HC Deb 01 April 1963 vol 675 cc102-13
Mr. M. Stewart

I beg to move, in page 3, line 7, to leave out "aldermen".

It has been suggested, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that certain other Amendments could conveniently be taken with this one. I have in mind particularly the Amendments in Schedule 2, page 106, line 30, after "returning", insert "twice".

In line 33, after "returning", insert "twice".

In line 40, leave out "one" and insert "two".

In line 43, leave out "a councillor" and insert "two councillors".

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir William Anstruther-Gray)

Yes, that is so. I think that it would also be convenient to the House to discuss with these Amendments those in Schedule 2, page 105, line 21, leave out "7" and insert "5".

In line 21, leave out from "1933" to "shall" in line 22.

In line 23, leave out "vice-chairman and aldermen" and insert "and vice-chairman".

In line 28, leave out "county aldermen or".

In line 29, leave out "aldermen or".

In line 30, leave out "as the case may be".

In line 34, at end insert: (d) any reference to aldermen were omitted. In line 40, leave out sub-paragraphs (b) and (c).

There may, if required, be a Division on the Amendment in Schedule 2, page 106, line 30, to which the hon. Member has referred.

Mr. Stewart

I am obliged, Mr. Deputy-Speaker.

This means that we are discussing two matters: first, whether to increase the number of councillors on the Greater London Council and, secondly, whether the Council should have any aldermen. Under the Bill, the Greater London Council is to consist of 100 councillors and 16 aldermen. The effect of all these Amendments would be that the council would have 200 councillors and no aldermen.

If the number of councillors were not increased beyond 100 and the council consisted of 100 councillors and nothing else, it would undoubtedly be not sufficiently numerous to do its work properly with all its committees. Indeed, the total of 116 is short measure. Therefore, if we do not increases the number of councillors, we are fairly well bound to keep the aldermen in order merely to have enough people in the council chamber.

It would be much better if we were free to consider the question of having aldermen on its merits and not tied to having them because there are not enough councillors. It was with that purpose in mind that my hon. Friends and I tabled Amendments to increase the number of councillors. In Committee, we discussed the question of aldermen, about whom several opinions are held. For my part, I think that on balance it would be reasonable to start off the new Council without aldermen.

On the whole, it is true to say that aldermen in local government have fulfilled neither the hopes of their friends nor the fears of their criticis. It would not make a tremendous difference whether or not we have aldermen, but many people feel that the procedure whereby people are indirectly elected is not basically democratic. Unless overwhelming advantages can be shown from having aldermen in the new body, there is no reason why we should have them. On balance, I favour not having aldermen.

The increase in the number of councillors is important. Although the Greater London Council will have only limited responsibilities in the social services, none the less it has wide housing, planning and traffic responsibilities, some social responsibilities and, over part of its area, an educational responsibility. By the time it has finished, it will have a good many committees. Trying to fit 100 councillors over all the work would be a very tight fit.

How, then, can the number be increased? The trouble was that if we increased it from 100 to anything less than 200, we should have to consider again how many came from each borough, and all the intense wrangling that goes into making up the First Schedule of the Bill would be reopened. By doing it as our methods suggest, none of that difficulty would arise. We would simply make every constituency that will return one Greater London councillor a double-member constituency returning two councillors, in the way that a London County Council constituency returns three members.

In local government, there is an advantage in having constituencies which return more than one member, because a member of a local authority, unlike a Member of this House—unless, of course, he is a member of the Government—is something of an administrator also and in consequence, of necessity, something of a specialist in certain parts of the council's work.

If we have two members for each constituency, it might happen that one of them is busy on committees dealing with traffic and transport and that another is much versed in matters of housing. It is useful for the constituents to have at their service two people with different specialist knowledge. If we are increasing the size of the Council, that is an argument in favour of doing it by having double-member constituencies.

Since the Minister was so cautious when we were discussing anything which could be done to relieve the financial anxieties of members of the council, we need not fear that we will burden the ratepayers unduly if we decide to have 200 Greater London councillors instead of 100. Two hundred would not be too big a body to do the work properly. A great deal of the most important work will be done in the committees of the Council, which will be of a convenient size. Here again, in our brief discussion of the matter in Committee, I got the impression that the Government certainly were not rejecting the idea out of hand. I shall be interested to hear what they say about it.

Mr. F. Harris

I did not have the privilege of serving in the Standing Committee on the Bill, but I find the speech of the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) an extraordinary turn round from what I expected. I regarded the Opposition as being so opposed to the Greater London Council that I am surprised to find that the trend is now to increase the number of councillors and to make the Council such a substantial body as, in effect, to add to the difficulties of the London boroughs in the powers that the Council might eventually take as time goes by. To enlarge a body of this kind would give it much more importance and is, therefore, contrary to my point of view. I am anxious to limit the number to what is already provided in the Bill.

Mr. M. Stewart

This is an important point. Had the hon. Member been in the Standing Committee he would have seen why many of us take this view. Under the Bill, the Greater London Council will be a powerful body, whether we like it or not. To make it too small will not make it less powerful but would merely have the result that it used its power badly. That cannot be to anyone's advantage.

We do not want this body to be created at all, we do not want it to have the powers that are being given to it, but since the Government insist upon creating it and giving it those powers, it is important that it should at least be able to use them with some semblance of competence. That is a perfectly logical position to adopt.

Mr. Harris

I respect the hon. Member's views that, having reached the stage that the Government are seeing the Bill through, his mind is turning to making the Council work as effectively as possible. I have not been encouraged quite so far in that direction. My opposition against the Bill as a whole is so considerable that, obviously, I am not in favour of any enlargement of the number and I would prefer the limitation to 116.

6.30 p.m.

Sir K. Joseph

We are faced with a dilemma. It is generally agreed that the size of the Greater London Council should be related to the number of constituencies. It is also acknowledged that the Greater London Council will not have the full range of personal services for which to be responsible, although it is true that it will retain responsibility for overspill housing and, in the inner London area, for education.

What I must emphasise, after the thought that I have given to the subject since our brief discussion in Committee, is that if there is a danger in having the Greater London Council too small, there is also a danger in having it too large. Obviously, if it is too small the committees will not get the benefit of the cross-fertilisation of members who sit on more than one or two committees. Obviously, if it is too small the members responsible for sitting not only on the committees but on sub-committees will find it very difficult to do their homework properly and make a positive contribution. Also if it is too small it will make more difficult still the problem of attracting the right talent and vigour for service on the Greater London Council.

But let us look at the correlative dangers of having the G.L.C. too large, People of vigour and talent will soon discover that they sit on large committees with too many other members and rarely get the opportunity to catch the chairman's eye. If it is too large, people will find that they do not get enough opportunity to perform the service for which they enter the Greater London Council.

Mr. Reynolds

Why does it follow that the committees have to be large? I see no reason why doubling the size of the membership of the authority need make any difference to the size of the committees.

Sir K. Joseph

It must follow, unless it is suggested that we invent committees—which I am sure the hon. Member does not suggest—purely to keep the members of the G.L.C. busy. I take it that there will be from 13 to 15 or 16 committees. On this assumption, the number of committee members will vary exactly in relation to the number of committees of the Greater London Council. Therefore, I say the more members there are, the more people there are on a given committee and the less the opportunity for participation in a meaningful way by individual members.

I take it, therefore, that we are still where we were, namely, that we would like to increase the number rather more than it is now, but I still feel chary about increasing it to as much as 200, even taking the benefit of jettisoning the aldermen on the G.L.C.

We should take comfort, before finally deciding, from the experience of the county boroughs. I know that it is not relevant to bring the experience of the county boroughs into all the subjects that we are discussing, but here, surely, it is relevant. The county boroughs, with large populations, are responsible for most of the services for which the G.L.C. would be responsible, and a number of additional services as well. Yet they manage to tackle these jobs with a membership not very different from that which we are giving to the Greater London Council. Birmingham has a total membership, including councillors and aldermen, of 156; Leeds 112; and Sheffield, 100. I realise that if we calculate these figures in terms of representation per member, we get astronomical numbers on the Greater London Council, but the answer to that is that the London borough is the immediate authority with which the citizen will normally expect to deal.

If I may come to the Greater London Council, we would expect, as I was saying, that there will be about 15 committees. Suppose that each committee has an average of 20 members, which is the average that the London County Council has at the moment. That would give us about 2½ committees per member. That is two for some members and three for others. Taking into account the service on sub-committees which would be involved for many of them, I do not think that this would set too heavy a load on the shoulders of each member.

I should have thought, therefore, that we would be wiser to stick to the number in the Bill, which means keeping the aldermen. Without discussing the merits of the aldermen involved in the 116, I do not think anybody wants to make the number lower, unless it be my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. F. Harris). Except in the case of the finance committee, the G.L.C. will have the power to co-opt up to one-third of the members. Without saying that 116 is the perfect number, I feel that, on balance, it is preferable than moving up to 200.

I hope that the House will be content for the arrangement to stand as it is, and that the Amendment will be withdrawn.

Mr. Skeffington

The Minister's statement is disappointing because he said nothing about the fact that the Greater London Council would have to apportion its numbers to inner London education. This is a tremendously heavy responsibility. As I pointed out in the Standing Committee, we are dealing with a group of about 450,000 children, and if we take all the teachers, plus the instructors employed in evening institutes, we get some idea of the teaching staff involved.

There are about 1,300 school buildings within the area, and if we add 60 or 70 institutions for further education that are not likely to get other status, and, therefore, have been taken out of the educational control of the authority, we see that this is an enormous burden. At present, in addition to the main education committee there are five or six subcommittees of the education committee of the London County Council, and if one is a member of that body, as I have been on the education committee, this in itself probably takes up a day a week, particularly when one adds the visits that one ought to make to some of the establishments not only inside the County but outside, and will still exist inside the Greater London area. This accounts for 40 members of the 100 who will comprise this body, so the strain will be fairly considerable.

Then there will be about 15 main committees. I should have thought that even with the aldermen, the Minister was spreading them very thinly over the ground. From my experience of the London County Council, where there are about 21 major committees and I believe 18 other committees with 147 members, it is difficult to get them manned effectively. Not many members are in the position of being able to attend more than one or two major committees, and it seems to me that the Minister has omitted educational considerations. When we consider the planning, sewerage, roads and licensing functions of the Greater London Council, the Minister is to ask these members to take on a heavy task. I hope that he will have another look at the matter.

Dr. Alan Glyn

In Standing Committee, we discussed this point very fully. I think that the arguments were brought out very clearly, the main point being not political but practical, namely, as the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington) has just said, whether sufficient people can be found to sit on the committees.

The other important point which was brought out in Committee was that if we could have done away with the aldermen and had the extra numbers as elected members, we would not be in the position of being obliged in the inner London ring to select our candidates by qualification. As I see it, every selected member of an inner London borough will have to sit on the education committee. Perhaps my right hon. Friend will correct me if I am wrong.

Sir K. Joseph indicated assent.

Dr. Glyn

This means that both major parties contesting must choose somebody with educational qualifications, since he will have to sit on the education committee. There is a case, therefore, for dropping the aldermen and increasing the representation so that each constituency will have a maximum of two representatives per constituency.

Mr. R. J. Mellish (Bermondsey)

The hon. Member will have to come into our Lobby.

Dr. Glyn

We shall have to see what the Minister says; first things first. But I think there is a point here, and I do not think it weakens the Bill in any way. In fact, it has a lot of practical advantages for both parties.

Mr. Laurence Pavitt (Willesden, West)

I know that the Minister will have considered the arguments I put to him in Committee, and I do not wish to add to them. I only ask him now to give full attention to the representations made by the Willesden Borough Council along the lines of those arguments.

Mr. Reynolds

I am horrified at the Minister's lack of knowledge of exactly what the situation is and how many meetings people will have to attend. He almost brushed the education committee aside, ignoring the fact that it is a major committee. There will be at least

five sub-committees of the education committee, all of which will be the equivalent of a major committee of a county council or county borough council. The inner London borough members will have an impossible burden put upon them. It will be extremely difficult to find candidates who will be able to undertake the full work of the education committee and the work of the Greater London Council itself.

There is the further fact that the Minister is proposing at a later stage to bring the Metropolitan Water Board into this new authority. At present, this work involves the equivalent of full-time membership of a local authority for about 100 councillors. An enormous strain will be thrown on the members of the new Council who will have to do the work of the water committee, the education committee and all the other committees concerned with its wide functions.

I am horrified also by the Minister's notion of some sort of necessary relationship between the size of the Council itself and of its committees. There is no reason why, in any of the new boroughs or the Greater London Council itself, the committees should be any larger than they are now on the London County Council, irrespective of the total membership of the Council. We are here setting up a completely new local authority. Anything that happened in the past can be disregarded, if it suits us. My conception is that it should be a body run more on the lines of Parliament, meeting, perhaps, once a fortnight for debates, with small committees doing the detailed work.

Question put, That "aldermen" stand part of the Bill:—

The House divided: Ayes 220, Noes 151.

Division No. 85.] AYES [6.41 p.m.
Agnew, Sir Peter Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel Burden, F. A.
Aitken, W. T. Bishop, F. P. Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A. (Saffron Walden)
Allason, James Bossom, Hon. Clive Campbell, Gordon(Moray & Nairn)
Awdry, Daniel (Chippenham) Bourne-Arton, A. Carr, Compton (Barons court)
Barlow, Sir John Box, Donald Carr, Robert (Mitcham)
Barter, John Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. John Cary, Sir Robert
Batsford, Brian Boyle, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward Channon, H. P. G.
Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Braine, Bernard Chataway, Christopher
Berkeley, Humphry Brewis, John Chichester-Clark, R.
Bevins, Rt. Hon. Reginald Bromley-Davenport, Lt. Col. Sir Walter Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)
Biffen, John Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)
Biggs-Davison, John Brown, Alan (Tottenham) Cleaver, Leonard
Bingham, R. M. Buck, Antony Cole, Norman
Cooper, A. E. Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral John Pott, Percivall
Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J, K, Hughes-Young, Michael Powell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch
Corfield, F. V. Hulbert, Sir Norman Price, David (Eastleigh)
Costain, A. P. Hutchison, Michael Clark Price, H. A. (Lewisham, W.)
Coulson, Michael Iremonger, T. L. Prior, J. M. L.
Courtney, Cdr. Anthony Irving, Bryant Godman (Rye) Profumo, Rt. Hon. John
Craddock,SirBeresford(Spelthorne) Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich) Pym, Francis
Critchley, Julian Jennings, J. C. Quennell, Miss J. M.
Cunningham, Knox Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle) Ramsden, James
Curran, Charles Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin
Currie, G. B. H. Johnson Smith, Geoffrey Rees, Hugh
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.) Rees-Davies, W. R.
Deedes, Rt. Hon. W. F. Joseph, Rt. Hon. Sir Keith Renton, Rt. Hon. David
Digby, Simon Wingfield Kerans, Cdr. J. S. Ridley, Hon. Nicholas
Drayson, G. B. Kerby, Capt. Henry Robinson, Rt. Hn. Sir R. (B'pool, S.)
du Cann, Edward Kimball, Marcus Robson Brown, Sir William
Duncan, Sir James Kirk, Peter Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Kitson Timothy Roots, William
Elliott,R. w, (Nwcastle-upon-Tyne,N.) Langford-Holt, Sir John Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard
Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry St. Clair, M.
Errington, Sir Eric Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Seymour, Leslie
Erroll, Rt. Hon. F. J. Lilley, F. J. P. Sharples, Richard
Farey-Jones, F. W. Linstead, Sir Hugh Shaw, M.
Farr, John Litchfield, Capt. John Skeet, T. H. H.
Finlay, Graeme Longbottom, Charles Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)
Fisher, Nigel Longden, Gilbert Smyth, Rt. Hon. Brig. Sir John
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Loveys, Walter H. Spearman, Sir Alexander
Forrest, George Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Speir, Rupert
Foster, John MacArthur, Ian Stanley, Hon. Richard
Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton) McLaughlin, Mrs. Patricia Stevens, Geoffrey
Freeth, Denzil Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.) Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm
Gammans, Lady McMaster, Stanley R. Storey, Sir Samuel
Gardner, Edward Macmillan,Rt.Hn.Harold(Bromley) Studholme, Sir Henry
Gibson-Watt, David Macpherson,Rt.Hn. Niall(Dumfries) Tapsell, Peter
Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, Central) Maddan, Martin Temple, John M.
Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham) Maginnis, John E. Thomas, Sir Leslie (Canterbury)
Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.) Maitland, Sir John Thomas, Peter (Conway)
Goodhew, Victor Marshall, Douglas Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon,S.)
Gower, Raymond Marten, Neil Touche, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon
Grant-Ferris, R. Mathew, Robert (Honlton) Turner, Colin
Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R, G. Matthews, Gordon (Meriden) Tweedsmuir, Lady
Gurden, Harold Maudling, Rt. Hon. Reginald van Straubenzee, W. R.
Hall, John (Wycombe) Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Vickers, Miss Joan
Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough) Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C. Wakefield, Sir Wavell
Hare, Rt. Hon. John Mills, Stratton Walder, David
Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.) Miscampbell, Norman Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir Derek
Harris, Reader (Heston) More, Jasper (Ludlow) Wall, Patrick
Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Nabarro, Sir Gerald Ward, Dame Irene
Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd) Nicholson, Sir Godfrey Webster, David
Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.) Nugent, Rt. Hon. Sir Richard Wells, John (Maldstone)
Hastings, Stephen Oakshott, Sir Hendrle Williams, Dudley (Exeter)
Hay, John Orr-Ewing, C. Ian Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
Hill, Dr. Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton) Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth) Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Hill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe) Page, Graham (Crosby) Wise, A. R.
Hirst, Geoffrey Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale) Wood, Rt. Hon. Richard
Hobson, Sir John Partridge, E. Woodhouse, C. M.
Hocking, Philip N. Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe) Wooliam, John
Holland, Philip Peel, John Worsley, Marcus
Hornby, R. P. Percival, Ian
Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Dame P. Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Howard, John (Southampton, Test) Pitman, Sir James Mr. J. E. B. Hill and Mr. McLaren
Alnsley, William Chapman, Donald Galpern, Sir Myer
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Cliffe, Michael Ginsburg, David
Awbery, Stan (Bristol Central) Collick, Percy Gourlay, Harry
Bacon, Miss Alice Corbet, Mrs. Freda Greenwood, Anthony
Barnett, Guy Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Grey, Charles
Beaney, Alan Crosland, Anthony Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)
Bence, Cyril Dalyell, Tam Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)
Bennett, J. (Glasgow, Bridgeton) Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Grimond, Rt. Hon. J.
Benson, Sir George Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)
Blackburn, F. Delargy, Hugh Harper, Joseph
Boardman, H. Dempsey, James Hayman, F. H.
Bowden, Rt. Hn. H.W.(Lelcs. S.W.) Diamond, John Henderson,Rt.Hn.Arthur(RwlyRegis)
Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan) Dodds, Norman Hill, J. (Midlothian)
Bowles, Frank Donnelly, Desmond Hilton, A. V.
Boyden, James Driberg, Tom Holman, Percy
Bradley, Tom Ede, Rt. Hon. C. Hough ton, Douglas
Brockway, A. Fenner Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Hunter, A. E.
Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper) Edwards, Walter (Stepney) Hynd, H. (Accrington)
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Finch, Harold Hynd, John (Attercliffe)
Castle, Mrs. Barbara Fitch, Alan Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)
Irving, Sydney (Dartford) Mulley, Frederick Spriggs, Leslie
Janner, Sir Barnett Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon) Stewart, Michael (Fulham)
Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas Noel-Baker. Rt.Hn.Philip(Derby,S.) Stones, William
Jeger, George Oram, A. E. Stross,Dr Barnett(Stoke-on-Trent,C.)
Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) Oswald, Thomas Swingler, Stephen
Jones, Dan (Burnley) Owen, Will Taverne, D.
Kelley, Richard Panned, Charles (Leeds, W.) Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Key, Rt. Hon. C. W. Pargiter, G. A. Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)
King, Dr. Horace Pavitt, Laurence Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, w.)
Lawson, George Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd) Thomson, G. M. (Dundee, E.)
Lee, Frederick (Newton) Pentland, Norman Thornton, Ernest
Lewie, Arthur (West Ham, N.) Plummer, Sir Leslie Tomney, Frank
Lipton, Marcus Popplewell, Ernest Wainwright, Edwin
Lubbock, Eric Price, J. T. (Westhoughton) Warbey, William
MacColl James Probert, Arthur Watkins, Tudor
McKay, John (Wallsend) Pursey, Cmdr. Harry Weitzman, David
Mackie, John (Enfield, East) Rankin, John Wells, Percy (Faversham)
McLeavy, Frank Redhead, E. C. White, Mrs. Eirene
MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling) Reynolds, G. W. Wigg, George
Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Rhodes, H, Willey, Frederick
Mallalieu, J.P.W. (Huddersfield, E.) Robertson, John (Paisley) Williams, LL (Abertillery)
Manuel, Archie Ross, William Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)
Mapp, Charles Royle, Charles (Salford, West) Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)
Mason, Roy Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E. Winterbottom, R. E.
Mayhew, Christopher Short, Edward Woof, Robert
Mellish, R. J. Silverman, Sydney (Nelson) Yates, Victor (Ladywood)
Mendelson, J. J. Skeffington, Arthur Zilliacus, K.
Millan, Bruce Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)
Mitchison, G. R. Small, William TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Monslow, Walter Snow, Julian Mr. Charles A. Howell and
Morris, John Sorensen, R. W. Dr. Broughton.
Moyle, Arthur Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank