HC Deb 02 March 1944 vol 397 cc1574-6
47. Sir Harold Webbe

asked the Prime Minister whether he will consider the appointment of a Royal Commission or other suitable body to keep under current review the repercussions on existing local authority administration of the schemes for the development of the social services now under consideration or in contemplation; and to make recommendations from time to time as to what alterations in the constitution, powers and responsibilities of local authorities are required to meet the new conditions which may arise.

The Prime Minister

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply which I gave to Questions on this subject on 22nd September last and to the letter, mentioned in that reply, which my right hon. Friend the Minister without Portfolio addressed to the Association of Municipal Corporations and County Councils Association. As indicated in that letter, when the Government are considering proposals for a change in a particular service, the effect which that change is likely to have on local government is one of the principal factors to which naturally they give consideration, though that is necessarily not the only one. I do not find any new feature in my hon. Friend's suggestion which would lead me to reconsider the decision conveyed in that letter.

Sir H. Webbe

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether there is not a danger that the present structure of local government may prove obsolete and inoperative and that we may be back into the bad old days of non-elected, precepting authorities, each pushing its own service without regard to the claims of others?

The Prime Minister

That, I suppose, is one of the many dangers from which we shall be protected by the vigilance of the House of Commons.

Mr. Davidson

Will the Prime Minister keep in mind that in the bad old days there was a Tory majority in London?

Sir Herbert Holdsworth

Will my right hon. Friend reconsider his attitude on this question; and is he aware that the West Riding County Council are unanimously of the opinion that an inquiry should be held before vital changes are made in the structure of local government administration?

Sir Joseph Lamb

Is not my right hon. Friend aware that not only are associations of local government concerned in this matter, but that there is a very widespread feeling throughout the country concerning the dangers of what is occurring?

The Prime Minister

Opportunities will, no doubt, occur during the present Session, for discussing this matter. Nothing can happen of a large or revolutionary nature in the next few weeks. It is a tendency rather than a desire, and the matter certainly should be ventilated when the ordinary Parliamentary opportunities occur in the House.

Mr. Lipson

Is the Prime Minister aware that the Education Bill now before the House makes very definite changes in the structure of local government and is causing great concern, because it may be the forerunner of other measures?

The Prime Minister

I thought that all these cases were being looked at with full deliberation in the House, on their merits.

Sir W. Davison

Will my right hon. Friend keep in mind how desirable it is that men of standing should still continue to serve on local bodies?

The Prime Minister

I think we ought to have all sorts.