HC Deb 13 February 1929 vol 225 cc458-75
Colonel ASHLEY

I beg to move, in page 34, line 32, at the end to insert the words: (b) that the district council shall comply with any requirement of the county council as to the manner in which and the persons by whom any works are to be carried out and with any general directions of the county council as to the terms of contracts to be entered into for such purposes; and. I think it is only fair and right that this Amendment should be inserted, in order to enable the county councils to have real control over the work which they delegate to the district councils as their agents. During the Committee stage, several Amendments were put down by the hon. Baronet the Member for Thirsk (Sir E. Turton) as to the control of costs and control of the action of the district councils in other ways. We did not think that was the best way of giving control, but this Amendment does distinctly lay down that the district council shall comply with any requirements of the county council as to the manner in which and the persons by whom the works are to be carried out, and with any general direction from the county council as to the terms of contract to be entered into. I trust this will meet the legitimate claims of the county councils to have, proper control over the work of their agents.


I am very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for having carried out the wishes of the county councils. I think this Amendment meets entirely the objections which were felt in the first instance.


I am not well informed about the details of this matter, but it occurs to me that it is possible that a county council is much more likely to be a body on which Labour representation is as we think, inadequate, whereas a district council is a body on which a great many working men can find places, it being a smaller body. Supposing the district council wished to do this work by direct labour. Under this Amendment, would the county council be able to say, "No, we will not permit you to do this by direct labour; you must do it under contract in the way we think best"? That is the sort of query which arises in the mind of anyone who is not very well instructed on these matters, and I should be glad if the Minister, if he has had time to give attention to this matter after his activities at Queen's Hall last night, could give me some explanation.

Colonel ASHLEY

I gather that the hon. Member was at the Queen's Hall last night, and I hope he has profited by the speech made. I would point out that this question has nothing to do with Labour or anything else. This is simply a Clause to enable a county council, whether it be a Labour county council or a reactionary county council, as he would call it, to control the acts of its agents. I do not know, but I presume that if the county council wished to do it by direct labour it could do so, but then it would not be delegating its functions to the district council.


I am not officially in the confidence of either the district councils or the county councils, but I cannot help being struck by the way in which this Bill, if this Amendment be accepted, will tie hand and foot the district councils in the performance of this duty. I think the hon. Member who raised the question was quite right, and that the effect of the Amendment will be that the county councils could require the work to be done by the district councils through the county council's own servants, or any servants whatever. I cannot conceive of a district council exercising delegated powers with any heart or pleasure or any large measure of success if it is not to be allowed to exercise any discretion whatever. It is quite clear that under the Bill as it is proposed to be amended the county council are to have the control of the finance of the work. They are to have absolute discretion as to the way the work is to be done, and also as to the contracts entered into for that purpose. While I recognise that it is very desirable to conciliate the district council by giving them the right to do work as agents of the county council, it seems to me that whilst giving them that power we are depriving them of any discretion in the discharge of their duties.


I have had some experience of similar conditions in relation to the Metropolitan borough councils and the London County Council. As I understand the point, we are considering the county council, having decided to employ the district council as agents to do road repairs or to construct roads, naturally they would desire to be able to lay down the terms. Under this provision I assume that the county council could require that the borough council should pay trade union rates of wages and observe trade union conditions in any contracts entered into by them. It would be undesirable if a borough council paid rates, when carrying out contract work or any other kind of work, less than the rates prevailing in the district. The London County Council requires all its contracts to be carried out under trade union rates and trade union conditions. We want to know exactly where we are going, and if the purpose of these words is as I understand the matter, I think they are satisfactory, but the point ought to be made clear.


I hope that the Minister of Transport is going to explain the point we are discussing a little more clearly. The Amendment says: That the district council shall comply with any requirement of the county council as to the manner in which and the persons by whom any works are to be carried out. What is meant by that provision? As I understand it the county councils are to control not only the manner in which the work is to be done but they have also the power to decide as to the person by whom any works are to be carried out. I accept the definition of the Minister of Transport that a council may be either a Labour council or a reactionary council. The county council will be the reactionary party in more cases than the other parties, and if the House is going to impose conditions as to the manner in which work shall be carried out, and conditions as to the persons who shall perform that work, then we have every reason to be doubtful as to the results of this proposal, and we should do our best to prevent these particular words being inserted in the Bill. The latter part of the Amendment says: and with any general directions of the county council as to the terms of contracts to be entered into for such purposes. Does that mean that if there are good conditions attached to particular people and the local council desire that these conditions should operate, the county council may disagree and decide that the had conditions should operate. There are many councils in this country operating very bad conditions at the present time, and they have been doing so for the last two years. I want to know if this Amendment gives power to reactionary bodies to impose the bad conditions I have mentioned upon the local councils. If this Amendment is insisted upon I trust that we shall divide against it, because my opinion is that the Bill would be made worse by the insertion of this Amendment.


I would like to know if this Amendment has been proposed in consequence of the Clause that has been added to the Bill applying to London. If so, I think it is most unfortunate. London boroughs have works committees and they employ a good deal of direct labour, and this proposal seems to be a complete reversal of the methods hitherto adopted by the councils.

Colonel ASHLEY

This Amendment has nothing to do with London.

Commander WILLIAMS

May I be allowed to congratulate the hon. Member for South Battersea (Mr. W. Bennett), who is, I believe, an elector in my constituency, on the success of his first effort in this House. May I ask the Minister of Transport what there is left for the district councils to do. I do not see what the local authorities can do in these matters except to supervise the work. As this Amendment may go a little further than was intended, I would like to ask whether it would be possible to reconsider this point when the Measure is under consideration in another place.


This is a legislative assembly and this constant reference to another place is most unworthy.

Commander WILLIAMS

I quite agree, but I understand that some very im- portant matters are coming up fur consideration, and I made that suggestion in order to get out of the difficulty in which we appear to be placed.


Subsection (1) of the Clause we are considering provides that: (1) Where in pursuance of the last foregoing Section functions are delegated to a district council, the district council, in the discharge of those functions, shall act as agents for the county council, and it shall be a condition of any such delegation— (a) that the works to be executed and the expenditure to be incurred by the district council in the discharge of those functions shall be subject to the approval of the county council. The Amendment we are now discussing provides: (b) that the district council shall comply with any requirement of the county council as to the manner in which and the persons by whom any works are to be carried out and with any general directions of the county council as to the terms of contracts to be entered into for such purposes. There is a further provision in Subsection (1), paragraph (b): That the works shall be completed to the satisfaction of the county council. I submit that the two provisions I have read which are already in Clause 55 with regard to the control of expenditure incurred by the district council and the condition that the work shall be completed to the satisfaction of the county council are all that is necessary to meet the case without adding this new condition, the effect of which is that the district council must subordinate itself in every particular to the county council. The effect of this Amendment is that a district council has not a soul to call its own so far as the powers delegated to it are concerned. The county council can interfere in regard to the uttermost detail in the works that are to be carried out as to the way they are to be carried out as well as the actual terms of the contract. This is an unwarrantable interference with the rights of district councils who simply become the agent of the county councils and they are not to be permitted to choose the method which they think best.

5.0 p.m.

The county council may actually lay down the form in which the work shall be carried out. The county council may make arrangements with a firm which is on what we call the Black List, and however strongly the district council might feel about the matter, they would have to submit because the county council have the real power in the matter. The county council have power to determine the particular people who will be employed to do a job, and they might make a recommendation for the purpose of victimising workers, a thing which is not unknown in some areas. The county council might insist that certain persons should not be employed, although the district council might have sufficient confidence in those people to wish to employ them. It would be perfectly competent for the county council to lay down conditions with regard to wages and the hours of the people employed, and they might even go so far as to ignore the Fair Wages Clause. After all the poor district councils have been shorn of a good many of their responsibilities as a result of this Bill, and at least it might be left to them to carry out their delegated duties in the way they think best. We shall certainly go into the Division Lobby against this most reactionary Clause. I should be very sorry to think that the county councils association, or any of the associations which seem to be on such good terms with the Government this afternoon, have supported this proposal. Many of the Amendments suggested by the county councils association were approved of on this side of the House. Do not they feel that already they have done sufficient for the district councils within their area? I imagine that the hon. Baronet, whose experience in this matter we all know to be very considerable, feels himself a little dissatisfied and perhaps a little unhappy that this Amendment should have been introduced. Before we proceed further I hope we may have a more adequate explanation from the Minister of Transport. I am afraid that nothing he can say can make this Amendment, appeal to us very much, but I think the House is entitled to a little fuller explanation than has so far been given.


I am afraid that the ingenuity of hon. Members opposite in importing into this discussion the question of direct labour has, perhaps, a little taken the attention of the House off from what the realities of the situation really are. The House must remember that in this matter the district councils act as the agents of the county councils. It is the county council which has got to find the money. It is the county council which has to approve the works which are to be instituted, and it is the county council which will be liable if any damage or loss is involved to any third party by reason of the unlawful action or the negligent behaviour of its agent. Possibly, hon. Members may remember that there was a proposal put forward in Committee, I think, by the representatives of the county councils, that the district councils should have this liability put upon them; a liability to be responsible for any such losses or damage or costs or expenses inurred by reason of their unlawful or negligent action in regard to the work to be performed.

That was resisted by my right hon. Friend on the ground that the county council really was the responsible authority, and that it was not right to put this responsibility upon the district council. I am sure that my right hon. Friend was correct in that view and that we really must protect the county council against the negligent action of their agents, and that is why it is necessary to put these words in here, in order to give the requisite protection to the county council. It is fantastic to imagine that the awful things suggested by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Greenwood) would follow, but it is quite true that, under this Amendment the county council, who have to find the money, will be able to say in regard to a certain contract: "This contract for such and such a road we do not approve of," or "We do not think that such and such a contractor in our opinion should have this contract because he is not fit to be entrusted with the work."


Can the county councils, for example, say that they will not have a fair wages clause in their contract?


I think every county council has a fair wages clause in its contract. [HON. MEMBERS "No, not all!"] I do not know of any county council that has not, but the conditions here would be exactly the same as in the case of a county council which had not delegated its powers but which has retained matters in its own hands. If there is any difficulty to be anticipated in this case, it is, I think, precisely the same as is to be anticipated in any case where people are entrusted with duties. What is the use of local government if you do not give them power to carry out their duties? Hon. Members opposite suggest that the county councils cannot be trusted in a matter of this kind, but I do not think they will find the majority of the House will agree with them.


I want the House to consider what these proposals for delegation really mean and, how in my view, they will do nothing but produce a crop of most violent quarrels between the county councils and the district councils. Let us consider what delegation in the circumstances proposed really means. The county council settles what is to be done. The county council has to direct how the work is to be done and the work is done. What on earth is the use of delegation in such circumstances as those? Here we are back again really at the central problem of free-will. How are you to give people liberty if at the same time you do not give them the liberty to do things in their own way? If the county council is really to delegate the work it should place trust in the district council, but, under this proposal, the district council is to be deprived of all discretion.

I know of one example which I am sure every Minister of Health looks back upon with horror. It is the example of the machinery under the Addison housing scheme. There it meant that every action of every housing authority in detail was reviewed, because the Government found the money. That meant a duplication of officials and it meant that matters were made very tiresome to the housing authority and it also meant that it cost the country a great deal of money. Delegation of this sort means that the work has got to be done twice over. The county council has got to plan it, and the district council has got to plan it. The district council has to get the contract and to make the arrangement. The county council has to criticise and alter. If delegation is to be no better than that, then I say unhesitatingly that we had better have no delegation at all. I would point out that no delegation can take place except by the will of the county council. If they are aware that any district is particularly foolish or hotheaded they can refrain from delegation.

Colonel ASHLEY

Subject to the approval of the Minister.


Yes; subject to the approval of the Minister, but if the county council is of opinion that a particular council is so badly off or so badly managed that it is not competent for the work it need not delegate. Delegation can only take place if the county council is willing to delegate.

Colonel ASHLEY

What is the use of leaving power to the Minister to determine if he cannot determine it in the way he wishes?


Do I understand that the Minister can force a county council to delegate work to an authority of which they disapprove? I do not think so. In the Bill it will be seen that the county council can do it with the consent of the Minister. My point is that delegation is a, meaningless word unless you give some power to the district council. If you say that the county council must determine the extent of the work, must approve the work and settle how the work is to be done, you create a state of affairs in which you had very much better have no delegation at all. This Clause makes the powers of delegation an absurdity, and it is calculated only to produce the maximum of friction without giving any benefit.


I think the House has rather missed a point in this discussion. What we are aiming at under this Bill is to get better roads. I think the hon. Lady was not present earlier in the Debate when we heard the conditions that had accrued to Middlesex owing to these powers being vested by mutual agreements in the central authority. We heard how that had led to a uniform pattern of roads and to the greatest economy. Under this delegation if the county councils wish to get uniformity of treatment of their roads throughout their system they must have the right, in all common sense, to determine the type of roads and how those roads are to be made. That, primarily, is the object of this Clause. If this Amendment is not adopted, we shall run the grave risk of perpetuating all that we have heard about the different authorities and the different roads run by different district councils within a county, each making their own pattern roads. If the county councils are to pay their agents they must, in all common sense, have the right of laying down what exactly is the type of road to be used. There is grave risk, if this Amendment is not passed, of having a large number of varied types of road throughout a county.


I am afraid the last speaker, like the Minister of Transport, has not troubled to read the Clause. I listened with great respect to the Minister of Health. I followed him closely, but there was nothing that he said that was not already covered by the Clause as it is now printed. The Clause distinctly delegates powers to a district council. The county council must be responsible for negligence on the part of the district council. So far as I can see there is no need for this Amendment in order to carry out what the Minister of Health has already said. The second point is that the delegated duties must be performed subject to the approval of the county council. You have already given to the county council power which, in itself, is quite adequate to meet the reasonable demand in regard to the duties which one would expect a district council to perform. Already it is stated in the Clause: (b) that the works shall be completed to the satisfaction of the county council. I want to know why this Clause, as printed, does not meet the requirements laid down by the Minister of Health? The only requirement, so far as I understand the matter, that is not met is the point that has already been put forward by the hon. Gentleman the Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Wedgwood Benn). This does give the county council a power which might be exercised to an extraordinary extent. It is not a question of efficiently carrying out certain work, as the last speaker suggested. The Minister of Health will no doubt be well acquainted with the controversy which has taken place on the various municipal bodies respecting the building of houses by direct labour, where money has been saved, where the efficiency of the work executed has never been challenged, but where because the system embodies two opposing principles, one section has approved and the other section has disapproved. The members of the district councils, being members of the smaller local bodies, differ somewhat from the members of the county councils, and they will make proposals for the carrying out of work which will not be approved of by the county councils. Here we get the right of the county council not to take into consideration the efficiency of the proposal, but, according to this Amendment, they are given the right to do certain things and impose their will on the district council, although the district council may be taking the most businesslike view of the thing. The only thing, so far as I can see, that is left to the district councils, shorn of practically every power that they possess, is not to do the work at all, and that is the sum and substance of what will happen if this Amendment be carried. For this reason I hope that the House—and I am sure they will have behind them, not only the district councils, but the best instructed opinion in the country really concerned with good local government—will reject this Amendment.


I should like to say just a word on this Amendment. Apparently the county council are to be responsible—they will have to pay—and the district council will only be acting as their agent. Is it not just, in those circumstances, that as county councils will have to pay ultimately, they should also have the power, which this Amendment seeks to give them, of controlling the terms of the contract? Is it not correct that, in regard to questions such as the price at which the works are to be executed, and so on—the terms of the contract—the principal in the matter, who is going to pay, should have the right to control what the terms of the contract are to be? I agree with the hon. Member who spoke last that it is scarcely a matter of delegation at all, and that really the county council is the principal in the matter. The county council retains the responsibility, and, therefore, should be allowed also to control the terms of the contract.

Question put, "That those words be there inserted in the Bill."

The House divided: Ayes, 204; Noes, 124.

Division No. 196.] AYES. [5.18 p.m.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Fanshawe, Captain G. D. Nelson, Sir Frank
Albery, Irving James Foster, Sir Harry S. Neville, Sir Reginald J.
Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S. Fraser, Captain Ian Nicholson, O. (Westminster)
Applin, Colonel R. V. K. Frece, Sir Walter de Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn W. G. (Ptrsf'ld.)
Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W. Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E. Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Gates, Percy O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Hugh
Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William
Barnett, Major Sir Richard Cower, Sir Robert Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)
Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H. Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.) Pownall, Sir Assheton
Beckett, Sir Gervase (Leeds, N.) Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Sir H. (W'th's'w, E.) Ralne, Sir Walter
Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake) Gunston, Captain D. W. Ramsden, E.
Berry, sir George Hamilton, Sir George Reid, Capt. Cunningham (Warrington]
Bethel, A. Hammersley, S. S. Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.
Betterton, Henry B. Hanbury, C. Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'tt'y)
Birchall, Major J. Dearman Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint)
Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton) Harland, A. Roberts, Sir Samuel (Hereford)
Blundell, F. N. Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes) Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell
Bourne, Captain Robert Croft Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M. Ropner, Major L.
Bowyer, Captain G. E. W. Henderson, Capt. R. R. [Oxf'd, Henley) Ross, R, D.
Brass, Captain W. Henderson, Lieut.-Col. Sir Vivian Ruggles-Brise. Lieut.-Colonel E. A.
Bridgeman Rt. Hon. William Clive Hills, Major John Waller Rye, F. G.
Brings, J. Harold Hilton, Cecil Salmon, Major I.
Briscoe, Richard George Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G. Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)
Brittain, Sir Harry Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar) Sandeman, N. Stewart
Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I. Hopkins, J. W. W. Sanders, Sir Robert A.
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y) Hopkinson, Sir A. (Eng. Universities) Sandon, Lord
Buchan, John Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley) Bassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.
Buckingham, Sir H. Howard-Bury, Colonel C. K. Savery, S. S.
Burman, J. B. Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.) Shepperson, E. W.
Burton, Colonel H. W. Hudson, R. S. (Cumberl'nd, Whiteh'n) Skelton, A. N.
Campbell, E. T. Hume, Sir G. H. Smith-Carington, Neville W.
Carver, Major W. H. Hume-Williams, Sir W. Ellis Smithers, Waldron
Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City) Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)
Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston) Hurst, Gerald B. Southby, Commander A. R. J.
Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood) Iveagh, Countess of Spender-Clay, Colonel H.
Charteris, Brigadier-General J. Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l) Stanley, Lieut.-Colonel Rt. Hon. G. F.
Churchman, Sir Arthur C. James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.
Clarry, Reginald George Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth) Str[...]atfeild, Captain S. R.
Cobb, Sir Cyril Kennedy, A. R. (Preston) Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.
Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D. King, Commodore Henry Douglas Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)
Colfox, Major William Phillips Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser
Cooper, A. Duff Knox, Sir Alfred Sugden. Sir Wilfrid
Cope, Major Sir William Lamb, J. Q. Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)
Cooper, J. B. Lister, Cunliffe-, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell
Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L. Lloyd. Cyril E. (Dudley) Tinne, J. A.
Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities) Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hon. Godfrey Titchfild, Major the Marquess of
Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islingtn., N.) Loder, J. de V. Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement
Craig, Sir Ernest (Chester, Crewe) Looker, Herbert William Turton, Sir Edmund Russborough
Crooke, J. Smedley (Derltend) Lougher, Lewis Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.
Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick) Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L. (Kingston-on-Hull)
Crookshank, Cpt. H. (Lindscy, Gainsbro) Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman Warrender, Sir Victor
Dalkeith, Earl of Lumley, L. R. Waterhouse, Captain Charles
Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil) MacAndrew, Major Charles Glen Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)
Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester) Maclntyre, Ian Watts, Sir Thomas
Davies, Dr. Vernon McLean, Major A. Wells, S. R.
Dawson, Sir Philip Macqulsten, F. A. Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)
Duckworth, John Mac Robert, Alexander M. Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)
Eden, Captain Anthony Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)
Edmondson, Major A, J. Margesson, Captain D. Windsor-Clive, Lleut.-Colonel George
Edwards, J. Hugh (Accrlngton) Marriott, Sir J. A. R. Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Elliot, Major Walter E. Meller, R. J. Withers, John James
Ellis, R. G. Merrlman, Sir F. Boyd Womersley, W. J.
England, Colonel A. Meyer, Sir Frank Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley
Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s M.) Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark) Woodcock, Colonel H. C.
Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden) Worthlngton-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.
Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.) Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham) Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (Norwich)
Everard, W. Lindsay Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.
Fairfax, Captain J. G. Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr) TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Falle, Sir Bertram G. Moreing, Captain A. H. Major Sir George Hcnnessy and Mr. Penny.
Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife. West) Bellamy, A. Buchanan, G.
Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillebro'l Benn, Wedgwood Buxton. Rt. Hon. Noel
Ammon, Charles George Bennett, William (Battersea, South) Cape, Thomas
Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston) Bondfield, Margaret Charleton, H. C.
Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery) Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W. Clarke, A. B.
Barnes, A. Broad, F. A. Compton, Joseph
Barr, J. Bromfield, William Cove, W. G.
Batey, Joseph Bromley, J. Crawfurd, H. E.
Beckett, John (Gateshead) Brown, James (Ayr and Bute) Dalton, Hugh
Day, Harry Kirkwood, D. Shinwell, E.
Dennison, R. Lawrence, Susan Sinclair, Major Sir A. (Caithness)
Dunnico, H. Lawson, John James Sitch, Charles H.
Edge, Sir William Longbottom, A. W. Smith, Rennie (Penistone)
Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Sedwellty) Lowth, T. Shell, Harry
Garro-Jones, Captain G. M. Lunn, William Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip
Gibbins, Joseph MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Aberavon) Stamford, T. W.
Gillett, George M. Mackinder, W. Stephen, Campbell
Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton) MacLaren, Andrew Stewart, J. (St. Rolfox)
Greenall, T. Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan) Strauss, E. A.
Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne) Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton) Taylor, R. A.
Griffith, F. Kingsley March, S. Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)
Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Ponlypool) Maxton, James Thomas, Sir Robert John (Anglesey)
Groves, T. Mitchell, E. Rosslyn (Paisley) Thorne. G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)
Grundy, T. W. Morris, R. H. Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)
Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton) Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.) Thurtle, Ernest
Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil) Mosley, Sir Oswald Tinker, John Joseph
Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland) Oliver, George Harold Tomilnson, R. P.
Hardie, Georae D. Palln, John Henry Townend, A. E.
Harris, Percy A. Paling, W. Viant, s. P.
Hayday, Arthur Parkinson, John Allen (Wlgan) Wallhead, Richard C.
Hayes, John Henry Pethick- Lawrence, F. W. Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)
Hirst, G. H. Ponsonby, Arthur Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Joslah
Hirst, w. (Bradford, South) Potts, John S. Wellock, Wilfred
Hollins, A. Purcell, A. A. Welsh, J. C.
Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath) Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring) Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.
John, William (Rhondda, West) Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Bromwich) Wilkinson, Ellen C.
Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown) Runciman, Hilda (Cornwall, St. Ives) Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)
Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Hunciman, Rt. Hon. Walter Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)
Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd) Saklatvala, Shapurji Windsor, Walter
Kelly, W. T. Scrymgeour, E. Wright, W.
Kennedy, T. Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)
Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M. Shepherd, Arthur Lewis TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
Mr. Whiteley and Mr. T. Henderson.
Lieut.-Colonel ACLAND-TROYTE

I beg to move, in page 35, line 12, at the end, to insert the words: (a) The county council shall provide for notice being sent to each district council of any meeting of the county council committee at which business relating to the area of the district council is to be transacted, and the chairman or other representative of the district council shall he entitled to be present at and take part in the proceedings of the county council committee at any such meeting so far as they relate to that area but shall not be entitled to vote. Under the Bill we are handing over to the county councils powers which used to be exercised by the district councils, and it is necessary, if the scheme is to be a success, that we should do our best to try to remove friction, and to induce the district councils to pull together with the county council for the common good of the county in which they are all interested. There is no doubt that at the present time there is a considerable amount of suspicion among district councils that they will not be consulted in matters affecting roads. It is, however, necessary to keep that local knowledge of roads which cannot be obtained from anyone except the district councils. The House will remember that we have already made provision for consultation between the guardians committee and the public assistance committee of the county council with respect to the Poor Law; and, if consultation is necessary in that case, it is also necessary in regard to the roads.

This Amendment follows very closely the wording of what we have already passed in Clause 7 with regard to guardians committees, and its only object is to remove friction and help to make things run smoothly, and to remove the suspicion on the part of the district councils that the county council will not consult them. It will ensure proper and effective consultation between them. I should be quite prepared to accept the Amendment which has been put down to my Amendment by my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Sir E. Turton)—in line 2, after the word "business," to insert the word "specially." That would, I think, remove any objection which the county councils might have. I do not think there can be any possible objection to this Amendment, and I hope that the Minister will see his way to accept it.

Lieut.-Colonel RUGGLES-BR1SE

I beg to second the Amendment.

Colonel ASHLEY

In the first place, this Amendment, which is wide in its terms, is quite inappropriate to this place in the Bill, where we are dealing with district councils acting as agents for the county council. Even if the Amendment were carried, it seems to me that this consultation and presence of representatives of the district councils would only apply to certain delegated functions of a very limited nature. Apart from that, however, I think my hon. and gallant Friend is wrong in saying that, because certain things have been done in other parts of the Bill, naturally it would be right to do the same here. In the case of the public assistance committees and the guardians committees which are set up under the present Bill, it is, no doubt, right and proper that the guardians committee or their representatives should be enabled to be present when the public assistance committee of the county council deals with their own local interests, in order that they may give information and that a liaison may be established between the local people and the county council. Here, however, the state of affairs is very different. Long ago in this Bill we enacted that the rural district council should cease to be a highway authority at all, and, therefore, there is no reason why all the rural district councils should have the right to attend meetings of the highways committee of the county council to put forward their case. Local members, even if not on the highway committee, will be able to inform the county council of any wishes of local inhabitants and to voice their complaints. There was no hint of such a proposal in the Onslow Commission Report and you could not give a right to the representatives of a body which has no highway authority and has nothing to do with roads, except to act as agents, to be present at meetings of the county council. I really think the Amendment is unnecessary and, indeed, unworkable.


I am rather pleased that the right hon. Gentleman has refused the Amendment. To accept it would obviously be an injustice, particularly to urban district councils, if the chairman of a rural district council was to be permitted to be present at all the meetings. After all, now that the county councils are taking over the whole of our rural roads and will be responsible for the whole of the expenditure on them, urban district councils will be obliged, as parts of the county authority, to make a fairly large contribution, and if rural councils were permitted to have representation on county council committees, obviously it would not only be unfair, but would be an anomaly in our local government law. I hope the right hon. Gentleman is not going to move from his present position.


I am very sorry for the second time to have to disagree with my hon. and gallant Friend, but it arises from the fact that he is trying to ride two horses at the same time and, as very often happens, comes a cropper at the first fence. Sometimes he is in favour of the county council and sometimes in favour of the rural district council, but on this occasion he has backed the wrong horse. It would be a most unworkable proposition that the highways committees of councils are to have attendance by representatives of practically every rural district council within the county council area, because there is no definition whatever whether they are main roads or classified or unclassified roads, and if they happen to be within the area of the district council, a representative of the district council is to be in attendance and to state his view. I think my hon. Friend should withdraw the Amendment. I put down an Amendment to the proposed Amendment to try to minimise the evil in the event of its being accepted. I hope he will not get any support in regard to my suggested Amendment. I ask him in the interests of common sense and of reasonable working to withdraw the Amendment.


The hon. Baronet's appeal is one that must move the House, but one cannot understand, after his description of the riding of the horses and the first or second fence fall, why the Amendment appealed to him.


It did not appeal to me.


The hon. Baronet accepted it providing that the representative of the rural district council should be present only during the time that special business was being discussed.


The hon. Member knows perfectly well the procedure of the House. In the unfortunate event of the Amendment being carried, I should have moved to insert the word "specially," but I pointed out clearly and emphatically that it did not mean in any sense that I was in favour of the Amendment.


I must judge it by the Amendment to the proposed Amendment which the hon. Baronet has put on the Paper—

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. James Hope)

Is the hon. Member proposing to move the Amendment?


No, I intend to oppose it, and I certainly hope that it will not be pressed.

Amendment negatived.

Amendment made:

In page 35, to leave out from the word "to," in line 15, to the word "by," in line 18, and insert instead thereof the words "any action to be taken."—[Colonel Ashley.]