HC Deb 17 July 1972 vol 841 cc164-71


Mr. Maddan

I beg to move Amendment No. 733, in page 31, line 30, at end add: and any statutory instrument containing an order under this section which gives effect to proposals under paragraph (d) of subsection (1) of section 49 above shall not have effect until approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament". In the hope that my right hon. Friend will accept the Amendment, I shall be brief. The Local Government Boundary Commission for England is empowered to do many things, mostly connected with the revision of areas and the like, but it is empowered also to recommend the conversion of a metropolitan county to an ordinary county or an ordinary county to metropolitan county. As a consequence of either of the latter changes, district status changes as well. This means that important services such as education and social welfare of one kind and another may suddenly be transferred from one authority to another.

In Committee my right hon. Friend said that if we could find a precedent for these matters being subject to the affirmative procedure as opposed to the negative procedure when an order was made, he would consider it. We have found a precedent. It is in the Local Government Act, 1958, Section 40(1) and (2). These subsections provide for the affirmative Resolution procedure on matters of lesser moment than those which we are considering now. I hope, therefore, that my right hon. Friend will accept the Amendment.

Mr. Arthur Blenkinsop (South Shields)

I support the Amendment. The hon. Member for Hove (Mr. Maddan) makes a valid point when he reminds us that the matters which we are here considering are, or could be, of great importance and it is right that there should be a guaranteed opportunity for discussion. The affirmative Resolution procedure would give that opportunity but the negative Resolution procedure does not.

At every possible point, it should be stressed that we are now reaching a state of affairs in the House at which, even though there may be a strong desire for debate on an order to which attention has been called, it may well be impossible for the matter to be raised because of the amount of Government and other business coming before the House. In the circumstances, it is vital that the rights of the House should be protected. The Amendment affords one of the ways in which that can be done.

Mr. Graham Page

I am sorry to have to say that I cannot satisfy my hon. Friend the Member for Hove (Mr. Maddan) by accepting his Amendment. The point made by the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Blenkinsop) is valid if one considers the procedure of the House, but we ought not to legislate on the basis that there have been occasions when the House has not found time for a Prayer against an order. I understand that this matter is being considered by the Select Committee on Procedure and that there are proposals which may solve the problem. But I am sure that we ought not to legislate on that basis.

We ought to consider whether the matters covered by an order are such that the House should be obliged to debate them, that is to say, that the Government should bring them before the House on an affirmative Resolution, or whether they are matters which should be brought before the House, if a Member so desires, on a Prayer but with which the House need not otherwise be concerned.

I think that the right division here turns on whether the orders create new law without any prior consideration by those affected by it. In such a case, I think it would be right to bring them before the House on an affirmative Resolution. In this case, however, the Boundary Commission may make a great number of recommendations upon which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is empowered to proceed by order. In all the cases covered by Clause 49, there is the appropriate parliamentary procedure on such an order—that is, the negative procedure—and any Member is entitled to bring the matter before the House on a Prayer.

I say that the negative Resolution procedure is right in this case because the very fact that the order arises from a recommendation of the Boundary Commission means that those concerned, both the local authorities and their citizens, will have had an opportunity to put their case before the Boundary Commission. There is, therefore, a process before the order ever reaches the House under which those concerned will be able to make their case. In those circumstances I do not think the House ought to be obliged to debate such orders. It would be right for any Member concerned to—

9.30 p.m.

Mr. Blenkinsop

It is still within the competence of hon. Members whether they exercise their right fully or not. The length of debate or the extent to which they take advantage of it is a matter entirely for the House.

Mr. Page

I appreciate that. Perhaps I should have said that it should not be an obligation on the Government to bring the orders before the House. I say that because there has been debate outside the House on the subject before it ever reaches the stage of an order.

My hon. Friend mentioned a precedent. Indeed, he produced a precedent under the previous Statute. But it was not truly a precedent for what he is arguing now. The previous local government legislation provided for a great number of varied types of orders to come before the House on affirmative Resolution, but I do not think the matter had then been considered fully—that is to say, the point as to whether there was an investigation before the orders were made and an opportunity for those concerned with them to make their case at that stage.

Mr. Maddan

The very things dealt with in Section 40 of the Local Government Act, 1958, are changes that arise or would have arisen from the Local Government Commission's recommendations. So all this would have been happening and the things listed in subsections (1) and (2) are much less important than this change in status from county to metropolitan county, or vice versa.

Mr. Page

I entirely agree that that is so but I do not agree that there is any principle behind the 1958 legislation. One searches for a principle behind the division between an order subject to affirmative procedure and an order subject to the negative procedure. The position that I am trying to put to the House is that when one has had an investigation prior to an order being made, it is not producing new law un-debated by those concerned with it. In that case I would say that an order requiring the affirmative procedure would be the proper basis.

It is true that my hon. Friend has produced a precedent, as I challenged him to do in Committee. It is partially a precedent in his support but it goes very much wider. What he seeks to do in this case is to pick one out of a dozen instances in Clause 49 and say that this procedure should apply to that. He might have a logical case, although I would not have agreed with it, if he had said that all these cases under Clause 49 ought to have come before the House

on the affirmative procedure. But when he picks one out, I do not think he has a logical argument.

Mr. Maddan

When my right hon. Friend was challenged in Committee to produce a precedent he said that he would think about it again. In a previous speech, reported at c. 1315 of the Official Report, he said: the change, which is a very important change if it has to take place between metropolitan and non-metropolian status or the other way round‖".—[Official Report, Standing Committee D, 8th February, 1972; c. 1315.] It is therefore very important. It is rather different from the other things in Section 49 of the Act dealing with areas and the like.

Suppose, for instance, that Southampton and Portsmouth are to become a metropolitan county. It means that education and the social services will suddenly be dealt with by the metropolitan districts, not by the county. It might be desired or it might not, but it is certainly much more important and quite different from any of the other things listed in the Clause. They are the sort of things that a local government commission would be expected to deal with. The matter I raise is not only more important but it is the sort of thing in which by definition a Local Government Boundary Commission will have very little experience. It is a different matter for Parliament to deal with. I therefore ask my right hon. Friend to consider what he has said on the merits of the case and I, for once, shall not be satisfied unless he does.

Question put, That the Amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 150, Noes 166.

Division No. 295] AYES [9.36 p.m.
Albu, Auston Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Doig, Peter
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Campbell, I. (Dunbartonshire, W.) Dormand, J. D.
Allen, Scholefield Carter-Jones, Lewis (Eccles) Edelman, Maurice
Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis) Clark, David (Colne Valley) Edwards, Robert (Bilston)
Armstrong, Ernest Coleman, Donald Evans, Fred
Ashton, Joe Concannon, J. D. Faulds, Andrew
Atkinson, Norman Conlan, Bernard Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)
Barnett, Joel (Heywood and Royton) Corbet, Mrs. Freda Freeson, Reginald
Blenkinsop, Arthur Cox, Thomas (Wandsworth, C.) Galpern, Sir Myer
Boardman, H. (Leigh) Cronin, John Garrett, W. E.
Booth, Albert Dalyell, Tam Ginsburg, David (Dewsbury)
Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur Davidson, Arthur Golding, John
Boyden, James (Bishop Auckland) Davies, Denzil (Llanelly) Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C.
Broughton, Sir Alfred Davis, Terry (Bromsgrove) Hamilton, James (Bothwell)
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Deakins, Eric Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)
Brown, Ronald (Shoreditch & F'bury) Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund Hamling, William
Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn) Dempsey, James Hannan, William (G'gow, Maryhill)
Hardy, Peter Loughlin, Charles Rodgers, William (Stockton-on-Tees)
Harper, Joseph Lyon, Alexander W. (York) Roper, John
Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) McCartney, Hugh Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock)
Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith McElhone, Frank Sandelson, Neville
Hattersley, Roy McGuire, Michael Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne)
Heffer, Eric S. Maclennan, Robert Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)
Horam, John McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.) Short, Rt.Hn. Edward(N'c'tle-u-Tyne)
Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.) Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
Howell, Denis (Small Heath) Marks, Kenneth Silverman, Julius
Hughes, Mark (Durham) Marsden, F. Skinner, Dennis
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, N ) Marshall, Dr. Edmund Spearing, Nigel
Jeger, Mrs. Lena Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy Stoddart, David (Swindon)
Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Meacher, Michael Strang, Gavin
John, Brynmor Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley
Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) Mikardo, Ian Swain, Thomas
Johnson, Walter (Derby, S.) Millan, Bruce Thomas,Rt.Hn.George (Cardiff,W.)
Jones, Barry (Flint, E.) Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire) Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Jones,Rt.Hn.Sir Elwyn(W.Ham,S.) Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy
Jones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen) Morris, Rt. Hn. John (Aberavon) Tinn, James
Judd, Frank Oakes, Gordon Tomney, Frank
Kaufman, Gerald O'Halloran, Michael Torney, Tom
Kelley, Richard Oswald, Thomas Tuck, Raphael
Kerr, Russell Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, Sutton) Urwin, T. W.
Kinnock, Neil Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles Varley, Eric G.
Lambie, David Pardoe, John Wainwright, Edwin
Lamborn, Harry Parry, Robert (Liverpool, Exchange) Wallace, George
Latham, Arthur Pavitt, Laurie Watkins, David
Lawson, George Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred Wellbeloved, James
Leadbitter, Ted Perry, Ernest G. Whitlock, William
Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg. Woof, Robert
Leonard, Dick Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)
Lestor, Miss Joan Probert, Arthur TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Rhodes, Geoffrey Mr. Martin Maddan and
Lipton, Marcus Roberts, Rt.Hn.Goronwy (Caernarvon) Mr. R. C. Mitchell
Lomas, Kenneth
Adley, Robert Glyn, Dr. Alan Maude, Angus
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B Mawby, Ray
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Goodhew, Victor Meyer, Sir Anthony
Astor, John Gower, Raymond Moate, Roger
Atkins, Humphrey Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.) Monks, Mrs. Connie
Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone) Gray, Hamish Monro, Hector
Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Green, Alan Montgomery, Fergus
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport) Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds) Morrison, Charles
Berry, Hn. Anthony Grylls, Michael Murton, Oscar
Biffen, John Gummer, Selwyn Neave, Airey
Biggs-Davison, John Gurden, Harold Normanton, Tom
Boscawen, Robert Hall, Miss Joan (Keighley) Onslow, Cranley
Bossom, Sir Clive Hall-Davis. A. G. F. Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally
Bowden, Andrew Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Owen, Idris (Stockport, N.)
Bray, Ronald Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Page, Rt. Hn. Graham (Crosby)
Brinton, Sir Tatton Havers, Michael Page, John (Harrow, W.)
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Hicks, Robert Parkinson, Cecil
Bryan, Sir Paul Hiley, Joseph Peel, John
Carlisle, Mark Hill, John E. B.(Norfolk, S.) Percival, Ian
Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert Hill, James (Southampton, Test) Peyton, Rt. Hn. John
Chapman, Sydney Holland, Philip Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Hordern, Peter Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis
Clegg, Walter Hornsby-Smith,Rt.Hn.Dame Patricia Raison, Timothy
Cockeram, Eric Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.) Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James
Cooke, Robert Hunt, John Redmond, Robert
Cormack, Patrick Hutchison, Michael Clark Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.)
Costain, A. P. Iremonger, T. L. Rees, Peter (Dover)
Crouch, David Jennings, J. C. (Burton) Rees-Davies, W. R.
Davies, Rt. Hn. John (Knutsford) Jessel, Toby Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid,Maj.-Gen Jame Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.) Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Dixon, Piers Kaberry, Sir Donald Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)
du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward Kellett-Bowman, Mrs. Elaine Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Eden, Rt. Hn. Sir John Kershaw, Anthony Rost, Peter
Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke) King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.) Russell, Sir Ronald
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Kinsey, J. R. Scott, Nicholas
Farr, John Kitson, Timothy Scott-Hopkins, James
Fell, Anthony Knox, David Sharples, Sir Richard
Fenner, Mrs. Peggy Lamont, Norman Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)
Fidler, Michael Lane, David Shelton, William (Clapham)
Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton) Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry Skeet, T. H. H.
Fookes, Miss Janet Le Merchant, Spencer Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)
Fortescue, Tim Loveridge, John Soref, Harold
Foster, Sir John Luce, R. N. Speed, Keith
Fowler, Norman McCrindle, R. A Spence, John
Gardner, Edward Marten, Neil Sproat, Iain
Gibson-Watt, David Mather, Carol Stainton. Keith
Stanbrook, Ivor Trew, Peter Wilkinson, John
Stewart-Smith, Geoffrey (Belper) Tugendhat, Christopher Winterton, Nicholas
Stodart, Anthony (Edinburgh, W.) Vickers, Dame Joan Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard
Stuttaford, Dr. Tom Waddington, David Woodhouse, Hn. Christopher
Taylor,Edward M.(G'gow.Cathcart) Walder, David (Clitheroe) Woodnutt, Mark
Taylor, Frank (Moss Side) Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek Younger, Hn. George
Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N.W.) Ward, Dame Irene
Tebbit, Norman Weatherill, Bernard TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Temple, John M. Wells, John (Maidstone) Mr. Paul Hawkins and
Thatcher, Rt. Hn. Mrs. Margaret Wiggin Jerry Mr. Marcus Fox
Thomas. John Stradling (Monmouth)

Question accordingly negatived.

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