§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 4.13 p.m.
§ The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Richard Sharples)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
The Bill is short and its purpose is simple. Its purpose is to widen the qualifications of those who may stand for election to local councils. It has nothing to do with voting rights. Although the Measure is short its form is somewhat complicated by the fact that it seeks to amend two separate Acts, one relating to England and Wales and the other to Scotland. In effect it reverses one of the decisions contained in Clause 15 of the Representation of the People Act, 1969, which was the removal of the right to stand for election to a local authority of many of those whose experience of local government work was greatest. I think it fair to say that these people were not by any means confined to one political party.
This change was directly contrary to the recommendations of the Maud Committee on The Management of Local Government which recommended in 1967 that the qualifications for election should be widened and not narrowed. Let me remind the House of what was said in paragraph 424 of the Maud Report, because this is the basis of the legislation which we now bring forward.
The paragraph read:Our conclusions are that:—The Committee said in paragraph 425:
- (a) the present legislation makes it difficult for certain people to stand for election and may be the cause of their resorting to arrangements to enable them to satisfy the requirements of the law;
- (b) mobility of people increases; many may have just as much interest in the area in which they work as in the area in which they live and this should be recognised;
- (c) the effect of the law is to exclude some people who might be valuable candidates for election to local authorities, particularly in urban areas."We recommend that there be an additional alternative qualification for election to a local authority, namely that the person should have 685 had a principal place of work within the area of the authority during the whole of the 12 months preceding the election.The purpose of the Bill is, therefore, simply to remove the restriction imposed by the 1969 Act and also to implement the recommendations of the Maud Report in respect of place of work.
The House will probably recognise, whatever feelings there may be about the Bill, the urgency in bringing it forward. Those who are considering at this time of year whether or no they will stand for election to local authorities next spring are probably wishing to make up their minds now, and wanting to know where they stand. It is for that reason that we bring this Bill forward at this early stage.
As I have said, the Measure brings in two additional qualifications to the existing alternatives set out in the two Acts which it seeks to amend. The existing alternative qualifications are that a man must be either a local government elector or have resided in the local government area for the whole of the 12 months before nomination. These are the only alternative qualifications to have survived the amendments made by the Representation of the People Act, 1969.
Before Sections 15 and 16 of the 1969 Act came into operation, on 16th February this year, the qualifications were wider in two respects. First, in England and Wales—but not in Scotland—a man could also be qualified if he owned freehold or leasehold property in the local authority area. Second, a man could also be qualified if he was a local government elector solely by reason of the non-resident local government franchise. This non-resident franchise, which was also abolished by the Representation of the People Act, 1969, extended in England and Wales, and also in Scotland, to anyone who occupied, as owner or tenant, premises of a rateable value of £10 or more.
It would have been possible for us simply to have included in the present provisions to secure the repeal of Section 15 of the 1969 Act. Had we done so, it would have restored both the property qualification for membership and the non-resident franchise, with its side effects on qualification for membership. We decided, after some consideration, not to adopt this approach. The Bill does 686 not seek to restore the non-residence or business franchise. What it does, in the first new qualification which it adds, is to restore in relation to membership of a local authority the essence of the non-resident qualification that previously applied in relation to the franchise. The first new additional alternative qualification for membership—and for England this is in Clause 1(2)—is that one should have occupied, as owner or tenant, land or premises within the local authority area for the whole of the 12 months before nomination—and I stress the word "occupied". Thus, the vast majority of those who before the 1969 Act were qualified for membership by reason of the business franchise or the property qualification will now again be qualified to stand for election.
The shopkeeper who lives just outside the area, the local solicitor or the person who runs a garage in the town but lives just outside it—these sort of people will be qualified to stand for election for the local authority in which they occupy property. They are people who pay rates in the area and who have a major stake in the locality. I hope the House will feel that it is absolutely right that these people should be able to stand for election if they are willing to do so.
This will be the effect of the first paragraph, added by Clause 1(2) for England and Wales and by Clause 1(3) for Scotland. The second new alternative qualification in the Bill is the second paragraph, added by Clause 1(2) for England and Wales and by Clause 1(3) for Scotland.
I wish to make it clear that this is a wholly new qualification and not a restoration of a qualification which existed previously and which was abolished by the 1969 Act. It provides that a person shall be qualified as a member of a local authority if his principal place of work has been in its area for the whole of the 12 months before nomination.
The House will recall that this was one of the main recommendations of the Maud Committee on Management, to which I have referred. I thought it rather strange that one of the recommendations which the Labour Party when in Government voted against was this one, when we moved an amendment to implement this part of the Maud Report.
687 We believe it to be a recommendation which is right and sensible, and that is why we are implementing it. We believe that it will widen still further the field from which good local government candidates can be drawn. Even if they are not resident, they may have genuine interests through their work in the area. We believe this to be right broadly for the reasons advanced in the Maud Report, in the paragraph I quoted.
We also think it right taking account of the fact that very many people travel from one area to another to work, spend a great deal of their time in their place of work and have a considerable stake in that area. If they want to put themselves forward for election to the local authority, they should have the right to do so.
As we all know, the fact that they can put themselves forward for election does not mean that they will necessarily be elected—[Interruption.]—because it is up to the electors of the area to decide whom they wish to represent them on the local authority. Nobody is suggesting that a person who lives in an area should be deprived of his vote or should be liable to be out-voted in a ward election by crowds of people who come in each day to work. We are not giving these people the right to vote, just because they come into an area to work.
We are, however, saying that if people work in an area or work there for a longer period than they work anywhere else, they have a sufficient stake in that place to give them the right to stand in local authority elections if they are willing to do so.
§ Mr. Reginald Freeson (Willesden, East)
Would the hon. Gentleman go a little further on the philosophy that lies behind this proposal? If it is sound and sensible to accept the right of these people to stand to be elected, as is suggested in the Bill, what are the grounds for objecting to people who come into an area to work having the right to vote there?
§ Mr. Sharples
The hon. Gentleman will recall that the 1969 Act removed the right to vote from quite a number of people. In any event, the right to vote is a separate question. I have made it clear that the Bill is not an attempt to deal with voting rights. That is a matter which 688 my right hon. Friend's Advisory Council is considering.
§ Mr. Freeson
The hon. Gentleman misunderstood my question. I was not returning to the business vote, to which I would object, but was asking why, if it is right to extend this right of election to any person who works in a particular local authority, it is wrong for that person to have the right to vote at his place of work. This is not a question of a business vote but of a worker's vote.
§ Mr. Sharples
That would mean returning to the double vote which Section 15 of the 1969 Act sought to abolish in respect of certain people. It would, of course, mean introducing the right to vote to everybody who works in a particular area. There would then be at least the possibility of the people living in that area being out-voted. As I say, that is quite a different question from the one with which the Bill deals.
As for the definition of "principal place of work", the Bill does not seek to define "work" or "place of work" and the House will notice that there is no reference to or definition of work which is paid or work which is unpaid. Work as such will be interpreted in a common-sense way by what the courts have called the ordinary understanding of men in the use of ordinary words in the English language.
Clause 1(4) adds a common subsection to both the Act for England and Wales and the Act for Scotland so as to interpret the meaning of a man's principal place of work. Broadly, as I have said, it means the local authority area where he works or in which he spends more time working than in any other place, or combination of places, in another local authority area.
§ Mr. David Weitzman (Stoke Newington and Hackney, North)
Does not the hon. Gentleman appreciate how impossible the position will be? It will be impossible for any court to interpret what is meant by the provision dealing with the amount of time spent by a person in a certain place as against the amount of time he spends in another place.
§ Mr. Sharples
I do not accept that. This matter may have to be interpreted at some stage in the courts. However, only in the event of a person's election 689 being challenged will that arise. It is for the person putting himself forward for election to decide, in the first instance, whether or not he qualifies. If he is challenged, it will be for the courts to decide the issue.
§ Mr. Elystan Morgan (Cardigan)
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that under the 1949 Act the returning officer must decide the validity of nominations within one hour of nominations closing? Is he aware, therefore, that this is not a question of the courts deciding the issue? It will have to be decided by the returning officer?
§ Mr. Sharples
Yes, at that stage, but if there were to be a dispute it would be a matter for a petition and for the courts to decide. In any event, nobody will put himself forward without first taking advice to ensure that there is no doubt about whether or not his principal place of work is in the area.
§ Mr. Ronald Brown (Shoreditch and Finsbury)
There is an alderman in my area about whom there has been grave doubt about the location of his place of residence. When one approaches the town clerk about this one is merely told, "He has given me an address. It is up to you to prove that he is not resident there". The Bill will open the matter even wider because there will be no criteria. One will be told, "I am informed that this man is working in the area. You must prove that he is not, that he is working here for only half his time or that he spends only 49 per cent. of his time here and 51 per cent. of his time elsewhere". In other words, it will be up to others to determine these matters, and any such case will not get to the courts unless the evidence has been obtained.
§ Mr. Sharples
Exactly the same principle applies right through our election law. If there is a dispute, in the end it must be resolved by a petition.
I have tried to explain the main purposes of the Bill and its scope. Its main purpose is to improve local government by making it possible for more people with a legitimate interest in the area of a local authority to stand for election to that authority. The scope of the Bill is limited in that it seeks to add two further simple new alternatives to the present alternative qualifications for membership, 690 so that when the Bill becomes law a person can become a member of a local authority either if he is a local authority elector for the area or if for 12 months before nomination he has lived there or occupied premises there or has had his place of work there.
This should not be a matter for party controversy. I do not believe that in any political party, or even outside political parties there, is a large surplus of people of high calibre willing and anxious to come forward to serve on local authorities. I ask the House to give a Second Reading to the Bill.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Merlyn Rees (Leeds, South)
Over the weekend, most hon. Members were talking about the subject which was under discussion in the House just before this debate began, namely, prices and the pledges that the Government gave about those as recently as two or three months ago. The Government can never redeem those pledges, because events have dealt with them already.
This is a matter which they can deal with. They gave a pledge on this matter. It is easier. It is a short Bill. In any case, it is to deal with a problem facing the Tory Party—a shortage of ability in the Tory Party in urban areas which we have seen in the last couple of years throughout the country. As I say, this Bill is to deal with a Tory problem. It is not, except in marginal instances, a problem facing the Labour Party. However, this hardly warrants the Bill. It is a short-term problem, because after the 1971 and 1972 local elections we shall revert to the previous situation and there will be hardly a representative of the Conservative Party in the great urban areas. There will be—in that sense, anyway—a surplus of Tory candidates, if there will not be a surplus in other things with which the Tory Government are dealing.
We oppose the Bill on the very firm principle that the government of a local area should be in the hands of people who live in that area. On the last occasion the subject was dealt with a former Member of the House—I believe he was a former Chairman of the National Union—asked this question:Do hon. Members opposite want small local authorities to be entirely controlled in 691 their thinking by local householders who want benefits like swimming baths …?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th December, 1968; Vol. 775, c. 300.]It was a terrible thought for that person that the people in these areas who wanted something done should control the area. What the Tory Party wants is people on the council who know what local government is all about—keep the rates down; do not spend money; live outside where they do not have to be concerned with these problems. That is the Conservative philosophy which we have seen throughout the country in the last couple of years. It is astonishing that that could have been said.
This is not the same issue as in parliamentary government, where carpet-bagging is an honourable tradition that we have seen in the House over the years—[Laughter.] I was referring to the late Sir Winston Churchill, but he was a high Tory. I am being laughed at by suburbanites. Local government is different.
The Maud Report dealt in paragraph 420 with the three methods which then existed for acquiring a qualification for election to any local authority. The Committee made certain recommendations based on research by the social survey which had inquired into the length of time that people lived in areas. It considered population mobility. What concerned the Committee was the great mobility of professional people in the community. There is a higher rate of mobility amongst the professions, which we must all accept. The Committee was concerned with getting professional people on to local authorities.
Therefore, the Committee came to conclusions. The first was this, and I find this odd:The present legislation"—this was in 1967—makes it difficult for certain people to stand for election and may be the cause of their resorting to arrangements to enable them to satisfy the requirements of the law".In other words, what is going on is illegal but one takes steps to legalise it. With some knowledge of local government, a quick reading of the Bill leads me to suppose that this will lead to as much fiddling as went on under the previous system.
692 The report goes on:… many may have just as much interest in the area in which they work as in the area in which they live".I cannot accept that part of the recommendation. They may have an interest. They may be concerned with the area. They may have lived there at one time. However, they have made a deliberate decision to move away. Their greater interest, because that is where they spend their rates, is in the area to which they moved.
The Maud Report went on:We received little evidence on this subject.What an astonishing statement. It then said:On one hand it is suggested that in industrial areas many suitable candidates tend to live outside. … On the other hand, there is the view that it should be made illegal for a member to represent a … ward where he … is not resident.Having put both sides, the Committee made the recommendation which is embodied in the Bill.
In the Labour Party it is strongly felt, in 99 per cent. of cases, that it is wrong for people to represent an area where they do not live. Local government, if it means anything at all, is the provision of services and the government of those services in the interests of those living in the area. This can be done only by people who themselves live within the area of the authority. The maxim should be government of the people by the people for the people, not government of the people by other outside people for the benefit of any people who use the area.
§ Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Ardwick)
I totally concur with everything that my hon. Friend is saying. Might not some protection be available for the electors of an area, if the Bill is rail-roaded through, as it apparently is going to be, if an amendment were inserted compelling those who live outside a local authority to place on their ballot paper details of their place of residence and their place of work?
§ Mr. Rees
That is an interesting suggestion and it is one of the suggestions which I intend to deal with quite briefly.
There is strong feeling on this subject in Leeds, where over the weekend I consulted my party members. It is thought by Labour Party members in Leeds that 693 there is something wrong when 11 members of Leeds City Council do not live in Leeds. This arose because of the sudden transformation of political control. In the previous debate the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) said that four party chairmen in the Tory-controlled Borough of Camden did not live in that borough. It is remarkable that in a large area like that it is impossible to find people inside the borough with sufficient brains to be chairmen of committees.
I repeat that this is a problem for the Tory Party, not for the Labour Party, generally speaking. Local authority government is not the same as parliamentary government. A good councillor is concerned with local matters. He knows local problems. He is constantly dealing with small but important issues. Councillors who are my friends in the City of Leeds, in my own constituency, when we visit anything from working men's clubs to chapels and churches on social occasions, are approached about housing problems, drainage problems, education, playing fields, and so on. This is going on all the time. Local government must be local by its very nature. It is not a case of people coming in from outside, as is the case in parliamentary work.
§ Mr. Antony Buck (Colchester)
Does the hon. Gentleman realise that it is a matter of great disappointment to many of us that he is taking this attitude? This is not a party matter. It is a local government matter. Will he accept it from me that in Colchester we should lose the services of many good councillors, including many good Labour councillors, if the existing law were to continue to operate?
§ Mr. Rees
I think it is a party matter in percentage terms. I would not deny that in different parts of the country it has happened to the Labour Party. I am not denigrating the people who live outside any borough and who work inside and are on the local authority. What I am saying is that local government must be local and must arise from the interests of the people because they live in that area.
There are problems in local authorities of recruiting men of calibre; there is the problem of staff also, one gathers. This should not be hidden. The present Secretary of State for the Environment, 694 speaking in the last debate, said that all who are concerned with local authorities recognise the difficulty of all political parties to obtain men of high calibre willing to devote a great deal of their time to the work of local government. I would be the last to divide my mind on this matter in terms of the political complexion of different councils.
There is the problem of attracting people into local government work. But the Government should have dealt with this problem not in this way but by means of many other steps which they could have taken to attract people to serve on local councils. I was in the rural area of Bedfordshire during the weekend and spoke to people there about the county councils, the parish councils and the borough within the county as well. They pointed out to me the great problem which many a man suffers—and I am sure this goes right across the political boundaries. If he enters a local authority he jeopardises his own career. He is told "If you go on the local authority you cannot expect to get much further in this job". For many people it is impossible to get time off in order to serve on the county council which meets in the day time. Their careers would be finished. I am not saying that they would lose their jobs, but they would not get any further. There is this problem of getting people to serve. I know how much we owe to trade union officials. In my city, the A.E.F. has always served us proudly. The officials are able to get time off.
On the Tory side, in different parts of the country, one sees the small business man, the estate agent and the self-employed who for a variety of reasons wish to get on to the local authorities. It is difficult to get people to serve on local authorities. There are those who work for good employers, and in this respect I have noticed that the nationalised industries are usually very good in giving people time off. Then one finds that the approach of retirement is a time when some people go on local authorities because they are reaching the end of their career; they can serve the community well, and they want to give four or five years after they have retired to the common good.
If the Government are concerned at the exclusion of people who might make valuable candidates, let them consider the 695 problem of finance. Consider the secretarial facilities which are given to local councillors who spend a great deal of money on postage, on travelling and in loss of wages. If the Government are really concerned, they ought to look at the large number of people who are disqualified as candidates under Section 59 of the 1933 Act. While the 1946 Education Act provided some easement for teachers in the county districts—and the London Government Act of 1963 made similar provision in the London areas—an ever-increasing number of able people are disqualified from seeking election to any local authority. The growth of joint local authority undertakings and the representation on local authorities on various boards and undertakings—transport, colleges of technology and so on—has increased the field of disqualification far beyond anything that was envisaged when Section 59(2) of the 1933 Act was placed on the Statute Book.
On our side of the House we know members of the Labour Party who are engaged in this work and who are unable to sit on local authorities because of what has happened over the years. What the proposal does also is to rob the smaller local authorities of those who ought to serve in the areas where they live, and not in the more glamorous local authorities. It is the local authority where they live which is responsible for their children's education, for the upkeep of roads and pavements, local health and welfare services, refuse collection and many other services which vitally affect their lives and those of their families. The direct interest that they have in a local authority in whose area they work is very limited. They will only personally use a small proportion of the services provided, and they will, if elected to that authority, have a very different idea of the priorities, possibly to the detriment of the residents of that area.
I should like to take this question of priorities further. It is not a question of wanting swimming baths or of just spending money, for individuals realise that these have to be paid for. It is the lack of understanding of the needs of the urban areas, of our great cities and particularly of the down-town areas. It leads to the ruthless moving of people away to out-of-town estates or to other parts of our 696 great cities by people who really have not the faintest idea of the mores of these areas which are written off as slum areas. They do not matter. They are not understood by people who live outside. Then there is the building of tall-rise flats because they meet the planners' needs, but not the needs of people. There is a complete lack of understanding of the educational problems of these areas. That means that a large part of our great cities are written off by people who are on the council but who do not live in the area. When councillors do not live in the area there are sections which are written off as places where people do not matter. This will happen if there are more people from outside.
These are the "new suburbans"—the white collar, semi-professional soleriat, who are the main people concerned and have moved out. They just do not understand the educational problems in our great cities. Neither do they understand the problems of the social services. I say no more than that they do not understand. I do not intend to join in the snarling which comes to most modern authors when they mention a suburb—people who refer to those who have "2d. but who think they have got 4d.", people who ask "Is this to be the type of our civilisation, when the whole western world is to become comfortable and tranquil and progress finds its grave in a universal suburb?" These suburbans are the people whom we are bringing in from outside our cities, people with their "semis" and their gardens who have decided that they want to get out of our cities for completely different reasons.
The Conservative Party is the party of the suburban, both socially and electorally. This new Government has been called the suburban Government. It is not surprising that this Bill is to the advantage of people who live outside the great areas. This is a Tory proposal and it is designed to meet a Tory local authority problem. The real problem of local government would be met by local government reorganisation. Changes in local government areas would deal with these issues.
§ Mr. Tom Boardman (Leicester, South-West)
If these objections are so valid, why will they not be recognised by the electors?
§ Mr. Rees
I think the hon. Gentleman ought to reflect. He was chosen by the local Conservative Party. What matters is whether one has got the party name. If the hon. Gentleman thinks that he would have been elected for his area just on his name, without standing as a Conservative, he is a better man than most people in this House.
I should now like to ask some questions. Last time when we were debating this, the right hon. Gentleman who is now Secretary of State for the Environment was concerned that there had been no discussion with the then Opposition about this matter. I wonder whether there has been discussion with the Opposition party this time, or was this just a matter which should be raised when the present Government party were in opposition but which should not be raised with the Opposition now? I doubt whether there has been discussion.
I should like to refer to that provision which would allow any owner or tenant who occupies land or other premises in the area of the local authority to be nominated provided he has been the owner or tenant for at least 12 months. The mere owning of land will not be sufficient; there must be occupation. While this removes some of the obvious defects in the earlier method—absentee owners, ownership of graves, and so on—it creates another anomaly. A person may rent a garage or a small warehouse, and, provided that he uses it—perhaps only just to store something in it; it does not matter what—he is occupying it and he is thereby qualified to stand as a councillor for the area. For a pound or two a year, a person could rent an allotment or a small plot of land on which to graze a pony, and this would qualify him to stand as a council candidate. The provision is similar to the pre-1969 qualification for a non-resident voter, but that provision at least required a minimum annual value of £10.
There is no provision in the Bill regarding joint occupation, so that, I am advised, any number of men and women could, presumably, join together and rent a small property and, provided that they used it for some purpose, they would all be entitled to stand for election. [AN HON. MEMBER: "Shocking."] Surely, it is not the intention of the Bill that it should be done in this way. There were 698 "fiddles" under the previous system. There will be "fiddles" under this.
A further provision in the proposed paragraph would enable anyone who worked in the area for more than 12 months to qualify to be elected. I invite the House to think of the two or three million who travel into Greater London each day, and the hundreds of thousands who come into Westminster who would be entitled to stand for election on the Greater London Council for the City of Westminster. At least, under the old qualification of ownership, with all its defects, there was some argument, though a poor one, that the person was a ratepayer and contributed to the rate fund, but there is no such argument on the ground of working in the area at least as regards the main bulk of employees. Given the nature of London, there will be many curiosities. I suppose that it will depend on the definition of what work is done, but it would be possible for a Member living in Scotland but who works in the Palace of Westminster to be eligible to stand as a councillor in this area. There are many other problems which have been put to me about the definition of place of work.
I note that the property qualification for voting has not been resuscitated. When the matter was last debated this was a matter of principle. I see that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Montgomery) nods his head, and I concede that. In the previous debate it was said to be a matter of principle, and the impression was given—I can put it no higher than that—that a new Tory Government would deal with this as well.
What has changed since then meets the needs of the Conservative Party. What we need is overall local government reform. Then the problem would not arise. It cannot wait. We must look at a number of problems. We cannot wait for local government reform, because obviously it will be delayed. But to act in this way, in terms of Maud, is to give a spurious respectability to the Bill. In fact, the Bill is narrowly party-political, and we shall vote against it.
§ 4.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Fergus Montgomery (Brierley Hill)
I shall not say a great deal about the speech of the hon. Member for Leeds, 699 South (Mr. Merlyn Rees). On only one point did I agree with him, and that came when he spoke about the present disqualification. It is entirely wrong. There are many school teachers who would be very good members of local councils but who, because they are employed by the local education authority for the area in which they live are debarred from standing. Having said that, however, I could not agree with another word which the hon. Gentleman said.
I took exception to his rather snide remark to my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, South-West (Mr. Tom Boardman), who, he said, would not necessarily have been elected here if he had not stood as a Conservative. I hope that the hon. Gentleman does not imagine that, just because people vote like sheep in Leeds, South, they do the same in the rest of the country. We have an example in the House now. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. S. O. Davies) was rejected by the Labour Party for nomination but he stood at the election on 18th June and defeated the official Labour Party candidate. [An HON. MEMBER: "Does that never happen in the Tory Party?"] Of course, it could happen among the Tories. If the Tories do not put up a good candidate, and a very good independant stands against the official candidate, it will happen. It certainly has happened in local government elections.
This Bill is to put right what I have always regarded as a piece of political spite introduced in the Representation of the People Act, 1969, by the late unlamented Labour Government. Until 1969, people who owned or leased property in an area but who did not live there had a right to vote and to stand for the local authority. I could see nothing wrong with that. When the hon. Gentleman the Member for Leeds, South touched on this point, he saw that I assented, because I regard it as a point of principle. Someone who is paying rates in a local authority area should have some say in the way the local authority is run. The action of the Labour Government seemed to ignore the old adage, "No taxation without representation".
700 I regret that this Government are not restoring the business vote to allow business people, who pay a considerable amount in rates to local authorities but who do not live in the area, at least the right to vote—
§ Mr. Ernest G. Perry (Battersea, South)
Is it not a fact that all business men who pay rates claim in their business accounts income tax relief in respect of the rates which they pay, whereas the normal domestic householder has no such privilege, and is there not a vast difference between the two?
§ Mr. Montgomery
I find it difficult to follow that argument. Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that businessmen can claim more back or as much back as they pay in rates? A businessman makes a contribution to the rate fund of a local authority where he has a business, and he ought, therefore, to have some say in who is to represent him on the council in the area where he has that business. That is all. I am sorry—I am attacking my own party here, not hon. Members opposite—that provision has not been made in this respect; I feel that they have slipped up and that something should be done about it. However, this Bill will restore the right of these people at least to offer themselves for election in a local authority area where they have a business or where they work but where they do not live. Also, it introduces the innovation that a person whose principal place of work is in a certain local authority area may become a candidate.
I draw the attention of the hon. Member for Leeds, South and his hon. Friends to what the Maud Report said on the subject. It is paragraph 425:We recommend that there be an additional alternative qualification for election to a local authority, namely that the person should have had a principal place of work within the area of the authority during the whole of the 12 months preceding the election.I cannot understand what the objection is. The Maud Report said also, in paragraph 424:many may have just as much interest in the area in which they work as in the area in which they live, and this should be recognised; the effect of the law is to exclude some people who might be valuable candidates for election to local authorities, particularly in urban areas.That was the opinion expressed in the Maud Report, which, of course, was non-political. [Laughter.] The hon. Member 701 for Woolwich, West (Mr. Hamling) may laugh at that, but I remember how, in the last Parliament, the Labour Government hid behind the recommendations of the Maud Report when we came to the question of redistributing constituencies.
§ Mr. Elystan Morgan
There was no question of hiding behind it. The argument throughout was that the two great upheavals, the greatest upheaval in Parliamentary boundaries since 1832 and the greatest upheaval in local authority boundaries since 1889, should not happen at the same time. That was the argument.
§ Mr. Montgomery
Obviously, the hon. Gentleman and I had different views about it. It was certainly my impression that the Government's argument at that time was that we could not do the redistribution of constituencies because we ought to wait for local government reform to take place. The fact that certain Members have constituencies of 120,000 voters, while Birmingham, Ladywood has 18,000, was neither here nor there.
§ Mr. Montgomery
At least we have now got that position happily corrected.
The crux of the Bill is that it widens the whole field of candidates for local government. I agree with my hon. Friend the Minister of State that no party can say in all honesty that it has a sufficiency of first-class candidates coming forward for local government. The hon. Member for Leeds, South said that the Bill was all a great Tory plot, that we are the people who are short of talent and that the party opposite has a surplus. We all realise that it has a vast reservoir of defeated Labour candidates who have been slaughtered in the past three years. Undoubtedly the hon. Gentleman hopes that perhaps they will return in 1971, 1972 and 1973. We shall have to wait and see, as someone else said in this House many years ago.
§ Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)
I trust that the hon. Gentleman will leave Scotland out of this, because all the Tories were defeated there.
§ Mr. Montgomery
I did not realise that. I was under the impression that there are quite a few Tory-controlled authorities in Scotland. As far as Parliament is concerned, I was mortified when the Tory who opposed the right hon. Gentleman did not win.
Irrespective of party, we realise the difficulties of trying to persuade people who we believe would make very good councillors to stand as candidates. Many people would like to serve, but feel that they do not have the time. Local government does consume an enormous amount of time; countless men and women of all parties do a tremendous service to the community in devoting a great deal of time to local government work. I know that in my constituency there are aldermen and councillors who can have very little time with their families because so much of their time is taken up by local government work. We need more people like them. I want to see local government as efficient as we can make it. By widening the qualifications, are we not more likely to find more people anxious to take part in local government?
Certain councils in our big cities were seriously affected by the Representation of the People Act 1969. The following figures were given in a previous debate. In Nottingham there are 14 members who would automatically be debarred; in Manchester 18; and in Birmingham 24. Many of them have enormous experience of local government, and they are people whom we cannot afford to waste.
§ Mr. Montgomery
I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman is so biased. I had always thought that he had a very fair mind, but after that intervention I must change my ideas. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman was very fair.
Irrespective of their party—and many of them come from the party opposite—these people have great experience and knowledge in local government, and we cannot afford to waste their talents. It may be that many people who have lived most of their lives in city areas and have served on city councils have moved just outside the city boundary, for various reasons. Maybe they needed a bigger 703 or smaller house, or perhaps they saw a house that they had always wanted and which had happened to become vacant. If their main interests are still within the city boundaries, if they are anxious to serve on the city council, and if the local people want to keep them as their representatives on the council, why not?
When we debated the Representation of the People Act, 1969, the then Home Secretary made a great case about making local government really local. In one of my speeches then I asked him, "Why do we not go even further and say that every Member of Parliament must live in his constituency, and that every local councillor must live in his ward?". It is perfectly possible for someone living just outside a city boundary to represent a ward on the periphery of the city near his home and be a jolly sight closer to those he represents than someone living inside the city boundary but at the far side of the city.
§ Mr. Weitzman
Does not the hon. Gentleman realise that a Member of Parliament—even the hon. Gentleman—deals with national and not purely local problems?
§ Mr. Montgomery
I have played bridge with the hon. and learned Gentleman, and I can only say that that intervention was of about the standard of his bridge.
What this question really boils down to is, does the party opposite really believe in democracy?
§ Mr. Montgomery
That is very doubtful. Hon. Members opposite make a great deal of noise and say that if this legislation goes through we shall be bombarded with candidates, and that people who work in an area but do not live there will take over the town or city concerned. That is absolute humbug and eyewash. First a candidate must be selected. Any selection committee will look very carefully at the qualifications of all the candidates at interviews, and will be anxious to select the best possible candidate. But the final decision depends on the electorate, who will decide whom they want to represent them on their council.
704 The argument that seems to be put forward by the party opposite is that they are not prepared to trust the people in our towns and cities to decide whom they want to represent them on their councils. In view of the successive disasters the party opposite has suffered in the polls, not only locally but on 18th June, it is an attitude that does not surprise me. I hope that my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Government Front Bench will go ahead with the Bill, and that it will become an Act as soon as possible, because it will bring new life into local government in this country.
§ 5.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Cocks (Bristol, South)
In introducing the Bill, the Minister of State quoted from the Maud Report, saying that it stated that in order to satisfy the qualifications people may resort to arrangements. That is a very comfortable phrase. It rolls off the tongue very well. May I give the House an example of people resorting to arrangements in Bristol, part of which city I have the honour to represent?
Several years ago a candidate was nominated who lived outside the area and who had no obvious business interests in the city. Attached to his consent form in his nomination papers was a paper saying that he owned leasehold land at 19, Somerset Terrace, Windmill Hill, the deeds of which could be inspected at 13, Orchard Street. I should perhaps explain that 13, Orchard Street is the headquarters of the local Conservative Association. On inspection, the site turned out to be a wartime bomb site, where a bomb had taken one house out of a row of working class terraced houses. The site was fenced, and was occupied by timber and builder's salvage. It was later reported in the Bristol Evening Post that the Conservative Party confirmed that this plot of land had been held by previous Conservative candidates.
§ Mr. Robert Adley (Bristol, North-East)
On a point of order. I should like to point out to my colleague from Bristol that the candidate concerned was standing not for the Conservative Party but for the Citizen Party in Bristol.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Miss Harvie Anderson)
Order. As the hon. Member for Bristol, North-East (Mr. Adley) will recognise, what he said may be a point, but it is not a point of order.
§ Mr. Cocks
I am grateful to the hon. Member for Bristol, North-East. I take his point, but I think that people in Bristol know what the situation is.
In effect, we have here a modern version of a rotten borough passing from hand to hand, being held just long enough at the right moment for the person concerned to qualify to stand. I know that the Minister, in his opening remarks, stressed the importance of the word "occupied", but I hope he will ensure that the Bill will preclude the sort of arrangement mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) which may lead to abuses. Everyone in the House, regardless of party, is concerned that the reputation of local government shall be maintained, but this sort of practice would bring it into disrepute. Why is the change necessary? What is to stop people serving on the local authority in the area in which they have their home and family rather than in an area where their business interests lie and where their money comes from? This point has not been answered.
We are talking in terms of parish councils, rural district councils, boroughs and so on, but a reform of local government is coming and we can look forward to larger units serving electorates of possibly 10,000 or 12,000, and it seems to me that this legislation has not been thoroughly thought out.
Regrettably, public opinion of councillors is not as high as it should be. I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the House will have found, as I have, that there is a popular misconception that councillors are paid salaries for their work and that they do it out of self-interest. How often do we hear the phrase, "They are only in it for what they can get out of it"? The Bill will exacerbate this feeling of the general public. I am not questioning the motives of the vast majority of councillors who serve on local authorities—far from it—but, in drafting legislation, unfortunately we sometimes have to take rather a jaundiced view of our fellow beings so as to try to draw the net tightly.
706 I will not weary the House by giving details of the many examples known to me of abuse in local authorities—happily, they are not associated with the City of Bristol. In some areas there is a feeling that the question of interest is confined to certain groups. Only recently, an estate agent said to me that he had been debarred from serving on a planning committee because it was felt that he would have too much of an interest in the proceedings. Yet, at the same time, there were builders, developers, solicitors and farmers with land ripe for development serving on that committee. These are the same people who, before the general dispensation contained in Circular 5/67, used to complain so bitterly about council house tenants speaking on rate increases.
In order to enhance and maintain the high reputation of local government, will the Minister have another look at the procedure for dealing with people who fail to disclose an interest? This is inadequate. At present, the Director—
§ The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Mark Carlisle)
Will the hon. Gentleman explain what his point is, so that I may fully understand the question he is putting? Is he saying that these people at the moment do not have to declare an interest, or is he saying that the legislation is not adequate on this point?
§ Mr. Cocks
I am saying that the legislation is not adequate on this point. If I may just conclude what I am saying, I think it will become clearer. At present, the Director of Public Prosecutions must institute proceedings within six months of the commisison of the alleged offence. This means that it is necessary to apply for a summons within six months. I do not think that six months is long enough, because suspicion may not arise until some time after the alleged offence has been committed. I have left behind in the Lobby a great sheaf of correspondence from a conscientious councillor who felt that this subject should be raised, but after he had gone through all the channels the time had gone past and the Director of Public Prosecutions could no longer take action even though he thought that there was a prima facie case.
§ Mr. Ronald Brown
Pecuniary interest is what has to be declared. Under the Bill, what has to be considered is whether a firm has encouraged one of its workers 707 to get himself elected to the local authority because it has a planning application coming before the local authority and hopes to persuade him to take action on its behalf. This is a slightly different interest from a pecuniary interest, and I urge the Government to take this into account. It will be possible for a person serving on a council to protect the interests of his firm.
§ Mr. Cocks
I am obliged to my hon. Friend. I take his point. There is a case for amending the Bill so as to give a much longer time for the Director of Public Prosecutions to act, or so that he may have a certain length of time in which to act after the evidence is brought to his notice. The general public will feel that this is a safeguard against abuse. Abuses are, thank goodness, very rare and are not confined to any one group, but I feel that the public interest would in this way be substantially safeguarded.
§ 5.16 p.m.
§ Mr. R. Bonner Pink (Portsmouth, South)
I hope that the hon. Member for Bristol, South (Mr. Michael Cocks) will forgive me if I do not follow his line of argument too closely, but I should like to say a word about the abuse of qualifications which he raised. It seems to me that the legal remedies at present are adequate but, apart from that, he is overstating his case. It has already been pointed out by my hon. Friend the Minister of State that ultimately it is the electorate who judge. If the candidate has a political affiliation he will possibly already have gone through a selection committee, but it is in any case up to the electorate to decide whether that person, whoever he may be, is a fit and proper person to represent them. This is an adequate sanction to make certain that there is no abuse of this qualification. I welcome the Bill. I am certain that it will strengthen local government.
I should first declare my personal interest in this matter. I have lived and worked in the Portsmouth area all my life, and I have been a member of the Portsmouth City Council for the last 21 years. I now, live approximately 1¾ miles outside the city boundary, but my interest is still in Portsmouth and my knowledge 708 is of Portsmouth. But, even with the Bill, I shall not be qualified to be a member of that council after 1973.
In spite of what was said about there being plenty of candidates, everybody in local government knows that there is a shortage of really first-class candidates. It is not just a question of finding candidates of ability and integrity. If that were all that was required, there would be little difficulty, and our local government officers provide those qualities now. Local government is fortunate not only in the standard of its officers but in the calibre of its members. What is required above everything in members of local authorities is a real interest in and knowledge of their locality. People who have a stake in their own locality should be the people who serve on the council. The hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) argued that the person with the greatest stake, the greatest interest and the greatest knowledge is the man who lives in the locality who probably owns the house he lives in and works in the locality.
Although there is some validity in that argument, the case has been largely changed by the car. The car has made many local authority boundaries quite meaningless. A man may live in one locality, but work in another. In many localities slum clearance and overspill have forced people out of their homes and localities, away from localities where they have lived all their lives and where they still work and in which their interest is not diminished. They often return to do their shopping, or for their amusements, or to visit friends and relatives. The local authority boundary has become merely an artificial boundary between the locality where a person lives and that in which he has his real interest.
It often happens that a family moves out after a lifetime in a locality where parents and children have been born and educated. People who move out of an area often do not sell but let their houses, and they keep a continuing interest in the former locality. Parents may bequeath property to children. Such people have a genuine interest in a locality, but they are not allowed to stand for election to a council because they live what may be only a few yards over the boundary. Although for one reason people may have moved over a boundary, their interest has 709 not changed and their knowledge has not changed. I have much greater knowledge of Portsmouth than of any other locality.
The situation has undoubtedly been aggravated by tightly drawn boundaries. Apart from myself, in Portsmouth there are five councillors who do not live inside the city boundaries. One lives just 100 yards over the boundary. However, together they and their firms occupy premises with a rateable value of some £20,000 and they employ some 600 people. They are all long-standing members of the council. Three have served for more than 20 years each and one has served as a committee chairman for more than 23 years. Four are chairmen or vice-chairmen of committees now. All lived and worked in the city before moving over the border.
These people and others like them throughout the country are far too valuable to be lost to local government, which cannot afford the loss of their knowledge and experience. However, let there be no mistake—if they do not serve the council of their choice, they will not serve local government at all. It is no good saying that if a person lives a few hundred yards outside the City of Portsmouth, but is not eligible to serve on the city council, he would be able to offer himself for election to his own local authority. He just will not do that. I am certain that that is true of such people throughout the country, and local government will be the poorer for it. I particularly welcome the extension of the qualification to include the place where a person works. Deciding the qualifications should not present a particular administrative problem.
In Portsmouth we have two council housing estates, one at Paulsgrove, which is inside the city boundaries, and the other at Leigh Park, which is outside. It is very much a matter of chance where a family goes when it is displaced because of slum clearance, overcrowding, or other reasons. Probably an equal number of people from each of these two estates in equal proportions come into Portsmouth to work each day. Many of them work at the dockyard. They are Portsmouth people who have been sent out of Portsmouth, but they come to Portsmouth to shop, to go to the cinema, to play bingo. Their interest is in Portsmouth.
710 Those living in the Paulsgrove estate are inside the city boundaries and are so eligible to serve on Portsmouth City Council, but those in Leigh Park are not, and yet the residents of both are Portsmouth people. Several of the present councillors live in the Paulsgrove estate, and very good councillors they are. I hope that because of the Bill we shall get candidates from Leigh Park and other Portsmouth people who live just over the boundary. I hope that they will come forward as candidates for the city council.
I wholeheartedly support the Bill, because I am certain that it is in the good interests of good local government.
§ 5.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
Much has been said about the importance of the Bill in bringing forward additional candidates for local government work. The hon. Member for Portsmouth, South (Mr. Pink) said that people who had formerly represented local government areas, but who now lived outside them, would no longer be available to a council. It is a complete misconception to say that the previous Administration stopped these people from serving in local government. All the previous Administration did was to try to make certain that people who lived outside their local authority area should be free to operate within the local authority area in which they lived.
Different people have different expertise and different people have different ways in which to make their contacts. The ordinary working man is interested in his work when he goes to work, but when he comes home, his main interest is in his family, the health of his family and its education, in his environment. There is a difference between him and people who are work orientated in the sense that business is the be-all and end-all of their lives and who naturally have the greatest interest in the place where they work.
I can speak only from my own experience of local government in Scotland. Councillors have said to me that they have moved outside the boundaries of city authorities on which they have served because rates have been too high. If it is their philosophy that they wish to live in areas with cheaper rates, but to serve an authority with higher rates, 711 we are entitled to conclude that they want to live on the cheap, but to ensure that rates are kept down for their business interests. I strongly object to people serving on the authorities of city or urban councils when their sole purpose is to deny the residents of that area facilities which are lacking.
I am a bit fed up with the idea that the businessman's representation is lacking in local authority work and should be brought back. If these people have a real interest and not a self-interest in local government, they should be delighted to serve in the areas in which they live and to bring them the benefit of their experience. I have worked on local authority committees with people like this and I accept that in committee and in council they can provide a good argument and a good service. The only people who deny themselves that service are those people themselves because they have no interest in the areas in which they live.
If this puny Bill had truly been about the spread of democracy in local government and bringing to it more expertise and enthusiasm, it would have gone further with the removal of the disqualification of those people who work in local government. The present situation is farcical. A fire officer may work for a joint fire committee and be employed by a number of different local authorities and for that reason be completely debarred from serving in his own area council.
Teachers have been mentioned. There seems to be a myth, as it is always teachers who are mentioned, that teachers have something to give to local government which other sections of the community do not have to give. This is why there are separate and special arrangements for teachers to be represented on education authorities. That is neither here not there. If teachers have a part to play, so do the ordinary rank and file. The whole system is anomalous. It is biased in favour of the professions. The Senior Deputy Medical Officer of Health in the City of Aberdeen is a member of the Stonehaven Town Council because he lives there and by virtue of that is also a member of the Kincardine County Council. I do not say that is wrong, I commend him for his enthusiasm.
712 It is also true that the Director of Town Planning for Aberdeen is a member of the Aboyne Town Council. He plays a very active part in the work and duties of that council.
This is because he is a professional person who has the ability and money to live outside of the area in which he works. The average member working in a local authority has to live within his own local authority area. The nigger in the woodpile in this debate has not so far come out, it may later. It has been argued that the reason why people who work in local authorities ought not to be members of them is because this would leave them sitting in judgment on their conditions and employment. But they would be automatically disqualified in these areas in exactly the same way as a businessman is disqualified if he has a pecuniary interest.
I see no difference between a businessman standing up in a committee meeting and declaring his interest in a plot of land or a contract and a street sweeper who works in the cleansing department standing up and declaring his interest in the same way. The truth of the matter is that this is a class Bill. It is nothing less than that. Its whole object is to make certain that the friends of the Tory Party get their place back in local government, to continue at that level the kind of spending cuts announced last Tuesday.
We ought to realise that and to realise too that local authority areas are to be changed. The party opposite has not looked at the Bill in a sufficiently wide context. Take the point about people being disqualified because they work for a fire service. We ought to bear in mind that they will be disqualified when the units of local government become even bigger. I wonder how far this principle will apply when people are employed in the area. I cannot emphasise too strongly this point. On many occasions people who have retired after working in local government all their lives have said now that they are able to stand for election, that they wished they had been able to stand 20 and 30 years ago. They say, although I did not notice any lack of enthusiasm or initiative, that they do not have the same ability as when they were young. I hope that we will recognise that 713 this Bill does nothing to spread democracy in local government. I hope that it can be amended in Committee and certainly I cannot support it because of the lack of principles in it.
§ 5.34 p.m.
§ Dame Patricia Hornsby-Smith (Chislehurst)
I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, for giving me an early opportunity of catching your eye and the privilege again, after four years' absence, of addressing this House. I cannot claim to be making my maiden speech. I welcome this small but very important Measure. In my view it will contribute substantially to the betterment of local government. Hon. Members opposite have gone out of their way to suggest that this is a measure of class warfare. They have made it plain that they think it wrong that representatives of great industries which find employment, which pay heavily in rates on their industrial complexes in some great cities, with their daily knowledge of work and life there should, if those representatives live across the border, be allowed under the Bill to give of their knowledge and experience to the local authority.
Before coming into this House I had the privilege of serving on the former Barnes Borough Council. I agree with an hon. Member opposite who said that people do not go into local government for what they can get out of it. It is a voluntary, time-consuming and demanding service for which members receive no pecuniary reward; in which public-spirited men and women of all parties and of none contribute from genuine interest and understanding of the problems of the locality which may have accrued because they spend eight hours a day, five and sometimes six days a week, within that community.
I challenge the statements made by the hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) and the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Robert Hughes) that these people have no local knowledge. To adopt the views put forward by the party opposite would be denying a man who has spent years working in an area, perhaps in one of the great industries, of whatever party, of taking part in a local authority's activities when the industry in which he works is affected by the things done by the local authority.
714 It is affected by the availability of housing and the opportunities provided to enable it to get additional skilled labour if it requires it. It is affected by the local education services, as a result of which it may fail to get the people it needs. It is wrong to suggest that people who spend all their working lives in an area dealing day to day with a local authority are too ill-informed to make their contributions to that local authority. On the other hand, as the regulations were altered by the previous Government, in cold fact a man who lived in a city but was a B.O.A.C. pilot and spent four nights a week on the other side of the globe could, technically—there will be nothing wrong in it according to the arguments advanced opposite—be a member of the local authority although he spends far less time in the area and knows far less about the services than those who work there.
Let us not think that this is just the wealthy executive. An hon. Member opposite mentioned an authority of 12,000 to 20,000 inhabitants. My constituency is in the Greater London area. We have one of the London boroughs which has 270,000 and another with just over 300,000. In that area there is in one corner a fine industrial complex. In past years there have been many Labour councillors who spent all their working day in the Cray Valley, who knew the problems of the bus services, the schools and the cleaning and refuse facilities. and who commute a few miles to perhaps Croydon or Carshalton but work within the Cray Valley and are happy to serve on those councils—and excellent councillors they make.
Under the current regulations, and without the amendment suggested in the Bill, if a farmer farms 1,000 acres and 950 of them are in a basically agricultural local authority and his house is in the other 50 acres, at the tail end of a small industrial town nearby, he cannot lend his knowledge and experience to the agricultural area, although the industrial area may have problems which do not come his way as a farmer and about which he is not experienced. It is important that we should get away from this parish pump mentality and that we should not narrow the field of people willing to serve on local authorities.
715 There is a drive by the major city authorities to ensure that under-occupied council houses are made available to larger families. Many families say to their Member of Parliament, "I have a three-bedroomed house. My children have grown up and married and I want to move. May I have a smaller property?". Often councillors whose children have grown up and gone away want a bungalow or small flat, which takes them over the border. The man—he may be a grocer, a docker or in any other form of work—may still work in the area in which he has spent his life but because the Greater London Council has found him a flat or bungalow across the boundary he can no longer continue to serve that area.
That is a particular hardship for people already serving local authorities. They may retire at 60 and not wish to stop working but want to remain mentally alert. They may move sometimes only half a mile. I know of people whose house which they did not want to leave has been compulsorily acquired for road development and they have moved 1½ miles, which coincided with the man's retirement. Such a person would love to continue to serve the local authority now that he has more time for things in which he has conscientiously taken an interest.
This is not a party matter. Hon. Members opposite have been too quick in thinking that it affects only Tories. It affects a great number of their own valuable councillors who will find themselves debarred from local authority service by the short distance which they have moved from where they previously lived. We should not throw away this experience. We should not deny ratepayers, whether they be industrial or personal, the right to contribute to the services for which they pay. It is therefore with great pleasure that I support the recommendations made in the Bill.
§ 5.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Reginald Freeson (Willesden, East)
While I cannot wholly welcome the return to the House of the right hon. Lady the Member for Chislehurst (Dame Patricia Hornsby-Smith), who has made the kind of speech about which one has read or heard from her in the past, I look forward to hearing speeches from her in 716 future. She may be surprised when I say that, while I do not accept her conclusions, she made ample use of valid points of concern in local government in illustrating her reasons for supporting the Bill.
Most of the arguments, in so far as we have heard valid arguments, in support of the Bill have been about greater mobility and the wider network of urban areas, leaving behind the local government boundaries of the past. Most of what I might call the mobility arguments—more mobile residential experience by growing numbers of families, the motor car, changes in employment practices, the concentration of places of employment outside towns and cities in which they were originally sited and a host of other arguments—have been put forward in favour of the Bill.
There is no doubt in my mind that these matters raise very important problems for the future of local government and, indeed, of regional government, if that is to be part of the road we travel in future, or its present-day equivalent, county council government. But these problems will not be solved by a Bill of this kind. They will be dealt with by local government reform, whether it be along the lines which were to be pursued by the previous Administration, or some variation of their proposals, or the Maud proposals, which the present Administration propose to introduce. We shall move towards new shapes in local government. Whether the structure be one tier, two tier or a mixture of both, as proposed by the previous Government, is incidental to the central point. The answer to these problems rests, not with this Bill, but with whatever proposals for local government emerge from Parliament.
I wish to touch on an objection which has not been voiced today. Undoubtedly in local government we shall move towards larger units, as we are doing in all sectors of modern society. We may not like it, but it is the only way in which we shall be able to deal with many of the industrial, social and political problems emerging in the urban conurbations. In this developing situation, it becomes even more important to strengthen local community roots. This is my first reason for objecting to the Bill.
The Bill will not result in any serious changes, but it will contribute to a situation where there is a loosening or 717 weakening of the roots of local democracy. As a number of hon. Members have pointed out, with the present structure of local government, it is difficult generally to find a sufficient number of candidates because of the nature of modern employment, large conurbations, the time spent travelling to work, careers and the like. In addition, it is extremely difficult to arouse interest in community matters.
In the debate so far, every speaker has referred solely to the difficulty of getting candidates, and we have heard references to people moving out of the old community areas which they served originally. However, it starts earlier than that, and this Bill does not contribute to what I regard as the real problems. This Measure will tend to worsen the situation. The main problem of local government, apart from the important one concerning the structure and size of units, is the difficulty of engaging community interest among people. The average person is not very concerned about what is going on in his community, whether it be by way of an interest in the town hall, its committees and departments or by way of involvement in local pressure groups. This Bill does not contribute to solving that problem, and that is why I suggest that it will weaken links in our local communities and make the problem more difficult of solution.
§ Mr. Patrick Cormack (Cannock)
How can the hon. Gentleman say that when all that this Bill does is restore the status quo?
§ Mr. Freeson
It does not merely restore the status quo. In any case, the status quo does not enhance the strength of the local community. It weakens it. That is the very point that I am making, and I shall return to it.
Before I do that, I want to pursue the topic on which I sought some elucidation when the Minister of State opened the debate. I received no answer. I agree that there may be a case for allowing candidates to stand in areas in which they have an interest arising from their employment there. But what reason in principle can there be for objecting to the right to vote in the community in which one is employed? There may be practical difficulties, but they could be overcome in a modern urban community by 718 various methods of registration. We have heard no argument to justify not extending the principle that, because of an interest in the community where one is employed, it is right that a person should be permitted to stand as a candidate in such an area. But, if it is right to stand as a candidate, why is it not right to have a vote in such an area?
This is turning democracy on its head. If we create a situation whereby a person can be a candidate in an area where he is employed but cannot vote in the area in which he stands as a candidate, that is a reversal of democracy which, after all, rests on the right of a person living in a community to vote in it. It is a reversal of the principle of self-government.
§ Mr. Martin Maddan (Hove)
Why is it that a person can stand in a parliamentary election in a constituency in which he cannot vote?
§ Mr. Freeson
This point is raised constantly. It is answered regularly and the answer is ignored. Anyone elected to this House is elected to a national Parliament. We in this House do not govern our constituencies. In the same way, a person serving on a local authority represents a ward. He is elected by that ward but does not govern it. He is an elected member of the corporation, and he is part of that corporate body.
§ Mr. Maddan
Will the hon. Gentleman agree that any subject of the Queen, wherever he lives, can stand for Parliament in any United Kingdom constituency?
§ Mr. Freeson
For this House of Commons, which is a national Parliament. On my local council, I can represent a ward in which I do not live, but I cannot represent a ward on a council within whose area I do not live. That is the fair comparison. This constant use of the argument about parliamentary representation against those who oppose this extension—
§ Mr. Hamling
On the analogy raised by the hon. Member for Hove (Mr. Maddan), although I live in London, I should be able to stand as a candidate for the Northern Ireland Parliament since I am a United Kingdom citizen.
§ Mr. Freeson
However, I do not want to get embroiled in the relationship of this Parliament to Northern Ireland affairs. I have strong views on it, but I will reserve them for another occasion.
Let me pursue my argument about the extension of the principle of the right to vote. To me, the right to vote should come first. Only then should one consider representation. If one does not exist, it is wrong to have the other. If we pursue this kind of legislation, we shall create a situation whereby people from the suburbs or, to use an American expression, the "exurbs" well outside the urban area can influence matters of local government in the inner or down-town areas of our cities. Influence and pressure will be brought to bear on proposed expenditures and expansions of the kinds of services which are so essential for inner city areas that are going downhill.
In this connection, it is vitally important to encourage and persuade people living in inner city areas to assert their rights more powerfully than they have in the past with a view to turning the twilight zones of our cities into the model areas that they could and should be. If we increase the influence of the exurbanites in the government of affairs in the inner areas where industry and commerce may be situated by giving them the right to be candidates there, I fear that we shall see a belittling of people's rights and a slowing down of redevelopment in those areas. It is to the field of community politics in the inner areas that we should be turning our attention politically and legislatively.
The second alternative line of thought with which we should be concerning ourselves in Parliament and elsewhere is the question of the employees of local authorities being disqualified. I am not too sure about the principle and practice of ending that situation. I have an open mind on it. I should like us to pay far more attention to restructuring the rights of workers within local government and to their having a say in their departments and participating in policy discussions than is the case at present in local government. It would be a far more radical approach to dealing with representation of the people involved in local government and in the affairs of their 720 communities than merely ending the disqualification. I am not opposing the idea of ending disqualification but I think it is a much bigger question, beyond this Bill.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Ronald Bray (Rossendale)
In rising to support the Bill I should like to thank the Chair for allowing me to catch its eye. Admittedly, I am a newcomer to the House, but this is, to my mind, a very straightforward Bill to restore freedom of choice to the individual to choose between an area in which he may for the time being live and an area in which he spends most of his working day or working life, and has done so for the minimum period specified in the Bill. I see nothing whatsoever wrong in thus restoring to the individual the chance to give of his expertise.
I note that in Clause 1 (2)(bb) the qualification is "his principal place of work". We have heard a lot from the political theorists who say that of those, 40 per cent. vote Conservative and 60 per cent. vote the other way. I see that in that case those who oppose the Bill have something to gain, or would have if the theorists were always proved right, but in June we saw a slight variation of that possibility.
There are many cases in the small industrial towns in the north and northwest of England where there is a high density of population and where people live just a few yards or a few feet—in one case I know of only the length of a small garden—beyond the local government boundary, and that has been due to re-warding. In these cases, as has been rightly pointed out by my right hon. Friend the Member for Chislehurst (Dame Patricia Hornsby-Smith), people have been, as it were, divorced from the areas in which they have their principal interests, and perhaps they may not have the same enthusiasm to give of their time in areas in which they have only a personal interest. That I can understand.
It has been said that some of these wicked industrialists obviously aim, in towns where they have interests to become councillors. Are they going to run down the towns where their businesses are just for the sake of it? I would suggest that they will not. Their interest is to see those towns progressing, 721 to see employment there, and to see that the people there are happy and want to stay there. For that reason I contend that the argument, put forward by the other side of the House, about reducing the opportunities of improving the environment, is definitely misplaced.
The other basic issue is this: if people have a heavy investment in an area, they are going to stay there. They are not going to be here today and gone tomorrow. They are going to stay in that area for a long period of time, and as long as the electorate will tolerate or support them. They will give of their best. Why should they not?
This is alleged to be a democratic society. The sole objective of this Bill is to restore the democratic right of freedom of choice to the individual who is prepared to give of his best from his experience. For that reason I support the Bill.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Stanley Cohen (Leeds, South-East)
This being my maiden speech I must follow custom and practice, and I can assure the House that in my case it is with special pleasure that I make reference to my predecessor Miss—now, I should say Baroness—Bacon. When I learned of Alice Bacon's intention not to seek re-election at the General Election I heard of it with rather mixed feelings. As one who has been a member of her constituency for so many years, and who appreciates, as many people do, the tremendous work she has done on behalf of the City of Leeds, obviously I regretted her decision; yet at the same time, in view of the fact that it gave me the opportunity to become a Member of this House, obviously I regarded it with a certain amount of pleasure. I am sure I am speaking not only for the people of Leeds, South-East but also Members of this House when I say that I, too, am delighted that Miss Bacon has been appointed to the other place and so will be able to continue to make her very useful contribution to the work of the community. Those who know her are fully aware of the fact that she is still extremely capable of making that sort of contribution.
It is rather appropriate that this Bill should be the subject of my maiden speech. I must admit that it had not 722 been my original intention to make my maiden speech today, but, having listened to the debate, and because of the fact that the City of Leeds has been mentioned on more than one occasion, and because of the fact that Leeds is one of the major urban areas in this land and one of the areas to be most affected by this Bill, I thought it appropriate that I should have something to say about it.
This is, and for some time has been, a very topical subject not only in Leeds but in most parts of the country, particularly the major urban areas. Like some hon. Members opposite, I am a member of a local authority. I am a member of Leeds City Council. Those of us who have served for any length of time in local government take considerable exception to the suggestion that within the boundaries of our local authorities there are not people capable of making contributions to the communities in which they live. In Leeds, for instance, we have 130 aldermen and councillors on the City Council and a population of residents numbering 500,000. I would argue, I think with some justification, that out of 500,000 people we ought to be able to find at least 130 residents in the city capable of making their contribution to the life of the community. I, and people who sit on the opposite side of the council chamber from me, will take considerable exception to the suggestion that this is not so. We have members on the council who come from outside the city, and the leader is not himself a resident of the city. While it may be reasonable to claim that those who have served on the council for many years and have not lived in the city would be handicapped and disfranchised if this Bill were carried, we have to bear in mind that there is another factor, and that is that, since July this year, when it became apparent to local authorities that this Bill was to be put through Parliament, there has been a tendency for people to move deliberately within city areas.
We are not merely trying to protect people who have been in this situation for years; we are giving encouragement to people to create a situation that many of us feel is totally wrong. It should be clearly understood that if the Bill were not enacted and people were not allowed to sit on local authorities unless 723 they lived within the area of those local authorities we should not be preventing people giving service to the community. That cannot be emphasised too much.
Some hon. Members opposite seem to be under the impression that we are deliberately trying to prevent certain people from making their contribution to the work of the community in which they live. That is not so. There is no reason why a person should not serve the community in which he lives. Why should not he be prepared to do so? If it is right that there is a shortage of talented people in our urban areas it is also right that there is a shortage of talented people in the areas in which they live, and they can make an equally useful contribution in those areas rather than in the cities where they are engaged in business.
The Minister of State highlighted our differences when he emphasised that many people who would be affected by the Bill had a business interest; they paid rates and therefore had a major stake in the area. That is where the two sides of the House differ. Rates are only one factor within the work of any local authority. It is not the major stake, in my opinion, and in this respect I believe that I speak for my colleagues. The important thing is the service that we render the community that we govern as councillors. If the emphasis on individuals is on the amount of rates they have to contribute and not on the service it is possible that the service itself will be impaired.
Many of us feel that if a person does not live in an area but merely has a business there and pays rates his main concern will be to keep the rate level as low as possible, without any real concern about the effect such a policy may have on the services that his council is trying to provide. An hon. Member opposite referred to the people of South Leeds as "sheep-like". I can assure him and anyone else who is interested that that is far from the truth; the people of South Leeds, and, indeed, of Leeds generally, are politically sophisticated, and they see the dangers inherent in passing a Bill of this kind. They appreciate that the services that they and their families enjoy are likely to be impaired.
For those reasons I, together with my hon. Friends, will oppose the Bill as 724 something totally unnecessary in terms of social justice and very dangerous, from the practical point of view, to the people that we represent. I thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and hon. Members for listening so quietly and tolerantly to my maiden speech.
§ 6.13 p.m.
§ Mr. James Allason (Hemel Hempstead)
It is always a very pleasant task to congratulate a maiden speaker, but it is much more pleasant when that maiden speaker has made a non-provocative speech—which is not always the case. The hon. Member for Leeds, South-East (Mr. Cohen) showed a great knowledge of his own city and spoke in an easy manner, which gave no indication that it was his maiden speech. I remember that my knees were knocking on the occasion when I spoke for the first time, and I think that I showed it. We can afford the hon. Member a warm welcome to the band of speakers who speak on local government affairs, but I am sure that he will not confine himself to that subject. He has obviously a great deal to bring to the House and we look forward to hearing him speak on many future occasions.
For nine years I have been a councillor of the Royal Borough of Kensington, but I have not been a resident of the borough. My family have had connections with Kensington for many years, and I was born there. My interests lay there, but I was living just over the border, in Chelsea, but I chose to do my stint in local government service in Kensington rather than in Chelsea. The reason was, first, that I had the interests of Kensington very much at heart and, secondly, that there was a far better Labour Opposition on the Kensington Council than on the Chelsea Council.
I believe that a councillor's loyalty is not just to what happens around his home; it is to his local authority. It is a great pity that so much has been said in suggesting that councillors are just in it to further their own interests. I do not accept that. The suggestion did not come from the Front Bench opposite, but it was put forward by a back bencher. A councillor provides a very useful service to the community, and we therefore require the widest spread of choice in order to get the best councillors. If an individual who is thinking of becoming 725 a councillor has a choice he will offer himself in the place that he is best fitted to serve, which may be in an important borough or city rather than in the comparatively small rural district in which he happens to live.
Tribute has been paid to the tremendously hard work that councillors are expected to put in. Local government is about personal and general problems. Those who say that Parliament is about national problems and local government only about what goes on around the parish pump have not much experience of local government. On the Kensington Council we were putting forward solutions to national problems which were eventually adopted by the Government of the time. Therefore, I believe that we need councillors of the highest possible qualification, because they are doing not only a local but a national job.
If we accept the ideas of some hon. Members opposite that we should be compelled to serve only in the places where we are resident we shall create some rather strange situations. I know that the City of London has different rules, and I may be taking my argument to the extreme, but what sort of local government should we be able to have in that vitally important place if only residents were permitted to serve it? How many Lord Mayors in the last 100 years have lived in the City of London?
Mr. Clinton Davies (Hackney, Central)
Is the hon. Member suggesting that the City of London represents the best in our democracy?
§ Mr. Allason
It represents a most important piece of our local government, which is respected throughout the world.
§ Mr. Dick Douglas (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)
The hon. Member might bear in mind the fact that the City of London's government is an anachronism and that we are not looking towards the last century for a system of local government to fit the next 100 years—and the Bill does not do that.
§ Mr. Allason
I gather from that that the hon. Gentleman wishes to abolish the Court of Common Council and the Lord Mayor of London and all that goes with that system—
§ Mr. Allason
I turn to the County Borough of Luton. Luton Council has immense control over not only what happens in Luton but over what happens for miles around, because it operates a municipal airport. By doing so, and by encouraging its expansion, the council affects large numbers of people. One simple example is the westerly flight path, which causes annoyance to roughly 100,000 people who live in my constituency. How is one to make any sort of challenge to the councillors of Luton? If they were confined to Luton residents, they would be expected to concern themselves only with what happens within Luton.
What we are trying to do in Hertfordshire is get more and more democracy into the operation of Luton airport. With that object, every Luton councillor recently received a letter reminding him that he has some duties other than simply to Luton ratepayers—other than trying to exact the maximum profit from Luton airport. While the choice of councillors is only from Luton, one will not expect much response. If councillors can be chosen from outside Luton, they will have greater experience of what Luton is doing to the rest of the countryside. The 100,000 people I mentioned are not the end of the matter. That was one example. The Luton councillors may be doing immense damage to residents in Bedfordshire as well, but for their own selfish reasons.
I am glad to say that some of the noise is now being heard in Luton as well, so that some councillors are aware of the problem. But most of the noise is heard outside the county borough.
§ Mr. Elystan Morgan
Does the hon. Gentleman intend that this principle of his should have merely a local application or should be applied generally? Does he say that people affected by the conduct of a local authority, by way of noise, smell or disturbance, should always have the right to stand for that local authority in any part of the country? What does he say with regard to London Airport?
§ Mr. Allason
I have not extended my researches to London Airport, because it does not concern local government. We are speaking of a municipal airport, and London Airport comes under the British Airports Authority.
727 I thought that the hon. Gentleman was going to refer to the narrow interpretation of the interests of a councillor. The hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) talked about the provision of services in the interests of people who live in the area. I was astonished at that definition. That means that one need not worry about the interests of non-resident ratepayers at all.
§ Mr. Merlyn Rees
In Leeds—I offer no comment on this—we have a municipal airport, and the new Secretary of State for the Environment has stepped in and said that we cannot extend the runway. In matters like that, it is not a question of bringing people from outside to sit on Leeds and Bradford authorities, in this instance. There is a statutory responsibility on the Secretary of State and in this case the Tory Government have refused. I offer no comment on whether it is right or wrong.
§ Mr. Allason
Leeds, in a similar way to Luton, wished to extend the runway, for which planning permission was needed. This gave the Secretary of State the chance to say "No". Until Luton want to extend their runway, which of course they may do fairly soon, the Minister cannot step in and say, "You must not operate your existing airport to capacity". This is what I am complaining about.
To return to my quotation from the hon. Member for Leeds, South, that the provision of services must be in the interests of people who live in the area, that means that one does not have to worry about the non-resident ratepayers. Apparently he thinks that it would be legitimate to jack up the rents sky high, provided that the rates were paid by nonresidents: they do not matter. Also what need not be considered, apparently, are services for non-resident workers, who are interested in the public conveniences if not in the municipal swimming baths and other matters. I believe that all sections of the community who live and work in a local authority area have a vital interest in it. Therefore, I do not accept the hon. Member's definition.
It is regrettable that this has been held up from the Opposition benches as simply a party political matter. There is far too much party politics in local government. That was dragged in by 728 the Labour Party in the first place. The House will agree, I think, that the very best councillors, of whatever persuasion, forget their politics in the council chamber and try to do their best for the locality.
The Bill concerns the right to stand for the council and not the right to vote. As the Minister of State said, that is an entirely separate matter which is to be dealt with separately—and I hope that it will be. As regards the right to stand, the net should be drawn as widely as possible and we should not accept the Opposition's idea, which is virtually one man, one vote, that a person should be allowed to serve only on the authority in whose area he happens at that moment to reside.
§ 6.29 p.m.
§ Mr. David Weitzman (Stoke Newington and Hackney, North)
The hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Allason) talked about party politics. If ever there were an example of dragging in party politics, it is this Bill, which is an attempt to undo the excellent Measure passed by the last Government.
My first task is a pleasant one. I have, from this side, to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South-East (Mr. Cohen) on an excellent maiden speech. I am sure that we all heard it with great interest, and I hope that it will be the forerunner of many from this side.
I am glad to see the hon. Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Montgomery) in his place. It is a long time since we heard from him and I listened with interest to his irrelevancies about bridge and democracy. I am tempted to pursue that subject, but I will refrain from doing so because time is short and a number of hon. Members still wish to speak.
I am sure that the whole House will agree that local councillors should have the greatest possible knowledge of their areas. Obviously the best people to fill these jobs are those who live in these areas, understand their interests and problems and do not live some distance away. The Labour Government recognised and accepted this proposition in the legislation they passed on the subject.
We are now asked to undo that work because, it is said, people outside an 729 area can give service to it because of their knowledge. Nobody will dispute that there may be many people living outside an area who perhaps own a bit of property in the locality or have a business in it and who might be very good as councillors. However, when the net is thrown as widely open as it will be under this Measure, much gerrymandering could occur, and examples of this have been quoted by my hon. Friends.
§ Mr. Arthur Jones (Northants, South)
How can the hon. and learned Gentleman allege possible gerrymandering when he knows that nobody can serve on a local authority except via the process of election? No question of gerrymandering will arise. The people will provide the test of suitability.
§ Mr. Weitzman
The hon. Gentleman cannot be that naive. I appreciate that nobody can serve without being selected and elected, but there are all sorts of methods and all manner of influences can be brought to bear. By throwing open the net as widely as this we shall be lending a great deal of help to this sort of thing occurring.
§ Mr. Weitzman
I will not dwell on that subject because I wish to make two legal points. I regret that the hon. Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle) is not in his place because I am sure that he would be very interested in this subject. We read in Clause 1(2) that the person concerned mustduring the whole of the twelve months preceding the day on which he is nominated as a candidate occupied as owner or tenant any land or other premises in the area of the local authority".It is inevitable that every Government creates in every piece of legislation plenty of work for lawyers, and I suppose that I should not grumble about that. However, I want to know how that provision can be interpreted. What is meant by "occupied as owner"? Does it mean that the owner must have lived there and occupied it all that time or simply that he must have occupied it in the sense of being the owner of the premises? If the latter, consider what it will mean, for example, for a freeholder, a person owning a number of ground rents but with no interest whatever in the area other 730 than collecting his rents. Is such a person entitled to stand?
If evidence of gerrymandering is required, think of planning applications. The hon. Member for Northants, South (Mr. Arthur Jones), being an estate agent, will quickly envisage what may happen if this becomes law. Perhaps "occupied as owner or tenant" means that one must have lived there. If so, this provision must be amended.
The subsection goes on:he has during the whole of the twelve months preceding the day on which he is nominated as a candidate had his principal place of work in the area of the local authority;In Clause 1(4)(2) we have the definition of "principal place of work". I intervened about this earlier because it is a vital point. According to the definition Clause, he must havespent at least as much time working at that place (or at that and any other place or places of work in that area) as at any place or places of work in the area of another local authority.Earlier in the Clause we are told that that applies toa person who, during the period of twelve months … has had a place of work in the area of a local authority shall be deemed to have had his principal place of work there if, and only if, during that period he hasfulfilled the qualifications I quoted and the additional qualification that he hashad no place of work in the area of another local authority".What does it all mean? How does one determine whether a person has spent more time working in one place than in another? And who will decide?
According to the Schedule, a declaration will have to be made. Will the person concerned declare, "I have spent more time here than elsewhere" and, if so, how will that be determined? I wish to stress with all the force at my command that this will open the door to great possibilities of gerrymandering and tinkering. All sorts of suggestions about work might arise and the least that should be done is drastically to amend the Bill on these issues.
The legal points that I have made illustrate what I have said about the shortcomings of the Measure generally. When the Labour Government enacted the Act which this Measure is designed to upset the position was simple. One had the 731 right to be elected as a councillor if one resided in the area, and not simply if one worked there and lived outside it. It was a simple enactment which could be interpreted in a simple way. Why the Conservative Government, elected so recently and faced with so many grave problems, have devoted a day to discussing this unnecessary Bill I do not know.
§ 6.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Adley (Bristol, North-East)
I was interested to hear the hon. and learned Member for Stoke Newington and Hackney, North (Mr. Weitzman) admit that the Government face some problems. I had been led to believe by hon. Gentlemen opposite in general and the Leader of the Opposition in particular that when we took over the running of the country there were no problems facing us.
§ Mr. Adley
That is the hon. Gentleman's problem, nobody else's.
I have had the pleasure and privilege to serve on a local authority for three years. I would have been disqualified under the Act passed during the reign of the last Labour Government had I continued in my elected position on the Slough Borough Council. My service on that council occupied about 10 evenings a month and I assure hon. Gentlemen opposite who have spoken about pecuniary interests that although I was the deputy chairman of the sewage committee for some time, I can claim at no time to have been involved in anything from which I could derive a pecuniary interest.
It has been asked why some people who live just outside certain boroughs want to serve the councils of the areas in which they work rather than those in whose areas they live. One very good reason is that many of the smaller councils which have grown up around the great cities and urban areas tend to have their meetings in the afternoons. I have never had the good fortune of having afternoon meetings. That is one reason why, in order to get experience of serving on a local authority, I sought to get it in the area in which I worked rather than across the county line, as it were, in the place in which I lived.
732 Most people go into local government because they wish to contribute some service to the local community. Perhaps if speakers in this debate were restricted to those who had so served we might not have heard some of the extreme views that have been expressed. Those of us who have local government service are only too well aware that the very large majority of people who serve such authorities, whether they live within or without the particular boundary, do so because they wish to give service or make a contribution to the life of the community. But the mere phrase "to live in" itself depends on the date at which the boundary lines were drawn, and we all know that boundary changes in the last few years have been numerous. One could, therefore, well find oneself arguing a case that because one lived at point X ten years ago one was not eligible but had become eligible because of a change made five years ago. Perhaps hon. Members opposite would like to comment on how their arguments are affected when a boundary is changed.
The latest Report of the Boundary Commission is full of local government orders. By chance, I opened the Report at the Bootle Extension Order, 1968. Bootle is not a place with which I am particularly familiar, but it seems that its county boundaries have recently been redrawn and the result will presumably be to make some people eligible to serve on that local authority who were not previously eligible. We have a situation of extreme confusion if we stick to the letter of the law and the boundary lines as hon. Members opposite seem to want. The next page to which I turned referred to orders about which, again, I must confess ignorance; the West Midlands Order, 1965 and the West Midland Counties Order, 1965.
My point is: what is in a name? If people are able and willing to serve the area in which they spend their working time rather than in an area across or within a certain line on a map, they should be welcomed—
§ Mr. Clinton Davis
Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that one of the cardinal characteristics of the successful councillor is his ready availability and accessibility to those whom he represents? Would he not also agree that 733 it is infinitely more difficult for someone who does not reside within a Borough to be approached, particularly at critical times like weekends? I speak with some authority—[HON. MEMBERS: "Speech."] If I may interpose for just one moment more—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Robert Grant-Ferris)
Order. Interventions, to be effective, should be as short as possible.
§ Mr. Adley
I take the point made by the hon. Member for Hackney, Central (Mr. Clinton Davis), but I dispute it. I submit that the essence of the availability of a councillor depends on his own qualities and zeal. Two Members for the City of Bristol, which I, too, have the honour to represent here, are members of the Labour Party, and both live in London, yet I do not know that anyone has suggested that they are ineffective Members or inaccessible to their constituents. Surely it depends, again, on the communications which are available and the willingness with which a councillor puts himself at the disposal of the citizens he represents that matters. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman has made a valid point.
A detail which has concerned me is that under the Measure enacted by the previous Government anyone who lived in an area was deemed to be accessible, but large numbers of people living in such areas were not accessible. A specific example of the way in which the Bill will make a great improvement is that of the commuter to a large city or town. It is possible for someone living in, say, Sutton Coldfield and travelling to Birmingham every day to know little or nothing of the workings or actions of the council of Sutton Coldfield, because he does not spend his working time there. The example could be repeated all over the country. There are people in Slough who commute to London five or six days a week, and they play a very much smaller part in the community life than do people who live just outside the boundary but who are in business, or in practice, or perhaps work in a factory within the borough boundary.
If one examines the motives of the Measure introduced by the previous Government one realises, as the House and the country realise, that its purpose was to disqualify as many Conservatives as 734 possible, because they well knew—they had done their mathematics correctly; or perhaps it just so happened—that more Conservatives than members of the Labour Party would be affected by it. If that were not the intention, as one or two hon. Members opposite seem to suggest, it was certainly the effect. Unfortunately, like so much of the former Government's legislation, the effect had very little to do with the initial intention.
I was particularly interested when the hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. Elystan Morgan), questioning my hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Allason), suggested that people seeking to serve on councils might qualify if they were affected by noise or pollution—I think he said—rather than just by living over the county line. In Bristol, we have a harbours committee, a docks committee, a museum committee, and many other committees which cater for the needs of people far and beyond those actually living within the city boundaries. There is no constructive purpose in seeking to prevent people who can make a contribution on such issues from serving on the relevant city council.
The Bill is about qualification, using the word in the sense in which people are qualified to serve in local government, but the qualification to which I want to make passing reference is that of those who were debarred from serving by the previous legislation. Any legislation which prevents a qualified person from serving his local community is not constructive.
I have mentioned the reasons why I believe the 1969 Act was introduced. The Labour Party must not be surprised if we spend a little time trying to put right some of the rather poor Measures they introduced; nor must it be surprised if, just because it was mentioned in our election manifesto, we intended to carry out what we said in out election manifesto.
§ Mr. Adley
I recognise that doing what one says in one's election manifesto is not something to which the Labour Party gives much credence. As we have just had an election returning 735 a Government who had not won an election since 1959, at which time we made 89 specific pledges in our manifesto and kept 88—
§ 6.51 p.m.
§ Mr. William Hamling (Woolwich, West)
After the statements about the Conservative Party programme, I hope that we can return to the Bill. It is remarkable that after a recess of about 3½ months, during which the Government Front Bench were supposed to be hard at work preparing major measures of social reform, all they seem to have produced so far is piffling party prejudicial legislation and indecision. The Government are trying to foist on the House the policies they put forward in opposition and which were defeated. They are here putting forward minor and pettifogging measures which do not tackle the country's problems.
For example, last Tuesday we had a promise of 6d. off the income tax to repay their election debts, despite the social damage that is done and no matter how irrelevant economically that is. The other night the Government took action to implement the reports of the Boundary Commissions. We have not had a word about local government reform. Instead of the Government producing a measure for local government reform, we have this pettifogging irrelevant Bill.
Has not the House noticed that it is the country areas—the Tory areas—surrounding the big cities that have rejected the Redcliffe-Maud Report? This is why the Government are doing nothing about that report. They know that the rank and file of the Tory Party does not want it. So much for their respect for Reports. They are always telling us that these reports are prepared after a great deal or hard work by unprejudiced and impartial people. Not Redcliffe-Maud—that is one report which the Tory Government 736 will never implement—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Now the House knows what the Conservative Party thinks about Government reports. Today an opportunity is missed to introduce a measure of local government reform. Instead, we get this piddling little measure.
§ Mr. Carlisle
I am following the hon. Gentleman's argument with interest and I hope to have an opportunity later to answer it. As I understand his argument, it is that the Government of the day should implement Government reports. In that case, why did not his Government implement the first Maud Report which we are implementing by means of the Bill?
§ Mr. Hamling
All I am saying—[HON MEMBERS: "Answer!"]—let me answer for once. All I am saying is that the Government told us the other night that they are bent on endorsing, accepting and promulgating by means of legislation Government reports—but not today. I wonder why?
I do not suggest that today the Government should have introduced a Bill completely to implement the Redcliffe-Maud Report. I contend that they should have introduced some measure of real local government reform instead of his piddling Measure.
§ Mr. Hamling
At the same time as they refused to endorse the Redcliffe-Maud Report, these are the chaps living in the country who now demand that they should have a hand in governing the towns. That is what the Bill is about. We had a most extraordinary suggestion from the hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Allason), namely, that the reason they wanted to do this was, in the case of Luton, that the people of Hemel Hempstead wanted to govern the county borough of Luton because Luton was so selfish in the matter of a municipal airport. I hope that those remarks are carefully noted in Luton. If that is what they want the Bill for, this is a most extraordinary Measure to put before the House. I hope that the Government Front Bench will repudiate that suggestion coming from their side of the House—a suggestion that they want the Bill to stop county boroughs from doing what 737 the people in the county boroughs want to do.
There are many contributions which the Government might have made towards the restoration and preservation of urban life. They could have introduced a Bill to prevent pollution. They could have introduced a Bill to prevent urban squalor. They could have introduced a Bill to stop motorways from destroying even more homes and more civic amenities in urban communities. They could have introduced a Bill to improve community relations or to stop the breakdown of community relations.
Instead, they merely introduce a Bill which should be called, "The Tory Absentee Councillors Re-enfranchisement Bill". That is what the Bill is. It is a Bill to preserve the rights of Tory absentee councillors to rule over the destinies of the lower orders.
Let no one start talking about Labour councillors. The model rules of the Labour Party lay down that nobody shall be a candidate for a council in an area who is not a parliamentary elector there.
§ Mr. Hamling
Of course they are followed. I tell the hon. Gentleman, who is obviously ignorant of what goes on in the world, that in my borough the leader of our local Labour Party group until recently lived in Greenwich. His work took him away from the borough. He resigned, as he was expected to by the local Labour Party. That is the way we do things in Greenwich and that is the way we do things in Labour Parties up and down the country.
I know what the law used to be. I know about the business vote. I know what used to go on on the L.C.C. The last Labour Government changed that. The rules are now not what they were.
§ Mr. Hamling
I have not left it yet. With a few more interruptions like that, I shall probably not leave it for much longer.
When looking at the real problems of urban life, one looks at the sort of situation which has developed particularly in the United States and which is 738 happening already to some extent in our great urban centres. I have talked about urban sprawl. I have talked about the drift of population away from the centre. I have said this before. I made this speech, or a rather similar one, in the last Parliament, and I am very grateful to my fans for staying to listen to it again. It was a good speech then and it will be twice as good today, because I have just come back from the United States where everything I said on the previous occasion is being proved up to the hilt.
The fact is that if one looks at the social and political problems in the great urban centres on the other side of the Atlantic one sees Tory philosophy carried to its extreme. There one finds the wealthy leaving the urban areas, commuting—in their case 200 or 300 miles—earning their living in a place and then leaving it at night for somebody else to look after.
§ Mr. Hamling
No, I have not finished yet. I will give way later. This is a problem which is certainly no joking matter for the people of New York, or for the United States as a whole. Nor is it a joking matter for a great many people who live in the centre of London today. I think of Tower Hamlets where people have drifted away, going back some 60, 70 or 80 years. The Tories think, "We will go and live outside in some salubrious suburb".
§ Mr. Hamling
The Tories are even getting out of Woolwich, West now because they know very well that since I became their candidate they do not stand a chance there. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to come to Woolwich, West and find out, he is welcome to do it.
§ Mr. Hamling
The hon. Gentleman will not have that much longer either. Let him fight this on last Tuesday's cuts. I invite the hon. Gentleman to have a by-election on last Tuesday's cuts and he will find out how long a 15,000 majority lasts. It will not last five minutes.
739 To come back to the Bill, here is an opportunity that the Conservative Government might have taken of dealing with these very important social and political problems. This matter is engaging the attention of a great many experts on urban life. Here is something which would have enabled them to make a name for themselves. But no; all they are concerned with is preserving the right of some trifling unimportant little council to have its residue of Tory councillors and aldermen who live miles away. All this shows the basic political corruption of the Conservative Party.
This Bill has no relevance to the political or social problems inherent in our urban sprawl, save one. It will perpetuate the evil whereby more and more of our cities and towns are being ruled by Tory councillors and aldermen who do not live there. This is one of the great evils from which our modern cities have suffered. There was a time when pretty well 100 per cent. of the people who ruled our main important cities lived there. They endured the good and evil social conditions that everyone else had to endure. But today they want to live in the suburbs. They want to enjoy the country. But live there?—not likely. Put up with the slums?—not likely. Put up with the schools?—not likely. They say, "We will opt out of the sort of life that the majority of people endure." That is Tory philosophy, and we reject it. The last Parliament rejected it, and I have no doubt that at the next election that philosophy will be rejected again.
It might not matter so much if we were thinking purely of ratepayers—although that is something that I do not accept. I do not accept that one's interest in a community springs primarily from the fact that one pays rates and taxes there. That is not important. What is important is that one has a living stake in the community—not just that one pays rates, not just that one digs down in one's pocket when it is intended to put up some new schools and one objects to it because the rates will go up. That is typical Tory philosophy, and I reject it. That is what was wrong with last Tuesday—Tory philosophy. The community is spending money—how wicked!—irrespective of the service that is being provided. That is what the argument is about. We believe 740 that people should serve the community because they are part of it and not simply because they are paying rates there.
Even worse is the second provision that we are to have Tory councillors not only who do not pay rates—
§ Mr. Hamling
That will certainly happen next May. I can assure the hon. Gentleman of that. We have a provision in this Bill whereby people shall be entitled to stand as candidates even though they are not ratepayers but simply work there. The definition of "work" is quite astonishing. The definition is that it is not necessarily full-time work; it is not necessarily even paid work. What do we mean by unpaid work? The Government Front Bench so far have not defined exactly what it is. I am grateful to the Under-Secretary who I know will answer this question when he replies to the debate. He is a fair chap when it comes to answering debates on Bills, however bad they may be.
One of the contentions made in support of this Bill is that this all springs from the coming into use of the motor car. This is not so at all. We had commuters long before we had motor cars. Certainly in the London area where I live and which I represent—and let it be said that I live in the borough for which I sit in this Parliament, so let no one talk to me about carpet-bagging, whatever else may be said on the other side of the House by some—
§ Mr. Montgomery
The hon. Gentleman talks about carpet-bagging. He tripped all over the country before he finally rested in Woolwich, West.
§ Mr. Hamling
Satan rebuking Satan! Let me tell the hon. Gentleman that I never carpet-bagged. I was a candidate in Liverpool where I lived and worked and where I was born.
§ Mr. Hamling
All I wanted there in a by-election was a nice Christmas holiday, and I had it. Anyone who supposes that any Labour candidate goes to Torquay in the expectation of representing Torquay is a bigger fool than the hon. Gentleman looks.
741 I come back to the Bill with which I was dealing before I was so rudely interrupted. Another point that was made in the debate was that the Labour Party suggested that people who do not live in an area are ill informed. We do not make that contention at all. We do not contend that anyone is ill informed or knows nothing about the area. All we say is that, when we live in an area we want the people who represent us to be residents, too. That is the Labour Party's view in local government, as distinct from national government. The point about national government was well answered earlier. Our purpose is to improve local government, not to detract from it.
The Bill will intensify a process which has gone too far already. Two years ago, we attempted to reverse that process. The present Government are bent on a dangerous reversal, a dangerous reaction to a bad process, and I hope very much that the Bill will be defeated.
§ 7.11 p.m.
§ Mr. Tom Boardman (Leicester, South-West)
It is a long time since I listened to so much cant and hypocrisy, though put over with the accustomed charm of the hon. Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Hamling), but with no sincerity—cant and hypocrisy which was exposed at so many points throughout his speech, for instance, when my hon. Friend the Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Montgomery) took the hon. Gentleman up on his reference to carpet-bagging and showed that he himself had been carpet-bagging at Torquay and elsewhere.
§ Mr. Hamling
Before he says too much about carpet-bagging, the hon. Gentleman should realise that a carpetbagger is someone who goes somewhere because he will be successful there. I consistently fought strong Tory seats. If the hon. Gentleman imagines that a Socialist fighting strong Tory seats is carpet-bagging, I cannot think where his knowledge of carpet-bagging originated.
§ Mr. Boardman
The hon. Gentleman's persuasive tongue does not get him out of that hole which he dug for himself and into which he fell.
We have heard such hypocrisy from right hon. and hon. Members opposite, who have been notorious for their treatment 742 of the democratic process, who rigged the boundaries to start with, and who dealt in such infamous fashion thoughout the country with the electoral system, as, for instance, in Northampton.
§ Mr. Boardman
It is thoroughly hypocritical and wrong that hon. Members opposite should have the audacity to suggest that this Measure bears any streak of the sort of infamous conduct which they themselves have shown so often in the past.
The hon. Member for Woolwich, West condemned the Government for putting forward—I think that these were his words—measures which were put for: ward in opposition. Surely, we can take pride in this, as in many other measures, for being consistent throughout. We opposed the change when the Labour Government brought it about. We opposed it to the limit, and we put forward an Amendment on lines similar to those now before us. We have introduced the present Bill at this early stage in the Parliament so that we may carry out the pledge which we gave in opposition and put before the electorate. This is something of which I, and, I am sure, my hon. Friends, are proud, and we do not stand to be condemned by the hon. Gentleman or anyone else for carrying out our pledges. We shall continue to do so.
Very skilfully, though, perhaps, rather obviously to many of us, the hon. Gentleman ducked the challenge thrown out to him by my hon. Friend the Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle), the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department. When the hon. Gentleman had challenged us as to why we were not carrying out the Redcliffe-Maud Report at this early stage, for which there was no pledge, my hon. Friend asked him why the party opposite had not implemented the first Maud Report. We received no answer, not surprisingly, because we knew that that report did not suit Labour's political and party objectives. That was the reason.
§ Mr. Hamling
What I was referring to was the Government's insistence the other night that they had to implement the Boundary Commission Report because it was a Royal Commission Report from an 743 impartial and knowledgeable body. Why not the same wit Redcliffe-Maud?
§ Mr. Boardman
The hon. Gentleman well knows that there were substantial minority views and a substantial conflict on both sides of the House as to the impact of it, and it is right and proper that the Government should give full consideration to it before bringing proposals to Parliament. But I am digressing, and I shall be called to order if I follow that line further.
I was intrigued when the hon. Member for Woolwich, West spoke of his party as adhering to a rigid set of rules which required that all candidates for Labour Party membership of a local authority should live within the parliamentary divisions within which the local authority was situated. I hope that I have quoted him aright. These rules must have been introduced very recently. The hon. Gentleman suggested that they were of long standing, but there are many cities and local authority areas, including the one of which I am proud to represent part, which have certainly not applied that rule. There are Labour members of Leicester City Council who live outside, and who have lived outside, the city boundaries for a long time.
§ Mr. Boardman
I understand the hon. Gentleman not to agree and to suggest that the rules have been changed—
§ Mr. Hamling rose—
§ Mr. Boardman
I shall not give way again. That was just one more item in the hon. Gentleman's speech which, delightful as it was to listen to, was inaccurate and prejudiced.
In the debate so far, we have had from the party opposite nothing but prejudiced generalities. From neither the Front Bench nor the back benches have we heard any logical argument to show why the Bill should not meet the needs of a democratic society in giving the electors the ultimate right to choose from among the persons whose names are put before them, whether those people reside within the city or outside.
Now, as my hon. Friends the Members for Portsmouth, South (Mr. Pink) and for Brierley Hill did, among others, I 744 turn to the facts in my own constituency. I do this not to detain the House but because, by examining the facts in a particular local authority area, one may judge how fair, right and necessary the Bill is. Leicester has artificially narrowly drawn boundaries. I interpose here to say that they were narrowly drawn by a Labour Administration, with a Labour council, the result being that large council house estates which were previously outside the city were brought within it, and large owner-occupied estates remained in the county, producing a zig-zag effect on the perimeter of the city.
One does not have to look far to guess what the motive was, although that motive was shown to fail in its outcome by the electorate, in that Labour lost the local council house estate seats within Leicester, and, instead of gaining the parliamentary seat which is largely council-house estates—Leicester, South-West, which I have the honour to represent, was won and held by the Conservative Party. Thus, Labour's motivation, which was to produce a biased picture or a swing in favour of itself, did not have the desired result.
The consequence of the way the boundaries have been drawn is an invisible line dividing the city. One can find it as one walks through the streets of Leicester. In many roads, for example, the houses are identical, with everything looking exactly the same, but as one crosses the line from 131 to 133 one is out into the county.
§ Mr. Douglas
Would not the hon. Gentleman accept that what he is speaking about is boundary qualification, and that it has nothing to do with entitlement to stand? The Bill is not to alter boundaries, but to alter electoral qualifications.
§ Mr. Boardman
If the hon. Gentleman will allow me to continue, I shall make my argument clear and put him wise.
There is an invisible line, and the person living on one side of it is eligible to stand for election to the city council while the person on the other side, although he may work on the next bench, go to the same cinema, and use the same city transport and all the other facilities within the city, is not eligible to stand.
§ Mr. Boardman
The Bill concerns only eligibility to stand for election. Those two men should have equal rights to put forward their names for consideration. By all means let the opponents of the man living in the county say, "This man does not pay his rates to the city. Do not vote for him. It is for you, the electors, to decide". That is a fair point, which hon. Members no doubt make in their own election addresses. I am sure that if the hon. Member for Woolwich, West is opposed by a carpet-bagger, he will not hesitate to make that point.
§ Mr. Kenneth Marks (Manchester, Gorton)
The hon. Gentleman is making an excellent point, that the city of Leicester and the surrounding urban districts have a community of interests. Does he not agree, then, that the Government should rapidly accept the Redcliffe-Maud recommendation that here is an example of a unitary authority? If the people who live in the country can help govern the town, why not the other way round?
§ Mr. Boardman
The hon. Gentleman makes a perfectly valid argument for that, but I am sure that Mr. Deputy Speaker would soon call me to order if I started developing on the work of the Redcliffe-Maud Commission.
§ Mr. Boardman
I will not be tempted even by the pleas of the hon. Member for Woolwich, West.
It is illogical that although they have complete community of interest the man on one side of the line is eligible to stand for election and the man on the other side is not. Moreover, although a man living just across the line is not eligible to stand for the ward five yards away from his front door, a man on the opposite side of the city, four or five miles away, is eligible. The Bill demands support from both sides of the House in order to remedy that illogical situation.
There has been a great deal of criticism from hon. Members opposite of what they call the Conservatives who move out from the cities to live in the country but still wish to dominate the city. But we are not just talking about 746 people who have retired to villas at Torquay, where the hon. Member for Woolwich, West was not able to win their vote. I know in my constituency of the people who have lived above their shop in the centre of the city, but have bought a small house outside the city as they have grown older and managed to become a bit more prosperous. Possibly a son goes into partnership and lives above the shop, or they may have a manager. The people who have moved out are totally connected with city life. They have an intimate knowledge of, and interest in, the city, its welfare services, swimming baths and so on. To deprive the citizens of Leicester of the opportunity to return such people to the city council is quite wrong, and I welcome the Bill also because it would remedy that situation.
Hon. Members opposite have expressly said that this is all one-sided, that we are talking only about the Tory members. That is just not so. I can quote an instance—a distinguished instance, but one of many—of a Labour alderman in the city of Leicester whose name is now given to one of the principal colleges there. He received a well-deserved honour of a knighthood under the Labour Administration. His knowledge of education matters is unequalled, yet he is debarred from serving on the city council. There are countless instances of people who were deprived of the opportunity of serving by the Labour Government's Measure. This must be wrong.
Businessmen, professional men and people who work on the factory floor have a great contribution to make in the place where they work, even though they may not live there. I think that it was the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Robert Hughes) who suggested that people should stand for the councils where they live. Many hon. Members opposite agreed. The inference was that if people stood for the council where they worked, they would not play any part in the life of the area where they live. That is neither necessary nor true. There are some people with time to play a part on more than one local authority.
Those who work in a city know its problems. Because they spend the daytime there they could easily attend the council meetings there and be available 747 to look at the city's problems, and thus they have a great contribution to make. Very often they are more easily available at the place where they work than in the place where they live, if they commute a long way, and if their home is only a base at the end of the train journey where all they want to do is to put their feet up and watch television. There is considerable merit in having someone able to serve at the place where he works.
All hon. Members opposite have evaded the crunch point. We on this side of the House are not saying who shall go onto the councils. The suggestion in every speech by hon. Members opposite is that the Government are trying to fix the councils and to put on them people who do not live in the areas they represent. That is not the point at all. At the end of the day it is for the elector to decide. By this Measure the Government are giving him a wider choice. Some may argue, as I might, indeed, that there would be nothing wrong in making everyone over a certain age eligible to stand for a council. There could be a valid argument for that. But widening the choice and allowing people with a clear interest—whether by living or working in an area—to put their names forward to be accepted or rejected by the electorate, is a right and democratic process and one which I welcome.
§ 7.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Kenneth Marks (Manchester, Gorton)
As one who lived and worked for a long time in a borough in which I could not stand for council, because I was a teacher in that borough, I have been very concerned about the civil rights of people who should be allowed to stand for council and are not. I do not think that the Bill is any contribution to the extension of those civil rights.
I share the puzzlement of the hon. Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Montgomery) as to why the Government have introduced a Bill about councillors and not about voting. Like him, I took part in the debates on the Representation of the People Act, 1969, and listened very carefully to them. I was convinced that the present Lord Chancellor said that the Conservative Party would reverse Section 15 as soon as they came to office. It may well be that the Government are considering the voting side, but I doubt whether they will give votes in local 748 authorities to people who work in particular areas. I imagine that in places like Stretford, which probably has more workers moving into it from the city of Manchester than actually live in the borough, the Conservative Party will be concerned about that.
In the previous debate remarks were made about "no taxation without representation". Some of the speeches made by the then Opposition in the debate on the 1832 Reform Act reminded me of the speeches in opposition to the Representation of the People Bill. Despite what hon. Members opposite have said, this Bill is a party Bill. In a great many wards and councils it is known that the Labour candidate or the Conservative candidate will be elected. The vast majority of those who stood for election when the business vote applied did not give their address on the literature which they issued to the electors. Let me make a confession. A friend of mine once stood in a Conservative ward of the City of Manchester. I lived in the ward and acted as his agent. We were incensed that the sitting Tory Councillor, who had not done much work for the ward, lived 15 miles from the city boundary. We issued a leaflet saying that the Conservative candidate lived 15 miles away, and we won the seat. This is very significant. I am sure that in the majority of cases where people holding the business vote have been elected as councillors the electors have not known where those people lived.
In the City of Manchester those nonresidents have not been just over the border, living in an odd numbered house instead of an even numbered one, but have been as far away as the Lake District and North Wales. The non-resident councillor is tempted to have as his major interest the keeping down of the rates. Education accounts for the largest proportion of local authority expenditure, and the non-resident's children do not go to those local schools. His domestic refuse is not removed by the local authority of which he is a member. Nonresident councillors have not been captains of industry, but estate agents, solicitors and so on. Trade and commerce can make their presence in a city felt in other ways than by being represented on the council. The chambers of commerce 749 in our great cities are not ignored and are able to make their case very strongly.
The only person who will not have a chance of being a member of at least two councils is the housewife. If I can get into an underground train outside the City of Westminster, come into this building and spend all day here and be eligible to be a member of the Westminster City Council, why not extend it to her? I should be so eligible if the Bill were passed and if I could get ten electors to sign their names on a ballot paper. That is not too difficult, as the Minister knows from his recent experience in Manchester. There is a danger here which I hope will be recognised and thought about when we get down to the details of the Bill.
To take up the point made by the hon. Member for Leicester, South-West (Mr. Tom Boardman) about the community of interest between the city and the surrounding areas, the response of the Conservative Party and Conservative councils to the Redcliffe-Maud Report, which suggested that the city and the area around it had a community of interest and should be governed by one council, has been shocking. The Conservative Party just do not accept it. Although I have the assurance of the Secretary of State for the Environment that local government reorganisation will go ahead, we can presume that it will not do so on the lines of unitary authorities, which would keep together so well the town and country community of interest.
People who live in Wilmslow think it perfectly all right for someone who lives in Wilmslow but has a small office in Manchester, or even a stall in the market, to be on the Manchester City Council, but do not think it right that the area of Wilmslow, Manchester and Bolton should be governed as one area. The hon. Member for Leicester, South-West spoke about hypocrisy, but this to my mind is the real hypocrisy.
I want to make a further point which is not contained in the Bill but which I hope will be considered. There is a nonsense in councils about the councillor who loses his eligibility to be a candidate. He may move out of the area or sell his land but still continue to be on the council. On Manchester City Council there is a councillor who flies from Cornwall once every six months to keep his mark on the 750 city council. This is done so that his party does not have to fight the seat. There should be a limit on this. There have been arguments about parliamentary seats being left vacant for a long time, for example, Orpington and Swindon. A time limit should be fixed during which people who lose their eligibility may continue to be councillors. I hope that the Minister will consider this when we get down to the details of the Bill.
§ 7.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Redmond (Bolton, West)
I have listened to most of the speeches and we have had some good knockabout stuff from hon. Gentlemen opposite. The hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kenneth Marks) mentioned the candidate for the Conservative Party who lived 15 miles away, and who lost the ward at the election after the opposing candidate put out a leaflet stating that the Conservative lived 15 miles way. Fair enough. If the Conservative candidate left himself open to that, he deserved to lose the seat. The point is not that the law should be there to stop that man from putting up. The electorate in that ward might have liked to have had a candidate of that calibre—I do not know about whom he was talking—and the electorate has the right to decide.
The hon. Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Hamling) made a good knockabout speech. He said that we were seeking to perpetuate the evil whereby towns would be governed by people who did not live there. How can we seek to perpetuate the government of any town by any Bill? The people who decide who will govern them are the electors in the wards.
§ Mr. Hamling rose—
§ Mr. Redmond
I know what the hon. Gentleman is going to say—that there are certain wards where his people always get in and other wards where our people get in. Fair enough, if that is so, but I can quote instances where strong candidates from what is normally the minority party have won seats against weak candidates from what is normally the majority party.
§ Mr. Hamling
The Tory Party have a nasty habit of appointing an awful lot of aldermen from outside the city, aldermen who are not elected by anybody.
§ Mr. Redmond
I thought that we were talking about the election of councillors. 751 Perhaps the hon. Member sees something in the Bill which I do not see.
He also said that we ought to accept reports. Speaking as a Member for one of the two constituencies in Bolton, may I say how much we wish that the Labour Government had accepted the Hunt Report, which was of vital importance to places like Bolton but which was rejected by the then Minister almost before the ink was dry.
I accept, and I am certain that the majority of hon. Members accept, the need for the reform of local government. The fact that I did not like the Redcliffe Maud Report does not alter my realisation of the need for reform. I have no intention of sitting quietly by while someone pushes Bolton into the metropolitan area of Manchester, which is the great ogre which all of us who live on its periphery fear.
But time is needed to deal properly with local government reform and here we have something urgent, because of the number of important people who deserve to be re-elected to local authorities and who will not be allowed even to stand for election unless we get the Bill on the Statute Book in time.
Labour Members miss the whole point of the Bill, which is to free people to give service where they wish to give service, and surely in this debate the accent should be on service. I do not believe that any local councillor of any party would be standing for election unless he desired to serve. Why cannot people give service where they wish?
I welcome the Bill, even though the opposition seem to be trying to find reasons for not allowing people to be free to be councillors and to serve where they will.
§ Mr. Redmond
My main reason for intervening is to acknowledge a letter which I received from a constituent in July. At the time, it seemed to me that unless the Government did something fairly quickly, it would not be possible before next May to honour our election pledge to remove the embargo on the re-election of certain councillors.
I therefore put my name to an early day Motion. This was reported in the 752 evening newspaper which circulates in Bolton. Somehow, there appeared with it a comment from one of the councillors who was likely to be affected, Councillor Percy Yates. He represents the West Ward of Bolton in the Bolton, West constituency.
A constituent of mine in another part of the constituency did not like my putting my name to the early day Motion, because, he wrote, during the election campaign I had said that the most important thing to do was to tackle the question of taxation. To paraphrase, he concluded his letter by saying, "Never mind Percy Yates; get the taxes down". I take his point, because I maintain that high taxation means unemployment, but I do mind about people like Percy Yates.
He lives a short distance over the boundary of the Borough of Bolton, but he has an office in the ward which he represents. I do not know why Labour Members constantly criticise solicitors and estate agents and others who are in this sort of situation. They seem to me to be good people and Percy Yates is particularly good. He has an office in the ward and the electors know where to find him all day long every day. They know him as a first-class councillor, and he is certainly better than some who live in the borough but work outside it.
I hope that the Bill will be passed in time to allow Percy Yates to stand for re-election in what is a marginal ward in the elections in May. Surely it is for the electors to say whether they want Percy Yates and others to represent them. It is sheer arrogance for Parliament or the Government to dictate to electors whom they may have as candidates.
This is a democracy and we should support democratic institutions. It is up to the sponsors of candidates to choose the men and women who will best appeal to the electors. Anybody who objects to that is objecting to democracy itself.
To say that we should drive candidates from the boroughs into the urban and rural districts around is wrong. I know of many who use the urban and rural districts outside the boroughs as dormitories and who sometimes have good reasons for living there—they may have always lived there but worked in the boroughs, or perhaps left the boroughs on retirement to live in cheaper accommodation. But often these people have spent 753 their whole lives in the county borough, and it is there that they want to serve if they can. If these people, whom the hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) called the suburbans, are as bad as he says, the electorate as a whole will throw them out. But the suburbans—it is a horrible word—are not all that bad. Some are excellent councillors.
Labour Members have spoken of fiddles and gerrymandering. For them in this Parliament to talk about gerrymandering after the matter of the redistribution of parliamentary boundaries in the last Parliament beats me. Scorn was poured on the idea and someone asked how we should do these fiddles. It was suggested that the whole thing was a fiddle, a great Tory conspiracy. I do not understand that. The plain fact is that Labour Members do not trust the people.
§ Mr. Redmond
At the moment I do not see any objection to that. I do not live in Bolton and I have made no secret of the fact that I live 25 miles away. That does not hinder me from giving service to the people of Bolton. They all know that I live in the urban district of Alderley Edge, which is 25 miles away. I see no objection to what the hon. Gentleman suggests, but I cannot think why it should be in the law, because every candidate should be perfectly open in his literature and should say what he does and where. If I had a business in a county borough in which I was seeking election, I would say so in order that electors would know where to find me during the daytime.
It is suggested that people always vote on party lines at local elections, but one has only to look at the results in wards where more than one seat is vacant at an election. There are a number of authorities, of which Bolton is one, where there are as many as three councillors to the ward. It is then that one sees how strong candidates command the votes. This accentuates my argument that it is up to the parties or the sponsoring organisations, the ratepayers' associations and so on, to put up the candidates who will win the seats.
754 The Bill is a step back towards democracy. If the Opposition vote against it, as they say they will, they will be voting against a democratic Bill.
§ 7.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Dick Douglas (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)
It was not my intention to intervene in the debate, but I am sorry to say that there is no representative of the Scottish Office on the Government Front Bench.
§ Mr. Carlisle
The hon. Member knows that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State has been here for most of the day. He said that he would return as soon as the hon. Member rose to speak.
§ Mr. Douglas
I accept that. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will convey to him the comments I make which are of particular relevance to the Scottish position.
The Government have based their case on two fundamentals. First, there is the often repeated phrase that there should be no taxation without representation. The second concerns the fact that technological and other events within an authority may affect people outwith that authority's boundaries.
On the face of it these seem to be very important arguments. Let me deal first with the latter point. If it is argued that planning considerations, things like airports, river pollution and so on, have a much wider effect, beyond the local authority boundaries, then I would concede the case. That would point quite logically, in Scottish terms, to the type of local government reform envisaged by the Wheatley Commission—much larger regional authorities enabling the economic and physical planning considerations to be dealt with within a larger area than at present exists. This Bill does not do this.
The second point upon which hon. Members opposite have based their case is the argument about taxation and representation. Again, on the face of it, it would seem to have some persuasive evidence to support it. If one pays a specific tax, the rates, within a local government authority boundary then one ought to have some say in the governing of that local authority. Rates are a very peculiar type of tax. In Scottish towns just now we know that tax is 755 affecting the lower-paid sections of the population. We know that it is difficult for local authorities to ensure that the services they are called upon to provide, often by the central government, can be given through the rating system.
I am sorry to call attention to this in the House, but I put down a whole series of Questions to the Secretary of State for Scotland last week. He gave me an Answer with specific regard to industrial derating. The answer he gave me was that he had no statement to make on the subject. On Friday evening, on B.B.C. television he made a statement directly contradicting that. He said that he would make no change at all in industrial derating. It is fair enough to have a change of mind but these are important considerations and I would suggest to hon. Members opposite that if their Government decides to change their mind and to make pronouncements about things which affect ratepayers, the place to do it, when the opportunity arises, is the House of Commons and not B.B.C. television.
The rates are a burden on the community and it is right that a person who makes a contribution to this tax should have some say in the expenditure of his money. Another basic argument for the rating system is that it bites on people making them conscious of what is happening in a local authority. Let us take it from the point of view of what is envisaged in the Bill, that the businessman or person in employment or the housewife can find themselves some part-time paid or unpaid employment. There are not many working-class housewives who would have that opportunity. There is a significant loophole in that part of the Bill which says:he has during the whole of the twelve months preceding the day on which he is nominated as a candidate had his principal place of work in the area of a local authority".This is a very loose part of the Bill, open to all sorts of abuses.
Even if we accept the principle, which I do not, it is possible, because there is no definition of place of employment or type of employment, for people to get part-time paid or unpaid employment and thereby to have a say in the running of a local authority, directly or indirectly, and make no contribution to that authority's 756 revenue. I suspect that if we look at this type of anomaly it will not be applauded by the public at large. This aspect of no taxation without representation is worthy of further examination. If it is argued that the regressive system of taxation can be justified because it bites and makes people politically conscious, the place where it bites and makes them more politically conscious ought to be the residence.
Most people pay rates out of income. The domestic ratepayer pays his or her rates out of income and therefore ought to feel the impact of local authority work on their place of residence. If they are to seek representation on a local authority because of place of work, part time or full time, place of business or place of land-owning, the rates paid in that respect are not out of personal income but very often out of company income and so do not bite so hard on the individual. If the Government had come with a Bill which said that we ought to remove all disability on the selection of people to serve on every local authority then we might have had some sympathy with him. There might have been some reason for saying that the thing was so large and widespread that if we tried to draw boundaries we would create so many anomalies that we might as well scrap the whole thing and say that a person ought to be capable of choosing whatever local authority he wants, principally, primarily and solely on the basis of being an elector.
There is, however, no merit at all in coming forward with a Bill on the eve of what we suppose to be the presentation by the Government in Scotland of a White Paper to reform local government—and we have great expectations of a Green Paper to reform local authority finance—which deals with the subject in this way. This Bill suggests that the change in the basis of taxation relates to paying taxes, or the firm paying taxes, in a particular area and it will not do. To take the point made by the hon. Member for Bolton, West (Mr. Redmond) about residence not being a deterrent to a person standing in a community where he has a business, although his residence is outside of that authority area, this ought to be expressed quite clearly in the election literature. Perhaps the Government will consider the possibility of 757 adding a Clause to that effect in Committee.
The prime reason why I am opposed to this Bill is because it gives people the opportunity to abrogate the political content of living and working in a local authority area. They can get the best of both worlds under this Bill. They can live in one area, and pay little or no attention to the working of that area or else leave it to others to ensure that the rates are low, and then can go to another area and because of business considerations there try to keep rates low in that area, too, although the services required by the residents, not necessarily by the business people, demand high rates. This is not democracy and the Government ought to think again, particularly in the Scottish context. We are on the eve, I hope, of large-scale local government reform in Scotland, which would make this Bill irrelevant.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Home Affairs and Agriculture, Scottish Office (Mr. Alick Buchanan-Smith)
I have listened with interest to the hon. Gentleman's argument, particularly in the wider context of local government reorganisation. Does not he realise that, whereas under the Representation of the People Act, 1969, certain people would be unable to stand for election in localities which they had been representing, when local government is reorganised, with the widening of the boundaries, they will be able to stand? What is being done in the Bill will fill a vacuum.
§ Mr. Douglas
I am concerned, not with filling vacuums, but with how they are filled. Nothing grows in a vacuum. What the hon. Gentleman is saying is that some time in the not too distant future local government will be reformed so that the claims of technology and environment will be catered for in much larger areas. That is acceptable. Let us wait until the Government do that. I am willing to wait until the Government produce the White Paper.
I am willing to accept a residential qualification for the new local authorities, but I am unwilling to accept a bogus argument about no taxation without representation when the ways of paying taxes are different. If the local government boundaries are altered, the tax levied on a person as a domestic ratepayer 758 will perhaps motivate his political conscientiousness in the local authority. The Bill represents an opportunity for a person to avoid the tax because the business will pay the tax. He will get the best of both worlds.
For these reasons, I oppose the Bill and I hope that the Government will have the good sense to withdraw it and that, in particular, the Scottish Office will have the good sense to ask that Scotland be deleted from its provisions.
§ 8.2 p.m.
§ Mr. James Hill (Southampton, Test)
The hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Marks) said that we were wasting valuable time by discussing this Bill. This is not time wasted. To correct a wrong is time saved. We should never have had to discuss the Bill. But this is a worth while use of Government time.
I am surprised that the Opposition are not as pleased with the Bill as they should be. The fact that a worker may, if he lives outside the area in question, be considered for service on a local council is almost a workers' charter to become a councillor. I should have thought that this was in keeping with the type of freedom that hon. Members opposite would expect within their own voting public.
§ Mr. Elystan Morgan
Would the hon. Gentleman include in that workers' charter the principle that the same worker should have a vote in the locality in which he works, even though he is not resident in it?
§ Mr. Hill
We are discussing the matter of qualification to become a councillor, not the qualification to vote.
I can understand the doubts of the hon. Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Hamling). He could not understand the qualification that a man should be the owner or tenant of land or other premises in the area of the local authority. This is no doubt a bone of contention. We had it before with the local government vote and it has come back in a slightly different form. An owner of a piece of land or property, even if it be just a shed, should, if he works in the area or owns or takes a rent from that plot, be allowed to become a councillor in the area which controls the destiny of the plot.
759 I cannot agree with the hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) that the Bill affects only Tories. I know a councillor who had taken a very responsible part in pushing through a comprehensive education programme who was barred because before the law was altered he had agreed to buy a house just outside the city. We in Southampton have lost many good Tory councillors. They were elected by Conservative voters, and they served the city in a very fair and even manner. I can think of a man, a bachelor of science in estate management, who was worth his weight in gold to the city as a whole. He had a business in Southampton. His wife shopped in Southampton and they used the buses of Southampton. He was a member of the local chamber of commerce. He was avidly interested in education and planning. Suddenly, after several years of brilliant work, he was not allowed to fight the election last May because his three-year term came to an end.
I can think of a family with a great history of service in local government. This councillor's husband was a former mayor of the city. She was debarred from being made an alderman this winter. Up to now she has been facing the end of a useful career. The reason for her debarment was that she lived 50 yards outside the city boundary, which is rapidly becoming a noose around the throats of the community. The husband and son work in Southampton, which perhaps can be disregarded. The family belonged to many worthwhile associations. They all perform a service for the community. Another councillor who had lived and worked in Southampton all his life moved outside the boundary just before the blow fell.
It is not right that men with many years' service behind them should be disbarred from serving the city when an immigrant comes in from the North or the Midlands, has a year's residence in the city and acquires the ability to become a local councillor. It takes years to know a city and to know the character of the people in it. One has to know the road structure and the education situation. One has to become a key part of the community, and that is not achieved in 12 months.
760 Hon. Members opposite thought that there had been some fiddling. That is a dreadful thought. We immediately think of building contracts and selling fire engines or perhaps taking a back-hander. It is too strong a word to use. No fiddling is going on. The Bill simply amends the law. Several hon. Members opposite thought that it was impossible to work out the number of hours a man worked in a city. They wondered how it would be possible to find out whether he worked 45 per cent. of the time here and 55 per cent. of the time there. Let us not be narrow minded. Let us be gracious and open-hearted in welcoming such a man to the city.
§ Mr. Merlyn Rees
When I used the word "fiddling", I was not concerned with the placing of contracts. I was referring to the report on which the Bill Is based, which says that under the old legislation many people bent or broke the rules in order to stand for a local council. I was saying that exactly the same will happen under this Measure. It would be very bad for local government if the hon. Gentleman took up my point about "fidding" and went on to develop it in that sense. Incidentally, if the hon. Gentleman knows anything about "backhanders", I certainly do not.
§ Mr. Hill
I quite agree that the hon. Gentleman did not make any accusation on that score, but the point was mentioned later in the debate. Reference was made to the placing of building contracts. It may be that it occurred in the course of the free "argy-bargy" which developed. However, the implication will have gone into HANSARD that "fiddling" meant something more than a person trying to get on to a council.
I want at this point to say a word for people already serving on local authorities. Anyone who has been a councillor knows that there is no more exacting task-master than the voting public. People approach a local councillor day and night. They seem to be able to reach him wherever he lives. They take him their grumbles and moans, and he seldom receives a kind or friendly word. He has to be a sympathetic super welfare officer, for all of which he gets precisely nothing.
To cite a personal case, I used to be the chairman of Southampton's Housing Committee, which controlled 23,000 761 dwellings. Life was one long series of transfer queries and grumbles about accommodation along the lines of, "Why can't my Aunt Nellie be moved?" All that I got in return was that my telephone rental was paid, representing about £5 every four months. No one can tell me that councillors are not dedicated people. If a man is public spirited enough to stand for a local council regardless of whether he works 45 per cent. or 55 per cent. of his time in the area, we must be big enough to close our eyes to all the little inquisitions that we have had in the past. We do not want to develop a witch-hunt. We should be thankful that men of ability are coming up at local level and trying to perform the public service without which we should be lost.
I want for a moment to refer to the present N.U.P.E. strike. There has been a march by several thousand people in Southampton today to the local civil hall. I would remind the strikers who criticise their councils that the people who they are abusing and attempting to blame for the situation are the self-same councillors, Socialists, Liberals and Conservatives.
The amendments which the Bill proposes will not cure all the difficulties. We know of the difficulty at local level to get worth-while candidates. Many people are ready and willing to accept the honour of being councillors or aldermen, but it is not always possible to get worthwhile people who will give up enough time to make an impact on local problems. It is obvious to me that the time must come when local councillors become paid members of the public service. They should not have the humiliation of having to fill in petty cash vouchers. They should not have to pay out of their own pockets for telephone calls, postal charges and journeys for which they cannot account. The time must come when all local authorities take a realistic view. Only then, combined with the amendments made by this Bill, will men come forward who want to serve the public. Only then shall we get worthwhile men and do away with the grumbles and this "fiddling".
There has been much discussion of the man who lives outside the city. We must realise that, in the age of the motor car, more and more people want to live in an unpolluted atmosphere. Whether people are shop stewards, factory managers 762 or members of the public, they want to get out of the smog and pollution of city environment. Whether they go to their houses at weekends or each night, there will be a drift into the country. It cannot be prevented. The centres of our cities are becoming concrete jungles and people are moving out of them. After all, some of the best council estates are on the perimeters of cities.
There is no way of stopping the move to the country. It may be felt necessary to prevent a man who lives five or 10 miles out being a representative on a city council. But do not let us be shortsighted. We should not exclude people simply because they do not live in the city centre. We should not exclude men who have worked their way up from a little grocery shop or from the shop floor. We must not persuade ourselves that men who go just outside a city to live have not got the good of the city at heart.
I thought that the hon. Member for Woolwich, West took an extremely doctrinaire point of view. He seemed to be trying to give the impression that anyone who was successful and moved outside a city automatically became some sort of buffoon with no appreciation of what was happening in his own city. I can assure hon. Members that anyone who works in a city, buys a loccl paper, watches local television or, in the future, listens to local radio will know what is going on in his city. It does not matter whether he lives in the city or just outside it. It is his city. It is where he makes his livelihood. He wants it to succeed and grow more than any other city in the United Kingdom.
I hope that hon. Members will not oppose the Bill. It is a workers' charter to become councillors.
§ 8.18 p.m.
§ Captain Walter Elliot (Carshalton)
There may be some very good reasons why people should be elected to local councils only if they live in the areas that they propose to represent. If there are, we have not heard them from hon. Gentlemen opposite. I get the impression that written at the top of their party brief was something to the effect, "Try to pin a party label on this Bill".
One exception is the hon. Member for Willesden, East (Mr. Freeson), who 763 attempted to argue his cause sensibly. For example, he pointed out how important it is to strengthen community roots at a time when we are moving towards much larger units. I did not agree with his conclusion but I thought it was an interesting argument which he employed.
It has been a pity that the Labour Party, most hon. Members opposite, including the hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees), have tried to make this Bill a party issue. I cannot see—and I challenge anyone to maintain this—that there is any party political advantage at all in this Bill. I really cannot. I doubt whether, when this Bill becomes law, the political complexion of one seat in the country will change because of it. If as a result we get the calibre of councillor we would not otherwise get, that may be the only thing to change the political complexion of any seat contested. I do not think there is any political advantage one way or the other.
The hon. Member for Leeds, South seemed to me to put forward some very confused arguments. He said, for example—I do not know whether he was joking or not—that there was no problem so far as Labour councillors or candidates were concerned—but that the Bill does ease our problem. Of course, this is absolute rubbish. We have heard from the other side of the House of councillors moving out of an area to live on the cheap. After six years of Socialist Government, one can appreciate that people have to be economical. But it is a rather absurd argument, just as it was absurd to say, as the hon. Gentleman said, that they were moving out because they were rich. We then had the hon. and learned Member for Stoke Newington and Hackney (Mr. Weitzman) talking about gerrymandering.
I welcome this Bill not only in the narrow sense in that it assists individuals to give service but also in the wider sense as well, that as government becomes increasingly complex in our life in these crowded islands and impinges more and more on everybody, then in any area of life where we can leave people free to make their own decisions we should do so; and this is one way in which we can do that.
I represent an area which is largely built up. It is the sort of area about 764 which I thought the hon. Member for Leeds, South was very sarcastic; he obviously does not know very much about these areas, and he should learn. I represent one of them. Boundaries there in that sort of built-up area are largely a matter of convenience. They are revised from time to time between elections. Surely it is unfair because of that to shut out somebody if he considers that his major interest lies on the other side of the boundary? The Maud Report recognises this. Or a man would like to live in the area in which he has his major interest but he may not be able to find a house there, or it may be too expensive and, therefore, he cannot live there.
We often complain—we have heard it tonight—that we do not get the right sort of people as candidates. We understand this. These are busy days and people cannot give up time, or they have not enough energy, and so on. By this Bill we are giving a man or woman an option of standing for one of two areas, and that is an attraction, and I think that it ought to be provided. We hear also a lot of complaints about our system of local government. Many of these are exaggerated. The trouble, I am sure—and I am sure hon. Gentlemen will agree—is that in many cases we do not get enough of the right sort of candidates, and no system will work properly, whatever it is, unless the men and women in it are competent. I believe that this Bill will help to rectify that situation, and I support it.
§ 8.25 p.m.
§ Mrs. Jill Knight (Birmingham, Edgbaston)
When one seeks to take part in a debate in which there is a plethora of speakers, certain difficulties emerge. One is that one has been practising calisthenics since the beginning of the debate. Another is that it often takes a rather long time to catch the eye of the Chair, by which time hon. Members to whose arguments one wishes to reply have long since left the Chamber. It is unfortunate, but it will not deter me from my intention to reply to those arguments.
The first one was advanced by the hon. Member for Willesden, East (Mr. Freeson). I must say that I found that the ingenuity of his argument on this occasion far outstripped its validity. He spoke with some passion about the roots of 765 democracy being threatened, and said that local community groups would be the losers by this heinous piece of legislation. That really was absolutely ridiculous, because nothing in the Bill forbids anyone to serve on the local council where he lives. One would imagine from listening to the hon. Member for Willesden, East that there were some wicked plot to force people to represent areas other than the ones in which they live. Really, that is absolute rubbish.
He went on to say that he was against the Bill because it does not contribute to solving any of the present problems of local government. That really was hardly a point at all, because this is a small Bill designed to remedy a situation which needs remedying urgently. Of course there are other problems in local government, but if we were to wait till we could have a mammoth Bill to solve all of them the urgency certainly present in this case would not be met for far too long.
Then he went on to say—at least, I understood him to say—that he was in favour of the businessman's vote. If that is what he was saying, I agree with him entirely, but it was not altogether clear, because he went on to say that where one is allowed to stand for election one should also be allowed to have the vote. Really, that does not follow at all, because, surely, entitlement to vote is a basic right, and has always been tied to where one pays rates and where one's domicile is. Ability to stand for election is certainly not in the same class at all. A man is merely being allowed to put himself up for election, and if the electors of the area do not wish to elect him, they are perfectly free not to do so. That is quite different from being allowed to have the vote where one pays rates and where one is domiciled. I think the hon. Member was mixing up two totally different things in that argument. In any case, how on earth he imagines it would be possible to give the vote to everybody working at a factory who might, under Clause 1(2) stand as a candidate, I really do not know. I imagine that it would be an extremely difficult task to fulfil.
Then we had the hon. and learned Member for Stoke Newington and Hackney, North (Mr. Weitzman) who, apparently smarting under a suggestion that his bridge-playing ability was not all that it might be, treated us to an extraordinary 766 speech, accusing anyone and everyone of gerrymandering. It made me wonder what goes on in Stoke Newington. Where there is gerrymandering it is alway possible to discover it and to make it plain, and where a person is standing for election it is extremely dangerous to indulge in gerrymandering before placing himself before the electorate. There is such a thing as publicity, and local newspapers are very quick to alight upon any falsification of the rules.
The Bill is one of the bright little sunbeams illuminating the June dawn which rose upon the electorate following the dark night of six years of Socialism. It is welcome because it reverses a piece of legislation that was passed not for the good of the electors but out of sheer malice and spite against the Conservative Party. It never profits a man or a Government to act out of spleen, and it did not profit the last Government.
As I remember the debates that took place on the Bill that we now seek to alter there was never any suggestion that councillors who lived outside a certain local government area were less able than those who lived within it. Not until the hon. and learned Member for Stoke Newington and Hackney, North spoke tonight was it suggested in this House that such members would not turn up at meetings, or that they worked less hard than members who lived in the area—or that they visited their electors less often or cared for them less well.
The hon. Member for Hackney, Central (Mr. Clinton Davis) suggested that people living outside the area of the council on which they served did not serve very well as councillors. I served as a councillor for 10 years and I know that that observation by the hon. Member is totally untrue. Many Members who lived outside the area in which they served were the keenest at turning up, and many of them made long journeys to do so. It is quite wrong that such people, who serve out of pure devotion and for no monetary reward, should be attacked in that way in the House. They have served their areas extremely well.
§ Mr. Ray Carter (Birmingham, Northfield)
Does not the hon. Lady agree that her observations are a terrible slight on 767 the Birmingham Conservative Association, that has to go outside the city to find councillors to represent the people of the city?
§ Mrs. Knight
That is a purely bogus point. I was coming to the question of Birmingham. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Carter), who has not been in the House very long, may recognise, if he knows the City of Birmingham as well as I do, that many councillors who served on the city council lived far nearer their wards, if they were just over a ward boundary at the edge of the city than did members who lived far across at the other end of the city and yet would have been eligible to represent the city.
The hon. Member must get his facts straight in these matters. Many councillors on the Birmingham City Council were well qualified to represent the wards they did represent. They represented them extremely well. They lived just across the road, or 50 yards or 100 yards away, and they were near to my own wards of Harborne, Edgbaston and Quinton. When they lived just the other side of the Hagley Road they were much nearer than people who lived at the other end of the city—perhaps in Yardley—who would have been entitled to represent any of the three wards that I have mentioned. That point has been brought up by other hon. Members, and it is an important one. We have heard that in Portsmouth—and I believe the same situation applies in Bristol and other places—there have been many examples of councillors who live much nearer their wards than those who would be entitled to sit for the wards under the old Bill. It is a nonsense which it is time we cleared up.
I knew an alderman who for many years represented his ward on the Northampton County Borough Council. He had two loves in his life. One was his council work—[Laughter.] What happened to him is not very funny, and if hon. Members have never experienced the affection that one gets for council work and for serving the public I am sorry for them. This man had his council work and he also worked very hard in the church. He was the organist of his local church and was very fond of his music. Between these two things he built his life.
768 He served the electors extremely well for many years and was also the mayor for some time of the County Borough of Northampton. He built a house just outside the borough limits and into this house at considerable expense he built a church organ. This, of course, hon. Members will realise, was not an easy house to leave, but when the Labour Government brought in their rule, he either had to leave his house with its built-in organ and its music or he had to leave the council—[Laughter.] I am not at all surprised that Labour Members find this comic, but they should recognise that their stupid rules are sometimes most inhumane. This man left the council and the council was the poorer for his going. His story, in different forms, has been repeated many times since the Labour Government passed that law.
I sometimes wonder why people serve as councillors. They often serve long hours after a heavy day at their factories, offices, or shops, when they are tired and would prefer to be home in front of the fire. They suffer considerable inconvenience, particularly interference with their work.
The hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) said that nationalised industries were splendid because they let their people take time off to serve on councils. This is very fine, but it is easy for a nationalised industry to let someone go off. It is not so easy for a small factory, where every man must pull his weight. It is very difficult for small businesses to do this. After all, in nationalised industries, if the work is not done, it is only the poor consumers who suffer and the taxpayers who foot the bill. For small business people it is very difficult to give the time to serve. Yet councils need these young men who are just beginning to build a business. One reason that we have too many grey hairs on our councils is because young men simply have not the time to get away from their work to serve in this way.
Often councillors have to endure odium and attacks. One housing chairman I knew—he was in the Labour Party, not my party—had served as well as he could and had done everything he thought necessary, but people were angry because they had not received the kind of housing allocations that they wanted, and they broke the windows of his house and smeared paint over his doors, although 769 he was not to blame. Only last year, in Birmingham, the chairman of the children's committee was under attack because of the work which was being done. The officials were doing the work conscientiously and well, but one of the awkward cases happened which sometimes crop up. As a result, this man was constantly telephoned and had an immense number of letters to answer. In the end, the could not go on taking the burden and said that he would resign, because he was not getting any home life or free time. There must be many people like this, working long hours totally unpaid. To tell people, "You cannot give up your time to serve the public unless you serve where we tell you to serve" is typical of the Labour Party.
When I was a member of my local council we appointed several officials and the question whether or not we should say that all who work as council officials must live within the boundaries of the borough came up. After discussing the subject, we concluded that it would be totally wrong to direct council officials where to have their homes. These were paid officials. We are here talking about unpaid ones who give of their time willingly and voluntarily. To attempt to tell them, "You must live within this area" is acceptable neither to the country nor to Parliament. As has been said, it is right to allow people to choose where they shall live.
An interesting speech was made by one hon. Gentleman opposite who gave as his objection to the Measure the fact that it would give opportunity. How typical of Socialist thinking. Of course it will give opportunity. It will give opportunity to people to serve and to electors to turn down those whom they do not wish to serve them. If the electors think that their representatives should live nearer, they will vote accordingly.
In Birmingham more than in any other city we have had councillors turfed off the council because of the last Labour Government's Acts. I hope that this Bill, which will reverse that Measure, will allow those 24 people to return to serve my local council. This matter is urgent and cannot wait for a larger Bill. I hope that as a result of it many worthy councillors, who would otherwise not get a chance to do so, will be able to serve the country.
§ 8.43 p.m.
§ Mr. John Golding (Newcastle-under-Lyme)
We are tonight arguing not about whether young men of ability should be allowed to serve on councils but about which councils they should be qualified to serve.
Local government should be local and it is important that councillors are accessible to the people they represent. They should, therefore, have a direct interest in the areas they serve. I have noted with interest the growing practice for business men to commute to areas outside the cities in which their businesses are located. Further, the commuting areas in which they live frequently have no desire to be associated with the cities in which their businesses are located.
I wonder whether the hon. Lady the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Mrs. Knight) has noted the care with which the people of Solihull and Sutton Coldfield have tried to resist being merged with the City of Birmingham? In the localities around the City of Stoke there has been strong resistance to any suggestion of merging with the City of Stoke-on-Trent. Many of those who have businesses in those places live in the outer suburbs, but those suburbs are resisting amalgamation with those cities. It is important that councillors are accessible to those whom they represent. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that it is more important for people to be able to contact their local councillors than their local M.P.s.
From the Government benches it has been suggested that these days there are so many cars that people are being constantly attracted in the countryside. In many of the wards which I represent there are not many cars at all. If a councillor is to be found perhaps 14, 15 or 16 miles away it will be very expensive and very inconvenient for anyone in the ward to get in touch with him.
It has been suggested that the business man at his place of work all day could be more accessible than the councillor who worked elsewhere, but most ordinary people go to their councillors in the evening or at the weekend when they themselves are not working. They certainly cannot easily see councillors living 15 to 25 miles away, as can easily be the case, for example, in North 771 Staffordshire. Accessibility is very important.
But the most horrifying thing I have heard tonight is that, because of pollution, councillors from the cities may get out in order to live in the suburbs. They will go into the rural district areas to escape the industrial ravages to be found in our cities. What interest will those councillors have in getting rid of pollution? Will it be their concern to improve the environment of their cities when they themselves have voted with their feet by retreating to rural surroundings which our industrial working class cannot afford?
The most important reason for councillors living in the areas which they represent is that they will then be fully aware of the problems facing their electors. It is not sufficient for them to hear of these problems on the local radio or to read of them in a weekly or evening newspaper. They should be in or near their wards, listening to the problems of the people they represent. They should have a direct interest in the solution of problems within the cities. The point has been made over and over again—
§ Mr. James Hill (Southampton, Test) rose—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. If the hon. Gentleman seeks to intervene he must ask the hon. Member who is speaking whether he will give way.
§ Mr. Golding
It depends where that ground is. I would prefer to be represented by a councillor who lived in the locality, listening to the people talking, rather than one who sat by his fireside 40 miles away reading his evening paper. I would prefer the local man for local government.
772 The point has been well made from these benches that the business man—and this Bill is a business man's charter—has one interest in local government, and that is to keep down the rates. In my constituency in the 'thirties they were known as the "economisers": "misers" would be a rather more apt description. They have an interest in keeping down the rates because that will reduce their business expenditure, but they have no interest in improving education, or improving council housing, or improving street lighting—because at night they are only to be found many miles away—
§ Mrs. Knight
Is the hon. Member not aware that the electors are the first people to complain when a councillor is not attending to their particular needs?
§ Mr. Golding
Of course people complain. Unfortunately, in the situation which the Bill will create many councillors will be too far away to hear the complaints.
Increasingly the politician is being removed from the man in the street. We constantly hear complaints that people are unable to get redress of their grievances at local level because of the divorce of the council from the man in the street. The Bill will make things much worse. I greatly hope that the Government, in the interests of making local government local, will withdraw the Bill.
§ 8.51 p.m.
§ Dr. Tom Stuttaford (Norwich, South)
I realise that several of my hon. Friends wish to speak and, as we have been over most of the arguments already, I will content myself with telling the House of my own experience.
I was a member of a rural district council in the district where I lived and worked. I moved into the local city. I moved, not my house, but my surgery premises. I then had to carry out an appreciation as to whether I would sit on the rural council or seek election in the city. I had no doubt—nor did anyone I consulted have any doubt—as to where my interests lay.
One's interests lie where one spends 18 hours a day working, not where one spends one's nights sleeping. Is a person's interest where he is for the greater part of the day when he is wide awake and alert or is his interest where he is at 773 night when he has gone home to supper and to bed? It is absurd to suggest that somebody should sit for his home district, if that district is merely a dormitory, and that he should be disbarred from sitting in the city where he works. The whole question is one of interest; and it is the electorate alone that can decide.
The first interest to be considered is that of the city, the county borough on whose council I sit. As with most county boroughs, it has a symbiotic relationship with the surrounding countryside; it is mutually dependent on it. Their interests are not the same—hence our disapproval of Maud. There is an urban district interest and a rural district interest, but together they form the interests of a community in that area. They need separate councils because their interests are different. However, these interests are inter-related and it is a very good thing for any city council to have some members who live in the surrounding district so that they can bring to the city council the views of the community where they spend their nights and their weekends.
The hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) assured us that if we represented a ward where our place of work was we had no interest in that area. He went further and said that we were indifferent to the various departments of the city council because they did not directly concern us. He said that perhaps the roads concerned us.
All departments at the city hall pertain to one's place of business—not only roads, but parks and gardens, museums, ambulance, all the municipal workers, housing, education, welfare and the police. All are of concern to the place of work and to the business. All these must be of prime interest to the ward representative. But it is not only the man who is standing for election who has to consider where his interests lie. The electorate will do so, too. The hon. Member for Leeds, South told us that we in the Conservative Party would receive no support from the working-class man in these districts. We were told that he would know how to treat those of us who came from outside the city boundaries. We were told that we had no interest in, or knowledge of, those people. I would be neither a councilor 774 nor a Member of Parliament if it were not for the working-class people who, according to the hon. Member, apparently have no knowledge of where I live and work. I spent 18 hours a day living and working among them, in those houses and blocks of flats, and we came to a very good mutual understanding. They all knew where my house and surgery were and they were at liberty at any time, day or night, to get in contact with me.
Hon. Members opposite talk about difficulty of access. They talk as if people have to walk three and a half miles to one's house. There are very few people today who are unable to use a telephone and who cannot afford 6d. I have found that no one has had any hesitation in contacting me. I ask you to support this Bill—
§ Dr. Stuttaford
I ask hon. Members to support this Bill because we need as big a choice as possible for the ward committees, so that they can make a wise selection, and then the electorate can select from those whom the ward committees have selected. If we do this, we shall serve everybody's interests.
§ 8.57 p.m.
§ Mrs. Elaine Kellett (Lancaster)
I support my hon. Friends the Members for Brierley Hill (Mr. Montgomery) and Carshalton (Captain Elliot), who stated emphatically that this Bill is far from being a party Measure. Indeed, we in Lancaster, in particular, have lost several members with great ability from all parties because of the Measure which recently came into force. One of them, in particular, an alderman of many years' standing, well-versed in the needs particularly of the old people of the city, is sadly missed. Were the present legislation to be continued, we should be deprived in the coming May elections of still more of our thoroughly experienced and well-respected members of the city council.
I have been interested to note that most hon. Members in this debate have implied that this is, so to speak, a one-way traffic, that people are leaving the centres of our cities and fleeing to the countryside. This is by no means always 775 the case, particularly in the North of England, such as in Lancaster and other cities, where, I am happy to say, we have not been bitten by the bulldozer bug to the extent that they have been, alas, in many of the Midlands cities and to a devastatingly large extent in London. In such places as Lancaster, Nelson and Colne and other small towns and cities we have retained our small terrace houses which, with modernisation, will be good for 100 years or more, with walls thick enough to withstand an avalanche.
We find that very often young men have moved from the country districts to live perhaps beside an elderly parent who has been bereaved, to keep an eye on that parent, but they wish nevertheless to continue to serve the rural district or urban district because that is where they still work and where many of their ties remain. If we do not pass the Bill, those people will be deprived of the right to continue to serve where all their interests and the work lie because they are fulfilling a duty towards the old, the sick and others who need care.
It is monstrous to suggest that anyone would wish to serve in an area if he did not feel qualified to do so. Nowadays, with working hours still long and with many responsibilities to be carried, who would give of their time if they did not honestly believe that they could do a good job, and, what is more, who would vote for them if they were so arrogant as to put themselves forwards? This is an essential Measure if we are to preserve the vitality not only of our city councils but of our rural and urban district councils, and I strongly urge hon. Members to support it.
§ 9.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Idris Owen (Stockport, North)
When I came into the Chamber tonight, I had no intention to offer my maiden speech, but, after sitting here for three-quarters of an hour, I feel impelled to intervene. Perhaps this is rather unworthy of me, since within these hollowed walls where such magnificent oratory has been heard over the centuries, any Member wishing to make his maiden speech ought at least to prepare it so as to do credit to this debating Chamber. However, I felt impelled to speak tonight because I have been most unhappy at the 776 remarks I have heard from hon. Members opposite.
I speak from experience, not from a knowledge of what has passed earlier in the Chamber before I came in, having been a representative of the town of my birth for 18 years on my borough council. I served as councillor, as alderman and then as mayor of the town. Listening to some of the speeches from the benches opposite, I called to mind the words of the mover of the resolution that I be appointed mayor. It was seconded by the leader of the Labour group. He paid tribute to the work which I had done, as he has paid tribute since to other members who had served on the council and become mayor. There was no suggestion at that time that, because I did not live in my town, I was not able to serve the community as well as others.
I have been surprised at the representations coming from hon. Members opposite. Implicit in the Redcliffe-Maud Report, which, I am given to understand, they support without qualification, there is envisaged a much wider sphere of local government than we have now.
I repair an omission now and refer as is customary in these circumstances, to the constituency which I represent, Stockport, North. Stockport sits astride the River Mersey, half of it in the County Palatine of Lancaster, the other half in Cheshire. Stockport, North was represented in the House from 1964 to 1970 by Mr. Arnold Gregory, who, I believe, served the community exceedingly well. He served his electorate most diligently. He was unsparing in his efforts, and it was disappointing to find that that sort of effort should go unrewarded. He did not live in the town, but he served it well.
That brings me to the point. It has been suggested that borough councillors who do not live in the borough area cannot serve adequately. I was born in the town. My business has been there from 1894 until the present day. We have paid thousands and thousands of pounds in rates to the town, as have other people. Yet, under the present suggestions, someone merely lodging in the town and working outside would still be eligible to sit on the council. It is a travesty of justice to suggest that people who work in the town but live outside should not serve on the council.
777 Before long the boundaries of local government will be widened. During my experience on the borough council, regional boards have been set up embracing much greater areas than the borough I serve. How can it be suggested that people living in the overspill areas of the very boroughs in which they are serving cannot adequately serve the area? They have been driven out by sheer necessity, by the inadequacy of land for further development. Manchester, on whose periphery we live, has poured out thousands and thousands of people into the peripheral areas. It has been forced to do so because there were hardly any acreages left for people to live in.
It has been suggested that it is wrong for those people to serve on the city council. During my life on council I have spent not less than 16 hours a day in the town. Other councillors who lived in the town but worked in the city of Manchester were rushing back at 6 o'clock at night to attend a 7.30 p.m. meeting of the borough council. Were they capable of giving better service than I was, spending 16 hours a day in that town? The people who could judge my adequacy or inadequacy were the electors. They are the people that can decide whether my surgery was adequate on a Saturday morning, whether my efforts on their behalf were adequate.
I feel very honoured that my town returned me on every occasion for 17 years. I feel very satisfied that I was appointed a magistrate of the town, and that they honoured me by inviting me to be a Member of Parliament for the town, although I never lived in it from the age of seven.
But it has been suggested by the Opposition tonight that I would not adequately represent those people because I live over the borough boundary. That is all wrong. I believe that hon. Members opposite do not have their hearts in this. It is petty-mindedness in the extreme. I am very sorry to say this in my maiden speech, but I cannot see any tangible reason for suggesting otherwise. On any count, the opposition does not stand up to examination. Hon. Members opposite want to see Redcliffe-Maud implemented. No doubt the Government will review local government boundaries in the not-too-distant future, and that will bring into the scope of many towns many 778 thousands of people who it is now suggested should not serve on the borough councils of those areas.
If sincerity prevailed in this debate, every hon. Member would go into the same Lobby. When all is said and done, the electorate are the most important people to be discussed here this evening. What matters is what they want and what they demand, and they demand ability and service. They are not particularly interested in the geography. I would not mind my councillor living 40 miles away if he was efficient, capable and attentive to his responsibilities; but I would not be particularly interested if another councillor who lived down the street represented me badly. This is the difference.
This matter is a storm in a teacup; it is an argument about nothing. I can only think that there is political significance in this. I sincerely hope that hon. Members opposite will be a little more charitable to this magnificent band of people who have served local government loyally and capably over the centuries.
§ 9.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Elysian Morgan (Cardigan)
This is the second or third occasion on which the House has debated this matter fully within the last two years. In this debate we have had the pleasure of listening to two maiden speakers, both of whom clearly made up their minds to speak only having come to the debate, and showed freshness and spontaneity in their lucid and forceful remarks. I refer to the contributions of my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South-East (Mr. Cohen) and of the hon. Member for Stockport, North (Mr. Idris Owen). I know that the House will agree with me when I say that we look forward very much to further contributions from these two hon. Members. I am sure that the House would also wish me to congratulate the right hon. Member for Chislehurst (Dame Patricia Hornsby-Smith) on her second maiden speech and to offer her all the good wishes that it would be proper for a person standing in my position to offer.
The debate has shown with unmistakable clarity that we are dealing with a principle of the greatest significance to the concept of the franchise in local government spheres. It is the duty of the House, a duty which the House itself cannot 779 abrogate, to deal with such matters. It cannot delegate the ultimate decision on matters such as these to Maud or to anyone else. I respectfully suggest to the House that the questions that we are considering are: what is the essential basis of local government representation?—and perhaps the wider question: is representation about interests or is it about people?
In the evolution of democratic institutions over the centuries there can in our country be discerned a steady process from the position whereby a man's status was determined by his ownership of property to a more progressive concept where he was regarded as possessing certain inalienable rights not by virtue of property but by virtue of being a human being. Medievalists believed—and one can trace this back to Thomas Aquinas—that a person by the possession of property was able to project his character into that property, especially if that property were land, and the more property he had the fuller and more comprehensive was the development of his character. It is necessary to refer to such a concept in this debate because I believe that it forms the background canvas to our deliberations. The question starts from this point.
I am sure hon. Members will not say that there is a lack of sincerity between us as we have put forward views which are directly in conflict one with another. The common ground between us is that we accept that there should be a principle of universal suffrage and that a person should be entitled to be represented in democratic government at local and at central level.
It is when we move from that point to decide whether other interests should be represented, whether there are links, which might be tenuous, or which could properly be defined by Parliament, between the person who wishes to stand as a candidate and the constituency which he wishes to represent that our respective views come into conflict. If we accept the fundamental postulate that the basic qualification both for a vote and for the right to be nominated—and that is what we are dealing with tonight—should be residence, it is clear that the onus of proof lies upon the Government.
780 It is a heavy onus of proof, because the Government must show that there is a set of circumstances so exceptional in nature as to allow this exceptional addition to be made in this qualification. In the main, they have relied on three arguments in support of such a contention. The first is the strengthening of local councils. The second is equating the situation with that of the House of Commons itself. The third is that there are interests which deserve and, indeed, demand that they should be represented.
The Government have been rather skilful at ringing the changes among these various arguments, and the emphasis has been switched from one to another. Hon. Members opposite have relied heavily on the first argument, that of strengthening local authorities. This was so when we discussed the matter on 10th December, 1968, when the Conservative Party was led by the right hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker). He put it this way:We ought, therefore, to be searching for ways by which we can improve the calibre of local government. I find it extremely disappointing, very much to understate the case, that the Government are going forward with a proposal which, if anything, will diminish the calibre of people operating in local government".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th December, 1968; Vol. 775, c. 321.]The clear imputation is that people who are non-resident but who happen to be lawyers, or doctors, or architects, or surveyors or estate agents have a breadth of vision, a magnanimity of understanding, which is the very blessing which is now absent from the atmosphere of most local authorities and that those authorities would be impoverished, would be stultified, in their work for the public unless they had the contributions of these professional people.
The facts are very much to the contrary. There are more than 32 million people who are qualified for the local government franchise, and they are qualified to stand as candidates at local government elections. The Government have not told us the number of people who may be qualified to stand under the provisions of the Bill.
§ Mr. Morgan
The Under-Secretary has misunderstood me. I was referring to the 781 number of people who will be qualified to stand as candidates, but who are now non-residents, in other words, whose qualifications will stem from the Bill rather than from the qualifications which now exist. Clearly, one is talking about a very small fraction of the total. The property vote will probably not be in excess of 1 per cent.
In the G.L.C. area there are 5¼ million people qualified to exercise the franchise. Among their representatives are 116 who are non-residents who, but for this Bill, would be disqualified. The question which must be asked, to test the sincerity and validity of the arguments put forward by the Government, is: is it possible that somewhere among those 5¼ million people there are not 116 replacements for those deprived of the right to stand by Section 15 of the 1969 Act? If the House comes to the conclusion that it is impossible that there will be such replacements among those people, then we have probably lost the debate and we have no case.
The second argument was that which sought to equate the position with that of membership of the House of Commons, and that argument was dealt with adequately by my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Hamling). I will deal with it briefly. We are dealing with the issue of whether a person is entitled to stand for a certain authority. It matters not whether it is a small borough, county borough, county council or rural district council. The authority in relation to the United Kingdom is the House of Commons. Once a person is qualified to stand for a local authority, it does not matter in which ward, his qualification is common to the whole authority. The same is true of the House of Commons. I do not think that the House of Commons case can be regarded as anything other than an argument buttressing the argument put forward by the Opposition. In addition, we are dealing with a national assembly here which is in a different position from the local authority.
The point lies in the third argument, the basis of the Government case. It is that it is right and necessary to represent a certain interest. The Minister of State in his opening speech put it in this way—people who live in an area have a stake in the life of that area. Those remarks could well have been uttered by the Duke 782 of Wellington and I believe that he said something very similar when talking of stake-holders prior to the great Reform Bill of 1832. Almost exactly the same language was used by Lord Salisbury in the last quarter of the last century. The argument turns around the verse:Where your treasure is, there shall your heart be also.The question which has not been asked is, what is one's treasure? Is it a person's practice or his property, his block of shares or is it his life? Is it not his home, the area where he has decided to make his domicile, the neighbours he has, the friends he has made, the community with which he has identified himself?
I appreciate that a number of instances have been put forward by hon. Members opposite, very hard cases where people who have served their council well have been deprived of the right to stand by Section 15 of the 1969 Act. There is no question but that they were honourable and adequate representatives of their community, but that is not the point. By accepting the principle on which this Bill is founded it is my submission that we should be elevating property to a position transcending that of human personality. That is the real issue in this debate.
It will not have escaped the notice of the House that the property qualification concerns only real property—the ownership or tenancy of land. There is something very classical and historic in that—the idea, as the ancients put it, that a person owned land ab infernos, from the nether regions, and ad coelis, up to the heavens, something which was indestructible and eternal. We are dealing, however, with the actual occupation of land.
It might well be that it was the intention of draftsmen that the only person who would be entitled to avail himself of the provisions of the Bill was a person physically present in relation to that occupation—in other words, that he was an owner-occupier or tenant. I have checked the Local Government Act, 1933 and the definition Section, Section 305, has no definition of the words "ownership" or "occupation". Therefore, the general legal definition of "ownership" and "occupation" means that a person is either in physical occupation or, as the law puts it, alternatively 783 "in occupation of the rents and profits". In other words, a person living 400 miles away may possess only a square yard of land and yet be in occupation of the rents and profits. Under the Bill, if we resort to ordinary legal nomenclature, that would give him the right to stand as a candidate in the area of the local authority where the land was situated. I should like the Under-Secretary of State to direct his mind to that point when he replies, or perhaps later if the Bill goes to Committee.
I have not the time to deal in detail with all the inconsistencies which flow from this situation. A person, although not an owner or tenant of land, might be a mere licensee and putting land to considerable use. He would not enjoy the benefit of the Bill. A person might have a massive holding in a limited company. He might find that that does not give him any representation.
The argument about taxation and representation, about which we have heard a great deal from hon. Members opposite, falls down completely when we come to the corporate entity. I appreciate that it is very difficult to give a company the right to exercise the franchise or, in this case, the right to be nominated. One cannot simply take its common seal along in a little mahogany box and say that the company agrees to be nominated as a candidate. The major part of the argument about taxation and representation is destroyed by that one consideration.
When the House dealt with this matter on 10th December, 1968, my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Marks) gave the House these facts:In the City of Manchester the people who pay big commercial rates are the Co-operative Insurance Society, £218,000 a year; the C.W.S., £106,000; Lewis's, £204,000; and I.C.I., £124,000. None of those has a single vote. There are bigger ratepayers, the Crown, which pays £250,000 a year; the North-Western Gas Board, which pays £170,000; the two electricity boards, which between them pay £580,000.…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th December, 1968; Vol. 775, c. 304.]The argument is shot through and riddled by the inconsistencies which follow from the situation I have described.
The right hon. Lady the Member for Chislehurst and the hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Allason) misunderstood my hon. Friend the Member 784 for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) and myself to say that we denigrated people who had given councillors representation when they were non-residents in the area of the council. Far be it from us to denigrate these people. We feel that they are deserving of our tributes and praise. However, the heart and kernel of the whole case is that, as people become more mobile, there is a greater tendency for non-resident candidates to wish to present themselves for election. No doubt they are a very small minority at the moment but, within the period of even a few years, one might see a very substantial increase to the point where they could have very real influence upon many hundreds of our local authorities.
There are a number of interests which cannot be represented by this Bill or any other piece of legislation that we could draft. But it is our case that, where a person lives in the area of that local authority, the connection between him and that community is the most real, intimate and meaningful that one could have. When my hon. Friend and I talk about absentee councillors, we do not refer to people who deliberately or otherwise absent themselves from the meetings of their councils. We refer to where the relationship between such councillors and their electorates has something missing, where there is absent the meaningful connecting factor that one would wish to have. That is not true on every occasion, but it is true in many cases, and it is a principle which if accepted could be most harmful to local government itself.
There are many cases where local government boundaries are unrealistic. That is an unanswerable case for the redrafting of local government boundaries but not for the passing of this Measure. However, the most damning indictment of the Bill comes not from the Opposition but from the Government. I believe that the arguments in favour of a non-resident by virtue of his owning property or on account of his employment are redolent with all manner of difficulty, and I doubt very much whether Clause 1(4) can ever be properly defined. I feel that we are creating a morass of vagueness and complete uncertainty. If there were real force and validity in those arguments, they would apply in the first instance not to a person who wanted to present himself as a candidate but to a person who 785 wished to exercise the vote in that locality.
Right hon. and hon. Members opposite have been reluctant about this matter throughout. I believe that what they would like to see is the complete reintroduction of the business vote, founded upon the ownership of property. I do not think that they espouse the idea with any alacrity that the franchise or the right to nomination in a locality should be given to a person who works there. But, because they regard the Maud Report which advocated this as being holy writ, they feel that they must include the working vote not to be estopped completely in their own arguments. However, they have calculated that, with regard to the prospect of nomination, it may be that few people of our persuasion would go to the trouble of presenting themselves as candidates, and they know that it is very much the rule of practice in our party that a person becomes a member of a branch of the party in the area in which he lives. The prospect, therefore, of that person being a nonresident candidate in another authority is very slight.
I doubt very much whether, if they proceed with the business vote, we shall see the vote given to people who work in the area of a local authority. There would be a very real danger that they would use that vote, and, so far as hon. Members opposite are concerned, they are the wrong people to use that vote, because they would bring about a result wholly contrary to that which hon. Members opposite wish to see brought about by this Bill.
We have had a good-humoured debate despite the deep cleavage of opinion which separates the two sides. It is not, however, I submit, a question of conflict between two parties so much as, I believe, it is a conflict between two historic and classical attitudes, on the one hand the enlightened view of the twentieth century with regard to the franchise, on the other hand the cruder views which were held in earlier periods. What the Tories have pleaded for is a reversion to a mentality which held dominion in the age which preceded universal suffrage. This and other acts on the part of the Government in the last week show what Talleyrand meant when he spoke of the Bourbons when 786 returning from exile that they had learned nothing and had forgotten nothing. At a time when the people of this country are concerned that democratic institutions should be perfected we have a Government who seek to reintroduce the mildew of medievalism, and to do that in such a way as to take maximum advantage of modern trends.
It is my submission on behalf of the Opposition that the law as it now stands is just, logical and appropriate to a modern democracy. Let it so remain.
§ 9.36 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Mark Carlisle)
I should like to start by joining the hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. Elystan Morgan) in congratulating both of the two hon. Members who made their maiden speeches today. I should like to join the hon. Member in complimenting both of them on the fluency and sincerity of their speeches.
We heard from the hon. Member for Leeds, South-East (Mr. Cohen). We in this House remember his predecessor, the right hon. Lady who is now a Member of another place, and who used to speak with compassion, and always with interest, on matters of home affairs and social matters, and who, indeed, at one stage held the office which I now hold. We look forward to hearing the new Member for Leeds, South-East as we used to look forward to listening to his predecessor.
As for my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport, North (Mr. Idris Owen), may I say with complete sincerity that I believe his speech was one of the most fluent if not the most fluent of maiden speeches I have ever had the opportunity of listening to in this House. It was delivered without a note; it was delivered by a Member who was obviously moved to speak on the issue on which he spoke; and it was based on a lifetime of service in local government, with knowledge derived from that service, and based on the fact that it was people like himself who had been so badly affected by the sort of legislation which the present Opposition had tended to implement when they were in Government.
I agree also with the hon. Member for Cardigan that it has been an interesting debate. It has certainly been a lively 787 one. It has been considerably sharper in parts than perhaps one had expected. Until the last few moments of hyperbole by the hon. Member for Cardigan, who described the implementation of the Maud Report on qualifications as evidence of the mildew of some bygone age—I think the Middle Ages—I was going to say that the speech which we had from him was of a rather different kind from that of the hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) who opened the debate for the Opposition. So far as the hon. Member for Cardigan is concerned I would only comment that I think that much of the force of the points he made is rather ruined by the fact that he seemed to have misread the Bill. For example, he reminded the House that we were concerned with the ocupation of land and, he said, land and only land. If he had read the Clause he would have seen that it relates to the occupation:as owner or tenant, any land or other premises".
§ Mr. Elystan Morgan
I am sure that the hon. Member, as a lawyer, will remember the adage that that which is affixed to land is land itself. I was speaking of it in the legal sense.
§ Mr. Carlisle
With respect, the hon. Member was trying to show the House that we were concerned only with the ownership of land. What we are concerned with here is specifically not the ownership of land but the occupation of land or other premises. Although I cannot tonight give him an authoritative answer to the question that he raised about the definition of the word "occupation", as I understand it an occupier of premises in these circumstances would mean the ratepayer of those premises—the person who had control of those premises and at that stage had occupation, even though not living on the premises.
I see the hon. and learned Member for Stoke Newington and Hackney, North (Mr. Weitzman) shaking his head. We shall listen with interest to his contributions in Committee on this point, but I remind him that, although he suggested that the occupation of premises meant living in those premises, under the Acts dealing with business tenancies it is possible to have occupation of a business tenancy, and it is that type of occupier at 788 whom the Act is aimed, namely, the person who occupies premises within the area of a local authority, by occupation meaning making use of those premises either for his business or having control of what goes on there, and, I suggest, probably paying the rates as well.
I turn from the speech of the hon. Member for Cardigan to that of the hon. Member for Leeds, South. His speech did little justice to him. It was a sarcastic speech. He sniped at those who serve on local authorities at the moment. I know that he prefaced what he said by pointing out on every occasion that he was not sniping, but the type of remark that he made always suggested that if people did not live in the area they could not have any interest in the well-being of the area. He seemed to be sniping at them and denigrating their work.
Listening to some of the other speeches one would have thought that the Bill, far from giving merely a right to stand at local elections for those with a business or premises occupation interest in the area, was saying, "You cannot stand for local government if you do not live in the area". We had the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne describing the Bill as a business man's charter.
§ Mr. Carlisle
I am sorry, the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Golding). I apologise. I thought that he was rising in an effort to justify his description of the Bill. He called it a business man's charter. It is a Bill which, for the first time, gives the right to stand as a candidate for a local authority to many thousands of people who are by no means business men but who work in an area in which they no longer live.
I reiterate what was said by the Minister of State in opening; this is a short and essentially simple Bill, the purpose of which is to widen the qualification of those who may stand for election for local authorities. It is based on the principle that those who have an interest in the affairs of a locality, whether it be an interest based on the fact that they live there or based on the fact that they work there, should be free to take an active part in helping to run the affairs of that locality by standing for election to the council.
789 It is also based on the practical consideration that there is a shortage rather than a surfeit of people willing to take on the arduous and often thankless task of being local councillors. It seems to us crazy and stupid in those circumstances to restrict still further the field from which such candidates for election can be drawn.
Like the hon. Member for Cardigan, I also read through reports of our previous debates. Until today, I had always found it difficult to understand the basis on which the then Government brought in Clause 15 of the Representation of the People Act, 1969. It was suggested by the present Lord Chancellor, then leading for the Opposition, that the Government then acted through a piece of petty political spite because we Conservatives had done extremely well in local elections and such a Bill would harm us more than it would harm them. We were assured time and again by the then Home Secretary that no such thoughts were in his mind. With respect, the cat was let out of the bag this afternoon when the hon. Member for Leeds, South opened his opposition to the Bill, which was made necessary by the 1969 Act, and described it as a Bill which was necessary to deal with a Tory problem.
What is the position? If the present Opposition suggest that the only reason that we have brought in this Bill is that it was necessary to enable many Tories who lost their seats to stand again, that confirms entirely our view at that time, that the only purpose of their Bill was to remove those same people from the councils. If the speech of the hon. Member for Leeds, South did not give away the story, the intervention by the hon. Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Hamling), who yet again has adorned the Front Bench opposite, went the whole way. In an intervention in his hon. Friend's speech, he said, "Most of them are Tories, and we can do without them." If that was not evidence of the fact that they acted out of petty political spite in drawing up the 1969 Act, I do not know what is.
They are voting against this Bill tonight, we are told. They voted against these proposals when we put them forward in Committee, and they voted them down when they were wisely moved in another place. One has to give them credit at least for consistency, although 790 they seem to have learned little from their recent electoral defeat.
I should like to add my thanks to those of my right hon. Friend the Member for Chislehurst (Dame Patricia Hornsby-Smith) and my hon. Friend the Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Montgomery) and other hon. Members to those people who serve on local councils. I believe that they give very real service to their fellow men. It is clearly unrewarded and, as I said earlier, it is often thankless, but it is absolutely essential for local democracy. Those who hold responsible positions, such as chairmen of councils and finance committees of major authorities, put in many hours of work. They have to be sensitive to the needs of the community that they represent. If those councils are to work, one needs continuity and men of experience. That is why it seems ridiculous to us that those who have served many years should be removed from continuing service merely because they happen to have moved to live outside their areas.
The hon. Member for Leeds, South said that areas should be in the hands of those who live in them. On another occasion he said it was wrong for people to represent areas in which they did not live. If instead of "live" he were to interpret the phrase as "have an interest in" in its widest sense—I am not thinking of it in any narrow legal or financial sense—we should all agree with him.
It is, of course, important that those who represent their fellow men on local councils should have an interest in the area. Surely, however, the hon. Gentleman cannot suggest that merely because a person who has lived in an area for many years chooses to move to the other side of the borough boundary, he should make himself ineligible to stand for that council.
§ Mr. Elystan Morgan
I am sure the hon. Gentleman will concede that it may be only a fraction of people who have been living within the area of an authority who will wish to move outside it. Many of the non-residents could be among those who have never lived in the area of the authority.
§ Mr. Carlisle
I accept that, but I am pointing out that the fallacy of the blank statement made by the hon. Member for Leeds, South—that areas should only be 791 in the hands of those who live in them—lies in the fact that if he were to replace the word "live" with the phrase "have an interest in" we could come together on this.
§ Mr. Merlyn Rees
It is clear from the discussion of Redcliffe-Maud in all parts of the country that the argument put forward for union of country and town has not been accepted. There have been strong feelings from areas just outside the big cities. They have said, "We want no part of the big cities". Meanwhile, people living in cities do not want to be joined to urban areas, though many of them want to be outside the city but tell the city folk what to do through their councils. One cannot have it both ways.
§ Mr. Carlisle
"Living" does not necessarily equate interest in an area.
We are concerned not only with existing councillors but with those who may wish to become councillors in future. Many people are still anxious to serve the community and to take an interest in perhaps a slightly larger authority than the area in which they live. They may live outside the boundary but spend the majority of their hours working within the city area. It is the city's future with which their personal future is concerned.
We have heard a lot about business men and about those working in the factory and on the factory floor. Whether it be a business man, a factory worker or a shopkeeper—the latter may be well aware of the needs of the people of an area even if he lives outside it—each may have a part to play. The effect of the limitation, in the approach of the Labour Government, was to prevent people of ability who are willing to serve as councillors from becoming councillors in those areas.
Of course I accept that local government should be local. But I reiterate that it is believed, certainly by my hon. Friends, that people can have a genuine interest in the area in which they work just as much as a genuine interest in the area in which they live. The hon. Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman) asked whether those people would be willing to put their addresses on their ballot papers. I remind him that by law one must have one's address on one's ballot paper and nomination paper. The 792 address where one lives must at present be on those papers.
When hon. Gentlemen opposite are arguing against proposals such as those made in the Bill they are being unjust and denigrating to the good sense of local electors I suggest that it can be left to the good sense of the people to decide who they wish to represent them. It has been said, "The trouble is that one stands as a party member", but party members must be selected by members living in that ward.
The example given by the hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Marks) of the departure of a Conservative councillor who chose to live 20 miles, or whatever was the distance, outside the border is fair evidence of the fact that parties which wish to win seats on councils are as anxious as anyone to see that the candidate they select is a person who lives, is respected and has an interest locally, because they know that if they do not they will lose those seats. I therefore think that it is ridiculous to suggest, as it has been suggested today, that the result of this legislation will be that we shall have standing for election numerous people with no real local interest, because I believe that in that case they will not get elected.
The hon. Member for Leeds, South, in what he thought was a good party point, asked whether we had had consultation with the local bodies concerned. I can tell him that not only have we had consultation with the local authority associations in England and Wales and Scotland but that most of them welcome the principles of the Bill and have made valuable contribution to the detail. The question whether we had consulted those bodies comes ill, and with harm, from a party which, when it introduced its recent legislation in this area in the Representation of the People Act, had to admit through the Home Secretary that it had consulted the local authorities but that what it was doing was going contrary to the recommendations of the local authorities.
§ Mr. Carlisle
The Opposition knew full well what we were doing. We are, in fact, being true to our principles, when in Opposition we voted twice against the earlier Measure.
793 The hon. Member's next point was about people being disqualified because of their being employed by councils. I can only say that that is a matter which has to be considered by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government and not by the Home Office, but I am sure that that Ministry will take note of what was said on that issue.
On the point made by the hon. Member about disqualification, the answer is that powers of returning officers are somewhat narrow but I will look at that aspect further before the Committee stage.
I was asked why we are not restoring the business vote. The answer is simple. This is a short, simple Bill, urgently needed to be carried in time for the purpose of seeing that these people affected can still stand for election—but, again, we will note what has been said.
To the hon. Member for Willesden, East (Mr. Freeson) I must say that I thought some of his arguments were as nonsensical and ridiculous as those of the hon. Member for Woolwich, West.
§ The Labour Party when in office carried through its legislation in the face of opposition from local authorities, against the Maud Report, and without the advice of the Home Office Advisory Conference. We made it clear then that we would repeal that Measure, and we are doing so. We are carrying through this Bill with the hope that it will bring into local authorities those with an interest in local affairs; and many people whose talents are badly needed at this moment.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Francis Pym) rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.
§ Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.
§ Question put accordingly, That the Bill be now read a Second time:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 184, Noes 140.795
|Division No. 15.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Adley, Robert||Dean, Paul||Kellett, Mrs. Elaine|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F.||Kerby, Capt. Henry|
|Archer, Jeffrey (Louth)||Dodds-Parker, Douglas||Kershaw, Anthony|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Drayson, G. B.||Kilfedder, James|
|Awdry, Daniel||Dykes, Hugh||King, Tom (Bridgwater)|
|Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone)||Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Kinsey, Joseph|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay)||Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,N.)||Kirk, Peter|
|Benyon, W.||Eyre, Reginald||Knight, Mrs. Jill|
|Biffen, John||Farr, John||Knox, David|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Fenner, Mrs. Peggy||Lane, David|
|Blaker, Peter||Finsberg, Geoffrey (Hampstead)||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry|
|Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.)||Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton)||Le Marchant, Spencer|
|Body, Richard||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Longden, Gilbert|
|Boscawen, R. T.||Fookes, Miss Janet||Loveridge, John|
|Bossom, Sir Clive||Foster, Sir John||MacArthur, Ian|
|Bowden, Andrew||Fowler, Norman||McCrindle, R. A.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John||Fox, Marcus||McLaren, Martin|
|Braine, Bernard||Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone)||McNair-Wilson, Michael|
|Bray, Ronald||Fry, Peter||Maddan, Martin|
|Brewis, John||Gardner, Edward||Madel, David|
|Bruce-Gardyne, J.||Goodhart, Philip||Marten, Neil|
|Bryan, Paul||Goodhew, Victor||Maude, Angus|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N&M)||Gorst, John||Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald|
|Buck, Antony||Gower, Raymond||Mawby, Ray|
|Bullus, Sir Eric||Green, Alan||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.|
|Butler, Adam (Bosworth)||Grylls, Michael||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Carlisle, Mark||Hannam, John (Exeter)||Mills, Peter (Torrington)|
|Chapman, Sydney||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)|
|Chataway, Rt. Hn. Christopher||Haselhurst, Alan||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Havers, Michael||Mitchell, Lt.-Col.C.(Aberdeenshire, W)|
|Churchill, W. S.||Hawkins, Paul||Moate, Roger|
|Clegg, Walter||Hayhoe, Barney||Monks, Mrs. Connie|
|Cockeram, Eric||Hicks, Robert||Monro, Hector|
|Coombs, Derek||Hill, James (Southampton, Test)||Montgomery, Fergus|
|Cooper, A. E.||Holt, Miss Mary||More, Jasper|
|Cordle, John||Hornsby-Smith, Rt Hn. Dame Patricia||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)|
|Cormack, Patrick||Howell, David (Guildford)||Mudd, David|
|Crouch, David||Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, North)||Nabarro, Sir Gerald|
|Curran, Charles||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Neave, Airey|
|Davids, Rt. Hn. John (Knutsford)||Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)||Normanton, Tom|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Nott, John|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Maj.-Gen. Jack||Jessel, Toby||Opperheim, Mrs. Sally|
|Owen, Idris (Stockport, North)||Sharples, Richard||Tilney, John|
|Page, Graham (Crosby)||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)||Trafford, Dr. Anthony|
|Page, John (Harrow, W.)||Shelton, William (Clapham)||Trew, Peter|
|Percival, Ian||Sheet, T. H. H.||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.|
|Pike, Miss Mervyn||Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)||Waddington, David|
|Pink, R. Bonner||Soref, Harold||Walder, David (Clitheroe)|
|Pounder, Rafton||Spence, John||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch||Sproat, Iain||Wall, Patrick|
|Proudfoot, Wilfred||Stainton, Keith||Walters, Dennis|
|Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis||Stanbrook, Ivor||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Redmond, Robert||Steel, David||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Reed, Laurance (Bolton, East)||Stodart, Anthony (Edinburgh, W.)||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Rees, Hn. Peter (Dover)||Stuttaford, Dr. Tom||White, Roger (Gravesend)|
|Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David||Tapsell, Peter||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Ridley, Hn. Nicholas||Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow, Cathcart)||Woodhouse, Hn. Christopher|
|Ridsdale, Julian||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Roberts, Wyn (Conway)||Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N.W.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)||Tebbit, Norman||Mr. Tim Fortescue and|
|St. John-Stevas, Norman||Thatcher, Rt. Hn. Mrs. Margaret||Mr. Keith Speed.|
|Sandys, Rt. Hn. D.||Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth)|
|Allen, Scholefield||Hattersley, Roy||Oswald, Thomas|
|Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis)||Heffer, Eric S.||Parry, Robert (Liverpool, Exchange)|
|Ashton, Joe||Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Pavitt, Laurie|
|Atkinson, Norman||Hughes, Dr. Mark (Durham)||Pendry, Tom|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, North)||Pentland, Norman|
|Bennett, James (Glasgow, Bridgeton)||Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)|
|Bishop, E. S.||John, Brynmor||Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg.|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Prescott, John|
|Booth, Albert||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.)||Johnson, Walter (Derby, South)||Price, William (Rugby)|
|Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)||Jones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen)||Probert, Arthur|
|Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Jones, Barry (Flint, East)||Reed, D. (Sedgefield)|
|Carter, Ray (Birmingh'm, Northfield)||Kaufman, Gerald||Rees, Merlyn (Leads, S.)|
|Clark, David (Colne Valley)||Kerr, Russell||Roper, John|
|Cocks, Michael||Latham, Arthur||Rose, Paul B.|
|Cohen, Stanley||Lawson, George||Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock)|
|Coleman, Donald||Leadbitter, Ted||Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne)|
|Concannon, J. D.||Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)|
|Cox, Thomas (Wandsworth, Central)||Leonard, Dick||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Lestor, Miss Joan||Sillars, James|
|Cunningham, G. (Islington, S.W.)||Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham N.)||Silverman, Julius|
|Davies, Denzil (Llanelly)||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Skinner, Dennis|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Lomas, Kenneth||Small, William|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||McBride, Neil||Smith, John (Lanarkshire, North)|
|Davis, Clinton (Hackney, Central)||McCartney, Hugh||Spearing, Nigel|
|de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey||Mackenzie, Gregor||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Doig, Peter||Mackie, John||Stallard, A. W.|
|Dormand, J. D.||Mackintosh, John P.||Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)|
|Douglas, Dick (Stirlingshire, E.)||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)||Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||McNamara, J. Kevin||Strang, Gavin|
|Dunnett, Jack||MacPherson, Malcolm||Swain, Thomas|
|Eadie, Alex||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Taverne, Dick|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Marks, Kenneth||Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)|
|Evans, Fred||Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard||Tinn, James|
|Faulds, Andrew||Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy||Torney, Tom|
|Fisher, Mrs. Doris (B'ham, Ladywood)||Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert||Urwin, T. W.|
|Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Mendelson, John||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Mikardo, Ian||Wallace, George|
|Ford, Ben||Millan, Bruce||Watkins, David|
|Galpern, Sir Myer||Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)||Weitzman, David|
|Garrett, W. E.||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Wellbeloved, James|
|Golding, John||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)|
|Grant, George (Morpeth)||Morris, Rt. Hn. John (Aberavon)||Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)|
|Griffiths, Will (Exchange)||Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Woof, Robert|
|Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||O'Halloran, Michael|
|Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)||O'Malley, Brian||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Harper, Joseph||Oram, Bert||Mr. Ernest Armstrong and|
|Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Orbach, Maurice||Mr. William Hamling.|
|Bill accordingly read a second time.|
|Bill committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 40 (Committal of Bills).|