HC Deb 13 May 1958 vol 588 cc243-348

Order for Third Reading read.—[Queen's Consent, on behalf of the Crown, signified.]

4.38 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Mr. J. R. Bevins)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time,

I am sure that many right hon. and hon. Gentlemen are relieved that we are now reaching the end of this parliamentary marathon. I certainly am. My advisers tell me that since the Bill was published, towards the end of last year we have devoted, all told, about 113 hours to its consideration, and, as I do not want to pile on the agony this afternoon, I propose to make a relatively short speech. We have also had, by the way, no fewer than 69 Divisions, all of which have passed off satisfactorily, thanks largely to the vigilance of one of my hon. Friends.

Perhaps I might be allowed to say at the start—it pleases me very much indeed to be able to say it—that the relations between the parties, both here and in the Standing Committee, throughout the proceedings on the Bill have been most amicable. The expressions applied to my right hon. Friend, although in other connections they have very often been colourful and, indeed, caustic, have not in this context been too bad. The most critical adjective that passed across the Floor of the House was "disingenuous", and immediately the hon. Member who used it felt so timorous about it that he wondered whether it was a parliamentary expression.

One of the difficulties with a detailed Bill of this sort is that in the course of considering it one gets so close to it that one cannot see the wood for the trees. I have constantly been reminding myself, as I am sure other hon. Members have been reminding themselves, that local government is not merely a hobby horse for our elected aldermen and councillors, that it is not merely a source of employment for very many worthy people and that it is not even just a subject for academic research by students, some of whom think they know all about local government, except, perhaps, how it works. Our system of local government is, after all, an integral part of our democratic form of government, and, of course, its primary responsibility is to the public which it serves.

Looking back today, it seems strange that there has been no reform in the major structure of local government since 1888, when, I think, the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), whose speeches and reminiscences in the Standing Committee were so diverting and interesting, was a strapping boy of six years of age. In that year, the expenditure of all the local authorities in the country was about £50 million. Though I am told that money had rather more value in those days, it still represented a trivial percentage of the total national income.

The fact is that local government today is big business. Last year, its gross revenue expenditure amounted to £1,600 million, nearly 10 per cent. of the national income, and approximately a quarter of Government expenditure. That is why it seems odd that there has been no comprehensive review of the main structure for as long as seventy years. I do not know what we should think of any other enterprise which had developed so much but had never undergone a major reorganisation during a period like that. I am sure that the Government are right at this stage to make the attempt to adapt local government to the times in which we live, to give it greater autonomy and to give financial assistance on a basis which at least my hon. Friends and I regard as sensible. It is a big undertaking, but it has certainly not come before its time.

I turn, first, to the provisions in the Bill affecting areas and functions. Our earlier debates showed very general agreement on the need for reorganisation and on the basic aim of the Bill, which is effective and convenient local government. It was also accepted on both sides that this could best be achieved by setting up strong local government commissions to look at the major problems, the results of these reviews and of the county reviews which will follow them being embodied in Orders debatable in Parliament.

So far as functions go, I do not think that there was any disagreement at any stage that some kind of devolution of these important functions to the larger districts was desirable. The future of the special review areas, however, has undoubtedly excited a lot of controversy, and it is perfectly natural that it should, because their population is approaching 10 million people. I am, of course, excluding the Greater London area.

I must say that some people seem to have rather odd ideas about what the special review areas ought to be for. The Manchester Guardian and the hon. Member for Birmingham, All Saints (Mr. D. Howell) seemed to think that their sole purpose should be to provide enormous areas for the reception of overspill. They have very little or even no regard for all the other problems of local government in the conurbations or, indeed, for the need to ensure—this is the important thing, of course—that real local government is established in these areas. On the other hand, there are some people, including, I think, some of my hon. Friends, who are afraid that there may be unnecessarily drastic changes in conurbations.

I should like to reassure the House at this point as to the safeguards which we are creating to make sure that the special review areas are dealt with on their merits and that political pressures from which we can never wholly escape in a matter of this sort are not allowed to ruin the work either of the commissions or of the Minister. To begin with, let me make it clear that the inclusion of an area in a special review area in no way precludes a local authority from going to the commission and asking the commission to recommend its exclusion from special review.

These areas mentioned in the Third Schedule are, as my right hon. Friend has repeatedly said, only a starting basis from which the commissions can best examine the local problems. I know we have been criticised for saying this sort of thing, but I do feel that those criticisms are rather less than reasonable, for it would not only be impracticable but presumptuous for our advisers in Whitehall or for my right hon. Friend to draw precise boundaries for any conurbation.

Nor, again, does the inclusion of any special review area either at the start or for the period of the review in any way prejudge the ultimate decision as to what future changes should take place in a district or indeed whether there should be any changes at all. Although we thought it right to allow for all sorts of alternative changes I do want to emphasise that the need for any change at all has to be demonstrated by the commission to the Minister, and it certainly does not follow that because the Bill allows for the possibility of one kind of change that it will, in fact, take place, or that if it takes place in one special review area it will necessary take place in another.

What are the safeguards against unnecessary or doctrinaire or hole-in-the-corner changes affecting special review areas? First, my right hon. Friend intends to appoint strong local government commissions under the chairmanship of outstanding individuals who will not be susceptible either to pressure or to undue influence. Next, as the House knows, he has decided to write into regulations which will require to be approved by Parliament the principal considerations which are to guide the commissions in their work. When the commission has set to work, having consulted the various local authorities in a conurbation one by one, then it must prepare and issue to all these authorities its draft proposals, which will also have to be available for public inspection.

The commission will then consider representations and confer with all the authorities concerned, and after that it will put its proposals to the Minister. He, in turn, will circulate those proposals to the local authorities and to other interested bodies, and, almost invariably, he will hold public inquiries into objections. Finally, the Minister's Order giving effect, perhaps with modifications, to the commission's proposals will be debatable in Parliament, and these Orders will, of course, be subject to the affirmative Resolution procedure.

I think that I perhaps ought also to add, in parenthesis, that the Bill is so drafted as to make sure that there will be a separate Order in respect of each special review area when the time comes.

Perhaps I may turn for a few moments to the financial provisions in Part I of the Bill. The most important, of course, is the proposal for the new general grant. The theme of this Bill is effective and efficient local government. Local government can be neither of these things unless it has real responsibility to manage its own affairs, and the purpose of an elective local government system is to enable action on local matters to be decided by people who understand the local conditions and who are responsible, moreover to the local electorate.

As we well know, however, local government needs are such that large-scale financial support from the centre is quite inescapable, and will probably remain so for a long time to come. Therefore, the important question is how to give that financial support from the Exchequer in such a way as to do as little damage as possible to the principle of local responsibility.

As we see it, the great merit of the general grant is that there are no strings attached to it. It adds to the resources of the local authorities so that they are able to discharge their duties, but it does it in a way which leaves them free to exercise their own judgment and discretion as to the way in which the services are provided; and it manages to do this, moreover, without sacrificing any national interest, because adequate safeguards are retained to ensure that national standards are observed.

By concentrating the attention of the central Government on the important national points we hope to strengthen the partnership between central Government and local government and to produce a better understanding of their respective rôles than does at the present time the system of specific grants which, of necessity, embroils the central Government in many of the details of local authority spending and administration. The system also has the advantage of providing—and it does this quite regularly and openly—for the fixing of Government contributions to the cost of providing and developing many important services, and it will provide regular opportunities for the public review of the progress of these services.

So I say that the general grant aims at greater objectivity in local financial administration, greater financial responsibility for the local authorities in running their own affairs, and more effective planning in the development of services. It substitutes, in short, a coherent system for what, in our view, through habit and custom has become a hotchpotch which nobody can possibly defend in 1958.

I am sure that both sides of the House are conscious of the fears which have been expressed both here and outside that education will suffer as the result of these new arrangements. I am sure the House would not wish me today to cover ground which has already been well trodden during the earlier stages of the consideration of this Bill. I recognise that some hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite distrust the motives of the Government. In my experience, analysis of political motives is always rather a chancy business, and I believe that politicians who devote their time to a study of motives invariably get wrong answers. I think it is much more profitable in public life to note that most politicians of both parties have a very strong nose for survival and are, therefore, sensitive to public opinion. Certainly the Government have. I think 1960 will demonstrate that.

Mr. Charles A. Howell (Birmingham, Perry Barr)

We have not noticed it lately.

Mr. Bevins

The hon. Member has two years in which to abide in patience, and then he will realise it.

I am convinced myself that public opinion nowadays—and I am being serious about this—would refuse to tolerate any interference with our standards of education. I think both sides of the House realise that.

Perhaps the greatest social change that has come over our country in the last thirty years has been the growing interest of parents in their children—and, for that matter, of children in their parents—and of parents in the schooling of their offspring. Parents and children are more alive today to the opportunities for worth while work and service which have been thrown up by full employment and by scientific advance. The minds of many parents are exercised by the 11-plus, and many of them now take a really active interest in school organisations of one kind and another. More and more parents tend to become strongly sympathetic to the status of the teaching profession and to education in general. I myself do not believe that either the Government or the local authorities, even if they wished to do so—and I do not believe they do—could afford to offend this deep and maturing influence which is developing in our country.

I want to say a very brief word now about the important provision in this Bill which deals with the rerating of industry from 25 per cent. to 50 per cent.

Mr. R. Moss (Meriden)

While agreeing with what the hon. Member says about public opinion, I hope he realises that it is possible to use certain technical arguments about the general grant, which might work to the disadvantage of education.

Mr. Bevins

Yes, I do realise that possibility. I was simply contenting myself in this debate, since so much of the ground has been gone over already, with the influence of public opinion on local authorities and upon the Government. I perfectly appreciate the point the hon. Member has made.

I want to say a word about the provision for the rerating of industry from 25 per cent. to 50 per cent. As hon. Members know, it has been strenuously argued in Committee on the Bill that the Government have not gone far enough, but what I think we all have to remember is that in the financial year 1959–60 industry's share of the total rate burden will be about three times what it was in 1955, and although, admittedly, most of our industry is today prosperous, we think it would be a mistake to assume that all the industrial firms could shrug off any heavier imposition like water off a duck's back. For example, some of the smaller mill owners in the Lancashire cotton industry are not having a very easy time and might find matters difficult.

We have been anxious to avoid any precipitate action at this stage which might affect prices either in the domestic market or for exports, and I think the House will see the danger of this when I say that the effect of full rerating would be to add approximately 2½d. per lb,. of cotton yarn costing 50d. a 1b. I can inform hon. Members that this increase, modest though it sounds, would add significantly to the cotton industry's problems in world markets.

Indeed, my right hon. Friend received a communication on Friday from the Federation of the Master Cotton Spinners' Association and the Cotton Spinners' and Manufacturers' Association. Perhaps the House will permit me to read this telegram: We understand that the Opposition have put down an Amendment to abolish industrial derating in the Local Government Bill. For reasons previously submitted, the textile industry is already perturbed at the increase from 25 to 50 per cent., especially when coupled with revaluations. Any further transposition of the rate burden to industry would be unfair and unreasonable, The cotton industry is suffering from acutely depressed trading conditions and any further rate increase would add directly and significantly to the distressed position of many firms and might well contribute to further closures of mills and more unemployment. We strongly urge the the Government to reject the Opposition Amendment.…

Mr. A. G. Bottomley (Rochester and Chatham)

The Parliamentary Secretary will remember that, in debate on Recommittal, I think it was. I said that where an industry was likely to be adversely affected, it was the responsibility of the Government to see that the industry was not unnecessarily burdened, and that an industry could not reach this state of affairs by avoiding its rate responsibility. The Government have other means at their disposal to help industry.

Mr. Bevins

I remember well what the right hon. Gentleman said. Here, we are dealing with provisions to rerate industry to the extent of 50 per cent. It is perfectly clear from the views expressed by the Lancashire cotton industry that it would very bitterly resent any further imposition.

I have taken the opportunity to look at the particular case of the motor car industry which was referred to during the Report stage by the hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. Diamond). All I want to say about it is that I think he overlooked the fact that this particular industry leans very heavily for its materials and its components on a very considerable number of firms, all of which are affected by re-rating. The cumulative effect of rerating on 200, 300 or, perhaps, 400 firms—numbers like that are very often involved in the motor car industry—would, according to my calculation, mean that the price of cars in the export market might rise by as much as £10 per car. As I say, we feel that, by going to the extent of 50 per cent. rerating, we have gone as far as it is prudent to go.

Mr. David Jones (The Hartlepools)

If that is the case and there is so much consideration now for industrialists who could not afford to pay, would it not have been better if the Government had allowed the local authorities to keep all the result of doubling the rate up to 50 per cent.?

Mr. Bevins

We had quite lengthy arguments about that during our earlier proceedings. As I said, during the last stage of the Bill, I do not think that any hon. or right hon. Gentleman seriously believes that an operation of that sort can take place without some disturbance to the structure of local government grants from the Exchequer.

Following upon what I have said with regard to the rerating of industry, I should like to express the hope, a hope which I am sure is shared by both sides of the House, that this proposal will encourage more people who spend their lives in industry to come forward and take an active part in local government. I trust that our proposals in general, as they evolve, will add to the zest and spirit of local affairs and not only attract more able men and women to serve but also do something to break down the apathy of the ordinary voter. It is no use our blaming the electorate for its apathy in municipal affairs and moaning about the counter-attractions of television and so on. The fact is that local government in our country must project itself to the man in the street; it must show him that its affairs, its personalities, and even, if one likes, its rows, are every bit as living, as colourful and as exciting as the hypnotic attraction of the little screen at home. I believe, and my hon. and right hon. Friends on this side believe, that the Bill, by giving local government a new vitality, will bring about a new interest in local affairs and strengthen the basis of our British democracy.

5.5 p.m.

Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham)

I suppose we should share the Parliamentary Secretary's hope that there will be an increase in interest in local government and that more people will turn out to vote, though we are obliged to notice that the prospect of having this Bill passed into law appears not to have had that effect upon the supporters of the party opposite at local elections.

The Bill makes important financial changes in local government which are to come into operation in April next. At the same time, it sets in train provision for reviews which may result, over a period of time, in a major reform of local government boundaries and powers. In asking the House to refuse a Third Reading to the Bill, my right hon. and hon. Friends and I base the major part of our objection upon the financial proposals in it. The Parliamentary Secretary suggested that relations between the parties had been amicable during the discussion on the Bill. It may be true—I hope it is—that the language used was correct, although, casting my mind back, I can remember one or two phrases rather harsher than the word "disingenuous." But, however correct the language may have been, I trust that the Government are under no illusion but that, out of our concern for the quality of service rendered by local government, and as a matter of principle, we on this side remain resolutely opposed to the Bill, on the main and most undesirable features of which the Government have proved quite adamant throughout the long process of discussion.

If our major objection to the Bill and our reason for asking the House to reject it is based on Part I, we nevertheless take the view that there are some defects in the other parts of the Bill, and it is to those that I wish briefly to refer now. Since it is a matter of very widespread interest, no doubt many hon. Members will make a variety of critical comments on Part II as the debate proceeds. One of the features of the Second Reading debate was the frequency with which hon. Members opposite, after welcoming the Bill in general, pointed out how they disliked those parts of it with which they were most likely to become acquainted in their own localities.

Part II provides for reviews by the local government commissions and by counties. The directive given to the local government commissions is to be contained in regulations to be made under the Bill. We on this side would have preferred, and we tried by Amendment to secure, that that directive should be enshrined in the Bill itself.

One weakness of doing things by regulations is that although the regulations are subject to Parliamentary control, Parliament can, after all, only say "Yes" or "No" to the regulations en bloc. It cannot do what it could do if the directive were put in the form of a Schedule to the Bill. It cannot discuss the matter in detail and itself frame what the directive would be. It seems to us that, in not enshrining the directive in the Bill but in preferring to do it by regulation, the Government have shown, as they have at other points, a tendency to put into the hands of the Minister and the executive branch of government a greater degree of power than is really necessary for the efficient carrying out of the purposes of Part II of the Bill.

When we come down to the reviews themselves, looking at Clause 28 of the Bill, it seems to us that certain powers of review are to be given to counties which would have been better entrusted to the Local Government Commissions themselves. The hon. Gentleman the Parliamentary Secretary said, very rightly, that we ought not to regard local government simply as the hobby-horse of councillors and aldermen any more than we ought to regard Parliamentary Government as something to provide an occupation for ourselves. That remark was very much to the point. There is a real danger, when we who are engaged in the machinery of Government talk in glowing terms of our great Parliamentary traditions or our great traditions of local government, that we may wander away with the idea that government is an end in itself. What matters to the public is the quality of the service which the governmental machine turns out.

The relevance of this reflection to the matter of county reviews is that, when these questions of boundaries within a county have to be considered, there will be a real danger, if the review is carried out simply by the county itself, that it may be altogether too much subject to local vested interest, to the amour-propre of the councillors in a particular district. We may not have that consideration for the general public at large which is desirable rather than consideration merely for the interests and affections which elected representatives have formed for the entities to which they are accustomed. That seemed to us to be a defect in the Bill.

With regard to the special review areas, on which hon. Members will, I imagine, have a good deal to say, I have this comment. In Clause 20, there is power to create or to recommend the creation within special review areas of counties containing no county boroughs but divided into county districts, and it is left very vague what the distribution of power and function is to be between such a county itself and the county districts of which it is composed. The Government did not seem, either in drafting the Clause or discussing it in Committee, to have considered how the administration of the various services is best to be carried out. The provision seems vague and to open the door for quite arbitrary recommendations by the Commission.

The last point I want to make on Part II of the Bill concerns the Minister's powers when the task of review by local government commissions and by counties is completed and their proposals come before him. I wish particularly to comment on two powers he has enshrined in Clause 23 and, to some extent, in Clause 29. He has the power, of course, to make orders embodying the proposals or recommendations of the commissions. The Parliamentary Secretary said that he would almost invariably hold an inquiry after making such an order if any objection were raised to its provisions. I wish to draw attention to the fact that, as the Bill now stands, the Minister can always get out of holding such an inquiry by the rather surprising device of saying, "I do not need to hold an inquiry about that; I know all about it". We suggested that, if the Minister were to avoid holding an inquiry when objections were made to his orders, he ought only to do that if the objections were of a trivial or frivolous nature. As the Bill now stands, however serious the subject-matter of the objection, the Minister can avoid an inquiry simply by exercising his own judgment about his own knowledge of the matter in dispute. This seems to give an unnecessarily arbitrary power to the Minister.

Further, when he is making an order, the Minister can modify the recommendations or proposals of the commissions. This, in itself, is reasonable enough. We do not expect the Minister to be a mere "rubber stamp" in the commissions' hands. But when it was suggested in Committee that, if he does make such modifications, he ought particularly to draw them to the attention of the persons specially affected by them and to make arrangements for such people or authorities to make representations to him and arrange to hold an inquiry to consider the representations, our Amendment to that effect was rejected.

We feel, therefore, that there has been a granting of unnecessary power to the Minister in admittedly the considerable discretion that he must have in a Bill of this kind. It is important that there should not be that degree of arbitrariness for this reason. We share the Government's desire to give local government all the power and discretion that is consistent with good government and the proper administration of the services in meeting people's needs. But in any system of Government there must be some degree of control from the centre over local authorities.

I contend that that central control ought not to be exercised too much by the executive arm of government and that Parliament ought to have a considerable say in the way in which central control over local authorities is exercised. It is on both sides of the House rather than inside the Ministry of Housing and Local Government that there are people who have served on local authorities and who are capable of making a judgment on the degree of control which the centre ought to have over the localities and of weighing properly the claims of central efficiency and local freedom. There must be some degree of control from the centre, but let us try to ensure that that control is exercised to as large a degree as possible by Parliament as well as by the Minister and the executive. I do not think that that principle has been given sufficient weight in certain of the Clauses of Part II.

I turn now to what I said was our main reason for opposing the Bill, namely, the financial provisions, particularly the provision for block grant in Part I. As the Parliamentary Secretary's speech proceeded, I noticed that his description of local government under a percentage grant system became harsher and harsher with each succeeding sentence. It was a hotch-potch. It led to irresponsibility, and it deprived local government of interest. A number of important services have been run for a long time on the percentage grant system. Whatever criticisms of local government might be made today, I do not think it is true that we can regard the administration, say, of the education service as an irresponsible hotch-potch. Still less would it be possible to maintain that any criticisms that can be validly made of educational administration can be linked up with the principle of the percentage grant.

We have argued this matter many times. We have spent two days on Second Reading, there have been more than thirty meetings of the Standing Committee, and three days have been spent on Recommittal and Report, but there remains one general argument about the block grant which at no time have the Government been able to rebut and which it is therefore necessary, briefly, to repeat. There is a certain barest minimum standard of service below which local authorities are not allowed to go or they will be compelled by Ministerial action to mend their ways. We all understand that. We all understand, too, that if in general local authorities never did better than that bare minimum standard the result would be very deplorable indeed. Good service depends on there being many people in local government who are prepared to go beyond those minimum standards, to experiment, to advance and to show the way for the future so that what the enterprising local authority does in one decade becomes accepted as the minimum standard for the next. That is the way in which progress is made.

What is the effect of the introduction of the block grant instead of the percentage grant? The answer is that the less public-spirited a council is, the more willing it is to do the bare minimum and no more and the greater the amount of money handed out under this Bill for use in the relief of rates to try to make such a council popular with the least public-spirited citizens. Then consider a more enterprising local authority, more prepared to go forward and not to be content with the barest minimum standards. The effect of the Bill is to throw a heavier burden on this sort of local authority's rates as the penalty for being public-spirited.

The answer of the Government to criticism of the block grant has been, "Do not worry. Public opinion will see to it that these services are not neglected". I am bound to say that that does approach the disingenuous, because the effect, whatever the intention of the block grant proposal, is to tilt public opinion against expansion of the service by giving those who want expansion a more difficult task when they stand up against un-public-spirited candidates at the elections. I acquit the Parliamentary Secretary.

I do not suppose he knows the way in which the recent local elections have been run in London and that the party to which he belongs has been trying desperately to get support on the most un-public-spirited programme ever imagined, even more un-public-spirited than when the Minister was in charge of their fortunes. It is a little disquieting to find a Conservative Government defending the block grant on the ground that public opinion will save education from its effects and at the same time to find the Conservative Party in local government doing its best to mobilise public opinion for the slashing of services.

One cannot get away from the fact that, whatever the attitude different parties may adopt at local elections, the effect of the block grant is to make the temptations to be niggardly and the penalties of being public-spirited greater. It is no answer for the Government to tell us, as they have done several times, that before the war there were some services that did not have a percentage grant, and they expanded very fast. Nobody suggests that the form of grant is the sole factor affecting the growth of the service. The Government have not refuted our suggestion that of the two forms of grant the general effect of block grant is to make it more difficult for councillors who want to be public-spirited to make their case with the electorate.

The Government have gone on to argue that when we oppose the block grant we are distrusting local authorities, taking the view that they are all niggardly. Time and again the Minister has told us that they on their side of the House trust the local authorities. One recognises that a Minister in charge of a long and complicated Bill cannot always have at his fingertips all the arguments for every point and it is necessary for him to have certain set phrases to use to fill in while the useful note is brought to him telling him what the real answer is to the point at issue. The right hon. Gentleman's set phrase during this Bill has been, "We on our side of the House trust the local authorities".

What was the genesis of the block grant? In the White Paper that was supposed to express trust in local authorities, we were given as one of the main reasons for the introduction of the block grant the statement that the percentage grant was an incentive to indiscriminate expenditure. That does not show any great degree of trust in local authorities. The Minister of Education on Second Reading openly defended the block grant as a way of combating inflation and complained that local authorities were not concerned with nor trained for problems of national finance, and that if we left the local authorities with a percentage grant international financiers would have no trust in the future of this country. That does not suggest that the party opposite have confidence in local authorities.

If we may be permitted for a moment to accept the proposition that not all the local authorities are perfect—and I take it that I carry the House with me on that point—we have to ask ourselves: which error are they more likely to make at present, particularly with regard to education, which is most affected by the financial provisions of the Bill? Will it be the error of being over-extravagant or the error of skimping?

The Government's policy makes sense only if they take the view that there is a danger that local authorities left with a percentage grant would spend more on education than in the national interest they should spend, and, therefore, that some kind of brake should be put on them. Neither the White Paper nor the Minister's speech on Second Reading makes sense except on that assumption. Is that the view of the Government? Or do they still adhere to the view of the last Minister of Education that, if anything, this country is in danger of spending too little on education? It was Lord Hailsham who was right on that issue—that if we have any regard for the country's future, we ought to envisage a progressive expansion of the education service. We cannot get away from the fact that block grant, when all is said and done is a way of damping down rather than of encouraging. The Government's policy makes sense only if one believes that there is a danger of the service being expanded more than the national interest required.

In the end, the Government's view of the matter was shown plainly enough by their refusal to include police and civil defence expenditure in the provision of the block grant. I am not arguing that those services should be included. What I am saying is that the Government's refusal to include them shows that they know quite well what the effect of the block grant is likely to be and that their view on these two services is "We dare not risk the skimping that the block grant will almost certainly produce. We are prepared to risk it for education and for nearly a dozen other small services, but with regard to these two we know quite well what the block grant will mean and we shall not expose the police and civil defence to the dangers of the block grant." That inference can be drawn by any hon. Member who reads the report of the Committee proceedings. We are first told, "We have not included the police because there are grave technical difficulties about so doing".

The Accountant-General of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government let the cat out of the bag when he said that there were not any technical difficulties and that they were not being included because of an urgent Cabinet decision on policy. In other words, the Government woke up in time to what were the real implications of their own policy and decided that they could not press the matter that far.

I should say a word about the claim that the financial provisions of the Bill will give local authorities greater freedom. The Minister of Education endeavoured to justify that claim on Second Reading, but it was clear from what he said on all major matters of educational policy—such as matters affecting the number of teachers to be employed, the extent to which building could proceed and dilapidated schools replaced—there was no intention of relaxing control, nor indeed could there be. Those major matters are not affected by the financial provisions of the Bill.

The Minister offered relaxation of controls in smaller matters—for example, the transporting of children of a certain age to school, maintenance allowances for children over school-leaving age, attendance at conferences, and certain aspects of physical recreation. But when he finished that list, what was it that the House discovered? It was that there is nothing whatever to prevent a local authority from providing for all those things on a scale more generous than that which the Ministry recommends if it wishes and if it is prepared to pay the extra entirely out of the rates. It has the legal freedom to do that now. This Bill gives it no legal freedom it has not already got. As to the other aspects of freedom, that is to say the actual resources to do it, the capacity to do it, this Bill gives them nothing in that direction.

Is it suggested that when the general grant is calculated it will be calculated on the assumption that local authorities will provide for maintenance allowances, transport of children, and the rest, on scales more generous than those already approved by the Ministry of Education? Obviously the general grant will not be calculated on such a basis. This means, then, that through this Bill no more resources will come to local authorities to do those things than they enjoy at the present time. They have no more freedom in law, no more freedom in fact, except for this, that they have the freedom up to a point to take the block grant and neglect the service. That is the only freedom which this Bill is conferring on them.

This is the more serious when it is combined with the refusal of the Government to rerate industry 100 per cent., because the effect of the block grant is to shift a greater proportion of the cost of these services on to rates. Unless something is done at the same time to broaden the base of a local authority's revenue, it means putting a greater burden on the ordinary householder and putting it in the form of rates, which are a notoriously regressive form of taxation. In that respect, therefore, we are narrowing the resources of local authorities, and with that narrowing of resources, there goes the narrowing of real freedom.

Yet so wedded have the Government been to this that, despite pleas from every possible quarter, some of them not in the least connected politically with the Opposition, some of them concerned with highly specialised aspects of education on which the Government could have conceded a point without any real damage to the main structure of their Bill; so wrapped have they become in the doctrine of the block grant for the block grant's sake, that in the end we were simply being told, when we asked for any concession, You cannot have this, not because there is any special reason against it, but because the Government have made up its mind to have the block grant wherever it can get it, except in the police, of course, and that is that."

May I commend to the Government's attention a sentence from last week's Economist? After referring in rather unkind terms to what were called the seaside resorts Amendment to this Bill, moved by certain hon. Gentlemen opposite, and describing it as a piece of constituency log-rolling, the Economist goes on to say: There is all the difference in the world between special local pleading and genuine national considerations; and the Government would do well even at this late stage to consider again some concession to the real anxieties of educationists, including many on their own side of the House. The Economist, I am afraid, is more kind than just to that side of the House in this connection.

I have mentioned education chiefly because, as we know, seven-eighths or 90 per cent. of the expenditure involved is on education. We ought not to forget, however, that exactly the same argument and objection applies to the other services listed in the First Schedule to this Bill.

If we think of the fire services, the school crossing patrols, the health services, the care of handicapped persons, and all the things in that Schedule, we can say of every one of them as we can say of education, first, that any suggestion that local authorities as a whole have been extravagant on them or that the nation is spending too much on them, cannot be sustained for a moment; second, that some of them are so directly concerned with human life, safety and happiness that there is real danger, if they ae skimped—as the block grant proposal is always tempting local authorities to skimp—that there is not, as a matter of practical administration, any real freedom for a local authority to take the block grant and say, "We will now spend ever so much less on the fire brigade than we used to, and enjoy our freedom to spend that amount more on education." Any acquaintance with how local authorities have actually to administer those services shows that freedom in this direction does not exist for practical purposes.

Our conclusions, then, on this Bill are that while the provisions of Part II may well produce results which will in time give us more up-to-date boundaries and a better arrangement of functions, they are none the less in several respects disappointing and vague and unnecessarily arbitrary; and that in Part I we can only discern a clear hostility to certain local government services, particularly to education, and a denial of any real increase of freedom to local authorities.

5.36 p.m.

Mr. Robert Cooke (Bristol, West)

My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary said that no major reform of local government had taken place since a day long ago in the Victorian era. That was a quarter of a century before my father was born and some measure of reform is obviously now due.

It has been a long road from the White Papers, upon which I made my maiden speech in this House last July, to the Third Reading of this important Bill today. Despite the arguments of our opponents in the House and outside, I am still convinced that it is a good BT. My right hon. Friend the Minister has led us with clarity and with courage to this day when we give the Bill a Third Reading. He has also managed to repulse the attacks of the Opposition upon this Measure and, at the same time, on a great many other matters over which he has control.

I have followed the Bill through all its stages, and much hard work and time has been devoted to it. In spite of that, however, I would not support the Bill unless I really believed that it would do some good to local government. I have a very real personal interest in local government, having been concerned with it before I reached this House. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) accused our candidates in the local elections in London of lack of public spirit. I will only say, in passing, that perhaps our candidates in Bristol have more public spirit, because we succeeded in winning two seats from the Labour Party.

My chief concern with the Bill is in Clause I and the matter of general grant. It is significant that these will be debated in the House when they are about to be fixed. There are many benefits of general grant, but I will mention particularly two of them. The first is that the Exchequer will know where it stands. Our economy is always somewhat finely balanced, the public sector of expenditure is so large that it has a very definite effect upon the economy very quickly, and it would be no bad thing if we knew where we stood. Percentage grants tend to make for uncertainty. Also, in local government finance, the farce of the present type of estimates, which we see presented each year, can be replaced with the passing of the Bill by something like a proper budget of expenditure within known limits.

Another benefit of the general grant will be the elimination of uncertainty in the planning of local authority activities. Anyone who has been on a local authority knows how frustrating it is, especially in the field of education which is so dear to the hon. Member for Fulham, to make a plan and to decide to build so many schools and then to have to change it because of some directive from above. Under the general grant, at least, the local authority will know where it stands and will be able to plan some distance ahead. This grant will, I believe, cut out much waste and will make for a much more smooth passage of work through local authority departments.

The chief opposition to the Bill has come from educationists and teachers, and these people are, as one might expect from their qualifications, well organised and articulate. From my own experience as a teacher, I know that to put across a point of view one has often to indulge in highly persuasive arguments and also in subtle repetition, and I feel that is the technique which has been used by many educationists in opposition to the Bill. What the opposition really boils down to is that the educationists are afraid of their local finance committee.

Education, say the Opposition, should be excluded from the general grant because of the great volume of expenditure. Surely the fact that it is such a large slice of the general grant will make for plenty of room for the educationists to manoeuvre within the size of that grant. It is much more difficult to manoeuvre if one has only a small amount of money to spend. They will, when the Bill is passed, have a large sum, even more than they had before. That is an argument in favour of the Bill.

The Minister of Education's powers to control education policy will still be as strong after the passing of the Bill as they were before. The Minister has said, and I thoroughly endorse this point of view, that a greater degree of public accountability for educational expenditure may be no bad thing. This might well apply to all types of local government expenditure. The public will really want to know where their money is going.

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

They do now.

Mr. Cooke

What the Bill is really asking the House to do is to trust local people to run local matters. It will not strengthen the control by party cliques of local authorities if public interest is revived, and that is what I believe will happen. I think that this Measure will not be long in operation before we shall see our critics confounded and local government in a far healthier condition than it is today.

5.43 p.m.

Mr. Ede (South Shields)

The hon. Gentleman the Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Robert Cooke) has displayed his clarity and courage in the references he has made to his right hon. Friend the Minister in charge of the Bill. I am bound to say that we did not hear anything like that upstairs in Committee, because then there seemed to be an understanding that the Government would not be pleased with too much speaking from behind them. I am sure that it must be grateful and comforting to the Minister to find that, in this rather ampler atmosphere, such a tribute can be paid to him without incurring the wrath of anybody.

I believe that this is a bad Bill. I believe that it is a worse Bill now than it was when it was introduced. We did not do much to it in Committee, but the first alteration to which the Minister agreed was moved by his hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) and that provided a possibility of worsening the financial position of the poorer authorities beyond what was possible when the Bill was introduced.

Now, before any reduction from the grants to the richer authorities can be made by the specification of a rate reduction of so many pence in the £, it has to be prescribed, for there were inserted into the Bill in Clause I, at a very early stage, the words "if it is so prescribed" in the power that was given to the Minister to make such a reduction. Apart from that, we found a place where the Bill referred to varying the cost, and that would imply that it could be altered up or down. It turned out from the context that the only way in which it could be applied was upwards, and, after a somewhat heated debate, as a great concession, the Minister suddenly announced, after his hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary had resisted it, that he would alter the word "vary" to "increase". I think that that was the one worth-while Amendment that was made in making the Bill say what we understood the Minister meant.

Apart from that, in 31 sittings of the Committee, one would have thought that in any Amendment which was moved from the opposition side of the Committee we were trying to insert an Amendment into the Commandments inscribed on the years. It is not to be expected that the Minister regarded the Bill, unlike any other human institution, as perfect and incapable of any improvement by any person other than himself and that the conduct of the Opposition was limited to finding a defect in it.

My hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) has dealt very adequately with the effect of the Bill on the education service, and as I said a good deal about that on Second Reading and in Committee, I do not intend to do much more this afternoon than say that I endorse every word that my hon. Friend has said. I welcome his announcement that he and his right hon. Friends on the Front Opposition Bench propose to vote against the Third Reading of the Bill.

We are now faced, as we part with the Bill, with the task of adntinistering it, and I am quite sure that the Minister will agree with me that that will be a formidable task for whoever has the job of carrying on the Ministry of Housing and Local Government during the next few years. It is not to be expected that the work of reorganising local government can be completed earlier than 1963. As far as this House is concerned, and also the review of some of the counties whose consideration is held up by the fact that they are either in special areas or in the Metropolitan area, it may very well be long past that date before we get anything like finality in the set of changes which this Bill will inaugurate.

There is another awkward piece of administration, and that is the preparation for making the Orders for the first general grant formula. Apparently, this has to be done before 1st April next if local authorities, particularly the county councils and the county boroughs, are to know, even with some degree of vagueness, perhaps, exactly what amount of money will be at their disposal. We asked that the first period should not be for two years, but should be for one year only. It is a defect in the Bill that it is still precribed that all the periods in the administration of this part of the Bill shall be for not less than two years. How local authorities are to be able to give the Minister, in time for this great mass of calculations to be carried through for the financial year beginning 1st April next and in time for any real consideration to be given to the matter, I am bound to say I cannot understand.

Mr. T. L. Iremonger (Ilford, North)

"Ernie" will do it for us.

Mr. Ede

That is where you chance your luck and that is about what I think it will be. I thank the hon. Gentleman. It is the first helpful observation that he has made in the discussion of the Bill.

Mr. Iremonger

No, the second.

Mr. Ede

The hon. Gentleman did relieve us occasionally upstairs from the tedium of complete silence on the other side of the Committee, and, in fact, he once almost supported something I was saying, and then realised that that might give a little trouble in other quarters where he desired to avoid it.

Rumour has reached me, and I hope that the Minister will be able to contradict it, that local authorities are to be expected to give their estimates for the next two years by the end of July, and. in any event, not later than 15tn August. That is only a rumour, and we all know that rumour is a lying jade, though occasionally I have even known it to give the right solution to the problem of the Derby. I would point out to the Minister that if that is the case he is submitting a well-nigh insoluble problem, unless what he wants to get is what he could get now in his own office—a projection of the graph of the expenditure of the last few years.

Had the grant remained a constant thing, that might have been possible. As a rule, it forms a rough and ready guide to what we might expect, but I would point out to the right hon. Gentleman that the Bill, introducing, as it does, for the service which is the greatest source expenditure for local government an entirely new system of grant, and it being said that the reason for this is that local authorities will have the opportunity of greater freedom in being able to consider what they would like to do, without any pressure from the Government one way or the other, to attempt to get the information from the local authorities as to what, in the changed circumstances, they think the allocation of their finance will be, is to ask them to do something which in the time that I have suggested might be the time is quite impossible.

I would urge the Minister that, in another place, much as I dislike using the other place for anything useful, he should, first, postpone the date on which the general grant is to become operative for another year, and that he should think once again on the question whether, at any rate in the early years, it ought not to be an annual grant, with the calculations made annually, and revised each year so that, until people got used to the working of it, they will not be expected to make estimates two years ahead. What I fear very much, if what I hear is likely to be the case actually happens this year, is that, instead of getting a greater interest by local authority members in the provision of these estimates, the probability is that it will have to be done so hurriedly that it would have to be mainly the work of the senior officials.

The right hon. Gentleman has claimed throughout the discussions on the Bill that he has had the support of the local authority associations. I do not believe that he ever had it for a start, because what the County Councils' Association, at any rate, told us was that it was not opposed to the concept of a general grant, but that it was unable to accept the Government's proposals as they stood, and particularly sought satisfactory assurances on a number of points, to which I will refer in a moment. If the right hon. Gentleman still claims to have the support of the local authorities, I would ask him how far we can find in the Bill any of the stipulations, (a) (b) (c) (d), which they made.

First, on the amount of the grant. Nobody knows how it is to be calculated, except that certain numbers are to be arrived at in different ways and are to be used to multiply certain prescribed sums of money, none of which has yet been revealed to any one. Secondly, periodical revision of the grant, and particularly annual reviews. Next, grants on services not assisted or inadequately assisted. All these were included in sub-paragraph (a). Next, sub-paragraph (b) refers to reduction of central control. We have heard a lot about that in vague terms, and whenever anyone has suggested that any of the services might suffer, we were then told that the Minister will see that it does not suffer and that we could rest assured on that. So far as that goes, we were told, they would look after it very well.

The next reference is to the inclusion of other Home Office services. Why should my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham be disappointed or even criticise the fact that the police have not been brought in? Did he ever think that a Government mainly interested in the protection of property would ever run any risks with regard to the strength, distribution and discipline of the police force? The next item refers to the dropping of the proposal to pool expenditure on a wide range of further education. Nothing has been done about that. When I, not agreeing with them on that, moved an Amendment to increase the scope of further education to be brought into the pooling arrangements, the Parliamentary Secretary explained how nicely balanced the whole thing was. He said that they had brought in neither too little, nor too much, but just the night amount.

The Bill is causing all those who take a deep personal interest in local government with greatest anxiety. I shall go into the Lobby against it tonight quite certain that its defeat would be the greatest thing for the future of local government which any of us here today could do. I sincerely hope that before the Bill becomes law the Minister will think over some of the things which were urged on him during the 31 sittings of the Standing Committee and will endeavour to lessen the havoc which will otherwise be caused in a service to which thousands of our fellow countrymen and women give honorary services day after day, month after month, and year after year. As one who gave forty-one years of his life to this service, I regret to have lived to see the day when this Bill seems likely to get a Third Reading in this House.

6.1 p.m.

Mr. Douglas Glover (Ormskirk)

I will not follow the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) in his strictures on the Bill because, curiously enough, I support it, and the part which I support most strongly is the part of which he appeared to disapprove most strongly, Part I. That does not surprise me, because the party opposite, although paying lip service to it, does not believe in democracy. In the 1945 local elections—and I did not have this thought until I listened to recent speeches from hon. Gentlemen opposite—the party opposite produced a most interesting booklet called "Forge the Link" on the front of which was a picture of Westminster and the town hall with an enormous chain between the two. The chain was simply to take away freedom from the town hall. The Bill will bring back a good deal of freedom to the town hall.

Much criticism is made of the Bill because teachers, in particular, feel that it may have an adverse effect on education. The purpose of the Bill is to place a trust on the people, the people who are the local electorate, and who will insist that they get sound and efficient administration and the services which they require. If right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite are sincere in their fears, then there is something gravely wrong with our education system, because by the time the Bill is in operation many of the voters will have gone through the education system produced by the Education Act, 1944. They will have been trained largely by those very teachers who are complaining, but if they have left school bereft of a public and civic sense of duty, then all I can say is that we had better have a look at our whole education system.

I understood that the whole basis of our education system was to produce a race of people who were able to assess what was right and proper and good for their own district and who did not need direct interference from Whitehall. Given a chance to get into operation, Part I will prove to be right. If the council does fall down on its level of efficiency, then the electorate will put the matter right in the council elections, and so I support Part I whole-heartedly.

My right hon. Friend is about right in his proposals for rerating. I believe that at some time we must fully rerate, but at present, when industry has been reassessed on a 1956 rateable value while much property is still assessed on 1939 values, 50 per cent. of 1956 values compared with 100 per cent. of 1939 values is just about the correct level of valuation, and on that basis the new valuation is fair.

One of the greatest improvements to local government will result from Part II I do not propose to refer to that in detail, but there is one thing about which I am still worried—and here I agree with the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart). That is the control over the special review areas. I hope that even now my right hon. Friend will reconsider his views. I think that the House should have a greater control over what is proposed by the commissions for the special review areas.

At present, the proposal is that the House should deal with these matters by affirmative Resolution. We reach many weighty decisions in the House of Commons and we usually reach them after long and careful debate. However, affirmative Resolutions often go through very quickly at a late hour of the night, and yet these affirmative Resolutions will affect, certainly in most areas, 1 million people and, in some areas, 2 million people. The House should have more opportunity of debating what will be proposed for the special review areas and perhaps an even greater control about where such areas should be established. I hope that my right hon. Friend will study this matter again, because it is the only one in the Bill which causes me concern.

I agree with the right hon. Member for South Shields, who has such a wealth of experience in these matters, that the Bill will involve an enormous amount of reorganisation, a tremendous amount of rethinking, and will involve many people in local authorities and departments all over the country having to get rid of preconceived ideas.

I believe that when it has settled down, the more modern status which will be brought about and the more modern grouping of various areas will produce more viable units, so that local government will be not only more responsible, but more efficient and, most important of all, will serve the people better than it does today.

6.9 p.m.

Mr. R. Moss (Meriden)

Like the hon. Member for Ormskirk (Mr. Glover), I am not opposed to everything in the Bill, but I am opposed to some of the things which he supported and I shall no doubt make those clear as I proceed.

It was interesting to hear the Parliamentary Secretary saying that local government was an integral part of our democratic form of government. It is not only that, it is a school for democracy, for it is through local government that many people have an opportunity to educate themselves about the work of government and taking responsibility. It should be our purpose to enable those people to exercise responsibility in local government over the very important services which they have to run. I was very pleased to hear the Parliamentary Secretary say that the Minister intends to appoint a strong commission, because I consider that that will be essential to any success which the Bill may have.

I welcome certain provisions in the Bill, even in Part I. For instance, I welcome the application of rate deficiency grants to district councils, provided in Clause 5. I welcome the rerating of industrial and freight transport hereditaments to 50 per cent., although I take the view that it should be increased to 100 per cent. Nevertheless, half a loaf is better than no bread.

I welcome the new provisions in Clauses 10 to 13 for the rating of gas and electricity hereditaments. Incidentally, I have a strong constituency interest in the Hams Hall Power Station. Unlike some hon. Members opposite, I welcome the transitional provisions contained in Clause 15, for although I sought to modify them in certain respects in Standing Committee I made it clear at the time that I thought that they were desirable.

The Parliamentary Secretary said, quoting Clause 17, that the main purpose of the Bill was to achieve effective and convenient local government. Owing to the clash of interests involved, and the varying sizes of the local authorities concerned, the Government will need to appoint a very strong commission. In that connection, I want to quote an article published in the Local Government Chronicle of 12th April, 1958. The article paid detailed attention to certain ideas of my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, All Saints (Mr. D. Howell), but concluded with this paragraph: It seems highly probable that there will be no sweeping changes in the structure of local government. There is a growing opposition to reorganisation within the service: few officers will welcome changes which might reduce the number of positions vacant and will certainly reduce the number of chief officer posts, and few councillors will welcome changes which might alter the balance of the political parties to their disadvantage, or even reduce the number of seats vacant. Local loyalty is still strong and will doubtless add to this growing opposition to radical reorganisation. That quotation indicates one of the reasons why it will be necessary to appoint a strong commission if it is to do any good.

For instance, if we consider the West Midlands conurbation and the varying sizes of local authorities which will make representations to the commission, from parish councils like Castle Bromwich to the City of Birmingham, it is obvious that a very strong commission will have to be appointed if it is to resist the stronger authorities and pay sufficient attention to the representations of the smaller authorities. Anyone who has had any experience of such inquiries knows that cases can be put forward more or less effectively according to the quality of the persons at the command of the local authority.

Mr. Denis Howell (Birmingham, All Saints)

I hope that my hon. Friend is not suggesting that the case Birmingham may put up in this matter has no merit at all. A strong commission would be one which would consider all the issues and come to a decision on the merits of the case.

Mr. Moss

That is precisely my argument, that a strong commission would come to a decision on all the merits of the case. I can assure my hon. Friend that I have never held such views about Birmingham, although I have found them prevalent outside the city.

A good example can be found in Clause 25 and the Third Schedule, which deals with special review areas. The West Midlands special review area is 275 square miles in extent, but it is theoretically possible through the use of Clause 25 to add another 730 square miles. That is a considerable mileage. Obviously, the Minister will have to be very careful about the appointment of this commission and to see that the best people are put on it.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr M. Stewart) declared, opposition to the Bill centres on the general grant, which, in the words of Clause 1 (3), shall be payable in aid of the revenues of the recipient authority generally. I incline to the view that, if we have to have a general grant, the Bill provides as many safeguards as can reasonably be expected. Clause 2 (1) provides that the Minister must take into account five factors. First, he must take into account all the latest information about the rate of relevant expenditure. Secondly, he must consider the current level of costs, prices and remuneration". Thirdly, he must pay attention to any future variation in that level of costs, prices and remuneration which can be foreseen. Fourthly, he must consider the demand which exists for the services. Fifthly, he must consider the need to develop those services in the light of the economic situation.

Moreover, Clause 2 (4) contains a provision for interim revision of the general grant. A new Burnham award would constitute such occasion for interim revision. Of course, the basic grant takes account of children under 15 years of age and supplementary grants are payable in respect of children under five years of age and pupils on the registers of maintained or assisted schools, pupils maintained at other schools and at occupation centres. That is under the First Schedule, Part III. We have the additional power in Clause 3 and in Clause 1 (6) we have the provision that the general grant order and report have to be laid before the House.

The remarkable thing is that in spite of those provisions in the Bill and in spite of repeated assurances given by the Minister, the world of education remains unalterably opposed to the general grant. Teachers and education committees alike are opposed. There is considerable doubt as to what support the Minister has among local authorities themselves, as distinct from education committees. Therefore, it cannot be said, not even by the hon. Member for Ormskirk, that with an opposition which is so persistent in respect of the provisions of the Bill I have enumerated, and which the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary have repeatedly adduced in justification of the general grant—or, as was said in Committee, "to make it respectable"—teachers and education committees do not remain opposed to it. I think that the House ought to try to understand why that is so.

The first reason is that those who are opposed to the introduction of the general grant in Part I of the Bill fear the skinny hand of the Exchequer economy. This, I suppose, is one of the arguments which the Parliamentary Secretary would include in the category of motive when he talks about distrusting the motives of the Government. The argument is that education is the main service affected—comprising 85 per cent. to 90 per cent. of the many involved. The sole purpose of introducing the general grant, whether it be related to the battle against inflation or not, is to effect economy on the basis of necessary costs. By that I mean not simply to eliminate extravagance, but to effect real economy in the sense either of preventing the expansion of the service, or of reducing it.

The second reason is contained in an interesting article in the Universities Quarterly for February, 1958, contributed by the editor of Education. The House will perhaps allow me to quote one sentence from that article: The immediate effect of the change will be that every penny beyond a certain sum spent by a local authority on education will come wholly from the rates and every penny saved will wholly benefit the rates. A local authority will know that if it undertakes an expansion of the education service locally, as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education said, it will have to be financially responsible for such expansion entirely out of its own resources. I am suggesting that the opponents of the general grant have a serious and genuine basis for their opposition because they fear that its application is bound to result in a failure to secure the necessary expansion of the education service because, beyond a certain point, in future the whole of the expenditure will fall on the rates.

If we consider a new Burnham award, so far as I understand the financial provisions, that will make it more difficult for local authorities under a general grant because the general grant has no relationship to expenditure, whether on teachers' salaries or not. Local authorities faced with an increase in teachers' salaries, if there is an interim revision of the general grant, will have to place a greater burden on the rates than would have been necessary under the old system.

The third reason has been mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham. A local education authority which forges ahead will be penalised, while a local education authority which does not do so will secure what the Minister of Education, in an argument with my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, All Saints, called an uncovenanted financial gain. It is one of the accepted lessons of the history of educational development that it is important for some authorities to set the pace and to prescribe standards so that what they achieve may ultimately percolate through the whole system. The general grant will make that less likely because a progressive local authority will know that any advances it seeks to make above the national average it will have to bear entirely out of rates, and to that extent it will be discouraged. On the other hand, a local authority which hangs back will gain and will be able to reduce the rates in its locality because it hangs back. That was made clear by the Minister of Education when he said that the City of Birmingham, because it was understaffed, would benefit more from the general grant. That argument has only to be reversed to show that a local authority which does not provide the full service will benefit financially since the general grant is not distributed in relation to expenditure.

The fourth reason, which, again, the Parliamentary Secretary may think comes under the category of motive, is that it is believed that the Government are seeking to compel local authorities to raise more money locally. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will understand that that argument could be advanced in a scientific way and not from party political prejudice. He probably remembers that The Times once said that the only way to make local authorities more autonomous was to make them raise more funds locally so that autonomy would follow financial autonomy.

It is remembered that it has been said in the House that for every £6 spent out of taxation only £5 is spent out of rates at present. It has been said that rates in recent years have not increased to the same extent as taxes have increased. There was an article in one of the bank journals which argued to the same effect. All this leads people to believe that it is the ultimate intention of the Government to thrust a greater burden on to local rates. The tendency will be to thrust the burden of educational expansion upon the financial instrument least able to bear it. The rating system is too inflexible to be used for this purpose.

The fifth argument is that education committees will tend to lose the special status which they have had, as already appears to be the case in Sheffield. They will be placed on the same footing as other committees and will have to join in the scramble for their share of the money.

Lastly, a lot remains to be done about overcrowded classes, shortage of teachers, elimination of old and unfit schools. It is sometimes said that the 1944 Act has been only half achieved. In his book "Representative Government", which was published in 1861, John Stuart Mill said, about local services: But among the duties classed as local, or performed by local functionaries, there are many which might, with equal propriety, be termed national, being the share, belonging to the locality, of some branch of the public administration in the efficiency of which the whole nation is alike interested. The examples which he gave were gaols, police and justice. The outstanding example which we could give today is the education service.

The education service must be developed in the national sense. It is not local from that point of view. It is a service upon which the future prosperity and influence of the country depend. It is a national service locally administered and it must be encouraged on a national and not a local basis. It is therefore desirable, or so it seems to me, that the Government should have retained the financial instrument which has been so valuable to the education service in the past. That is admitted by all students of the subject, no matter what the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education may say, and they regret its passing now.

That is the reason why I shall vote against the Third Reading of the Bill. I believe that the general grant will be hostile to the future needs of education in this country, and that, in the long run, we shall have thrown away a long-term advantage for a mess of potage.

6.34 p.m.

Mr. T. L. Iremonger (Ilford, North)

I have only two points to make and they are both marginal, although one of them is of the greatest possible importance to the borough which I represent. I should like to refer briefly, however, to the speech of the hon. Member for Meriden (Mr. Moss).

I hope that I shall not embarrass the hon. Gentleman unduly if I say that a large part of his speech was very fair indeed. He gave credit, which not all of his hon. Friends have done, to the safeguards in the Bill which should ensure that the use of the general grant does not justify some of the fears that have been expressed. The hon. Gentleman conveyed very well the atmosphere of stubborn resistance and prejudice with which we are faced in some quarters, although he rather overestimated the weight of opinion covered by that prejudice.

Having listened to the hon. Gentleman, and for so many hours to arguments put forward in the House, in the Committee and elsewhere, against the general grant and its effect upon education, I remain unimpressed. Of course, it is possible that a local education committee or the local authority will pinch education in order to save the rates. Of course, it is possible that the Government of the day, the present Government or one of their successors, of whatever political colour, may make a general grant which is so mean as to hinder the development of education. Of course, it is possible that Parliament, which has the duty and is responsible for approving the general grant, will endorse such a grant. It is possible: if the Government, if the House of Commons and if the electorate are mad and irresponsible. Our anxiety about the Bill must be measured by the degree of responsibility which we believe the public and its elected representatives are capable of upholding.

Of all the arguments I have heard and listened to so carefully, the real point was made by the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison). The way in which the arguments have been presented will, I am sure, remind the hon. and learned Gentleman of the story which he will have heard so many times at the Bar. It concerns the advice given to a young advocate. It was, "When you have the facts on your side, hammer them into the jury. When you have the law on your side, hammer it into the judge. When you have neither the facts nor the law on your side then just hammer hell into the table." That characterises the philosophy of the advocacy with which the case against the general grant has been put.

The hon. and learned Gentleman put the whole thing into a nutshell at one stage of our debate in Committee in Westminster Hall, when he said that the Opposition's quarrel with the general grant was that they did not trust the Government. The hon. and learned Gentleman did not trust the Tory Party to make an adequate general grant, to prescribe an adequate sum. That is a fair point, but one on which we differ from him.

However, the argument was taken a stage further today by the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart). I am sorry that he is not in his place at the moment, and I understand why. He exposed the true basis of the argument against the general grant. It is not really, "We do not trust the Government". It is, "We do not trust the people". That is the beginning and the end of the argument against the general grant. I do not accept that argument.

Mr. Moss

My argument did not depend upon whether the Government reduced or increased the amount of the general grant.

Mr. Iremonger

That is perfectly true. I exempt the hon. Member from that criticism. He did not make that point. He would have been on sounder ground if he had, because that is gist of the effective case against the Bill. The hon. Gentleman made a very fair speech but he did not make that point.

Mr. Mitchison

In the absence of my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart), whose speech I heard, I would assure the hon. Gentleman and the House that my hon. Friend did not say, directly or indirectly, that he did not trust the people.

Mr. Iremonger

Naturally the hon. Gentleman did not say that, but that can be the only meaning of what he said this afternoon. If his speech had any meaning that is the meaning.

The first of the two points I want to make tonight is in connection with the so-called "county" awards to university undergraduates. Having listened to the debates and considered the representations that have been made to me, as to other hon. Members, I do not think we are right in keeping those awards as a local authority responsibility. That service is neither compulsory under the 1944 Act nor is it sufficiently local to justify keeping it a local authority responsibility, and I hope that in the fullness of time it will be possible to make better arrangements. It remains as it is in the Bill, and does not work out very well at the moment. I hope that we shall not have to bear very long with this thoroughly unsatisfactory system.

My most important and final point is on Clause 35, which concerns Restriction on the promotion of Bills for changes of local government areas or status. Subsection (1) says: No local authority shall have power to promote a Bill for forming any new area of local government or for altering, or altering the status of, any area of local government, before the expiration of fifteen years from the commencement of this Act. It goes on to provide in subsection (4): Her Majesty may by Order in Council provide for excluding the operation of that subsection in relation to any other part that is, other than the administrative county of London, of the metropolitan area specified in the Order. These provisions will bring in the Borough of Ilford, which is concerned with its status. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government was helpful in Committee in giving an assurance about the Government's intentions in this matter. The Parliamentary Secretary will have in mind my anxiety about this matter. I hope that the Minister will be able to go further than he could in Committee and express in unequivocal terms what I am sure he would wish to be an assurance to local authorities who are in the position in which the Borough of Ilford now finds itself.

My right hon. Friend said in Committee: The alternative, of course, is that far one reason or another no legislation will follow the Royal Commission's Report either because the Commission has recommended nothing or because the Government having read the Report, have decided on balance not to take action. Then he went on to say: It is quite clear that in that case a borough such as Ilford ought not to be deprived for a time of its opportunity to put its claim afresh to Parliament, and it will be only right that that opportunity should be restored."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee D, 18th March, 1958; c. 958.] I hope that my right hon. Friend will find it possible to give a positive undertaking in so many words that, in those circumstances, a borough such as Ilford will have fresh access to Parliament and will be given positive freedom to promote a Bill by Order in Council. With the assurance that stands on record at the moment we may well be in the position in years to come of saying to the Minister, "In column 958, this is what was said", and my right hon. Friend's successor will look at those words and will reply, All that was said was that the borough ought not to be deprived of its opportunity. That was a matter of opinion. It was not an undertaking".

We have heard that kind of thing in the House of Commons before and we know how difficult it is later on to hold any Minister down to such an undertaking. The very furthest that my right hon. Friend can go now is bound to be subject to the effluxion of time and to changes of Governments and of Parliaments. It is always possible to minimise the effect of any undertaking given. Before the Bill leaves us I hope that my right hon. Friend will make more clear this point, which most closely affects the most important non-county borough in Great Britain. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh".] I say that without any fear of contradiction. I ask that Ilford may now be given an assurance that she can accept as satisfactory in the face of the many galling disappointments and delays she has had to put up with for the last twenty years.

6.45 p.m.

Or. Horace King (Southampton, Itchen)

I was interested in what the hon. Member for Ilford, North (Mr. Iremonger) had to say about university grants and the special plea that he made for the exemption of university awards from local government control. It illustrates to me the simple fact that when an hon. Member opposite is really keen on some aspect of education he realises that the general case that we are putting is a true one.

The hon. Member for Ilford, North would trust the local authorities with primary and secondary schools, but he would not trust them to make provision for university education for children within a local authority area. The difference between us is that we on this side trust the local authorities with all branches of education provided they get fair financial support. We seek to persuade the Minister to give them adequate finance on what we regard, and what for forty years the country has regarded, as a fair basis.

I suppose that it would be ungracious not to mention the better parts of this sorry Bill It partially rerates industry and so halves the levy which the ratepayers of Britain have borne for the last thirty or forty years on behalf, among others, of the brewers of the country under the bogus claim that the brewers would be in economic difficulties if they had to pay their whole rates. The £10 million which local authorities will get from this partial rerating will, for many of them, obscure some of the worst effects of the Bill, at any rate, during the first year or two after it becomes law.

Some local authorities will regain enough from the rerating proposals in the Bill to make them better off in the first year, despite the block grant. For instance, so far as one can gather from the various hypothetical tables submitted from time to time, my own county, Hampshire, may be better off in the first year. On the other hand, local authorities, like Bournemouth, Eastbourne and Blackpool, as was pointed out last week, will endure to the full all the effects of Tory local government financial reform in the first year, and will be much worse off at once. That was why we had the little revolt from the Tory benches last week.

We on this side of the House welcome the partial rerating proposals, but we believe that the 50 per cent. privilege which industry still enjoys is an unfair one and that it still presents a heavy burden on local ratepayers and rate finances. The Bill also makes a wise provision for a review of local government areas. Probably in some respects these provisions are inadequate. We tried in vain to amend Part II of the Bill as we sought to amend other parts of the Bill during the Committee stage discussions, but I think that, on the whole, these provisions are wise. Whatever happens to other parts of the Bill, I think that this part will last and the important work it will set in action will take a number of years and much care and thought on behalf of the commissioners, and the local authorities when making representations to the commissioners.

I was pleased with what the Parliamentary Secretary had to say about the care which the Government will take, in appointing the commissioners for this purpose, to see that they are men of judgment and calibre. Part III of the Bill sets in motion a second great reform aimed at giving the smaller authorities a greater sense of belonging, and more responsibility and power wherever power can be handed down without jeopardising a public service. It is a compromise and I do not suppose that it pleases anybody either in the House or in the complicated Pattern of local government associations. But I believe that it represents an honest attempt, and a result of efforts made over a number of years on the part of associations representing county councils, county boroughs, municipal corporations. district councils—and even parish councils—to move towards each other; each remaining utterly convinced of its own rectitude and utterly satisfied with its own policy and structure. I would only say about Part III that I hope that the bigger authorities will not be niggardly in their interpretation of it. On the other hand, I beg the smaller authorities not to bite off more than they can chew, or not to ask to do so.

Having said so much about the other parts of the Bill, I come now to the heart of the matter, the iniquitous setting up of the block grant system in Clauses 1 to 4. The opportunity for amending these financial provisions is over, thanks to the stubbornness of the Minister and his determination to set the clock of education back to the days before Fisher. But for that stubbornness the right hon. Gentleman might have gone down in history, because of the other parts of the Bill, as the author of a good local government Bill and the author of an excellent Pensions (Increase) Act, 1956, which would have been some compensation to set against his much inferior Rent Act.

As it is, educationists will put the Minister in the same category as Geddes, May and Ray and, in the words of Macbeth, will speak of him with curses, not loud, but deep. Forty years ago, on 13th March, 1918, Fisher said of the financial arrangements which he introduced and which, by this Bill, it is proposed to scrap: It is possible to encourage local enterprise while taking full security against local inertia. It is possible so to work the partnership between the State and the local authority as to provide the greatest possible equality of opportunity between area and area. Those two high purposes were the only reasons for the change, forty years ago, from the old general grant system to the percentage grant, the system which, by this Bill, the Minister would destroy.

Every educationist in the country, except the present Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education, the experience of forty years and the unparalleled progress of British education, particularly since the war years, would seem to show that Fisher was right, because the record of progress in education in this country can be set boldly against the progress in any other country on this planet in recent years. If Fisher was right, then what this Bill will achieve is exactly the opposite of those two principles. To paraphrase or invert what Fisher said, we may say about the general grant proposition that the block grant will discourage local enterprise; it will encourage local inertia and provide the least possible equality of opportunity between area and area.

Let me try to prove this. It will discourage local enterprise, because local enterprise in education and local government has to do with the spending of money. It can be shown only by incurring expenditure above the national average on some worth-while service and any expenditure above the national average must be borne 100 per cent. by the local authorities. It will encourage local inertia because anyone in local government who goes slow, anyone who does merely what the average local authority is doing, will save the ratepayer from spending extra money every penny of which would have to come out of his own pocket. The local authority which buries its one talent in the earth—whatever the parable may say—will be rewarded. The Minister changes the old proverb and says to local authorities, "Go to the sluggard thou ant, consider her ways and be wise."

It will be worse than that. The block grant puts a premium on dishonesty, and I use that word deliberately. Any local authority which spends less than the national average on any education service can make a profit at the expense of the State; at the expense of the Minister and at the expense of the average and progressive local authorities—not to mention at the expense of the local authority's own children. A financial incentive is provided for dishonest policy.

Those enthusiasts in Birmingham who want to get Birmingham up to the national average in teachers per children will find the dice of rate finance loaded against them. Those who wish to lead the country in sending lads to the university, or pulling down slum schools, or cutting down the size of classes, can do so only if they themselves bear 100 per cent. of the cost of their educational generosity and wisdom, while the Minister of Education stands aside and does not offer a penny to help.

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


Dr. King

Oh, yes. If the Parliamentary Secretary wishes to intevene I will give way.

Sir E. Boyle

The general grant will be a forward-looking exercise. There is no reason why it should not take into account all the needs of expansion during the years ahead. Therefore, to say that any local authority which engages in educational expansion will have to provide for the whole of the increased expenditure out of the rates is going very much too far.

Dr. King

I am sorry, but the Parliamentary Secretary does not seem to understand the argument. Perhaps I have not put it clearly.

When the general grant has been made by the Minister and his overlords, when the block grant has been fixed, the points I made are still true. The block grant, even if it is a progressive-looking block grant, will be distributed among the local education authorities according to formulae which have nothing to do with their views on education, but which have to do with their physical structure. Local authorities will receive their average share of the national grant, and anything that they propose to do above the average in the country—and authorities become progressive only when they rise above the average—they will pay for 100 per cent. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary agrees that what I am saying is perfectly true.

Sir E. Boyle

I do not want to pursue the argument, but the hon. Gentleman has shifted his ground a little.

Dr. King


Sir E. Boyle

Yes. The point I was making was that it is an exaggeration to make out, as the hon. Member was doing a few minutes ago, that the cost of any expenditure in the service will have to come 100 per cent. out of the rates. Of course, the hon. Gentleman is correct in saying—I do not deny it—that any differential between what one local authority does and what another does will be its own responsibility. That I do not dispute, but it is a different point.

Dr. King

I am sure that I am within the recollection of the House in what I have been arguing during the last five minutes. There will be an occasion for arguing about the nature and size of the grant before I sit down.

Those who resist, at Burnham level, the claims of teachers for an adequate professional salary will be fortified by the block grant. I hope that the Minister, whose absence from many of these important debates is to be regrette——

Mr. Iremonger


Dr. King

If the hon. Member for Ilford, North wishes to defend the Minister's absence from three days of debate last week on an issue which, whoever is right, divides the country regarding its effect on education, he should be ready to rise to intervene. I simply said that it is to be regretted that on an important issue like this the Minister is not present.

As I was saying when I was interrupted by the hon. Member, who did not choose to stand to defend his interruption when invited to do so, those who resist the claims of teachers for an adequate professional salary at Burnham level will be assisted by the block grant, because when going into the negotiations nobody from the local government side can be certain that any concessions made to the teaching profession will be backed by a Government grant. I appeal to the Minister, through the Parliamentary Secretary, that when these negotiations take place the Government should clearly indicate their willingness to make financial provision for whatever extra expenditure local authorities wish to incur in Burnham negotiations.

As for equality of opportunity, the Bill will help the rich authority against the poor authority. Great local education authorities like London will be able to spend above the national average without seriously hurting the London ratepayer. The product of a 1d. rate in London is so colossal that it will be possible for London to continue above the London average, doing some of the things which it wants to do for education.

It will be the poor authorities which will find it impossible to spend more than the amount covered by the ministerial grant and it will be the backward authorities which will be unable to face the heavy finance of levelling up their educational provision now that the Government's help is strictly limited. The sins of reactionary county councils of forty years ago, which have been visited on so many generations of children, will be visited on another generation of British children as a result of the incidence of the block grant.

From now on, education has two masters—at the local level the finance committee, which up to now—and I pay tribute to my own—has dealt generously with the matter of education, but which must obviously adopt a much more conservative attitude under the influence of the block grant; and at the national level, where the Minister of Education becomes office boy of the Minister of Housing and Local Government. We have watched that happening during the passage of the Bill. How the Tory Party loves to humiliate Ministers of Education! The Minister whom they once ejected from the Cabinet is back there only because of the pressure at that time from this side of the House, when the Conservative Party got into power and made one of its Cabinet reforms the exclusion of the Minister of Education.

I see a sorry decline in the latest Minister of Education but one, Lord Hail-sham, who, had he remained in education, might have been a great force for education and who has declined so lamentably as "Minister of Propaganda." The present Minister of Education now becomes subject to an overlord whose local government record includes the leading of the Tories to the greatest disaster in their history on the London County Council until his successor beat his record less than a month ago—a Minister of Housing and Local Government whose record includes a Rent Act which has already caused the voluntary death of one poor soul in Margate. I do not trust the fate of education in the hands of a Minister of Housing and Local Government who is capable of cutting down school building programmes, as he has recently cut down local council housing programmes, including that in Southampton.

What is the background against which we must consider this reactionary proposal? What is the educational picture at present? I will choose one authority—not mine, but Somerset—to take a typical example. In The Times Educa- tional Supplement for this week Somerset has reported that next year admissions to the county's secondary schools will be the highest ever recorded. Its secondary schools will be overcrowded and further emergency measures are needed to accommodate pupils in huts and similar places.

The Times Educational Supplement says that the Somerset local authority has strong feelings about Ministry of Education Circular 331 and the cuts already made by the Government in its programme: Among other things it will make it necessary practically to suspend the Committee's improvement programme for school sanitation. This is because the sanitation programme has been cut by the Government from £10,000 to £1,000. Eleven schools under that authority still use pails or Swanmore closets, and in all those 11 schools, says the report, it would have been possible to provide waterborne sanitation if money had been available. It is the Government who have cut out the waterborne sanitation programme of the Somerset local authority, who are given the power under the Bill to decide the size of the block grant. Whitehall, not Somerset, decides the checking of the advance towards modern sanitation in Somerset.

Every local authority in the country at present faces similar cuts by the Government in school reorganisation, in new schools, in sanitation provision and in minor and major building programmes. It is true that in future the local authorities have the consolation that they can build what they like provided they find the whole of the money themselves and provided the Government relax their capital building programme, which they are not very likely to do. Local authorities will be free, just as Anatole France said the poorest citizen was as free as the richest to engage learned counsel when on trial, provided he could pay out of his own pocket.

This Bill ties the hands of every education enthusiast in the country and of the education committees' teachers and education officers. Let me interject a tribute to the education officers of this country, who have built up such a magnificent service in the last forty years. The Bill ties the hands of all who are imbued with the idea of carrying out the great implications of the 1944 Act. It ties them by making educational progress and the achievement of their dreams a heavy burden on the ratepayer. And this at a time when rate burdens are already becoming excessive and are already inequitable and unjust in the incidence they bear on different citizens.

The truth of the educational position was superbly and succinctly stated last week by The Times Educational Supplement. It is rare to find so many truths in so few words. It said: We are not spending enough on education. Too many classes are still too big. Too many school buildings are still depressing. Most of the money goes, quite rightly, in teachers' pay, and this is not only the biggest but also the most important expense. We need more teachers, so we shall have to spend more money. We need better teachers, and one way of getting them is to pay more for them. On this count alone anyone who thinks of cutting what we spend on education is being irresponsible. I admit that the Government will not cut educational expenditure. They could not and they dare not. The Parliamentary Secretary has used the same expression this afternoon. But what I have just quoted means that it is not enough simply not to cut education. Education is still, and must be for quite a time, an expanding service. Educational expenditure must rise tremendously in the years ahead if we are to have adequate buildings, adequate teachers and adequate provision for the vastly increased child population.

Rate finance cannot stand the burden which education calls for. Already education absorbs more than half the local authorities' budget and teachers' salaries more than half the local education budget. It is because education looms so large in the block grant—more than four-fifths of it—and because we know the fundamental aim of the Government in introducing it and because we value highly not only education but also local government that we believe this to be a thoroughly bad Measure.

If the Government really believe that this is good for local government and education, let the police and the roads share in its benefits. If we dare not endanger civil protection and road safety to the freedom of paying 100 per cent. for police and road improvements, how wicked it is that we should endanger our children in this way.

I end by congratulating all who believe in the 1944 Act for the great fight they have waged against the block grant. I had not the honour to serve on the Standing Committee, so I can speak from outside and pay my tribute to the work of my right hon. and hon. Friends, day in and day out, in seeking to remove it from the Bill. A battle for truth and right never really fails, and one of the results of the fight upstairs, and the campaign in the country—and educationists have campaigned, on this not very easy topic to discuss in public, ever since the White Paper came out—has been to step up the size of the block grant.

I am confident—and I speak personally in this matter—that when the General Election comes along the Conservative Party will lose in one swoop not only the General Election but also the general grant. The Government which follow it will not repeal the whole of the Bill, but will certainly reintroduce into British education the grants system which was introduced years ago by Fisher, upon which the glorious progress of the past forty years has been made. If that happens, we shall more speedily move towards the implementation of the 1944 Act, and the spirit of Fisher will smile again.

Mr. Iremonger

Is the hon. Member saying that this is now what his party proposes to do? We understood that its policy had not yet been decided. It would be interesting to know whether this is his party's policy.

Dr. King

The hon. Member will know that I can speak only for myself. The policy of the party to which I belong is decided at annual conference.

Mr. Iremonger

A pious hope.

Dr. King

I hope that when the annual conference comes the answer to the hon. Member's question will also come—and I hope that it will be the answer that I have indicated.

The Clerk at the Table informed the House of the unavoidable absence of Mr. SPEAKER from the remainder of this day's Sitting.

Whereupon Sir CHARLES MACANDREW, The CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS, took the Chair as DEPUTY-SPEAKER, pursuant to the Standing Order.

7.12 p.m.

Mr. Philip Goodhart (Beckenham)

I apologise to the House for not having heard every word of the debate, but I think that even those who have not listened to the fervent words of the hon. Member for Itchen (Dr. King) will know that the Bill has been under substantial attack from many people who are interested in education. But only too often, I am afraid, a case which is worthy of serious consideration is damaged by gross exaggeration. Many of my hon. Friends have received deputations and letters from people suggesting that the members of local education authorities want to tear down the structure of education, damage our school system and tear the textbooks out of our children's hands or take the gym shoes off their feet.

This is absolute nonsense. In the last few years local councillors, in partnership with a Conservative Government, have vastly increased the expenditure on education, but when the alarmist smoke blows away many responsible people will still be worried about various aspects of the block grant. Perhaps the most serious charge against this Part of the Bill was best made by the Times Educational Supplement, in that famous leading article of 7th February which has been quoted so often with approval by my hon. and right hon. Friends.

But, in a part which is not so often quoted by my hon. Friends, it is suggested that it is a national Government which can best set the national priorities in education, and that by going on to a completely objective block grant system the central Government are forfeiting powers not of coercion but of leadership. I accept the force of that argument. On the other hand, it is, I think, demonstrable that a percentage grant, as we have had it in the past, is a direct incentive to extravagance and waste.

I cannot forget the time that I spent on the London County Council Education Committee. I particularly remember our approval of an expenditure of £12,000 for one prefabricated house-craft classroom. I do not want to go into the intricacies of the London property market, but at that time it was possible to buy, freehold, in a so-called "good" area of London, an exceedingly comfortable house, with a large garden, for just that amount of money which the County Council was proposing to spend upon one classroom.

Contrary to the opinion of the hon. Member for Itchen, I believe that a percentage grant gives most help to those authorities which have the most. The hon. Member referred to the case of Somerset, which is a relatively badly off education authority, and cited various improvements which could be made in that area. I agree, but let us consider what is happening in London. Only the other day a proposal was made in the L.C.C. Education Committee that a dictaphone should be provided for every headmaster and headmistress in the London County Council area, at a cost of about £20,000. However desirable the provision of dictaphones may be, can anyone suggest that that sort of expenditure is anything but a frill, and that a percentage grant encourages that sort of expenditure by the richest authorities? On the contrary, the block grant system will lead to greater equality between the richer and the poorer areas.

I am sorry, however, that the Government have not made greater efforts to meet the fears of the educationists. Some of my hon. Friends have tabled an Amendment which would enable the Government to make certain incentive payments—granted, they will be small ones—to those local authorities which have made substantial efforts on the lines laid down by the central Government. I hope that when the Bill goes to another place the Government will find it possible to accept that Amendment.

7.20 p.m.

Mr. James MacColl (Widnes)

While it is in my mind, I should like to dispose of the point made by the hon. Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart). There is no evidence—nobody has produced a tittle—to suggest that the percentage grant encourages extravagance by either education committees or any other local authority committees. All the evidence is to the contrary, as all the committees which have examined the matter have discovered.

The hon. Member threw his case away by producing a ridiculous example about dictaphones. I do not know whether the London County Council bought dicta-phones or not. However. I can think of very good reasons why it might be a wise thing to do. For instance, clerical assistance is very difficult to obtain, and if we are to have it economically we must have a group of schools being served by the same secretary. It is very difficult for a head teacher to plan his time-table if he has to be available at a certain time when the secretary is present. I should have thought that it would make education much more efficient, enable head teachers to teach in their schools and lead to the economical deployment of secretarial staff if one had a capital investment in dictaphones, for once they are bought they will last. That seems an extremely good reason for buying them.

Mr. Goodhart

Did I understand the hon. Gentleman to suggest that dicta-phones are an integral part of our education system and not a frill?

Mr. MacColl

What the hon. Gentleman understands me to say is that wise expenditure of money on a service produces a good and efficient service and that parsimony and being afraid to invest money is as bad for a social service as for a business. If it is right for someone to invest money in providing dictaphones in a business in order to get the most economical use of highly skilled people, it is right to do it in a social service.

I do not know how the story ended; I do not know whether the London County Council bought dictaphones or not. That does not matter. What matters is that the hon. Gentleman demonstrated clearly what he really wants to do behind a façade of cutting out frills is to cut down the efficiency of education and waste the time of teachers, leaving them in bad working conditions, in order to save a little money.

I had hoped not to begin on that note but as my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Dr. King) began by exploring certain items of agreement with the Government about the Bill. I have been able to find three things in the Bill about which I agree. First, the Government are entitled to take credit, for they have shown considerable energy and courage in bringing forward a Bill to tackle local government re-organisation. We have spent far too long messing about with the problem. It was not an easy thing for the Government to do this. It was not likely to produce political dividends. My view is that the Government have shown a great deal of determination in bringing forward the Bill, and I hope it will succeed. I hope that the local government commissions will succeed. I trust that they will not be too timid in their efforts.

I am a little uncertain whether the basic principle will work, that of delegation to local authorities with populations of 60,000, because, as I said in Standing Committee, I am uncertain whether delegation works at all. I hope it can be made to work, but my fear is that it will lead to frustration, that it will not be the final answer to the problem and that we may have to examine the problem again to ascertain whether conferment of powers upon authorities will not be more effective than delegation. As we have now reached this stage after our thirty-one days in the wilderness, I do not want to prevent the right hon. Gentleman from reaching the promised land, and if these parts of the Bill can be made to work I shall welcome it.

The second thing in the Bill that welcome is that the right hon. Gentleman has started with the special review areas. He was right to do so. I do not believe that we can solve the problem of local government until we decide what to do with the special review areas. I believe it will be a long business, but the Government are right to have the timing in their Bill.

In Standing Committee, I pressed the right hon. Gentleman about model schemes of delegation. He said it was a matter upon which he had not received any great expressions of desire from local authorities. I imagine that the Ministry of Education is exploring the possibilities of model schemes, and I hope the Minister will say something on this subject if he is able to do so.

There is a third thing in the Bill with which I agree. I am prepared to make the concession that there is a lot to be said for having a bigger block element in the grant. There is nothing sacrosanct about the existing proportions which the block grant and the percentage grant bear to each other in the total amount which local authorities receive. The present situation arises largely from historical reasons, changes in the value of money and so on, and there is nothing sacrosanct about it. Therefore, if what the right hon. Gentleman had done had been to say that we want to increase the proportion of central government grant based on a block formula in relation to the percentage element, I should have found it very difficult to quarrel with him.

But the right hon. Gentleman has gone very much further than that. In the main bulk of the services, the services which will be most sensitive to economy, he has abolished the percentage grant altogether, and for that I think nothing can be said. In order to try to hide the dangers of this, he had to get into more and more complexities in devising complicated formulae. After all, a percentage grant is simple and straightforward. One recognises that expenditure is necessary, and the Government pay their share. That is a simple operation which everybody can undertsand. But when we get highly complicated formulae which nobody can understand, local government ceases to be rational, because no one knows the basis upon which he is working.

When talking about the rate deficiency grant in Standing Committee, I ventured to criticise its complexity, and when we were asking for some information about how the rate deficiency grant would work, I used a phrase which, I think, rather shocked some of my hon. Friends. I said that we wanted to be able to look at the figures which the Government were to produce for the rate deficiency grant so that when we know what the Government intend, and have before us the figures which will show us the result of Government policy, we can say, 'There is something wrong with the formula. Somebody must have made a mistake in the "damned dots" because it cannot be right that Bournemouth should be getting ten times as much as Widnes'."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee D, 13th February, 1958; c. 283.] The phrase "the damned dots" was regarded as if it were a little frivolous and unduly disregarding the great skill with which the right hon. Gentleman and his advisers were approaching the problem.

Therefore, I was rather intrigued to discover a report by a borough treasurer—not the borough treasurer of Widnes—from which it appeared that in a document from the Ministry to explain how much rate deficiency grant his local authority would get, a figure of more than £100,000 was quoted. Subsequently there came this report to the finance committee: On failing to agree … the figures which had been given— … I contacted the Ministry who later informed me that owing to an error in a decimal place, the figures printed in their publication are wrong. My report should therefore show …". A figure just over £10,000 was quoted. The Ministry had got their "damned dots" wrong—not just over £100,000 but just over £10,000.

That is the kind of unfortunate slip which is one of many sorts of things which can go wrong in dealing with this complicated grant, and it is the sort of thing which drives a local authority finance committee off its head when trying to make up its mind how much money it will have to spend, how much it will have coming in and what expenditure it ought to incur.

It is quite true, as some really gullible hon. Member opposite said, that the great advantage of the block grant is that the central Government know exactly how much they will be let in for. That is perfectly true, but what is also perfectly true is that local authorities have no idea what they are going to get, and in many cases cannot work it out. Take, in particular, the rate-deficiency grant. How can a local authority, when it wants to make up its mind whether it can afford an item of expenditure, decide whether or not it is going to get grant? Because the expenditure will affect normal expenditure. Normal expenditure is not necessarily based on the expenditure of that authority itself, but may be based on the average of the expenditure of authorities of that type. In other words, when it has spent the money it is going to be told some time afterwards whether or not it is going to have any rate-deficiency grant at all on that bit of expenditure. I think I am right about that.

I am not surprised. After all, in a Government who believe that we can solve the whole problem of investment by means of Premium Bonds, it is not really surprising to find that they think they can solve all the problems of local government finance by having a kind of gigantic sweep, at the end of which, if a local authority is lucky, it gets back in grant the amount of expenditure, or if it is unlucky, finds that its expenditure has gone over the normal ceiling and that therefore it gets no grant on it at all. This is the kind of way in which this Government, who have been talking in sanctimonious terms about trusting the local authorities and freeing the local authorities, are treating them.

I cannot sit down without saying something about the general grant in relation to education. There has been some idea—indeed, I think somebody on the other side of the House used such a phrase—that this was calculated in objective terms and therefore was something which was quite clear and could be relied upon That is not true at all. What will happen with the general grant is not that the Government will fix various weights to different elements of the formulae and then see what the sum at the end is and then pay that over. They are going to work in the opposite direction. They are going to decide how much they are prepared to pay in grants and then work out the formula to fit the gross sum.

That was more or less admitted by the Minister when resisting a proposal made in Standing Committee that we should have separate orders for the separate elements in the formulae. He said, "Oh, no, we cannot do that because all the elements have to be integrated together to make certain not too much is got as a result of them." What is going to happen is that the Government will decide as part of their general economic and financial policy what they can afford to give to local authorities. That is why everybody was delighted, because this formula will make central Government finance so very much easier. Of course, the corollary to making central Government finance so very much easier is to make local government finance so very much more difficult.

The responsibility for unpopular political decisions is going to fall on the shoulders of the local authorities. That is the really cowardly thing about Part I of the Bill. Whatever the Government may say it their expansive moods about developing this or that social service—the supply of teachers, for instance—and all the rest of it, the unhappy decision of what they can afford to do and what they cannot, falls on the local authorities, and the central Government contract out by saying, "That work is not our responsibility. We are not responsible for carrying out those services." Whatever the Government may say, they are, of course, stopping that work, because they are fixing the amount of the aggregate sum of the general grant, and they are fixing it, as I say, as part of their general economic policy. That seems to me a miserable thing to do.

My hon. Friend the Member for Itchen criticised the Minister of Education for not taking part in these proceedings. I had not realised until after making a diligent search through Vacher that there was a Minister of Education. We have not seen or heard him at all. There was a tremendous amount of blowing of trumpets at the time the Lord President of the Council was Minister of Education. In those days education was to boom. We were going to have a great campaign for education. I suggest that, following, I suppose, the instinct for survival, about which the Parliamentary Secretary spoke today, the Lord President thought it more important to save the Tory Party than to save the schools. Judging by the mess he has made of saving the Tory Party, I am rather glad he is no longer trying to save the schools. However, since those days we seem to have neither heard nor seen any sign of the existence of a Minister of Education. [HON. MEMBERS: "Who is he?"] I rather thought that it must be the Foreign Secretary. I am not quite certain about that.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education was not permitted to escape. The Parliamentary Secretary has got to purge his contempt over Suez. He has not been allowed to escape from education. He has got to stay and see this beastly business through, and so, while the Lord President can go off to another job and keep his reputation as a reformer, the wretched Parliamentary Secretary is left to see this thing through.

We had the extraordinary spectacle in Standing Committee that this matter, which affects the vital development of all the social services and the whole of local government, was handled by the right hon. Gentleman and three Parliamentary Secretaries supporting him. We had one Parliamentary Secretary who quite obviously believed fervently in the briefs he was given but showed no signs of having read them, another Parliamentary Secretary who had read them and studied them meticulously and did not believe them at all, and another Parliamentary Secretary who showed no sign of having read them or understood them or of believing in them.

I can quite understand why the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government talks so feelingly about the instinct in politicians for survival, because he must find his right hon. Friend a very awkward bedfellow. If ever there was a person dedicated to self-martyrdom, or in translation to another place, whichever it may be——

Mr. E. Fernyhough (Jarrow)

The same thing.

Mr. MacColl

—it is the right hon. Gentleman. He has obviously got to the stage where he cares not at all for his political reputation, but surely it is a tragic and sad thing that somebody as indifferent as he has shown himself to be to the social services should have been left in charge of a Bill of this sort, and left, as I say, with the assistance of three Parliamentary Secretaries but with neither of the two Ministers who are responsible for these services being present in the Committee or in the House on Report stage to defend the policy which is behind this Bill.

Why should this be regarded as purely a question of finance, purely a question for the Minister of Housing and Local Government? After all, the main grants of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government are not affected at all. Such as they are, in respect of housing they are not affected by the Bill. Where the brunt of the financial provisions of this Bill will be felt is in education and public health, and I should have thought that we were entitled to see the Ministers responsible for those services present to defend them.

I suggest to the House that the only thing we can do with this Bill is to reject it, not because it has not got certain inherent good things in it, for I think it has, but because the philosophy behind the main Part is to use the good things as a cloak behind which to apply a financial stranglehold on local authorities. It is all very well to say we are giving them freedom. Unless we are prepared to give them a more flexible system of local government finance not limited by rates the Government must be ready to bear a full financial share of the expenditure in which the local authorities are engaged. They must be prepared to bear financial responsibility not only in the aggregate but in the detailed development of services.

However one may try to hide it, the fact remains that when any local authority comes to face the question, "Should we spend money on this or not?" after the Bill is passed, all the arguments for economy and saving of rates will favour the cutting out of expenditure. Nothing will be lost thereby; it will not affect one's grant if any expenditure is cut out. On the other hand, as I said before, it may very well endanger one's grant if one expands expenditure too quickly because one may then go beyond the belt of normal expenditure.

All the way through the Bill, once a course is steered as well as may be through all its technicalities and complications, the emphasis is on an attempt to throttle down local government expenditure and to do it with the minimum of political responsibility, putting upon the local councils responsibility for doing the dirty work of the Government in cutting down and starving the social services.

7.40 p.m.

Mr. John M. Temple (City of Chester)

It is a very great pleasure for me to follow the hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl), because I know that he has a tremendous interest in local government. When he began his speech, I thought that he and I would find a great deal of common ground. He welcomed the reorganisation of local government which is an integral part of the Bill. I go all the way with him there. He welcomed the tackling of the review of the special review areas. Here again, we find common ground. He even went some way in regard to the block grant, saying that there should be a bigger element of block grant in the grant. But there, I am afraid, our points of common interest diverged somewhat, because the hon. Gentleman then made a vigorous attack on the block grant, saying that it would work against any improvement in the education services which had hitherto been brought about.

The hon. Member for Southampton, lichen (Dr. King) attacked the block grant, but he admitted that, since the war, there had been continuous progress in education. For the last seven years, this Government have been responsible for education. If the progress and improvement in education has been continuous over these years, as I believe it to have been, then the party and Government which I have the honour to support should have credit for the big hand they have had in that progress. From my knowledge of the present Government, I believe that they have no desire to go back on that policy of steady support for education, and I believe that the fears of educationists throughout the country will prove unfounded. Of course, when one has become used to a system based on percentage grants, any change arouses suspicion. Nevertheless, I am certain that the change will come about with greater smoothness and effectiveness than many people suggest.

Part I of the Bill contains the great financial provisions, including the rerating of industry to the extent of 50 per cent. I believe that this is getting things just about right. It doubles the rate burden on industry. When points are made about larger firms, perhaps, being able to meet a greater burden, the reply can equally be made, as it was made by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary today after he read out a telegram from the cotton industry, that many industries would be put in grave difficulties if a further burden were added to their costs by pushing rerating any higher. Smaller industrial concerns would be very seriously affected if rerating were increased to an extent greater than the 50 per cent. proposed. I believe that the Government's proposal is the right one and that a sensible balance will be achieved.

As to the general grant itself, if one takes that proposal in conjunction with Clause 2 (1) of the Bill, which envisages any probable fluctuation in the demand for services … and the need for developing those services an adequate safeguard is seen to be contained in the Bill to deal with any fluctuations which may occur. I believe, however, that there is one overriding factor without which the Bill will not work. This is the ability and keenness of local representatives to take responsibility. I have in mind here the governing principle which will guide the commissions which are to review the special review areas and the county boroughs. This governing principle is that they shall bring about effective and convenient local government I do not myself think that "convenience" is a very strong word, but it is a very effective word. I do not envisage that the commissions will think solely of the convenience of administration or the convenience of layout of the services in the areas concerned. I do not think that they will have particularly in mind as a governing consideration the areas which the new authorities are to encompass.

There is one matter of convenience which has not previously been referred to in any detail, the convenience of those men and women, the voluntary workers, who go to make up the material of our councils. Dare I refer to them as the great unpaid element in local government? They have taken on the duties originally laid on the justices of the peace in the reign of Edward III. The persons engaged in local government today are the natural successors, the unpaid successors, of the justices of the peace who, in those bygone days, carried out the responsibilities of what we know as local government. I believe that, unless we take fully into consideration in the reconstruction of local government the convenience of those men and women—not their ability to do the work but their ability to carry their responsibilities and be able conveniently to reach their city hall, town hall or county hall—they will not be able to perform their duties in such a way as to make the mechanism of local government work.

The Bill as a whole provides, as it were, a magnificent chassis upon which local government may be built. In this House we are building only the chassis. Later, when the commissions get to work and local government is reformed, the bodywork will be put on to that chassis. I stress that the basic mechanism in the Bill is good. When the chassis is clothed with the bodywork and the local councils mount this new great vehicle of local government, it will be seen then that we have produced a sound vehicle. I look forward to the time when that vehicle, having been furbished overall, will go forward into the future bearing local government upon it. The pattern of local government which will be borne by that vehicle will be a pattern of which we, who have taken part in its design through this Bill, will be proud.

Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)

Who pays for the petrol?

7.50 p.m.

Mr. Denis Howell (Birmingham, All Saints)

The description of local government by the hon. and learned Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple) was interesting and illuminating. One moment local government was on the back of the chassis and the next moment one wondered where it was. The important thing for local government is that the chassis should be well lubricated and the vehicle well stocked with fuel. [An HON. MEMBER: "Horsepower is important."] The horsepower of the engine has, under the Government, been running down continuously. As for the driver, there are grave doubts whether he ought to be prosecuted for criminally negligent driving. That is a matter upon which the jury at large will pronounce their verdict as soon as they possibly can be given the opportunity.

Having listened to the Second Reading debate and the debates in Committee, we are back to the very foundation of the Government's policy as enunciated in the White Paper about a year ago, from which we recall that the percentage grant system is an indiscriminate incentive to further expenditure. It was upon that rock that the Government based the whole of their case and their proposals and from which there is no doubt we have been unable to move them. We must ask ourselves whether the percentage grant system has been so indiscriminate or so bad to the country to date.

The hon. and learned Member for the City of Chester gloried in the fact that we have had seven years of Conservative control, under which we have had a progressive education system. The fact is that we have had an education system under a percentage grant system. Some of us are far from satisfied with regard to education because there has been a holding back centrally of education for many reasons. Nevertheless, whatever has been achieved to the satisfaction of the hon. and learned Gentleman and his hon. Friends has been achieved under the percentage grant system. Therefore, there is a big onus on him to disprove the advantage of the percentage grant system in claiming the credit for what has been done under it.

Mr. Temple

Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that this improvement has been broadly under a Tory Government? It was admittedly under a percentage grant system, but it was brought in under a Conservative Government and I have every confidence that the progress will continue.

Mr. Howell

One of the reasons why this fundamental change has been proposed to us is that where there is a percentage grant system it is open to local authorities and Members of Parliament who take an interest in and try to represent their local authorities' point of view to argue the individual merits of particular cases. Let us consider individual cases confronting a local authority, such as, shall we have a new grammar school or pull down the slum school, or do we need the health centre? The Government can ride off that individual analysis by saying, "We have no responsibility for this matter. This is for local autonomy under the new Bill".

I, personally, do not object to some degree of central planning, because I think that the Government must from time to time say that the emphasis should be here or there in their local government services. But, nevertheless, the corollary of that system is that public opinion and the important opinion of local authorities and hon. Members can be brought to bear and focused on individual projects. Those of us who have had anything to do with local government, and have joined in deputations to various Ministries, realise how important a part that has played in the progress that has been made hitherto. It will be very difficult indeed to maintain.

In the 31 sittings that we have had upstairs not a single piece of evidence has been produced to show that the percentage grant system does not work. That is a most important consideration. No Minister and no hon. Member opposite has been able to show that there are in this country men and women serving on local authorities dedicated to the task of wasting the money of the ratepayer or taxpayer. When local authorities, under the percentage grant system, get down to determining what scheme they wish to proceed with they bear in mind the important fact that 40 per cent. of the cost of it has to be found from the rates. They are answerable to the ratepayers and are unlikely to use money indiscriminately any more than a Minister sitting in his office in Whitehall.

Today, we have had this very sorry exhibition of an hon. Member who said that the L.C.C. intends to supply its headmasters with dictaphones, which, in his view, is an example of a frill or waste in education. Apparently, automation is to find no place in education, according to hon. Members opposite. I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) dealt with this point very fully and I do not intend to go into it in detail. It is important that headmasters should be relieved of these burdens. Head teachers who decide to do no more teaching themselves, and become purely administrators, are a great loss and are doing great harm as far as their establishments are concerned.

If the L.C.C. has introduced dictaphones—and it is certainly the first I have heard of it—I congratulate it upon a very sensible step which is in line with what industry is doing and what any sensible person would want to have done. The fact that this is the only sort of example which can be produced is indicative of the paucity of argument on the other side in these matters.

We know that what the Government hope to obtain by this Bill is to place a ceiling upon expenditure for local government. They have no consideration at all for the problems that are left behind. Indeed, to a certain extent they say that they wish to abdicate from them and that they wish to have local autonomy. I dealt on Second Reading at some length with the corollary of the proposition that the Government wished to give more freedom to local authorities. There are at least 20 various Orders—such as those in respect of education, health, the fire service, town planning and school crossing patrols—which govern what local authorities have to do.

I have asked, and other of my hon. Friends have asked since, whether the Government are sincere in their wish to give local authorities more autonomy, what proposals they propose to introduce in respect of these various Orders. We have not been told about any proposals that the Government intend. We have had no details. Local authorities will be just as rigidly controlled in education. The restrictions in respect of the school health service, the school dental service, the size and scope of the further education service, the school grant orders which remain in force, laying down the size of classes, the amount of space and the amount of playing fields facilities, will still remain, in my view, rightly so, upon local authorities.

If they remain it is not open to hon. Members or to the Minister to say that they are giving autonomy to local authorities, because they know perfectly well that that is completely impracticable. Furthermore, they know, as we all know, that out of the provisions in the Bill 80 per cent. of the expenditure is in respect of education, and that of that 80 per cent. 60 per cent. is in respect of teachers' salaries, which are outside the control of local authorities entirely.

This really is a hollow claim which has been completely disproved, and which the Government have not sought in Committee or in the proceedings in this House to justify in any detail. This Measure will mean that we shall have one service set against another in our local councils throughout the country. There will be only a certain amount of money, and the claims of the educational world for increased services will have to be fought out hard against the Health Service for expanding services in their field. This is not the kind of argument which will encourage people to come forward into local government or which is conducive to the best form of local government.

If we look for a moment at the schemes which govern the membership of education committees throughout the country, we see that local education authorities are controlled by all sorts of interests. We see that membership of a local authority is certainly an important one, but not the only one. There have to be so many people practising in education, so many people practising from the religious aspect, so many people representing the women's point of view, and so on. Many of these people, by virtue of these schemes, do not serve upon local authorities at all, and, therefore, they will be operating in an educational vacuum, completely unrelated to the problems to which the serving council members on the committee will have to have regard vis-à-vis the health services, and so on.

The greatest claim that can be made against these poposals is that they will produce a system of stagnation in education. When I contemplate the great problems that are now before us in the country, I fail to see how these block grant proposals will assist in solving them. For instance, the tasks that lie immediately ahead in education are considerable. There is the need to abolish the slum schools. Those who serve in cities such as Birmingham know how great an impression that makes upon us. In my own constituency, I have had the unfortunate prospect of seeing our chairman of the local education committee and members of the church arguing whether a particular school in my division is the worst-run school in the city or not. How unedifying it is that we have now got down to a question of degrees of slovenliness of our schools. We know that there is a formidable job in clearing the slum schools. There is also a formidable job in the maintenance of old schools to stop them from becoming slum schools, and that needs money.

Then there is the school bulge, which cries out more and more for more technical school places and more grammar school places. We are one of those authorities which is well below the national average and in Birmingham, on which the future industrial prosperity of the country depends to a considerable extent, we have far fewer technical schools and grammar school places than we ought to have. This is a problem which requires attention and which requires an expanding service.

There is the need to reduce the size of classes. I have visited every secondary-modern school in my division in the last eighteen months and I am now trying to visit the primary schools. It is most distressing to go into classes of 40, 50 and more pupils, and to wonder how a teacher can cope with such a situation. It means more classrooms, more school places to deal with this problem.

Finally, and most important of all, is the need to pay the teachers higher salaries. This is something I have said in public elsewhere and I am pleased to repeat it in this House. In my view, on any judgment in 1958 the teaching profession is sadly underpaid. Somebody has to take a decision. If we are to have the atmosphere which this Bill will create, of fighting for every penny of our local authority, what reaction will this bring, for example, from the local authority representatives who sit on the Burnham Committee?

Will they face the prospect of saying, "Yes, it is quite right. To get better qualified and more men into the teaching profession we will pay a wage commensurate with their abilities and with their long training and in relation to what they can get in industry"? Will they say that? They will know that every penny extra they pay the teachers must be hard fought for at a local election by means of obtaining rates. Indeed, the secret of this has been given away again at the local authority elections which we have just had throughout the country.

All over the country there has been a campaign by Conservative local government candidates saying, Vote Conservative and we will cut the rates". This theme has turned up everywhere, in London, in Birmingham, in the North, in industrial and in rural areas. It has been so persistent that one is driven to the inescapable conclusion that this is central Tory Party policy being pursued in local government elections. We must conclude that they really think they can cut the rates, and this can only mean, as a result of the proposals in the Bill, by cutting the services at a time when everybody in local government and in this House, knows that they need to expand more than ever before. My hon. Friends are right. I think that the teaching profession is right. The Bill, especially the proposal for the block grant to finance education, is bad and can do no possible good to local government services. Indeed, the prospect is that the Bill will be doing them a considerable amount of harm.

Now I want to turn for a moment to another aspect of the Bill, about which I had something to say in Committee but with which I want to deal now because I think some of my hon. Friends believe that the Government are entitled to some credit here. It is the question of the future special review areas or the conurbations, as they have come to be known. I do not want to put forward a specific proposal which was debated in another place, but on the Third Reading we have to look at what is left behind, and what is left behind is that we have the six special areas of the country, one of which I know very well, namely, the West Midlands, where, according to my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Mr. Moss), the area involved is 275 square miles. Those are 275 square miles of absolutely built-up land. I object most strongly to the fact that the Government are proposing to set up a conurbation, to appoint commissions of inquiry to look into those local government boundaries. The fact is that they are not instructing those commissions—they have no idea of doing so—to look at the problems in that area before propounding a solution.

This is a most unscientific and ridiculous way in which to deal with this question. If we look for a moment at the West Midlands we see that Birmingham is completely built up. There are 60,000 people there homeless and on the housing register. A great slum clearance scheme is now in hand, whereby for every five houses demolished only three families can be rehoused, because of the lower densities that are required.

If we go outside Birmingham into the Black Country we find that the position is even worse. Places like West Bromwich and Smethwick have been built up long ago and have absolutely no land with which to solve their problems. It is true we have Solihull and Sutton Cold-field, but they are limited in the amount of land available. Then we have parts of Meriden known as Castle Bromwich and Kingshurst. I am happy to say that we have received from Birmingham a considerable degree of co-operation, but even there there is little scope for much more housing to be carried out.

The Government have not started, as the Parliamentary Secretary himself admitted in Committee, their review of these special areas from the point of view of asking themselves the question, or getting these commissions of inquiry to ask themselves the question: what are the problems? I cannot but think that it is a ridiculous performance, and a waste of time to start juggling with local government boundaries and amalgamating boroughs, if the necessity for looking at the problem and trying to determine the solution is to be completely excluded, as it is under the Bill. We shall save a few pounds here and there by amalgamating one or two police forces and fire brigades, and I have no doubt that that will mean some saving to the local authorities concerned; but it will not cope with the major matter, which is the planning and the housing of industry and the homeless in the West Midlands conurbation.

It is perfectly true that the commission can add to the 275 square miles the area immediately surrounding it, but I certainly hope that it will not agree to do that, because the area immediately surrounding it is a green belt area. All of us who believe in town planning would be completely appalled at the prospect of the continued spread of a conurbation such as that of the West Midlands. Those of us who believe in planning, who believe in preserving the good things in life and the open countryside, which should be accessible to people living in conurbations, insist on maintaining the green belt. If we are to maintain it, we must bring some hope of a solution to their problem to the hundreds of thousands—I think there are at least 150,000—homeless families in the West Midlands conurbation, rather than leave them without any hope at all of a solution.

How do the Government intend to house these people? In turning down the various suggestions which many of us have made, the Government have not given one word of hope that they are going to bring some help to these homeless families. How do they intend to spur on local authorities to reach agreement with others, and how are they to persuade those local authorities which are backward and think that it is a bad thing to bring homeless people from the West Midlands into their areas? How do they intend, under the Bill or by means of the existing provisions, to bring hope and the prospect of homes to all the people who do not have them at present? I do not view with any pleasure at all the chances that the special areas commission may achieve a worth-while settlement of this problem, because the commission is specifically excluded from looking at it.

Therefore, taking it all round, I view this Bill with some dismay, and with my right hon. and hon. Friends tonight will have the opportunity of voting against it. We are well aware that the mess which the Government are leaving in the field of local government will be one more gigantic problem to be left to the next Labour Government. The sooner that such a Government have the opportunity of dealing with it the better it will be for the country and for all the services involved.

8.15 p.m.

Mr. Godfrey Lagden (Hornchurch)

I hope that when my name appears on the indicator in the Dining Room, it will not spoil the appetite of my right hon. Friend the Minister, because from time to time we have not always seen eye to eye. However, if he were here I could assure him that my few words and reflections on the Local Government Bill will not cause him any concern.

This is a Bill which, at its birth, must have had very few friends indeed. I very much doubt if any Minister at any time could have produced a Local Government Bill which would have been received kindly by the great majority of this House or by Parliament. My right hon. Friend undoubtedly undertook a task in which it was impossible to please, but I think we must look at the result, if we possibly can, more quietly perhaps than we have done up to now and with less fighting spirit than was shown in the Committee stage upstairs.

If the Bill is to do any good at all, and I believe that it is the ardent desire of both sides of this House that it should, then—I was going to say the fight, but I will not say fight—the vigilance of all must be transferred from this House to the various council chambers throughout the country. The local authorities must look at this Bill, when it comes to them, in a spirit of co-operation, excluding party points and party gains.

One hon. Gentleman opposite a little while ago used the word "survival," and I believe that if we go into this matter locally from now on bickering, fighting and thereby endeavouring, as we should be in doing that, to injure education, we shall do a very great disservice to our country in general. I cannot imagine that either side of this House would desire that that should happen. Obviously, the time has now come when our opinions, which have been different up to now, must blend together when this Bill becomes law, as it soon will. There is not the silghtest doubt that tonight the vote will help this Bill along to its ultimate stage.

Mr. Fernyhough

What about a General Election?

Mr. Lagden

If we have a General Election, I hardly think that even the facetious hon. Member opposite would endeavour at that stage to try to reverse things so quickly, without giving a trial to a system which, in my opinion, will succeed admirably in the country.

There has been almost a challenge this evening to hon. Members on this side to show where at any time there has been any evidence at all of expenditure being incurred unnecessarily. I should like to give the House the benefit of some experience which I have had over the last twelve years in local government. Most hon. Members on both sides of the House who have served on committees of councils and county councils will recognise the scene round the table, where the learned clerk of the committee has said that a certain scheme would cost x number of pounds, say, £40,000 or £50,000. Immediately, a voice has piped up to say, "Does it rank for grant?" If the clerk has said, "Yes", then with very great enthusiasm the discussion has gone forward. On many occasions, however, when the clerk has said, "No, it does not rank for grant", a wry voice has been heard. Members have said, "Well, it is a pity", and the scheme has been deferred, irrespective of its merits. Time and time again, that has happened.

Under this new scheme, I believe that that will not happen. I believe that we shall induce a better type of man to go into local government, and I hope that such people will examine these schemes on their merits. I fully believe that the individual ratepayer will thus get a better deal than he has had up to now, but only if those who are elected are responsible people.

It has been suggested that certain areas—I think they have been described as backward areas—will not spend the right amount of money on this or that service and, in particular, on education. If there is a council which is stupid enough and which is backward enough to deny the right of education to the children of its area, that council should be removed at the earliest possible moment and replaced by sensible and progressive people. The parents, who are the ratepayers, will see to that. There is not the slightest doubt about that.

Mr. MacColl

The hon. Member represents an Essex constituency. Has there not recently been a startling manifestation of public opinion against the education authority it Essex?

Mr. Lagden

I certainly represent an Essex constituency, and I am very proud of that. I draw the hon. Member's attention to the fact that Essex is probably the most advanced and best education authority in the country, and that it will open one school every two weeks for the next twelve months. If the hon. Member cares to rise again and to tell me that he represents an area which can beat that, I shall be very pleased to hear it.

Mr. MacColl

I am a Lancashire man. We changed our education authority at the same time as the Essex people changed theirs. That seems to show that public opinion does work to throw out backward education authorities.

Mr. Lagden

As I expected, I have not had a reply. The record of the area which the hon. Member represents cannot compare, or he would have said so. I thank him for reminding me of the admirable record of the County of Essex.

Without any guide to assist him, the Minister has had to fix various periods for examination of finances and so forth. In the present Minister, we have one who will think along the lines I am about to advocate. If after a short period he finds that it is necessary slightly to amend the Bill on this matter of the periods of review, then I ask him to be courageous enough to do so. In the present Minister, as he has shown in other matters, we have a man who is prepared to act according to the good of the people and who will not play party politics, as they have been played by hon. Gentlemen opposite.

8.23 p.m.

Mr. David Jones (The Hartlepools)

The hon. Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Lagden) described how a council with which he was acquainted always examined any scheme put before it on the basis of whether it ranked for grant. I gathered that if a scheme ranked for grant the council went ahead with it but did nothing about it if it did not rank for grant. When the block grant comes into operation, no scheme will rank for grant, and it is to be presumed that every scheme which comes before the council which the hon. Member described will be turned down.

That is precisely our complaint about the block grant. We complain about the block grant because 80 per cent. of the total will be for education purposes and, as the grant will be arranged in advance and will be unalterable for two years, it may be necessary for a local education authority to go ahead with some project, desirable in the interests of education in its area, meeting the whole cost from local rate resources. There are poor and rich areas, and the final decision on whether a scheme will proceed, irrespective of its effect upon the education of the children of the area, in the last analysis will depend on whether an authority can afford to increase the rates to the extent required. We say that that is wrong for education.

The hon. Member referred to a General Election. I cannot speak for my party, but I hope that as soon as possible after the next General Election the block grant provisions will be entirely removed from this legislation. This afternoon the Parliamentary Secretary said that there had been no change in local government structure for the past seventy years. Indeed, the White Papers issued by the Ministry have said that there is nothing substantially wrong with the present structure of local government. If the White Papers are to be believed, all that the local government boundary commissions will be expected to do is to make small alterations here and there.

As one who has taken some part in local government and who has been connected in a minor way with a local government association, I know the difficulties which are experienced in trying to get a measure of agreement. I am very sorry that there should have been introduced into the Bill this contentious matter of the block grant. I wish that it had been possible for the Government to have seen their way clear to have dealt with the re-organisation of the finance of local government separately from altering its structure. In that way, we could have obtained a substantial measure of agreement for a careful, minutely detailed examination of the structure of local government with a view to bringing it up to date.

I share the doubts of my hon. Friends, especially my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), about whether a review of their areas by the county councils is the best approach. The Local Government Act, 1933, empowered county councils to review areas within the geographical counties and to recommend changes, but few of those changes took place over the years. I hope that it will be possible for the Government to have second thoughts about this and to use some other completely independent authority to make the review of the areas within counties.

Some Amendments have been made to the Bill in Committee. They have effected some improvements, but there remain several matters which cause concern to the boroughs. The Bill provides a measure of compulsory delegation of local health service functions to the larger non-county boroughs. That is a disappointment to many of those boroughs which, by their size, their resources, their experience and the standard of their administration, are well able to undertake this work, but the necessity for linking those functions with the education service has prevented the Government from entrusting this function to county boroughs with a smaller population than 60,000.

Many boroughs have expressed considerable disappointment that, because of the new grant structure, it has been necessary to give these functions to larger non-county boroughs by delegation and not by direct conferment. It is important to remember when considering the question of direct conferment and the size of the authority administering the service that, generally speaking, these local health services are very personal services. In consequence, it is in the highest degree desirable that the person receiving the service should have ready access to the elected representatives controlling the service and also to the officers administering it.

I turn to another matter, which is the primary reason for my taking part in this debate. A week ago today the Parliamentary Secretary, I believe inadvertently, in moving an Amendment to Clause 37 misled the House. He was moving an Amendment which now provides the new subsection (6) to Clause 38. The hon. Gentleman said: I can explain the Amendment in a few short sentences. What it amounts to is that where the area of a local authority is extended, that extension in itself should not extend the running area of any public service transport undertaking. The question of the area of the running of the public service transport undertaking should be left, as I understand it always has been in the past by local Acts, to the decision of the Traffic Commissioners. What we are saying is that a requirement to this effect shall of necessity be included in any Order which is made under the Bill where it is appropriate to do so."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th May, 1958; Vol. 587, c. 1131.] I believe the Parliamentary Secretary quite inadvertently misled the House.

The Amendment gave the opponents of the expansion of any transport undertaking within an area which has increased in size as a consequence of a decision by the Minister two bites at the cherry. There is already provision in Section 72 of the Road Traffic Act, 1930, that every municipal transport undertaking has to have a road service licence. That licence indicates the extent to which the service can be operated within the area of a local authority. Despite the fact that the power to run the service might have been granted by a local Act or by an order, which is equivalent to an Act, the authority must have a road service licence. Section 72 makes that crystal clear. That road service licence provides for the extent to which the service can operate. In the event of a local authority which is a transport authority having the good fortune to have an order laid before this House extending its boundary, it cannot extend its service into the new area without the authority of the local licensing commissioners giving it power to extend the service into new areas.

When he moved the Amendment, the hon. Gentleman gave the objectors to such a service two bites at the cherry. He proposes to apply the powers of Sections 101 and 102 of the Road Traffic Act, 1930, to those extended areas. Those Sections were designed for the purpose of enabling a local authority which has a transport undertaking to run its service into the area of an adjoining authority. Before it could do that it had to apply, under Sect ion 101, for consent to run over the roads. Having secured that consent, it was then obliged to go back to the Traffic Commissioners and to get its licence altered to cover the existing area.

In the case of roads within its own area, it has not to secure consent under Section 101 but has to get an alteration of licence under Section 72, which provides that the licensing authority—described as "traffic commissioners" in the 1930 Act but under the amended title "licensing authority" in the Transport Act, 1947—must hold public sittings and must take evidence from any individual who objects to the extension of this service by a local authority. There is ample power under Sections 64 and 72 for a local authority or anybody who objects to the service, including the public transport undertakings, to make their objections.

Section 64 (1) of the Road Traffic Act, 1930, said: The commissioners shall for the purpose of hearing and determining applications for the grant and backing of road service licences, and may for any other purpose, if they so think fit, hold public sittings at such places in any part of their area as appears to them convenient. That provides that any objector can make representations but also, in Section 72, that on any application by a local authority for an extension of its licence, other than within its own area, the traffic commissioners shall take into account the existing services operating in that area.

It seems ironical for the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary to talk about giving greater freedom to local authorities, and then to hamstring in this way the authorities who happen to have road passenger undertakings. They are, in fact, giving two bites at the cherry to all the privately-owned undertakings in the district to stop the municipality from extending its service in that area which the Minister, by the Order, has conceded to it. That is not giving freedom to local authorities in transport undertakings.

If it is considered by the local government boundary commission and endorsed by the Minister that a new area should be added to the existing area, with all the consequences involved in providing services, it does not lie in the mouths of the right hon. Gentleman or his Parliamentary Secretary to say that if the municipality happens to have a road passenger transport undertaking it is to be hamstrung by having to go twice to the licensing authority for power to run. That is an impediment to municipal authorities who have transport undertakings, and I hope that in another place the Government will seek to remove from the Bill the provision that was inserted on Tuesday of last week

I am sorry that the Government have seen fit to introduce this contentious matter into the Bill. To get agreement upon local government has been difficult enough in the past. Because I believe that the Bill, in spite of its good features, has bad features which will impair local government, I shall go into the Lobby tonight against it.

8.40 p.m.

Mr. Harold Steward (Stockport, South)

It is always a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for The Hartlepools (Mr. D. Jones), although I do not propose to follow him in his last argument except to say that I understood clearly from the Minister that he was not using this Bill to enter into the controversy which has been going on for years regarding this matter, but was maintaining the status quo and allowing the argument to be settled outside the sphere of this Measure.

Obviously, a Bill of this size must have critics from all sides. I, probably in common with many of my hon. Friends, do not agree with every dot and comma in the Bill. I join with the hon. Member for The Hartlepools in having misgivings about the powers given to the county authorities in their subsequent representations. I hope with the hon. Member that it may yet be possible to substitute some other procedure for carrying out this work.

I cannot agree with the hon. Member for The Hartlepools that this Bill should have stopped short before the financial provisions. A Bill of this character has been looked forward to for years by hon. Members on both sides of the House, and had it not contained these financial provisions it would have been a mere skeleton. It would have meant changing the boundaries without infusing into the local authorities that sense of purpose and feeling of their own security which it is the whole purpose of this Bill to give. I believe that, when once it had been found by inquiry that there was no other way of raising finance on a local basis, the block grant system set out in this Measure was almost inevitable.

I can understand to a degree the sense of misgiving or, rather, of anxiety among education authorities about the block grant system. I am certain that hon. Members on both sides of the House will accept that, irrespective of party, people are sincere in their views about education. As a member of a local authority as well as a Member of this House, I yield to none in my sense of the importance of education. I would never be a party to anything which I believed would harm or curtail the expansion of the education service which we must have in the future. I do not believe that it is an essential part of the block grant system that an economy in the education service must follow as a natural corollary, and so I support the Bill.

I have listened to all the arguments which have been advanced, but I have not yet been able to read into them any real establishment of the fact, or principle, or anything else, that it must follow naturally that the introduction of a block grant system as such, means an axe laid against the education service. Again speaking as a member of a local authority, I believe that there is a great interest at local level just as there is in this House. I do not believe that, provided that the funds placed at their disposal are adequate, local authorities will cut the education service or deny the necessary expansion. In the last resort, the whole of this argument comes down to a question of the intention in the minds of people who make the funds available in the first place.

I think we are justified in saying that the record of this Government since it came to office in 1951 gives one real support for believing that they will place adequate funds at the disposal of local authorities for the purposes which they have to fulfil, in particular that of education. I have had, and there is no doubt that other hon. Members have also had, visits from deputations of educationists. I received such a deputation a fortnight ago. They came to me with a list of ten questions. I do not know whether they expected me to sit down and answer them on the spot, although I found it would have been possible to do that. Running through the whole theme of these questions was the suspicion that, in some way or other, in bringing in the block grant system the Tory Government had in mind a cut in the education service. Again I say that there is no evidence for that belief whatsoever.

The first two questions were: What is the Government's real intention in introducing the block grant against such strong and united opposition? and, How can the economies arising from the block grant be reconciled to Lord Hailsham's statement about education costing more? Surely if there is anything in this argument, those two points contradict each other.

It is true that successive Ministers of Education have spoken from the Box very fully in support of the extension of the education service and the need to meet its cost. If they were speaking truthfully and with sincerity, how can they, as members of the Cabinet, support a block grant system? They do so because they believe, just as I believe, that it is equally possible, working within a block grant system, to meet the country's educational needs. That is why I support the Bill, and I believe that everything which has happened in the last eight years is support for my belief.

The next question is, Do you think the present percentage system extravagant? In common with other hon. Members, I have been, and still am, a member of a local education committee, and I do not suggest that there is waste and extravagance by local authorities through these committees, but I say, frankly, that there are occasions, as indeed, human nature being what is is, there must be occasions, when they do not perhaps give the essential priority to one thing against another because of the difference in the percentage grant derived from central sources. When we make them responsible for their own housekeeping they will put these priorities in the right order.

Moreover, when they have the money in their hands and are responsible for their own housekeeping, surely they will be more interested in the results they achieve. When we are merely asking somebody to rubber-stamp any ideas we put forward, then these odd ideas about expenditure and perhaps a sense of false values in expenditure can creep in, but if we are responsible for our own expenditure we shall make the money do the best possible job. Providing the money is adequate, that job will conform with the needs of the country.

In my humble submission, whichever way we look at the situation we come back to the questions, are the Government's intentions honourable, and, if they remain in power, is it their intention to make available under the block grant system finance which is adequate for the purpose? I believe that the answer to both those questions is a most emphatic, "Yes", and it is because of that that I am a wholehearted supporter of the Bill.

8.48 p.m.

Mr. E. Fernyhough (Jarrow)

The hon. Member for Stockport, South (Mr. H. Steward) asked why people believed that the present Administration would not carry out the promises which they have made as the Bill has been making its progress through the House. If people do not believe, it is precisely because of the broken pledges which have already been revealed with the passage of time. The Minister who is in charge of the Bill has been in charge of another Bill—a Bill which, at the last Election, the Conservatives denied would ever be introduced. If there are people who cannot believe and who, because of this betrayal, do not trust either the Minister or the Government, it is the fault of the Minister and the Government.

If people have not the impression that the Government are anxious to curtail public expenditure, then I fail to understand the propaganda campaign in which Conservatives have been taking part since 1945. There is not a single hon. Member opposite who has not said that public expenditure ought to be reduced. If public expenditure is to be brought down the money must be taken from somewhere. Some service must be denied.

Mr. H. Steward

The hon. Member will surely agree that when I was making that specific point I was talking continually about the education service which, throughout the years, has continued to expand and is expanding today—and, as I see it, will continue to expand in the future.

Mr. Fernyhough

Yes, because of inflation. Everything it needs has risen in price, whether it be books, buildings, or the teachers' services. Every item costs more each year. If the service had not been using more money it would of necessity have been cut. The fact that more money is being spent in a period of inflation and rising prices does not mean the provision of a substantially better service.

Mr. Bevins

I have a great regard for the hon. Member for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough). I know that he would not want to mislead the House, but taking into account the increase in the child population and the rise in prices since 1951 it is still the case that there has been a substantial expenditure upon education.

Mr. Mitchison

May I also interrupt my hon. Friend, to draw his attention to Circulars Nos. 331 and 334, one of which intimated a substantial cut in capital expenditure and the other a substantial cut in running expenditure in the education service?

Mr. Fernyhough

It is quite obvious that there has been a desire to cut. If tens of thousands of people who have given their lives to the education service are perturbed and anxious about its future it is precisely because of circulars such as those mentioned by my hon. and learned Friend, and the betrayals in other spheres.

I can understand the fears which have beset those in the educational world. Far from our having been spending too much, we have not been spending enough on education. Today, we are engaged not only in a great struggle to earn our living, but in a great ideological battle. About three weeks ago I was in Eastern Germany. I saw there some things which appealed to me, although there were many others which dismayed me. I was honest in giving praise and apportioning blame.

One of the matters which interested me very much was the importance which the Government of Eastern Germany attach to education. I am not saying that it is the right education, or that it is directed towards the ends in which we believe, but there can be no question that as far as that country's economy permits education is practically its No. 1 priority. In whichever direction one looks, whether it be at their schools, their universities, their places for physical culture, or their creches, one can see how much importance they attach to the problem of education.

I wish to goodness that we would attach the same importance to it. Ever since 1948 I have believed that the ideological struggle will be won not with missiles, but with minds. Ultimately, it will be a battle not of bombs, but of brains. I should like to feel that this service, which will mean so much to the future of our country, will not be cut down by the Bill, but I have very grave doubts about that.

The other issue in respect of which the Bill displeases me is that although it makes some concession to the general body of ratepayers by its derating proposals, in as much as it substitutes a rate of 50 per cent. for 75 per cent. on industrial premises, it does not go far enough. I cannot understand right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite who think that there is something immoral and wicked in a man's living in a subsidised council house when he is getting £15 or £20 a week. Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite say that he should pay the full economic rent. I cannot understand why they can say that when they do not utter a word of protest when large industrial concerns, which are paying bonus shares and paying higher dividends every year, are being subsidised by the general body of ratepayers in their areas—to the extent of 75 per cent. now, to be reduced only to 50 per cent.

I have never understood how they can use that argument about council houses and keep silent about the derating of industry, because as everybody knows the cost to the rates of subsidised council houses is only half the cost of subsidising industry by derating.

Mr. Cyril Osborne (Louth)

Even if there is any analogy between the two, the difference is that half the advantage to industry goes back to the Exchequer by way of taxation, whereas there is no return on the allowance made for rent.

Mr. Fernyhough

Of course, it is true that the bigger the profit a firm makes the more it pays in tax. In the same way, the working man who earns £30 a week, of whom we have heard so much but whom one seldom meets, contributes more to the Exchequer by way of Income Tax than a man who earns less.

If it is argued that a man with that income ought not to live in a subsidised council house, and if that argument is used as an excuse for abolishing subsidies altogether, it is a fair argument to say that the prosperous firm paying bonus shares and ever-increasing dividends has no need of derating and that derating of industry should be abolished.

The Bill may have been necessary for the reorganisation of local government, it may have been necessary for tidying up local government, but I cannot believe that in the year 1958 it is necessary to introduce changes which are bound fundamentally to affect our education service. I believe that the fears of the teachers, the university lecturers, and everybody associated with education will be justified if the Government remain in power and are able to administer the Bill when it becomes an Act. But I am very thankful that the present Government cannot last much longer; I am very thankful that their end is in sight.

I am very glad that the General Election is not too far distant. Then it will be left to us sitting on this side of the House to move over to the places of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House and to remedy the wrongs which they have done to the local government services.

8.58 p.m.

Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)

The Parliamentary Secretary disturbed me when he began his speech today by referring to the kindly relations which had existed in Committee. I hastily looked up one of my first references to the right hon. Gentleman. I find I described him as excessively obstinate and at that point putting forward a shifty argument. I shall have to say much the same thing to him tonight. I think I misunderstood the Parliamentary Secretary. Really he was, I think, charging me, and perhaps rightly, with assisting the right hon. Gentleman in his thirst for martyrdom which we have always noticed. No doubt in that respect I was doing my best.

I said "extremely obstinate", and there is one clear indication of it in the form in which the Bill appears. No significant alteration whatever has been accepted by the right hon. Gentleman from the Opposition. However bitter his political feelings may be, even he must recognise that most of my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Committee are people with considerable experience, and all of them are people with considerable knowledge of the subject-matter of the Bill. It argues, therefore, a certain obstinacy in the right hon. Gentleman and a certain surety in his own wisdom that he should have been led to accept nothing except some quite insignificant Amendments which made changes in the Bill or put matters into it which he was going to provide for anyhow.

The Bill is really two Bills, not one. There is no particular reason that the financial provisions should go in with the rest of it, except perhaps a tactical reason. I shall deal first with the rest of the Bill in Part II, Part III and bits of the hotchpotch which constitutes Part IV. Parts II and III provide for machinery for a general review of local government structure, and they provide for a delegation, in certain circumstances, of health functions. The original intention of the Government was, of course, more sweeping, but it is not what we have in the Bill. I agree that there is a case for some general review of local government structure, but a limited case.

It is interesting to look at the points where, in my view and, I think, in the view of many of my hon. Friends, a review is called for. The first is the position of small local authorities which, through no fault of those who serve on them but for lack of resources, of rateable value and of population, are necessarily ineffective in their functions. The significant thing about that, which is something we all recognise, is that the future of those local authorities is to be dealt with, by and large, by county reviews. County reviews have existed for some time. The right hon. Gentleman himself, in Cmd. 9831, page 11, recognises that in many cases those county reviews have failed to work. The reason is that, in carrying them out, there have been local interests common to the county councillors and to the county districts they were reviewing. In a great many cases, there were bargains between one county councillor and another to leave this, that or the other district alive. All of us who know what happened at those reviews know quite well that, not in all cases but in a very great number, the job was not properly done for that reason. This is recognised in the White Paper itself.

As has been said already, it is wrong to go back to that method when something very much like the Boundary Commission is being set up by the Bill and the local government commissions, as they are now called, could perform what was one of the functions of the old Boundary Commission and look into the question of these county districts, and do it impartially. I am not particularly concerned to know, as I do, that many county councils and county districts might object to that. What I object to, an broader grounds, is that that which caused the partial failure in the past has been taken as the thing to begin with in doing something which we all recognise to be needed at this time.

The second point I can take even more shortly. I agree that something ought to be done about claims to county borough status, such as the claim of Ilford and so on. There is a parallel case halfway between that and what I have been talking about with regard to the small boroughs with a magnificent past, little present and no future which are to be put into the rural districts. The mayor will be allowed to keep the panoply but little of the substance. It will not make everybody popular, but there is something to be said for it.

I now turn to the conurbations, as they are commonly called, which are the subject in this Bill of special review areas and very comprehensive procedure indeed. The powers of the local government commission in relation to special review areas are exceedingly sweeping. The commission can abolish counties, county boroughs and county districts, and it can create others. It can amalgamate and deal with functions in what is known as a continuous county and can recast the whole structure. But, as the Parliamentary Secretary rightly said, all that is in relation to local government areas and functions.

It seems to me that in their approach to the problem of the conurbations the Government have made one fundamental mistake, and I think that many of my hon. Friends have realised it. It may be a beginning to deal with them from the local government point of view, but it is certainly not enough to deal with the whole conurbation problem. Such matters as new towns, housing, planning, overspill, green belts and so on are matters which I cannot and would not wish to discuss today, but they, too, must take their place in the right approach to the conurbation problem. I merely say that generally in those matters the record of the Government is not too good.

I turn from that part of the Bill to the financial part. May I call the attention of the House to this point? It is on the financial part of the Bill that the whole case for it depends. After all, the attractions that I have been putting forward in the rest of the Bill are not very sweeping, and I have never heard it suggested that the reason for putting in the financial part of the Bill was because it was necessary to have a local government review. On the contrary, the financial part of the Bill has been defended and attacked quite independently and it has very little to do with the rest of the Bill. I remain of the opinion that the financial part is the Government's real reason for the Bill and that the rest of it, although no doubt useful in its way and something for which a good deal can be said, has been introduced in the same Bill to cover up the real reasons for the financial part.

May I deal with the main point in the Bill, which is the replacement of percentage grants in a number of highly important services, including not only education but some which are less expensive, although very important, by what is conveniently called the block grant, which is, in fact, a system of general grants. I shall go on calling it a block grant.

The first point is that the percentage grants have worked, and have worked not merely under this Government and under Labour Governments since the war but for a long time before that, and particularly in the educational field. And remember, when the last block grant was introduced, the education service was kept out of it on the grounds then held in the Ministry of Education that it was particularly unsuitable for a block grant. Therefore, it is a tried thing, and if hon. Gentlemen opposite say, as they have been saying today, that the Government have done very well in education, I will not argue that with them now. All I say is that if this is their opinion, why alter the percentage grant system?

Now let us see what are the suggestions. They are to be superseded because they act as an indiscriminate incentive to further expansion. I think that on the right hon. Gentleman's grave those words may well be engraved, with a few suitable additions. An indiscriminating incentive to financial expenditure. That is a disgraceful accusation for any Government to make. It is an accusation of extravagance against the local authorities, and one Royal Commission and Departmental committee after another, ending with the Edwards Commission recently—and Mr. Edwards is the Chief Financial Officer in the right hon. Gentleman's Ministry—has found that there is no foundation for that suggestion, and no foundation for the suggestion of extravagance among local authorities.

When we get an hon. Gentleman getting up today and solemnly saying that there must be extravagance among local authorities because the London County Council bought a few dictaphones, I entirely agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) that this kind of argument is really almost conclusive. Because hon. Gentlemen opposite are pretty well briefed by the Conservative Central Office, as we all know, and if that is the best they can find, if the one symptom of extravagance is the purchase of equipment which everybody agrees industry ought to have, then there is strong confirmation of the opinion of all these committees that this kind of story is just moonshine; and yet it is put forward in a Government White Paper.

What is the next argument? It is that they involve an excessive degree of detailed central supervision over the spending of the money. That, too, has been answered completely by the people who are in much the best position to know—the experts on local government and local government finance, who constituted the research committee set up by the Institute of Municipal Treasurers and Accountants and circulated the local authorities concerned to find out if there was any truth in that kind of statement. The answer was that there was not. Of course, there is control, and detailed control, but the financial side of it does not bear the prominence and has not got the effect that is suggested.

Those are two, on the face of it, very feeble reasons for destroying a form of grant which has worked well in the past. Now we come to the real reason. The real reason is that under the percentage grants— … there is no certainty from year to year what the Exchequer may be called upon to contribute"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th February, 1957; Vol. 564, c. 1078.] That significant statement was made by the right hon. Gentleman in making his preliminary statement to the lengthy debates we have had on this matter, and it has never been repeated in any White Paper or anywhere else. I wonder who told the right hon. Gentleman that this was rather a dangerous tack to sail on? What does it amount to? It amounts to this, that the Treasury wants to know beforehand exactly what it has got to pay, and that if any more comes along then the Treasury is not going to pay it.

I agree that there are provisions for minor adjustments in the Bill, and I will not go into them now, but the broad proposition is true. The real reason for destroying the percentage grant system, which has worked, and putting in its place a block grant system which will not work, as I shall show in a minute., is not the interests of these services but simply the dead hand of the Treasury. When I talk of the dead hand of the Treasury, what I mean is that I regard this Bill as an attempt to relieve the taxpayer at the expense of the ratepayer, and at the expense of the people who are benefited by the local government services which constitute the relevant expenditure under this Bill.

I want to say one thing about the taxpayer and ratepayer, and it is very simple. Rates are far more regressive than taxes. They come down on the man who is badly off far more than taxes do in proportion, and the right hon. Gentleman knows that perfectly well. He knows how difficult it is to estimate it exactly, and he knows the truth of the general proposition. It is part of Tory freedom that those who have some money should be made to pay less, and that those who have even less money should be made to pay more. That is part of Tory freedom in its fiscal aspects, and I deplore that kind of challenge. I agree that it is not easy to find an alternative to rates, but no sensible person will deny that they are a very faulty form of tax, and very largely for that reason they come down much too hardly on people who are badly off.

I shall come back in a moment to the question of taxes, rates and the block grant, but before I come to that I want to mention quite shortly two other points in the Bill. I still object very strongly to the fact that when the Government have recognised that it is right to rerate industry to some extent they should do it only to the extent of one additional quarter instead of three additional quarters; that is to say, that we should be left with half the hog instead of the whole hog. It is really nonsense to talk of a twopenny increase in cotton yarn and the rest of it without at the same time mentioning the position of other ratepayers, and those other ratepayers are, on the one hand, the shops and offices and, on the other hand and above all, the domestic ratepayer.

The domestic ratepayer is made to pay more than his fair share of rates because the Government have not got the courage to rerate industry fully, although they acknowledge that a derating of industry by a quarter was only brought in at a time when industry was suffering from exceptional difficulties. Their broad answer is the same. They said then that it was necessary to derate industry to the extent of three-quarters because of the economic position of the country, and they say now that the economic position of the country, again under a Tory Government, is such that they cannot afford to rerate to the extent of more than half. The person who pays for that little bit of Tory stagnation is the domestic ratepayer.

There is another point. It might be possible to defend the Treasury taking two-thirds of the proceeds if the Treasury had not, over shops and offices, refused to make any contribution in the converse case. We can defend either one of these propositions, but we cannot defend both, except on the footing that it is part of Tory policy always to transfer burdens from the taxpayer to the ratepayer if they can manage to do it. That is the only logical defence for it.

There is one more point. "Normal expenditure" sounds all right. We are told that local authorities will not get a rate deficiency grant in excess of their normal expenditure. Everybody thinks that it sounds sensible and leaves it at that, but on examination it is found that behind those innocent words is the most effective check on any progressive authority.

Broadly speaking, what happens is that the average of the three preceding years is taken as the basis for the limit of local authority expenditure. The result is that an authority which, because it is progressive or because it has increasing demands on it, finds its expenditure going up from year to year—year one so and so; year two more; and year three more yet—finds, when it comes to year four, that what will check it will not be year three but year two. That is the ingenious device in the calculation of the rate deficiency grant.

One has to remember about all these matters that it is not the direct change that matters, but the effect on the local authority itself and its own finance. None of these grants will meet the services which constitute the relevant expenditure. They will meet only part of them, and the part which they will meet in the majority of cases will be smaller than even the minimum standard which might be set by any central government.

The vice in the block grant system is that, whenever one comes to any single one of these expenses, the top of it, the part not met by the grant, comes entirely out of the rates. It therefore depends on the rate attitude of the local authority—its rate attitude not only towards the services as a whole, but as between one service and another—whether those essential services are adequately maintained or improved.

This is Tory freedom: We have got it at last. It always takes the same form, whether it applies to a local authority or a person—"You can do anything you like if only you have enough money to pay for it yourself." That is what it comes to, and when local authorities are offered freedom that is exactly what they are offered, no more and no less.

I want to give one or two examples of what the block grant will cover. One mentioned by an hon. Member opposite is university grants for scholarships. Another is the workers education service. Another couple from the Health Service are mental health and the care of handicapped persons. All those have been discussed in Committee and elsewhere.

Those are all relatively small services compared with the main service in each case. There is bound to be competition between one committee and one chairman of a local authority and another. The Government say that that is freedom and democracy. Is there not a national policy for education? Is there not an obligation on the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Education—and I am glad to see him in his place at long last—to put forward an education programme and to ensure educational progress in conjunction with local authorities, who for those purposes are agents of the central Government?

The Bill is a step backward in that respect. Educationists will have to fight for their money with all those other equally essential but completely different services—and so will every other service. What will happen to the poor little waifs in the system like W.E.A. and university grants? What is going to happen to mental health? What is to happen to handicapped persons? In each case the Government Commission recommended specific grants and that it should not be dealt with in the way it is being dealt with now. What does it matter to this Government, or to the Treasury? All they are concerned with is seeing that the Treasury knows beforehand what it is going to have to pay from year to year.

The worst enemy of progress in these cases is the absolutely typical Tory councillor who is responsible for the kind of notice we have all known in every local government election for donkeys' years past, the man who wants to cut the rates at all costs. That is the one appeal which goes down with every member of the party opposite, cut the rates at all costs. If the rates are to be cut it will be at the expense of these services, and the fact that there is no percentage grant on them but only a block grant is the best possible inducement to that kind of reactionary type to cut them and to save some money as the phrase goes.

It is not saving money at all in the long run. So far as councils do not do anything, undoubtedly for the time being they will save money, but does anyone really suppose in this year of grace in this country of ours that we can make the country any wealthier by cutting down education, health and the rest, or that we can make the country any better by neglecting duties in the way of providing Part III accommodation for the aged or services in relation to mental health and handicapped persons? What a civilisation! If that is all that can be said for us, I should like to hear what the right hon. Gentleman has to say. It will be interesting indeed.

The difficulty in all these cases is not only that these are essential services, but that they are expanding ones. Education has got to expand. It has expanded and has to go on expanding. As for mental health, look at the Guillebaud Report, and as for handicapped persons, look at the Piercy Report. Things have to be done in recognition of our duty as a community to the kids, the old people and those who are ill. We have to meet rising expenditure. This block grant is intended to limit expenditure and to see that the Treasury knows where it is in advance. That is the real object.

I believe, as I believed at the beginning—perhaps I am an extremely obstinate person—that that is the real object of this Bill. It is typical Tory mentality. As for Tory freedom, what is the freedom of saying to people, "You can spend money as you like; here is the grant, buy what you like with it", when the grant does not in fact maintain the services which are required, when it is their own money which has to supplement it, above all, when everyone recognises that this Bill contains no proper provision for ensuring grant above what I might call a penal standard in these services? If anything else has to be done it has to be done by Parliament.

The local authorities have been sadly misled. To quote the words with which I began, it was a shifty argument to tell them that if they would only come in on this Bill and give the right hon. Gentleman some measure of support they would get two inestimable advantages. One was the block grant, the amount of which they did not know, do not know, and will not know until the very last moment. The other was a relief from control which was offered to them in the vaguest possible terms, which, when it comes, will either be a denial of national responsibilities or nothing, for nobody can say at present that the control of local authorities is, broadly speaking, excessive. They do not say so themselves.

So, in the name of Tory freedom, we are being asked to sacrifice progress, to cut the cost of services for the young, the old and the sick, to substitute regressive taxes for progressive ones and to take the step backward which the block grant has always meant in the history of this country.

9.30 p.m.

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

Of all that can be said about the Bill, no one has suggested or could allege that it has been inadequately discussed. Its principles have been stated and debated, and restated finally and most effectively this afternoon by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, to whose assistance in the long passage of this Bill I would like to pay tribute. Indeed, I would like to express in all sincerity to hon. Members on both sides of the House my appreciation for their speeches, helpful or destructive, because I believe that a major Bill of this character ought to be subjected to free Parliamentary debate.

Particularly I would thank all those who endured the long marathon of the Standing Committee. I am on record, in one of those rare mistakes of HANSARD, as saying that the Committee had lasted from seven to nine hours. No doubt owing to my unclear diction, it was so recorded. What I actually said, with accuracy, was that the Committee had lasted 79 hours. It was a constructive job of work that we did. I grant at once to the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) that the proceedings in the Committee were vigorous and plain spoken. If "obstinate" was the worst adjective attributed to me I am surprised to hear it. At any rate, he will, for his part, grant that the proceedings were always good tempered. We never threw books at one another. I believe that without exception we were seeking to improve the Bill.

It is not true that, as the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) said earlier in today's debate, the Bill is causing deep concern among all those connected with local government. The truth is that very large numbers of people with experience of local government have helped in the shaping of this Bill. No one knows better than I do that some parts of it are highly controversial. I certainly would not seek to bring local government officers into matters of party controversy, but at the same time it is a fact that a great part of the Bill is broadly agreed. In that sense I want to express my appreciation, and I hope we should all join in it, to those elected members of local authorities and to those officers of local authorities who have worked hard on the detail which necessarily has to receive careful attention if there is to be any question of Parliament passing far-reaching legislation of this kind.

The purpose of the Bill is to bring into existence stronger and more independent local government. It is, I sincerely hope, common ground between us that local government is a vital part of British democracy. It may perhaps be dull. Many of us who have spent hours in the committee rooms in the town hall or the council office may wonder, looking back, why we wasted so much of our time. Nevertheless, we have learned from that experience. Whatever our individual contribution may have been, collectively the great British public is better off in that we do not centralise all power in Westminster or Whitehall but so organise our affairs that many decisions closely affecting the people of this country are taken locally by those who know local affairs at close hand and will be personally criticised if things go wrong as a result of their decisions.

What the Government want to help to bring about is a more integrated local democracy. We do not want to see an education service standing all by itself. We do not want to see a local health service standing all by itself. From what was said by the hon. Member for Birmingham, All Saints (Mr. D. Howell) I fancied that he hankered after something of that kind. But I believe that my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport, South (Mr. H. Steward) had a much sounder idea. He grasped the conception that what we need in this country are elected councils, elected local authorities, whose purpose is to serve the general public good.

Naturally, individual members of local authorities will concentrate on this or on that, according to their bent, interest or experience—exactly as we all do in this House. But just as in Parliament we have our debates on various subjects but nevertheless all feel a common responsibility in common affairs, so it is right that each local council should feel a collective responsibility for the good of the whole locality; and it would be wrong if individual members were to gain the mistaken idea that they are concerned with and responsible for only one individual service or another.

I trust that I speak for the whole House when I say that we also recognise that local government should be in partnership both with the central Government, which we represent, and with the voluntary organisations; because it is that trio of authorities, or centres of power, which makes up the whole gamut of public service. I am aware that some voluntary organisations have expressed apprehension lest through the operation of this Bill they may receive less generous support than in the past.

I say to them that this Government, at any rate, have never neglected to represent to local authorities the desirability of making full use of the great fund of enthusiastic voluntary service which is such a notable feature of the public life of this country. Certainly it is our desire that that should continue, and it will be appreciated that the total amount of the Exchequer grant made available under this Bill will be determined with regard to the amount of expenditure incurred by local authorities in providing the services concerned—not only in providing services directly, but also including any contributions which they make to voluntary bodies in relation to those services. Our aim is to strengthen local government and to attract into local government service men and women of the highest ability. I would say that that is the best assurance of all that local authorities will continue to set a proper value on the part which voluntary service has to play in local affairs.

As to the financial section of this Bill, though the feature of the general grant has attracted most of the controversial attention, of course it does not stand alone. We are strengthening the rate resources of local authorities, the resources directly under their control, by rerating industry to 50 per cent. The Opposition would wish that to be 100 per cent. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary indicated in his speech that, on the Government's proposals, industry, in fact, will be paying three times as large a share of the total rate burden as it was before revaluation in 1956.

Moreover, however prosperous British industry may be collectively, not all individual industries are equally prosperous, nor are all individual firms within an industry. If we are to approach these matters in a sense of responsibility, we must have regard to all that; and it is the Government's considered judgment that in the present circumstances in which we are submitting the Bill to Parliament the proper course is to fix the rating of industry not, as over the last thirty years, at 25 per cent., but at 50 per cent.

In addition, we are introducing a new system for the rating of the electricity and gas industries. This is highly complicated in appearance, but I think that these plans have been accepted almost without demur in Committee and by the House.

During the Third Reading debate I do not remember any mention of the important changes which the Bill brings about in the rate deficiency grant.

Mr. Mitchison

My hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Mr. Moss) referred to it.

Mr. Brooke

If I am wrong I apologise, but it has attracted relatively little discussion, and yet I believe that it is almost universally welcomed that in future we are to have this rate deficiency grant payable to county districts and not only to county councils and county borough councils. We are making a welcome reform of the law.

Mr. Moss

The hon. Member will recall that I welcomed all those provisions in my speech.

Mr. Brooke

To my regret I did not hear the whole of the hon. Member's speech. It is genuinely to my regret, because I know of the very sincere contributions which he made to our Committee discussions, and I particularly welcomed the opposition which he put up to his hon. Friend the Member for All Saints, who wished to bring practically the whole of England into the Birmingham conurbation.

The controversial issue is the general grant, and I insist on calling it the general grant even though the hon. and learned Member, after thirty-one sittings, has not learned better; he insists on calling it the block grant.

Mr. Mitchison

The right hon. Gentleman is himself incorrect. The correct name for what he is now indicating is the prescribed aggregate of general grants. The general grant is what a single local authority gets.

Mr. Brooke

The hon. and learned Member may call it that if he likes, but I shall refer to it as the general grant. This general grant, as it will be received by each local authority, will then have to be allocated on the advice of the finance committee. That is a feature to which the Opposition have taken strong objection, although I cannot understand why. I cannot conceive why the finance committee of a local authority should not be regarded as a responsible body. In any case, there is no obligation on the council to accept its advice if it thinks that the finance committee's recommendations are ill-judged.

It has been impossible for us to reach any agreement, I am afraid, on a point which seems obvious to hon. Members on this side of the House who have carefully studied the matter—that is to say, that a system of percentage grants operates against uniformity in the performance of the services. Clearly, the system which the Bill will introduce is more likely to result in reasonable uniformity among different local authorities than the percentage grants, yet much of the criticism has been based on the allegation that, under a general grant, uniformity will not be achieved.

The effect of a percentage grant is only too well known. It is that to those that have shall more be given. Apparently this has now become a Socialist principle. The basis of the general grant is set out in Clause 2, which is perhaps the most important Clause of all. That Clause enacts that before a figure for the general grant is recommended to the House the Minister must take into consideration the existing expenditure, … the current level of prices, costs and remuneration, together with any future variation in that level which can be foreseen; any probable fluctuation in the demand for the services … and, finally, the need for developing those services and the extent to which, having regard to general economic conditions, it is reasonable to develop those services. When we say "develop" we mean "develop".

I want to take up a point which was raised by the right hon. Member for South Shields. He said that he had got hold of some gossip. I want to help him to understand what we are really doing.

The Government are fully determined to make proper financial provision in the general grant for the development of education and other services covered by it. With that aim in view we have also begun consultations with local authority associations about the machinery for working this out. Our purpose is to start by obtaining from each local authority its estimate of the development which, looking to local needs, it would expect to secure in the two-year period from April, 1959, to March, 1961—that is, the period for which the first general grant Order will run. The full co-operation of local authorities will be sought in the assessment of the need for developing the services, and I am quite sure that this co-operation will be readily given. The hon. Member for All Saints describes this as stagnation. My view is that in this new system of general grants we have an excellent opportunity for planned development in the services concerned, and it is in that spirit that the Government approach the matter.

The hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) suggested that the whole case for the Bill depended upon its financial provisions. That is certainly not the Government's approach. The financial part is an integral part, but the arrangements for creating machinery for the reorganisation of local government are at least equally important.

Mr. Mitchison

What is the connection between the two?

Mr. Brooke

The connection is that both are designed to create a system and a structure of local government which will be fully responsible and independent, and will give those who take part in it a worthwhile task to carry out.

The hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) was good enough to pay tribute to the courage of the Government in bringing forward proposals for reorganisation. Incidentally, he referred to model schemes for delegation. That question arises under Part III of the Bill. I would assure him that my right hon. Friends the Ministers of Health and Education are consulting local authority associations as to the sort of delegation schemes to be aimed at and the form that the guidance about them should take. It is too early as yet to say whether or not, in either case, the guidance will take the form of model schemes—they have their snags as well as their merits—but we are anxious to arrive, in consultation with local authority associations, at the best method of going forward.

As regards reorganization, the Bill is a machinery Bill. It makes distinct provision for England and Wales, and although a Royal Commission is now considering the local government system in Greater London, the Bill also allows for the possibility of a suitable application of some of its provisions to the Greater London situation, after the Royal Commission has done its work. My hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, North (Mr. Iremonger) referred to this. In reply to him I want to make as clear I can how things will develop in alternative ways. One possibility is that the Royal Commission's work will be followed by a Government Bill to settle any new pattern or patterns of local government which may be needed in Greater London.

Mr. Mitchison

I find nothing about the Royal Commission in this Bill.

Mr. Brooke

There is a good deal in the Bill to provide for what would happen as regards applying the provisions of the Bill to the Greater London area, and I was seeking to explain, as I thought this relevant to our debate, that either the Royal Commission will be followed by a Government Bill or alternatively, if that does not happen, then the Borough of Ilford and the other large authorities in Greater London will be given back by Order in Council under the provisions of the Bill their opportunity to promote Private Bills notwithstanding that the fifteen years' standstill period has not expired. That is unquestionably what will happen in practice. I want to make clear to him and the House that this is an undertaking by the Government, and one which, I am sure, no subsequent Government would be disposed to ignore.

I said that we were making distinctive provision for England and Wales. There will be two separate local government commissions. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) suggested that all the Amendments made to the Bill were for the bad, but as Minister for Welsh Affairs I want to say emphatically that a number of Amendments in favour of Wales were to the good. I think Welsh Members will support me in that.

We have made various provisions. We contemplate that the Welsh Local Government Commission, of which at least one member will be Welsh speaking, will consist mainly of people who intimately know Wales and her needs. We have amended the Bill to provide that there can be no special review area in Wales—not solely because the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins) informed me that there was no Welsh word for conurbation. There is in fact no conurbation in Wales. We have also amended the Bill so as to provide that it will not be possible by an Order under the Bill to alter the boundary between England and Wales.

I repeat what my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary said, that we intend to appoint the strongest possible commissions. The English Commission will have its responsibilities towards the five conurbations. I am sorry my hon. Friend the Member for Ormskirk (Mr. Glover) regrets that we have not written the directives to the commissions into the Bill. I think it is wiser to have done it the way we have done it, by providing for directives to be given in the form of regulations which can, of course, be supplanted by new regulations should it be found there is any shortcoming or mistake.

The local government commission was described at some stages in Committee by the Opposition as remote, and yet, inconsistently, the Opposition demands that the Bill should be amended so as to make this "remote" local government commission responsible for the county reviews. I am quite sure that it is wiser that the county reviews should be carried out by the county councils themselves, which know county conditions most intimately. But, of course, the final decision both in regard to recommendations of the local government commissions and in regard to recommendations by the county councils in their county reviews, will be taken by the Minister and will be submitted to Parliament.

It is strange that so little has been said at any stage of our proceedings about the future of the small boroughs. The Government are keen to see that, contrary to what the hon. and learned Member for Kettering said, these boroughs shall have a future. Their local government status and functions may be changed, but we are keenly anxious that they shall retain their corporate position and history.

My hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South (Sir H. d'Avigdor-Goldsmid) mentioned in Committee the Cinque Ports. We have considered the position of the Cinque Ports further, and I trust that the outcome will be acceptable to my right hon. Friend the Lord Warden. On further examination, it has been thought doubtful whether, under the Bill as it stands, all the necessary safeguards could be provided in any Order made by the Minister affecting local government in any Cinque Port area. The confederation of the Cinque Ports should be maintained. They are a great national institution and tradition. This is a matter which will, in the Government's view, require further consideration in another place.

The Bill is designed to offer better opportunities of service in local government. It will be judged by the quality of service which is given. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple) for the tribute he gave to the unpaid service rendered by the elected members of local authorities. I am wholly in agreement that we should seek to reorganise the pattern and structure of local government so as to increase the ability of elected representatives to carry their responsibilities. The Bill will produce a sounder structure, sounder financially and likely to be sounder in its shape. If the Bill were to be defeated tonight, by some mischance, almost everybody in local government, knowing the need for reorganisation, would describe its loss as a disaster, The Government have all that widespread support in putting it on the Statute Book.

The right hon. Member for South Shields criticised me because, he said, I was treating the Bill like the Tables of Stone. When I found the Opposition worshipping a golden calf called "Percentage Grant", with Dr. Alexander sitting astride it, I at any rate, did not lose my temper and break the Tables of Stone.

We have preserved them. The Tables of Stone became the law, and we intend that this long-planned and far-reaching Bill shall pass into law.

Question put, That the Bill be now read the Third time:—

The House divided: Ayes 306, Noes 233.

Division No. 121.] AYES [10.0 p.m.
Agnew, Sir Peter Duncan, Sir James Hughes-Young, M. H. C.
Aitken, W. T. Duthie, W. S. Hulbert, Sir Norman
Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.) Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West) Hurd, A. R.
Alport, C. J. M. Elliott, R. W. (Ne'castle upon Tyne, N.) Hutchison, Michael Clark (E'b'gh, S.)
Amery, Julian (Preston, N.) Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'gh, W.)
Arbuthnot, John Errington, Sir Eric Hutchison, Sir James (Scotstoun)
Armstrong, C. W. Erroll, F. J. Hyde, Montgomery
Ashton, H. Farey-Jones, F. W. Hylton-Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Harry
Astor, Hon. J. J. Fell, A. Iremonger, T. L.
Atkins, H. E. Finlay, Graeme Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)
Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M. Fisher, Nigel Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)
Baldwin, A. E. Fletcher-Cooke, C. Jennings, J. C. (Burton)
Balniel, Lord Forrest, G. Jennings, Sir Roland (Hallam)
Barlow, Sir John Fort, R. Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)
Barter, John Foster, John Johnson, Eric (Blackley)
Baxter, Sir Beverley Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone) Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)
Beamish, Col. Tufton Fraser, Sir Ian (M'ombe & Lonsdale) Jones, Rt. Hon. Aubrey (Hall Green)
Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.) Freeth, Denzil Joseph, Sir Keith
Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.) Gammans, Lady Joynson-Hioks, Hon. Sir Lancelot
Bennett, F. M. (Torquay) Garner-Evans, E. H. Kaberry, D.
Bennett, Dr. Reginald George, J. C. (Pollok) Keegan, D.
Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth) Gibson-Watt, D. Kerby, Capt. H. B.
Biggs-Davison, J. A. Glover, D. Kerr, Sir Hamilton
Bingham, R. M. Glyn, Col. Richard H. Kimball, M.
Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel Godber, J. B Kirk, P. M.
Bishop, F. P. Goodhart, Philip Lagden, G. W.
Black, C. W. Gough, C. F. H. Lambton, Viscount
Body, R. F. Gower, H. R. Lancaster, Col. C. G.
Bossom, Sir Alfred Graham, Sir Fergus Langford-Holt, J. A.
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A. Grant, W. (Woodside) Leather, E. H. C.
Boyle, Sir Edward Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R. (Nantwich) Leavey, J. A.
Braine, B. R. Green, A. Leburn, W. G.
Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H. Gresham Cooke, R. Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.
Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans) Legh, Hon. Peter (Peterefield)
Brooman-White, R. C. Grimson, Sir Robert (Westbury) Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.)
Browne, J. Nixon (Craigton) Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.
Bryan, P. Gurden, Harold Lindsay, Martin (Solihull)
Bullus, Wing Commander E. E. Hall, John (Wycombe) Linstead, Sir H. N.
Burden, F. F. A. Hare, Rt. Hon. J. H. Llewellyn, D. T.
Campbell, Sir David Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.) Lloyd, Rt. Hon. G. (Sutton Coldfield)
Carr, Robert Harris, Reader (Heston) Longden, Gilbert
Cary, Sir Robert Harrison, A. B. C. (Maldon) Low, Rt. Hon. Sir Toby
Channon, Sir Henry Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.) Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)
Chichester-Clark, R. Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.) Luoas, p. B. (Brentford & Chiswick)
Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.) Harvie-Watt, Sir George Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh
Cole, Norman Hay, John McAdden, S. J.
Conant, Maj. Sir Roger Head, Rt. Hon. A. H. Macdonald, Sir Peter
Cooke, Robert Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel Mackeson, Brig. Sir Harry
Cooper, A. E. Heath, Rt. Hon. E. R. G. McKibbin, Alan
Cooper-Key, E. M. Henderson, John (Cathcart) Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)
Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K. Henderson-Stewart, Sir James McLaughlin, Mrs. P.
Corfield, Capt. F. V. Hesketh, R. F. Maclay, Rt. Hon. John
Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne) Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W. Maclean, Sir Fitzroy (Lancaster)
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Hill, Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton) McLean, Neil (Inverness)
Crowder, Sir John (Finchley) Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe) Macleod, Rt. Hon. Iain (Enfield, W.)
Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood) Hinchingbrooke, Viscount MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty)
Cunningham, Knox Hirst, Geoffrey Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)
Currie, G. B. H. Hobson, John (Warwick & Leam'gt'n) Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)
Dance, J. C. G. Holland-Martin, C. J. Maddan, Martin
Davidson, Viscountess Hope, Lord John Maitland, Cdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)
D'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Hornby, R. P. Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.
Deedes, W. F. Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P. Marlowe, A. A. H.
Digby, Simon Wingfield Horobin, Sir Ian Marples, Rt. Hon. A. E.
Dodds-Parker, A. D. Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Dame Florence Marshall, Douglas
Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA. Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire) Mathew, R.
Doughty, C. J. A. Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives) Maudling, Rt. Hon. R.
Drayson, G. B. Howard, John (Test) Mawby, R. L.
du Cann, E. D. L. Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.) Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.
Dugdale Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond) Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral J. Medlicott, Sir Frank
Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R. Redmayne, M. Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Molson, Rt. Hon. Hugh Remnant, Hon. P. Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)
Moore, Sir Thomas Renton, D. L. M. Teeling, W.
Morrison, John (Salisbury) Ririsdale, J. E. Temple, John M.
Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles Rippon, A. G. F. Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)
Nabarro, G. D. N Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley) Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)
Nairn, D. L. S. Robertson, Sir David Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)
Neave, Airey Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.) Thompson, R. (Croydon, S.)
Nicholls, Harmar Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks) Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. P.
Nicholson, Sir Godfrey (Farnham) Roper, Sir Harold Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin
Nicolson, N. (B'n'm'th, E. & Chr'ch) Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)
Noble, Comdr. Rt. Hon. Allan Russell, R. S. Tilney, John (Wavertree)
Nugent, G. R. H. Sandys, Rt. Hon. D. Turner, H. F. L.
O'Neill, Hn. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.) Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R. Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.
Ormsby-Gore, R. Hon. W. D. Sharples, R. C. Tweedsmuir, Lady
Orr, Capt. L. P. S. Shepherd, William Vane, W. M. F.
Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.) Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.) Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.
Osborne, C. Smithers, Peter (Winchester) Vickers, Miss Joan
Page, R. G. Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood) Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Pannell, N. A. (Kirkdale) Soames, Rt. Hon. Christopher Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Derek
Partridge, E. Spearman, Sir Alexander Wall, Patrick
Peel, W. J. Speir, R. M. Ward, Rt. Hon. G. R. (Worcester)
Peyton, J. W. W. Spence, H. R. (Aberdeen, W.) Watkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold
Pickthorn, K. W. M. Spens, Rt. Hn. Sir P. (Kens'gt'n, S.) Webbe, Sir H.
Pike, Miss Mervyn Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard Whitelaw, W. S. I.
Pilkington, Capt. R. A. Stevens, Geoffrey Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Pitman, I. J. Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.) Wills, G. (Bridgwater)
Pitt, Miss E. M. Steward, Sir William (Woolwich, W.) Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Powell, J. Enoch Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm Wood, Hon. R.
Price, David (Eastleigh) Storey, S. Woollam, John Victor
Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.) Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray) Yates, William (The Wrekin)
Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L. Studholme, Sir Henry
Ramsden, J. E. Summers, Sir Spencer TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Rawlinson, Peter Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington) Mr. Oaksbott and
Colonel J. H. Harrison.
Ainsley, J. W. Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.) Howell, Denis (All Saints)
Albu, A. H. Davies, Stephen (Merthyr) Hoy, J. H.
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Deer, G. Hubbard, T. F.
Allen, Arthur (Bosworth) de Freitas, Geoffrey Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Dolargy, H. J. Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)
Awbery, S. S. Diamond, John Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)
Bacon, Miss Alice Dodds, N. N. Hunter, A. E.
Baird, J. Donnelly, D. L. Hynd, H. (Accrington)
Balfour, A. Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwch) Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)
Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J. Dye, S. Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)
Bence, C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.) Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. Irving, Sydney (Dartford)
Benn, Hn. Wedgwood (Bristol, S. E.) Edelman, M. Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.
Beswick, Frank Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse) Janner, B.
Blackburn, F. Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly) Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.
Boardman, H. Edwards, W. J. (Stepney) Jeger, George (Goole)
Bonham-Carter, Mark Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.). Jeger, Mrs. Lena (Holbn & St. Pncs, S.)
Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G. Evans, Edward (Lowestoft) Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)
Bowden, H. W. (Leicester, S. W.) Fernyhough, E. Johnston, Douglas (Paisley)
Bowen, E. R. (Cardigan) Finch, H. J. Jones, Rt. Hon. A. Creech (Wakefield)
Bowles, F. G. Fletcher, Eric Jones, David (The Hartlepools)
Boyd, T. C. Foot, D. M. Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)
Braddook, Mrs. Elizabeth Forman, J. C. Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)
Brookway, A. F. Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) Kenyon, C.
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. George, Lady Megan Lloyd (Car'then) Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.
Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper) Gibton, C. W. King, Dr. H. M.
Brown, Thomas (Ince) Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C. Lawson, G. M.
Burke, W. A. Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R. Ledger, R. J.
Burton, Miss F. E. Grey, C. F. Lee, Frederick (Newton)
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Lindgren, G. S.
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Griffiths, William (Exchange) Lipton, Marcus
Carmichael, J. Hale, Leslie Logan, D. G.
Castle, Mrs. B. A. Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley) Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson
Champion, A. J. Hamilton, W. W. McAlister, Mrs. Mary
Chapman, W. D. Hannan, W. McCann, J.
Chetwynd, G. R. Harrison, J. (Nottingham, N.) MacColl, J. E.
Clunie, J. Hastings, S. MacDermot, Niall
Coldrick, W. Hayman, F. H. McGhee, H. G.
Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead)
Collins, V. J. (Shoreditoh & Finsbury) Healey, Denis McInnes, J.
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis) McKay, John (Wallsend)
Cove, W. G. Herbison, Miss M. McLeavy, Frank
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Hewitson, Capt. M. MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)
Cronin, J. D. Hobson, C. R. (Keighley) MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)
Crossman, R. H. S. Holman, P. Mahon, Simon
Cullen, Mrs. A. Holt, A. F. Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)
Dalton, Rt. Hon. H. Houghton, Douglas Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfd, E.)
Darling, George (Hillsborough) Howell, Charles (Perry Barr) Mann, Mrs. Jean
Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A. Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.) Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Mason, Roy Probert, A. R. Taylor, John (West Lothian)
Mellish, R. J. Proctor, W. T. Thomas, George (Cardiff)
Messer, Sir F. Pursey, Cmdr, H. Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)
Mitchison, G. R. Rankin, John Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)
Monslow, W. Redhead, E. C. Timmons, J.
Moody, A. S. Reeves, J. Tomney, F.
Moss, R. Reid, William Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn
Moyle, A. Rhodes, H. Usborne, H. C.
Mulley, F. W. Robens, Rt. Hon. A. Viant, S. P.
Neal, Harold (Bolsover) Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Watkins, T. E.
Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon) Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon) Weitzman, D.
Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. (Derby, S.) Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.) Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
O'Brien, Sir Thomas Rogers, George (Kensington, N.) West, D. G.
Oliver, G. H. Ross, William Wheeldon, W. E.
Orbach, M. Royle, C. White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)
Oswald, T. Short, E. W. Wigg, George
Owen, W. J. Silverman, Julius (Aston) Wilkins, W. A.
Padley, W. E. Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke, N.) Willey, Frederick
Paget, R. T. Slater, J. (Sedgefield) Williams, David (Neath)
Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley) Snow, J. W. Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Ab'tillery)
Palmer, A. M. F. Sorensen, R. W. Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)
Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.) Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank Williams, W. T. (Barons Court)
Pargiter, G. A. Sparks, J. A. Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)
Parker, J. Stewart, Michael (Fulham) Winterbottom, Richard
Parkin, B. T. Stones, W. (Consett) Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Paton, John Strachey, Rt. Hon. J. Woof, R. E.
Peart, T. F. Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall) Yates, V. (Ladywood)
Pentland, N. Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.) Younger, Rt. Hon. K.
Popplewell, E. Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E. Zilliacus, K.
Prentice, R. E. Swingler, S. T.
Price, J. T. (Westhoughton) Sylvester, G. O. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Mr. Pearson and Mr. Simmons.
Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.