HC Deb 07 May 1958 vol 587 cc1225-73
Considered in Committee. [Progress, 6th May.]
[Sir CHARLES MACANDREW in the Chair]
First Schedule.—(GENERAL GRANTS.)
Amendment proposed: In page 46, line 34, leave out "12. The foregoing paragraphs do", and insert:
1. Paragraph 1 of Part I of this Schedule does not include expenditure incurred—
5 (a) in connection with the provision of milk for pupils in attendance at schools maintained by local education authorities or for full-time students under eighteen years in attendance at establishments for further education maintained or assisted by such authorities or in receipt of grant from the Minister of Education, or the provision of milk in pursuance of arrangements made under section seventy-eight of the Education Act, 1944;
10 (b) in connection with the provision of main mid-day meals for day pupils in attendance at schools maintained by such authorities or the provision of such meals in pursuance of arrangements made under the said section seventy-eight or in pursuance of section eighty-one of that Act;
15 (c) in the removal of works constructed for the purposes of air-raid precautions or of temporary works constructed for defence purposes by or on behalf of the Secretary of State, the Admiralty or the Minister of Home Security in pursuance of Regulation fifty or fifty-one of the Defence (General) Regulations, 1939, or by agreement, or in the reinstatement of premises so far as it is rendered necessary by any such removal; or
20 (d) in pursuance of a scheme under section ten of the Employment and Training Act, 1948.
2. Paragraph 3 of Part I of this Schedule does not include expenditure incurred in the performance of functions imposed under section two of the Civil Defence Act, 1948.
25 3. Paragraph 4 of Part I of this Schedule does not include expenses incurred in the management of approved schools or in respect of children sent to approved schools or in respect of remand homes.
30 4.—(1) Sub-paragraph (1) (a) of paragraph 5 of Part I of this Schedule does not include expenditure incurred in connection with the acquisition of land for the redevelopment as a whole of areas of extensive war damage, or for the relocation of population or industry, or the replacement of open space, in the course of such redevelopment.
(2) Sub-paragraph (1) (d) of the said paragraph 5 does not include expenditure incurred in connection with the payment of compensation in respect of land acquired by virtue of section nineteen of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947.
35 (3) Sub-paragraphs (1) (d) and (e) of the said paragraph 5 do not include the payment of compensation in respect of land of the National Coal Board to which the Fifth Schedule to the said Act of 1947 applies by virtue of regulations under section ninety of that Act, or in connection with the taking of any action under sections twenty-four to twenty-six of that Act in respect of such land of the National Coal Board.
40 (4) The said sub-paragraphs (1) (d) and (e) do not include expenditure incurred in connection with the payment of compensation under section twenty-six of the said Act of 1947, or the taking of action under that section, in respect of land in a National Park or area of outstanding natural beauty (within the meaning of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act, 1949) or any such expenditure as, under subsection (7) of section ninety-seven of the said Act of 1949, is to be treated for the purposes of that section as expenditure under the said section twenty-six and do not include expenditure in connection with the payment of compensation under tree-preservation orders under section twenty-eight of the said Act of 1947 in respect of such land as aforesaid.
50 (5) The said paragraph 5 does not include expenditure incurred in connection with the acquisition of any building excepted by direction of the Minister as being a building of outstanding historical or architectural interest, or the carrying out of any work of restoration, repair, maintenance or adaptation on or in the case of such a building.
(6) Sub-paragraphs (2) and (3) of the said paragraph 5 shall apply in relation to this paragraph as they apply in relation to that paragraph.
5. Part I of this Schedule does.—[Mr. H. Brooke.]

Question, That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Schedule, put and negatived.

Question again proposed, That the proposed words be there inserted.

3.38 p.m.

Mr. W. E. Wheeldon (Birmingham, Small Heath)

I beg to move as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, in line 29, after "damage", to insert: or comprehensive re-development in accordance with a development plan". The Amendment moved by the Minister last night has, generally, the effect of stating what items of local government expenditure are to be regarded as excluded from the operation of the general grant. There is a reference in paragraph (4) to areas of extensive war damage. Our Amendment seeks to continue a specific grant on a rather wider basis. We want to include not merely areas of extensive war damage, but the areas described in the Town and Country Planning Act as areas of bad lay-out and obsolete development.

This matter was argued in the Standing Committee, when the Minister stated his opinion. However, we regard it as of such importance that we want to bring to the Minister's attention not only those arguments which we deployed in Standing Committee, but additional arguments in the hope that he will reconsider the matter and change his opinion.

Areas of bad lay-out and obsolete development are comparatively few. There are not many local authorities which have substantial areas with which they have already dealt, or which they are in the process of redeveloping under the Town and Country Planning Acts. However, for those few areas, the matter is very serious, because of the financial liabilities which those authorities have already undertaken.

In Standing Committee, the right hon. Gentleman sought to dismiss that argument by quoting some figures. He said that the amount of grant for the current financial year for this kind of development amounted to £40,000. I have no reason to doubt the Minister's figures, but even if they are correct they show that not many local authorities are concerned with extensive redevelopment of this kind. That in itself is an argument for excluding this work from the provisions of the general grant.

The figures also show that not many local authorities need large-scale redevelopment of this kind. It should also be borne in mind that the figure of £40,000 is not a criterion of what may ultimately be involved in these schemes. Although only a few, these schemes are fairly large and take a fairly long time to mature.

This expenditure is not of a kind generally applicable to local authorities and there is no uniformity among local authorities. I emphasise that only a few local authorities are involved by pointing out that in the current financial year the City of Birmingham alone had a grant of £28,000 under this head. That shows that the remaining authorities were very few and that their schemes were comparatively small.

The Minister also said that this type of expenditure was likely in future to be greatly extended and to become widespread. That may or may not be correct, but if it is, that is no consolation to those local authorities who have already committed themselves to heavy capital expenditure. They committed themselves expecting to get grants of approximately 50 per cent. of the net annual loss of their schemes, as provided in the Town and Country Planning Acts.

The right hon. Gentleman also said that expenditure on redevelopment would be taken into account in the general grant. However, the amount to be received by, say, Birmingham, would be only a small fraction of its total annual liability. The right hon. Gentleman claimed that the rate deficiency grant, a new feature under the Bill and replacing the old equalisation grant, would be tailored, to use his expression, to meet relative needs.

As the Minister has so often reminded us, the figures in the White Paper are completely hypothetical and there is no guarantee that an individual local authority will receive a rate deficiency grant. On the basis of these proposals, many large local authorities will not receive such a grant—Bristol, Coventry, Leicester and Newcastle-upon-Tyne, for example.

3.45 p.m.

I emphasise that there is no element in the general grant to reflect the different financial liabilities of individual local authorities in respect of redevelopment. The Minister's argument on that issue cannot be sustained. For example, let us take two local authorities with the same basic statistics, that is to say, the same population, the same number of children, and the same expenditure. That is not likely to happen in practice, but I use that as an illustration.

Let us assume that one of those authorities has a very heavy financial commitment in respect of redevelopment, while the other has no financial commitment of that kind. Each authority will receive precisely the same grant. How can the Minister possibly regard that as being fair to those local authorities already heavily committed to redevelopment schemes because of the initiative which they have taken under planning legislation?

I can illustrate that still further by giving an example with which I am well acquainted, that of Birmingham. In the city, we have a redevelopment scheme on which we have spent £7 million up to 31st January this year. The right hon. Gentleman said that Birmingham had acquired only a very small proportion of land which it wished to redevelop. I am not sure from where he got that information, but it is incorrect. Birmingham has already acquired 981 acres, a substantial area, for its redevelopment scheme. The area includes 28,000 houses and 5,500 other properties of various kinds. The money has been spent and was spent because we thought that we would get a 50 per cent. grant.

The present annual loss falling on the rate fund because of that scheme is comparatively small. That is because, as with other schemes of this kind, costs accumulate very gradually. Nevertheless, within a few years the net annual loss falling on the Birmingham rate fund will be approximately £500,000. I emphasise that Birmingham cannot go back on that commitment. The money has been spent and was spent in the belief that there would be a grant of 50 per cent.

The Minister said, in reply, that this was a matter entirely for the discretion of local authorities, but how can there be discretion on matters on which the local authority is already committed? That piece of advice from the right hon. Gentleman has been received very badly in Birmingham. Moreover, the policy which would have to be carried out if the Bill goes through in its present form is entirely contrary to that in the Town and Country Planning Act. The basis of that Act was that it should be possible to develop land in central urban areas in the public interest without over-regard to financial considerations. The Act recognises that there must be substantial losses in redevelopment of this kind and therefore provision was made for substantial grants.

These grants are to be withheld under the Bill, but that course of action is completely unjustified and is putting a burden on Birmingham that it ought not to have to bear. It is part and parcel of the policy advocated by the Government. I believe that there is an outstanding case for taking special expenditure of this kind outside the general grant. I hope that the Minister, even at this late stage, will agree to reconsider the matter and do justice to Birmingham and other local authorities which have development schemes of this kind.

Mrs. Joyce Butler (Wood Green)

I support the Amendment from a slightly different viewpoint from that of my hon. Friend, that is from the point of view of local authorities who have made plans for the redevelopment of comprehensive areas but who have not yet been committed to undertake that work.

I would remind the Minister that it is now twenty years since the outbreak of the last war and during that time it has hardly been possible for any local authority to do very much about obsolete lay-out within its boundaries. The war years were a period of complete inactivity, while the postwar period has been busy with reconstruction, urgent housing, and matters of that kind. Several local authorities within my own knowledge have, in the last few years, been surveying areas, drawing up plans for redevelopment and going through all the stages necessary for the scheduling of an area of comprehensive development. This takes a considerable time, especially when the authority is not a large county borough.

Reading the Report of the Standing Committee which examined the Bill, I thought that the Minister seemed to be under the impression that most of the authorities undertaking development of this kind were the large county boroughs, but I think he will find, if he looks more closely at the matter, that in the large conurbations there are non-county boroughs and other smaller authorities who are initiating these development schemes. These authorities have, first, to decide on the appropriate areas and to make all the preliminary plans, then they have to gain the approval of the county council before having the proposals included in the county development plan. Then there is usually a local inquiry, and, finally, the Minister's approval has to be obtained.

Some authorities are now at the point where they have their plans complete and are only waiting for the Minister's approval to begin the redevelopment of such areas. Unless the Minister is prepared to look at our suggestion, and to make a special grant, some of those authorities may feel that they cannot go on with their redevelopment. The Minister must decide whether he wants such redevelopment to be undertaken. If he does, he must do something about it financially.

We are very proud of the landscape of this country and we are, therefore, anxious to remove some of the blots that still disfigure our large industrial and urban areas. Local authorities are carrying out plans which are in the national as well as the local interest. It was very truly said, when the word "blighted" was coined for such areas, that they were a blight on the landscape. There is thus more than a mere local responsibility. Local authorities have undertaken a national responsibility.

The Minister must realise that there is always pressure upon local authorities not to spend money on this kind of thing. The result of such work undertaken by local authorities may not be immediately apparent. It may be years before the full benefit is received, either locally or by the public as a whole. This is long-term planning, while there is constant pressure upon local authorities that they should not do anything which does not produce results immediately.

I come back to the point I made earlier, about the twenty years in which very little of this work was done. When an area is ripe for redevelopment it will deteriorate rapidly unless redevelopment is undertaken. When the general grant comes into operation there appears to be no method by which the county council receiving it can allocate it to particular authorities in the older parts of the county which need redevelopment and not in the newer parts, which do not.

Unless the Minister accepts the Amendment or proposes something very similar, local authorities will be exposed to all kinds of local pressures not to do the kind of work I have been describing, and will get cold feet. They will say, "We cannot go on with this work. We shall have to give up the idea altogether."

The right hon. Gentleman knows the importance of the human problem. I would remind him that where plans have been made to carry out development and an inquiry has been held, the factory owners, small shopkeepers and house dwellers have become accustomed to the idea of redevelopment and have adapted their lives accordingly. If a scheme is suddenly withdrawn, many of them will be put in considerable difficulty.

4.0 p.m.

Having adjusted their lives to the idea of something completely new, they will now find that no development is to take place after all. The plans they have made to adjust themselves to a new situation have to be remade and they have to replan their lives. That leads to a great deal of upset for people. It also leads to local authorities being accused of shilly-shallying. People ask why the local authority cannot make up its mind on a project. In my own area, there is a considerable development plan in Wood Green and big development plans in the adjoining Borough of Tottenham.

Other adjoining authorities have plans for redevelopment to put into operation as soon as they get approval from the Minister. They are looking to him for an indication that if they go ahead and have to face considerable losses, he will give them some financial assistance. Whether that is to be done through the form of this Amendment or not remains for the right hon. Gentleman to say. I hope that he will realise that this is not a minor problem, but a major one and that it is his responsibility, as Minister, to assist authorities which are trying to do their job in town planning.

Mr. David Jones (The Hartlepools)

I want to raise a special matter relating to West Hartlepool and the development of its town centre. A plan was submitted to the Ministry early in 1951. It is an extensive plan, so extensive that the then Minister wrote, on 9th November, 1951, a letter to the town council in which he said: … it is clear that for a town of the size of West Hartlepool a movement of the shopping area will be a very large undertaking and that the cost might prove very heavy. This will largely depend on the care with which the financial and estate management aspects of the project are taken into account by the council. The council considered that and, also, the offer of the Minister to provide technical assistance from the officers of his Department. The plan was considered and substantially altered. An amendment to the original plan was submitted to the Minister on 18th March, 1957. It comes within the direct ambit of the present occupant of that office. As his predecessor, now the Prime Minister, rightly recognised in 1951, this is a substantial project. The fact that he adopted it at all, with this proviso, showed that he regarded it as an improvement which was desirable and necessary for the lay-out of the centre of the town.

The right hon. Gentleman also recognised that it would be a fairly substantial undertaking for an authority of that size. It is obvious that, unless the authority can get some special assistance towards this project, the fact that the Minister now proposes that there shall be a block grant will probably deter the authority from proceeding with the scheme. It will alter the whole attitude of the authority towards this project. If he remembers the case at all, the Minister will probably recall that the scheme is estimated to cost the authority £1½ million. For an authority with a population of 70,000, if nothing is done to help with this type of scheme there will be a temptation to abandon it altogether. There is a case for a special examination of these problems of local authorities.

If West Hartlepool had not been persuaded by the Minister's predecessor, now the Prime Minister, to review this matter, the probability is that the scheme would have been embarked on much earlier. It would have been well under way now and the Government would have been committed to meeting their share of the cost on the basis of the regulations made in 1950. There seems to be a special responsibility on the Minister in this case. I plead with him to look at the matter again. If he cannot make a general alteration, I ask him to consider particular cases where, as a result of advice tendered by himself or his predecessors, delay has occurred and where, if nothing is done, such authorities will be penalised as a result of taking ministerial advice.

Mrs. Harriet Slater (Stoke-on-Trent, North)

I add my plea that the Minister should reconsider his present proposals and accept this Amendment to his Amendment. North Staffordshire—in particular, Stoke-on-Trent—comprises an area which has grown up, not as Arnold Bennett said, into five towns, but into six towns. The area has no centre such as those of Birmingham, Sheffield and similar cities. Stoke-on-Trent is a long, narrow area and there is a shopping centre in Hanley and in other towns.

Stoke-on-Trent has been considering its redevelopment plan over a number of years. We have had advice from eminent people and the local authority's committees have gone to great trouble to discuss redevelopment with a view to making it much more convenient for those who live in the area, more convenient for shopping interests, for overcoming transport difficulties and for developing industry. Our industry has grown quite differently from that of Lancashire or the engineering industry. In days gone by our industry was developed round a family and, consequently, we have an almost haphazard development.

Only last month the local authority called together the pottery industry. The Federation of Master Potters met the Stoke-on-Trent General Purposes and the Planning Committees to discuss how best they could co-operate over the re-development plan. We are at the stage at which the local authority has persuaded the industry in the interests of another matter in which the right hon. Gentleman is concerned—that of clean air—to go ahead with development for modernising factories so that they may comply with clean air regulations.

We have met together to consider how frontages to the main roads to the city may be made to fit in with a general plan and have some semblance of beauty even though they are concerned with industry. Having reached this stage, and got the Minister to agree to our redevelopment scheme, having got industry almost married to the idea of giving co-operation, mainly through the interest of my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross), we hope we can encourage shopkeepers to do something about replanning and beautifying their shops.

It would be a great pity if, because of the recommendations of the Minister and in the interests of matters such as education, care of the old and of children which the local authority has to consider, we had to abandon this work on which we have been engaged for most of the time since the war. We would then have to carry on in a haphazard manner and, perhaps in five or ten years, the local authority then dealing with the problem would be blamed for not developing the area in a planned and orderly way.

I ask the Minister to look at this matter in the interests not merely of economy, but of good planning for the country as a whole. Then people will be able to live in a planned area and housing, shopping, transport and industry may have a plan which will benefit those living there now and who will do so in the future.

Mr. J. A. Sparks (Acton)

The decision of the Minister to withdraw, apparently permanently, grants under the Town and Country Planning Acts for the comprehensive redevelopment of badly laid out and obsolescent areas is one of the most reactionary features of the Bill. It will make complete and absolute nonsense of the major part of development plans which local planning authorities are under an obligation to prepare and submit to the Minister for approval. Many local planning authorities have already submitted plan's and the Minister has approved of quite a number of them.

It was found necessary to request the planning authorities to prepare development plans, not because those authorities had nothing to do and were looking for work, but because it was considered by the State and this House that something should be done to repair errors of development which had accrued in our towns and cities over long periods—in some cases hundreds of years—and to improve the condition, siting, lay-out and amenities of great towns and cities. Development plans have a special importance for old towns and cities, although they are not of so much importance in rural areas. Precisely in those areas development plans were intended to be realistic and to be carried out in due course by local authorities.

4.15 p.m.

From the local authority point of view, this comprehensive redevelopment is a costly business, because land values are usually fairly high. Where there is the greatest need for redevelopment under the planning Acts we find that land values are comparatively higher than elsewhere. When local authorities have to acquire these sites and demolish the structures upon them, the land has to be acquired at a fairly high valuation.

There is also the cost of demolishing the structures to make way for redevelopment of the area. The Government have contributed by way of grant 50 per cent. of the net loss on the acquisition of the land and the cost of demolition. Without that grant, I am quite sure that most local authorities which have already made a start on this kind of redevelopment would not have been able to do so, because the financial burden would have been far too great for them. They now find themselves cut off in the middle of this process of comprehensive redevelopment.

I know that the right hon. Gentleman takes the view that it is not necessary to redevelop these areas now. He will advance all sorts of reasons—the poverty and difficulty of the times, and so on—and he will give the impression that it is not immediately necessary to do this work, but that it could be done in ten, fifteen, or twenty years' time. That is a very reactionary way of looking at the problem, because many of these obsolescent and badly laid out areas are as near slums as we will find anywhere, without being technically designated slums. Indeed, within ten, fifteen or twenty years they will be slums of that time.

Mr. Philip Bell (Bolton, East)

If most of the houses are slums, surely the authority would not pay much money for them, and would pay only for the site value. I cannot understand why the hon. Gentleman assumes that if the grants are removed no work would be done, because I thought—perhaps I am wrong—that when the general grant is settled the possibility of future planning under the planning Acts will be taken into account. Am I wrong?

Mr. Sparks

I think that the hon. and learned Member is wrong. We are not talking about slum clearance. This is quite another matter—that of comprehensive redevelopment under the Town and Country Planning Acts, slum clearance schemes are initiated under the housing Acts.

In these obsolescent and badly laid out areas we have the potential slums—the dwellings that will be slums in five, ten, fifteen or twenty years. Let us create, for instance, a picture of the kind of area that we are now talking about. In the main, these areas contain houses, in some cases—I was going to say—hundreds of years old, and I dare say that is true of a good many of them. In the course of time, in many of these areas, dwellings have been bought by industrialists and other persons interested in industrial and commercial development, and these houses have been converted to industrial or commercial use.

In my own area, we are now cleaning up such an area with the assistance of a grant which we are receiving from the Ministry under the Town and Country Planning Acts. Quite a fair proportion of my constituency is the most horrible mixture of small dwellings, small factories and workshops and garages, all mixed up together, with people living next door to factories, where the hum of machinery is going on, in some cases, for 24 hours a day every day, and driving people mad. In the course of generations, the areas which were originally purely residential have become the worst parts of the district in which to live, because of the intrusion of industrial and commercial enterprises using private houses for purposes for which they were never erected; in other words, turning a residential area into an industrial and commercial area.

The problem in cases of this kind is to redevelop the area and rebuild upon the site so that industry is located in the proper place and not in the centre of the district where people are living, and, in another part of the area, provide the residential portion in which people can live and sleep and suffer no nuisances from the industrial operations that may go on in another part of the site.

What the Minister is doing by the Bill is putting a complete end to this form of redevelopment. I know that, theoretically, he will say that he is not, but financially he is doing just that. We think that it is most unfair to succeeding generations for the right hon. Gentleman to take up that attitude, because it will be the generations yet to come who will not only have to tolerate these bad conditions in our towns and cities, but will have the added problem of putting them right at a later period of time, and, most probably, when the cost of doing so will be very much higher than it is now.

The point that I want to put to the right hon. Gentleman is concerned not so much with the effect of this proposal on the county boroughs and the county councils, but with its effect on the county district councils. These town and country planning grants for comprehensive redevelopment were paid direct to the country district councils, but under the Bill these authorities are cut out and they are not to receive them any more. The Minister is to provide a general grant, not to the county district, but to a county council or a county borough.

The Minister has been at pains to tell us that this general grant will be given to the county council or the county borough without any strings attached. It is not to be tied to any form of expenditure, and the authorities can do what they jolly well like with it—subsidise the rates with it, if they like, rather than expenditure. Therefore, if that is correct, the general grant which will now go to the county councils and county boroughs will carry no obligation on the part of the county council to pass on to the district council the equivalent of what the latter would have received under the Town and Country Planning Acts for this form of comprehensive redevelopment. Indeed, as far as I can see, a county council can refuse to pass on one penny of that grant to the county district.

If the Minister can tell us today that that is not his view, if he now goes back on what he has already said about the general grant, if he can give an assurance that he will see that the county councils pass on to the district councils the equivalent of what they would have received if the grant under the Town and Country Planning Acts had remained, it would be a very wise step forward; but I do not think he will do that at all. I have an idea that he is intent on bringing this redevelopment completely and absolutely to an end, because, unless he does make a condition of that kind, it will mean an end to this form of redevelopment, and we shall hear no more of it for a very long time.

It would be quite fallacious for the right hon. Gentleman to believe that the county districts are in a position to be able to finance the whole of this cost themselves. They are not. They do not possess the financial resources of the county councils or the county boroughs, and the county boroughs will have their own problems in connection with this part of the Bill. The problems of the county districts are, however, far more serious, because the county boroughs will receive a general grant, and, as the Minister has said, they can please themselves what they do with it. The county district council will not receive a grant, and there is no indication that they will receive from the county the equivalent of what they are losing.

Therefore, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will look at this matter once again. I am sure that he will realise himself, although he may not tell us so, that recent planning legislation constitutes one of the finest pieces of work done by this House in recent years. It is something that our towns and cities have been wanting for generations, to help them to prevent ugliness in our towns and cities, to give them power to remove ugly buildings and create beautiful, well laid out areas in which their citizens can have a much better life than before. I am sure that the Minister will realise that to bring this good work to an end when so much still remains to be done is not, to say the least, an act of progress. It is the reverse of progress. The Minister will be putting back the clock if he does it.

I therefore hope that if the Minister cannot find another way, other than withdrawing the grants under the Town and Country Planning Acts from the county district, he will be prepared to approve the Amendment, which will ensure that the county districts will receive—through, in this case, the county councils, by means of the general grants which those authorities will receive—the equivalent of what they otherwise will lose by bringing to an end the grants under the Town and Country Planning Acts. If he will do that, he will go a very long way towards meeting the problem I have outlined, and he will enable authorities to continue the good work of getting rid of some of the bad areas in our towns and cities and create, instead, much better places in which to live.

Mr. Arthur Probed (Aberdare)

I do not wish to disturb the atmosphere of this debate, but there are some points I should like to put to the Minister.

We are seeking to amend the Minister's Amendment, and I wish to make use of this opportunity, at the risk of being out of order, to inquire whether the Minister, in his reply, would deal with a point which I want to put to him on paragraph 1 (d) of his proposed Amendment: in pursuance of a scheme under section ten of the employment and Training Act, 1948. I know of no other occasion on which I could raise this point, except the present one.

The Chairman

Order. Perhaps the best time for the hon. Member to raise that point will be when we come to the Question, "That those words be there inserted."

4.30 p.m.

The Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs (Mr. Henry Brooke)

I have listened with great interest to the debate, which covers the same ground as that in the 29th of the 31 sittings of the Standing Committee, when I had to advise the Committee to resist an Amendment of this kind. I realise to the full the sincerity with which hon. Members have spoken.

Mr. D. Jones

I was not a member of the Standing Committee, so the point I have made is obviously a new point.

Mr. Brooke

I appreciate that. I had in mind the words of the Amendment, but I agree at once that this debate has ranged rather wider.

Despite what has been said, I look upon this as likely to be an increasing activity of local authorities. It is true, as the hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Wheeldon) said, that the amount in the Estimates for this year is not more than £40,000, and, considering that this is a 50 per cent. grant, that clearly shows that local authorities who are proceeding with such development have not as yet gone very far with it. It is a small amount compared with the very much larger sum of £750,000 which is provided for the redevelopment of war-damaged areas.

The sum is so small at present that if we thought that it would remain as small as that it might be reasonable for the Government to suggest the abolition of this type of grant altogether because in the Bill a number of grants far larger than this are being abolished. We did not take that view, however, because we felt certain that the amount would rise. I want to tell the Committee that as this becomes a more important feature of local authority work, as, in homely language, they get round to doing it, more money will have to be provided in the general grant for this purpose.

The matter which we are discussing, therefore, is not whether the money will be available but the distribution of the money—whether it should be distributed, as hitherto, on a 50 per cent. basis towards expenditure which has been undertaken and which has been extremely closely vetted by the central Government; or whether it should be put into the general grant and allocated according to the formula between the various authorities so that they can spend money on the redevelopment of their blighted areas or not as they think fit.

In the first place, I want to re-emphasise what I said in Committee, that we have drawn a distinction between the redevelopment of blitzed areas and the future redevelopment of blighted areas, because the bombs fell arbitrarily and the war damage which had to be made good by redevelopment is spread unevenly about the country. One of the fundamental principles of the general grant idea is that one should take into the general grant services where the expenditure is likely to be spread reasonably evenly over the country.

I must say, with the knowledge at my disposal, that as the years go by—and we must remember that we are legislating for the long term and not just for tomorrow—it will undoubtedly be found that local authorities all over the country have these areas of bad lay-out and obsolete development which will require redevelopment and that this work will therefore spread over the country. In principle, therefore, it is not unsuitable for assistance by way of the general grant.

The main point which has been put to the Government this afternoon is that unless there is a specific grant the work will not be done. That has never been found to be the truth in respect of many other services. If hon. Members opposite press this argument on me, I am bound to ask them how it comes about that we have any libraries, that we have any sewerage works, that we have any provision for refuse disposal, that we have any street lighting, because none of those is aided by specific grants.

If it is maintained that a local authority cannot afford to do a job unless it can gain a contribution from the central Government—that is, from the taxpayers generally—for doing it, then I cannot understand, on that argument, how local authorities have thought fit and been able to afford to do all the things which they have done, in many cases very efficiently, without specific grant. The answer, of course, is that they have done them in response to public opinion, and that is exactly what will happen in these cases, too.

The hon. Lady the Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Butler) said that it was not only in the local but also in the national interest that this work should go forward. It is important not only to the local but also to the national interest that street lighting should be efficiently done, but fundamentally this sort of redevelopment is work where the general public opinion of the neighbourhood should have the deciding say.

It is the local public who will benefit most or lose most if areas are left to run down into slums, and it seems to me not unreasonable that, through their elected representatives, they should decide whether they sufficiently want the improvement to be willing to pay for it. I have sufficient faith in local authorities to know that if there is an enlightened public opinion the work will be put in hand.

Mr. Sparks

Does the Minister realise that he is making an excellent case for paying no grant at all to any authorities, because on his argument they will do it without a grant?

Mr. Brooke

The hon. Member now sees how generous are the Government's proposals.

We have had a reference to slum clearance. It is by no means the case that all the areas which will be redeveloped will be slum areas redeveloped for housing purposes. A part will be, and, as has rightly been said, the purchase will be at site value and, as I would add, the slum clearance subsidy will be available. That is a partial contribution, but it by no means covers the whole of the land in question.

I fully realise that there may be places, whether Birmingham or West Hartlepool, where there is a sense of disappointment that a prospective 50 per cent. grant may not be available in future. But I do not think the point made by the hon. Member for The Hartlepools (Mr. D. Jones) will hold water, because he will find that on different occasions local authorities both gain and lose by delay. I have often had a case put to me that there should be additional Exchequer assistance because a local authority has had to do something at a more expensive time. I have never had a case put to me that a local authority could do without some additional assistance promised because meanwhile the rates of interest have fallen and the authority is now able to carry out the work more cheaply than it could otherwise have done.

I apologise to the hon. Member for Small Heath for anything I said in Committee which was mistaken. I realise that a very large amount of the thousand acres of land in Birmingham have been acquired, and I think I should have been more correct had I said that a comparatively small amount had already been redeveloped or was in course of redevelopment.

Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)

Did I hear the Minister say that the rates of interest payable by local authorities have fallen? If so, is he referring to their descent from the sky-high level which they reached under the Tory Government or to the reasonable level at which they kept under the Labour Government?

Mr. Brooke

I realise that they were kept artificially low under the Labour Government, which was a primary cause of the inflation which cursed the country at that time. The point which I put to the Committee is that this seems to the Government, and I believe to all reasonable people, essentially the kind of expenditure which should be judged on its own merits by the elected representatives of the people.

The hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks) raised the question of county districts. County districts will be more fairly treated than hitherto under the new system of deficiency grants, but I agree that the general grant will be paid to the county council. The assistance thereby given to the county council helps the whole of the county by reducing the amount of the county precept below what it would otherwise be, and certainly the county council will have power to make an ad hoc contribution to any county district which is embarking on redevelopment of a blighted area, if it can convince the county council that it is justifiable in the general interest of the county that such a contribution should be made.

Mr. Sparks

There are 27 county districts in the Middlesex County Council, and the great majority of them are not affected by the necessity for redevelopment. If the county receives the general grant it may well be that no portion of that will be appropriated for the specific benefit of one, two or three out of the 27 county district councils. That is a problem which the county council will have to face. Unless the right hon. Gentleman can provide means whereby county councils will give a certain proportion of that general grant to an older part of the county where this work is necessary, I think he will find that in practice they will give no specific grant for this purpose to a county district and that whatever they receive will be accepted and used generally for the benefit of the whole county rather than of one or two districts.

Mr. Brooke

It will depend on the wisdom of the county council. I realise that Middlesex County Council is under a temporary cloud, but that will be lifted in three years time and a more enlightened policy will be pursued. I think that across the Floor of the Committee we must proceed on the assumption that county councils, however much we criticise them from time to time, are generally reasonable bodies and are anxious by and large to try to assist the county districts throughout the county to solve their own problems. They recognise that some county districts can more easily be self-supporting and finance out of their own resources all that needs to be done than can others which are inherently poorer.

I have discussed this very matter with the local authority associations. I have discussed it with them personally since the Bill was introduced. I do not say that I have their support in resisting this Amendment, but I think that I am entitled to say that it is recognised in the local authority world that this kind of redevelopment is a very difficult type to assist by way of percentage grant without a most vexatious intervention in the affairs of the authority. It is not just a matter of paying for a new building or meeting the cost of a new road or anything like that. Clearly, if the central Government are paying a percentage grant towards the redevelopment of a blighted area, the paying Department will wish to satisfy itself that the work is called for, that the general conception is not extravagant, that there is no waste of money and also that the urgency is such that the work ought to be undertaken.

4.45 p.m.

That is exactly the kind of meddling inquisitiveness into the affairs of local government that we on this side want if we can to eliminate, and it certainly strikes us that this is just the type of expenditure where a specific grant is almost impossible to administer without very close and annoying questioning of what a local authority is seeking to do——

Mr. D. Jones

Surely, this meddling of which the right hon. Gentleman talks takes place in the initial stages. I have already given one instance of one plan that was delayed for seven years as a result of what he has described as fiddling and meddling. I pointed out that because of a request by a predecessor of his to the local authority to revise its financial arrangements the plan was delayed for about seven years. The Minister now describes that as fiddling and meddling, but even if his views prevail he will still want plans and will be able to fiddle and meddle as he likes without paying for it.

Mr. Brooke

I have not been able to refresh my memory on the details of the West Hartlepool matter, but my recollection is that the question at issue there was a general one on the broad type of lay-out which was desirable, but when it comes to paying percentage grant, the paying department would want to know much more than that. It would want to see the proposals and it would want to check the accounts in detail and satisfy itself that each item on which it was asked to pay 50 per cent. was in no way extravagant and was also urgent. It is at that stage rather than in the initial planning that I think the inquiries become vexatious and troublesome.

It is on grounds like these that I want to put to the Committee that it really would be contrary to the general run of the Bill if we were to exclude the cost of redevelopment of blighted areas from the working of the general grant. The Government's approach here is different from that of the Opposition's. We think that we should put in the general grant an amount, which I have no doubt will, for a considerable period be an increasing amount, to provide for the redevelopment work which will have to be put in hand by one local authority after another. We think, however, that this is exactly the sort of work where a local authority should decide its own timing in relation to local need and local public opinion, and that it should have the benefit of the increased sums in the general grant with which it can finance this work if need be.

Birmingham is probably the outstanding case at present where it might be felt that unfairness was done, but I have, at any rate, the defence of being able to say that Birmingham looks like being a gaining rather than a losing authority from the scheme as a whole. It is on these grounds that I must advise the Committee to resist the Amendment. I beg those hon. Members who still feel that they have a strong case to ask themselves how it comes about, in practice, that local authorities show themselves able and willing to carry out work that is of value to the community, without any question of there being any specific percentage grant for that purpose at all.

Mr. Mitchison

What we are considering at the moment is comprehensive development, and that, under Section 5 of the 1947 Act, is of two kinds: one is blitz development, and the other is what the right hon. Gentleman called blight development. Blitz development accounts for about six-sevenths of the present expenditure, and what the Minister is trying to do is to continue a special grant for that purpose, but to refuse to continue a special grant for the blight development. I can only tell the right hon. Gentleman that this is the case which the Urban District Councils' Association, at any rate, selected as the grant that it would particularly like to continue, and I cannot accept his statement as to the views of the local authority associations on the matter——

Mr. H. Brooke

I was very careful not to claim that the Government had the support of the local authority associations in this matter. All I said was that I had discussed it with them, and that I thought there was a wide understanding in the local authority world that this was a difficult grant to administer if it were on a percentage basis.

Mr. Mitchison

I am not contradicting the right hon. Gentleman, but supplementing him by telling him that this was the grant that the Association picked out for continuance.

What is this comprehensive development? It is for the purpose of dealing satisfactorily with conditions of bad layout or obsolete development. As my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) has pointed out to me, if one wants to know what that means one need only look at the Front Bench opposite. They are an excellent example of bad lay-out and obsolete development. However, what we are considering here is the particular problem of bad lay-out and obsolete development in our towns and countryside.

This is not, of course, slum clearance but, as the right hon. Gentleman rightly pointed out, it is very close to it, and in a great many cases it will include slum clearance. On the right hon. Gentleman's argument, he should never have continued the slum clearance subsidy, but should have removed it with the other housing subsidies. He continued the slum clearance subsidy because he recognised, and quite rightly, that the slums ought to be cleared, and ought to be cleared either by clearing them house by house or in clearance areas—and those are the two forms of slum clearance.

The difficulty is not quite that, but what is called, and rightly, bad lay-out and obsolete development. The one can be just as bad as the other. They are extremely similar, and it is wholly illogical to deal specially with slum clearance and to refuse to deal especially with bad lay-out and obsolete development. I shall not push the metaphor any further: but whether, as it were, the right hon. and hon. Gentlemen in the Government are unfit to govern, or can be made fit to govern at a reasonable cost, is a question which would arise in slum clearance rather than in comprehensive development. The Minister will see how close the conditions in the two cases are. It is absolutely illogical to say that this is a matter than can be dealt with as part of the general grant and, at the same time, to deal specially with slum clearance. That is a very narrow point of view.

Let us go one stage further. At present, of course, this is quite a small sum, and it is generally recognised, not only by the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends but by all of us, I hope, in the Committee, that it ought to extend, and will extend, and that, just as we get the creation of new town centres, new layouts and so forth, in the blitzed towns, so, in the blighted towns that have been blitzed by the industrial revolution, in due course we will get the same thing.

There is no real difference. The only difference is that the incidence of war damage has been something so sudden, so obvious and so striking, that there has been done there, and done, in this case, with the help of a special grant, something which equally needs to be done in most of the large industrial towns. But it is said by the right hon. Gentleman, "Oh, no, this is not a special problem but a general one. It will affect everyone."

Let me remind him that this block grant of his is going to rural districts and to urban districts that are not of the character that requires such a grant as this, and that it is wholly untrue to say that the incidence of this particular trouble is general all over the country. It is the old industrial towns that we are considering. Yesterday, we were considering the 13 merry mutineers from the seaside resorts—when, incidentally, there was a larger attendance than there has been on this matter until the last few minutes, but this is a far more important business for the future of the country than the question of whether other towns should or should not make some contribution towards the rates of the seaside towns.

This is a question that has a national character. As a community, we are responsible for getting rid of these conditions in the cities that have been blighted by the growth of the industrial revolution and the inadequacies of the capitalist structure of the country, just as much as we are responsible for making good the damage which has been done by the war. That is what obsolete development and all the rest of it means.

Hitherto, it has been carried on by a special grant Now, it is said that that is a tiresome, pernickety interference—I forget the right hon. Gentleman's exact words. We have heard the same sort of stuff so often that one does not remember the exact language. We heard it on Second Reading, when it was pointed out—and I will say no more than that it was pointed out—that those who ought to know, the treasurers of local authorities, have, in fact, investigated this question and have come to exactly the opposite conclusion; that there is no appreciable amount of troublesome interference involved in the financial control of these general grants.

As my hon. Friends rightly said just now, this is a matter that necessarily falls under the close scrutiny of the right hon. Gentleman himself, because it is a national responsibility. Local authorities can have these grants only for work in connection with a development plan. That development plan has to be approved by the Minister and is subject to whatever modifications he cares to make. Five years afterwards there is to be another development plan and that, again, has to be approved by him. He knows perfectly well that this is not a general or a formal approval, but an approval that involves going into a very great deal of detail, indeed. Many of the modifications proposed by the Minister are no doubt quite minor ones—no doubt for good purposes, but by no means sweeping matters. There is detailed control then.

As to financial control, what does the Minister think district auditors are for? Of course this expenditure will be controlled, anyhow, and controlled closely, and to suggest that a good reason for aggregating is that his responsibility in these matters will continue, as will his responsibility for slum clearance, but that there is a substantial difference in the amount of control between the old method and the new, seems to me to be one of those arguments by the book which attracts little support in this Committee. And if he cannot think of anything better, what is the object of all this?

I come back to this. I have never seen obstinate idolatry carried so far as the right hon. Gentlemen's subservience to the idea of the block grant. I have been looking through the proceedings on the Bill, and, so far as I can make out, the right hon. Gentleman has conceded two points, and only two, to the Opposition. He has allowed us to substitute the word "increase" for the word "change," on the understanding that that is what "change" meant, anyhow; and he has allowed us to put into the Bill, or is to put it in at our request, a stipulation that one member of the Welsh Local Government Commission shall be Welsh-speaking, on the understanding that he would have done that in any case.

That is the sum of the right hon. Gentleman's concessions to the Opposition. I have never known anyone so sublimely confident not only that he was right in principle, not only that he could never be wrong in principle, but that any suggestion of any kind whatever that was made to him must necessarily be misconceived and erroneous.

5.0 p.m.

Mr. Probert

I am sure that my hon. and learned Friend will wish to be magnanimous to the right hon. Gentleman. He did agree to exclude the special review areas from Wales.

Mr. Mitchison

I forgot that, but then, of course, it was on the assumption that there could not possibly be one. I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon. I would indeed wish to be generous to him. But I do not withdraw one word of the general criticisms which I have been making of his attitude towards our Amendment, nor do we withdraw from our determination to press it to a Division as soon as possible.

Question put, That those words be there inserted in the proposed Amendment:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 209. Noes 249.

Division No. 115.] AYES [5.1 p.m.
Ainsley, J. W. Hannan, W. Palmer, A. M. F.
Albu, A. H. Harrison, J. (Nottingham, N.) Panned, Charles (Leeds, W.)
Allen, Arthur (Bosworth) Hastings, S. Parker, J.
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Hayman, F. H. Parkin, B. T.
Awbery, S. S. Healey, Denis Pearson, A.
Bacon, Miss Alice Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis) Peart, T. F.
Balfour, A. Herbison, Miss M. Pentland, N.
Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J. Hewitson, Capt. M. Popplewell, E.
Bence, C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.) Hobson, C. R. (Keighley) Prentice, R. E.
Benson, Sir George Holman, P. Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)
Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale) Holt, A. F. Probert, A. R.
Boardman, H. Houghton, Douglas Proctor, W. T.
Bonham Carter, Mark Howell, Charles (Perry Barr) Pryde, D. J.
Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G. Howell, Denis (All Saints) Randall, H. E.
Bowden, H. W. (Leicester, S.W.) Hoy, J. H. Rankin, John
Bowen, E. R. (Cardigan) Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey) Redhead, E. C.
Bowles, F. G. Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Reeves, J.
Boyd, T. C. Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Reid, William
Brockway, A. F. Hunter, A. E. Rhodes, H.
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Hynd, H. (Accrington) Robens, Rt. Hon. A.
Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper) Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe) Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Brown, Thomas (Ince) Irving, Sydney (Dartford) Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Burke, W. A. Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A. Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)
Burton, Miss F. E. Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T. Ross, William
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Jeger,Mrs.Lena(Holbn&St.Pancs,S.) Short, E. W.
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Johnson James (Rugby) Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)
Castle, Mrs. B. A. Jones,Rt.Hon.A.Creech(Wakefield) Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke, N.)
Champion, A. J. Jones, David (The Hartlepools) Slater, J. (Sedgefield)
Chetwynd, G. R. Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Snow, J. W.
Clunie, J. Jones, T. W, (Merioneth) Sorensen, R. W.
Coldrick, W. Kenyon, C. Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead) Key, Rt. Hon. C. W. Sparks, J. A.
Collins, V.J.(Shoreditch & Finsbury) King, Dr. H. M. Steele, T.
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Lawson, G. M. Stewart, Michael (Fulham)
Cove, W. G. Ledger, R. J. Stones, W. (Consett)
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Lee, Frederick (Newton) Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.
Crossman, R. H. S. Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock) Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)
Cullen, Mrs. A. Lipton, Marcus Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.
Darling, George (Hillsborough) Logan, D. G. Swingler, S. T.
Davies,Rt.Hon.Clement(Montgomery) Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Sylvester, G. O.
Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.) McAlister, Mrs. Mary Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Davies, Stephen (Merthyr) McCann, J. Taylor, John (West Lothian)
Deer, G, MacColl, J. E. Thomas, George (Cardiff)
de Freitas, Geoffrey McGhee, H. G. Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)
Diamond, John McKay, John (Wallsend) Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. McLeavy, Frank Thornton, E.
Edelman, M. MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)
Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse) MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling) Timmons, J.
Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly) Mahon, Simon Tomney, F.
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Usborne, H. C.
Edwards, W. J. (Stepney) Mann, Mrs. Jean Viant, S. P.
Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.) Mason, Roy Wade, D. W.
Mellish, R. J. Watkins, T. E.
Evans, Edward (Lowestoft) Messer, Sir F. Weitzman, D.
Fernyhough, E. Mikardo, Ian Wells, Percy (Faversham)
Finch, H. J. Mitchison, G. R. West, D. G.
Foot, D. M. Monslow, W. Wheeldon, W. E.
Forman, J. C. Moody, A. S. White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)
Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.) Wigg, George
Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N. Morrison,Rt.Hn.Herbert(Lewis'm,S.) Willey, Frederick
Gibson, C. W. Mort, D. L. Williams, David (Neath)
Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C. Moyle, A. Williams, Rev. Liywelyn (Ab'tillery)
Greenwood, Anthony Mulley, F. W. Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)
Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R. Neal, Harold (Bolsover) Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)
Grey, C. F. Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon) Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Oliver, G. H. Winterbottom, Richard
Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly) Oram, A. E. Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Griffiths, William (Exchange) Oswald, T. Woof, R. E.
Grimond, J. Owen, W. J. Younger, Rt. Hon. K.
Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley) Paget, R. T.
Hamilton, W. W. Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Mr. Rogers and Mr. Simmons.
Agnew, Sir Peter Gower, H. R. Marlowe, A. A. H.
Aitken, W. T. Graham, Sir Fergus Marshall, Douglas
Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.) Grant, W. (Woodside) Mathew, R.
Alport, C. J. M. Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R. (Nantwich) Maudling, Rt. Hon. R.
Amery, Julian (Preston, N.) Green, A. Mawby, R. L.
Amory, Rt. Hn. Heathcoat (Tiverton) Gresham Cooke, R. Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.
Anstruther-Gray, Major Sir William Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans) Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R.
Arbuthnot, John Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury) Molson, Rt. Hon. Hugh
Armstrong, C. W. Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G. Moore, Sir Thomas
Atkins, H. E. Hall, John (Wycombe) Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles
Baldwin, A. E. Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.) Nabarro, G. D. N.
Balniel, Lord Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye) Nairn, D. L. S.
Barlow, Sir John Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.) Neave, Airey
Barter, John Hay, John Nicholson, sir Godfrey (Farnham)
Baxter, Sir Beverley Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel Nicolson, N. (B'n'm'th, E. & Chr'ch)
Beamish, Col. Tufton Heath, Rt. Hon. E. R. G. Noble, Come[...] Rt. Hon. Allan
Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.) Henderson-Stewart, Sir James Nugent, G. R. H.
Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.) Hesketh, R. F. Oakshott, H. D.
Bennett, F. M. (Torquay) Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W. O'Neill, Hn. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)
Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth) Hill, Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton) Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. W. D.
Bidgood, J. C. Hinchingbrooke, Viscount Orr, Capt. L. P. S.
Biggs-Davison, J. A. Hirst, Geoffrey Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)
Bingham, R. M. Holland-Martin, C. J. Osborne, C.
Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel Hope, Lord John Page, R. G.
Bishop, F. P. Hornby, R. P. Partridge, E.
Black, C. W. Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P. Peel, W. J.
Body, R. F. Horobin, Sir Ian Peyton, J. W. W.
Bossom, Sir Alfred Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Dame Florence Pickthorn, K. W. M.
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A. Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire) Pike, Miss Mervyn
Boyle, Sir Edward Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives) Pilkington, Capt. R. A.
Braine, B. R. Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.) Pitman, I. J.
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H. Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral J. Pitt, Miss E. M.
Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry Hurd, A. R. Powell, J. Enoch
Brooman-White, R. c. Hutchison,MichaelClark(E'b'gh, S.) Price, David (Eastleigh)
Browne, J. Nixon (Craigton) Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark(E'b'gh,W.) Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.
Burden, F. F. A. Hutchison, Sir James (Scotstoun) Ramsden, J. E.
Butcher, Sir Herbert Hyde, Montgomery Redmayne, M.
Butler, Rt. Hn.R.A.(Saffron Walden) Hylton-Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Harry Remnant, Hon. P.
Campbell, Sir David Iremonger, T. L. Renton, D. L. M.
Carr, Robert Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich) Ridsdale, J. E.
Chichester-Clark, R. Jennings, J. C. (Burton) Rippon, A. G. F.
Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.) Jennings, Sir Roland (Hallam) Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)
Cooke, Robert Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle) Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard
Cooper, A. E. Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.
Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K. Joseph, Sir Keith Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.
Corfield, Capt. F. V. Joynson-Hicks, Hon. Sir Lancelot Sharples, R. C.
Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne) Kerby, Capt. H. B. Shepherd, William
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Kerr, sir Hamilton Smithers, Peter (Winchester)
Crowder, Sir John (Finchley) Kershaw, J. A. Smyth, Brig, sir John (Norwood)
Cunningham, Knox Kimball, M. Spearman, Sir Alexander
Dance, J. C. G. Kirk, P. M. Speir, R. M.
Davidson, Viscountess Lagden, G. W. Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard
Deedes, W. F. Lambton, Viscount Stevens, Geoffrey
Dodds-Parker, A. D. Lancaster, Col. C. G. Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm
Doughty, C. J. A. Langford-Holt, J. A. Storey, S.
Dray son, G. B. Leavey, J. A. Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)
du Cann, E. D. L. Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H. Studholme, Sir Henry
Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond) Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield) Summers, Sir Spencer
Duncan, Sir James Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T. Summer, W. D. M. (Orpington)
Duthie, W. S. Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.) Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West) Lindsay, Martin (Solihull) Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)
Elliott,R.W.(Ne'castle upon Tyne,N.) Linstead, Sir H. N. Teeling, W.
Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn Llewellyn, D. T. Temple, John M.
Errington, Sir Eric Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.) Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)
Farey-Jones, F. W. Longden, Gilbert Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)
Fell, A. Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.) Thompson, R. (Croydon, S.)
Finlay, Graeme Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. P.
Fisher, Nigel McAdden, S. J. Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin
Fletcher-Cooke, C. Macdonald, Sir Peter Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)
Fort, R. Mackeson, Brig. Sir Harry Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.
Foster, John Mackie, J. H. (Galloway) Tweedsmuir, Lady
Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone) McLaughlin, Mrs. P. Vane, W. M. F.
Freeth, Denzil Maclean, Sir Fitzroy (Lancaster) Vickers, Miss Joan
Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D. McLean, Neil (Inverness) Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Gammans, Lady MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty) Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)
Garner-Evans, E. H. Macmillan,Rt.Hn.Harold(Bromley) Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Derek
George, J. C. (Pollok) Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax) Wall, Patrick
Gibson-Watt, D. Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries) Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)
Glyn, Col. Richard H. Maddan, Martin Watkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold
Godber, J. B. Maitland,Cdr.J.F.W.(Horncastle) Webbe, Sir H.
Gough, C. F. H. Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R. Whitelaw, W. S. I.
Williams, paul (sunderland, S.) Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter) Wood, Hon. R. Mr. Bryan and Mr. Hughes-Young.
Wills, G. (Bridgwater) Yates, William (The Wrekin)

Question again proposed, That the proposed words be there inserted.

Mr. Probert

I am much obliged to you, Sir Charles, for your guidance earlier in our proceedings.

The question that I have to put refers to paragraph 1 (d) of the Minister's proposed Amendment, which states: in pursuance of a scheme under section ten of the Employment and Training Act, 1948. Some people are in doubt about the application of this provision, in view of Part II of the Bill which proposes that the reorganisation of local government services shall take place, and within that reorganisation it is possible for new county boroughs to be constituted.

Section 10 (5) of the Employment and Training Act, 1948, states that No scheme shall be approved … under this section unless it is submitted to him"— that is, to the Minister of Labour— within six months after the commencement of this Act. What is the position of the new county boroughs which, presumably, will take over the educational functions which were carried on beforehand by a county? Will they enjoy the same privileges of being able to submit schemes for youth employment services?

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education (Sir Edward Boyle)

This provision covers a very narrow point. Under Section 10 of the 1948 Act local education authorities can incur expenditure on administering youth employment services under schemes approved by the Minister of Labour. This expenditure attracts a separate grant and it is proposed to continue this grant as at present. I will take note of the point which the hon. Member has raised, and if I think there is anything further that I ought to explain I will write to him on the point.

Mr. Probert

I want to stress the fact that the authorities would have to submit a scheme within six months of the passing of the 1948 Act. As things stand now it is not possible to do so. I hope that the Minister will bear that in mind.

Sir E. Boyle

I think it is all right, but I will look at it and write to the hon. Member.

Mr. Mitchison

But I wonder whether it can be all right. A scheme has to be submitted, under Section 10 (5) of the 1948 Act, within six months after the commencement of this Act. Of course, that may have been amended, and the Amendment may have escaped my notice, but what about a new authority that arises under this Measure? I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be able to assure us that in the case of a new authority he will provide an opportunity similar to that which would have existed if the authority had been in existence before 1948.

Sir E. Boyle

I think I understand the point, and to the best of my belief I think that I can give the assurance for which I am asked.

Proposed words there inserted.

Sir E. Boyle

I beg to move, in page 48, line 48, to leave out from "taking" to the end of line 49 and to insert: teachers' training or further training courses". This is practically a drafting Amendment. Paragraph 1 (4, b) as it stands covers initial courses for students training to be teachers and courses of further training for teachers who are already trained. It is doubtful whether it would permit local education authorities to pool salaries and grants paid to teachers serving in technical colleges who had not previously undergone courses in technical training and who were seconded to technical courses. I am thinking of teachers who may be seconded for a year to a special kind of course. It is in order to close this gap that these words are being inserted. There is no intention whatever of any change of policy.

5.15 p.m.

Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham)

I should like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary one question. Will this mean, for example, that if a local authority permits or encourages a teacher in its employment to go on a course of further training, to acquire, perhaps, a fresh qualification, and either makes him a grant or pays him his salary during that period, and at the end of the course he returns to its service, the local authority will be able to pool the resultant expenditure, although the teacher is, as it were, the authority's teacher, both at the beginning and at the end of the process?

Sir E. Boyle

As I understand the position, that is exactly the point of the Amendment.

Amendment agreed to

Mr. M. Stewart

I beg to move, in page 49, line 6, at the end to insert: (e) in granting scholarships, exhibitions, bursaries and other allowances to students (not being persons taking courses of training to become teachers or courses of further training) pursuing further education of an advanced character. We come now to an Amendment the principle of which was discussed in Committee and the importance of which was not disputed then and will not be disputed now. It concerns the awards made by local authorities to those of our young people who are to pursue courses of further education at universities or like institutions. That topic has attracted widespread interest in recent years with the growing number of young people going to universities.

Some years ago, there was considerable and justified criticism of the fact that the arrangements made by local authorities varied considerably from one authority to another. Quite apart from any opinion one might have held as to whether any authority made an adequate scale of allowance or whether its arrangements for taking into account any contribution that the parents might make were desirable, it was a point of criticism that the arrangements varied considerably from one local authority to another.

More recently, there has been a tendency for those variations between one authority and another to decline. More authorities have been adopting scales which are, at least, less unsatisfactory than what they had before. There is less variation than there was; but variation certainly has not entirely disappeared. Even if it is maintained that we would not necessarily want complete uniformity on this matter, we still do not have even that degree of resemblance between the practice of one authority and the practice of another that is in the national interest.

Where variations occur, they are likely to create a great deal of vexation and a considerable sense of injustice. The young people who come together at the university, college, or whatever it may be, naturally compare notes about how their various authorities have treated them. Parents also compare notes and, where these divergencies occur, they are a subject of considerable vexation. Beyond that, it is by no means in the national interest.

University places are still not as numerous as the national interest requires them to be. As long as that is so, it is desirable that they are used by young people who will use them to full advantage. There is less likelihood of getting that result if one's chance of being able to take up a university place varies not merely with one's fitness to be at a university, but with the degree of public spirit of one's local authority. That is the matter with which we are dealing.

We on this side would much prefer not to see the money that is spent in this way subject to block grant provision. We know, however, that the Government are immovable on that point. We therefore suggest that they should apply to expenditure on awards to students a device which mitigates the effect of the block grant and a device which, as the Schedule shows, the Government themselves have been prepared to adopt for several other matters.

When we discussed the matter in Committee, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education sought to argue that the topic of awards by local authorities to university students was not suited for pooling. Paraphrasing the hon. Gentleman's remarks as reported in column 1470 of the OFFICIAL REPORT, he laid down two conditions which a service should fulfil if pooling were appropriate. He said that it should be of a national rather than a local character. I am bound to say that this particular service passes that test.

A university is certainly not regarded as a local institution. The question of the proper use of university places is not merely a matter of local importance. A local authority that does not deal with this matter satisfactorily does not injure only itself. In another connection, the Minister recently quoted such matters as street lighting. It is true that a local authority which neglected its street lighting would not only inconvenience itself, but the inconvenience that it would suffer would immediately be obvious and plain. That analogy does not apply equally in this case. It would be possible for a local authority to be unpublic-spirited with regard to this service and the only result that its citizens would see was that it was not spending quite so much of its rates. The injury would be longer-term, more diffuse and national in character. We must regard this as a service possessing not only a local and regional aspect, but an important national aspect as well.

The second condition that the Parliamentary Secretary laid down was that the service should be one in which one local authority was helping to pay for a service partly rendered by another. I ask the hon. Gentleman to consider the answer he gave concerning his own drafting Amendment, to which the Committee has just agreed. It was clear from his Amendment, and the Committee has accepted, that a local authority which has a teacher in its own employment and which wishes to enable that teacher to take a further qualification, after which he will return to that authority's employment, can pool the expenditure to which it is put for that purpose.

It may be true that the training college to which the teacher goes is in the area of another local authority—incidentally, it might not necessarily be a local authority institution at all—but in a case like that, the local authority is not making any payment or rendering any service to another local authority which would justify pooling; it is dealing with its own part of the education service. Yet the Government apparently regard that as a suitable subject for pooling. This second condition, therefore, that the Parliamentary Secretary gave in Committee is not universally applied and I do not, therefore, see why it should be produced as an argument against the pooling of awards to university students.

There is much more that one could rehearse in argument on this matter. I do not propose to do that. Those of us who were on the Standing Committee discussed the matter fairly fully there. Although, no doubt, hon. Members who did not serve on the Committee will want to express views on the main question, I do not think it desirable for those who argued there to argue it again here in exactly the same terms. In the main, therefore, I have confined myself to answering the argument put up by the Parliamentary Secretary in Committee.

The hon. Gentleman said that two conditions were required before expenditure was pooled. The first was that the matter should be of a national rather than of a local or regional character. The matter that we are now discussing passes that test. Secondly, he said that it should be a matter in which one local authority was rendering some kind of service to another. As I have shown, however, the hon. Gentleman does not universally apply that condition. It does not apply to the part of the Schedule immediately preceding the part we are now discussing. The hon. Gentleman should not, therefore, press that, because it was a tenuous reason anyway, against the pooling of expenditure of this kind.

Moreover, this matter should not be dismissed by a mere recitation of certain principles that the Government have formed in their own mind about how this whole block grant principle should work. It surely is not absolutely necessary for the Government to say, "We have framed certain principles about local government finance. We deduce from that certain corollaries, and if anything cannot be made to fit into that theoretical framework of ours we have no sympathy with it."

I ask the Government to realise what they are doing. They are introducing a new system of local government finance, particularly new for education. It has been subject to the severest criticism by almost everybody who is concerned for the education service, and the point to which I am now directing myself has had probably more criticism than almost any other point. In view of that, can the Government be so dead certain that they are right? Can the Parliamentary Secretary or anybody point out any real injury that would be done to good administration or sound finance by pooling the expenditure of this kind? If he cannot, as I do not think he can, is it prudent to do something which is opposed by practically the whole of educational opinion, when all he need do is to say, "We have got our way over the main principle, we have got our way over the whole education service, but we do not wish to be obstinate. In view of the strong feeling, from all sorts of political quarters, on this matter, we would be willing to proceed experimentally and at least let this be a pooled service, as are some services already in the Bill."

From the point of view of legislation and principle, it is a very modest concession that we are asking from the Government, something that only obstinacy can refuse. From the point of view of the nation and the people concerned with the best use of its university facilities, it may be a very important point indeed. I ask the Government to bear that in mind before they repeat the refusal that they gave us on this point in Standing Committee.

Dr. Horace King (Southampton, Itchen)

The Amendment deals with just one aspect of a tremendously important problem—the selection and maintenance of students at the university and the number of places at the university—but even if it is only one aspect, it is a quite important one. The Amendment would lift the remaining four-fifths of university places out of the control of the block grant. It would pool them and it would share the cost in an equitable way among the local authorities.

I believe that a local university is a contradiction in terms. By all means let a university have links with the locality. By all means let it continue to develop and expand, as local universities have expanded, by the generosity of local benefactors. Let a local university take on certain tinges from the locality in which it exists, but any university is in its very name and nature universal and, as with John Wesley, the world is its parish. We recognise that as far as university finance is concerned. We accept that as a simple truth. The nation is financing the universities, not the local education authorities. But we do not recognise it in the way in which we finance university students. Local authorities still decide to a considerable extent—probably a greater extent than hon. Members realise—who shall go to university and how a student shall be financed during the years he is at university.

5.30 p.m.

A number of undergraduates find their way into university through State scholarships and open and closed scholarships.

If they can pay fees, university acceptance is enough, but that accounts for about one-fifth of the students at any time in the university. They are decided purely by academic university tests. No one factor comes into it at all. The factors are national and universal. But of the number of places in 1953 that the previous Parliamentary Secretary gave in a debate in 1954, 80 per cent. of the students were at university on local education authority awards. In the Ministry of Education's Report last year, the number of new students at university for 1955 are as follows: by State scholarships 935; by supplementary State aid—which means a university award which the State is supplementing—1,181, making a total of 2,116 nationally awarded places. The local education authorities were financially responsible in the same year for 13,430.

On the national side, the one-fifth, there is something like uniformity. On the local authority side, the four-fifths, the disparities are still alarming. In a debate on 17th November, 1954, I called the attention of the House to some of those disparities. For the year 1953, the national average of university places per 10,000 of population was 16.5. However, in that year the figures for a number of local authorities were as follows: Dorset, 6.7; Hampshire, 12.9; Durham, 20; London, 10.1; Middlesex, 19.6; Surrey, 26; Southampton, 17.7; and the Isle of Wight, 7.7. If we take the largest figure and compare it with the smallest, children under one authority had a quarter the chance of securing a local education authority place at the university than the children being educated in another local education authority. If we take another test, the amount spent per head by a local authority on university awards to its children, we find that in 1952–53 Dorset spent 3s. 2d. per head, Hampshire 2s. 6d. per head, Durham 5s. 0½d. per head, London 1s. 11d. per head, Middlesex 4s. 11½d. per head, and Southampton 5s. 6½d. per head.

I am willing to admit that those figures taken by themselves would be misleading. I spend some time each year reviewing the variations that exist. An authority which is low one year may be high the next. Some local education authorities are consistently good and generous in their university awards, and some are consistently ungenerous. Moreover, even these figures show that the rich authority, the mighty authority, the large authority, like London, can do almost twice as much for its children at half the cost as a smaller and poorer authority.

There is variety as between authority and authority in the amount spent on university awards and in the number of university awards made. I refuse to believe that that is because the children of Dorset, for instance, are less intelligent than the children of London. There is variety too in the criteria that local authorities use to select children for university awards. All candidates take their school certificate at advanced level. One authority will accept two passes at advanced level, another will insist on two good passes at advanced level, and one will insist on three passes, another on three good passes at advanced level. Several authorities have taken as a simple criterion the fact that if a candidate is accepted by a university that in itself is sufficient, whatever he has done at advanced level. This method has its dangers. Some authorities subject potential university students to a personal interview. I have often expressed in this House my uneasiness about the factors that go into assessing by personal interview a candidate's qualities for a university place.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, South)


Dr. King

May I give the classic example of a Berkshire boy who was turned down for an award by his local authority four or five years ago and then proceeded to win a State scholarship and went to university. He was regarded by the local authority as not fit for the lesser and humbler way of entering university, but proved that he was able to win a place by the most aristocratic method of entry, namely, by winning a State scholarship. So there is variety in the number and variety in the criteria and then, which is very serious indeed for the young university student, variety in the amount of money which a local authority will give to the young undergraduate.

We have moved tremendously in these past years. The Minister himself and his predecessors have instituted a national model scale for the financial aid that a local authority is expected to provide to a university student, but not every local authority has yet accepted the scale. There is always a time lag between the Minister changing the university model scale and the acceptance of it by local authorities. I speak from acute personal experience in this matter. Quite a time ago I went to university on a county major award by the local authority of Durham. If I had been born in Hampshire I should not have had a university education. I owe my university education to the fact that the Durham County Council 30 or 40 years ago led the country in its progressive attitude in the sending of young boys to university. I have never forgotten what I owe to the Labour-Liberal majority on the Durham County Council 30 or 40 years ago. But some authorities until quite recently were not only providing niggardly university awards; they were even lending the money to students. Last year I spoke at a meeting of teachers. I was talking about the progress we have made in university awards, and I was told that a member of the teaching profession was still paying back the loan that the local authority had insisted on making a condition of getting to university.

As has been pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart), when students go up to university they compare notes. I know from considerable experience of contact with university students how humiliated and how deeply wronged they feel when they find that somebody else with exactly the same claim for a university education has a much more generous award and finds his university career a little less irksome from the economic point of view because he was sent there by one authority whereas they, unfortunately, were sent by an ungenerous authority.

We are moving towards parity on all these grounds. The discrepancies between the worst and the best authorities are less at this moment of history than ever before. The block grant obviously contains a potential threat to students from local education authorities which have a bad record. If the ungenerous local authority is not prepared to accept the Ministerial scale and is not prepared to accept an enlightened policy in the number of awards that it makes when the Government give a percentage grant towards financing what it spends on those university students, then obviously the ungenerous authority will be less inclined to be generous when it has to find the whole of the money outside its block grant.

The Amendment is merely another example of our general argument that the amount of the general grant for university awards should be based on the national average. Any local authority which spends more than the national average on university awards will have to do so out of its own money. Any authority which spends less than the national average will make a profit out of the grant at the expense of the average authority and at the expense of the generous authority.

University students at present are enduring great hardship. I congratulate the Minister of Education on the interest that he is showing in the claim that the National Union of Students is putting to him on behalf of all students for increased financial aid during their university years. The Minister has a committee considering this matter, and I hope that it will in time report generously. But if it makes a national and general recommendation for increased awards and retains the university award inside the block grant system, then, while the best authorities will wholeheartedly accept whatever comes from the Minister of Education, the mean authority will be financially encouraged by the block grant to disregard the proposal of the Minister.

There should be one set of criteria for deciding whether a young man or young woman should go to university. Certainly geography should have nothing to do with it, nor should the local authority. First, we want to know whether the student is fit for a university place. Sooner or later we will have to tackle that question on a more scientific basis than we are at the moment. The universities will have to show much more responsibility in this connection than they have been willing to show up to now.

The second matter on which there ought to be a national uniform standard is what it costs a young university student to live. Having worked out that figure, every local authority should be encouraged to follow it. The best way of encouraging a local authority to follow it is the way that we propose in the Amendment, namely, to take the amount of finance needed to maintain a poor student at university, make it a national figure and then pool it among the local education authorities.

I sincerely hope that the Minister will accept the Amendment.

5.45 p.m.

Sir E. Boyle

We have had a thoughtful speech, as always, from the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Dr. King). The only possible criticism one could make of it is that it was, perhaps, in some respects a little bit out of date. There has been a far greater speed in the movement towards securing uniformity of awards since, for instance, 1952–53 than many people realise. I am assured that today disparities are almost confined to minor features of university awards. I particularly welcome the degree of uniformity which we have obtained among authorities in regard to the criteria upon which the making of awards is based. I am also told that local education authorities all over the country do now accept certain recommended figures for different universities. That, in itself, is a very big step forward.

Just to what extent this growth in uniformity in both awards and the amount of grants has been due to a percentage grant system is, obviously, a very difficult thing to estimate. Quite frankly, I shall not engage in controversy about that this afternoon. All I will say is that I do not believe that there is any reason at all to take it for granted that under the new grant system authorities will go back on the advances towards uniformity which have been achieved in recent years. I fully understand the very great concern there is about these matters, not only among hon. Members on both sides of the Committee, but also among many people outside. I will just add that, of course, the Minister's powers under Section 81 of the 1944 Act will still remain under the new Bill, and, in particular, what I would call the Minister's powers of persuasion and encourage-men will remain. It is my belief that in recent years these powers of constant persuasion and encouragement towards greater uniformity of standards, together with the pressure of public opinion, have played at least as great a part in securing a greater uniformity of practice as any grant system which could be in force.

The hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) who, if I may say so, like myself enjoys debating in this House and who does it with very great ability and agility, referred to the criteria for pooling which I stated in Committee upstairs. He said, quite correctly, that the two criteria on which I relied were, first, that local authorities should be providing what was, in effect, a national service, and secondly, that a certain number of authorities should be providing facilities for the use of others. I am not sure, however, that he absolutely took the point I was trying to make. It was not so much that the service was one of national importance, for I should certainly take the view that the whole of our education system right from primary school stage upwards is of equal national importance. For the assistance of the hon. Gentleman, he will find the passage in column 1475 of the OFFICIAL REPORT.

When I said that in order to qualify for pooling it should be a case where local authorities are providing what was, in effect, a national service, I was thinking primarily not just of the importance but of the cost, the fact that certain local authorities would be put to quite disproportionate cost in providing facilities from which the whole nation or, at any rate, certain other local authorities would benefit. That is why I do not think that there is any real inconsistency in providing, as the Government are providing, that there should be pooling in the case of facilities for advanced further education but not pooling in awards for advanced further education.

I rather thought that the hon. Member for Fulham might raise a point on the previous Amendment, and I think that it was perfectly fair that he should. He picked on an example of pooling which, obviously, is very near the borderline indeed, and I would not seek to deny that at all. On the other hand, I think that he will agree that it would obviously be extremely difficult administratively—it would really be impossible—and rather pointless to exclude ad hoc training courses from the whole bulk of teacher training courses. In my view, if we had adopted that procedure, we should have laid ourselves open to exactly the charge that he has frequently made against us, of deciding issues in accordance with dogma instead of in accordance with what is right and the best thing to do.

I do not think that the case for pooling awards has been sufficiently made out, and I must ask the Committee to reject the Amendment. At the same time, I should like to make it quite clear that we very warmly welcome the greater uniformity which has been achieved in recent years. We fully recognise the great importance of this far greater degree of uniformity, and we see no reason at all to suppose that there need be any falling off from it under the new grant system. My right hon. Friend's powers of persuasion and encouragement to this end will remain quite unaffected by the Bill.

Mr. M. Stewart

If we on this side do not press the matter further, it must not be taken as evidence that we do not regard it as important or that we are not very much disappointed with the Parliamentary Secretary's reply. Experience has shown that there comes a time when it is apparent that the Government are quite immovable, that it does not matter what argument one produces the answer will be exactly the same, even if they have to think of a new reason for it after one has done one's best to demolish the old one. The Parliamentary Secretary argued that by a national service he meant one which had to be provided in the national interest and in which a local authority might be put to an entirely disproportionate cost if it had to meet it on its own, and that that was the kind of service which he considered suitable for pooling.

There has been some improvement, as the Parliamentary Secretary himself pointed out, during a time when there has been a percentage grant. He is now embarking upon the totally new experiment of trying to finance these things on the block grant. Some local authorities would argue that there is a greater proportion of the population in their area likely to go to universities than the average of the country as a whole. Of course, any local authority which advances that argument will probably be subjected to a number of unkind comments from its neighbours, but it is conceivable that in certain instances it may be true.

It is often pointed out that there are great variations between counties in the number of children who go to grammar school, grammar school at present being the road to university, and an attempt is sometimes made to palliate or avoid the criticism by saying that one should not expect complete equality, that there will, perhaps, be more children suitable for it in some parts of the country than in others. That argument may, in future, be advanced with regard to the number of students sent to universities if the finance is to be found from an unpooled block grant.

All we were asking the Government was that they should not throw this particular thing in jeopardy just when it is showing improvement. It is a borderline case, like the one we have just discussed. All we ask the Government to do is to push the border out a little, and, as they have taken in the matter dealt with by the Parliamentary Secretary's previous Amendment, to take in this matter as well. Apparently, the Government are never prepared, on this Bill, to take a generous attitude towards any of the

criticisms which are made. It has not been possible to show that accepting the Amendment could conceivably do anybody any harm. It has not been possible to deny that refusing to accept the Amendment might do harm. In the circumstances, there is plainly a case for accepting it.

In view of the fact that we cannot move the Government by our arguments and they are, apparently, not moved by arguments advanced outside the House by people of all political opinions, we feel obliged to express our judgment of their attitude by asking the Committee to divide upon the Amendment.

Question put, That those words be there inserted:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 210, Noes 244.

Division No. 116.] AYES [5.54 p.m.
Ainsley, J. W. Evans, Edward (Lowestoft) King, Dr. H. M.
Albu, A. H. Fernyhough, E. Lawson, G. M.
Allen, Arthur (Bosworth) Finch, H. J. Ledger, R. J.
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Forman, J. C. Lee, Frederick (Newton)
Awbery, S. S. Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)
Bacon, Miss Alice Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N. Lipton, Marcus
Balfour, A. Gibson, C. W. Logan, D. G.
Bence, C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.) Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C. Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson
Benson, Sir George Greenwood, Anthony McAlister, Mrs. Mary
Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale) Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R. MacColl, J. E.
Boardman, H. Grey, C. F. McGhee, H. G.
Bonham Carter, Mark Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) McKay, John (Wallsend)
Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G. Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llane[...]ily) McLeavy, Frank
Bowden, H. W. (Leicester, S.W.) Griffiths, William (Exchange) MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)
Bowen, E. R. (Cardigan) Grimond, J. MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)
Bowles, F. G. Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley) Mahon, Simon
Boyd, T. C. Hamilton, W. W. Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)
Brockway, A. F. Hannan, W. Mann, Mrs. Jean
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Harrison, J. (Nottingham, N.) Mason, Roy
Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper) Hastings, S. Mellish, R. J.
Brown, Thomas (Ince) Hayman, F. H. Messer, Sir F.
Burke, W. A. Healey, Denis Mikardo, Ian
Burton, Miss F. E. Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis) Mitchison, G. R.
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, c.) Herblson, Miss M. Moody, A. S.
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Hewitson, Cap[...] M. Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)
Castle, Mrs. B. A. Hobson, C. R. (Keighley) Morrison,Rt.Hn.Herbert(Lewis'm,S.)
Champion, A. J. Holman, P. Mort, D. L.
Chetwynd, G. R. Holt, A. F. Moyle, A.
Clunie, J. Hough ton, Douglas Mulley, F. W.
Coldrick, W. Howell, Charles (Perry Barr) Neal, Harold (Bolsover)
Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead) Howell, Denis (All Saints) Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)
Collins, V.J. (Shoreditch & Finsbury) Hoy, J. H. Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. (Derby, S.)
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey) Oliver, G. H.
Cove, W. G. Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Oram, A. E.
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Owen, W. J.
Crossman, R. H. S, Hunter, A. E. Padley, W. E.
Cullen, Mrs. A. Hynd, H. (Accrington) Paget, R. T.
Dalton, Rt. Hon. H. Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe) Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)
Darling, George (Hillsborough) Irving, Sydney (Dartford) Palmer, A. M. F.
Davies,Rt.Hon.Clement(Montgomery) Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A. Pannell, Charles (Leeds, w.)
Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.) Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T. Pargiter, G. A.
Davies, Stephen (Merthyr) Jeger, George (Goole) Parker, J.
de Freitas, Geoffrey Jeger,Mrs.Lena(Holbn&St.Pancs,S.) Parkin, B. T.
Diamond, John Johnson James (Rugby) Paton, John
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. Jones,Rt.Hon.A.Creech(Wakefield) Pearson, A.
Edelman, M. Jones, David (The Hartlepools) Peart, T. F.
Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse) Jones, Elwyn (W. Ham, S.) Pentland, N.
Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly) Jones, Jack (Rotherham) Popplewell, E.
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Prentice, R. E.
Edwards, W. J. (Stepney) Kenyon, C. Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)
Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.) Key, Rt. Hon. C. W. Probert, A. R.
Proctor, W. T. Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank Watkins, T. E.
Pryde, D. J. Sparks, J. A. Weitzman, D.
Randall, H. E. Steele, T. Wells, Percy (Faversham)
Rankin, John Stewart, Michael (Fulham) West, D. G.
Redhead, E. C. Stones, w. (Consett) Wheeldon, W. E.
Reeves, J. Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall) White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)
Reid, William Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E. Willey, Frederick
Rhodes, H. Swingler, S. T.
Robens, Rt. Hon. A. Sylvester, G. O. Williams, David (Neath)
Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield) Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Ab'tillery)
Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon) Taylor, John (West Lothian) Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)
Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.) Thomas, George (Cardiff) Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)
Rogers, George (Kensington, N.) Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.) Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Ross, William Thomson, George (Dundee, E.) Winterbottom, Richard
Silverman, Julius (Aston) Thornton, E. Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Silverman, Sydney (Nelson) Timmons, J. Woof, R. E.
Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill) Tomney, F. Younger, Rt. Hon. K.
Slater, J. (Sedgefield) Usborne, H. C. Zilliacus, K.
Snow, J. W. Viant, S. P.
Sorensen, R. W. Wade, D. W. TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Mr. Short and Mr. Deer.
Agnew, Sir Peter Duncan, Sir James Iremonger, T. L.
Aitken, W. T. Duthie, W. S. Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)
Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.) Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West) Jennings, Sir Roland (Hallam)
Alport, C. J. M. Elliott,R.W.(Ne'castle upon Tyne,N.) Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)
Amery, Julian (Preston, N.) Emmett, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn Johnson, Eric (Blackley)
Amory, Bt. Hn. Heathcoat (Tiverton) Errington, Sir Eric Joseph, Sir Keith
Anstruther-Gray, Major Sir William Farey-Jones, F. W. Joynson-Hicks, Hon. Sir Lancelot
Arbuthnot, John Fell, A. Kerby, Capt. H. B.
Armstrong, C. W. Finlay, Graeme Kerr, Sir Hamilton
Atkins, H. E. Fisher, Nigel Kershaw, J. A.
Baldwin, A. E. Fletcher-Cooke, C. Kimball, M.
Balniel, Lord Fort, R. Kirk, P. M.
Barlow, Sir John Foster, John Lagden, G. W.
Barter, John Freeth, Denzil Lambton, Viscount
Baxter, Sir Beverley Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D. Lancaster, Col. C. G.
Beamish, Col. Tufton Gammans, Lady Langford-Holt, J. A.
Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.) Garner-Evans, E. H. Leavey, J. A.
Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.) George, J. C. (Pollok) Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.
Bennett, F. M. (Torquay) Glyn, col. Richard H. Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)
Bennett, Dr. Reginald Godber, J. B. Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.)
Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth) Gough, C. F. H. Lindsay, Martin (Solihull)
Bidgood, J. C. Gower, H. R. Linstead, Sir H. N.
Biggs-Davison, J. A. Graham, Sir Fergus Llewellyn, D. T.
Bingham, R. M. Grant, W. (Woodside) Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)
Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R. (Nantwich) Longden, Gilbert
Bishop, F. P. Green, A. Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)
Black, C. W. Gresham Cooke, R. Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh
Body, R. F. Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans) McAdden, S. J.
Bossom, Sir Alfred Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury) Macdonald, Sir Peter
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A. Mackeson, Brig. Sir Harry
Boyle, Sir Edward Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G. Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)
Braine, B. R. Hall, John (Wycombe) McLaughlin, Mrs. P.
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H. Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.) McLean, Neil (Inverness)
Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry Harris, Reader (Heston) MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty)
Brooman-White, R. C. Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye) Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)
Browne, J. Nixon (Craigton) Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.) Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)
Burden, F. F. A. Hay, John Maddan, Martin
Butcher, Sir Herbert Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel Maitland,Cdr.J.F.W.(Horncastle)
Butler, Rt.Hn.R.A.(Saffron Walden) Heath, Rt. Hon. E. R. G. Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hon. Sir R.
Campbell, Sir David Henderson-Stewart, Sir James Marlowe, A. A. H.
Carr, Robert Hesketh, R. F. Marshall, Douglas
Chichester-Clark, R. Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W. Mathew, R.
Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W), Hill, Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton) Maudling, Rt. Hon. R.
Conant, Maj. Sir Roger Hirst, Godfrey Mawby, R. L.
Cooke, Robert Holland-Martin, C. J. Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.
Cooper, A. E. Hope, Lord John Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R.
Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K. Hornby, R. P. Moore, Sir Thomas
Corfield, Capt. F. V. Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P. Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles
Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne) Horobin, Sir Ian Nabarro, G. D. N.
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Dame Florence Nairn, D. L. S.
Crowder, Sir John (Finchley) Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire) Nicholson, Sir Godfrey (Farnham)
Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood) Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives) Nicolson, N. (B'n'm'th, E. & Chr'ch)
Cunningham, Knox Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.) Noble, Comdr. Rt. Hon. Allan
Dance, J. C. G. Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral J. Nugent, G. R. H.
Davidson, Viscountess Hughes-Young, M. H. C. Oakshott, H. D.
Deedes, W. F. Hurd, A. R. O'Neill, Hn. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)
Dodds-Parker, A. D. Hutchison,MichaelClark(E'b'gh, S.) Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. W. D.
Doughty, C. J. A. Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark(E'b'gh,W.) Orr, Capt. L. P. S.
Drayson, G. B. Hutchison, Sir James (Scotstoun) Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)
du Cann, E. D. L. Hyde, Montgomery Osborne, C.
Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond) Hylton-Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Harry Page, R. G.
Partridge, E. Shepherd, William Tiley, A (Bradford, W.)
Peel, W. J. Smithers, Peter (Winchester) Turton, Rt. Hon, R. H.
Peyton, J. W. W. Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood) Tweedsmuir, Lady
Pickthorn, K. W. M. Spearman, Sir Alexander Vane, W. M. F.
Pike, Miss Mervyn Speir, R. M. Vickers, Miss Joan
Pilkington, Capt. R. A. Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Pitman, I. J. Stevens, Geoffrey Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)
Powell, J. Enoch Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Derek
Price, David (Eastleigh) Storey, S. Wall, Patrick
Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L. Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray) Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)
Ramsden, J. E. Studholme, Sir Henry Watklison, Rt. Hon. Harold
Redmayne, M. Summers, Sir Spencer Webbe, Sir H.
Remnant, Hon. P. Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington) Whitelaw, W. S. I.
Renton, D. L. M. Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne) Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Ridsdale, J. E. Taylor, William (Bradford, N.) Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)
Rippon, A. G. F. Teeling, W. Wills, G. (Bridgwater)
Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.) Temple, John M. Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks) Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury) Wood, Hon. R.
Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)
Sandys, Rt. Hon. D. Thompson, R. (Croydon, S.) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R. Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. P. Mr. Bryan and Mr. Gibson-Watt.
Sharples, R. C. Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin

Schedule, as amended agreed to.