HC Deb 22 July 1946 vol 425 cc1819-41
Mr. Key

I beg to move, in page 17, line 24, after "enactment," to insert: conferring functions on any local health authority in their capacity as such an authority. The effect of this Amendment is to make it clear that local authorities can be combined with a joint board under the Clause only for the purpose of carrying out their functions under this Bill and for no other function such as housing, which a local authority may have.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Speaker

Perhaps I should say at this stage, that I did not select several earlier Amendments dealing with London, because they can all be discussed on the Amendment which I now call in the name of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for North Croydon (Mr. Willink).

Mr. Willink

I beg to move, in page 17, line 40, at the end, to insert: (4) The application of this section within the Administrative County of London shall be subject to the following provisions:—

  1. (a) the Council of the Administrative County of London (in this subsection referred to as the county council) shall delegate to the Common Council of the City of London as respects the City of London, and the councils of the metropolitan boroughs as respects the respective areas of those boroughs, their functions under this Part of this Act in relation to the services hereinafter mentioned, and the Common Council and the councils of the metropolitan boroughs shall discharge the functions so delegated.
  2. (b) the following services shall be the services to which this subsection refers:
    1. (i) arrangements for the care of expectant and nursing mothers and of children who have not attained the age of five years and are not attending primary -schools maintained by a local education authority;
    2. (ii) provision for the visiting in their homes of such mothers and children as are mentioned in the foregoing paragraph for the purposes mentioned in section twenty-four of this Act;
    3. (iii) the arrangements for vaccination and immunisation mentioned in section twenty-six of this Act;
    4. 1820
    5. (iv) such arrangements for providing home nursing and domestic help for households as are mentioned in sections twenty-five and twenty-nine of this Act;
    6. (v)the services relating to notification of births and child life protection to which subsection (3) of section twenty-two of this Act applies; and
    7. (vi) the provision, equipment and maintenance of premises for the foregoing purposes;
  3. (c) before submitting proposals to the Minister in pursuance of section twenty of this Not the county council shall, in respect of the services to which this subsection applies, consult with the Common Council as respects the provision of such services in the City of London and with the council of each metropolitan borough as respects the provision of such services within the area of the borough, and the provisions of subsections (2) and (5) of section twenty of this Act shall apply as if the Common Council and the council of the metropolitan borough were a voluntary organisation for the purposes of those subsections.
  4. (d) the county council shall pay to the Common Conned and the councils of the metropolitan boroughs one-half of the cost incurred by them in discharging the functions delegated in pursuance of this section."
This Amendment relates to the operation of Part III of the Bill within the administrative county of London. The Amendment provides that the operation of these services or most of these services should be on lines agreed between the London County Council and the Metropolitan Boroughs Standing Joint Committee partly during the period that I had the honour to occupy the right hon. Gentleman's position and finally in October of last year. Both the London County Council and the metropolitan boroughs invited the Minister to take account in the Bill of the special position within the administrative county of London where they are very large authorities, far larger, if I may remind the House, than any of the non-county boroughs that we were discussing earlier.

There was not the same measure of support for this Amendment in Committee as I gather there will be tonight, because you, Mr. Speaker, have indicated that certain other Amendments may be discussed at the same time as this one. I notice that a very large group of Members of the party opposite, sitting for constituencies within the administrative county of London, have put down Amendments expressing a view that not only should the health functions be divided as the boroughs and the London County Council agreed, but that the Bill should go further in the direction of contributing to the metropolitan boroughs, and that inside London, the metropolitan boroughs should be local health authorities with all those functions. I think we on this side of the House feel that the right course would be to accept the view taken by the London County Council and the metropolitan boroughs at a time when the situation was exactly as it is today with regard to those services—I will expand that observation in a moment—rather than the wider proposition which I dare say appeals to a great many Members.

10.30 p.m.

It is remarkable that the Minister should have disregarded the express wishes, based upon experience, of the L.C.C. They took their decision at a time when no less than 13 Members of the party opposite, including three of those who sit with the right hon. Gentleman on those benches, were present and voted in favour of this division of duties. It is strange that the Parliamentary Secretary should be found tonight, as in the Committee, putting forward a view exactly contrary to that for which he pressed strongly in the discussions between the metropolitan boroughs and the L.C.C. At the time of those discussions, the Parliamentary Secretary said, local residents had come to an agreement to regard the town hall as the centre to which they might come with their problems; that the removal of these health functions was wrong in principle, and that it would leave in the metropolitan boroughs "a hollow organisation with no work to perform." That is what the hon. Gentleman said in negotiations with the L.C.C., and I am bound to say I waited with interest to hear what his grounds would be for his change of view on passing from the Metropolitan Boroughs Standing Joint Committee to the Ministry of Health. I thought he would tell us that he had learned something new in the Minister's proposals for removing the hospitals from the L.C.C.—that the L.C.C. would be hopelessly idle. It would have been a curious contention, because all of us know that the L.C.C. are greatly overburdened, and that the average citizen of good will cannot possibly undertake the duty of serving on the London County Council because, if he consulted the leaders on either side, he would be told that, if he was serious about it, it would take two to three full days a week; whereas everybody knows that in the metropolitan boroughs, if their functions are to be commented on at all, it would be doubtful whether they have sufficient functions to attract the really good, active people.

At any rate, the Parliamentary Secretary took the view that I have already reported, that there would be "nothing more than a hollow organisation with no work to do." I must admit that I and other Members on this side of the House who were present in the Committee, were profoundly shocked by the justification that the Parliamentary Secretary gave for his change of attitude. What he said was that the fact that I had called attention to his earlier observations was—and I am now quoting his own words: a testimony to my sincerity and success as a democrat in giving expression to the opinions of the body whose chairman I happened to be, even although those opinions were not innately my own."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee C, 5th June, 1946,c. 472] I remember in the early days when I entered this House, hearing a similar observation, made on 30th July, 1942, by the right hon. Gentleman who is now the Lord President of the Council. When explaining what was, to some extent, a similar volte face in the matter of local authority finance, he said: When I was functioning as the spokesman of the local authorities…the local authorities were my chiefs. I was speaking to their brief.'—[OEFICIAL REPORT, 30th July, 1942, Vol. 382, c. 787.] If this is what we must expect in the way of sincerity from right hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House, if we are to believe what they say about giving expression to views that are not their own, then it is a matter which at any rate, among us on this side of the House, gives rise to great alarm and apprehension. Now I gather that on the other side of the House it is considered proper in public affairs to give vent to opinions in great earnestness which are nor one's own. That is not my own view, nor is it the view of anybody on this side of the House.

The other very serious matter with regard to the London problem is this—that there was set up at the time of the Coalition Government, and there has been maintained until today, a very important and responsible committee which is considering two matters. One is whether the boundaries arid, indeed, the numbers, of the metropolitan boroughs are as good as they might be; and, the other, what should be the division of functions between that very overburdened body, the London County Council, and the metropolitan boroughs, as they are at present or as they will be in the future. It was elicited from the Minister that up to the time of the discussion in Committee, he had neither asked that committee, presided over by Lord Reading, its views as to the proper allocation of these functions—I do not know whether he has vet consulted them—nor did he consult the metropolitan boroughs themselves, whose functions were being taken away. I am bound to say that we on this side of the House regard the removal of functions, some of them most important functions from the human point of view, without any consultation with the local authorities, as a grossly tyrannical act. When one considers the experience of these authorities, the fact that their population goes up in one case to no less than 350,000 and in a number of cases to well over 200,000, it seems fantastic that authorities with that population should not be considered fit to be entrusted with maternity and child welfare, with health visiting, with home nursing, domestic help, and matters of that kind.

The Minister made an excuse that this would put him into a difficulty with the non-county boroughs. That has been discussed earlier this evening. It has always been obvious that the problem is an entirely different one. The allocation of functions between the London County Council and the boroughs is an entirely different problem, and has been treated as a different problem from that of the allocation of functions between normal county councils and what are called county districts. But the Parliamentary Secretary was quite right. He has not given any reason except that he was insincere on the earlier occasion, because I cannot describe as anything other than insincere the fervid advocacy in public affairs, of views which are not one's own.

Mr. Key


Mr. Willink

The Parliamentary Secretary expresses surprise. Am I really to understand that Ministers on the Front Bench believe it is sincere earnestly to advocate policies in which they do not believe? The Parliamentary Secretary does not reply.

Is the Minister, in view of the opinion which is now, I think, universal in every one of the 28 metropolitan boroughs, and, I am sure, I can add the City of London, to the effect that the London County Council were perfectly right in their view that these functions should be divided in the future as they have been in the past—is the Minister going to assert that his personal view should override that altogether? Is he going to say that these services in the hands of authorities—who will be gravely discouraged and greatly depressed with regard to all their future life and activity—should be handed over to be dealt with under what is called local government, but is not local government at all in any sense which applies in any other part of the country? The London County Council consists at the moment of 120 elected representatives of something between 3 and 4 million people, with constituencies that are not wards or parishes, or anything of the kind such as one finds in any other part of the country, but are constituencies of the same size as, and indeed in other respects identical with, those represented by Members of Parliament. We regard it, and I gather that hon. Members on the other side of the House in large numbers also regard it, as quite disastrous that this should be handed over to be run by the London County Council, with all the efficiency of that body, because if any services are local, human services, they are those included in this Part of the Bill. No doubt the Minister will again talk of administrative difficulties, but the administrative difficulty which he is taking upon himself by transferring these functions to the London County Council are quite unnecessary, and he would be giving effect to the wish of all the local authorities in London if he would concede this point and put into the Bill what they have unanimously asked him to include.

Mr. Bevan

I regret very much that the right hon. and learned Gentleman should have seen fit to repeat this evening, in almost the precise words, the offensive language he used about my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary during the Committee stage. It hardly lies in the mouth of a King's Counsel to complain about "the fervent advocacy of opinions that arc not his own."

Mr. Willink

Does the right hon. Gentleman really think that the functions of an advocate are the same as those of a statesman?

Mr. Bevan

If the right hon. and learned Gentleman will permit me, I will address myself to the argument, which I had anticipated. My hon. Friend was speaking in a representative capacity, and I understand the right hon. and learned Gentleman to suggest now that hypocrisy mounts in direct ratio to skill of advocacy. Because my hon. Friend put his case with considerable cogency, he exposes himself to a charge of insincerity, but I suppose that had he put it tepidly it would have been all right. The fact is that at that time my hon. Friend, in his capacity as Chairman of the Metropolitan Boroughs Standing Joint Committee, was putting the point of view which he had been asked to put by his colleagues, and I think it is hardly proper for the right hon. and learned Gentleman now, in order to score a debating point, to use offensive language concerning my hon. Friend, whose record and reputation in the public service, are at least equal to those of the right hon. and learned Gentleman.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Ede)

They would be very poor if they were not.

Mr. Bevan

The right hon. and learned Gentleman has advanced this evening the same jaded arguments which have already been replied to in Committee. For example, he roundly abused me for not having consulted the Reading Committee. I informed the right hon. and learned Gentleman that the Reading Commitee was passing peacefully to its close, largely as a consequence of the fact that the terms of reference laid down by the right hon. and learned Gentleman had never permitted the Committee any vitality at all.

10.45 p.m.

Mr. Willink

The right hon. Gentleman must state the facts accurately. The terms of reference of the Reading Committee were based on a White Paper issued by a Government of which the Prime Minister was a member.

Mr. Bevan

That does not alter the fact at all. The right hon. and learned Gentleman had responsibility tot it, Was he insincere in doing so?

Mr. Willink

I really do not understand the right hon. Gentleman's argument. I never suggested for one moment that I was in dissent from these recommendations, and I should have considered it most dishonourable to put them forward, if I had not been in agreement with them. There is another point I do not understand. The Minister seems to have suggested that I based my suggestion of discreditable insincerity on the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of advocacy. My point about insincerity is that I have always understood that it was improper in public affairs to put forward a point of view in which one did not believe.

Mr. Bevan

The right hon. and learned Gentleman now says that in laying down the terms of reference for the Reading Committee, he did what he thought was correct, but it was a sentence of death on that Committee. In fact, it led a puny life from the start, and now it has succumbed—

Mr. Willink

Has it?

Mr. Bevan

Yes. I told the right hon. and learned Gentleman upstairs that the committee could not function. One of the reasons was that it was asked to discuss the proper division of functions between the metropolitan boroughs and the London County Council. Everybody knows that the London County Council problem has long ago transcended the mere question of relations between the London County Council and the metropolitan boroughs. There is a Greater London problem and there is a London County Council problem. The whole thing will have to be considered, and that is my strongest reply to the position taken up by the right hon. and learned Gentleman. We will have to consider it in the light of the shifting of population. New towns are being established We shall have to try to redistribute a proportion of this highly congested population. New relations will have to be established between the local government units, whatever authority may preside over the wider London area. The whole thing is in flux, and that is one of the reasons why we ought not at this moment to change one of the main provisions of this Bill to deal with a situation which, in the very nature of things, is bound to be transitory.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that the metropolitan boroughs desired to have these functions. Of course they do. It would be astonishing if the metropolitan boroughs enthusiastically saw functions going from them to the London County Council. In the case of London I am following the same principles which are applied to the rest of the country. It would be very difficult indeed to make an exception for the metropolitan boroughs which would not at once expose me to attack from all the other authorities in the country. We want the health functions to march with the educational functions, and the metropolitan boroughs are not educational authorities. I know that my hon. Friends are anxious that we should try to end this sitting as early as possible and therefore I do not wish to develop arguments which are familiar to everybody here. I hope it will be possible in London to secure a degree of decentralisation by means of a proper London scheme worked out in cooperation between the London County Council and the metropolitan boroughs.

No one here denies the necessity for trying to bring as near to the homes of the people as possible the bodies responsible for maternity and child welfare services. That we shall strive to do, and it will he part of my duty as Minister when examining the London scheme to see that as much decentralisation as possible is brought into it in order that local people may have an interest in the administration of the service. There are many artificial divisions between the metropolitan boroughs. They are not necessarily the units that ought to provide certain services. It may be found, in many respects, that area committees on which there are a number of metropolitan boroughs would be a better solution of the problem. It seems to me, therefore, that we ought to keep this matter entirely flexible, and while I am not surprised at the metropolitan boroughs being anxious to discharge certain functions, I suggest that even in the case of London it is not desirable that we should make a departure which would appear to create a sense of injustice in all the other local authorities in the country.

Mr. Assbeton (City of London)

Although I was disappointed that you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, were not able to call the Amendment standing in the name of my right hon. Friend the senior Member for the City of London (Sir A. Duncan) and myself, none the less I am grateful to you for allowing me to put this point in discussion on this Amendment. As the House will appreciate, I am addressing myself to a limited problem here—the problem of the position of the City of London—but an important one, and the object of the Amendment which I had sought to propose, and the Amendment which I hope the Minister may carefully consider before this Bill comes back to this House, was to give the City of London, for the purposes of this Clause, the status of a county borough.

I think the House is aware that this problem always arises in connection with legislation for London, and any Bills which have given powers to the County Council in the past have had some provision for dealing with the position of the City of London. I cite, for example, one instance only to raise the point with the House. In the case of the Town and Country Planning Bill, where the London County Council is the planning authority for London, the City of London is in fact the planning authority for the City, and this is precisely what I am suggesting should be done under this Bill.

I know the House is aware that there is no exact counterpart to the Corporation of the City of London. It is not a municipal corporation, and the Legislature has frequently conferred upon it powers similar to those held by the councils of counties and boroughs. However, I am not advancing this proposition merely on historical or sentimental grounds. I am advancing it because I am sure that if the powers of a local health authority are entrusted to the Common Council, they will be administered with efficiency, and they will retain that personal touch which is a feature, as we have heard so often tonight, of local control. I think the House will agree, or at any rate those who are familiar with the problems of London will agree, that the administration of the City of London in this particular case is quite beyond reproach. At the present time the Corporation administers a tuberculosis dispensary and a V.D. clinic, and the Corporation is also a wel- fare authority and holds a child welfare clinic. All these clinics are held in St. Bartholomew's Hospital, where they are not only economically but very efficiently run, and I am sure the House is aware of the association of the City of London with St. Bartholomew's Hospital. Moreover, it is an advantage to St. Bartholomew's Hospital, as a teaching hospital, to have a domiciliary personal service of this kind run in connection with it.

I do not know what the Minister's view may be, but I suggest to him that he should consider, before this Bill comes back from another place, whether or not he could not meet the point which I have made. I think that earlier in the course of our discussions today the Minister said that he had made the interest and the health of the patient the touchstone of his decisions in this matter. I suggest to the House that in this case he cannot say that the patient would suffer in any way, if the Amendment which is down in my name were to be accepted. On those grounds I ask him to consider this Amendment.

Mr. Weitzman (Stoke Newington)

I wish to address the House in regard to the problem of London, because I represent one of the metropolitan boroughs. I rather regret some of the personal elements which have crept into this discussion, but I want to present to the House the fact that practically all the metropolitan boroughs feel very intensely about this matter. I think it only right and proper, in spite of what the Minister has said, that the views of the metropolitan boroughs should be pressed upon the attention of the House. I want to try to deal with this matter logically, and I would put it in this way. Under the Bill the local health authority is to be, for the county, the county council, and for the borough, the county borough council. You start off in that way by taking what is a natural unit, a unit where the administration already exists. It is not a question of taking figures of population, but of taking a natural unit as it exists, in the county council or county borough. In regard to these county councils or county borough councils, considerable criticism can be directed against them from the point of view that they vary so much in regard to numbers. Taking the 1931 census figures, there are 13 counties and 41 county boroughs with populations of less than 100,000. The county of Rutland has 17,000. There are three Welsh counties with less than 50,000. It is not even a question of taking rateable value. It is a question of taking what, I suggest, is the natural unit. By way of contrast, if you take the London County Council as a health authority and you leave the London County Council as health authority to deal with the matter, you are dealing with a body which has a population of more than 4,000,000.

I know the Minister has said something in regard to London not being in a special position. I venture to join issue with him on that. I think London is in a very special position. The fact that it is in a special position has always been recognised. It has been recognised in regard to the immensity of the population, the way it has grown up, and the fact that right through legislation in this House, special Acts of Parliament, like the Public Health Act, the London Building Act, and, even as late as 1939, the London Government Act, have specially dealt with London having regard to its population and special problems. I suggest that no regard is paid here to the 28 metropolitan boroughs, and I would ask the Minister why is the health authority based on a convenient administrative unit in one case, as I have illustrated, and why in London is it not based on the metropolitan borough? What possible argument is there that under the scheme the London County Council will function more efficiently as a health authority than the metropolitan borough council. I suggest to the Minister, that every argument is against him. The London County Council is the only county council that has not had welfare work; that is because the metropolitan borough councils have dealt with the welfare work. These metropolitan borough councils are the natural units in this case. They have had great experience of welfare work, they have carried out their duties efficiently, and it is they, I suggest, who should do this work.

11.0 p.m.

One of the most important arguments to which I suggest the Minister should pay regard, in this matter, is that if he takes the London County Council as a unit in this matter, he is making a new organisation to deal with this service. The London County Council is an entirely new body from the point of view of a health authority. On the other hand, if he utilises the metropolitan borough councils he will be utilising an existing organisation which has vast experience, in every case, in this matter. He will then have a unit on which he can naturally build a health authority. The metropolitan borough councils have an excellent record in this respect. Their local health service, the care of mothers and young children, are all matters essentially calling upon a knowledge of local conditions, matters which require the personal intimate touch. I press upon the House the consideration that with a unit of 4 million people we shall lose that personal touch, we shall be divorced from it to a great extent. The great thing in a health service is to have this personal touch. If I may be pardoned, I will point to my own borough of Stoke Newington. It is only a small borough with 50,000 people, but it is a model borough in regard to health services. I suggest that when we are initiating a venture of this kind, we should utilise the experience, initiative and ability of the local people.

In any case, I suppose that it must be conceded that the L.C.C. will be unable to deal with this matter except by its distribution into certain areas. I should think that that will be inevitable in working out this matter. It that is to be the case why not immediately take the areas as being those of the metropolitan borough councils? After all, they exist and they have experience of the work. I only intervened in this Debate quite briefly to put this point on behalf of the borough councils. I respectfully suggest to the House that when we have a great Bill of this kind, contemplating a wonderful advance in the health service for the people, it is wrong that the borough councils, with their great experience and personal touch, should not he utilised.

Mr. Henry Strauss rose——

Hon. Members


Mr. Strauss

I wish I could understand the groans from the opposite side of the House. I cannot understand Why some hon. Members—[Interruption.] Subject only to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I propose to make my speech. It will only be made longer by foolish interruptions from the opposite side of the House. I should not have intervened, after the admirable speech to which we have just listened, if it were not for the fact that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chelsea (Commander Noble) is unable to be here, because he is on the other side of the world at the present moment. I know that if he were here he would say how very strongly we in Chelsea, I think independently of party, feel on this subject. I do not know of any matter which has affected local patriotism more in recent years.

One point taken by the right hon. Gentleman was the differentiation between London and other parts of the country. The hon. Member for Stoke Newington (Mr. Weitzman) pointed out, quite accurately, a number of quite recent Acts, Local Government Acts and others, in which this distinction is drawn I will give another example, which will be familiar to every Minister on the front bench opposite. This difference is so well recognized that the London County Council has never considered itself to be represented by the County Councils' Association, but has separate representation at meetings of local authorities' associations. A differentiation between London and other parts of the country is well recognised. What is it that the right hon. Gentleman said? He said that there was a great deal which was changing in the structure of local authorities, and the matter was in a state of flux. That, I suggest, is an argument, not in favour of what he is doing, but in favour of what he is asked to do by this Amendment. His proposal almost kills the metropolitan boroughs, and it deprives them of functions almost more important than any other which they possess. He is taking, without consultation of those principally concerned, the most violent and drastic action to end their lives. There is only one other matter. He said in defence of the Parliamentary Secretary things which constituted a most curious defence on the points put forward by the right hon. and learned Member for North Croydon (Mr. Willink). He said that the Parliamentary Secretary was, as an advocate, justified in putting certain points, and he did not necessarily share the point of view which he put forward. When an advocate is talking professionally, everybody knows that he is—

Mr. Gallacher rose——

Mr. Strauss

I see that it has almost begun to dawn on the Communist Party. Nobody is deceived, and nobody suggests that an advocate needs to share the views he advances as advocate. The whole point we wish to know is, was the Parliamentary Secretary putting forward his own case? I would say that I have always held a high regard for the Parliamentary Secretary, and up to the time I heard the defence produced by the right hon. Gentleman, I should have said that the Parliamentary Secretary would never have produced an argument of that kind. I would never have said that he was speaking as an advocate at a time when he was speaking as a representative of the local authorities.

Mr. Key

I was not speaking as a representative of the local authority. I was speaking as Chairman of the Standing Joint Committee, and I was airing my views as Chairman of that Committee at the conference.

Mr. Strauss

I am most obliged to the Parliamentary Secretary. I do not doubt for one moment that he thought he was doing the right thing, and I have no doubt that he thinks so now. But on reconsideration he will himself come to the conclusion that where one is speaking for such a body and is putting forward views with which one does not oneself agree, he would now say he should have said that he was speaking only on behalf of that body. I do not believe it is in the interests of this House that the idea should get abroad that people speak as advocates and argue the things which they do not personally believe, when they do not declare that they are speaking as advocates.

Mr. Gallaeher rose——

Mr. Strauss

This has as much to do with the Amendment as what the right hon. Gentleman said on the same subject, although the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) is interrupting.

London is, admittedly, in an entirely different position from other parts of the country. The compromise which was the considered conclusion of the metropolitan boroughs and of the London County Council represents, I suggest, the wishes of the people within the area of the London County Council infinitely better than the proposal in the right hon. Gentleman's Bill. On no matter within recent years has local patriotism been so much excited, and people keen on local government, not only in the Conservative Party but also in the Socialist Party, have been very greatly shocked by the proposals in this Bill. For those reasons I beg the right hon. Gentleman not to close his mind entirely to an Amendment which has great support in his own party, even if it is not declared tonight, which has great support in London, and which, if he accepts it, will greatly improve his Bill.

Mr. Bevan

Mr. Speaker called this Amendment, and Mr. Speaker exercises his judgment in these matters. I do not even raise a whisper about it. But I think perhaps it would be for the convenience of hon. Members if we could have a Division on the matter, because the discussion is becoming repetitious. We have had a great deal of it, hon. Members opposite have given certain undertakings, and I am sure that they desire—

Sir William Darling (Edinburgh, South)

On a point of Order. Is it in Order for the right hon. Gentleman to challenge a decision of the Chair, Sir?

Mr. Bevan

I only suggested, for the convenience of hon. Members, that we might have a Division.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Milner)

I hope the House will be willing to come to a decision.

Mr. Godfrey Nicholson (Farnham)

I am unwilling to let this important Amendment pass from the House without raising my voice in its support. I am a Londoner, and I am proud of it. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health understands the first thing about London local feeling. There is tremendous local patriotism in the London boroughs. Anybody who has had the privilege of sitting on the council of a London borough knows it, and London self-government, which reaches its climax in the London County Council, has its roots in the borough councils. If we take these functions away from the local London boroughs, we shall be emasculating the whole system of London self government. I cannot add very much to what was said by the hon. Member for Stoke Newington (Mr. Weitzman). He put the case with admirable succinctness, and I do indeed congratulate him on the courage he had, as a member of a well-disciplined party, in evading the gag and in challenging his own Minister. I hope we shall find him with us in the Lobby.

As late as this year the London County Council agreed with the substance of this Amendment. It is the unanimous wish of all the London boroughs that these functions should be left to them. Both from the point of view of local patriotism and on the grounds of efficiency, I am perfectly certain that this steady progress in the direction of snuffing out local initiative and local public spirit is to be deplored. I am not making a personal attack on the Minister in any way, but I do beg him, as a Welshman, to consider London local feeling, to try to find out a little about it, to try to learn a little about local government in London. He will find there is just as keen a local patriotism in the borough council of which I had the honour to be a member—namely, Finsbury—as there is in any of the Welsh towns. I beg him to reconsider this. I am perfectly certain that he will not regret it—though I do not suppose he ever goes so far as to regret anything in his life. I do assure him that his supporters on that side of the House, and his opponents on this side, will regard this as a great blemish on what is, in many ways, a great Bill.

11.15 p.m.

Mr. Howard (Westminster, St. George's)

I have been asked by my borough council to support an Amendment which is on the Paper in the names of hon. Members supporting the Government but which has not been called. That Amendment goes much further than the Amendment now under discussion. I think that the best way in which I can perform my duties on behalf of my borough council is to support this Amendment. On the merits of the Amendment I wish to make only two observations. The Minister has based his argument on administrative and legislative convenience. He asked us to consider the type of service which would be received by the people of London. I am convinced that the people of London have received extremely good service through and from the borough councils up to date, and that they are more likely to get an equally good service in the future if it is provided by the same authorities. I, therefore, desire to support the Amendment.

Mr. Gibson (Kennington)

I do not think this discussion can go much further without making it clear that there is not unanimity of opinion in London boroughs on this Amendment. Hon. Members opposite have been trying to make a case on the assumption that the whole of the 28 London boroughs are behind the sort of suggestion which is contained in this Amendment. That is not true, because a number are opposed to it. The hon. Member for St. George's, Westminster (Mr. Howard), has referred to his borough, but for my part I can say that my borough does not agree with the proposal. [HON. MEMBERS: "What borough?"]. If hon. Members will look it up in Vacher they will see where it is. I want to put two points, to make it clear that this proposal is not supported unanimously by the London boroughs. Firstly, this Amendment does not carry out the arrangement made in 1944. It has been-suggested that the understanding which was arrived at in 1944, between the borough councils in London and the L.C.C., would be implemented if this Amendment were carried. That is not correct, because it does not include all the powers of the 1944 arrangement. Secondly, the situation then was very different. The Bill was a very different Bill, and the circumstances surrounding it were very different from those which we are discussing today. For one thing, the voluntary hospitals were not included. On this occasion a large number of us, feel that the Minister is right in the setup which this Bill provides.

It is quite true that in some boroughs there has been tremendous enthusiasm about such services as a maternity and child welfare service, but the enthusiasm is not universal. I believe that this Bill will give us a universal, highly efficient maternity and welfare service for all the people of London. I think this Bill will give that opportunity, for there are many people who are working hard for these services. It is suggested that the scheme which the L.C.C. will have to prepare could provide by a devolution of administration for the use of all the energies of these people. I have no authority to speak for the L.C.C., although I am a mem- ber of it, but I know that the council have decided by public resolution to bring in the widest possible measure of local enthusiasm in connection with these services in the scheme which this Bill will build up. Therefore I suggest that the Amendment not only does not carry out the 1944 arrangement which was used as a justification for it, but it also does not give the opportunities for service which have been given in the past.

Vice-Admiral Taylor (Paddington, South)

I represent a London borough and therefore I am glad to have an opportunity of saying something about this very important matter. I am quite certain there is no subject which engages the attention and enthusiasm of borough councils more than these questions of maternity and child welfare, to which the people have rendered at all times such good service. I do not think any services have been carried on with greater efficiency and no complaints can be made about the manner in which the metropolitan boroughs have carried out their responsibilities with regard to these services. I congratulate the hon. Member for Stoke Newington (Mr. Weitzman) on the excellent way in which he put the case for the metropolitan boroughs. These services are essentially personal, human, with the human touch and that great essential local knowledge, and I do not believe that they can be improved on in the local boroughs by any committee or body set up by the L.C.C. How can they be more efficient because the L.C.C. intends to be responsible for them instead of the metropolitan boroughs? How can the L.C.C. by the action they are taking put more enthusiasm into the people operating these services, how can they with their centralised organisation supply anything which is lacking just because they are going to operate these services, and eliminate the local interest and borough responsibility which has worked so well and efficiently in the past? It is essentially a matter for the boroughs, in the interest of the people concerned. There is no case for these services being transferred to the L.C.C., and how they are going to be better carried on by the L.C.C. I cannot conceive. I am opposed to these powers being taken away by the L.C.C. and I hope the Minister will reconsider the question and see to it that these services will remain with the metropolitan boroughs.

Sir W. Darling

It is obvious that this is a matter upon which the House feels very deeply. This is no more nor less than the proposed destruction of 28 London boroughs. What London does today, possibly the provinces will do tomorrow. My intervention in this Debate is not an irrelevancy. I believe in local government, and I protest against the whole tendency of this Bill. This is Welsh barbarism, sweeping from the West over our civilisation. I beg the Minister not to be carried away, as many of us who come from little countries are apt to be carried away, by megalomania. The English are a big people, and they built a big Empire. The Welsh and the Scots are sometimes a little small-minded, and great Empires and little minds go ill together. I am suggesting that this Bill, and particularly this Clause, strikes at something in which democracy believes. I believe that the boroughs in this country were the very foundation of our human and democratic rights, and I did not think it would have been possible in this Chamber for a Minister representing a Socialist Government to bring forward such a proposal as this. It can only be explained on the grounds of megalomania.

I shall support the Amendment because I believe that a thing is not good because it is big. I believe that Wales would not be a greater country if it were ten times its size. I believe very strongly in the local tradition, in these men and women who crowd round their own houses and who, by their own efforts, build up the community. I think that this is something which is very precious, which should not be destroyed by a Tory Party, and certainly should be preserved by a Socialist Party. Are we going to take people more and more away from the government which controls their lives and directs their destinies, or are we going to bring them closer to it? This Clause is going to take the people of London far away and remote from local government. I understand the Minister used a phrase in an earlier speech, about the higher hierarchies. As a Tory and a democrat, I am not in favour of higher hierarchies. This type of organisation is remote and inhuman and contrary to that warm Socialism to which I believe the Minister has given his life. I could not believe that he, of all Ministers, would bring this matter before the House of Commons. A few days ago—this is a secret and a matter of some domestic importance—I had the privilege of lending to one of my fellow Members, a silk hat to go to a garden party. I mention this matter because it indicates the generous character of my mind. I want to ask the Minister to accept from me—and I make this offer publicly—a book which was published in1900, written by Gilbert Keith Chesterton. The name of that book is "The Napoleon of Notting Hill." That great dramatic story tells how the mayor of Notting Hill fought the mayor of Hammersmith in Hyde Park, and died in

defence of his little borough. These little boroughs are part of our history and neither Welshmen nor Scotsmen should touch them. I beg the Minister to accept this Amendment because, if he does not, all along the valleys of Wales and up to the hills of Scotland it will be said in future that our burgher law organisation, which has been the foundation of our liberties, has been destroyed by the present Minister of Health.

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

The House divided: Ayes, 99; Noes, 224.

Division No. 265. AYES. 11.30 p.m.
Amory, D. Heathcoat Hare, Hn. J. H. (Woodb'ge) Nicholson, G.
Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. Head, Brig. A. H. Nutting, Anthony
Astor, Hon. M. Hinchingbrooke, Viscount Orr-Ewing, I. L.
Baldwin, A. E. Holmes, Sir J. Stanley (Harwich) Osborne, C.
Bossom, A. C. Howard, Hon. A. Peto, Brig. C. H. M
Bower, N. Hurd, A. Pickthorn, K.
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A. Hutchison, Lt.-Cm. Clark (E'b'rgh W.) Pitman, I. J.
Braithwaite, Lt. Comdr. J. G. Jeffreys, General Sir G. Ponsonby, Col. C. E
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. Keeling, E. H. Prescott, Stanley
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Kerr, Sir J. Graham Raikes, H. V.
Byers, Frank F. Lambert, Hon. G. Ramsay, Maj. S
Carson, E. Lancaster, Col. C. G. Rayner, Brig. R.
Clarke, Col. R. S. Langford-Holt, J- Reid, Rt. Hon. J. S. C. (Hillhead)
Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. G. Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H. Renton, D.
Conant, Maj. R. J. E. Linstead, H. N. Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)
Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U. (Ludlow) Low, Brig. A. R. W. Roberts, Maj. P. G. (Ecclesall)
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O E. Lucas, Major Sir J. Sanderson, Sir F.
Cuthbert, W. N. Lucas-Tooth, Sir H. Shepherd, W. S. (Bucklow)
Darling, Sir W. Y. Macdonald, Capt. Sir P. (I. of Wight) Strauss, H. G. (English Universities)
Dodds-Parker A. D. Mackeson, Brig. H. R. Stuart, Rt. Hon. J (Moray)
Donner, Sqn.-Ldr P. W McKie, J. H. (Galloway) Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)
Dower, Lt.-Col. A. V. G. (Penrith) Maclay, Hon. J. S. Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (P'dd'tn, S.)
Drayson, Capt. G. B. Macpherson, Maj. N. (Dumfries) Turton, R. H.
Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond) Maitland, Comdr. J. W. Wadsworth, G.
Duthie, W. S. Manningham-Buller, R. E. Walker-Smith, D.
Fleming, Sqn.-Ldr. E. L Marlowe, A. A. H. Wheatley, Colonel M. J.
Fletcher W. (Bury) Marples A. E. White, J. B. (Canterbury)
Foster, J. G. (Northwich) Marsden, Capt. A Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)
Fraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale) Marshall, D. (Bodmin) Willink, Rt. Hon. H. U.
Gage, C. Marshall, S. H. (Sutton) Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D. Maude, J. C Young, Sir A. S. L. (Partick)
Gomme-Duncan, Col. A. G. Mellor, Sir J
Grimston, R. V. Morrison, Rt. Hn. W. S. (Cirencester) TELLERS FOR THE AYES
Hannon, Sir P. (Moseley) Neven-Spence, Sir B. Commander Agnew and
Mr. Studholme.
Adams, Richard (Balham) Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton) Crossman, R. H. S.
Adams, W. T. (Hammersmith, South) Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'p'l, Exch'ge) Daggar, G.
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Braddock, T. (Mitcham) Davies, Ernest (Enfield)
Anderson, F. (Whitehaven) Brook, D. (Halifax) Davies, Harold (Leek)
Attewell, H. C. Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell) Davies, R.J. (Westhoughton)
Austin, H. L. Brown, George (Belper) Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)
Awbery, S. S. Brown, T. J. (Ince) Deer, G.
Ayles, W. H. Bruce, Maj. D. W. T. de Freitas, Geoffrey
Bacon, Miss A, Burke, W. A. Delargy, Captain H. J.
Baird, Capt. J. Champion. A. J. Diamond, J.
Balfour, A. Clitherow, Dr. R. Dobbie, W.
Barton, C. Cobb, F. A. Driberg, T. E. N.
Battley, J. R. Cocks, F. S. Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwich)
Bechervaise, A. E. Collindridge, F. Dumpleton, C. W.
Belcher, J. W. Collins, V. J. Dye, S.
Benson, G. Colman, Miss G. M Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.
Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale) Comyns, Dr. L. Edelman, M.
Bing, G. H. C. Cooper, Wing-Comdr. G. Edwards, John (Blackburn)
Blackburn, A. R. Corbet, Mrs. F. K. (Camb'well, N.W.) Edwards, N. (Caerphilly)
Blyton, W. R. Corlett, Dr. J. Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel)
Bottomley, A. G. Crawley, A. Evans, S, N. (Wednesbury)
Ewart, R. McGhee, H. G. Skinnard, F. W.
Fairhurst F. McGovern, J. Smith, C. (Colchester)
Farthing, W. J. Mack, J. D. Smith, S. H. (Hull, S.W.)
Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.) McKay, J. (Wallsend) Smith, T. (Normanton)
Follick, M. McLeavy, F. Snow, Capt. J. W
Foot, M. M. MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles) Solley, L. J.
Foster, W. (Wigan) Macpherson T. (Romford) Sorensen, R. W.
Gallacher, W. Mallalieu, J. P. W. Soskice, Maj. Sir F.
Gibbins, J. Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping) Sparks, J. A.
Gibson, C. W. Marshall F. (Brightside) Stamford, W.
Glanville, J. E. (Consett) Medland, H. M. Stewart, Capt. Michael (Fulham, E.)
Gordon-Walker, P. C. Messer, F. Stubbs, A. E.
Greenwood, A. W. J. (Heywood) Mitchison, Maj. G. R. Swingler, S.
Grey, C. F. Moody, A. S Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)
Grierson, E. Morgan, Dr. H, B. Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Griffiths, D. (Rather Valley) Morris, P. (Swansea, W.) Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet)
Gunter, Capt. R. J. Mort, D. L. Thomas, Ivor (Keighley)
Guy, W. H. Moyle, A. Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)
Haire, Flt-Lieut. J. (Wycombe) Nally, W. Thomas, John R. (Dover)
Hale, Leslie Neal, H. (Claycross) Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)
Hannan, W. (Maryhill) Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford) Titterington, M. F.
Hardy, E. A. Noel-Baker, Capt. F. E. (Brentford) Tolley, L.
Harrison, J. Noel-Buxton, Lady Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G.
Hastings, Dr. Somerville O'Brien, T. Ungoed-Thomas, L.
Haworth, J. Oldfield, W. H. Usborne, Henry
Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick) Orbach, M. Vernon, Maj. W. F.
Herbison, Miss M. Paget, R. T. Viant, S. P.
Hewitson, Capt. M. Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Wentworth) Walkden, E.
Hobson, C. R. Parker, J. Walker, G. H.
Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth) Parkin, B. T. Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.)
Horabin, T. L. Paton, Mrs. F. (Rushcliffe) Warbey, W. N.
House, G. Paton, J. (Norwich) Watkins, T. E
Hoy, J. Perrins, W. Wells, P. L. (Faversham)
Hudson, J, H. (Ealing, W.) Platts-Mills, J. F. F Wells, W. T. (Walsall)
Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Popplewell, E. Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
Hughes, H. D. (W'lverh'pton, W.) Porter, E. (Warrington) Wigg, Colonel G. E.
Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.) Pritt, D. N. Wilkes, L.
Irving, W. J. Pursey, Cmdr. H. Wilkins, W. A.
Janner, B. Randall, H. E. Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)
Jeger, G. (Winchester) Ranger, J. Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)
Jones, J. H. (Bolton) Rankin, J. Williams, D. J. (Neath)
Jones, P. Asterley (Hitchin) Reid, T. (Swindon) Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)
Keenan, W. Rhodes, H. Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)
Konyon, C, Richards, R. Williamson, T.
Key, C. W. Ridealgh, Mrs. M. Willis, E.
Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. E. Robens, A. Wills, Mrs. E. A.
Kinley, J. Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire) Wilson, J. H.
Kirby, B. V. Sargood, R, Wise, Major F. J
Lang, G. Shackleton, Wing-Cdr. E. A. A. Woods, G. S.
Layers, S. Sharp, Lt.-Col, G. M. Wyatt, Maj. W.
Lee, F. (Hulme) Shawcrose, C. N. (Widnes) Yates, V. F.
Lee, Miss J. (Cannock) Shawcross, Sir H. (St. Helens) Zilliacus, K.
Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton] Shurmer, P.
Lindgren, G. S Silverman, S. S. (Nelson) TELLERS FOR THE NOES
McAdam, W. Skeftington, A. M. Mr. Pearson and Mr. Simmons

Question put, and agreed to.