HC Deb 24 January 1963 vol 670 cc423-38
Mr. Eric Lubbock (Orpington)

I beg to move, in page 88, line 6, to leave out column 3.

The Deputy-Chairman

This Amendment can be discussed with the Amendment in line 13, leave out from beginning to end of line 42 and insert:

  1. 1. The City of London, the metropolitan boroughs of Westminster, Holborn and Fins-bury; so much of the metropolitan boroughs of Shoreditch, Stepney, Bermondsey, Southwark, Lambeth, Chelsea, Kensington, Paddington, St. Marylebone and St. Pancras as lies inside the boundary referred to in paragraph 1 of Part II of this Schedule.
  2. 2. The metropolitan borough of Islington and so much of the metropolitan borough of St. Pancras as lies outside the boundary referred to in paragraph 1 of Part II of this schedule.
  3. 3. The metropolitan boroughs of Hackney and Stoke Newington.
  4. 4. The metropolitan boroughs of Poplar and Bethnal Green, so much of the metropolitan boroughs of Shoreditch and Stepney as lies outside the boundary referred to in paragraph 1 of Part II of this schedule.
  5. 5. The metropolitan borough of Greenwich and so much of the metropolitan borough of Woolwich as lies outside the boundary referred to in paragraph 3 of Part II of this schedule.
  6. 6. The metropolitan boroughs of Deptford and Lewisham.
  7. 7. The metropolitan borough of Camberwell and so much of the metropolitan boroughs of Bermondsey and Southwark as lies outside the boundary referred to in paragraph 1 of Part II of this schedule.
  8. 8. So much of the metropolitan borough of Lambeth as lies outside the boundary referred to in paragraph 1 of Part II of this Schedule, and so much of the metropolitan borough of Wandsworth as lies east of the boundary referred to in paragraph 4 of Part II of this schedule.
  9. 9. The metropolitan borough of Battersea, and so much of the metropolitan borough of Wandsworth as lies west of the boundary referred to in paragraph 4 of Part II of this schedule.
  10. 10.The metropolitan boroughs of Fulham and Hammersmith, so much of the metropolitan borough of Chelsea as lies outside the boundary referred to in paragraph 1 of Part II of this schedule; so much of the metropolitan borough of Kensington as lies outside the boundary referred to in paragraph 1 of the said Part II; and to the south of the boundary referred to in paragraph 2 of the said Part II.
  11. 424
  12. 11. The metropolitan borough of Hampstead, so much of the metropolitan boroughs of St. Marylebone and Paddington as lies outside the boundary referred to in paragraph 1 of Part II of this schedule, and so much of the metropolitan borough of Kensington as lies to the north of the boundary referred to in paragraph 2 of the said Part II.
and also the Amendment in line 21, column 3, leave out"2"and insert"3", and the Amendments in page 90, line 35, leave out"6"and insert"5", in page 90, line 40, leave out"9"and insert"8", in line 41, leave out"10"and insert"9", and in page 89, line 47, leave out"2"and insert"3".

Mr. Lubbock

I should like to draw the Committee's attention to a minor error Which has crept into the first Amendment in line 13, that is to say, that in the fifth paragraph of the Amendment the word "outside" in the second line should read "south of". The only effect of this alteration is that the fifth borough in my Amendment is the same as the relevant sixth borough in the Bill.

I shall not take much of the time of the Committee in moving the Amendment, Indeed, not very much time remains for me to take up. The advantage of the Amendment must be so self-evident to hon. Members, whether they are prepared to admit it or not, that we need not waste much time on discussion.

The Minister assured us on Second Reading, and again this evening, that he was prepared to listen to constructive proposals for the alteration of the Bill. Although I have not been greatly encouraged by his reception of Amendments moved so far, I feel sure that in this case he cannot fail to recognise its merits. I think that the same will go for the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) and his hon. Friends, and therefore we shall be able to dispose of the Amendment in a short time.

As the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) said earlier today—and I am sorry that he is not in has place, because I should very much value his support on the Amendment—there is no party political point in (the Amendments which we have been discussing so far. The same is certainly true of this one. The central point of the Amendment is that, as the Bill stands, control over the centre of London is divided between no fewer than nine boroughs and we are now proposing to rectify this by the creation of one single central borough. The remainder of this Amendment and the ones which are being taken with it follow logically from that first step.

The reason for the omission of column 3 is that, having rearranged the borough structure, it is impossible from the data available to calculate the number of electors in the revised boroughs and, therefore, we cannot put these numbers in column 3. That is the point of the first Amendment. The second is the crux of the matter. There are various definitions of the central area of London which might equally well have been chosen, but I think that this one 'is the most sensible because it was used for the purposes of the 1961 census and when it was defined for those purposes it was agreed between the Registrar General and the Minister's predecessor. Its population is 270,000 as given in the census preliminary figures. It thus falls almost exactly midway between the two extremes laid down by the Government for the size of the boroughs.

It includes the City of London, the boroughs of Westminster, Holborn and Finsbury and parts of many other neighbouring boroughs. This naturally entails revision of the boroughs in the next concentric circle around the centre, and I think that it can be demonstrated that it can be done without needless complication or introduction of too many new arbitrary boundaries which might be unrelated to either metropolitan boroughs or Parliamentary constituencies. At the same time, these new boroughs which have to be defined in the next concentric ring round this central one should not be vastly different in size from those which would be created under the Bill as it stands.

I should say, however, that the principle laid down by the Royal Commission, with which I agree, is that the central boroughs should be larger than those on the periphery. This is right, I think, because population densities are greater in the centre of London than they are farther out, and it is, therefore, possible for the boroughs to have bigger populations without being unduly large in area.

Also, if one compares the results of the 1951 census with those of the 1961 census, one finds that there is outward drift of population from the centre of London. This is hardly surprising, considering how astronomically expensive it is nowadays to live anywhere near the centre. Following this reasoning, therefore, I think that we may justifiably increase the size of the boroughs near to the centre.

By the Amendment, the present London County Council area is divided into eleven boroughs, compared with twelve under the Bill. I should emphasise, also, that the City disappears as a separate authority. I point to that particularly because I know of the interest which this survival from the Middle Ages generates on both sides of the Committee.

The Royal Commission admitted that the City was an anomaly and that, by logic, it should be amalgamated with Westminster. Of course, that was in the context of a structure of very much smaller boroughs that we are dealing with at present. In what I think is one of the silliest sentences in its Report, the Royal Commission went on to say: But logic has its limits, and the city lies outside them. What are the limits of logic? Perhaps that is a philosophical question, to which the Royal Commission did not deign to give an answer, but for many politicians, I think, logic reaches its limits when it leads to conclusions which they find unpalatable. I really do not know what the Royal Commission's answer would have been if it had given one, but it did make an immensely strong case for the creation of a great central borough such as the Amendment proposes.

The central area is distinguished, according to the Royal Commission, by the inclusion within its boundaries of Parliament and the Royal Palaces, the headquarters of Government, the Law Courts, the head offices of a very large number of commercial and industrial firms, as well as institutions of great influence in the intellectual life of the nation such as the British Museum, the National Gallery, the Tate Gallery, the University of London, the headquarters of the national ballet and opera, together with the headquarters of many national associations, the great professions, the trade unions, the trade associations, social service societies, as well as shopping centres and centres of entertainment which attract people from the whole of Greater London and farther afield.

In many other respects the central area differs from areas farther out in London. The rateable value of the central area is exceptionally high. Its day population is very much larger than its night population. Its traffic problems reach an intensity not encountered anywhere else in the Metropolis or in any provincial city, and the enormous office developments which have taken place recently constitute a totally new phenomenon with which it is essential that we grapple or be choked by it.

10.30 p.m.

For all these reasons, it is essential that we create a borough of the size and resources commensurate with the task. If we refuse to do this now, we shall be refusing to rescue London from the shackles of 1889. The hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) said earlier that the Bill involves revolutionary change and he said this almost as if that were in itself a bad thing. There is nothing wrong with revolutionary change as long as it is in the right direction. We on this bench certainly agree with the Government that the need for reform is self-evident.

All along, when they have been discussing the Bill, the Government have prated about the need for reform. Now, we shall see whether the Minister really meant it or whether he is guilty of what he referred to as the backward, retrograde and ossified attitude which he so severely condemned only a few hours ago.

Mr. G. W. Reynolds (Islington, North)

Will the hon. Member answer one point which he has not made but which is important to the Amendment? A number of hon. Members have later Amendments dealing with boroughs and district councils which it is proposed to cut in half. The hon. Member's Amendment would involve the splitting apart of a large number of existing metropolitan boroughs. He has not said anything about this. Can he tell us how many such existing boroughs will be split apart and give some justification for completely breaking up existing units of local government?

Mr. Lubbock

I can easily do that. The reason why I did not do it was that if the hon. Member studied the Amendment, he would easily see which authorities would be split. The central area which it is proposed to create consists of Westminster, Holborn, Finsbury and the City in their entirety and also fragments of a large number of authorities in the next concentric circle further out. As I thought I had explained, it was necessary, therefore, to delineate the shape and size of the boroughs in that next tier outwards. This has been done in the Amendment. By studying it, the hon. Member will find that no further boundaries are defined except those of the metropolitan boroughs and, in one case, those of a Parliamentary constituency.

Mr. Reynolds

I have studied the Amendment and am aware of its intention, but I am of the view that it is unwise, if one can avoid it, in any reorganisation deliberately to break up existing authorities. If anything has to be done, it is better to amalgamate. I want justification for breaking up such a considerable number or existing authorities.

Mr. Lubbock

As I have said, it is self-evident that if one is to grapple with these immense tasks which face us in the central area of the Metropolis, one has to create a borough of the size and with the resources able to deal with it. That is what has been done dm the Amendment. It is impossible—the hon. Member can try it if he likes—to define such an area which does not cut across the boundaries of any existing metropolitan borough.

Mr. Humphrey Atkins (Merton and Morden)

I rise not to follow the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) in the theories which he has put forward, but to discuss the Amendment in page 89, Lime 47, leave out"2"and insert"3", which you have indicated, Sir Robert, may be discussed with the present one. That Amendment, which appears in the names of my hon. Friends the Members for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black) and Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr), seeks to increase from two to three the number of Greater London councillors who will represent our new borough.

There is no distinction between my two hon. Friends and myself about the boundaries of our borough—we are happy to be associated together—but we do not feel that a representation of two Greater London councillors is sufficient for the new borough. I can give very briefly three reasons why this is so.

First, the Royal Commission recommended, and the Government in their White Paper accepted, that in general terms the representation on the Greater London Council should follow the Parliamentary constituencies and that 'there should be one Greater London councillor per Parliamentary constituency. In this new borough, if it comes into existence, there will be almost exactly two and two-thirds Parliamentary constituencies. My constituency and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon will be in it complete. The constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham will be there as to almost exactly two-thirds. Therefore, on this ground, as two and two-thirds is nearer to three than to two, we are entitled to three Greater London councillors rather than two.

The second reason relates to the number of people living in 'the borough. As things stand in the Bill, we have less than our fair share of Greater London councillors. The Minister's Circular No. 43/62 gives the population of the new boroughs which the Bill proposes. The Bill then gives the number of councillors per new borough, and a simply mathematical calculation shows the number of people—not electors—which each Greater London councillor will represent. It shows that there is only one borough where each councillor will represent more people—that is, borough No. 5, consisting of Bethnal Green, Poplar and Stepney—and I see that there is a later Amendment, in precisely the same 'terms as this, dealing with that borough.

If the Bill goes through as it stands, each councillor in our new borough will represent some 94,000 people. The exact figure, according to my calculations, is 94,310. In only one other case in the new area is that figure exceeded. I feel that these two reasons combined make it clear that in order that we should have proper representation the number of our councillors should be increased from two to three.

Thirdly, the Minister conceives that the Council should be composed of 100 members. I suggest that there is no magic in that exact figure. If my Amendment is accepted, it will be 101. Never mind. It does not really matter very much. After all, the size of this House is subject to alteration from time to time. I am no great historian but there have, I know, been many occasions when the number of representatives here has been other than the 630 that it is now. I cannot see why the fact that the Bill provides for a Council of exactly 100 should be so important. The Bill itself, if I read it correctly, makes provision for alterations in that figure in a part which we are not discussing at the moment.

My submission to the Minister is that the alteration should be made now in order that my constituency and those of my two hon. Friends who support this Amendment may have a fairer and more proper representation on the new Greater London Council.

Mr. John Parker (Dagenham)

I support the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) in his proposal for a central London borough. It is the most sensible way of dealing with the City of London. The City, of which I have the honour to be an elector, has only 3,626 electors. To keep in being a local government unit of that size and population at the time the Government are proposing to alter the whole set-up of the boroughs in London is absolutely fantastic. The right way of dealing with the City is to enlarge it to take into its boundaries all the parts of London which really are the centre of London. If we do that, and give it a democratic constitution, and make it one of the boroughs—the hon. Member for Orpington said that it would have a population of 270,000—it would seem to me to be a reasonable solution.

When this central unit was drawn up for the purpose of the census the Ministry of Housing and Local Government made a mistake when it agreed with the Registrar-General an area based upon taking certain wards of local authorities or local authorities as a whole. I should have thought it possible to draw a better boundary than that which was drawn up. But the purpose of this census inquiry was to make it possible to look at some of the problems of central London as a whole. I agree with the hon. Member for Orpington that it is desirable to have a unit which takes in all the administrative centres—all the historic buildings and so on, but an important point is that this boundary was drawn up to include the main London termini.

That is desirable not merely because they are termini but also because, in the immediate future, there will be enormous pressure by the railways to develop these sites and erect enormous office buildings, thus using the land round the whole of the outer part of central London. It is highly desirable, in these circumstances, that one authority should be responsible for seeing that the redevelopment of these very large areas is carried out on proper lines, so that a reasonable proportion of such land is used for housing and not offices, and that some common policy is adopted —by the proposed new central London borough—in connection with road developments, and so on.

There ought to be one body which can discuss with the Government and the Greater London Council the problems of the Metropolis as a whole, especially as they affect this important central area. This area should be what, to the general public, is London; what, to people from the provinces, is London, and what, to people coming from abroad, is London. I should have thought it was right and proper that a body should be created to govern that area.

The City owns a great deal of property, and it would be useful if that property came into the possession of the new central London borough, which could use its revenues to redevelop this central area. There is a strong case for examining this problem, and the Government should do so in this Bill. The only reason Why they are not doing so seems to be that they are frightened of the City of London. They have come up against the City recently on financial questions, and there is a good deal of conflict between the two at present. I rather think that the Government are frightened of having yet another quarrel with the City, and have surrendered to its pressure to perpetuate the City. That is a great mistake.

Many bodies, including architects 'and town planners' organisations, have stated that they would favour a central London borough of the kind I have mentioned. In addition to the question of the future of the railway termini, there is the general problem of town planning in this central area. One of the criticisms that can be advanced about recent town planning in this area is that on the question of tall buildings there has not been sufficient serious consideration of their siting. There is much too much of a hotch-potch. I should have thought that in the future we are likely to see a great many more high buildings going up in the centre of London. This is a very important matter from the point of view of amenities and of existing historic buildings, and the problem ought to be tackled by a central London administration of the kind to which I have referred.

An example of the sort of thing that is being allowed to happen in the new Vickers building, near the Tate Gallery. That was erected—as I understand from London Transport—without any consultation with anybody concerned with the transport problems of London. Nobody thought what would happen to the 7,000 people employed there when they finish work—what railway station they would go to, and what bus services they would use, and so on.

Mr. Lubbock

The hon. Member is a little optimistic in thinking that a central London borough would help in this connection, because under the Bill there is no provision for consultation between a central London council and the boroughs and the public transport undertakings.

10.45 p.m.

Mr. Parker

I am suggesting that that is one of the things which ought to be done and it would be easier to do it if we had a central London borough to deal with the problems of London's centre and the people who work and live there.

The whole question of riverside development is another of the problems which will have to be examined in the immediate future. This development in central London should be looked at as a whole and not from the point of view of separate boroughs. It is a problem which should be dealt with in the provisions of this Bill. Having discussed the question of a central area with the Registrar General, I cannot understand why the Ministry of Housing and Local Government did not go further and make use of the area which was drawn up for other purposes. If an endeavour was made to draw up What was considered a reasonable area for central London we should now go further and consider how it should be best governed.

I do not agree with the hon. Member for Orpington regarding his other suggestions. I should have thought that it would be natural for the rest of Marylebone, St. Pancras and Hampstead to go together in one borough and add the rest of Paddington to Wiillesden or to Kensington and Chelsea. I hope that the Government will look at this matter again to see whether it is possible to consider setting up a central London borough and widening the boundaries of the City so that it really becomes a new City of London with a reasonable and modern form of government for the whole central London area.

Mr. Robert Carr (Mitcham)

I wish to revert to and express my strong support for the Amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Merton and Morden (Mr. Atkins) that the new borough comprising Merton and Morden, Wimbledon and my constituency of Mitcham should have three representatives instead of two on the Greater London Council. There is strong opposition to the present plan. I have represented these views to my right hon. Friend and I have made clear that I strongly support the principle of the reform which is taking place.

There are one or two points about which I am dissatisfied. I think that it would give much greater confidence to the people in my constituency if they felt that they would have at least an average representation on the Greater London Council. Under the present proposals they will have much less than the average representation. I therefore strongly urge my hon. Friend to give consideration to providing the extra representative.

Sir K. Joseph

I rise with some dis-stress to deal with this first group of Amendments to the First Schedule because of the time which it has taken to get to this stage. Because of the extra hours, we have had more than two days of full debate and we have had a series of four or five Amendments discussed in substance. I make no complaints about the content of the Amendments. We have had a debate on the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill", and a number of hon. Members—I agree they include some from this side of the Committee—have rehearsed, with the approval of the Chair, some of the speeches which will be made on the Schedule. I think that I ought to put on record that as a result of what has happened we have taken an inordinate amount of time to deal with the first Clause of this very important Bill.

I hope that I have not restrained any hon. Member from speaking at this stage, because I do not want to stop anyone from saying more on this Amendment. I now turn to the components of the Amendment introduced by my hon. Friends the Members for Merton and Morden (Mr. Atkins) and Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr). To both of them—

Mr. Reynolds

If he does not want to prevent any further discussion, what is the point of the Minister's rather petulant remarks?

Sir K. Joseph

The hon. Member must appreciate that, as some of my hon. Friends have pointed out, I have some enthusiasm for this Bill and I had hoped that we should get deeper into it by now. I was saying that I was relieved that we had got to the First Schedule, but I wished we could have done so earlier because I am anxious to see the Bill on the Statute Book as soon as possible.

Mr. M. Stewart

I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not object to my right hon. Friend the Member for Poplar (Mr. Key) saying a few words about the Amendment in his name and mine, in page 88, line 21, which is taken in this context.

Sir K. Joseph

Indeed not. I think that Amendment does not cover the principal point put by the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock).

Mr. Stewart

No, it is a separate point.

Sir K. Joseph

Exactly. I shall deal with the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Orpington. Then, if the Chair permits, the right hon. Member may follow with discussion of that other Amendment.

My two hon. Friends have raised the question of the number of councillors of the Greater London Council. I must tell them of the difficulty in which we find ourselves. The idea behind the representation is that ultimately each councillor on the Greater London Council will wherever possible represent an area corresponding to a Parliamentary constituency. That means that in defining the numbers on the Greater London Council we have had to pay regard to the sort of average number of constituents, electors, who would be in a Parliamentary constituency area. For that we are bound to look at what is called the electoral quota, which in this case comes out of the figure for England of 57,905. We are then bound to take the number of electors in the borough group concerned, divide it by the magic number of 57,905, and take the nearest whole number.

The sum works out in the case of borough group 22 to 2.4 and by the rule we have imposed on ourselves, for reasons which I am sure my hon. Friends will appreciate in principle, we emerge with a figure of 2. No doubt we can discuss the reasons which led up to that when we come to the later parts of the Schedule.

Mr. A. Lewis

Will the Minister give a promise that he will not be too rigid on that within the general principle. bearing in mind that there are some exceptions such as have been mentioned in the County Borough of Croydon and in East Ham and West Ham?

Sir K. Joseph

At the risk of being called rigid, I must point out that we have to work to the nearest whole number. We cannot have fractions of councillors. if we are to have a workable system this must be part of it.

The City wit be covered by another Amendment I will not deal with the whole question of the City and so deprive the Committee of a great deal of honest enjoyment, by hon. Members on both sides, as a by-product of this Amendment.

In regard to what the hon. Member for Orpington suggested, he has chosen to define a whole borough largely, I think, on planning functions alone. He has not addressed himself to questions of public health, child care and things like that, but set his sights on a noble and worth while task, namely planning. As a result he has carved out the Central London area, defined quite arbitrarily for census purposes, and as a result has savaged a large number of borough groups and boroughs. The effect on rateable values would be formidable. The hon. Gentleman does not seem to have considered that, and he has put forward a case which I do not think holds water.

The Royal Commission examined this proposition. With planning control and development in the very expensive central area of London being a very important objective, the Royal Commission considered whether there should be a central borough. The Commission was scared by the problems of defining what a central borough should be and was impressed by the importance of keeping the borough groups defined wherever possible by existing borough boundaries. That is why there is no precedent in the Royal Commission, for what that is worth, for the proposition the hon. Gentleman advanced.

This central area which the hon. Gentleman puts into one borough is, as the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker) said, not very populous when it comes to people living there. Like the City of London, it has many more people working in it than living in it. If it were purely in terms of residential population, it would not be beyond the power of a borough to handle; but to give a borough of this area in which 270,000 people live and 1¼ million people work London borough powers, with all the responsibilities for personal health, housing, child care, and welfare, without at least considering whether it can handle those things, and to take away from the concentric boroughs so much of their rateable value—

Mr. Lubbock

The Minister is contradicting himself, because he has just told us that this central borough would be immensely rich. He is now saying that it will not have the resources to cope with these tasks.

Sir K. Joseph

I was not referring to resources. There is no question but that this borough would be immensely wealthy. It would be faced with a task which perhaps should not be given to any borough in dealing with the complex interrelationship of a residential population of ¼ million and a working population of 1¼ million. We shall see these problems illustrated when we discuss the City, where there is such a vast difference between the residential and working populations. I do not think that we should carve out at the expense of a large number of borough groups another artificial unit of this sort. It might be worth while contemplating such a change if we got really proportionate benefits. These benefits were not argued in detail by the hon. Gentleman. They are based in his mind on the virtues of putting planning and development in this historic area in one set of hands.

I want to reassure the Committee that the Bill as drawn at the moment—perhaps we shall be able to improve it when we come to the planning side—gives the Greater London Council strong powers to see that sensible interlocking and effective plans are made by the boroughs that cover the central area.

Mr. Lubbock

Nine of them.

Sir K. Joseph

Nine of them. The present powers in the Bill give the Greater London Council the right to make decisions on that sort of planning application or any sort of planning application in certain areas which shall be laid down in Regulations to be made by the Minister. We shall be discussing what sort of planning applications and areas the Minister might put in Regulations. I have already tabled Amendments which will also give power to the Minister to lay down that in certain planning applications the Greater London Council shall be consulted by the boroughs before they make their decisions on planning contents.

Therefore, I can assure the Committee that there is within the Bill ample power at the moment for the Greater London Council, in co-operation with the boroughs and the Ministry, or on its own, where necessary to enforce the sort of planning control that the hon. Member obviously seeks to provide by this central area. I suggest that it is not necessary in order to give this planning control to make such havoc of the existing boroughs and of the proposed borough groups. The havoc would not only be to boundaries, but it would be to rateable values and therefore to whole workable communities. The hon. Gentleman has put forward this proposal, which is an ambitious proposal, with purposes which I understand and with which I sympathise, without beginning to estimate or tell the Committee what would be the cost of the proposal in terms of workable borough performance of its other very important function in the field of personal health, welfare and housing. I therefore hope that the hon. Gentleman will not press the Amendment. If it is pressed, I hope that the Committee will not accept it.

I hope my hon. Friends the Members for Mitcham and Merton and Morden accept the explanation I have given of the number of councillors on the Greater London Council.

It being Eleven o'clock,the CHAIRMAN left the Chair to report Progress and ask leave to sit again.

Committee report Progress; to sit again Tomorrow.