverse.

Mr. Marsh

I am sorry to hear that—but one step at a time.

It is difficult to say what we have in mind about research until it happens. This is a very large body doing a considerable amount of manufacturing and technical development. It may bring in a newly developed bus or equipment on buses or tube trains. One cannot say what it will do before it happens, but some things will happen from time to time in an organisation of this size. I am glad that I was asked—because I did not know the answer at the time—whether the Executive could patent this. I am assured that it can, so we are left with the question whether it can develop. Yes, it can, so far as such findings relate to the normal restrictions in the Bill, which go pretty wide in transport. [column 88]

If it were something exotic outside the transport field, which is conceivable, the Executive could dispose by sale or lease of any part of its undertaking or property which it did not require for the purpose of its business, including the right to dispose of an interest in property retained by the Executive—which would cover this—and it is entitled to turn its resources to account so far as is required for the purposes of its business and to provide technical advice or assistance, including research services, for any person in respect of any matter in which the Executive has skill or experience.

This is an important point, and I am glad to be able to clarify it. The intention is that the Executive shall be able to pursue research in this field, that it shall be entitled to undertake the results of this research, and that it shall be able to profit from it. There is an understanding on both sides that, in some of these fields, it would not be sensible for the London Transport Executive to pursue the matter much further, but it would still be permitted, within the Bill, to get the benefits of it.

Mr. Berry

This has been a useful discussion, and I am glad that we have cleared up this point. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Berry

I beg to move Amendment No. 20, in page 5, line 41, after ‘subsections’, insert ‘(2)’.

Subsection (5) reads:

“The Council may give directions to the Executive with respect to the exercise and performance of the Executive's functions under subsections (3) and (4) of this Section.”

We believe that the same should apply to its functions under subsection (2), Subsection (1) gives the G.L.C. general power to lay down guiding principles under which the Executive has to operate, and I should have thought that it was desirable that subsection (2), which describes the vital duties in the Executive's relations with the National Bus Company and the Railways Board, should also be included in the subsections laying down the Council's right to give directions. This would be a helpful Amendment.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

The Council may have to knock the heads of these three bodies together on occasion. I brought [column 89]out at the last meeting the extraordinary lack of co-ordination between British Railways and the London Transport Board over 30 years, when the L.T.B. refused to put on its maps the railway line from Broad Street to Richmond, saying that it had nothing to do with the L.T.B. but was a peculiar railway line out in the suburbs. But many commuters in the London area use it.

There are many ways in which these three bodies could be brought together to co-ordinate their services. I am particularly concerned about the fringe areas, of which my constituency is one, and of which there are all sorts on the edge of the London Transport area, in which London Transport says it is not worth operating because of the many difficulties. Although we have put a statutory duty in subsection (2) on these bodies to co-operate, they may not do so, and the G.L.C. should have the power to punch their heads and bring them together.

Mr. Brown

This is a completely unnecessary and a potentially damaging Amendment. Under Clause 5(1), the Executive must exercise and perform its function in accordance with the principles laid down by the Council so as, in conjunction with the British Railways Board and the N.B.C., to provide or secure the provision of services to meet the needs of Greater London. The statement of principles laid down by the Council would represent a basic guide-line for the Executive, and it could perfectly well cover any instruction to the Executive about matters covered in subsection (2), certainly so far as general policy is concerned. Alternatively, the Council could issue a general direction under Clause 11(1), if it thought fit, on the general policy aspects of co-ordination. If, however, the Amendment is designed to enable the Council to issue directions to the Executive on the day-to-day issues of co-ordination, this is completely undesirable and unacceptable. The Council should not become involved in matters of day-to-day management. Those are strictly for the Executive. The major policy on the new structure clearly indicates that. The bulk of the work on co-ordination of services is in terms of day-to-day operation in which the Council should not be allowed to interfere. I do not think that anyone would disagree with that.

[column 90]

Mrs. Thatcher

If that argument is correct, why bring into subsection (5) directions in connection with subsections (3) and (4) and not susbection (2), which is not only concerned with day-to-day co-ordination but enables the Executive to enter into such arrangements with the other two bodies as appear to be expedient. I should have thought that the Council should have power to give directions in connection with those arrangements in the same way as it has power under subsections (3) and (4).

Mr. Brown

I am sure that the hon. Lady has missed the point that these are matters of day-to-day management, detailed operating arrangements. Clearly, it would be wrong for the G.L.C., and I am sure that the G.L.C. would not want to interfere with day-to-day management.

Mr. Heseltine

I am not altogether sure that the Parliamentary Secretary is right. As I understand it, the co-ordination will take place on a day-to-day basis between the three organisations, and a large number of agreements and settlements might be reached. The Bill provides that this co-ordination shall take place within the general framework. As we said on an earlier Amendment, the principles will have been laid down by the G.L.C., subject to the provisions of the Bill. The purpose behind the Amendment is this. There could come a stage where there was deadlock, where the words “principle of co-ordination” had very little relevance, and what would be required was exactly the interference in day-to-day management which the Parliamentary Secretary says should not be provided for.

Where we earlier tried to introduce the words “and policies” , we were frustrated by the Minister, who rightly said that, in terms of day-to-day policy, there should not be interference. But in this contingency, it is precisely day-to-day interference which may be required; otherwise, there could be a break-down either on the information considered necessary or on the terms of any settlement. Rather than have the whole thing stale-mated, it might be desirable that the G.L.C. should issue a day-to-day instruction dealing with one particular aspect of stale-mate along the lines we have been discussing. Our Amendment would make that possible.

[column 91]

Mr. Gresham Cooke

I cannot see the difference in laying down instructions for subsection (2) as for (3) and (4). London Transport, no doubt, does all kinds of day-to-day research. It tests tyres to see whether one make is better than another for buses, and so on. If the G.L.C. can interfere and lay down principles for the testing of tyres for buses, surely it can lay down principles and instructions for co-ordination of services.

Mr. Brown

Two further points arise. Directions in any event could only apply to the Executive; they could not be applied to the B.R.B. or the N.B.C. Research is potentially a wide-ranging subject which is definitely appropriate for G.L.C. directions. The activities under Clause 5(1) and (2) are different and not appropriate for direction. Clause 5(2) is day-to-day, and not for the G.L.C. Hon. Members opposite will be aware of the problems which arise in local government as a result of some well-intentioned committee chairman making a statement to the local Press which is inflammatory to the work-people, and so on. It is as well that day-to-day management should be left to the professional executive.

Mrs. Thatcher

We ought to press this further. The Bob BrownParliamentary Secretary has not given enough weight to the last four lines of subsection (2). Subsection (1) gives the Executive power to enter into arrangements with the Bus Company and the Railways Board. In negotiations, it may come to a “point” where a principle is involved; but something less than a principle may be involved. I do not see why the Council should not have power to give directions as to how the Executive should resolve this disagreement with the other two bodies. I ask the Parliamentary Secretary, after consultation with the Richard MarshMinister, to look at it again in the light of what we have said. If he finds that this power would be advisable, after consultation with the G.L.C., perhaps he will bring an Amendment forward on Report.

Mr. Brown

I am trying to be helpful, but I cannot see why the hon. Lady is so anxious on this question of direction. The G.L.C. could only apply a direction to the L.T.E. and not to the B.R.B. and the N.B.C. I do not see any point in [column 92]looking at it again. I ask the Committee to reject the Amendment.

Mr. Heseltine

Before the Parliamentary Secretary takes that extreme course, may we try to reach agreement on the point? We accept that the G.L.C. could give directions only to the L.T.E., but if, say, the L.T.E. is a party to consultation between the Railways Board and the Bus Company and the L.T.E. is being awkward or unreasonable, it is reasonable that the G.L.C. should have the right to say to the L.T.E. “Enough is enough; we give you a specific direction to reach a settlement with B.R.B. on these lines” . I cannot see why the Parliamentary Secretary should want to frustrate the G.L.C.

There is one further thought. If there were a stale-mate which was not resolved in the way envisaged in this Amendment, it would come to the Minister to be resolved. That would be a regrettable situation and an unnecessary delay if it could be dealt with by the G.L.C. giving a directive to its own organisation to stop holding up the procedure.

Mr. Brown

The fair parallel to this case would be a nationalised industry. It would be entirely wrong for any Minister to suddenly descend on the board of a nationalised industry and give directives on day-to-day management——

Mr. Marsh

It would be illegal.

Mr. Brown

—as my right hon. Friend said, it would be illegal—as it would be for the G.L.C. to act in the same peremptory fashion. The G.L.C. will have a competent board to deal with the day-to-day management of London Transport, and that is where day-to-day management should rest.

Mrs. Thatcher

I do not think we gain much by going on with the argument. There is not a parallel in a case like this, but if the Parliamentary Secretary adduces the case of nationalised industries, perhaps he will stop the Harold WilsonPrime Minister giving directions on certain matters which arise. I leave that point, under your stern eye, Sir Beresford CraddockSir Beresford. If the Parliamentary Secretary's argument is right in connection with subsections (3) and (4), there is such a similar case, in certain circumstances, [column 93-94]under subsection (2) that the Amendment should be included. We shall press it to a Division.

Question put, That the Amendment be made:——

The Committee divided: Ayes 5, Noes 6. Division No.1]


Berry , Mr. Anthony

Gresham Cooke , Mr. R.

Heseltine , Mr. Michael

Rossi , Mr. Hugh

Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret


Boston , Mr. Terence

Brown , Mr. Bob

Lewis , Mr. Ron

Marsh , Mr. Richard

McBride , Mr. Neil

Ogden , Mr. Eric