HC Deb 25 October 1972 vol 843 cc1196-228

Lords Amendment: No. 259, in page 276, line 26, leave out from "a" to "and" in line 28 and insert: county by the county council and in Greater London by the Greater London Council, except that the powers conferred by section 76(1)(c), so far as they relate to the provision of plant or apparatus for sorting and baling waste paper collected separately from other refuse, shall be exercisable concurrently by the local authority and the county council or the Greater London Council, as the case may be.

3.50 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Keith Speed)

I beg to move that the House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.

Mr. Speaker

It will be convenient to discuss at the same time Lords Amendment No. 270.

Mr. Speed

It might be for the convenience of the House for me to tell hon. Members that there are copies of notes available in the Vote Office on the conservation and the commencement Clause. It might be helpful for hon. Members to look at them.

Last July we had a long, interesting and good debate on these subjects. At that time the House came to the decision that refuse disposal should be a matter for the non-metropolitan districts as opposed to the counties which I and my right hon. Friends were advocating. We and the other place have looked carefully at the decision taken on that evening, but we have not been dissuaded by the arguments put forward and that is why we are agreeing with another place today to reverse that decision.

With the increasing emphasis on environmental standards, which both sides of the House and the whole country welcome, there is need to pay more attention to wider planning issues and the changing character of the problem of the refuse to be disposed. It is clear to us all that a number of disadvantages in the present system have appeared. No one up to now has been in a position to take a comprehensive view of all the disposal problems in a particular area or to plan an overall strategy for disposing of the wastes arising in that area in the most satisfactory way.

Partly as a result of that, and partly because some operators have in the past been concerned to find the cheapest and easiest method to get rid of waste, and have certainly not taken into account environmental considerations, some tips, incinerators and other disposal plants have not been well sited. This has made the disposal of waste offensive to the public and has damaged the amenity. Most hon. Members know that this is so from their own constituency cases.

It is our firm belief that without a comprehensive system of control and disposal there is a growing danger of pollution, particularly of water supplies, by abandoned wastes. This is made more acute by the growing volume of industrial waste in towns and cities. Without any wider controlling and co-ordinating body taking account of the whole volume of waste arising in an area, full advantage has not been taken of modern technologies, particularly for the recovery and re-use of waste and opportunities for the co-ordination of waste disposal facilities, particularly in planning land reclamation schemes.

It is against this background that my Department has faced that the Government's policy has had to be developed. The first step was to get a comprehensive and full picture of the whole waste disposal scene. This, fortunately, was provided by two departmental reports, one commissioned by the previous Conservative Government and one commissioned by the last Labour Government. I have them here—the Report of the Technical Committee on the Disposal of Solid Toxic Wastes and the Report of the Working Party on Refuse Disposal. Both reports recommended that the organisation of waste disposal should be over larger areas. Although both reports were written against the background of the previous Administration's proposals for unitary authorities, the second report, on refuse disposal, recommended that in any two-tier system of local government the function of both refuse collection and disposal should be allocated to the upper tier. That report went on to recommend —and this is most important—that, if it were decided that collection must remain a lower tier function, the two functions should be split rather than that the disposal function should be allocated to the lower tier.

In the light of these reports we have concluded that refuse collection is a truly local service and should therefore be allocated on a local basis in our two-tier system of local government reorganisation. That is why it is allocated to district councils.

Hon. Members will know that there is great confusion in the minds of the public about many things but one matter in local government about which they are not confused is that they like their dustbins emptied and, if they are not emptied, they like to go to the district council office, as it will be, and see that their dustbins are emptied. That is where this service meets the consumer.

The situation of refuse disposal is very different. That is why, in the light of these reports and of the environmental considerations, we came to the conclusions that we did.

With Amendment No. 259 we are also discussing Amendment No. 270, which provides for the transfer of the functions of local authorities under the Deposit of Poisonous Waste Act, 1972, upon reorganisation, to county councils and the Greater London Council in England and district councils in Wales. These provisions are completely in line with the refuse disposal arrangements which I have already discussed. The Act was passed on 30th March, 1972 and made it an offence, punishable by heavy penalties, to dispose of poisonous, noxious or polluting waste in circumstances in which it might cause an environmental hazard, and introduced notification procedure on harmful waste which has operated from 3rd August this year. The Act requires local authorities to keep records of the description, quantity and place of deposit of notifiable waste deposited in their areas. It is clearly sensible, if we are to reorganise the arrangements for disposing of refuse and give them to the counties under the new local government reorganisation, that all the provisions of this Act which, as my right hon. Friend made clear, is at this stage only an interim Act, should also apply to counties in the same way. It is clearly desirable that the functions of enforcing the Act, receiving the notifications and keeping records of waste deposits in the area should rest with the authorities already responsible for refuse disposal.

Again, hon. Members know—and I as a member representing a Midland constituency know particularly—the real problem of the disposal of toxic wastes with which local authorities have been grappling. Now, for the first time, they have the opportunity to reorganise this in a sensible way so that the counties will be responsible for the toxic waste, the domestic refuse and all the rest. I must have made this sufficiently clear when I was discussing it some months ago, but, having read the reports and examined the situation on the ground during the recess, everything I have seen has made me believe fundamentally that the Government were right to put this responsibility with the counties.

To sum up, briefly. The collection of waste needs to be handled flexibly and locally because collection is a truly local service and, if it goes wrong it should be dealt with on a local basis for the benefit of the consumer. The disposal of domestic and industrial waste, both toxic and inert, presents problems of an altogether different degree. Two independent committees have reached the clear conclusion that this disposal should be co-ordinated by authorities covering larger areas and having considerable resources.

The allocation of land for refuse disposal purposes, the expensive technology needed to dispose of refuse, the system of control over the operation of tips and the opportunity of co-ordinating the disposal of different kinds of waste arising in an area are all matters which require new initiatives, indeed a new outlook and the application of new resources. The environmental considerations—and I beg the House not to under-estimate them—and the conservation and the recycling of waste materials demand larger authorities with new resources, such authorities as the metropolitan counties and the new counties in England. It is in this light that the Government must firmly hold to their convictions that the new counties will be the proper authorities to carry out this task. If we are to have a new initiative, if we take the environment seriously, if we are not satisfied with the present situation, and if we are serious in our talk about recycling and conservation, I hope that the House will agree with the Lords in this Amendment.

4 p.m.

Mr. John Silkin (Deptford)

I will not spend a great deal of time on Amendment No. 270. I think that I will carry the hon. Gentleman and the Secretary of State with me when I say that both sides of the House co-operated in the original Bill. We did it very quickly, but we all agreed that it needed a great deal of careful thought afterwards. I do not wish to make a point on this, but a last-minute insertion on this subject in the Lords needs to be studied very closely. I do not say that I would come to a different conclusion from the Government, but a great deal more study is required.

However, it is worth while considering the history of Amendment No. 259. On 19th July this year this House decided by 190 votes to 186 that the functions of collection and disposal of refuse in non-metropolitan counties should properly be undertaken by the district councils. On 19th September, in Committee, their Lordships decided by 98 votes to 56 that these functions should be split, with the county councils dealing with disposal and the district councils with collection. Both votes were whipped on the Government side and neither vote, I believe, correctly shows the real strength of the arguments.

I say this because in this House 13 speeches were wholly against the split and three only were in favour. In aonther place the debate was more evenly divided, but even there seven speeches were against the division of functions and five only in favour—a figure which contrasts very strongly with the whipped vote at the end.

It is always said, and I understand it, that the decision of another place gives us here the chance to have second thoughts, but that means second thoughts for the Government as well as for ordinary hon. Members. What second thoughts mean to the Government, I think, was clearly stated by Lord Sandford on 19th September, when he said: As the Committee will have realised, our second thoughts were exactly the same as our first thoughts."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords: 19th September, 1972, c. 895.] That does not argue a very long cerebral process.

The Under-Secretary has put his points, as he always does, extremely well, moderately and fairly, but no fresh points have been made since his last speech on the subject on 19th July. The Government have not listened to the arguments on the other side and they have refused to budge. That is perhaps why this Bill, one of the first to receive a Second Reading in this Session, which has in no way been restricted by the Opposition—as I think hon. Members opposite will agree—now limps forward on the last day to receive the Royal Assent just in time for Prorogation.

The Government argue that this does not matter, that collection and disposal should be divided functions, but all the precedents are against them. District councils have been doing both these functions ever since 1936. Indeed, in Wales, under this very Bill, the district councils will still be in the 1936 position. They will still be both collecting refuse and disposing of it.

The Government's argument in favour of this differentiation is very curious. They say that it is because of the large size of some of the new districts in Wales. What about the old county boroughs in England? What about Portsmouth, Southampton, Plymouth, the Medway towns, Bristol, Blackburn and all the county boroughs? All of them are much larger than most of the districts—there are exceptions—in Wales.

Again, the Government say "What about Greater London?" They made great play with that in another place. Under the London Government Act the London boroughs collect the refuse and the GLC disposes of it. I am not convinced that even here control should be divided, but at least there is a slightly better case, because the correct analogy is not between London and the non-metropolitan counties but between London and the metropolitan counties. It may be that where there is a continuous build-up conurbation it might be better to do it in this way.

I say that I have reservations about this; clearly, so had the GLC. The Government cannot dispute that the GLC took over five years to take over the process of refuse disposal from the London boroughs. It began in 1967, and has continued in a modified form ever since. I can think of one London borough which to this day takes the refuse in its own vans to a tip outside the Greater London area boundary and there tips it, and the GLC pays a contribution towards the mileage. Whether that can be called a clear division of function I do not know. It is certainly a rather muddled one.

Of course, the Government's strongest argument is the environmental one. The reports to which the Under-Secretary referred—the Report the Working Panty on Refuse Disposal and the Report of the Technical Committee on the Disposal of Solid Toxic Wastes—add some weight to their case.

Incidentally, I am delighted that both the Under-Secretary, today, and the Secretary of State, when we debated this on Report and beat him on the argument, made the point that one of those reports was made under a Labour Government. The right hon. Gentleman has not always regarded reports made under a Labour Government as gospel. He took rather a different view, for example, of the report of the Redcliffe-Maud Commission. It is nice to know that this one at least has the accolade. This is reasonable; we all do it. When a report says something which we favour, we quote it. When it says something that we do not favour, we gloss over it. Perhaps I might tell the House in a moment of something that I think was glossed over in one of those reports.

One can see the arguments for rubbish disposal being at county level, for the reasons given. Land reclamation, of course, is one. The Under-Secretary did not make the point, so I will do it for him, that since highways and transport considerations are liable to be with the larger authority—the county—it is reasonable to bring the enormous trucks that do the tipping under the same control.

But there are, of course, counterbalancing factors. No one suggests that this is entirely one way. The House had some difficulty in coming to a decision, although I think that it came to the right one. I believe that the counterbalancing arguments are conclusive.

First, there is no expertise in this matter with the non-metropolitan counties. I showed earlier the problem that the GLC faced. This is a tight-knit conurbation—one London—and yet it was five years before the GLC was able to begin the process of taking over. In London the expertise is available, very often a 10-minute bus ride or an easy telephone call away. It is not so with the non-metropolitan counties.

Mr. Ronald Brown (Shoreditch and Finsbury)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the GLC took the expertise from the borough cleansing departments, that it took those officers into the GLC to operate this service?

Mr. Silkin

That is a very good point. No doubt the Minister will say that they can do the same in the non-metropolitan counties—that they can take the experts from the cleansing departments. But that will have two results. First, it will denude the new cleansing departments of the officers who will be needed for the collection of refuse and, secondly, there are the distances involved. If we are to take the cleansing department from, say, Southampton and move it to Winchester in order that the expertise may go to Winchester, or from Portsmouth to Winchester—because there is no direct link between the two—we shall be in a tremendous mess, and five years will not be long enough to do it.

We are therefore liable to get into a much worse position than that which existed between the GLC and the London boroughs, if the counties do not have the expertise that the districts have. The districts have laid out money, they have trained staff, they have all that is necessary to do the job. When it comes to protecting the environment, I have to remind the Secretary of State that the districts are no less keen on protecting the environment than are the counties.

A moment ago we talked about Amendment No. 270, which deals with the effect of the Deposit of Poisonous Waste Act, 1972, which we passed in this House and in another place in one week flat, but I cannot remember that the GLC was a slouch when it came to giving the information necessary to deal with the problem. On the contrary, I believe that every hon. Member received full information from the AMC, whose members were no less keen than were the counties to deal with the problem—and quite rightly. The real criticism here is that the Amendment divides the functions which are properly one process.

The Under-Secretary referred to reports submitted to the Department and said that they were in favour of the counties dealing with disposal of refuse. He quoted from the report of the working party on refuse disposal, but let us see what that quotation actually was and examine those words a little more closely. The working party said: We consider that there are over-riding advantages when both functions are under unified control. We might even deduce from that that it said "We even go on to say that we prefer the counties to do it. We have dealt with these arguments, but the overriding arguments are that there should be unified control." But the effect of this Amendment, previously rejected by this House, is to divide those functions and to divide control, which is exactly what the working party did not want done.

I agree that the working party thought that the county was a better proposition for doing it. The county has the larger area and, speaking for myself and, I think, for my right hon. and hon. Friends, or most of them, I have not been doctrinaire in this matter either in Committee or on Report. I have talked about the obvious advantages of keeping both functions together, and I have said that if it is to be at the county level both functions should go to the county level. I am prepared to consider that: what I am not prepared to consider is division of those functions.

I do not want to be dogmatic— and I know that I am liable to offend all those who believe in the districts even more passionately than I do, although I believe that the old county borough had a great deal to be said for it and that the districts should have more power—but I foresee that there might well come a time when, for the reasons given by the UnderSecretary—the cost of expensive equipment, although many districts such as Bristol have very large and expensive equipment already—and moving into another era as a result of technological advance, because of the sophistication of equipment, we may get to the stage where districts may not be able to cope. It is perfectly right to consider that prospect, but we are considering the question as at this moment, and what we are liable to suffer is not only loss of democratic control, as will certainly happen, but loss of efficiency as well because of the loss of expertise about which I have spoken.

4.15 p.m.

In the meantime, as this process goes along, let us consider one other thing. I have heard it suggested that Clause 100, the ubiquitous Clause 100, the handmaiden of the Bill, is a splendid means of dealing with the difficulty where the district council has expertise and the county realises that it can allow the district to continue the function of disposal on an agency basis. But Clause 100 is a double-edged sword. If it is true of the county it is true of the district, so if the district council is given the function and in the course of time equipment becomes more expensive and sophistication more the order of the day, it may equally by Clause 100 call the county to its aid—and perhaps not only the county.

I said a moment ago that it was interesting to note that the London borough I quoted as using its own vans to dispose of refuse actually tips its vans on to a space outside the GLC area, and it may be just in the distance that one can see what may eventually happen, though not now. It may well be then that these problems are dealt with not on a county basis hut, if the equipment is to be expensive and sophisticated, on a regional basis.

It is because I believe genuinely, for all I have a certain affection for larger areas and larger administrative units, that this is so much a matter for the health of the community as well as of the environment, and because I believe that it has been done up to now extraordinarily efficiently, particularly by some of the more progressive and forward-looking county boroughs, that I ask the House to reverse the Amendment, to disagree with their Lordships, and to reinstate what I believe was a sensible decision made by this House three months ago.

Mr. Hugh Fraser (Stafford and Stone)

In view of what I know of my own district, which is in Staffordshire, where we have spent a great deal of money on plant, I believe that the district is the right unit at this stage in time. It is quite possible to look further ahead, and the Government are a very forward-looking Government, but the danger is that the best can be the enemy of the good and that we are getting to a situation where in six, 10 or 15 years' time this has to be a regional matter because the expense and so forth will be way beyond the reach of both the district and the county and we shall have a much higher level of sophisticated disposal.

But at this stage, when we have complication enough in the switch-over, we have to ask ourselves where, for instance, the GLC got its men from. It got them from the cleansing departments of the London boroughs. This is just the danger with which we could be faced in an area such as Stafford and Stone. We would have all the problems of the reconcentration of forces, and leaving the cleansing side bereft of some of the best people.

At this stage, division of forces is an error. Having gone into the subject at some length with my local authority, I am convinced that the original decision of the House was correct. I therefore hope that on this matter the Government will have second thoughts.

Mr. R. B. Cant (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)

I rarely have the opportunity of following the right hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Hugh Fraser), and even less opportunity of agreeing with him. However, I share his sentiments, because Stoke-on-Trent—I have been a member of the Stoke-on-Trent council for 20 years—provides an illustration of the importance of maintaining the present position of district councils.

Stoke-on-Trent covers an area of approximately 30 square miles. It has a much larger population than any other district in the new county. It has carried refuse collection and disposal to a degree of sophistication which is probably not to be found elsewhere in the county. The council is now building an incinerator which will cost about £3½ million. The economics of the scheme are based largely on the supply of heat through steam to the local Michelin tyre factory.

Stoke-on-Trent has built up a considerable expertise. The chief officer of the collection and disposal department has been in a recent year the national president of the appropriate professional association. We are opposed to a situation which will mean that we shall have to ask that chief officer to confine himself to the relatively routine job of the collection of refuse. Moreover, we shall have to disperse the staff, which has been built up over a considerable period, and dismantle much of the expertise that we now have.

There is no logic in that sort of reorganisation of local government. Had the reorganisation been based on Maud, the situation would have been different. I ask the Secretary of State to be a little more flexible. If he cannot grant the request of my right hon. Friend the Member for Deptford (Mr. John Silkin), I ask that he be flexible in the sense of permitting the handful of authorities with a population of a quarter of a million to have the power which will lead to the efficient collection and disposal of refuse. They have done so for a considerable time and they can do so in future. My plea at this late hour—I appreciate that this may be hopeless—is that the Secretary of State should listen to the voices of reason and make a slight concession in the interests of democratic argument.

Mr. A. P. Costain (Folkestone and Hythe)

In July I spoke in favour of the uniformity of collection and disposal of rubbish. First, in case there is any misunderstanding on the part of the Opposition, I make it clear that no pressure has been placed upon me from my Whips. My Whip did not notice that I voted against the Government and defeated the Government.

I have considered the matter and I have had the opportunity of discussing it with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and with two of his Ministers and my local authority. I have made a great survey of the situation. I realise that in July I was prejudiced because my local authority was about to build a refuse disposal unit in conjunction with other local authorities. Not unnaturally, I was prejudiced because of the disappointment which the local authority expressed to me that, having gone through the long process of providing a disposal unit, it appeared that it might not have the opportunity to run it. I used the argument that it is much better for one local authority to do both jobs. I recall that I used the expression "One back to slap; or one rear to kick if things go wrong".

I have had the opportunity of making further investigation. I still hold the view that there is a good argument for the district councils to have both functions, which was the point made by the right hon. Member for Deptford (Mr. John Silkin). However, having studied the situation in detail and having had the opportunity of reading the reports in detail, I realise the great many new items which are difficult to dispose of which will be put in the dustbins. In view of the development of plastics and the difficulties which indestructible plastics present, I realise that there are great environmental problems. I was surprised to learn of the extra cost which will be incurred if we are to tackle the problem in the next century.

The Bill, which sets out the reorganisation of local authorities, is not for today but for tomorrow. After a great deal of thought. I have reversed my decision. I have not done so lightly, because I do not like to do things lightly. If I vote against the Government, I do so because of conviction. I reversed my decision, having come to the conclusion that local authorities need a big area in which to install disposal units and that expensive equipment may be needed for disposal.

I then considered whether it would not be a good idea for the counties to collect the local refuse. I thought about that matter in some detail and I came to the conclusion that one of the matters which concern ordinary householders on a personal basis is the collection of refuse from dustbins. Collection is a real problem for the housewife, particularly in hot weather. I then realised that the housewife wants to grouse to somebody when matters are not going as she wishes.

I decided that the best body for the housewife to grouse to was the local district office and the local district councillor. I realised that it was better that the rubbish should be collected by the local district council. It is better that a housewife should have the opportunity of complaining to the local office or the local councillor, who is probably known to her personally. Therefore, I decided that the decision which the Government reached was the right one.

I was worried in July that many of the technical facilities were to be taken from the district councils. I was worried whether the district councils would have enough functions to enable them to retain the technical people in their offices. The Amendments of another place, particularly those to Clause 108, give the local authorities the opportunity, if they feel that they are being deprived of these duties, to complain to the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State can act as the arbiter. I am now convinced that we must accept the decision as put forward in another place.

Sir Robin Turton (Thirsk and Malton)

My hon. Friend the Member for Folke-stone and Hythe (Mr. Costain) has convincingly explained his conversion on the road from the dustbin. However, I am still worried about the Government's decision. I believe that collection and disposal should be in the same hands. As my hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe explained, collection must be a district matter so that the district can received the grouses of the housewives. Therefore, the disposal should be in the hands of the district authority. Against that, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State said that the working party on refuse disposal said that disposal should be in the hands of the counties. It must be remembered that the working party had a strong minority report, where those who represented the rural districts said that disposal should be in the hands of the district authority.

One of the difficulties which I considered on listening to the right hon. Member for Deptford (Mr. John Silkin) was that a debate on refuse disposal always concentrates on the situation in London. In my view, the problem of London and of the metropolitan counties is entirely different from the problem of the non-metropolitan counties.

4.30 p.m.

I wonder whether my right hon. Friend would consider the position in my area. This Lords Amendment will involve the whole area from Reeth down to Selby in the matter of refuse disposal—something like an 80-mile length with a width of about 40 miles. It would be quite impossible administratively to deal with all refuse disposal, and it would forbid the larger district authority covering something like 300 square miles to deal with refuse disposal.

I believe that we are making a major mistake. It is true that under Clause 100 the matter could be rectified, but I do not think we will find, once we have given the counties the power of handing over refuse disposal, that they will do so, because there is a sort of megalomania among the larger local authorities and they will not wish the smaller local authorities to handle matters which are attractive or lucrative.

I am extremely anxious that the new district authorities should be conservation minded. I believe that we are in danger of dealing a great blow at the attitude of district authorities to conservation. This matter will be in the hands of the county authorities. I am speaking purely of the non-metropolitan counties; I am not arguing about the metropolitan counties. I therefore hope the Minister will think again and will consider whether we were not right earlier when by a small majority we placed this duty in the hands of the district authorities. I know that the district authorities feel very strongly about this matter, and I hope that when we are creating these new districts which should have sufficient powers to deal with the problem of refuse disposal, we shall not deny them what they want to have.

Mrs. Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster)

Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Sir Robin Turton), I am concerned at the fate of the more rural authorities. I noted that the Under-Secretary remarked that tips and incinerators have been sited in the past in a way that has been offensive to the public and damaging to the environment. I fear that that danger will be increased if the decision about the siting of those tips is in rather remote hands, in my case at Preston, rather than in the district councils themselves.

Yesterday my right hon. Friend the Minister for Local Government and Development said that the district council would continue to operate experienced teams. Indeed, so they will, providing they have got something to get their teeth into. It would be a disaster from the point of view of the local councils if this particularly expert function were to be taken from them. I can conceive of local councils being expected to take their refuse considerable distances over winding country roads which are difficult of access, whereas if they had the choice of siting, they would put it in an inconspicuous place which they would be proud to landscape and keep in a proper condition.

When it comes to the new district councils, we are talking of very big areas under the new set-up. Even under the previous set-up, when one of my urban districts, Carnforth, and a rural district, Lancaster, wished to deal with their sewage matters they amalgamated for the purpose. They did this over 10 years ago, and they got a very good system going. The rural district council of Guildford has pioneered another form of disposal to deal with sludge, namely that of toxic sludge, with the most up-to-date plant in the country at Pirbright. If a rural district council is allowed to retain this function, it will be proud to do it to the best of its ability, and if it finds that it is beyond its ability it will join with its neighbours, with whom it gets on very well, instead of being overridden by authorities at a considerable distance away.

Mr. Arthur Jones (Northants, South)

If the power of argument were the sole arbiter of events in this place, there could be no question about the way in which refuse disposal would be organised. I am sorry that the Government are taking a firm line, although I recognise that the decision rests with them and that, having come to a decision, it would be wrong for the Government to change their attitude without the strongest of reasons.

Very good reasons have been put to the House this afternoon. I should like to pay tribute to the right hon. Member for Deptford (Mr. John Silkin) for the very excellent and comprehensive manner in which he touched upon many of the subjects, some of them new to our discussions. We have covered this whole subject very comprehensively indeed, and if I were to add anything it would only be by way of repetition.

I am glad that today we are not having a repetition of the defence that refuse tipping is uncivilised and barbaric. That seems to be the strength of some of the Government's opposition to one of our earlier Amendments. I think there is recognition that it will be many years before we can see the end of refuse dumping, however desirable it may be. I think we would all like to see an end of it. The sophisticated methods towards which we are moving—and I hope they will come soon—will lead to the cessation of the necessity for tipping. Of course, it has certain advantages, but there are also overwhelming disadvantages.

I am aware of the elaborate arrangements with regard to the agency Clause. Could the Secretary of State be a little more definitive on the question of the agency and refuse disposal, recognising as we all do the expertise that has been built up by district councils and which we must have if we are to have satisfactory and adequate means of disposal in the future? I understand that under the agency Clause a definitive date of 1st April, 1974, has been mentioned.

I wonder whether the accent could be put the other way round and that for a period of, say, 10 years there could be an assumption that disposal would be more wisely handled by district councils than by the county councils. The case made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Sir Robin Turton) is overwhelming in this respect, and there are many other parts of the country where this must be the case. I hope my right hon. Friend will be able, in the special circumstances of refuse disposal, to tell us that some special agency arrangement would receive the Government's approbation and encouragement.

The Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Peter Walker)

May I, first of all, say on this issue, on which I know there have been divisions of view in this House and in another place, that in setting out our approach to local government reform in the White Paper, and thereafter in negotiations and discussions that we had with local authorities, and in all the actions that we have taken in pursuing the policy which is now developing into what will become the new Act I have always stated that wherever, in the view of the Government, a particular function could be reasonably performed at district level, it should be so performed. I have been criticised, sometimes by those holding the original Maud concepts and sometimes by the County Councils Association, for giving a number of powers to district councils which they considered should either remain with or go entirely to the counties.

I hope, therefore, that hon. Members will agree that the philosophy which I have been pursuing has been very much one of trying to give the maximum power to the districts wherever I have regarded a function as one which the districts could competently and sensibly carry out.

The same philosophy has applied very much in the present case. It is perfectly reasonable to argue, as the right hon. Member for Deptford (Mr. John Silkin) did, that there is advantage in having collection and disposal in one authority. I well understand that; it is easy to grasp the logic of it. However, all those who have studied this matter from the environmental standpoint have come to the conclusion that it would be a good idea to have a united function, and at county level.

Holding the views which I do on the importance of this matter—I shall come to that—I could have decided that it was right to put both these functions at county level, but I did not do that because I considered that collection was a function which not only could be well organised at district level but had a close relationship with the individual requirements of certain localities, principally, of course, with reference to the frequency of collections. For example, there are considerable differences between one London borough and another as regards the volume of collections taken in particular localities, and so on.

However, although there are certain resulting organisational disadvantages, I did not do that because of my belief that one should endeavour to ensure, where functions can be reasonably organised at district level, that they should be so organised, and I accordingly decided to put the collection at district level. I should have been happy to put disposal there, too, if I were not utterly convinced that it is vital that disposal should be organised over a larger area.

There have been references to the working party reports in support of my general line of argument, but, leaving aside those reports and what many leading environmentalists have said in support of my broad approach on this matter, I assure the House that, having spent just over two years as Secretary of State for the Environment, with, as one of my prime objectives, the reduction of pollution in all its forms, I have tried, as has the Department, to look at pollution in all its forms, first from the point of view of sensibly monitoring the system and, second, with the aim of reducing pollution to the minimum.

We have examined the resources which will be needed to achieve our objective. We have examined in great detail our river problems and the problems of water organisation and sewerage. We have looked in great detail at the present refuse disposal picture and at the problems, both present and future, which face us.

I assure the House personally, having spent a great deal of time trying to reach what I believe to be the right conclusions, conclusions on which there is no party difference—these are matters of objective assessment—that I am absolutely convinced that we must in future organise our disposal of refuse on a wider basis.

The right hon. Gentleman said that, eventually, a regional basis might be the answer. There would certainly be solid arguments for a regional approach to the problem, but we are dealing here with the reform of local government, with two levels of local government, and on that basis I regard it as essential that disposal should be a county function.

Mr. John Silkin

I am listening carefully to the right hon. Gentleman, and I am reluctant to interrupt his train of thought, but I must say that the point I made about the regions related to the extremely expensive and sophisticated equipment of the future, which would then bring in both county and district.

Mr. Walker

Yes, I recognise that. I come now to the reasons why I believe that we should proceed as I have proposed. My right hon. Friends the Members for Thirsk and Malton (Sir Robin Turton) and for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Hugh Fraser) referred, very understandably, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster (Mrs. Kellett-Bowman), to their own districts, pointing out how efficiently those districts handled their problems and asking, in effect, why there should now be a change. There are plenty of districts handling the problem in a rational and efficient way. Some of them have just installed new equipment, new incinerators, and so on. However, I assure the House that there is a great deal of refuse disposal done by nowhere near the best means available.

4.45 p.m.

Many of us know of the badly kept tip. My hon. Friend the Member for Northants, South (Mr. Arthur Jones) spoke of the need not to be anti-tipping at this stage. Tipping has a rôle to play, I agree, but he will know, travelling about the country as he does, that there are plenty of areas where there is considerable complaint about the way in which tipping is not organised and is ineffectively controlled. Serious problems have resulted to our river systems, for example, due to refuse disposal being done without proper geological study of the impact on the river system in a locality. District authorities have not done this out of a desire to pollute; it is just that they have not had available to them the resources necessary.

Although using their best endeavours, district authorities—there are plenty of them nation-wide—because of the limitations of their present resources and what will be available to them in future, have difficulty in doing the job in the best way.

There is a host of other major reasons in support of the line which I have taken. First, in the matter of tipping and infilling, because of its position in a number of spheres—clearance of derelict land, highway responsibilities, and so on—the county will have a much wider knowledge of the locations most in need of tipping for land reclamation purposes than any single district could have. It is likely, for example, that one district will have no infilling problems whereas another in the same county will have substantial problems, and in such circumstances a county-directed system will be of considerable assistance.

Also, if there is a wide range of in-filling schemes at any one time such as a county is likely to have, there will be certain types of refuse disposal particularly suited to one geological area or one land reclamation scheme as opposed to another. This is another respect in which the county will have an important ad vantage.

There is the further advantage of full utilisation of existing and future resources. I could cite a fairly large number of schemes which have been operated by districts where a progressive and ambitious engineer has persuaded his council that, rather than face the ghastly business of finding more tipping land within the district, it would do better to go over to incineration. The council has ultimately agreed to make the necessary expenditure and has put up a fine incinerator. Incidentally, I can tell the House that, second to sewerage works, I now open more incinerators than almost any other thing.

The district has put up a fine large incinerator, but what about the capacity? It is larger than the district itself needs. In such circumstances, districts have often gone to their neighbours and asked them to join in. Sometimes, they have succeeded, but, alas, they have frequently not. There are plenty of places where four districts could have joined in the use of one incinerator, three have agreed, but one bang in the middle has not. This sort of pattern is beginning to develop throughout the country, and it is resulting in a fantastic waste of public resources.

In addition, the type of incinerator now being developed is of considerable importance from a technical standpoint. On the knowledge so far available, there is no doubt that an incinerator suitable for a catchment area of 200,000 to 400,000 is better from the standpoint of efficiency and pollution than the type of incinerator one would put in if one decided to go in for incineration covering a catchment area of only 100,000. It is also quite likely that as a result of technical development incinerators for even larger population catchment areas will have further considerable advantages. The most tolerably effective incinerator should be for a population of 200,000 and above, and the Boundary Commission in its preliminary report suggests that we should have 190 districts of a population of less than 100,000. That equation shows that we shall not get the best application of the potentialities of incineration unless we put the function at county level.

Another very important argument is the availability of expertise. The hon. Member for Shoreditch and Finsbury (Mr. Ronald Brown) told of how, when the GLC organised the function, it took the expertise from the districts and boroughs. That is so, but if we examine a range of districts we will find that some have a very good chemist, others have the occasional use of a consulting chemist and others may have a junior and not very experienced chemist. Some have exceedingly good engineers, while others have more moderate engineers. Putting the function at county level will result in the organisation of new teams containing the whole range of expertise that will be needed. For example, the expertise of the geologist is becoming increasingly important, as we discover the adverse effects of the way in which refuse has been dumped in the past, and we need the expertise of the chemist and various other types of technical officers.

Mr. Ronald Brown

The right hon. Gentleman is underplaying to a very large extent the rôle of the boroughs. We set up boroughs' associations, through which in a whole range of areas the very expertise of which the right hon. Gentleman speaks is brought together on an honorary or paid basis. Therefore, we do not need to have the function under a county to do the things the right hon. Gentleman is outlining.

Mr. Walker

I believe it would be very difficult for the hon. Gentleman to find any of his party colleagues on the GLC —and probably this goes for most of the boroughs—who would be in favour of changing the system now that it has been established. For Greater London it certainly resulted in considerable technical advantages in bringing the team together, and also in a much better use of available resources.

Mr. Silkin

We can spend a long time arguing about London. But I introduced it to dismiss it, because we are talking about non-metropolitan counties, not metropolitan counties.

Mr. Walker

My argument becomes very much stronger, because the major London boroughs already had a tolerable quality of expertise. That is not true of many of the existing districts or of the authorities that will result from the merger of some of them that will take place. The quality of total expertise on the subject available to numerous district councils is not of a nature which can either fully comprehend or expertly advise upon the method by which this function should be performed.

Mr. Cant

If, however, a large district can prove that it has the expertise, and if it falls within the magic population band which would be suitable for the economies of an incinerator, must the right hon. Gentleman, in the interests of dull uniformity, insist that it should have the same powers as smaller districts? Will not he make an exception?

Mr. Walker

I will come on to this question, which partly concerns the use of the agency system. For a city such as Stoke, for example, it would be absurd to organise the performance of the function on such a basis that the expertise and resources, the plant and equipment, available within Stoke were not used and applied by some of the surrounding districts of what would be the new district of Stoke, which could well find great advantage in using those facilities. There is advantage in having the whole strategy organised on a county basis; those major county boroughs with facilities, many of which are working at less than capacity, will benefit.

With regard to the use of the agency, there is no doubt that this was never a function or power that the counties clamoured to have. They agreed on the logic of what is needed, and agreed that in terms of the overall planning strategy of the county it will be an advantage to be involved, but they will have to rely on the close collaboration of those operating in the districts. I have no doubt that this is a sphere where they will arrange sensible and rational agency agreements with the districts concerned, but I hope in such a way as to pursue a policy across the county.

There is a final factor which I earnestly ask the House to consider. My right hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone advanced the argument that the provision may well be needed later, but not now. To some extent that was the theme of other right hon. and hon. Members. I believe that if anything we are late in taking action in this sphere. I assure the House that, on all the information available to me, the speed with which this country and many other nations will have to go over to a much more positive approach to recycling will hit us very hard in the future. Raw material resources world-wide are diminishing at a fast pace. We are disposing of our refuse in a way in which very little recycling takes place. It will not be possible to organise recycling effectively on the basis of district councils trying to grapple with the technologies involved in that task.

Therefore, while recognising the strength of the arguments the other way, I urge the House to realise that I plead the case not on any pro-district or pro-county arguments but because, having spent two years as Secretary of State for the Environment, I am certain that environmentally the provision is essential.

5.0 p.m.

Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, West)

We have had a very interesting and informative debate, although the Secretary of State's arguments were identical to those advanced by the Under-Secretary when we debated the matter in July. The only difference is that the Secretary of State spoke with less passion. The arguments were the same, because the situation is unchanged.

The House spent several hours debating the matter in July. I believe that the only reason why we have not had an extended debate today is that right hon. and hon. Members understandably feel that they have advanced all the arguments, which are the same today as they were in July. The Under-Secretary, whose contribution I in no way try to minimise, very effectively argued the Government's case on environmental grounds in July. The House decided by a majority then that it was wiser to let district councils in England have exactly the same responsibilities as the district councils in Wales. In the same Bill the Government have stood on their head, in the arguments which the Secretary of State advanced this afternoon.

The only new argument we have heard today is that another place changed the decision. In opening today's debate the Under-Secretary said that the Government agreed with the other place. The shoe is on the other foot, because it was the Government who proposed the Amendment in the other place, and their troops loyally supported them there. So we had the dukes, the earls, the viscounts and the barons all saying that they knew more about the collection and disposal of refuse than right hon. and hon. Members of this House. It may be that they have superior knowledge in these matters—

Mr. Costain

I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will acknowledge that one of their Lordships admitted that he had been in the dust-collecting business.

Mr. Thomas

He made it very clear that he was on the office level, by which I mean high office.

Today, the Government are asking right hon. and hon. Members of this House who voted on Report after hearing the same argument from the Treasury Bench to stand on their heads. That is always an undignified posture. I believe that the Government are making a joke of this House, having brought the matter to the House and having had it thoroughly discussed, in saying that they are not prepared to accept the will of the House which was expressed quite clearly.

It is true that the Government are paying the price of rejecting all-purpose authorities. Endemic in the two-tier system is the awful problem of deciding which authority shall do what. It is the Secretary of State's main headache, as he indicated. If we are to have district councils, they must have proper functions, and the agency provision is not an adequate substitute in this case.

The AMC, the Rural District Councils Association and the parish councils have all made their representations to the Minister and to right hon. and hon. Members on this matter. They are not persuaded by the argument that has been advanced by the Secretary of State today. These people in local government are as concerned with environmental factors and the well being of local government as any of us in this House.

The Secretary of State said that if it was organised on a county basis we should have at our disposal a greater knowledge of the need for reclamation schemes within a whole county area. But how can the Secretary of State advance that argument on the English side without advancing it on the Welsh side? He is responsible for the whole Bill. He did not once explain why he thought it was in the interests of the environment on this side of the Severn Bridge to have disposal on a county basis and on the other side of the Severn Bridge to leave it to our small district councils, bearing in mind that, by and large, our district councils are much smaller than those in England. In fact, with the exception of Cardiff, Swansea and Newport, I do not think that we have a district council with a population approaching the figure of 100,000.

Will the Secretary of State be good enough to explain what has puzzled me ever since I first saw the Bill? Why do not environmental considerations, which he elevated to such high principles, apply over the whole of England and Wales? There is no logic in the position that the Secretary of State is adopting on this question.

Then the Secretary of State said that if it is organised on a county basis we shall be able to get expertise on a better level. I believe that the right hon. Gentleman has given in to his Department on this question. I do not think that it is a matter of high persuasion on principle. The right hon. Gentleman has not shown the strength that he should have shown. He knows that if it is better to get the expertise of chemists, engineers and the like on a county basis here, the same is bound to apply in Wales. But apparently he does not believe that to be so.

The right hon. Gentleman is arguing two ways at the same time. He is bringing double standards for local government in this Bill. He really does not do credit to himself in not explaining to the House why in a Bill for which he is responsible to the House he can argue both ways at the same time.

Mr. Ronald Brown

Is not my right hon. Friend being unkind to the Secretary of State? If the right hon. Gentleman said exactly why his Department advised him this way, it would be simply that if he could not show this power being given to the county there would be no reason for the county in the first place.

Mr. Thomas

My hon. Friend is always a great help. However, I believe that there are other reasons. One of them is to be seen tucked away at one end of the Front Bench opposite. I refer, of course, to the Minister of State for Wales. Of course, this Bill is two Measures in one. One Secretary of State has to answer for the Bill. The other can remain like a monk in silent prayer. The Secretary of State for the Environment carries responsibility for the whole Bill, and it is a complete nonsense to have two sets of arguments for local government based on the rough line of the boundary between England and Wales.

I believe that the Secretary of State is showing an unwanted arrogance. He used to be accused of that in the old days when he sat on these benches. Since becoming Secretary of State he has tried to be much more kindly and winning. However, it is arrogant to deal with only one side of this argument and not to tell the House how he can justify a completely opposite solution for local government in the Principality of Wales to that in England. Our problems are the same. The only difference between us is that we have some people who speak the Welsh language. But that is not an argument about refuse disposal. It has no bearing on why the Minister should have argued as he has today.

I suggest that the divided responsibility proposed in England will cause endless bickering in local government. Imagine the new county authority which decides that it wants to have a refuse tip in one district to take rubbish from another district. After all, 90 per cent. of our refuse is still disposed of by tipping. Only 10 per cent. is incinerated. The view was advanced in another place that in the next 10 years we are not likely to reach the point where even 25 per cent. is got rid of through the incinerator. I can imagine the nastiness between district councils and county councils over the siting of refuse tips. If responsibility in the new large districts being created lies with the local council, that at least is one difficulty which can be avoided.

I want now to say a word to the hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain). He is a very distinguished Methodist. I am a very humble one. However, we have this in common: we both believe in conversion and in backsliders. The hon. Gentleman has not been converted. He is a backslider. I have great respect for those of his right hon. and hon. Friends who have had the courage to say in October what they said in July and who have said that they intend to stand by the vote that they cast. Merely to please their own Front Bench, they will not run away from the vote that they cast in July, especially since no other argument has been advanced. Unlike them, the hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe has said that since the debate in July, he has been reading the reports. I had a very high opinion of the hon. Gentleman, and I did not think that he would insult the House by coming here unprepared last July.

Mr. Costain

Surely the right hon. Gentleman will do me the justice to admit that I did point out at the time that Clause 108 alters the attitude towards what district authorities can do? I hope he will give me credit for that.

Mr. Thomas

I would like to be helpful to the hon. Gentleman for Methodist reasons, but, really, he stood up this afternoon as if he was in a Moscow trial confessing. He had to put himself right with his Front Bench.

The House owes a great deal to people who have the strength and the courage to stand by what they really believe. That

is what hon. Members have done, and I have done it myself. If hon. Members, to please the Secretary of State for the Environment, are prepared to stand on their heads they deserve the caricature which they will receive from the general public.

I have endeavoured in the few minutes I have taken to point out to the Secretary of State that he and the Government have adopted double standards. They have not tried to clear them up in the House. Neither he nor the Secretary of State for Wales did us the honour to serve in Committee on the Bill. Had they done so we could have pressed them on this. However, this is water under the bridge. Now the right hon. Gentleman, because the House of Lords has changed our decision, and without any other reason at all, expects this House to follow the aristocratic trail set us down the Corridor. There is no reason why the House should not stand by its decision taken last July, and give to district authorities the responsibility which smaller district authorities in Wales are given by the Government and which they carry out effectively, or they would not be entrusted with the powers. They would not in any way overthrow environmental considerations, in England any more than they would in Wales.

The Minister has not made out a good case, and I hope the House will stand by its decision taken in July.

Question put, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment:—

The House divided: Ayes 144, Noes 123.

Division No. 352.] AYES [5.14 p.m.
Adley, Robert Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert Fowler, Norman
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Cary, Sir Robert Gibson-Watt, David
Atkins, Humphrey Chapman, Sydney Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)
Balniel, Rt. Hn. Lord Churchill, W. S. Goodhart, Philip
Benyon, W. Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Gorst, John
Berry, Hn. Anthony Clegg, Walter Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.)
Biffen, John Cooke, Robert Gray, Hamish
Biggs-Davison, John Costain, A. P. Green, Alan
Blaker, Peter Crouch, David Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.) Dixon, Piers Grylls, Michael
Boscawen, Hn. Robert Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec Gummer, J. Selwyn
Bowden, Andrew Dykes, Hugh Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)
Brinton, Sir Tatton Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,N.) Hannam, John (Exeter)
Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher Eyre, Reginald Hastings, Stephen
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Farr, John Hayhoe, Barney
Bruce-Gardyne, J. Fell, Anthony Hiley, Joseph
Bryan, Sir Paul Fenner, Mrs. Peggy Hill, John E. B. (Norfolk, S.)
Buchanan-Smith, Alick(Angus,N&M) Fisher, Nigel (Surblton) Hill, James (Southampton, Test)
Buck, Antony Fookes, Miss Janet Holland, Philip
Bullus, Sir Eric Fortescue, Tim Hornsby-Smlth,Rt.Hn.Dame Patricia
Carlisle, Mark Foster, Sir John Howell, David (Gulldlord)
Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.) Montgomery, Fergus Stanbrook, Ivor
Iremonger, T. L. Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm. Stewart-Smith, Geoffrey (Belper)
James, David Morrison, Charles Stokes, John
Jennings, J. C. (Burton) Murton, Oscar Sutcliffe, John
Jessel, Toby Nott, John Taylor,Edward M.(G'gow,Cathcart)
Jopling, Michael Onslow, Cranley Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)
Kellett-Bowman, Mrs. Elaine Page, Rt. Hn. Graham (Crosby) Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N.W.)
King, Tom (Bridgwater) Page, John (Harrow, W.) Tobbit, Norman
Kinsey, J. R. Parkinson, Cecil Temple, John M.
Kirk, Peier Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch Thatcher, Rt. Hn. Mrs. Margaret
Kitson, Timothy Price, David (Eastleigh) Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth)
Knight, Mrs. Jill Prior, Rt. Hn. J. M. L. Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon,S.)
Knox, David Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis Tugendhat, Christopher
Lamond, James Raison, Timothy van Straubenzee, W. R.
Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James Vaughan, Dr. .Gerard
Le Marchant, Spencer Redmond, Robert Walker, Rt. Hn. Peter (Worcester)
Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone) Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.) Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek
Longden, Sir Gilbert Rees-Davies, W. R. Ward, Dame Irene
Luce, R. N. Ridley, Hn. Nicholas Warren, Kenneth
MacArthur, Ian Ridsdale, Julian Weatherill, Bernard
McCrindle, R. A. Roberts, Wyn (Conway) Wilkinson, John
McLaren, Martin Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey) Worsley, Marcus
McNair-Wilson, Michael Russell, Sir Ronald Wylie, Rt. Hn. N. R.
Madel, David Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby) Younger, Hn. George
Marten, Neil Sinclair, Sir George
Maude, Angus Soref, Harold TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Speed, Keith Mr. Paul Hawkins and
Meyer, Sir Anthony Spence, John Mr. Marcus Fox.
Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)
Abse, Leo Grant, George (Morpeth) Oram, Bert
Albu, Austen Grant, John D. (Islington, E.) Orme, Stanley
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside) Oswald, Thomas
Allen, Scholefield Hamilton, William (Fife, W.) Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, Sutton)
Areher, Peter (Rowley Regis) Hardy, Peter Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles
Barnes, Michael Harper, Joseph Parker, John (Dagenham)
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith Pavitt, Laurie
Bennett, James(Glasgow, Bridgeton) Hattersley, Roy Perry, Ernest G.
Bidwell, Sydney Heffer, Eric S. Prescott, John
Blenkinsop, Arthur Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Price, William (Rugby)
Broughton, Sir Alfred Hughes, Roy (Newport) Probert, Arthur
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Hunter, Adam Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.)
Brown, Ronald(Shoreditch & F'bury) Jeger, Mrs. Lena Roberts,Rt.Hn.Goronwy(Caernarvon)
Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn) Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Roderick, Caerwyn E.(Brc'n&R'dnor)
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford) Rodgers, William (Stockton-on-Tees)
Cant, R. B. John, Brynmor Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock)
Carmichael, Neil Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) Rowlands, Ted
Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara Johnson, Walter (Derby, S.) Sandelson, Neville
Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.) Jones,Rt.Hn.Sir Elwyn(W.Ham,S.) Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne)
Cohen, Stanley Kaufman, Gerald Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
Coleman, Donald Kerr, Russell Skinner, Dennis
Concannon, J. D. Lamborn, Harry Smith, John (Lanarkshire, N.)
Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony Latham, Arthur Steel, David
Cunningham, G. (Islington, S.W.) Lawson, George Stoddart, David (Swindon)
Dalyell, Tam Leonard, Dick Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Lipton, Mareus Thomas,Rt.Hn.George (Cardiff,W.)
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Loughlin, Charles Tinn, James
Davis, Terry (Bromsgrove) McBride, Neil Tuck, Raphael
Deakins, Eric McCartney, Hugh Urwin, T. W.
Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund Mackenzie, Gregor Wainwright, Edwin
Dempsey, James Mackie, John Weitzman, David
Doig, Peter Maclennan, Robert Wellbeloved, James
Dormand, J. D. McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.) Whitehead, Phillip
Douglas, Dick (Stirlingshire, E.) Marshall, Dr. Edmund Whitlock, William
Douglas-Mann, Bruce Meacher, Michael Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Edelman, Maurice Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Mendelson, John Winterton, Nicholas
Faulds, Andrew Millan, Bruce Woof, Robert
Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Mitchell, R. C. (S'hampton, Itchen)
Fraser, John (Norwood) Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Gilbert, Dr. John Murray, Ronald King Mr. James Hamilton and
Golding, John Oakes, Gordon Mr. Tom Pendry.
Gourlay, Harry

Question accordingly agreed to.

Subsequent Lords Amendment agreed to.

Lords Amendment: No. 261, in page 277, line 47, leave out from "authority" to end of line 50 and insert— (2) In section 87(3) for the words "a county council or local" there shall be substituted the words" any such council or".

Mr. Speed

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this we are to take Lords Amendments Nos. 262, 263, and 266 to 269.

Mr. Speed

This group of Amendments is a tidying-up operation and does not include anything of great substance.

Amendment No. 261 has two purposes. First, it deletes from paragraph 9 of Schedule 14 a provision which causes a district council to be treated as highway authority for roads it is maintaining for the purposes of Section 87 of the Public Health Act, 1936, that is, the provision of public conveniences. Secondly, it amends references to the councils exercising those powers under Section 87(3) of the 1936 Act so as to include the Greater London Council and parish and community councils.

Amendments Nos. 262 and 263 are largely drafting. No. 263 provides that a highway authority shall in all cases exercise control over public conveniences under Section 88 of the 1936 Act and that that control shall not be exercisable by the district council that is maintaining the highway.

Amendment No. 266 is drafting.

Amendment No. 267 provides that, in addition to advertising in a local newspaper, a local authority shall give notice of its intention to any parish or community council, or chairman of any parish meeting, whose areas would be affected. The notice should be served not later than the day on which the advertisement is first published in the newspaper. This is in conjunction with paragraph 25 of Schedule 14 enabling local authorities to pass resolutions applying or disapplying throughout their areas certain enactments dealing with matters such as hackney carriage licensing, music and dancing licencing, servants' registries and street naming. The Amendment is small but no doubt important and it is made in answer to a plea made by my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Charles Morrison) in Committee.

Amendment No. 268 relates to paragraph 40 of Schedule 14 and revises the allocation of functions under Sections 44, 46 and 48 of the Public Health Act, 1961. It also deletes a provision which causes a district council to be treated as the highway authority for roads it is maintaining for the purposes of the application of those Sections. The re-allocation of functions under those sections means that the powers available under Sections 44 and 46 of the Public Health Act, which are powers to erect barriers in streets and to prevent forecourts from abutting on streets, will, in respect of streets which are highways, be exercisable concurrently by the county council's highway authority and the district council's local authority. Section 48 of that Act will be covered by the provisions of Clause 176(2)(e) and those powers which allow the provision of pavement lights and ventilators in streets will be exercisable by the district council only as the local authority.

Amendment No. 269 is purely drafting.

Question put and agreed to.

Subsequent Lords Amendments agreed to.

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