HC Deb 14 July 1950 vol 477 cc1740-2

Order read for Second Reading read.

12.2 p.m.

The Minister of Health (Mr. Bevan)

This small but very useful Measure I hope will commend itself to all sections of the House. In the first report that was published last November, the Local Government Manpower Committee surveyed the whole field of the relations between local government and the central Government. Most of their recommendations have been put into operation administratively. The only one that requires legislation is that embodied in the Bill. It has been an anomalous position for some time that the Metropolitan Boroughs had to go to the Ministry of Health for certain loan sanctions and to the County Council for others. I know, and I think hon. Members of all parties have known, that the Metropolitan Boroughs have resented this for some years and the County Council has not been anxious to retain it.

It gives rise to confusion and sometimes to duplication. It is vexatious when the Metropolitan Boroughs get loan sanction from the County Council in certain cases and then have to go to the Ministry of Health for compulsory purchase. Therefore, it seems to us it would simplify the procedure; it would be more economical; and it would serve as an additional emollient, if it is required, between the Metropolitan Boroughs and the London County Council if the Metropolitan Boroughs came direct to the Ministry of Health for all loan sanctions. I do not think it is necessary for me to explain any further what is a very simple Measure.

12.3 p.m.

Mr. Henry Brooke (Hampstead)

In relation to this Bill, I can speak in almost every relevant capacity, because I represent in this House a London borough, I am a member of its Borough Council and of the London County Council, and also, I think, I am the only Member of the Local Government Manpower Committee who is also a Member of this House. So I am a sort of Pooh-Bah in this matter, but fortunately, like Pooh-Bah, I have found my responsibilities, at any rate on this occasion, in no degree inconsistent with one another, because I think this Bill is welcomed from all quarters.

I would not go so far as the Minister in suggesting that this has long been a matter of very serious resentment amongst the Metropolitan Boroughs. En the London County Council I remember, three years ago, my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. H. Price) criticising the existing system because the boroughs found that, since the war at any rate, when they applied to the London County Council for loan sanction for housing schemes, it was a slower business than applying to the Ministry of Health. They had a sneaking feeling that the rest of the local authorities of the country could get their applications granted or returned with the official comments more quickly from the Ministry than could the Metropolitan Boroughs from the London County Council.

The subject arose ultimately almost by a side wind in the deliberations of the Local Government Manpower Committee. The Minister will remember how that Committee, whose recommendations in its first Report he has accepted, made certain suggestions to simplify the whole system of loan sanction applications from local authorities generally. It would have been quite anomalous to adopt those general recommendations and to leave untouched the existing arrangements between the Metropolitan Boroughs and the London County Council, which unfortunately were laid down by Statute, so that they could not be altered without an amending Act.

The London County Council, I know, sees no objection to changing this procedure. Why should it? It saves some manpower, and in that respect, if in no other, it would be welcome to local authorities at the present time. The London Borough Councils, while welcoming the change in procedure, will also watch with hope and interest to see whether their expectations will be fulfilled, and whether the Ministry can give quicker service in this matter than the London County Council has hitherto been able to do. I appreciate very much the decision not only to accept these recommendations but to put into operation the new system so expeditiously. I hope it will come into use from 1st October with the good wishes of all parts of the House.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Committed to a Committee of the whole House Committed upon Monday next.—[Mr. Collindridge.]