HC Deb 07 March 1978 vol 945 cc1238-305
The Minister of State, Privy Council Office (Mr. John Smith)

I beg to move Amendment No. 50, in page 36, line 27, column 2, at end insert: 'The function under section 5(3)(b) of determining disputes between a local authority and excepted statutory undertakers.'. This corrects a minor error in the entry in paragraph 1 of Schedule 2 for the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1953. At present the entry transfers all ministerial functions under this Act to the Assembly. However Section 5(3)(b) of the Act contains the rarely used ministerial function of determining disputes between local authorities and statutory undertakers concerning the erection of bus shelters by local authorities. The effect of the amendment is that the function will be exercisable by the Government, not the Assembly, where an excepted statutory undertaker is involved in the dispute.

Mr. Kinnock

It is difficult to understand my hon. Friend. Is he saying that the power to erect omnibus shelters will not be devolved? If so, I am utterly shocked and dismayed.

Mr. Smith

It has been my function to reassure my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) on some of his wilder thoughts. I am delighted to be able to reassure him on this occasion. This amendment concerns disputes between statutory undertakers and local authorities.

Excepted statutory undertakers are denned in Clause 81(1) and include all undertakers for whom the Government will continue to be responsible—for example the British Gas Corporation and British Rail. It is policy throughout the Bill that functions in relation to such undertakers should be reserved or exercisable subject to consent. The amendment brings the entry for the 1953 Act into line with this policy. It is a technical amendment. I hope that it finds favour because it improves the Bill.

Mr. Wyn Roberts (Conway)

We do not intend to waste time on this amendment, or on the one that follows it. The mind of the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) will be put at rest if he puts this amendment in the context of the relevant chapter of the Act which deals with the power of local authorities to establish certain funds for the provision and maintenance of bus shelters and queue barriers. The amendment assumes that any such cause for dispute would involve a statutory undertaker. Is that a wise assumption? Ought not the Government to have limited the words of the amendment to The function under section 5(3)(b).", which procedure has been followed in Amendment No. 54?

Mr. Ioan Evans

The amendment refers to line 27 … at end insert but at the end of line 27 are the words "Enactment" and "Excluded junctions". Presumably the amendment should have been made to line 28, otherwise the wording does not read on.

The question under discussion seems to concern undertakers. I believe that the Bill will be going to the undertakers when the matter is put to the people of Wales.

Mr. John Smith

The hon. Member for Conway (Mr. Roberts) asks why we have limited the provision to statutory undertakers. The policy followed throughout the Bill is that the functions relating to statutory undertakings should be either reserved or exercisable subject to consent. That is the line of policy followed in the amendment, and that was why we decided that matters concerning disputes between local authorities and accepted statutory undertakers should be reserved.

I think that the printing of the amendment is correct, but I shall check the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare (Mr. Evans).

Mr. Wigley

The amendment appears to be fairly trivial, but I cannot follow the Government's logic in differentiating as they have between Section 5(3)(b) of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1953 and paragraph (a) of that same section. The latter refers to a dispute between a local authority and the Minister of Transport being referred to and determined by an arbitrator. Presumably only matters that did not fall within that definition would go to the Minister of Transport.

The list of statutory undertakers in Clause 81 of the Bill is essential. It deals with any railway, light railway, road transport, dock, harbour, pier or lighthouse undertaking or any undertaking for the supply of electricity, gas or hydraulic power". But it deals only with these matters in relation to Wales. I cannot see why it is necessary to relate those to the Ministry of Transport. In any case, it is a question of arbitrating in a dispute. I would have thought that the Assembly was perfectly competent to arbitrate in a dispute even though it might not have all the powers for all the functions concerning the accepted statutory undertakers referred to in Clause 81. If the Government are seeking to devolve as much as possible, surely there is no case for saying that the matter must be kept in London when the Assembly can do the job perfectly competently.

Mr. John Smith

The hon. Member referred to Section 5(3)(a) of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1953 which deals with disputes between a local authority and the Minister of Transport which will be referred to an arbitrator to be appointed. In this context the Assembly will carry out the functions of the Ministry of Transport, and that is therefore a different matter.

The hon. Member says that he does not see why we should not devolve these matters. As I have explained, however, it is clear policy in the Bill that functions relating to statutory undertakers should be reserved or should be exercisable subject to consent. The hon. Member may not agree with the Government's retaining responsibility for the statutory undertakers, but It is our policy, and it is upon that that we rest.

Mr. Ian Gow (Eastbourne)

Ought not the Minister of State to be able to clear up the simple point raised by the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. Evans)? Part 1 of Schedule 2 is difficult enough to comprehend as it is. As the hon. Member pointed out, line 27 contains the words "Enactment" and "Excluded functions". Should not the Minister's amendment be changed by manuscript amendment now? Ought we not to be amending line 28?

Mr. John Smith

I think that the amendment is correct as it stands, but I have given an undertaking to have the matter checked.

The Chairman

I am convinced that it is correct. It is a matter of printing that will come right in the Bill.

Sir David Renton (Huntingdonshire)

I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) will find that the same method is used in several other places. It is either right in all of them or wrong in all of them.

The Chairman

I am glad to have the right hon. and learned Gentleman's support on that. What he says is the case.

Amendment agreed to.

4.15 p.m.

Mr. John Smith

I beg to move Amendment No. 51, in page 36, line 34, column 2, at end insert— The power to fix rates of interest in respect of advances made under section 3 or 4 for the erection of industrial buildings (within the meaning of section 66 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971 (c. 78)). The amendment corrects a minor error in the entry in Part I of Schedule 2 for the Local Authorities (Land) Act 1963. At present the entry transfers all ministerial functions under this Act to the Assembly. Sections 3 and 4 of the Act enables local authorities to make loans for the erection of buildings on land sold or let by them; and Section 3(4) provides that the Minister may in the case of a particular advance fix the rate of interest for such loans. The effect of the amendment is that this function of fixing the interest rate should continue to be exercised by the Minister, and not be transferred to the Assembly, in cases in which the loans are in respect of industrial buildings.

Although certain powers of industrial development, for example, by the Welsh Development Agency, are transferred to the Assembly by the Bill, there are always safeguards to ensure that the Assembly cannot distort competition between firms in Wales and elsewhere. The purpose of the amendment is to reflect this approach by ensuring that any loans for the erection of industrial buildings are not made at interest rates which are more favourable than those available in other areas.

Mr. Wyn Roberts

This is another addition to excluded functions and it refers to the Local Government (Records) Act 1962. Section 3 of that Act, which is referred to in the amendment, deals with the power of local authorities to appoint sub-committees to perform functions in relation to records. Section 4 deals with the financing of record preservation functions. What these sections have to do with the erection of industrial buildings is not immediately clear, but one can guess what has happened. The maintenance of records has now become a major business requiring the erection of buildings which can be classified as industrial buildings. These cost money which is available from local authority or Exchequer sources according to Section 4 of the 1962 Act.

The reference in the amendment to the power to fix interest rates presumably refers to the moneys that may be provided by Parliament under Section 4 of the Act, and I shall be glad of the Minister's confirmation of that.

Mr. Wigley

On a point of order, Mr. Murton. I regret having to interrupt the hon. Member for Conway (Mr. Roberts), but he is referring to an Act which does not appear in the amendment. His error is probably due to the numbering of the lines, which appears to be wrong. The amendment refers to line 34, whereas the relevant line in the schedule is line 35. The hon. Member for Conway is referring to the wrong Act.

Mr. John Smith

Perhaps the hon. Member for Conway (Mr. Roberts) was slightly misled by the printing, but I think that he grasped the essential point which is more important than getting the right line. He asked me to confirm the approach which I explained in introducing the amendment which is that it is for the purpose of avoiding the distortion of competition between firms in Wales and elsewhere. It refers to the letting of land and the interest rate fixed by the Minister. Those are reserved. The hon. Gentleman got the point absolutely, although he referred to a different Act. The Act in question is the Local Authorities (Land) Act 1963. There is, however, no difference between us on the essential point.

Mr. Wigley

I wish to underline the importance of industrial development powers for the Assembly and for local authorities in Wales coming under the Local Authorities (Land) Act 1963. It is a fact, whether it is intended or not by Westminster legislation, that local authorities have the power to influence the attractiveness of an area to industry. Only last night I was hearing of the way in which industrialists, notably the Japanese, have been attracted to Merthyr Tydfil to sites provided by the Welsh Development Agency because of initiatives taken by a district council, in this case Merthyr Borough Council. That council has taken initiatives in providing land and buildings for industry in a way that undoubtedly gave the area a differential of attractiveness compared with some other area, perhaps in the same geographical region, which had had its industrial infrastructure provided by the Welsh Development Agency. Therefore, whether or not one puts the control on the rate of interest, the reality of the situation is that there is extensive power in the hands of local authorities to provide facilities in infrastructure and services that will make a differentiation between their areas and others which do not undertake such initiatives.

To the extent that we allow, acknowledge and accept that local authorities validly can take these initiatives, and are right to do so, to try to meet the employment problems of their areas, I cannot see why within the global controls that exist on local authority finance—and goodness knows those are severe enough, for they can hardly move in any direction without some restriction—it should not be possible for local authorities to vary the interest rates they charge on the amount of funds they have at their disposal for these functions.

The sum of money we are discussing is minute. I do not know whether this legislation arises under EEC powers for securing competition but if it is against that background what we are discussing is peanuts. But it can make a marginal difference, particularly when a small company is just setting up and is having difficulty with high interest rates. In the last two or three years abnormally high interest rates have made it impossible for many small companies to start up or expand and to take advantage of the facilities which local authorities have been providing in various parts of Wales and will certainly provide after the Assembly comes into existence.

I cannot see, therefore, why it should not be part of the power of a local authority to use the loan funds it has at its disposal to reduce the interest rate on those elements that come through the provisions of the Local Authorities (Land) Act 1963. I realise that the Minister will say "Yes, that is precisely what I would like to see, but it is not what the Act is intended to facilitate". I suggest to him that there is nothing inconsistent in considering that; and even if the Government had not intended it in the first place, when the Bill was printed in its present form, it is a form which should commend itself to them because of the additional power given to local authorities to help to solve the industrial problems of Wales.

Mr. Nick Budgen (Wolverhampton, South-West)

May I say a word or two on the concept of exorbitant interest rates? Wolverhampton previously was very prosperous but it has been severely affected by Government interference of all kinds, especially by Government interference in subsidising industries in other parts of the United Kingdom. It is precisely because hon. Members like the hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. Wigley) have so often said there was great need to subsidise their constituents, and a need to prevent their constituents having to pay, as they put it, exorbitant rates of interest, which I understand to be the way in which any market rate of interest is regarded by anybody who has to pay it.

Mr. Wigley

Surely the hon. Gentleman would accept that in the past, particularly during the last 18 months when interest rates were running at 15 per cent. to 18 per cent., that has meant that the money-factoring industry has had to adjust risk investment in such a way as to give perhaps 30 per cent. on capital; and given the constraint of competition within the EEC that we are forced to face, that rate cannot be described as anything but an exorbitant rate which has been carried by manufacturing industry.

Mr. Budgen

Of course it is a high rate and it kills investment, but it is not an exorbitant rate for anybody lending money at a time when, at given stages, he is suffering a decline in the value of money of between 25 per cent. and 30 per cent. per annum. Therefore, interest rates, though high, are in fact negative.

It is a point which should be levelled against the present Administration which has presided over a period of unparalled high rates of inflation, but that is not an argument for further distorting the market economy to prop up little businesses in Wales, perhaps in an area which happens to have a particularly vocal Member of Parliament who wishes to roll out the pork barrel for his constituents. What Wolverhampton and every other constituency wants is a great deal more free market and less of the political log rolling about which the hon. Gentleman has spoken.

Sir Raymond Gower

My hon. Friend will appreciate that ever since the end of the last war successive Governments have recognised that areas like Wolverhampton have had a much more variegated pattern of industry and far more alternative employers than area; like most of Scotland, parts of Wales, the North-East of England and Merseyside, which have been handicapped by having very few industries and have suffered much more viciously in the inter-war years. I hope that my hon. Friend will recall that.

Mr. Budgen

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his intervention. If he has been a supporter of regional policies in the past, I remind him that their purpose was not only to support a region but to damp down economic growth in more prosperous areas; and in so far as there is now a high rate of unemployment in Wolverhampton—

The Chairman (Mr. Oscar Murton)

Order. The hon. Gentleman is now confusing the question of merits with the question of functions. This amendment deals with the question of functions.

Mr. Budgen

With respect, Mr. Murton, I was dealing generally with interfering in market rates and particularly in interest rates; and with great respect to you, Sir, this is part of the general question of a regional policy.

I conclude by saying that I congratulate my hon. Friend in that Wolverhampton has been depressed and impoverished by regional policies and those who support such policies are to be congratulated on the success of their activities.

Mr. Gow

This amendment seeks to reserve to the Minister powers which otherwise would be transferred to the Assembly. I listened carefully to the Minister when he introduced his amendment. He, or the Official Report, will correct me if I am wrong, but I thought I heard the Minister of State tell the Committee that the sections which are referred to in the amendment, which unfortunately do not refer to the Act, were Sections 3 or 4. I submit that the reference should be to Sections 3 and 4, but we shall let that pass.

I thought that the Minister told the Committee that the Act of Parliament whose reserve powers were to vest in the Minister derived from the Local Government (Records) Act 1962.

Mr. John Smith

If the hon. Gentleman will allow me to intervene, I said no such thing. I referred clearly to the Local Authorities (Land) Act 1963. It was another hon. Member who referred to the Local Government (Records) Act 1962, I believe in error. I categorically deny that I made any such reference as the hon. Gentleman suggests. Perhaps he should listen more attentively.

Mr. Wyn Roberts

Will the Minister give an assurance that, as the amendment refers to "line 34" and there is opposite to that a reference to the Local Government (Records) Act 1962, he will look at this matter again and ensure that the amendment refers to the proper line?

Mr. Smith

Yes. This matter arose on the previous amendment. The amendment is correct as it stands, although I can understand how hon. Members may be misled by the way in which it appears. I have given an undertaking to check that carefully.

Mr. Roberts

With respect, I do not believe the numbering is correct as it stands. The schedule is confusing enough already without Ministers adding to the confusion. I believe that the wrong line is mentioned in the amendment moved by the Government.

The Chairman

It is highly probable because a reference to the Local Authorities (Land) Act appears in line 35 and the remainder appears in the following line. However, the hon. Gentleman need not trouble himself too much about this matter. It will be put right.

Amendment agreed to.

4.30 p.m.

Mr. John Smith

I beg to move Amendment No. 52, in page 37, column 1, leave out lines 2 to 26 and insert— 'The Local Government Act 1972 (c. 70) sections 55, 68(1) to (7) and 74 and Parts V to IX, XI and XII.'.

The Chairman

With this we may take Amendment No. 53, in page 37, line 4, column 1, leave out 'section 55(4)' and insert 'sections 53 to 61 and section 64'. We may also take Government Amendments Nos. 54, 55 and 56.

Mr. Smith

The amendments are minor in character and tidy up a number of inconsistencies in the entries for the Local Government Act 1972 in Part I of Schedule 2.

Amendment No. 52 reorganises the column 1 entries for the 1972 Act so that they are all placed in a single group. At present, the spacing in column 1 is such that the column 2 entries for Schedules 12 and 13 of the 1972 Act are incorrectly lined up opposite Parts XI and XII of that Act when they belong to Parts V and VIII. The amendment, which is purely technical, removes this error.

Amendment No. 55 is again purely technical. It removes an unnecessary entry for Sections 245 to 247 of the 1972 Act from the list of exclusions in column 2. These sections which are consequential on the reorganisation of local government, relate to the granting of borough status to district and community councils, and the transfer of Royal charters and armorial bearings. In each case they contain powers exercisable by Her Majesty on the advice of the Privy Council or by Order in Council, and the intention is that they should not pass to the Assembly.

However, Clause 10 of the Bill is expressed in such terms that the only functions transferred to the Assembly by inclusion in column 1 of Schedule 2 are those exercisable by Ministers. Order in Council powers are not ministerial, so in order to achieve reservation there is no need specifically to list Sections 245 to 247 in column 2 as being excluded. Silence is sufficient to ensure that the powers contained in them are not transferred to the Assembly.

Amendment No. 56 excludes ministerial functions under Schedule 12 of the 1972 Act from those transferred to the Assembly. The schedule concerns the meetings and proceedings of local authorities, and contains only two ministerial functions in relation to Wales. Both relate to polls consequent on community council meetings. The first, in paragraph 34(5), is already correctly excluded as presently drafted. The effect of the amendment is to exclude the second, which is in paragraph 37(1). This reflects the broader policy that all electoral matters including those relating to local authorities are to be reserved. This will arise on Amendment No. 53.

Amendment No. 54 is a technical amendment and there is essentially no change in policy. Section 119 of the Local Government Act 1972 provides for the making of an advance to widows or dependants of those who have been in local government or linked services until probate has been settled.

Sir Raymond Gower

Is it the case that, before this amendment, the Bill provided that electoral matters were not reserved?

Mr. Smith

No. We are seeking to correct a minor matter by way of Amendment No. 56. Electoral boundaries are reserved. Amendment No. 53 in the name of the hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. Wigley) seeks to reverse that position by transferring responsibility for electoral boundaries to the Assembly. It would be wise to allow the hon. Member to explain his amendment before my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Wales deals with it.

The ministerial regulation-making powers deal with applying the powers to various classes of employees under the local government superannuation scheme. Although this matter is not strictly part of the superannuation scheme it relates to it more than to any of the devolved aspects of local government. Local government superannuation is not devolved and is best dealt with also on a uniform basis for England and Wales.

I hope that the House will find our amendments acceptable. We shall have to discuss Amendment No. 53 before the Government amendments can be passed.

Mr. Wigley

Amendment No. 53 broadens the issue slightly and brings in local government's relationship with the Assembly, albeit in the context of a Boundary Commission and related matters.

I must stress the feeling of dissatisfaction in Wales over local government matters following the reorganisation of local government undertaken by the last Conservative Government.

There are areas of great concern, most of which relate to the growth of bureaucracy and the clogging-up of the system of local government because of the present structure. One problem that arises frequently in public and private meetings is planning. Planning applications are submitted to district councils, moved up to county councils to see whether they are within the framework of a county plan and downwards to community coun- cils for their blessing. They can also go backwards and forwards on technical points. I am told that if they were returned, reversed or stopped at every point at which they can be disputed, they could be stopped on 24 occasions.

Mr. D. E. Thomas (Merioneth)

Is my hon. Friend aware that planning applications can also be called in by the Secretary of State under various sections of Town Planning Acts? There was a particularly reprehensible case in my constituency. The district council's application for a refuse disposal unit was called in by the Secretary of State who organised a public inquiry and decided that the council could not go ahead.

The Welsh Office also intervenes in other areas and, since the process is quasi-judicial, the reasons for the intervention cannot be questioned. The transfer of these functions to the Assembly would result in far more democratic decision-making in planning.

Mr. Wigley

I certainly accept what my hon. Friend says. I was stressing the delay in planning applications between the initial submission and their resolution. These delays cause great dissatisfaction and irritation among people in Wales and the splitting of the planning function has made the situation worse.

County authorities have planning departments staffed by specialists and district councils have their own specialists in planning departments. There is often a large area of overlapping. We also see duplication of functions in the services provided by district and county councils in Wales, including legal, financial and computer services. We need a back-up service for district and county councils.

Before I came to the House I had the advantage of serving on the old Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council, which was an all-purpose authority. There was a great advantage in having all the functions relating to the borough under one hat. The problems arising from demarcation between social services, which are now a county function, and housing, which is a district function did not arise to half the extent that they do under the current set-up. Demarcation between education and functions such as planning, now undertaken by district councils, did not arise. The functions were all under one hat.

If one imagined that the Bains principle would be adopted in local government after reorganisation and that there would be a policy directorate in local government to ensure that all departmental functions were co-ordinated, a logical corollary would be to have the type of all-purpose authority that existed in some of the county boroughs before reorganisation. I believe that that would be beneficial in Wales.

Sir Raymond Gower

I am interested in what the hon. Gentleman says, but can he explain how the amendments will effect this great change? I cannot understand it.

Mr. Wigley

I was stating this by way of background to the issue of the local government structure in Wales. Clause 13, which we cannot discuss in detail in this short debate, provides that the Assembly will have the authority to review the structure of local government in Wales". If that is so, the powers provided in Section 53 and subsequent sections of the Local Government Act 1972 should also go to the Assembly.

Amendment No. 53 relates to proposals for changes in local government areas and boundaries and for substantive changes in electoral arrangements for local authorities in Wales. Section 53 of the 1972 Act sets up the Local Government Boundary Commission for Wales. The remaining sections referred to in the amendment set out the functions of the Wales Boundary Commission and of the Secretary of State regarding alterations in boundaries between county, district and community councils, and with regard to substantive changes in electoral arrangements for all such local authorities in Wales."

The Bill provides that the Secretary of State's functions will be retained by him. Our amendment provides that they should be discharged by the Assembly. These functions include, first, the power to direct the Commission to conduct a review of Wales as a whole or of any one or more local government area or part of such area in Wales. Secondly, the Commission should make proposals to the Secretary of State for effecting changes appearing to the Commission desirable in the interests of effective and convenient local government. Thirdly, the Secretary of State has power, if he thinks fit, to give effect by order to any proposals made to him by the Commission, either as submitted to him or with modifications.

These functions relate exclusively to local government in Wales. Their discharge has no relevance to or any effect on local government in any other part of the United Kingdom. They are precisely the kind of functions that should be discharged by the Assembly, and are eminently suitable for discharge by it, as the Assemblymen will have expert local knowledge—in each case. It must be difficult for any Secretary of State to have such knowledge when he is reviewing such recommendations.

It is strange that the Government have seen fit to retain those functions while rightly proposing that the vast majority of the Secretary of State's functions in relation to local government in Wales should be discharged by the Assembly. As the Assembly will have power to discharge most of the Secretary of State's functions, under the Local Government Act 1972, it appears incongruous that the functions in the sections referred to in my amendment have been retained.

In the event of the amendments being accepted, we should be happy to see the provisions of Schedule 11 of the 1972 Act— Rules to be Observed in Considering Electoral Arrangements —made applicable to the Assembly as they now are applicable to the Secretary of State. No doubt the Government could look after this by a consequential change in Section 78 of the 1972 Act, either during the passage of the Bill or under Clause 80 when the Bill is enacted.

It would also appear to us that the amendment would be in accordance with the spirit of Clause 13, which provides that the Assembly should review the structure of local government in Wales. If it should appear to the Assembly, having carried out this review, that the structure of local government in Wales should be amended by alterations in boundaries between authorities, the Assembly could order the Commission to carry out a review of boundaries between local authorities, and it could implement the Commission's proposals without reference to the Secretary of State.

Therefore, there are valid and cogent reasons why the Secretary of State's functions in the sections referred to in the amendment should be discharged by the Assembly. There is no logical reason why he should not be discharged of them by the Assembly and why they should not be undertaken by the Assembly. In the absence of such reason, one is forced to conclude that the Government's only reason for retaining the power is to enable the Secretary of State perhaps to change boundaries in a way that the Government would want rather than a way acceptable to Assemblymen.

4.45 p.m.

We believe that the Assemblymen in Cardiff will be people whom we can trust with this kind of work. We believe that they will be close to the reality of local problems. In the context of the Commission's work on parish councils and community councils in Wales, I have seen the need for local knowledge if a meaningful decision is to be taken. I have seen the boundaries of community councils drawn in the most obscure way and I have seen the great difficulties of persuading people who are not attached to an area, or do not have knowledge of it, of a need to have changes implemented.

That observation is equally valid of other units in local government, and is a reason for giving the ultimate decision to the Assemblymen representing all the areas of Wales. That would give more chance of ensuring that the units making up the new pattern would fit in with the pattern of existing communities.

Mr. Ioan Evans

The hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. Wigley) says that his amendment is in line with the spirit of Clause 13. If that is so, I hope that the Committee will reject the amendment, although, as the hon. Gentleman said, it gives us the opportunity of debating matters related to the clause without debating the terms of the clause. We are discussing the transfer of local government powers from the Secretary of State to the Assembly.

We should remember that the first page of the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum says: This Bill gives effect for Wales to proposals described in the White Papers 'Our Changing Democracy: Devolution to Scotland and Wales' (Cmnd. 6348) and 'Devolution to Scotland and Wales: Supplementary Statement' (Cmnd. 6585)". On page 47 of "Our Changing Democracy" we find that the White Paper said about local government: Responsibility for central government supervision of most aspects of local government in Wales will be devolved. The administration will oversee the work of local authorities in devolved matters. It will allocate rate support grant to them, control their capital investment in the devolved fields and be responsible for the application of the local taxation system. Then comes the important sentence: The devolution Act will make no change in the structure of local government in Wales. When the Scotland and Wales Bill was published I said that I believed that local government in Wales would be affected if the Bill were passed, although at that time there was no clause about reorganising local government. Then the Government Front Bench rightly accepted the advice of many on the Labour Benches that we should divide that Bill into two Bills. Now we find in this Bill Clause 13, which says specifically: The Assembly shall review the structure of local government in Wales and shall report its conclusions to the Secretary of State. Therefore, although the White Paper says that the Bill will have no effect on local government it certainly will have an effect.

This is an important matter, and we should spend some time on it. I believe that the Government have gone the wrong way about devolving powers to the people of Wales. When my right hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. Hughes) was Secretary of State he said that we would try to have in Wales—I believe that this has been said, although the issue was not debated—one body covering the whole of Wales, with a unitary local authority underneath. If my right hon. Friend had been allowed to have his way at that time, which was before the Kilbrandon Commission met and before the reorganisation of local government by the Conservative Party, such a proposal would have been a sensible one that would have worked well in Wales.

What then happened? The Government set up the Crowther Commission and later the Kilbrandon Commission to look into the constitution of Wales. They then began to look at how we could improve the constitutional relationship between the people of Wales and of the rest of the United Kingdom. Unfortunately, while the Kilbrandon Commission was discussing and determining what should be the remedy, the Conservative Party proceeded to reorganise local government.

Mr. Ian Grist (Cardiff, North)

Will the hon. Member give way?

Mr. Evans

I shall give way in a moment, but I do not want to lose the thread of my argument.

The Conservative Party proceeded to reorganise local government. It did not do it in the best possible way. I am glad that I carry my hon. Friend the Member for Newport (Mr. Hughes) with me on that. My right hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey had a far better method of reorganising local government than that proposed by the Conservative Party. But what we have to take into account, and what the Government did not take into account when they produced their proposals for an Assembly, is that the Government proceeded on the evidence that the Conservative Party had put forward to Kilbrandon, ignored the fact that local government had been reorganised and proceeded to create an Assembly.

Therefore, we have the worst of both worlds. We have our community councils, district councils, county councils, a Welsh Office and a Secretary of State. As well as all those, we are now to have an Assembly. We have now reached a situation in which we are maintaining the existing structure and creating another tier of government. It is nonsense for my hon. Friends to suggest that the Welsh Assembly is not even a tier of government. To say that the Assembly is not a tier of government but that the community council, the district council or the county council is a tier of government is playing with words. It is true that powers are being transferred from the Welsh Office to the Welsh Assembly. But what we have is the Welsh Office, which is a form of tier of government in the House of Commons, and we are having another tier of government in the Welsh Assembly.

Mr. Grist

Is the hon. Member aware that the discussion on the White Paper of his right hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. Hughes) was welcomed by most parties in Wales? Had his party gone ahead at that stage with those proposals, they would have met with general approval. Does he also remember that following the Redcliffe-Maud Report on local government reform in England, it was proposed to have unitary authorities in South-East Wales and dual authorities in the rest of Wales? Was that not the maddest proposal ever, and did it not show that the Labour Party was not prepared to go ahead with reform at all?

Mr. Evans

I carry the hon. Member with me in saying that if we had resolved the matter in the way that my right hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey proposed, we should not have got into the difficulties we have in recent months.

Mr. D. E. Thomas

The hon. Member has just told us that this proposal now for a Welsh Assembly to have a review of local government is the worst of all possible worlds. Will he advise the Committee of the policy of the local authority in his constituency, the Cynon Valley Borough Council, towards a Welsh Assembly?

Mr. Evans

The Cynon Valley Borough Council has thrown out the White Paper. I do not know why the hon. Member is referring to both of my local authorities. I am one of the few Members who can say that not only is there a Labour Member in my constituency but a Labour local authority and a Labour county council. Both the county council and the borough council in the area I serve have rejected devolution. They have rejected the White Paper.

Mr. D. E. Thomas

This Bill?

Mr. Evans

I do not know whether it met yesterday, but the view of the Cynon Valley Borough Council is that it rejects the White Paper on which the Bill is based. That local authority is now intervening. I have told the hon. Member time and again that Plaid Cymru Members have been standing in my locality putting forward the views of his part) and they have been rejected time and again. Those candidates who fought for my party at county and borough levels have been strongly opposed to the ideas that Plaid Cymru represents.

Mr. D. E. Thomas

Will the hon. Member confirm that the Cynon Valley Borough Council supports the Bill?

Mr. Evans

I shall not make any such confirmation because, as I know it, the Cynon Valley Borough Council has rejected the White Paper on which the Bill is based. There will be many other opportunities in the debate, and I shall return specifically to that point. To my knowledge, the vast majority of the members of the local authority who represent my party on the Cynon Valley Borough Council reject the establishment of an Assembly.

Mr. Roy Hughes (Newport)

Does my hon. Friend agree that we are not dealing with the proposals of Plaid Cymru in the Bill? Presumably that party wants to go much further than the proposals in the Bill. Indeed, the essence of the Bill was unanimously agreed by the Members of the last Parliament. That is why the Government are now acting upon it. That is why they are acting upon the decisions that were arrived at then—and by my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock). He attended every meeting and was a party to the unanimous agreement that was reached.

Mr. Kinnock

Utter rubbish!

Mr. Evans

My hon. Friend the Member for Newport is quite right. I would not accuse the Government Front Bench of going all the way with Plaid Cymru. Heaven forbid that anything like that should happen. However, my hon. Friend must realise that in this discussion we are addressing ourselves to an amendment that Plaid Cymru has put forward.

To return to the argument I was developing, I believe that we went wrong. The difficulty with the present Bill is that the Government, realising that the previous Government had reorganised local government, thought to themselves "Look, this is difficult. We have reorganised local government once. We have uprooted it and created an anomaly in the present local government set-up. How can we say to people that we shall abolish the counties and the boroughs once again so soon?" In Wales the signposts are only beginning to go up to tell us where Dyfed, Gwynedd, Clwyd, Powys, Gwent and all the other counties are.

Mr. Caerwyn E. Roderick (Brecon and Radnor)

As my hon. Friend has referred to what the Conservative Party did, will he agree that it pre-empted any kind of reorganisation along the lines of Crowther or Kilbrandon because it jumped in and reorganised local government so that the scene could be set for the present situation, and it explained "We cannot reorganise local government again in view of the fact that we have done it a little while ago"? Can my hon. Friend set a date when we can start to think again about reorganising local government, or is he totally opposed to such reorganisation?

Mr. Evans

If my hon. Friend wants a quick answer, all I can say is that it will be some other time, but not now. My hon. Friend has confirmed what I have been saying—that the Conservative Party went ahead and reorganised local government, and that made it impossible for the present Government to bring forward proposals so soon, and, an omelette having been created, to try to unscramble the egg.

We are going to make changes, but we must not rush into making them. We must be sure that the next changes follow a complete examination, because in Wales we need not only to get the best form of local government but to take account of nominated bodies—a point that has been raised time and again in this Chamber.

5.0 p.m.

The Government went ahead with then-plans and tried to ignore the fact that local government reorganisation had taken place. They then introduced a measure which was to unify the kingdom, but it is creating a method that has built-in obsolescence. It cannot possibly survive the period ahead. Hon. Members who have interrupted me are more or less conceding that point.

In Wales we cannot possibly have a system in which there are community councils, borough councils, county councils, the Welsh Office, a Welsh Assembly and a Secretary of State. I repeat what I have said elsewhere: London has 9 million people, and has a county council and metropolitan boroughs. Yet we have all these forms of government in Wales. What is proposed cannot survive.

Therefore, if we make changes we must make them correctly. We must not proceed with the Bill and then hand matters over to a new Assembly. We do not know what the composition of the Assembly will be. We do not know what the expertise of its Members will be or of what political complexion it may be. That matter may be of relevance to some hon. Members. We do not know what experience the Members of the Assembly will have had. The vast majority may be ex-county councillors, but we do not know. It is possible that we shall elect to the Assembly people who have no experience of local government whatsoever. That is a hypothetical consideration that we should bear in mind.

Mr. Roderick

It would be a good thing.

Mr. Evans

My hon. Friend says that it would be a good thing, but we are organising an Assembly and transferring power to it, and it is important that its Members should have some knowledge of local government.

Mr. Roderick

How many Members of the House of Commons had experience of local government when Parliament reorganised local government previously?

Mr. Evans

I think that my hon. Friend will find that there are many hon. Members who have had local government experience. There are many barristers and journalists in the House, but on the Labour Benches, and on the Conservative Benches, very many hon. Members have had local government experience and have served on local authorities. Even if an hon. Member has not served on a local authority, is there any who can say that he has not had considerable experience of dealing with local government? Every Member has had some sort of local government experience.

Here, however, we are going to elect an Assembly, and we do not know its composition.

Mr. Kinnock

Is not the great difference, in any case, between the House of Commons considering comprehensive local government reform and the Assembly conceivably doing so that the House of Commons, as the law-making body—which the Assembly apparently will not be—bears a responsibility for both the evolution of the powers and the fulfilment of those powers, and for the response to those powers, and therefore carries all the can and is not, there- fore, interested in trying to ride some local bandwagon without having the responsibility of fulfilling its own plans, which may be the characteristic of the Assembly in this respect and in many other respects?

Mr. Evans

Further to that, what we shall be doing is creating in Wales, in an Assembly, a body of people who will have a vested interest in ridding themselves of the local bodies underneath them.

Mr. Roderick

Such as the county councils.

Mr. Evans

My hon. Friend is mentioning only half of the truth, because it would be the district councils as well. Not only will the county councils go; the district councils will go, too. I shall say why.

The hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. Wigley) smiles. He must wipe the smile off his face, because one cannot give to a borough council the powers that are now given to a county council, because a borough council is too small. If we are to create a unitary authority in Wales, either the borough councils will get the power—and they are too small—or the county councils will get it—and they are too large.

The Government are trying to dodge a difficult problem. I understand that they want to rid themselves of it, but it will not go away. It will remain with us. That is why it is imperative that we do not rush through a Bill saying "We made a commitment in the manifesto. Let us tell the people that we have fulfilled it." The people will have to live with the consequences. It is regrettable that we did not do earlier what my right hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey suggested. That opportunity was missed. The Government are now trying to make the best of a bad job.

I am afraid that we cannot leave local government as it is and talk about the unity of the people of this kingdom if we create another tier of government and place it on top of the existing tiers.

Mr. Wigley

The hon. Gentleman has mentioned that the Assembly could well do away with the county function and the district function—if I understood him aright. Surely he is not seriously suggesting that an elected Welsh Assembly will do away with all other tiers of local government in Wales. If that is what he is suggesting, he is clearly out of touch with the main stream of thinking in Wales in most parties. Those areas that had unitary authorities before now regret that they have lost those unitary tiers and many districts, such as Anglesey and Pembrokeshire, form natural units, and this gave considerable benefits to local government.

Mr. Evans

If the hon. Gentleman does me the justice of reading what I have already said, he will see in Hansard tomorrow that I have answered the points that he is making. I am sure that other hon. Members will have followed my argument.

I was saying that we cannot give the powers to the counties because they are not small enough to be near to the people, and we cannot give the powers to the districts because they will not be large enough. We cannot think in terms of each of 37 borough councils in Wales having a director of education. We shall have a growth of bureaucracy.

The Labour Party has tried to improve the Government's proposals. It has said that we must unify and bring together existing borough councils. The figure varies—15, 17 or 18—and they are only proposals, anyway. The district councils and borough councils will be too small and the counties will be too large.

What disturbs me a little is that in this Chamber we keep talking about bringing local government and government nearer to the people. But what do the local authorities say? Concerning the Assembly, the score was seven against the Assembly and one for it.

Mr. Roderick

That is what the counties say.

Mr. Evans

Seven counties are against the Assembly and one is for it. However, regarding the local government proposals, and this measure, the eight counties, including the county of the hon. Member for Caernarvon, are unanimous in saying that the Bill should not try to make changes. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. Thomas) is not in the Chamber. I have confirmed what I have said with the chief executive of my county, who happens to be the secretary of the eight countries.

How can we say that we are taking government nearer to the people if we bring Gwynedd County Council down to Cardiff for it to be run there, or Powys, Dyfed and the others?

The Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Alec Jones)

My hon. Friend surprises me. I understand the difference of view expressed by various county councils in Wales. However, I find it astonishing that it is said that all the county councils are opposed to the proposals, when I have in front of me a Press report from the Spectator of 4th March which contains this advertisement by the Gwynedd County Council: Gwynedd County Council wishes the Secretary of State for Wales success in his efforts to establish an elected Assembly for the Principality.

Mr. Evans

The trouble is that hon. Members will not listen to what is said. I mentioned that Gwynedd is the sole exception. It is the only county prepared to spend money on advertising, to tell the Secretary of State what it thinks.

As for Clause 13, which we are not able to discuss, Gwynedd is in line with the other seven counties, and the Welsh counties are unanimous—

Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)

Is it right that public money should be spent by a public authority in sending greetings to the Secretary of State?

Mr. Evans

I shall not follow that up. The counties are doing things now but before long there will not be any counties to do anything, because they will lose their powers completely.

I hope that the amendment will be rejected. I hope also that in some way time may be found to look at Clause 13. Fears are growing in Wales. Uncertainty is developing and it will continue to develop until a final decision has been made. If the clause remains in the Bill, the uncertainty will continue until the Assembly meets and states what is to be the future of local government. It is wrong that those who are working at county and borough level should have these anxieties about their future.

Sir Raymond Gower

I sometimes disagree violently with the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. Evans) but I cannot dissent from a lot of what he has said today, except to point out that when the last Conservative Government enacted the changes in local government they were sustained by some very formidable advice from very large commissions in England and Wales and Scotland. I refer, of course, to the Redcliffe-Maud Report and the Wheatley Report. It was praiseworthy that the Government got down to the task of implementing the sort of findings which are sometimes left on the shelf for a very long time.

The hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. Wigley) wants powers to pass to the Assembly, and he remarked that as a result the Assembly will be nearer to the people. I do not follow his argument there, because I believe that the Assembly will be far less near the people than are the local authorities. The Assemblymen will be representing much bigger areas than are represented by members of the county or borough authorities.

Mr. Wigley

Perhaps my comments did not come over clearly to the hon. Gentleman. The powers in the Local Government Act 1972, Sections 53, 54 and 55, are those which will be exercised by the Secretary of State, unless the amendment is carried. The choice, therefore, is between the Secretary of State and Assemblymen. My point is that 75 or 80 Assemblymen must have a greater local knowledge than one person, namely, the Secretary of State.

Sir R. Gower

I should have thought that Assemblymen, recently returned or arrived, and embarking on the great undertaking of the Assembly, would have comparatively little to do. It has been said that they will not have enough powers and functions, but I believe that the Assembly should be the last body in the world to examine local government. It is absurd to give the Assembly a power which is specially prescribed in a special clause. The Assembly, presumably, will want to prove that it is doing something, and therefore, by the very nature of things, it will want to achieve one success—to make far-reaching proposals to alter local government. There would be a far more dispassionate examination of matters of this kind by the Secretary of State. He is far more likely to be objective in his examination than the Assemblymen would be.

Mr. Emlyn Hooson (Montgomery)

Does not the hon. Gentleman recollect that the Conservative Government refused to have a commission on Wales? There was no commission on Wales for local government purposes. There was for England and Scotland but not for Wales.

5.15 p.m.

Sir R. Gower

There was a joint commission which reported on local government in England and Wales. The hon. and learned Gentleman knows that perfectly well. He is just playing with words. I suggest that there was no finding in the Redcliffe-Maud Report about Wales. I am sure that persons engaged in local government in Wales would undoubtedly regret anything which tended to separate them from local government in England. I have spoken to many people who worked in local government, and they are able to move from an authority in Wales to one in England and to get experience of a different kind. They are then able to move back again, if they wish to do so, but they cannot do this in the case of Scotland. They like this interchangeability and the career structure which is made possible for them.

Mr. Roderick

The hon. Gentleman said that the Redcliffe-Maud Commission pronounced for England and Wales. At what points did the reorganisation coincide with the recommendations of Redcliffe-Maud for Wales?

Sir R. Gower

I do not think that it would be in order for me to attempt to deal with that question, or even possible in a speech of the length that I propose to make. The ultimate proposals were not greatly dissimilar from the proposals made by the successor of the right hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. Hughes).

Mr. Roy Hughes

Is it not the fact that we had a White Paper drawn up for Welsh local government reorganisation when my right hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. Hughes) was Secretary of State for Wales? Its implementation was held up by the new Secretary of State, following my right hon. Friend's change of office. Our proposals was held up because of the Redcliffe-Maud Commission investigating local government in England. The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) is absolutely right in saying that the Commission did not examine Wales.

Sir R. Gower

I recall that the proposals brought forward by the successor to the right hon. Member for Anglesey were slightly different from our proposals, but in essence they were similar.

I give one example of a change which was made. Instead of having a single county in North Wales, it was decided to have two separate counties. Similarly, instead of having a unitary authority in the county of Glamorgan, there was a dual arrangement.

Mr. Gwynfor Evans (Carmarthen)

Will the hon. Gentleman agree that the fact that the proposals for the reorganisation of local government in Wales were brought forward long before the Redcliffe-Maud Commission reported is of great significance? They were brought forward without the help of a public commission or a public inquiry of any kind. They were, in fact, the fruit of the work of civil servants. It was a Civil Service job, done here in London. That is the big difference between what is now proposed and what happened then.

The people who will be elected to the Assembly will be sensitive to public opinion. They will not act foolishly, otherwise they will be thrown out on their necks. Surely it is very sensible to allow elected people to be responsible for an inquiry of this kind.

Sir R. Gower

I think that the hon. Gentleman was in the House at the time and will recall what happened. I was not a member of the Committee dealing with local government reform, but there was cross-voting and the proceedings were not at all of a partisan nature. At the time I was sitting in Committee on another Bill, connected with housing, and we used to contrast our Bill, where the proceedings were quite partisan, with the other one.

The clause by which the new Assembly will be required, as one of its first duties to examine local government is, I believe most unwise. I do not believe that a power of that sort should be given to the Assembly in its early days. Similarly, with regard to the powers which the amendment seeks to transfer, I agree with the hon. Member for Aberdare that these are better exercised by the Secretary of State. I do not suggest, as the hon. Member for Aberdare did, that the Assembly will be a non-effective body. However, in its early days it will have to move slowly and, in my view, it should not be required to do something of a very big order such as the re-examination of local government.

That is my attitude, and I agree with the hon. Member for Aberdare that the amendment should not be accepted.

Mr. Cledwyn Hughes (Anglesey)

I am glad that the Committee is having this debate and that you, Mr. Murton, have been wise enough to allow the debate to go a little beyond the rigid confines of Amendments Nos. 52 and 53. That is appropriate in view of the possibility that we may not be able to look at Clause 13 in detail, although I do not take the enthusiastic view of a wide ranging debate on Clause 13 of some of my hon. Friends.

It is important for the Committee to remember that, following the 1973 legislation which changed drastically not only the boundaries of local government but also aspects of the National Health Service and of our water undertakings, we suffered traumatic consequences. I do not think that it is exaggerating to say that in all these matters of health, water supply and local government reorganisation we have not yet recovered from the shock that we suffered on their implementation in 1974. The boundaries of local government were changed and functions were transferred to much larger authorities, and there is no doubt that the change took away much of the democratic proximity which existed as between councillor and ratepayer under the old system, and replaced it with the very large counties which now govern Wales.

Mr. Grist

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Cledwyn Hughes

I hope that the hon. Member will allow me to continue my theme. This constant interruption does not help the debate.

I concede immediately that there are strong arguments on both sides of this case. But the major obstacle to reorganising local government in Wales effectively is due largely to the comparative poverty of Mid-Wales, by which I mean the area south of Llanfyllin virtually to Merthyr Tydfil. Whichever way it is looked at and whatever permutation is considered, we are left with that intractable problem. We have the wealth of Gwent, Glamorgan, Deeside and the Wrexham area and other pockets alongside the comparative poverty of the remaining areas which have extraordinarily difficult problems, especially in the county represented by the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) and my hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Roderick) and other comparable areas in the heartland of Wales. That, therefore, is the basic problem. After very careful consideration over a period of time, this is what impelled me to the conclusion that some national organisation in Wales was necessary to deal with the problem.

Of course, we have our nominated bodies, and a proliferation of those, as we know. I came to the unavoidable conclusion, however, that the only way we could tackle the problems properly, bearing in mind the traditions of our people, was a democratic way, and that is what led me to the inescapable conclusion that it should be done on a national basis.

In addition to local government, we had water reorganisation, with appalling consequences in terms of increased charges, and the reorganisation of the National Health Service, again with some undesirable results. I say to my hon. Friends who are slightly critical of this Bill that, when we were debating the local government Bill, the criticism from the Labour Benches was uniform. There was no argument in its favour.

I shall not weary the Committee by quoting from the relevant speeches made by my hon. Friends, powerful though they were, in their criticism of the Bill. Nor shall I refer to the speeches of the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Edwards), who took an honest stand on behalf of his constituency at the time. However, listening to those speeches it was easy to believe that my hon. Friends could not wait for the moment to abolish the new structure and to replace it with some better alternative. Certainly that was the impression that they left with me.

However, their objection may be not to the reorganisation of local government but to the proposal that the Assembly should look at it first and make recommendations. I think that those of my hon. Friends who are against this proposal in all honesty must believe in their hearts that local government needs to be looked at again. The subdivision of Glamorgan needs to be examined again. One of the difficulties is that it can be argued, as the seven county councils argue, that it is too soon to look at reorganisation. I understand the argument that they should for the time being be allowed to get on with the job. I understand the attitude of conscientious and hard-working officials who want peace to get on with their work. But there is the equally valid argument that, if they are allowed to go on for a few years, they will become more entrenched and reorganisation will again be that much more difficult.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards (Pembroke)

When the right hon. Gentleman says that the reverse argument is equally valid, is he bearing in mind that the Government have not accepted that case for England? In their paper on possible devolution for England, they say clearly and explicitly that the first point of view put forward by the right hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. Hughes)—that there should not be a further upheaval at this time—is the right point of view. That at least is the view of the right hon. Gentleman's Treasury Bench.

Mr. Hughes

Wales provides enough material for us, without embarking further afield—[Interruption.] Very well. Let us take a look back. Redcliffe-Maud made substantial recommendations, and the Conservative Government turned them upside down. They did not implement them. They put their own ideas into effect. What is more, it is not a satisfactory organisation of local government in England. I am prepared to argue that at length, but this is not the occasion to do so. We have our problems in Wales, and I have not the confidence, which hon. Members representing English constituencies have, to poach on their preserve.

I must answer the argument of my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare (Mr. Evans) when he dealt at some length with Gwynedd, and I shall set the record straight. Gwynedd County Council has written to me at some length. It takes the view that, whilst it would be wrong to rush into a further review of local government simply as a result of the establishment of the Assembly, it would be unrealistic to regard the present system or any system of government for that matter, as sacrosanct for all time and immune from any kind of review. The county council would like a review of the structure of local government by some sort of commission with the duty of reporting to the Assembly on the structure of local government, the National Health Service and the water authority in Wales.

It is only right that I convey that view to the Committee. It is not a view that I necessarily share. The last report on local government reform in Wales was produced by an appointed working party. Redcliffe-Maud was a commission. Why should we be so resistant to the idea of a democratically elected body being capable of making recommendations on a matter of this kind?

Mr. Wyn Roberts

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will put the record straight in respect of the Gwynedd case. If he will turn over the page—

5.30 p.m.

Mr. Hughes

The hon. Gentleman is a friend of mine, but at this stage he does me no justice because is is not allowing me to proceed "over the page". The letter continues: They, like other Welsh County Councils, feel that it would be entirely wrong for the Assembly itself soon after its formation to review local government. It is questionable whether it would act dispassionately and objectively having regard to the over-emphasis that has been given in the past few years to the concept of an Assembly resembling more a local government body than a national forum exercising powers delegated from Parliament, and it is very possible that the Assembly might be tempted to draw from local government activities and functions which properly belong to local government and are not part of the total central government function. This would facilitate the formation of an emasculated pattern of local government which would be contrary to the best interests of the populations in diverse parts of Wales and contrary to good government in the Principality as a whole. That is the view which is stated hi the council's letter. But as I understand it, the Government do not propose that the functions of county councils, or district councils for that matter, should be transferred to the Assembly. It has always been made clear in all the White Papers that the powers of the Assembly would be those exercised by the Secretary of State and nominated bodies, not by local government. That is where I must disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare.

Mr. Ioan Evans

I have not been in contact with Gwynedd myself, but the letter confirms the opinion that I have received from the England and Wales County Councils Committee which said that it was opposed to Clause 13. I sought confirmation of this because there has been previous misunderstanding between the Welsh counties and the England and Wales counties. I understand that the position of the Welsh counties, as well as that of Gwynedd, is unique in that they support the Assembly legislation, unlike the other counties. But they were unanimous with regard to local committee organisation. I hope my right hon. Friend will agree that that in no way detracts from what I said earlier.

Mr. Hughes

I made clear that I did not agree with everything stated by the Gwynedd County Council. But I felt it right to read out its views. That I have done. However, it certainly does not conform to the impression that my hon. Friend gave in his speech.

There is a final point that I wish to make. I can see that there is a long, hard road ahead before an Assembly comes into being. The opposition to it in some quarters is profound. But those of us who believe in the Assembly will fight for it as strenuously as those who oppose it. Having said that, it is necessary to emphasise that the Assembly will make recommendations to this House of Commons. It can do no more than that. That cannot be repeated too frequently. It is not what Plaid Cymru would favour. It is for the Government of the day of whatever complexion, to decide whether to proceed further with such recommendations. They might decide to do nothing. We might even have a Conservative Government—

Mr. Kinnock


Mr. Hughes

It is a remote possibility. And one does not know what a Conservative Government would do. We are contemplating a very long process. We are talking about the setting up of the Assembly, the consideration of the problem by the Assembly, the report of the Assembly to the Secretary of State, the consideration of that report by Cabinet and Cabinet Committee, the White Paper which would be debated by the House of Commons and possible legislation to follow. That is a considerable—

Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East)

Does my right hon. Friend concede that whichever body makes the recommendations, those recommendations will eventually come back to this House of Commons? Should not a non-interested body—a detached body—make such recommendations rather than a body that is interested in aggrandisement or has a vested interest in the decision?

Mr. Hughes

My hon. Friend has unwittingly advanced the classical case for "nominated bodies" as against "democratic bodies". I do not happen to share the view, which some of my hon. Friends harbour in the recesses of their hearts, that Wales is incapable of electing a national body of which it would be proud.

Mr. Kinnock

I am sorry to interrupt my right hon. Friend. I shall ask a brief question to which he can give a brief answer. Will my right hon. Friend name which of my hon. Friends he has in mind when he states that people do not have confidence that Wales is capable of electing whatever it wants to elect

Mr. Hughes

Wales elects Members of Parliament who are honourable and elects to local authorities men who give good service. There are, of course, one or two black sheep in every walk of life in every country. There is in spirit and tradition no more democratic country in the world than Wales. Wales is capable of electing a national body to serve it. I do not think that my hon. Friend should ask me to name hon. Members. It is not a fair question. I believe that my hon. Friend is trying to make an unfair debating point.

Mr. Kinnock


Mr. Hughes

My hon. Friend knows perfectly well that speeches have been made by hon. Members indicating that they have no confidence that Wales is capable of electing an efficient body to run certain of its own affairs. My hon. Friend, is perfectly at liberty to ask such questions.

I am saying that this House of Commons will in due course have its opportunity to reach a decision on local government after the Assembly comes into being. It will be a long process, but the safeguards that are necessary do exist. In my estimation—I am open to correction—it would take at least four years before we could hope for legislation. That is not unreasonable in the light of the view which Welsh people at present take of their local government.

Mr. Hooson

The right hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. Hughes) has made a very sensible contribution to the debate. The more I listen to the debate the more I think that it is a tragedy that the previous Government implemented their plans for local government reform without waiting for the Kilbrandon Commission to report. In acting in this way they put Wales in an impossible position. When local government is reformed new bodies are created with vested interests.

Some Labour Members have said that we cannot touch local government now. They claim that because the Conservatives succeeded in placing an impediment in the way of the Welsh Assembly by creating rival interests, we must abide by that situation.

Mr. Ioan Evans

The hon. and learned Member did not hear my speech.

Mr. Hooson

I came in about halfway through the hon. Member's speech and I must say that I am grateful that I missed the first part.

There is a real problem involved, but we must accept that when new local government bodies are created they will have vested interests. We see the county councils reacting more violently against the proposed Assembly than the district councils. That is because they feel more threatened. Most speeches attacking local government in Wales have attacked the county councils rather than the district councils, and, as a result, the counties feel that they are more likely to be changed or reformed by the Welsh Assembly.

Mr. Ioan Evans

Although there has been a certain amount of pitting the district and county councils against each other, if this arises as a result of the Welsh Assembly being set up in years to come, the whole of local government is back in the melting pot. That is what will happen if this Bill goes through.

Mr. Hooson

I do not accept that. I share the view of the right hon. Member for Anglesey. I think that it is taking an impossibly pessimistic view to suggest that the people of Wales cannot elect their own Assemblymen and women who are capable of doing a first-class job. I agree that there is prejudice to overcome and I have never made any bones about that. The hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse) has put forward the view on several occasions that there is a danger of corruption in the Assembly. I am sure that this problem could be overcome without any trouble at all.

As a Liberal I believe, and I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Cardigan (Mr. Howells) shares my view, that no power should go to the Assembly from local government. All powers should derive from the Secretary of State and this House. The Assembly should not take any powers from either the district or the county councils. Therefore it is quite a wrong concept of the Assembly to suggest that it can or will take powers away from local government.

Mr. Anderson

If that is so, where are those powers that are exercised by the middle tier—the county councils—such as education and social services to go, other than upwards to an Assembly?

Mr. Hooson

The hon. Member assumes that there will be a great change in local government. Whatever views I held six years ago on the proposed local government reform, I feel that it is unlikely to be changed again in the near future. There will be some small changes. For example, at present planning powers are exercised by both the district and county councils. These should be exercised by only one area of local government, and I think it should be the district councils.

Also, I believe that when Labour Members talk about county and district councils they should remember that if local government in Wales is changed eventually they must not make the mistake of believing that unitary authorities should necessarily be the answer in every part of the country. In rural Wales an all-purpose or most-purpose authority should be the existing district council, which used to be the county council. In Glamorgan and Gwent the position could be quite different. We make the mistake of believing that it must be the district or the county council, but that depends very much on the area and the circumstances.

The right hon. Member for Anglesey mentioned the particular difficulties of what he called the Welsh heartland. These sorts of difficulties occur where there is sparse population. In my constituency we have one soul to every 11 acres and the position is about the same in Brecon and Radnor, Cardigan and Carmarthen where, by and large, the rateable product is very low.

However, if the boundaries were changed, the financing of local government in these areas would be the same. I disagree with the suggestion that it is a question of adjusting the boundaries to deal with mid-Wales where rateable value is low. Whatever changes take place, unless there is a dramatic change in the economy of the area, it will still be heavily dependent on central Government funds for financing. The only question is, who should administer these funds—and that is what the debate is all about. I was all for having unitary authorities in these areas, and I rarely meet anyone in local government who does not agree with me.

What we are concerned with in Clause 13 is that the Assembly should review the structure of local government in Wales and report to the Secretary of State. It would be most valuable to have an elected Welsh Assembly to report its own views on local government structure in Wales. This would be the first time that an elected Welsh body had been in such a position, because it is the first time that we have had an opportunity to have such a body. I cannot understand why hon. Members should object to that provision.

5.45 p.m.

Mr. Geraint Morgan (Denbigh)

I listened carefully and with interest to the speech of the right hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. Hughes) who played such an important part in the consideration of local government reorganisation in Wales in the 1960s. I gather from what he said that he envisaged certain changes taking place again in Welsh local government within the next four years. The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) said the opposite—that it was unlikely to be changed in the near future. However, he welcomed the thought that the Welsh Assembly should make recommendations in that respect.

This is the position quite simply, as I see it. Although the terms of Clause 1 as drafted do not make further reorganisation of local government in Wales inevitable, the wording of the clause does appear to extend an open invitation to the Assembly to initiate such a reorganisation, and that only four years after the already extensive reorganisation of 1974 with all the upheaval that that involved. This is what is causing concern at the moment.

For this very good reason the Welsh Counties Committee of the Association of County Councils takes objection to this clause. The point it makes trenchantly in letters and memoranda to Welsh Members is that local government in Wales, and England as well for that matter, needs a period of stability following the last reorganisation, and that it is much to soon to contemplate further changes. It emphasises in this connection that any proposals for change would be bitterly controversial, would undermine the morale of local government and would involve considerable costs at a time of great financial stringency for local government generally.

The matter is succinctly put in a discussion paper recently produced by the Welsh Counties Committee. One passage in that paper reads: Local government should be allowed to get on with its job. An efficient organisation cannot possibly waste so much time and money in repeatedly considering reorganisation. For 30 years, more or less the entire post-war period, there has been talk of local government reorganisation. The Welsh Counties Committee could properly have added that Wales suffered more than any other part of the United Kingdom from the unsettling uncertainty of the seemingly endless talk about local government reorganisation during the period after the war, and in particular from the early 1960s onwards. It is now generally forgotten that Wales was the "guinea pig area" on which the Local Government Commissioners, appointed under the provisions of the local government Act 1958, first got to work. I was surprised to see some vagueness, even among Welsh Members, about what happened during the 1960s. Perhaps I might remind the Committee of what happened.

It is now generally forgotten—certainly forgotten other than in Wales—that the Welsh Local Government Commission commenced its labours as early as 1960. That was well nigh a decade before Redcliffe-Maud was ever heard of. It is also forgotten by many that Welsh public life was bedevilled for years by the proposals and counter-proposals that appeared from time to time in the form of various reports from the Commission and White Papers from the Government.

Those proposals suggested widely differing solutions. Indeed, the zig-zagging between the Commission's initial proposals in 1961 and those which it subsequently came up with in 1963 after the initial ones had been ill-received was quite bewildering.

With the benefit of hindsight, it may fairly be said that the first or "provisional" proposals, as they were euphemistically called, probably more correctly reflected the spirit and purpose of the 1958 Act than any later ones, including those that were ultimately adopted. The fact that they were ill-received was probably due to their novelty more than anything else. Some of the later ones, notably the 1963 proposals which would have involved the tearing apart of historic counties rather than joining them together as entities, which, broadly speaking, was the system ultimately adopted only served to fuel the general discontent with the whole subject of reorganisation.

Mr. Gwynfor Evans

The hon. Gentleman has given us a little background, but I should like him to go back a little further. Discussions were held on local government reorganisation in Wales in the middle 1940s. They had much in common with the proposals put forward in the 1960s, but the proposals in the 1940s were turned down by Aneurin Bevan.

Mr. Morgan

I am grateful to the hon. Member for that addition to my little excursions into history. I am quoting this sorry story—and I am content to settle for 1960 as a starting date—in order to underline the fact that we must at all costs avoid a repetition of such a costly, time-wasting and, worst of all, morale-destroying exercise in Wales.

Mr. Roy Hughes

It appears to me that the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Evans) and his hon. Friends the Members for Caernarvon (Mr. Wigley) and Merioneth (Mr. Thomas) require the Assembly to run before it can walk.

I wish to oppose Government Amendment No. 53 because I do not believe the Assembly should decide on the boundaries in the first instance. Parliament should decide that matter. At this stage in the history of the proposed Assembly we should be content to provide that it will merely recommend.

I believe that the Bill is about right in regard to this proposal. The people who are likely to be elected to the Assembly and who live in these areas will be well acquainted with the local situation. Many of them will have vast experience of local government. It is people of that sort, who possess talents in local government, who are likely to stand for the Assembly.

Before I became a Member, I served on one of the largest local authorities in the country, Coventry City Council, an all-purpose authority. Therefore, I can claim not to be unacquainted with these problems. I agree with the hon. Member for Caernarvon that there is likely to be a good deal of duplication, particularly in planning terms. Such people probably could undertake a far better job in helping to rejuvenate manufacturing industry.

My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare (Mr. Evans) was concerned that the White Paper did not affect local government reorganisation. I wanted local government reorganisation to be included in the proposals, and indeed I have pressed for this all along. Therefore, I am glad that the Bill provides that one of the first jobs to be undertaken by the Assembly is to draw up proposals for a more sensible reorganisation of local government.

I regret that some Members, even Labour Members, are now becoming rather partial to the 1972 Act. I have always regarded that Act as a disaster for Wales. One receives almost every day circulars and letters from county councils which have a vested interest on such a scale that those interests almost jump out of the envelopes containing them.

I give all credit to many Conservative Members that they now oppose the local government reorganisation that was carried out by the Conservative Government a few years ago. I reiterate that local government is very much a key feature in the Assembly proposals and the Bill in general.

I very much regret that we are not to have a full-scale debate on Clause 13. Perhaps in that event there would have been a possibility of my amendment for a one-tier system of local government for Wales being called.

The Conservative Party has talked a great deal about consultation on the Assembly proposals. However, consultation to meet the wishes of local people in Wales on the 1972 local government legislation left a bitter taste. My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare suggested that the 1972 legislation rendered abortive any proposals for a Welsh Assembly. My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare was not a Member in 1972. I remind him that our conclusions were reached after the enactment of the Local Government Bill 1972, when the authorities started to implement it. It is because we reached our decisions after that measure was enacted that the suggestion went in our election programmes for both the 1974 General Elections that we should have a Welsh Assembly.

6.0 p.m.

Mr. Ioan Evans

We were talking about an elected council for Wales in the February election. My hon. Friend talks about the recommendations put forward by the party. At the time we were talking about a top tier local government system for Wales. That is why I believe that local government reorganisation is very much bound up with the whole issue of what sort of council or Assembly we should have.

Mr. Hughes

It is a rose by any other name. If we want to call it a council or an Assembly, I agree with my hon. Friend—

Mr. Anderson

Or a Parliament.

Mr. Hughes

In any event, I am sure that we can agree. If amendments are tabled, we can consider the question of the title.

My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare has access, as secretary of the Welsh Labour Group, to all the decisions that were made. He knows at first hand that we met often to consider the proposals. The conclusions that were eventually arrived at were not, to say the least, based only on the idea of the Assembly being the top tier of local government.

My personal experience in Newport of the way in which my constituency has been affected by local government reorganisation is that it has been a tragedy. Newport is a town that is well able to stand on its own feet as a local government unit.

I notice that the Department of the Environment is suggesting that the norm for an education authority is a population of 200,000. That is a lot of nonsense. Newport is a county borough of approximately 120,000 people. We had an education system, including a fully comprehensive system, that was far ahead of the Monmouth County Council's system. I appreciate that the Monmouthshire education authority was essentially a good one.

I give the Committee another example. I remember seeing Lord Eccles, the then Minister for the Arts, when the local government proposals were passing through the House. I was with my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Mr. Jones), who is now the Under-Secretary of State for Wales, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies), who is now the Minister of State, Treasury. We went to see Lord Eccles with the purpose of trying to retain library powers for our respective local authorities. Lord Eccles expressed himself as being favourable to the idea as regards Rhondda and Llanelli, but said that Newport was an entirely different matter. He said "We want your library for the county". That is an indication that the services provided in Newport as a single tier authority were first class in character and that they were required, according to the Conservative Government, for the county council.

Mr. Geraint Howells

I know that, like myself, the hon. Gentleman is a staunch devolutionist. If we are to devolve power to the people of Wales, does he agree that we should give more authority to the community councils, which understand the local problems?

Mr. Hughes

The hon. Gentleman's experience in these matters is different from mine. I have said repeatedly that we in Newport do not want community councils. One sensible argument that some of my hon. Friends have advanced in opposition to the Bill is that we are creating too many tiers of government. I entirely agree with that argument. The point that I have tried to make all along is that we should have one tier of local government plus a Welsh Assembly.

I hope that the proposals contained in the Bill will go ahead and that the final say on the whole matter will lie with the House of Commons.

Mr. Grist

The hon. Member for Newport (Mr. Hughes) spoke, as many others have done, as though the arrangements for local government had been fine. The hon. Gentleman cited Newport as an example. I remember that Newport ran out of space, and, having absorbed the Bettws housing estate, it went on to build in the county of Monmouth.

The Minister of State, who moved the amendment that most of us are now discussing, had experience of local government as a councillor at Merthyr Tydfil, the smallest county borough in the whole of the kingdom. That is a prime example of why it would be idiotic to return to where we were. Those who continue to blather on about how marvellous the system was are misleading the public. Some of us are inclined to forget the difficulties that local government suffered in those days. The hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Evans) was right, as was the hon. and learned Member for Denbigh (Mr. Morgan), in saying that Wales was a guinea pig area. As the hon. Member for Carmarthen said, we had local government reports in 1947, 1948 and 1949, all of which recommended between seven and eight counties in Wales instead of the former 13. All those reports were dismissed by Aneurin Bevan.

These reports were followed by the 1958 review, with the temporary or preliminary report in 1961. The final report appeared in 1963. The trouble with that report was that it dealt with boundaries and not functions, which is what Amendment No. 53 does.

The right hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. Hughes) went on about making more democratic decisions. The right hon. Gentleman suggested that the Assembly would be more democratic. How true is that? The advice that the Assembly would receive and the plans that would be drawn up would stem from the same civil servants who are now in the Welsh Office. Presumably they would be transferred to the employ of the Assembly. They would produce exactly the same advice to the Assembly as they now present to the Welsh Office. The uproar following any recommendations for change would, indeed, be democratic; we all know that. However, I consider that the greater distance that this place provides means that the decisions that are taken are more objective and less liable to local political pressure.

Some hon. Members talk about dissatisfaction with local government. Surely a great deal of that dissatisfaction came about because reorganisation coincided with the enormous burst of inflation following 1974. If we were to consider the rise in the charges of local government from 1970 until today, we should see a more or less constant graph. It would, unfortunately, be rising sharply, but that merely reflects the way in which inflation itself has risen.

The hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. Wigley) said that planning is one of the areas in which there is the most friction. I have not noticed that it is a problem in my county. Both the districts and the county have said that they have now worked out a satisfactory understanding on planning. However, if we were to have more unitary authorities and smaller authorities under the Assembly, what would happen to strategic planning? Presumably that is one of the items that moves upwards to the Assembly. The smaller unitary authorities would not be able to carry out strategic planning. It would be an obvious power to pass to the higher authority.

Mr. Wigley

The counties now draw up their own county structure plans, which are passed to the Secretary of State for ratification. The Secretary of State can reject certain suggestions that are made in the plans. There is already an all-Wales level of co-ordinating and changing structure plans. The problem is that that process takes place at a bureaucratic level and not at a democratically answerable level.

Mr. Grist

For a start, the Secretary of State is democratically elected. Apart from that, if we are to have 20 or 25 unitary authorities, the likelihood is that the expertise and agreement in respect of the various strategic plans appearing before the Assembly would be much less than if they came from the relatively few counties that now submit their plans to the Welsh Office. Clearly, there would be a greater chance of the Assembly stamping on or altering the structure plans coming from the new unitary authorities than under the present system.

Some Labour Members say that there is great dissatisfaction with local government and go on to blame those on the Conservative Benches for that state of affairs. I can only say that it is extraordinary how many Conservative councillors have been elected in Wales, despite the change in local government. The argument of some Labour Members is not borne out in the various elections.

The hon. Members for Caernarvon and Newport spoke as people who have served on county boroughs. In both instances the boroughs were inadequate. Both of them were far too small. I represent a seat that is part of a county borough, the major county borough in Wales. We still hear moans about old powers and the old position, although part of my division consists of housing estates built outside the old Cardiff city boundaries in the county of Glamorgan. That was because Cardiff had run out of space as well. The complaints come from those who essentially live under a single tier of government. The overwhelming majority of people in Wales have lived under a twotier system all their lives. They are used to it. They see it as logical in a country of large spaces and small population. That is a natural way of exercising local government in Wales and it is not a source of conflict.

Mr. Tom Ellis (Wrexham)

When I last spoke in Committee I went on for rather a long time. I assure you, Sir Myer, that I shall be relatively brief. As a matter of fact, I had not intended to say anything at all. I was on the verge of leaving the Chamber. I was so impressed by the low level of debate that I thought I should emulate my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) and walk out, but I should not have done it as brazenly as he did.

However, I stayed, and I am glad that I stayed because I had the privilege of listening to the speech made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. Hughes). I thought that he lifted the debate from its previous low level to something approaching the level at which this important subject should be discussed. Up to that point, it had really consisted of emotional prejudices, non-sequiturs and so on. But my right hon. Friend began to deal with what is a difficult and serious problem. It is the problem essentially of coping with the demands of mass democracy.

My right hon. Friend referred to what the Assembly ought to do and wondered whether various functions should or should not be within its power. With the kind permission of the Chair, we considered the extent to which the Assembly should deal with local government reorganisation.

I had intended merely to pay a sincere compliment to my right hon. Friend. However, as I am on my feet, I should like to refer to the argument—the alleged argument—that the Assembly should not deal with these matters because it would be too concerned with its own self-aggrandisement. The argument was that it would be so passionately keen to blow itself up into some kind of glorified, bloated balloon that it was not the body to consider these matters. I find that argument, if not arrogant, certainly sickeningly patronising.

Mr. Anderson rose—

Mr. Ellis

Last time I spoke, I went on and on because I was tempted to give way.

The First Deputy Chairman (Sir Myer Galpern)

I hope that the hon. Member is not going to burst the balloon. That is all I am concerned about.

Mr. Ellis

I shall not be tempted into giving way, because I wish to be brief.

This argument is not very relevant. We are all elected Members and we would not necessarily claim that we were any better or worse than the elected Members of any Assembly in Scotland, Wales or any of the regions of England.

This is a crucial matter. It depends on a fundamental point—the unique response of the elected Member to the electorate. That is the basic way in which we try to organise our democracy. That is the key point about having decisions made by elected Members. I should like to illustrate what I mean.

Mr. Dalyell

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Ellis

No, I shall not give way, because I wish to be brief. I want to illustrate the situation into which we get when we rely unduly on the experts. I am a little sceptical about the experts. An "ex" is a has-been and a "spurt" is a concentrated drip. Who wants a has-been and a concentrated drip making decisions?

The Health Service is a typical example. It is in many ways throughout the whole of Britain in an unsatisfactory state. The reason why the Health Service is not in as happy a position as it should be is that the dominant managerial voice within it is that of the expertise which is supposed to serve the NHS. That has come about because of the lack of an elected representative of the public at large having some influence. The Health Service presumbaly exists to serve the public—the patients. However, it could be argued that it exists to serve the expertise of the medical profession. The reason is that there is no dominant voice from the public within the Health Service.

When the Health Service had a tripartite structure, one facet of the three parts where there was some kind of consumer insistence was the local authority part. If a patient wanted an ambulance, he was able to get one fairly quickly, but if he wanted an operation he might have to wait several months.

I suggest that completely demolishes the argument by one or two of my hon. Friends about the elected Assembly not being competent to consider the important question of the reorganisation of local government.

6.15 p.m.

Mr. Wyn Roberts

This series of amendments has become more extensive in debate than appeared at first sight. That was largely due to the generosity of the Chair and the strong desire of hon. Members to debate local government. But the Committee should not try to escape from the fact that this two-hour debate is no substitute for debates on the 26 pages of the Bill which are being ignored because of the guillotine.

I turn now to the amendments. Amendment No. 52, on the face of it, appears only to improve the layout of the column, but in fact it does rather more. It gives responsibility for the whole of Section 55 of the Local Government Act 1972, rather than subsection (4) only, to the Assembly. Section 55 deals with the duty of the Welsh Commission to review local government areas in Wales and the areas of new towns.

The whole of Section 74, as opposed to subsections (3) and (5) only, is also given to the Assembly. That deals with name changes of counties and districts. Perhaps here we have a hint of what is to come in future.

Mr. John Smith

In fact, it makes no difference, because what is involved in this Act is within the ambit of what is devolved. It is a matter of style to put in the whole section rather than to limit it to particular subsections. I assure the hon. Gentleman that it does not widen the scope for devolution.

Mr. Roberts

Nevertheless, the Government have seen fit to amend it. I do not think that the Minister will deny that the amendments have the effect that I have described.

The significance of this series of amendments is that it has opened up for debate the whole subject of the transfer to the Assembly of responsibility for vast tracts of the Local Government Act 1972 since it refers to Parts V to IX and Parts XI and XII of the Act. Those parts contain 190 clauses and 17 schedules. Therefore, it is the greater part of the Local Government Act 1972.

I remind hon. Members who may not have a copy of the Act to hand that Part V describes general provisions as to members and proceedings of local authorities.

Part VI covers the discharge of functions, including the appointment of committees, standing orders and so on.

Part VII deals with the miscellaneous powers of local authorities—the appointment of staff, land transactions, premises and contracts.

Part VIII is headed "Finance" and covers all expenses and receipts, rates and allowances to members.

Part IX, entitled "Functions", covers all aspects of the environment—public health, water and sewerage, town and country planning, national park and countryside functions, together with town development, traffic, transport and highways. The next sub-heading of Part IX is "Education, social and welfare services", which includes housing. The final heading "Miscellaneous functions", covers the police, fire services and a number of other matters. Part XI relates to general provisions—legal proceedings, documents and notices, byelaws and other powers. Part XII deals with the status of authorities, the power to direct inquiries and various consequential matters.

Hardly an aspect of local government in Wales does not fall within the scope of this amendment to the schedule which is related to Clause 10. That clause provides: The Assembly shall exercise as regards Wales the functions given to Ministers of the Crown by or under the enactments specified in the first column of Schedule 2 to this Act, with the exception of the functions specified in the second column. The Local Government Act 1972 is one of the major enactments referred to in the schedule and it heralds, in Part I of the schedule, many of the matters that are referred to, in greater detail in the remaining 19 parts of the schedule which we shall not debate at all. I must again express regret that these matters are not the subject of proper debate.

Mr. Wigley

Surely there was a good opportunity to discuss these powers in the clause stand part debate on Clause 10.

Mr. Roberts

I recall that Clause 10 came right at the end of our debate when the proceedings were coming to an end at 11 o'clock.

As the hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. Wigley) said, the Plaid Cymru Amendment No. 53 seeks to place the Local Government Boundary Commission for Wales entirely within the power of the Assembly and to take away the Secretary of State's power to direct the commission to conduct a review of Wales as a whole or in part and to implement its recommendations as he thinks fit. The amendment would also take away Parliament's powers of annulment, under Section 58(4) of the Local Government Act. If the amendment were to be accepted, it is questionable how much need there would be for Clause 13, although that clause is primarily concerned with the structure of local government in Wales rather than with areas.

However, the Assembly could instruct the Commission to review local authority areas and could implement its recommendations independently of any other body. Such an overdose of power might cause indigestion in the Welsh body politic.

Clause 13 is bad enough. Amendment No. 53 is just as bad. Local authorities would be totally at the mercy of the Assembly. I hope that local authorities note my words and the contents of the Plaid Cymru amendment. The hon. Member for Caernarvon at least was clear in implying that the amendment was a paving amendment for Clause 13.

I turn to the Government Amendment No. 54. This adds the powers under Section 119 of the Local Government Act to exclude functions. This is a curious section. It deals with payments due to deceased officers of local authorities, not being a pension, allowance or gratuity. The exclusion of powers under Section 119 suggests a slight distrust on the part of the Government of the Assembly's relationship with the local authorities. There is a faint suggestion of corruptibility, even in death.

Perhaps the exclusion of powers in Section 119 is, indeed, a maudling concession to the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse), who expressed the view in the Welsh Grand Committee that the possibilities of corruption were never ending, which led one to suspect that hands might reach into the public purse even from beyond the grave.

Government Amendment No. 55 adds to the Assembly's powers and removes Sections 245 to 247 from among the ex- eluded functions. These sections relate to the granting of borough and community status, the preservation of powers, privileges and rights of existing cities and boroughs and the transfer of armorial bearings from old to new authorities. We live in stirring times.

On the other hand, Government Amendment No. 56 removes powers from the Assembly and makes Schedule 12 an exclusive preserve of the Secretary of State. Let us examine what the Assembly has lost. It has lost the rule-making powers over the conduct of a poll among local electors after a parish or community meeting. We do not have parishes, so presumably we are now referring to community meetings. Perhaps it is no great loss in itself, but once again it seems to be indicative of a modicum of distrust on the part of the Government towards the Assembly. Yet this is the body that is to be entrusted with the review of local government structure.

There are one or two major points that I wish to make about the Government amendments. The Minister of State at the end of Thursday's debate said: There are problems at the edges."—[Official Report, 2nd March 1978; Vol. 945, c. 813.] —of this piece of legislation. The Government have had ample opportunity to consider what functions to devolve to the Assembly and what to exclude. Yet they are still shifting powers from one category to the other—from column 1 to column 2, from the Secretary of State to the Assembly and vice versa.

The more I look at the division of functions, the more I am reminded of the tall, vertically split tree that Peredur, one of the heroes of Welsh mediaeval tales, the "Mabinogion", saw on his way to slay a monster: From roots to crown one half was aflame and the other green with leaves. The green-leaved half represented the real world while the half of the tree that was on fire represented the uncertain other world.

This split schedule of powers is much the same. We know how the right-hand column of powers will be exercised, but the left-hand column of powers is riddled with uncertainties. If the Bill goes through, I fear that there will be a fire there before long.

There is deep concern in the county authorities in Wales about the transfer of supervision of these statutory functions to the Assembly. They do not know how it will work out in practice. When the supervision of local authority functions is coupled with the requirement that the Assembly reviews the structure of local government and allocates rate support grant, the concern mounts to alarm of disruptive proportions. What the authorities plead for and need is stability. They want no change and no reorganisation for the time being. Their feelings are exacerbated because they know, we know and the rest of Wales knows that the supervision of the local authorities and their possible reduction in every sense to be the puppets of the Assembly is part of the price that Wales will have to pay for the Assembly itself.

The hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. Evans) was absolutely right. What began as a move to bring government closer to the people is rapidly becoming a move to take government further away from them.

Mr. Wigley

Does the hon. Member honestly believe that members of a local authority elected in his area—be it an all-purpose authority or one under a new structure—would be puppets? Does he believe that could happen in his own patch? Is that his opinion of his own people?

Mr. Roberts

The hon. Member for Caernarvon represents a Gwynedd constituency. He should read the letter which arrived this morning and which the right hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. Hughes) read to the Committee. It is fairly clear from the extent of the transfer of functions to the Assembly, particularly the supervisory functions, that the local authorities will become puppets of the Assembly. To me that is taking power away from the people and removing it to another place.

6.30 p.m.

Mr. Roderick

I do not accept Amendment No. 53, which is the Plaid Cymru amendment, in that I would not give the Assembly the final say in deciding on the structure of local government. I would, however, give the Assembly a say. It would be wise for it to have advisory powers in this respect because the Assembly would be much closer to the views of the people of Wales than would be the House of Commons. There are many right hon. and hon. Members from Wales here, but we do not have the overall say on what is decided in this place. It would therefore be worth giving the Assembly advisory functions.

If the Assembly were given the final say its members would have a vested interest just as the members of county councils in Wales have a vested interest in what they are writing to Members about.

Mr. Anderson

If that is the case, will my hon. Friend explain why it is more logical to give that responsibility to the Assembly than to the group of county councils, since each one has a vested interest?

Mr. Roderick

I was saying that it would be worth allowing the Assembly to have a say, but not the final say, because that would rest here with the Secretary of State and the Government, which is as it should be.

Hon. Members have quoted widely from the letter from the county councils association about what the Welsh counties committee has to say. I have noted an absence of quotations from the district councils. Is that because any reorganisation of local government is seen to be not so much a merger as an abolition of the county councils, with the district councils coming to power?

Frankly, any reorganisation of local government in Wales must be a total abolition of the present local authorities and a restructuring, starting from the beginning. We have as a party put for-forward certain proposals. We think that there ought to be about 20 to two dozen authorities. If someone says that we cannot have that number of directors of education, for example, he overlooks the fact that we used to have 17 directors of education in Wales. So it is not way out to consider having just that few more.

Mr. Wyn Roberts

Is not the hon. Gentleman aware that there are 36 district councils in Wales?

Mr. Roderick

The hon. Member for Conway (Mr. Roberts) has not been listening. We have put forward reorganisation proposals for 20 to 24 local authorities in Wales. The Assembly might think differently, but the final result will be determined here at Westminster. It would be wise to have about 20 unitary authorities. I do not think we could have all-purpose authorities and still retain the number of 36 or 37, because that would be unrealistic.

Some of my hon. Friends and some Opposition Members managed to get the whole basis of the legislation changed when the Government agreed to drop the Scotland and Wales Bill and instead introduce two separate Bills. Those hon. Members must not be surprised if in the process some of the proposals in the original Bill were also changed. The subject of local government was introduced into this Bill. The Assembly is to review local government—and I stress that the Bill says "review"—but it should not proceed. It is then to advise the Secretary of State. It must report to the Secretary of State, not initiate legislation as some hon. Members have suggested in the debate.

Some hon. Members have suggested that there would be an extra tier of government. May I suggest that the extra tier of local government they are referring to is already there? We are attempting to introduce some democracy into that tier.

Mr. Ioan Evans

We can argue this point time and again in Committee. The House of Commons and the Welsh Office represent a tier of government. There are also the community councils, the district councils and the county councils, and they represent tiers of government, too. By the Bill powers are being taken away from the House of Commons and given to a new body—the Assembly. Surely that Assembly, although it is to take over existing powers, still represents another tier of government. Is my hon. Friend suggesting that the Assembly is not a tier of government?

The First Deputy Chairman

Before the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Roderick) replies to that point, may I remind him that the Minister has yet to reply to the debate and that the guillotine falls at 7 o'clock?

Mr. Roderick

Thank you, Sir Myer. I shall briefly reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare (Mr. Evans). The Bill is taking powers not from the House of Commons but from the Secretary of State. We do not seem to have the opportunities in this Committee to deal with the very powers that we are talking about. We hear little of the views of the district councils. What is so sacrosanct about the county councils that we should listen to them and not to the district councils?

While recently discussing this problem with a number of county councillors I had to remind them that they were as opposed as I was to the 1972 reorganisation. At that time they wanted to retain the old structure. Suddenly they want to retain the present structure. I was appalled to find Labour county councillors—radicals—who were more conservative than the Conservative Party. Now that they have this new structure they do not want any more changes. I believe that they should look at this anew. We want to merge the powers of these authorities into one reorganisation.

I shall bear in mind your stricture, Sir Myer, or perhaps I should call it a kindly reminder, since the Minister wishes to reply to the debate. Let me deal briefly with the question of the referendum.

It has been agreed that a referendum should be held on the Bill to see whether it is acceptable to the people of Wales. It is a pity that the Conservatives who supported the referendum proposals did not listen to the views of the people on local government reform in 1972 when ballots were conducted in certain areas on the question of boundaries. The Conservatives ignored them. Now they agree with the referendum, and that makes me sceptical about their views on the whole issue of the Bill.

Mr. Alec Jones

I am glad to have the opportunity of responding to this debate. At one point I did not think I would be able to do so.

Let me indicate quite clearly at this early stage, in order to put the Committee out of its misery, that the Government cannot accept Amendment No. 5. Even if there were a vote on it, which there will not be, we would recommend that it be opposed. We say that because the determination of local government boundaries is bound up with local government structure and electoral matters, and these are properly reserved to legislation in the House of Commons, Amendment No. 53 has opened the door to a wide-ranging and interesting debate that I suspect that many hon. Members feared at one time that they were not going to get while others feared that they were.

It is plain that there is a fairly clear difference between the two sides of the Committee. Most Conservative Members who have spoken in the debate certainly gave the impression that they were satisfied with the present set-up of local government in Wales, whereas everyone else who has spoken indicated quite clearly the considerable dissatisfaction that exists in Wales today regarding the structure and set-up of local government.

My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare (Mr. Evans) said that we cannot leave local government as it is. He said he did not regard the previous Tory local government reorganisation as of the best. If my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare genuinely believes that the Tory local government reorganisation was not of the best, it is the responsibility of the House of Commons to do something about it and to do it as quickly as possible.

Mr. Anderson rose

Mr. Jones

No, I shall not give way to my hon. Friend at this time.

Mr. Ioan Evans rose

Mr. Jones

I am prepared to give way to my hon. Friend.

Mr. Evans

While I do not think that that reorganisation was of the best, the weakness of this Bill is that it is trying to go on dealing with government in Wales, affecting local government also and the existing local government structure. If my hon. Friend says the Tory Party did not do as well, what the Government are now doing here will not deal with the problem.

Mr. Jones

I was trying to indicate that there was clear agreement on this side of the Committee, and acceptance by Conservative Members, that the present structure was not of the best. In my view, it is true to say that whether or not devolution occurred, some government in Wales at some time fairly soon would have to grasp this nettle of local government reorganisation.

I recall that at the time of the passage of the local government reorganisation Bill there was not one county council in Wales which accepted or suggested that the existing structure was attractive to it. I recall how Glamorgan County Council mounted a long campaign, how representatives of the county of Pembrokeshire came to hon. Members to explain how the structure under which they were forced to live was completely unacceptable to them.

Mr. Wyn Roberts rose

Mr. Jones

I do not propose to give way at this time.

I recall how district councillors throughout Wales came to us at the time when the Bill was going through with petition after petition showing how the boundaries and functions laid down in the Bill would be positively disastrous for efficient local government. I further recall how trade unions involved in local government, and other interested bodies, clearly spelt out that the local government reorganisation was not acceptable to them.

Mr. Ioan Evans rose

Mr. Jones

I shall not give way to my hon. Friend. I am trying to deal with the points made in a debate which has gone on for two-and-a-half hours and there are some things which must be said.

Mr. Wyn Roberts rose

Mr. Jones

I cannot give way to the hon. Gentleman at this juncture.

I have said that in my view, and in the view of the Government, the present structure of local government in Wales is completely unsatisfactory, and I believe that what was felt strongly at the time of the local government reorganisation is felt today. Hon. Members are constantly reminding me at Question Time and in debates how disastrous it has been. When I travel throughout Wales meeting local authorities I am told of the difficulties they experience. Local authorities in one part of Wales will tell me that the district planning officer is hardly on speaking terms with the county planning officer and yet they are supposed to be dealing with planning as it affects Wales. Certainly the people concerned are in considerable doubt as to who is responsible for the functions and services that they need.

What staggers me is that, while what I would describe as the discontent has been expressed, we have heard expressions of enthusiasm, love and affection for the Welsh Office which I never hear on other occasions. The Welsh Office has never realised that it had so many admirers as we have heard about today.

There is a feeling of discontent and the Government have to consider what should be done about it. One hon. Member has suggested an immediate reorganisation of local government. That would be a form of de-reorganisation which perhaps has some attractions. It is, of course, possible to consider some refinement of the present structure, or even to throw the whole lot overboard.

We have had many suggestions of various kinds, but it seems to me that, in view of the points that have been made today, we ought not to contemplate any action within one or two years of the setting up. But certainly a review could measure the extent of the discontent, and areas of discontent, and it is felt that a review of that kind should be carried out.

We are therefore forced into the position of asking, who should carry out the review? This is where we differ. We could set up a special advisory committee which would be another nominated body, something on which I am never keen, and I do not remember my hon. Friends being keen on it in the past.

It is suggested that we might have a commission. I am not greatly enamoured of commissions, for in the 11 years that I have been a Member it has seemed to me that successive Governments, in setting up commissions, have endowed the members of those commissions with a wisdom which they do not of necessity have and an impartiality which it is impossible for them to have. So I disregard the idea of a nominated special advisory Committee to carry out the investigation.

Mr. Kinnock

Or a Select Committee?

6.45 p.m.

Mr. Jones

I come back to the alternative of leaving it to the civil servants. I assure the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Evans) that if it were to be done by civil servants they would not be civil servants in the Welsh Office in Gwydyr House. They would be located in Cardiff. I do not suggest that the hon. Gentleman would want that. When there have been civil servants in the Welsh Office in Gwydyr House in the past they have always been attacked on the ground of being a great bureaucracy.

Mr. Leon Brittan (Cleveland and Whitby)

That is an Aunt Sally.

Mr. Jones

Clearly, the hon. Member for Cleveland and Whitby (Mr. Brittan) is an expert on Aunt Sallies.

The next question is whether the review should be carried out by the Assembly itself. We came to the view that that appeared to be a reasonable body to deal with a review of local government. When the first White Paper and succeeding White Papers were introduced, and when the first Scotland and Wales Bill was introduced my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House clearly indicated that, in response to representations made to them, the Government were prepared to amend their proposals. My hon. Friends will find in the Bill not one but many instances of our having responded to representations made to us. I am glad that we have. I am glad we responded to the recommendations made to us by the teachers.

First, it would be an Assembly consisting of Welsh men and women coming together from all over Wales. It would be an elected body, a democratic body, a body which in the ultimate would have major responsibility for supervising local governments in Wales. It is the body which will have to work more closely with local government in Wales than any other body. It seemed to us, therefore, that this was the right body to carry out the review. We accept that there are criticisms and we believe that the only sensible way of measuring them and finding out the areas to which they are directed is to provide for the review to be carried out by an elected Assembly.

I understand the fears of county and district councils that one group or the other—or both—might be wiped out. The Assembly will conduct the review as honestly as could any other body. It could suggest the scrapping of county or district councils—or both—it could suggest a modification of existing structures, or it could leave matters as they are. Without a review, we should never know what needs to be done. All the views, including those of county and district councils, can be examined, recommendations can be made to the Government and the House of Commons will have the last say on boundaries. That is why I reject Amendment No. 53.

Mr. Anderson

The Minister has argued powerfully that the Government believe that there is a fundamental flaw in the 1972 Act and have long thought that local government should be reorganised as speedily as possible. But that hardly accords with their unwillingness to suggest that local government should have been reorganised immediately the Government came to office in 1974.

We know why Clause 13 has been put into the Bill at this late stage. At the start, the Government were trying to argue that the Bill would not affect local government. They were wooing local authorities and saying that they would not be affected—just as it was claimed that the House would not be affected.

It was only when the Government were rumbled and people began to see that, through the rate support grant and in a whole series of areas, local government would be fundamentally affected that a strange alchemy began to take effect. The Government changed their tune and thought to themselves that as local government was unpopular—mainly because of the immense inflation and the rate demands of 1974 and 1975—they could use that to their own advantage and say in the referendum that the way to get local government reform was to vote for the Assembly. That is the real reason for the afterthought and the sudden Paul of Tarsus-like conversion on the way to the Assembly.

There probably is a case for local government reorganisation. I can see that there is a need for varied treatment within Wales because of our special features, but if there is that need, which could be met on the lines of the organic change suggested for English authorities, one thing is crystal clear: the Assembly is not the body to do it—any more than would be district or county authorities. Clearly it would have a vested interest and could not take as detached a view as could a local commission. It would be involved in aggrandising their powers and in seeking a role in education, social services and so on to justify itself.

One cannot conceive of 24 district authorities dealing with structure plans, and the major planning powers will float up to the Assembly which will seek to have as many bodies as possible below it so that it can argue that there cannot be 30 directors of education or 30 directors of social services.

These are properly bodies for the super tier and the House of Commons is the only feasable super tier. The Government's proposal is not the way to reorganise local government. If the case is as formidable as the Government claim, the reorganisation could take place irrespective of whether an Assembly was established.

We know the motive for the change. It is an attempt to sell the Assembly to a sceptical Welsh electorate. For that reason, many of my hon. Friends and I will have no hesitation in voting against it.

Mr. Kinnock

I shall be voting with my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) for similar reasons to those that he has spelt out.

Clause 13 and all that emanates from it, including the considerations in the amendment, are nothing more than a convenient afterthought for those who gave no consideration to this development until they were made aware that a heavy majority of Welsh people were against the devolution proposals.

In order to try to sweeten the pill, the Government have tried to mobilise the justifiable resentments felt against the present structure of local government and offered the prospect of getting rid of that structure through devolution. Even then, the Government could not get it right. Even then, they were not prepared to follow the logic of Plaid Cymru and the Wales TUC who advocate the granting of real power to the Assembly to make conclusive decisions on local government. We have the least competent of formulae for change.

Whether the Assembly has vested interests or not, it will invariably be accused of having them. It is in direct association and close locality with the local authorities that it is to be asked to review. It will not be trusted by the local authorities or by the people.

Rightly or wrongly, the people will see the Assembly, as a body which, in order to justify its forlorn existence, will have to take power from whatever tier of government it can get it. This is the centralisation that the hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. Howells), with his federal lunacies, and Plaid Cymru, with its decentralist delusions, always criticise when talking about this place. Nothing will insulate the Assembly or the Welsh people from that process. It is normal in the development of politics. Having got this hopelessly incompetent formula, the Government will not go the whole honest hog. They suggest that the review will take a few years. The present structure will become even more entrenched and, therefore, more difficult to change. Submissions will be made to the House and proposals will have to go through precisely the same legislative process as would proposals made by the Government for local government reform now.

The House can reserve for itself the right to throw out the review and confront the opinion of the so-called national voice of Wales—the Assembly—and so inflame the relationship between Wales and the House. That is a formula for absolute disaster and the most catastrophic waste of manpower, resources and time of everyone involved in the Assembly, among the civil servants serving the Assembly, local authorities and the House. And none of it will be free.

If the Government consider that there is a function for devolution in this sort of decentralisation, let them relieve the people of England of this dread local government reorganisation. I voted against the reorganisation and even Conservatives try to disown it now. Let the Government relieve English people of

Amendments made:
No. 54, in page 37, line 16, column 2, at end insert—
"The powers under section 119.".
No. 55, in page 37, line 30, column 2, leave out from "under" to end of line 31 and insert "section 244". No. 56, in page 37, line 39, column 2, leave out from "under" to "Schedule" in line 40.
No. 57, in page 37, line 51, column 1, leave out "32(3)".
No. 58, in page 38, line 18, column 2, at end insert—
"The powers under section 26(6)(b).".
No. 59, in page 44, line 37, column 2, at end insert—
'The powers under section 108.'.

their long night of post-reform suffering. Let them also bring this reform to Wales. Let them do it directly or let them give the Assembly or English Assemblies the function. But do not let the English people or the people of Wales be crushed between the idiocy of what they propose now and the reality of politics in Wales.

Sir Anthony Meyer (Flint, West)

I have less than a minute to support what the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) has just said.

It strikes me that of all bodies the Assembly is the least apt to conduct this reform. It suffers to an aggravated extent from precisely the trouble from which this Chamber suffers. When it comes to considering detailed proposals for reform, coalitions of interests form to frustrate them. We saw that again and again in the working out of the local government proposals—

It being Seven o'clock, THE CHAIRMAN proceeded, pursuant to the Order [16th November] and the Resolution [1st March], to put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair.

Question, That the amendment be made, put and agreed to.

The First Deputy Chairman

It is now my duty under the Allocation of Time Order to put the Question on all Government amendments proposed to Schedule 2. The Government amendments on the Notice Paper are Nos. 54–60, No. 208, No. 209, No. 210, No. 65, No. 212 and No. 213.

I understand that the Government also wish to move Amendment No. 69, in the name of the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Evans). Is that correct?

Mr. John Smith indicated assent.

No. 60, in page 44, line 37, at end insert—
"The Adoption Act 1976 (c. 36) sections 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 28(10) and 57.'.
No. 208, in page 48, line 39, at end insert—
'The Acquisition of Land (Authorisation Procedure) Act 1946 (c. 49) sections 3 and 5 and paragraphs 10., 11 and 12 of Schedule 1. The functions under section 3(1) so far as exercisable where the compulsory purchase order is or would be made or confirmed by a Minister of the Crown.
The functions under section 3(4) so far as exercisable where the apparatus belongs to excepted statutory undertakers.
The functions under section 5 so far as their exercise is incidental to functions which remain exercisable by a Minister of the Crown.
The functions under paragraph 10 of Schedule 1 so far as exercisable in relation to excepted statutory undertakers.'.
No. 209, in page 49, line 26, leave out '4'and insert '5'.
No. 210, in page 49, line 46, column 2, at end insert—
'The functions under section 54(4) so far as exercisable by the Treasury or in relation to excepted statutory undertakers.'.
No. 65, in page 52, line 24, after '5(3)', insert 'and (5)'.
No. 69, in page 57, line 13, leave out '1972' and insert '1974'
No. 212, in page 58, leave out lines 14 to 28.
No. 213, in page 58, leave out lines 33 to 49 and insert—
'The Transport Act 1968 (c. 73) Part 11 and sections 56, 57, 135(1)(d) and 158. The functions under section 20(6).
The powers under section 158 so far as their exercise is incidental to functions which remain exercisable by a Minister of the Crown.'.

THE CHAIRMAN then proceeded to put forthwith the Questions necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at Seven o'clock.

Question put, That this Schedule, as amended, be the Second Schedule to the Bill: —

The Committee divided: Ayes 222, Noes 193.

Division No. 135] AYES [7.01 p.m.
Allaun, Frank Campbell, Ian Dempsey, James
Anderson, Donald Canavan, Dennis Doig, Peter
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Carmichael, Nell Dormand, J. D.
Armstrong, Ernest Carter-Jones, Lewis Douglas-Mann, Bruce
Atkins, Ronald (Preston N) Castle, Rt Hon Barbara Dunn, James A.
Atkinson, Norman Clemitson, Ivor Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Bain, Mrs Margaret Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S) Eadie, Alex
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Cohen, Stanley Edge, Geoff
Bates, Alf Coleman, Donald Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun)
Bean, R. E. Cook, Robin F. (Edin C) Ellis, Tom (Wrexham)
Beith, A. J. Corbett, Robin English, Michael
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N) Cowans, Harry Ennals, Rt Hon David
Bidwell, Sydney Crawford, Douglas Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen)
Bishop, Rt Hon Edward Crawshaw, Richard Ewing, Harry (Stirling)
Blenkinsop, Arthur Crowther, Stan (Rotherham) Faulds, Andrew
Boardman, H. Cryer, Bob Fernyhough, Rt Hon E.
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Cunningham, G. (Islington S) Flannery, Martin
Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh) Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)
Boyden, James (Bish Auck) Dalyell, Tam Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Bray, Dr Jeremy Davidson, Arthur Ford, Ben
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Davies, Bryan (Enfield N) Forrester, John
Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W) Davies, Ifor (Gower) Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin)
Buchan, Norman Davis, Clinton (Hackney C) Freud, Clement
Buchanan, Richard Deakins, Eric Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)
Butler, Mrs Joyce (Wood Green) Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) George, Bruce
Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P) Dell, Rt Hon Edmund Golding, John
Gould, Bryan Maclennan, Robert Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)
Gourlay, Harry McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C) Silverman, Julius
Graham, Ted Madden, Max Skinner, Dennis
Grant, George (Morpeth) Magee, Bryan Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)
Grant, John (Islington C) Mahon, Simon Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)
Grimond, Rt Hon J. Mallalieu, J. P. W. Snape, Peter
Grocott, Bruce Marks, Kenneth Spearing, Nigel
Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Spiggs, Leslie
Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife) Maynard, Miss Joan Stallard, A. W.
Harper, Joseph Meacher, Michael Steel, Rt Hon David
Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Millan, Rt Hon Bruce Stewart, Rt Hon Donald
Hayman, Mrs Helene Mitchell, Austin Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham)
Henderson, Douglas Molloy, William Stoddart, David
Hooley, Frank Moonman, Eric Stott, Roger
Hooson, Emlyn Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)
Horam, John Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Howells, Geraint (Cardigan) Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Hoyle, Doug (Nelson) Moyle, Roland Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)
Huckfield, Les Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick Thompson, George
Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey) Noble, Mike Tomlinson, John
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Ogden, Eric Torney, Tom
Hughes Roy (Newport) O'Halloran, Michael Tuck, Raphael
Hunter, Adam Orbach, Maurice Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)
Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln) Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Jay, Rt Hon Douglas Ovenden, John Walker, Terry (Kingswood)
Jeger, Mrs Lena Padley, Walter Ward, Michael
Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Pardoe, John Walkins, David
John, Brynmor Park, George Watt, Hamish
Johnson, James (Hull West) Parker, John Wellbeloved, James
Johnston, Russell (Inverness) Parry, Robert Welsh, Andrew
Jones, Alec (Rhondda) Panhaligon, David White, Frank R. (Bury)
Jones, Barry (East Flint) Phipps, Dr Colin White, James (Pollok)
Jones, Dan (Burnley) Price, William (Rugby) Whitehead, Phillip
Kaufman, Gerald Radice, Giles Wigley, Dafydd
Kerr, Russell Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S) Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Kilroy-Silk, Robert Reid, George Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch)
Lambie, David Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Lamond, James Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock) Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)
Lee, John Robinson, Geoffrey Wilson, Rt Hon Sir Harold (Huyton)
Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough) Roderick, Caerwyn Wilson, William (Coventry SE)
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Rodgers, George (Chorley) Wise, Mrs Audrey
Litterick, Tom Rodgers, Rt Hon William (Stockton) Woodall, Alec
Lyons, Edward (Bradford W) Rooker, J. W. Woof, Robert
MacCormick, Iain Roper, John Wrigglesworth, Ian
McDonald, Dr Oonagh Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock) Young, David (Bolton E)
McElhone, Frank Rowlands, Ted
MacFarquhar, Roderick Sedgemore, Brian TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
McGuire, Michael (Ince) Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South) Mr. Thomas Cox and
MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert Mr. James Tinn.
Mackintosh, John P.
Aitken, Jonathan Cooke, Robert (Bristol W) Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)
Alison, Michael Cormack, Patrick Hampson, Dr Keith
Arnold, Tom Costain, A. P. Hannam, John
Atkins. Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne) Crouch, David Harrison, Col Sir Harwood (Eye)
Atkinson, David (Bournemouth, East) Dean, Paul (N Somerset) Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael
Awdry, Daniel Dodsworth, Geoffrey Hayhoe, Barney
Banks, Robert Drayson, Burnaby Heath, Rt Hon Edward
Bell, Ronald Durant, Tony Hicks, Robert
Bendall, Vivian (Ilford North) Eden, Rt Hon Sir John Hodgson, Robin
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torbay) Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke) Hordern, Peter
Benyon, W. Elliott, Sir William Howell. David (Guildford)
Berry, Hon Anthony Emery, Peter Hunt, David (Wirral)
Biffen, John Eyre, Reginald Hurd, Douglas
Biggs-Davison, John Fairbairn, Nicholas Hutchison, Michael Clark
Body, Richard Fairgrieve, Russell Irving, Charles (Cheltenham)
Boscawen, Hon Robert Finsberg, Geoffrey James, David
Bottomley, Peter Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N) Jessel, Toby
Bowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown) Fookes, Miss Janet Johnson Smith, G. (E Grinstead)
Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent) Forman, Nigel Jones, Arthur (Daventry)
Brittan, Leon Fowler, Norman (Sutton C'f'd) Jopling, Michael
Brocklebank-Fowler, C. Gardner, Edward (S Fylde) Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith
Brooke, Peter Glyn, Dr Alan Kaberry, Sir Donald
Bryan, Sir Paul Goodhart, Philip Kershaw, Anthony
Buchanan-Smith, Alick Goodhew, Victor Kimball, Marcus
Buck, Antony Gorst, John King, Evelyn (South Dorset)
Budgen, Nick Gow, Ian (Eastbourne) King, Tom (Bridgwater)
Bulmer, Esmond Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry) Kitson, Sir Timothy
Burden, F. A. Gray, Hamish Knight, Mrs Jill
Carlisle, Mark Grieve, Percy Knox, David
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Griffiths, Eldon Latham, Michael (Melton)
Clark, William (Croydon S) Grist, Ian Lawrence, Ivan
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Grylls, Michael Lawson, Nigel
Clegg, Walter Hall-Davis. A. G. F. Lester, Jim (Beeston)
Lloyd, Ian Percival, Ian Spence, John
Loveridge, John Pink, R. Bonner Sproat, Iain
McAdden, Sir Stephen Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch Stainton, Keith
McCrindle, Robert Prentice, Rt Hon Reg Stanbrook, Ivor
McCusker, H. Price, David (Eastleigh) Stanley, John
Macfarlane, Nell Prior, Rt Hon James Steen, Anthony (Wavertree)
MacKay, Andrew (Stechford) Pym, Rt Hon Francis Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Raison, Timothy Stradling Thomas, J.
Marten, Nell Rathbone, Tim Tapsell, Peter
Maude, Angus Rawlinson, Rt Hon Sir Peter Tebbit, Norman
Maudling, Rt Hon Reginald Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal) Temple-Morris, Peter
Mawby, Ray Renton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts) Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret
Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Renton, Tim (Mid-Sussex) Thomas, Rt Hon P (Hendon S)
Mayhew, Patrick Rhodes James, R. van Straubenzee, W. R.
Meyer, Sir Anthony Ridley, Hon Nicholas Viggers, Peter
Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove) Ridsdale, Julian Wakeham, John
Mills, Peter Rifkind, Malcolm Walder, David (Clitheroe)
Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Roberts, Wyn (Conway) Walker, Rt Hon P (Worcester)
Moate, Roger Ross, William (Londonderry) Wall, Patrick
Molyneaux, James Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey) Walters, Dennis
Moore, John (Croydon C) Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire) Warren, Kenneth
More, Jasper (Ludlow) Sainsbury, Tim Weatherill, Bernard
Morgan, Geraint St. John-Stevas, Norman Wells, John
Morris, Michael (Northampton S) Shaw, Giles (Pudsey) Whitelaw, Rt Hon William
Morrison, Charles (Devizes) Shepherd, Colin Wiggin, Jerry
Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester) Shersby, Michael Winterton, Nicholas
Nelson, Anthony Silvester, Fred Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)
Neubert, Michael Sims, Roger Younger, Hon George
Onslow, Cranley Sinclair, Sir George
Page, John (Harrow Went) Skeet, T. H. H. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby) Smith, Dudley (Warwick) Lord James Douglas-Hamilton and
Page, Richard (Workington) Smith, Timothy John (Ashfield) Mr. John MacGregor.
Pattie, Geoffrey Speed, Keith

Question accordingly agreed to.

Schedule 2, as amended, agreed to.

Schedule 3 agreed to.

Forward to