HC Deb 10 May 1984 vol 59 cc1090-133
Dr. John Cunningham (Copeland)

I beg to move amendment No. 20, in page 3, line 3, leave out subsection (5).

The Chairman of Ways and Means (Mr. Harold Walker)

With this it will be convenient to consider the following amendments:

No. 21, in page 3, line 5, leave out from 'that' to end of line 10 and add

`in appointing Councillors to serve on the Greater London Council and the Metropolitan County Councils pursuant to section 2(4)(a) the constituent councils shall appoint in accordance with the following procedure—

  1. (a) the principal minority party having the required percentage of seats on that council as set out below shall nominate a candidate of its choice.
  2. (b) the relevant percentages for the purpose of paragraph(a) above shall be as follows:—
    • For constituent councils with two councillors if the minority parties together have at least 40 per cent. of the council seats, they shall be entitled to nominate a candidate for one of the two seats;
    • For constituent councils with three councillors, if the minority parties together have at least 33 per cent. of the council seats, the larger minority party shall be entitled to nominate one candidate for one of the three seats;
    • For constituent councils with three councillors, if the minority parties together have at least 51 per cent. of the council seats, they shall be entitled to nominate two candidates for two of the three seats;
    • For constituent councils with four or more councillors, if the minority parties together have at least 25 per cent. of the council seats, the larger minority party shall be entitled to nominate one candidate for the four or more seats;
    • For constituent councils with four or more councillors, if the minority parties together have at least 51 per cent. of the council seats, the two largest parties shall be entitled to nominate two candidates for two of the four seats.'.
No. 112, in page 3, line 5, leave out from 'that' to end of line 10 and add

'in appointing Councillors to serve on the Greater London Council and the metropolitan county councils pursuant to section 2(4)(a) the constituent councils shall appoint in accordance with the following procedure—

  1. (a) the principal minority party having the required percentage of seats on that council as set out below shall nominate a candidate of its choice.
  2. (b) the relevant percentages for the purpose of paragraph (a) above shall be as follows:—
    • For constituent councils with two councillors if the minority parties together have at least 40 per cent. of the council seats, they shall be entitled to nominate a candidate for one of the two seats;
    • For constituent councils with three councillors, if the minority parties together have at least 33 per cent. of 1091 the council seats, the larger minority party shall be entitled to nominate one candidate for one of the three seats;
    • For constituent councils with three councillors, if the minority parties together have at least 51 per cent. of the council seats, they shall be entitled to nominate two candidates for two of the three seats;
    • For constituent councils with four or more councillors, if the minority parties together have at least 25 per cent. of the council seats, the larger minority party shall be entitled to nominate one candidate for the four or more seats;
    • For constituent councils with four or more councillors, if the minority parties together have at least 51 per cent. of the council seats, the two largest parties shall be entitled to nominate two candidates for two of the four seats;
    • For constituent councils where the party composition of council seats cannot be related to the above formula the council shall appoint councillors by simple majority voting.'.
No. 22, in page 3, line 6, leave out from first 'in' to end of line 10 and add

'in Greater London or (as the case may be) the relevant metropolitan county is reflected in the persons who are for the time being members of the Greater London Council or of that metropolitan county council'. No. 74, in page 3, line 10, at end add—

'(5A) Any question which may arise under subsection (5) above as to whether in any case the balance of parties has been reflected shall be determined by the Secretary of State'. No. 23, in clause 3, page 3, line 14, at end insert

'provided that this power may be exercised only if and so far as may be necessary for the purpose of ensuring that the persons who are for the time being members of the relevant metropolitan county council and for whose appointment the constituent council is responsible reflect the balance of parties for the time being prevailing in that metropolitan county'.

No. 27, in clause 5, page 5, line 5, at end insert

'(2A) A constituent council in making or terminating appointments under this Part of this Act shall appoint the nominees of minority parties as provided for in section 2 of this Act.'.

Dr. Cunningham

I think that it is true to say that no part of the Bill has caused more offence or greater reaction than clause 2(5) which, if implemented, will change the political control of the Greater London council and, had it not been for the significant gains by the Labour party in last week's local elections in other metropolitan county areas, may well have brought into question Labour control in one or two of the metropolitan counties as well.

This group of amendments seeks to prevent that from happening, because Opposition Members do not accept that it should be possible or that it should be a consequence of an Act of Parliament that democratically elected political control of an authority should be changed. That is our fundamental dispute with the Government over this matter, and I believe that this issue is widely recognised, not only in Parliament but outside the House, as one on which the Government have little, if any, real support.

The truth is that it is an unprecedented step to take by any Government of any political persuasion and has clearly caused not only offence but deep concern among active politicians in all political parties, not least—to their credit—among many members of the Secretary of State's own party inside and outside the House, as I shall demonstrate. Amendment No. 20 seeks to delete subsection (5) and allay that concern.

Not content with abolishing the elections in 1985 and substituting nominated borough councillors for directly elected county councillors, the Bill seeks to introduce a measure to ensure the balance of parties. But it does not ensure the balance of parties—quite the reverse. The provision will change the balance of parties in the GLC and it is only because of Labour gains in last week's elections that it will be prevented from changing the balance of parties elsewhere. Futhermore, the longstanding outcome of elections when the candidates with the most votes are declared the winners and the party with the majority of successful candidates takes control is being changed by the Bill.

The Government have laid themselves wide open to accusations of gerrymandering the situation in the capital city. It is a clear case of gerrymandering—perhaps one of the most odious of all political accusations. They are fiddling the outcome of elections.

We do not have the Official Report and I do not want to misquote or to misrepresent what the Secretary of State had to say on this issue in our debates in the early hours of the morning, but I believe that he said that this was an accident. He said that it was an unfortunate outcome of the Bill. [Interruption.] I do not want to misrepresent the right hon. Gentleman, but that was the impression he created. If he wants to correct me, I shall happily give way, but I believe that I am right in saying that he said that it was an accident of the Bill.

Does that make it any more acceptable? Does it mean that in a democracy we can legislate and take no notice of the consequences of accidents of provisions in legislation? Is the Secretary of State asking the House to accept that? If he is, I must tell him that we fundamentally reject it, and I am in no doubt that if the Secretary of State were standing where I am standing he would reject it, too.

It is difficult to conceive that an experienced and senior Cabinet Minister, as the right hon. Gentleman is, and a man who has held long and honourable public office, not only in the House but elsewhere, too, can convince himself that Parliament and the local authority members involved—my colleagues and even his own colleagues in the GLC—will accept that, because he has thought that this is an unfortunate accident, that makes it acceptable. The right hon. Gentleman really cannot believe that people will accept that.

What is worse in a way is that when the right hon. Gentleman's proposals went to the Prime Minister, as we now know because of leaked documents, she herself, at least in the beginning, said, "I have grave reservations about it—aren't we changing political control? We had better have another look at it." But suddenly, for some reason, the right hon. Lady's opposition and reservations evaporated and the proposal was allowed to proceed. It is an appalling stain on the record of the right hon. Gentleman who, as I have said, has hitherto had an honourable one in holding public office, that he should come to the House knowing of this consequence, and say, "This accident is just part of the consequences and it has to be accepted."

4 pm

I ask the right hon. Gentleman, at the outset, to think again about this consequence of the Bill, and, more importantly, if it is allowed to proceed, about the consequences of the provision. It is anathema to the Opposition that this change should be made in this way. If they cannot accept these amendments as they stand, I do not mind if the Government say that they will look at the provision again. That would be good enough for me in the circumstances. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will say, even at this stage, that he is prepared to look at the matter again. He must know, not only of the deep disquiet, distaste and offence with which this part of his Bill has been received here, but how concerned his right hon. and hon. Friends and his colleagues in the Conservative party, are about the consequences of this course of action.

The right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) was the first of many to make that point on Second Reading. He said:

Worst of all—and my right hon. Friend did not seem to realise this—is the imposition by parliamentary diktat of a change of responsible party in London government. There cannot be any justification for that. It immediately lays the Conservative party open to the charge of the greatest gerrymandering in the last 150 years of British history. That is what we, as a party, are being exposed to."— [Official Report, 11 April 1984; Vol. 58, c. 425.] That is a serious statement. Not only did the right hon. Gentleman make a charge of gerrymandering; he went further. He said that that it was "the greatest gerrymandering" that he, and no doubt his researchers, could unearth in 150 years.

I have said this many times before about aspects of the Government's legislation: if the Labour party were taking such actions and such powers, we would be described as eastern European, as totalitarian. We would be abused in the media as well as in the House. Our good faith would be called into question, as it has already, all too often, in the past. The apparent complacency on the Treasury Bench about the deep and far-reaching implications of what is to take place is quite staggering.

The people of London have every right to be doubly aggrieved and offended—first, because their votes in elections next year are being taken away. They are being prevented from electing the council of their choice through the ballot box. Secondly, they are being told that by an Act of Parliament the council that they have elected, and the political control that they have chosen democratically, is to be changed. There can be no greater offence to a voter in a democracy than to have not one such insult, but two, thrown in his face in the same measure at the same time by the same Government.

I assure the right hon. Gentleman and his right hon. and hon. Friends that the Opposition will not let the voters of this country or the Conservative party forget, overlook or obscure what is being proposed in this part of the Bill because it is monstrous in its intentions and repugnant to us. I can imagine how I or my hon. Friends would be received if we went to Sussex or Surrey and announced that we intended to legislate in the House of Commons —I see the hon. Member for Lewes (Mr. Rathbone) pricks up his ears — and told them, "Never mind that you have consistently elected a Conservative county council, we shall legislate to change all that and there will be Socialist administration in Sussex, Surrey, Hampshire or Kent." There would be an outcry, and rightly so. I am pleased to see that the hon. Gentleman and several of his hon. Friends are nodding their heads. It would be a disgrace if any Government were to do that, but the present Government intend to do exactly that to the capital city of this country and to the electors of London.

Yesterday, a Conservative councillor from the City of Westminster wrote to The Guardian on this issue. That council is well known for its desire to be rid of the GLC and, in particular, to be rid of Mr. Livingstone. I deplore the way in which many of these arguments have become personalised and people have been made excuses for proposals rather than policies. However, Councillor Stephen Govier wrote:

Many have an almost paranoid desire to be rid of Ken Livingstone by any possible means. Others—at least 18 MPs among them— he is talking about the Conservative party—

hold firm to a fundamental belief in democracy and the constitution. He went on:

Few Bills threaten to debase the constitution, but this most surely does. He then said:

The Prime Minister may well be hell bent on rolling back the frontiers of society, but at the same time her Government is acting like a bull in society's china shop of checks and balances. That is not a letter from some renegade in the Conservative party. He goes on to say that he supports the economic policies of the Government but denounces that particular aspect of the Bill. It is to his credit that he does so. Amendments associated with amendment No. 20 seek to prevent this from happening and express our view of what should happen.

I reiterate that our principal view is that next year's elections should take place. There is no good reason why they should not. Expense has been advanced as an excuse, but even if the major Bill to follow this tawdry little measure were carried by the House it would be far more sensible and acceptable if the remaining time available to the GLC were presided over by councillors who had been democratically elected. There can be no better solution than that in a democratic society. If that is not to be the case, every democrat should accept that any interim administration should be on the basis of the outcome of the latest expression of will by the electors. I defy anyone, in the House or outside it, to contest those two propositions.

There are other amendments in this group, some of which are in the name of the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Shersby). It is to the hon. Gentleman's credit that he is concerned about the matter. However, I am not sure that his amendments would resolve the dilemma that I am posing, and about which I am asking the Secretary of State to think again.

What is clear is that the Bill as it stands offers no safeguards for the representation of minority parties. Clause 2 admits of more than one fair answer in many respects, as is shown by the tables published in the appendices. But, according to the assumptions in those tables, a possible outcome of the change would be 48 Conservative seats on the interim body, 29 Labour seats and two alliance seats. That is a graphic measure of the turnaround that would result from the implementation of this part of the Bill—a Labour majority, albeit small; turned at a stroke into a Conservative majority of 19. without a single vote being cast. That is astonishing.

I reiterate that it is extraordinary for the right hon. Gentleman to suggest that this is somehow an accident. It is difficult to envisage the scene. A civil servant comes to the Secretary of State and says, "Here are the draft proposals, Minister. By the way, we think that we should draw your attention to the consequences. One of those consequences—we think that you ought to know this, Minister, because it is important—is a change in the political control of the capital of this country."

Did the Secretary of State really respond, "Oh, do not bother about that; it is an accident"? Does he expect us to believe that? Did the civil servant then say, "But perhaps, Secretary of State, we ought to write to the Prime Minister about it"? What really went on in the right hon. Gentleman's mind when those considerations were first put before him? Did he not envisage the reaction to this "accident" in Parliament and in the country?

The Prime Minister did not call it an accident when General Jaruzelski started taking action against Solidarity in Poland. The Parliamentary Under—secretary mutters and shakes his head. I do not want to go into every dot, comma and quotation of what was said by the right hon. Lady and many of her hon. Friends, but they said some very strong things about freedom, democracy, choice and rights. Have they forgotten all that, or do those arguments apply only in other countries? Do they no longer apply to the people of London?

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

Of course not.

Dr. Cunningham

My hon. Friend is right. Apparently, they do not. By an accident—a mere stroke or slip of the pen in a little paving Bill—all those things are to be changed. What a footnote to the right hon. Gentleman's political history! Does he really want it set beside the rest of his record? I hesitate to believe he does.

Mr. Winnick

I do not want to cause you to accuse us of digressing, Mr. Walker, but is it not interesting to note that at the very moment when we are debating a measure to abolish elections for London, with all that that entails, the Prime Minister has invited the head of the most vile and hated of regimes to this country?

4.15 pm
Dr. Cunningham

I have some sympathy with my hon. Friend, but I had better not allow myself to be deflected. I know that other right hon. and hon. Members wish to contribute to the debate and I do not wish to speak for much longer.

Let me continue with my remarks about the change, based on the figures in the tables in the appendices to the Bill. It can easily be shown that a further five seat—in addition to the ones that I have already cited—could end up being divided between the Conservatives, the alliance and the Labour party. But even with those remaining uncertainties, the table represents only one possible method of calculating the outcome. On an assumption of the worst outcome for the Labour party in each borough the figures could end up as 56 for the Conservative party, 26 for Labour and two for the alliance. That would be a Conservative majority of 30 over the Labour party compared with the status quo following the last elections.

I understand that the view of the Secretary of State is that if disputes arise they can be settled by the courts. Would not an appeal to the Secretary of State be the most appropriate way in which to resolve a dilemma? Should not the Secretary of State make the final decision? Do the Government really want disputes about political control to be dragged interminably through the courts? I cannot believe that that would be an acceptable or sensible way in which to proceed.

As I have said already, the best course would be to ensure that such disputes did not arise in the first place. The Government should say, "This is an error, and we intend to correct it because we want no part in the fiddling of the democratic process. We want to maintain our record, hitherto a good one, of accepting the will of those who vote in elections."

That would be the most honourable course for Ministers to take this afternoon because, whatever else happens, if the Bill is enacted, they will have a tag attached to them throughout their political careers as the people who perpetrated what is, in the words of the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sicup and others, the worst and most offensive political gerrymander in this country's history of democratic elections.

Mr. Michael Shersby (Uxbridge)

I wish to address my remarks to amendment No. 112, which stands in my name. This debate is one of the most important so far in the proceedings on the Bill. I listened carefully to the case that the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) made for amendment No. 20, which would remove from the Bill the entire mechanism whereby the constituent councils could make or terminate the appointments the nominated authority. If the amendment were carried, it would wreck the Bill as it stands. That is a perfectly reasonable aim for the Opposition and the amendment has been moved in a perfectly reasonable manner.

The amendment to which I wish to speak this afternoon deals with circumstances that would arise if amendment No. 20 is unsuccessful and subsection (5) is retained in the Bill. I am concerned about the political composition of the nominated authority that will come into being when the Bill is enacted. There was much criticism from both sides of the Committee on this issue during the long hours when we debated the Bill. The Opposition pointed out, quite fairly, that there would be a change of political control because the nominated councillors would, in the case of Greater London, reflect the existing balance of the London borough councils. I hope that I will be forgiven if I concentrate some of my initial remarks on Greater London, with which I am particularly familiar. Doubtless similar considerations apply in a number of the metropolitan county councils.

Much of the argument and counter-argument about the need for elections next May depends on the prospects of one political party or another winning a majority at those elections. The existing GLC was elected in 1981. The London borough councils were elected two years ago: they are halfway through their present term. If we are to have a nominated authority, it would be preferable for the nominated authority at least to reflect the most recent local government elections in the Greater London area—the London borough council elections in 1981. The only alternative to that would be to have a nominated authority that reflected the general election results of 1983.I can well understand that Opposition Members may not find that a particularly attractive proposition.

I have therefore confined my amendment to attempting to reflect the composition of the constituent councils as they were elected by the people for local government purposes two years ago. It is to that aspect of the matter that I wish to direct the main thrust of my remarks.

Early this morning I attempted to persuade the Front Bench to accept my amendment No. 18 which would have enabled the present GLC councillors or the metropolitan county councillors to qualify to serve on the new nominated authority. I believe that that is extremely important because those councillors have a great deal of experience. A sprinkling of them, together with councillors from the constituent authorities, would have made for a much better nominated authority—if we are to have one—than an authority composed entirely of London borough councillors, when at present only eight sitting members have any experience of serving on the GLC.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Acton (Sir G. Young) in rejecting my amendment said that the introduction of existing GLC councillors into the new nominated assembly would not provide the essential link with the lower tier authority. That is a totally unsatisfactory reply. The existing GLC councillors and doubtless metropolitan county councillors too, together with Members of Parliament, London borough councillors and councillors for authorities outside London, have the closest possible relationship. Normally we work as a team. I cannot accept my hon. Friend's contention that if we had introduced them it would have broken the link with the lower tier authority.

I turn now to the detail of my amendment. It is designed to do something that I regard as one of Parliament's primary duties, to protect the interests of minorities. It sets out a formula whereby each constituent authority would nominate councillors to serve on the GLC in relation to the political balance prevailing on each of the constituent authorities. The hon. Member for Copeland suggested that that would lead to a Conservative majority of about 12 or 16. I do not disagree with his figures.

However, if there is to be a nominated authority and there is a change of political control, it would be far better if the new nominated Greater London council, and other authorities too, reflected the existing balance of the borough councils, even if that resulted in a change of political control, because at least that would ensure that the parties as they are composed on the constituent councils now would have their strength reflected.

It would also mean that the minorities— I am referring to all the major political parties, certainly the Conservative party, Labour party and Liberal/SDP alliance—would be represented on the new nominated authority. For an authority such as the London borough of Lambeth, about which we have heard a certain amount in the House in recent years, where the existing party strengths are Conservative 27, Labour 34 and SDP/Liberal alliance three, the application of my formula would mean that two Labour nominated councillor, and one Conservative nominated councillor would be representing the London borough of Lambeth on the new, nominated GLC.

Sir Kenneth Lewis (Stamford and Spalding)

While my hon. Friend is referring to the London borough of Lambeth, can he tell me how he would see it if Labour councillors from the London borough of Lambeth and some other Labour-controlled councils decided that they would not serve on the interim body? The Conservatives would be left with a nominated body in which only they were involved.

Mr. Shersby

I am most grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that important point. I can best reply by drawing his attention to my subsequent amendment No. 27 which states:

A constituent council in making or terminating appointments under this Part of this Act shall appoint the nominees of minority parties as provided for in section 2 of this Act. My hon. Friend asked what would happen if the minority parties refused to nominate. That would be entirely a matter for them. However, the minority parties would have had the opportunity provided by statute, if they so wished, to nominate a councillor from the authorities of their choice. If they chose not to take that opportunity, I do not believe that that would differ from what happens when a political party chooses not to contest one of the council seats in a local authority area. Moreover, that happens frequently in many wards throughout the country because for one reason or another parties simply do not think it is worth their while to contest a seat.

So, if I may return to my formula, for Lambeth there would be two Labour councillors and one Conservative. In the London borough of Tower Hamlets, for example, where I understand there are 30 Labour councillors, 19 SDP/Liberal alliance councillors and one other, use of my formula would result in there being one Liberal/SDP alliance councillor and one Labour councillor. Of course, as often happens, there is a joker in the pack, which on this occasion is the London borough of Waltham Forest, where the composition of the council is Conservative 25. Labour 25 and Liberal/SDP alliance one.

Therefore, in amendment No. 112, I have included in the final paragraph the words:

For constituent councils where the party composition of council seats cannot be related to the above formula the council shall appoint councillors by simple majority voting.

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)

Will the hon. Gentleman go through the figures for Waltham Forest again?

4.30 pm
Mr. Shersby

Certainly. I understand that the party strengths on the London borough of Waltham Forest are Conservative 25, Labour 25 and Liberal/SDP alliance one. I hope that those figures are correct. Local government council seats change hands in by—elections. But that is my understanding.

Sir Ian Gilmour (Chesham and Amersham)

I think that the strength of the Liberal—sDP alliance in Waltham Forest is more than one. I think it is six.

Mr. Shersby

Even if the alliance had won a few seats there would still be no difficulty. If my right hon. Friend will refer to my formula, he will see that there is a minimum percentage whereby it is necessary for the minority parties together to have

at least 33 per cent. of the council seats to have the statutory right to nominate a councillor.

The purpose of my amernndment is to deal with the situation that will arise if amendment No. 20, standing in the name of the hon. Member for Copeland is unsuccessful. In my view, it would be infinitely preferable to have a nominated Greater. London council, nominated in accordance with a formula that would protect the interests of minorities. All of us—as representatives of our different political parties—are in the minority in various authorities. It would do much to take the curse off the proposed new nominated authority and to meet some of the criticism that we have heard in Committee about the change of political control that would result.

I very much hope that my right hon. and hon. Friends who are present today, particularly my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment and his colleagues, who I know have studied this amendment with great care, will be prepared to give it the most positive consideration, and be prepared, if necessary, to introduce an amendment in another place. Unless we can protect the rights of minorities and ensure that the new nominated authority at least reflects the political balance on the borough councils, as at the last date when local councillors were elected, that authority will be the subject of continuing criticisms.

I hope, too, that the Opposition will look carefully at my amendment, if their amendment No. 20 is unsuccessful, because from their point of view, and that of the many responsible members of Opposition parties who serve both in this House and in local government, it is an extremely important amendment. It would enable all the major political parties to play a proper and responsible part in the orderly transfer of responsibilities from the GLC and the metropolitan counties to the lower—tier authorities.

I cannot believe that responsible members of the Labour party or of the Liberal/SDP alliance would wish, despite their understandable objection to the proposals in this paving Bill, to opt out entirely. After all, they, too, have a political future in local government. They have an important interest in the running of borough councils in Greater London and in parts of the country outside London, and I do not imagine that they would wish to be excluded from the transfer discussions that will take place during the coming 11 months, however great their disappointment may be about my right hon. Friend's proposals in the Bill.

I hope, therefore, that the formula that I have proposed will attract support from all parts of the Committee. That would at least show that Parliament is concerned to uphold its ancient duty of protecting minorities.

Mr. Winnick

With respect to the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Shersby), I do not see how his amendment would improve the situation— certainly not from the point of view of democracy. On reflection, he will understand, I think, that we are not likely to support his amendment, whether or not our amendment is successful.

Last night, the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) made what I think we would all agree was a very powerful speech. We listened to it with much attention. He prefaced his remarks, however, by accusing the Opposition of not doing their job. Perhaps understandably, as the bulk of his remarks was critical of the Government, he felt it necessary to start by criticising the Opposition.

It would have been better if more of the right hon. Gentleman's right hon. and hon. Friends who are not in the Government had been persuaded by the powerful argument which he advocated last night and on Second Reading. It is rather unfortunate that some of his right hon. and hon. Friends were not persuaded on an issue of such importance and which has such repercussions for democracy. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman does not need to be convinced of the democratic repercussions, as he made all these points himself on Second Reading and again last night. It would have been good if his right hon. and hon. Friends had been persuaded by him and voted as he did.

The criticism should not be directed at the Opposition. We are rightly fighting against the Bill. The criticism should be directed to those Conservative Members who have yet to be persuaded of the importance of these matters and the need to support the Opposition's amendments.

Sir Ian Gilmour

I do not dissent from what the hon. Gentleman says about the Conservatives. Surely he, in turn, will agree that it is distinctly disappointing from the Opposition's point of view that so very few Members of the Liberal/SDP alliance voted.

Mr. Winnick

The importance is in waging an opposition by Labour Members. I am not impressed by the argument sometimes used in connection with televising the House that attendance is thin. It is votes that count, not attendance. As one of those who had doubts about the setting up of Select Committees, I am not surprised at the thin attendance as Select Committees and many other committees preoccupy the attention of many hon. Members when they could be in the Chamber.

Mr. Richard Tracey (Surbiton)

Did the hon. Gentleman share my surprise that the Leader of the Opposition did not support the amendments tabled by his party? [HON. MEMBERS: "Where was the Prime Minister?"]

Mr. Winnick

Apart from the fact that the Prime Minister was not present, I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition supported the amendments completely. I am sure that even a new hon. Member, such as the hon. Member for Surbiton (Mr. Tracey), is aware that the Leader of the Opposition has many commitments and no one in his right mind would say that it is possible for the Leader of the Opposition always to be present.

Mr. Tracey

On a point of order, Mr. Walker. I saw the Prime Minister voting in that Division.

The Chairman

That is not a point of order. We are considering today's amendments and not yesterday's.

Mr. Winnick

Some cynics have tended to argue that, whatever malpractices might be carried out, it would not matter in the end because the general public are not concerned with political battles. It is said that they could not care less. They are indifferent. Political battles may preoccupy hon. Members. There may be heated discussions and debates in the House, and we vote accordingly, but the general public shows little interest.

I would not be surprised if the Government had worked on that cynical assumption. But they have come unstuck. Opinion polls have shown that the Bill is not popular. People in Greater London and other metropolitan areas want elected authorities. I think that people suspect what the Government are up to.

At the last election, the Labour party was accused of wanting to undermine democracy. The familiar accusation was that we were intent on setting up a kind of eastern European state. The Government, having been re—elected and having introduced other measures of an antidemocratic nature, are now intent upon abolishing the metropolitan authorities that have a Labour majority. However, as Opposition Members have pointed out, no legislation has been introduced to deal with shire counties. The reason is simple enough. Most shire county councils have an inbuilt Tory majority. Therefore, all the arguments directed against the GLC and the metropolitan county councils could well be directed against the shire counties; however, for the reasons I stated, no measures are being introduced to abolish them.

If the measure goes through, it will abolish the elections due next year. If the Government believed that next year's elections would result in a Conservative majority on the GLC and the other six authorities, can anyone doubt—how many Conservative Members present today would doubt—that they would have allowed the elections to go ahead? Of course they would. But the Government do not believe that. They know full well that if the 1985 elections took place the Labour party would probably do even better than it did in the previous elections for the GLC and the metropolitan authorities.

Mr. Harry Cowans (Tyne Bridge)

The Government are frightened of the ballot box.

Mr. Winnick

As my hon. Friend the Member for Tyne Bridge (Mr. Cowans) said, the Government are frightened of the ballot box—as are dictatorships.

We are discussing changing the political balance of the metropolitan authorities and the GLC. As my hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) said—it is the reason for the amendment—the abolition of the elections and the setting up of nominated bodies will in some instances change the political balance. Therefore, instead of a democratically elected Labour majority, there will be a different majority—a non elected one. If that is not an eastern European practice, I should like to know what is.

Mr. William O'Brien (Normanton)

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for allowing me to comment on the change of political balance. In many of the counties—especially in west Yorkshire — it is known that changing the political balance also changes the attitude to services and how they are administered in the counties. Will my hon. Friend agree that there is more to the measure than merely changing the political balance? Is it a Tory Government move to change how services will be administered in those areas until the changeover? Quangos will come in and perhaps continue to reduce the services that have been built up over the years by Labour administrations.? Will my hon. Friend take that on board?

Mr. Winnick

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. Clearly a change in political balance would be significant, as he said. Plainly the Government would hope that the new nominated bodies—in so far as there is a change in the political majority—will pursue policies different from those pursued by elected authorities. No one can doubt that.

Suppose that a Labour Government carried out such a measure and used our majority against Conservative—controlled authorities to abolish elections, and, say, set up nominated bodies in Surrey, Sussex and Kent. There would be denunciations by those very right hon. and hon. Members who support this measure. No doubt the Secretary of State would strenuously oppose the measure, saying that it was the road to dictatorship, and so on. Not only would Conservative Members denounce the measure—the honourable exceptions from all this are those who oppose what their Government are now doing—but the press would be screaming. I can just imagine the headlines of those newspapers that are so silent now— the Daily Mail, the Daily Express and The Sun—and that show such indifference to what is happening to democracy. They would have banner headlines—not once, but day after day—saying that the proposal was the Socialist road to dictatorship, serfdom, and so on. They would ask what would happen to parliamentary elections. That would be the attitude of the Tory press if a Labour Government carried out such measures.

4.45 pm

I do not wish to praise the Secretary of State and perhaps cause him damage. However, although we do not doubt that he is a wholly committed Conservative, in our eyes the right hon. Gentleman is somewhat different from some of his colleagues—for example, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. As I said, I hope that my words will not cause the Secretary of State difficulties from his colleagues. However, we expect somewhat different from him than we do from his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. We expect him to understand and appreciate our arguments about this important matter. I cannot help but conclude that in many respects the right hon. Gentleman has allowed himself to be almost an errand boy for the Prime Minister.

I see the Bill as part of the political spite against the GLC.

The Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Patrick Jenkin)

I shall not be able to reply to the debate because, as I explained to the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham), I have an important engagement outside the House. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under—secretary of State will reply. However, I cannot let the hon. Gentleman's suggestion pass. As the hon. Member for Houghton and Washington (Mr. Boyes) was at pains to impress on the House yesterday, I was the one who argued, for perfectly good democratic reasons, that nominating members from elected councils was better than having members live on beyond their time by parliamentary fiat. That was my argument. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister thought the idea novel and asked whether we should look at it again. In the end, when confronted with all the arguments, the overwhelming majority of my right hon. and hon. Friends were convinced, after our debate last night, that that was the right answer. Therefore, the hon. Gentleman has stood completely on their head my conclusions and those of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.

Mr. Winnick

The right hon. Gentleman misunderstood me. I said in effect that the whole idea of the Bill originated from the Prime Minister, out of spite and loathing for these Labour—controlled authorities. Instead of having faith and confidence in the ballot box on the basis that if some people do not like what is being done they should try to change it by democratic means, she decided to use her majority in the House of Commons to abolish the Greater London council and the metropolitan authorities. I asked earlier why the shire counties were not being similarly dealt with. The explanation is the one I gave earlier.

I have said that the right hon. Gentleman acts almost as an errand boy for the Prime Minister. It is interesting to note that the former Leader of the House of Commons, the right hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. JohnStevas), states in his recently published book—an interesting book in some respects because it deals with his time as a member of this Government—that the Prime Minister expects Ministers to be her agents. If the right hon. Gentleman was unwilling to do her bidding and argued against this Bill, I wonder how long he would last in the Government. The right hon. Member for Chelmsford did not last long, nor did the former Foreign Secretary. The same applies, unfortunately from his point of view, to the right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Sir I. Gilmour).

The Chairman

Order. I must draw the hon. Gentleman's attention to the fact that he is going wide of the amendments. I hope that he will return to them.

Mr. Winnick

I shall return to them entirely, Mr. Walker.

I say only that one would have expected the right hon. Gentleman, instead of being a party to what is now happening and allowing democracy to be replaced by nominated bodies—and in some cases clearly allowing a situation to develop in which the authorities have a nominated majority, which is quite different from an elected majority—to realise what was involved, as did the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup and certain of his right hon. and hon. Friends, and to resign from the Government if necessary. May I also say to him. although perhaps he does not mind one way or the other, that he would have had far more credibility in the House as a whole by doing that than by allowing himself to be part of this miserable measure that is aimed at the democratic process itself. I hope that even at this late stage the right hon. Gentleman will realise the injury that he is doing to democracy.

Mr. Francis Pym (Cambridgeshire, South-East)

This Bill is of such a character that in my view it is incapable of being made acceptable by means of amendment. On the other hand, it has a few especially unacceptable features that I think it right to tackle by way of amendment. That is why my name is associated with amendment No. 20.

I object to the replacement of an elected body by a nominated body in any case, and even more strongly to the imposed change in political complexion that will take place after the establishment of the proposed incoming body that will be nominated to execute the responsibilities of the Greater London council. That is not fair or reasonable, and I do not believe that anyone believes that it is. It does not accord with the British sense of justice.

I can just about understand my right hon. Friend's thinking on the issue. He believes that an appointed body is acceptable, and the fact that it will have a different political complexion is a coincidence—an accident—and not particularly important. What is more, he probably thinks that it is administratively convenient and a very neat way of preparing the ground for the larger reform which he want to undertake next year. I do not perceive matters in that way and nor do many others. We see it as an unwarranted interference with the democratic process. I do not believe that there is any precedent for the procedure—at any rate, I have not been able to find one. It is not only dangerous to manipulate the democratic process in this way, but unacceptable. I believe that my right hon. Friend will find that it also has an unacceptable political price attached to it.

Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North)

I respect greatly the reputation, knowledge and views on this subject of my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire, South—east (Mr. Pym). But is not the position slightly different from the historical examples mentioned by hon. Gentlemen? Effectively, for an 11-month period there will be a rump authority, which will not be looking to the future or able to embark on certain political directions and take political decisions. In other words, it will not be a political authority but one which, for 11 months, will be taken to pieces bit by bit and developed into new authorities—the district authorities that already exist. Therefore, do not the Government have a case for giving the power over that period to those who will take on the responsibility and who have a vested interest in the future and in success, rather than to those who happen to be in place at the time?

Mr. Pym

I disagree with my hon. Friend, but he is right to this extent: there are differences about the proposed reform. However, he must remember that we do not yet know the details of that, nor has the House had any chance to debate it. In any case, my hon. Friend's argument does not invalidate the principle which I am adumbrating—that it is a great mistake to upset the democratic process. The simple solution, which I argued yesterday—I know that it was unsuccessful in the Lobby—is to extend the period of office of the properly and legitimately elected councillors for a further 11 months. My hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Shersby) prefers the political complexion of the boroughs, on the ground that their elections were more recent than the GLC's. He feels that the borough elections of 1982 are somehow more relevant to the business of the GLC than its elections in 1981 are. But I do not believe that it would be wise to follow that principle or to pursue that line of thought.

Mr. Shersby

The point that I was trying to make is this. If amendment No. 20 is not carried and we are faced with a nominated authority—however disagreeable that may be to my right hon. Friend and others—surely it would be better to have an authority which at least reflects the political balance of the local authorities as determined at the most recent date.

Mr. Pym

I am grateful for that; I was going on to say that my hon. Friend's amendment is clearly very constructive, assuming that we shall not manage to knock out clause 2(5). It is certainly worthy of the Secretary of State's consideration, which I hope will be given. However, it does not dispose of my objection to the fact that we shall still be faced with an imposed change of political control.

There is also an unfortunate political result. Not long ago, Mr. Livingstone was rather an asset to my party; there are other characters in our country who are also assets to my party. But now, through the mishandling of the main reform of local government that my right hon. Friend has in mind, the Government have been clever enough to turn Mr. Livingsone into something much more like a genuine menace to them. He used to be only an apparent menace. He has now been handed an ace or two, which he certainly does not deserve and which he will certainly play.

We have put ourselves in a very vulnerable position that is of the Government's own making. Amendment No. 20 will not solve that, but it would help if subsection (5) were withdrawn and another method devised. It all points to what I said before. There has been too much haste in trying to rush ahead with this reform, and too little preparation. I urge the Government to think again about their interim measures. We have not yet reached the main proposals. The interim measures have received considerable criticism from the Conservative Benches, as well as from the Opposition Benches. The Government should listen to some of the voices on both sides of the Committee and consider that they might conceivably be wrong. They should then come back with a better method of proceeding.

Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey)

May I first raise a point of order, Mr. Walker. I respect your discretion in making the selection, but you did not select amendment No. 54 in the name of my right hon. and hon. Friends. It proposed that the formula for deciding the composition of the interim authority should be based on the votes cast in the borough and district council elections held before the interim authority comes into existence. Does that fall within the Bill's long title?

The Chairman

Order. I have allowed the hon. Gentleman to make his point, but it is not a point of order. The Chair is not required to give any reasons why an amendment has or has not been selected. I can only assure the hon. Gentleman and the Committee that very careful consideration was given to every amendment on the Amendment Paper beore the selection was made.

Mr. Hughes

I am grateful for that guidance, Mr. Walker. I understand and respect your reasons for making the selection. However, the debate is about the way in which we seek to resolve the enormous muddle that the Government's proposals have caused. The Government have decided that next year there shall be no Greater London council or metropolitan county council election, that those councils will continue for a year, and that they must have a composition made up elsewhere. The amendments suggest various formulae for making up those councils during that year.

The Liberal party find the whole idea that the Government seek to implement appalling and disgraceful. I speak on behalf of pople who at one time or another will find themselves in a political minority against the tyranny that what we call our constitution gives to the party that wins the most seats in this place. Last June the Conservative party won about 42 per cent. of the vote in the general election.

The Chairman

Order. Perhaps I can anticipate the road that the hon. Gentleman will take and try to divert him on to a different one. The Bill is about local government and not about Westminster.

Mr. Hughes

I shall move very quickly from this place to the local authorities. I think that you will accept, Mr. Walker, that the point is valid. The Government, like any Government elected by a minority of voters, have taken it upon themselves to decide for the local areas of our country. In so doing they claim the constitutional right that the House apparently gives them, which is that Parliament is sovereign. I have been in the House for a year and three months. I believe that we have almost no constitution and the people in the Strangers' Gallery are conned if they think that we have an unwritten constitution.

The Chairman

Order. I am sorry, but I must draw the hon. Member's attention to our procedures, which do not recognise those people to whom he seeks to refer.

Mr. Hughes

If that is the case, I am even more amazed. The public ought to know that few parts of our constitution can survive the bulldozer of tyrannical government. All that survive are the facts that the monarch is the head of state and that Parliament is sovereign.

5 pm

It is appalling that the Government—whichever party is in the majority, and the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, South—east (Mr. Pym) and the former Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath), have been honourable enough to recognise this—can decide that this place can determine a political change in the control of the largest local authority in Europe, the Greater London council, that converts it without an election from an elected council, producing a Labour majority under a system that we find unacceptable but for the time being have to accept, into a new council with a large Conservative majority. I would say that that was appalling, no matter which party was in power, and I hope that Back Bench Members of the major parties would say so, too.

The amendments seek to get round the problem posed by the Government seeking to make out of borough councils a composition for the Greater London council and out of the district councils in the six metropolitan counties a composition for the metropolitan county councils that will exist next year without elections. They are seeking to contrive a formula for doing so.

The amendments present several possible ways of doing that. Amendment No. 20 would delete subsection (5), which would mean that there would be no obligation on the constituent councils of London boroughs and of districts outside London to make their appointees for a year to their county authorities reflect any political balance. I am prepared to go down that road if it means that the Government will have to start again and come up with an acceptable proposal.

Amendment No. 21, in the name of the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Shersby), would provide for a reflection—contrived, as he will accept—of the composition of those councils as at the time that they were last elected. In each case, that would be an unsatisfactory outcome. In the last borough council elections in London, in 1982, four authorities found themselves with no party in overall control—Brent, Hammersmith and Fulham, Lambeth and Waltham Forest. At last week's district council elections in the metropolitan counties even more authorities were left without one—party control: Bradford, Rochdale, Stockport, Walsall and Calderdale. There may be others.

Mr. Robert N. Wareing (Liverpool, West Derby)

But not Liverpool.

Mr. Hughes

No, not Liverpool, even though in Liverpool the Labour vote went down and the Liberal vote went up.

Mr. Wareing

We have experienced Liberal rule in Liverpool. That is why.

Mr. Hughes

Although that is a distraction, Mr. Walker, the hon. Gentleman knows well that the only reason why there was Liberal government in Liverpool was that the Labour party refused, though it was the largest party, to take office.

Mr. Wareing

The Liberals allied with the Tories.

Mr. Hughes

There was no alliance with the Tories. I shall not be drawn further down that road, because both the larger parties often argue that it is the third party that keeps the other in office, whereas often they keep each other in office because they prefer the two-party Box and Cox of this place, to the detriment of what you, Mr. Walker, tell me that I cannot describe as the people up there.

We sincerely hope that the Government will accept the fundamental constitutional principle that one cannot change the composition of an authority and have as a result a change in political control, because that contravenes all the conventions and precedents and is wholly antidemocratic. If the Government believe that they will carry through this place and the other place, later this year or next year, a Bill to abolish the GLC and the metropolitan counties and to replace them by other authorities, then, when the time comes, the services that the people want to receive—education, highways, social services, housing—will be governed and run by people who are, at least in part, elected for that purpose. But, for the time being, they must be governed and run in accordance with the most recently expressed views of the electors. No other decisions are appropriate.

When the electors sent us here last June, they did not send us here to run the local councils, the Greater London or metropolitan counties, or to decide that their composition should be changed. The Minister and the Secretary of State know well that nowhere in the Tory programme last June did it say that elections would be overruled and the political balance of any authority changed. It did say that the metropolitan counties and the GLC would be abolished, but it said no more, and it certainly did not presage this ridiculous and appalling elaboration upon that theme.

The amendments would at least make the Government think again. I await with interest and amazement to see how it can be claimed—and until recently the Parliamentary Under—secretary of State for the Environment had a good reputation for political integrity and for understanding something about political philosophy—that what the Government are advocating is consistent with that integrity and honesty. They are not doing their duty by their electors. As Government Back Benchers have said, the Government will probably do their party's local government reputation a great disservice. More important, they are breaching the constitutional convention that the political colour of local councils is not determined by other than the electoral process.

Even though Opposition Members think that the whole system is a sham and ought to be abolished, I thought that at least we believed in elections in this country. The tragedy is that it appears that the Government now do not even want to advocate elections. Any of the amendments would at least improve that position. I urge the Government to say that they will think again, because that is the least they can do to retain any semblance of decency before the country and the House.

Sir Ian Gilmour

I support the amendment. I shall say no more about the gerrymander involved in the clause, not only because I think that enough has been said and it is generally agreed to be so, but because my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, for reasons that we well understand, cannot be here. I shall only say that I thought, in the small hours of the morning, that there was a slight tinge of "1984" in what he said, but that may have been because of the late hour. It seems to me that the lack of political scruple being shown is, at best, stupid.

I support the amendment because of the wording of subsection (5), which the amendment proposes to delete. The first part of that subsection says:

Each constituent council shall, so far as practicable, exercise its power to make or terminate appointments under this Part of this Act so as to ensure that the balance of parties for the time being prevailing … is reflected". That, to my mind, is the sort of meaningless nonsense which should not be put forward by a Government or passed by the House. What does "the balance of parties" mean?

My hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Shersby), in a most persuasive speech, talked about the situation in Waltham Forest and I ventured to interrupt him. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under—secretary has kindly confirmed that what I said was right and that the figures for Waltham Forest are, roughly, 25 Conservatives, 26 Labour and six Liberal — SDP alliance. What, for that council, does

the balance of parties for the time being mean? On that basis the nominations could be one Conservative and two Labour, two Conservative and one Liberal, or, depending on how it was voted, two Liberal and one Conservative. There is no way in which the clause can take effect; there is no way in which the balance of parties can be achieved.

An even more fundamental point is this. Schedule 1 gives the names of a number of councils which will nominate two councillors to the GLC. They are Westminster, Camden, Islington, Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Barking, Sutton, Merton, Kingston upon Thames, Richmond, Hounslow, Harrow and Haringey. When a council can nominate only two councillors, assuming that we do not have a one—party system, how can a balance of parties possibly be achieved? If two councillors are nominated from the same party and there is not a one—party council, that is not a balance. If a councillor is nominated from each party and parties are not equally represented, that is not a balance. The situation is even more absurd if there are three parties.

I hope that when my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under—secretary of State replies to this group of amendments he will attach some meaning to the subsection, because at the moment it has none. It is entirely wrong that the Government should be enjoining councils to do something that it is impossible for them to do. So far, I have heard nothing from the Government that gives it a meaning. I agree with the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) that the subsection seeks to give spurious respectability to an obvious gerrymander, but the unfortunate thing is that it fails to do so.

Mr. Marlow

I know how properly my right hon. Friend is committed to local democracy, but will it not be possible for each authority on its own to make its own decision as to how the clause should be applied? Is not that the solution?

Sir Ian Gilmour

In that case, what is the point of the clause? If that is what the Government intended, the subsection should read, "each council will behave in a way that seems fair to it". But that is not what subsection (5) says— perhaps my hon. Friend has not read it. If he does, he will see that his interpretation is not reasonable. It is a course that is reasonable in itself but it is not a meaning that can be attached to the subsection.

Can my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under—secretary of State tell us how councils should behave? They, and we, ought to know. It would be quite wrong for the House to pass a Bill that contains a subsection that is completely meaningless and impracticable. For that reason, if for no other, the subsection should not be approved by the House.

Mr. Wareing

The clause that we seek to amend is further evidence of the motives behind the Government's decision to forge ahead with the legislation. The real aim has been revealed again; it is simply a matter of pressing the Government's party political prejudice to the point where they seek to demolish all their opponents, not by force of argument but by attempting to abolish them.

Indeed, there could be no finer monument erected outside county hall to the memory of governor Elbridge Gerry than that of the Secretary of State who is promoting the Bill. [Interruption.] I hope that I have managed to educate even one or two hon. Members on my own side, although they require little education. Elbridge Gerry was the governor who first introduced the gerrymander in the United States. It seems that we are encouraging yet another bad American habit.

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)

I have some experience of these matters myself. I wanted to ask my hon. Friend, through you, Mr. Walker, whether he would be erecting the monument as a tribute to the Secretary of State, the Parliamentary Under—secretary, the Prime Minister, or, indeed, the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) for his opposition to the provision. I think that the Committee needs to know the details of my hon. Friend's proposal.

Mr. Wareing

I do not want to put the GLC to too much expense, and therefore I do not want to make too large a monument. The Bill is in itself a monument, a monument of failure to any political party that argues that it is still adhering to the principles of freedom and democracy in this country.

5.15 pm

I should like to repeat something that I mentioned yesterday. Although I believe that the Government's aim in the clause is to change the party political balance on the transitional councils from the present state of the parties on the existing councils of the metropolitan councils and the GLC, with the one glowing exception of the GLC, they have failed. There is no doubt in my mind that, as a result of the borough and district council elections in Merseyside last Thursday the composition of the transitional councils will now carry Labour majorities.

As long as the Government pursue policies of restricting the powers of local authorities, whether by presenting them with arbitrary targets, or with GREs which are meaningless in social terms to the people living in different areas, or by rate capping, they will raise the consciousness of voters in working class areas, such as Merseyside. People on the streets of Liverpool are discussing local government in a way that they were not discussing it only a few months ago. They are talking of GREs and of Government targets. They really understand what the Government are doing, unlike, I think the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, South—east (Mr. Pym). I am sure that he is an honourable man and has honourable intentions of supporting the amendments which I hope that the House will support tonight—amendment No. 20 and the amendments tabled in the names of my hon. Friends on the Opposition Front Bench. But the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, South—east is quite wrong.

The motives of this Conservative Government are quite different from the motives of previous Conservative Governments. I am sure that there are Conservative Members who wish to rebel against what is happening, but this Conservative Government are trying to stifle opposition—as they have tried with the Trade Union Bill. Their suggestion there—it was not carried through to the nth degree — was that they would control the political levy and the finances of their major opponents in the House.

This legislation is all of a piece. Clause 2, which we now seek to amend, is aimed in the same direction. It is aimed at stifling opposition. It will not succeed, because the electors of this country are far more awake than the Prime Minister and her minions — they are all her minions these days—in the Government.

The transitional council on Merseyside will be Labour controlled, but we shall come to discuss the joint boards which will be enshrined in the Bill that we are threatened with next Session. I am afraid that even with the massive electoral swing to the Labour party in Merseyside the joint board will be faced by a hung council and with a balance of power problem, and if anyone wants to recommend a hung council or a hung joint board to this House, let him look at the 10 years' history of the city of Liverpool between 1973 and 1983. That is no advertisement for hung councils, but it is the sort of council that would be perpetuated if the suggestion of the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) were put on the statute book.

There would be a transitional council made up of councillors, some of whom were elected in 1981, some in 1982 and some in 1983. During at least two of those three years the electorate was rather more favourably disposed to the Conservative party than it was in last Thursday's elections. There is something to be said for recognising the most recent councillors as the ones who have a mandate — if there is such a thing — from the voters. Amendments Nos. 20 and 22 would ensure that no drastic change in the balance would be brought about by a nondemocratic system of nominating councillors to serve rather than electing them.

I again make the point that we are talking about replacing existing county councillors not with even the same number of nominated district councillors, but with only half the number, with all that that will mean to councillors who have heavy burdens in areas of great social deprivation such as the one that I represent.

With my experience of Liberal hegemony in a city council, I am not likely to quote Liberals, but I shall quote a former Liberal Prime Minister. Sir Henry Campbell—bannerman once said that self—government was always better than good government. No matter what the Tory Front Bench believes to be the rights and the wrongs of the political strategy of Ken Livingstone in London or of Ke va Coombes in Merseyside, those people have been elected by the democratic votes of the people and it is far better that people make their own mistakes than that mistakes should be imposed on them by autocratic Governments such as the one inflicted, albeit by the electorate, on the

country at present. I would rather see an elected Conservative council on Merseyside than a nominated Labour one. That is the difference between me and other democrats. Those imposing this clause and this Bill on the country are really autocrats at heart and their democracy is no more than skin deep.

No doubt we shall again lose the vote on the amendment, although we shall have won the argument as we have on so many occasions since 9 June last year, and although there will be honourable exceptions on the Tory Benches who will try to save their party from the headlong leap that it is now taking in the direction of non—democratic politics. But no matter what happens in the Division Lobbies later, in the long run the will of a free people will not be thwarted even by the present Government because those people cannot be dragged through the Division Lobbies. People in Liverpool have been able to discuss local government in a way that they have never been able to discuss it before because democratic rights are threatened by the Government and I believe that in the nottoo—distant future the people of this country will rise in their millions and ensure that the present Government are swept from power not by nomination but by a democratic election.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. William Waldegrave)

I realise why our debate has ranged somewhat wide of the amendments under discussion. Let me respond first to the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing), and refute some of the criticisms of the way that the part of the Bill to which subsection (5) is an addition deals with minority representation.

I do not think that the Government can be accused of being anti—democratic in trying to remove the upper tier of councils, where they exist in conurbations. Let me put a counter—point to the hon. Gentleman. We shall be giving more power and authority and wider functions to elected councils in the lower tier, some of which are even more profoundly opposed to the Government in certain respects than is the upper tier. Liverpool council itself is a beneficiary of the devolution of some of the powers conferred by our two Bills. The hon. Gentleman's accusation is not really fair. The two Bills—this Bill, and the main Bill which will come forward in the autumn —are part of a process of moving, in one part of the country at least, to more powerful unitary authorities, and there is nothing anti—democratic about that.

There is, of course, a much narrower point about the consequences of our decision not to follow the precedent set by previous reorganisations, when the terms of sitting councillors were prolonged. My right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire, South—east (Mr. Pym) rightly pointed out that the new position is unprecedented. A whole section of local government is being taken away without being replaced at the same level. Some of the choppy water through which we are going probably derives from the absence of a precedent.

The hon. Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark) said, quite fairly, in his winding—up speech on Second Reading that he understood why we did not go ahead and hold elections for the lame—duck council next year. The argument is about whether we should prolong the terms of sitting councillors or, as we have proposed, allow the appointment of elected councillors from the lower tier—who will be the inheritors of the service — to sit as councillors in the upper tier, and to preside over the passing down of functions to the lower tier. I hope that we can return to the rather narrower point represented by that undoubtedly controversial decision, which many of my right hon. and hon. Friends consider wrong.

The amendments address themselves to a part of the Bill which makes provision for minority representation. In principle, I found little to disagree with in the speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Shersby), who welcomed the Bill's attempt to make provision for minorities. His criticism was that we had not done that clearly enough, and had left ourselves with problems. The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) also recognised that, once this step had been taken, it was sensible to try to make provision for minorities.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire, South—east seemed to be asking us to delete subsection (5) and come back with wider proposals. But simply deleting the subsection would not affect the change in control of the GLC. The GLC would still go Conservative without minority representation, so that point is not directly material.

Perhaps it is worth recalling why we consider minority representation important on the councils. We need not have taken that step. Appointments under subsection (5) are to full councils, not sub—committees or anything else. It should not be forgotten that the appointments are being made not to new bodies, but to existing upper tier full councils, as opposed to appointed committees. The GLC and the MCCs will, of course, continue to exist during the transitional period, even if for 11 months they are indirectly rather than directly elected. Therefore, it is right and proper that they should include minority representation as if they had been directly elected.

5.30 pm

Both the alternatives on offer to us—the prolongation or the appointment of lower tier authorities — were bound to be unsatisfactory in some respects. The hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) made it clear that the prolongation of the councils would be so unsatisfactory — the councils would have no mandate and would therefore be bogus — that he would recommend his friends not to serve. That is why the Bill provides, so far as is practicable, for constituent councils to reflect party balance when making appointments to the GLC and the MCCs.

Mr. Sydney Bidwell (Ealing, Southall)

Bearing in mind the point made by the right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Sir I. Gilmour) about the freedom of the boroughts to decide on their nomination methods and so on, may I ask what will happen if the Labour boroughs refuse to participate and the Labour party nationally decides on a policy of non—participation? It looks to me as though that is what will happen, given the present mood of Labour councillors, including the councillors in the Labour minority in Hillingdon whom I consulted. Would not such a policy result in a wholesale shambles?

Mr. Waldegrave

My hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge answered that point in his reply to the intervention of my hon. Friend the Member for Stamford and Spalding (Sir K. Lewis). There is a duty on the councils to nominate members, but if Labour councillors choose not to serve, they choose not to serve. I hope that they would not take such an irresponsible attitude.

I realise that the points made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Sir I. Gilmour) carry weight. Having once decided that the full councils should include minority representation, I concede that it is impossible to produce a clear and simple formula that will give a satisfactory answer in every case. I shall come back to the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge on this matter.

Mr. Jack Straw (Blackburn)


Mr. Waldegrave

Perhaps I may finish my argument before the hon. Gentleman shoots it down. We believe that in the majority of cases the arrangements will be perfectly straightforward and there will be a pretty obvious way of making proportional membership fit in with the shape of a lower tier council. In some cases, there will be two or three different ways of proceeding, and one method may be as good as another.

All that we have laid on the lower tier authorities is the duty to behave reasonably. If they do not, they may be taken to court. In such cases the court would have to decide not who the members should be, but whether the council had behaved in a reasonable manner or whether it had produced an absurd outcome.

Having said that, I accept my right hon. Friend's fair criticism that different results may be produced in two councils with a similar balance in the lower tier because if both the decisions were reasonable the court might say, "It is six of one and half a dozen of the other."

Mr. Straw

I entirely share the views of my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) about the inadvisability of prolonging councils. We have stated clearly that we believe that there should be elections. May I ask the Under—secretary why, having decided against prolongation and against new elections, he believes that this proposal is the only way of securing representation from the boroughs? Why would it not have been possible to require the boroughs to nominate representatives in such a way as to ensure representation that reflected their existing composition? If, for example, there were three GLC members in its area—two Tory and one Labour—a borough council would nominate two Tory councillors and one Labour councillor from its own ranks. That would have avoided completely the gerrymander criticism. Why has the Under—secretary not followed through that scheme?

Mr. Waldegrave

I make two points. First, without trying to embarrass him I should point out that the hon. Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark) took a different view on Second Reading. He said that he quite understood why we had taken the decision that we did and he then said that he thought that it was the wrong one. I think that he has since had his back stiffened slightly by the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw).

The formula which the hon. Member for Blackburn offers us would be a recipe for complete confusion. We have two choices. One is to continue with the present upper tier council, the second is to move to the only other democratically accountable, legitimate power base available which is the lower tier councils. To use the lower—tier councils to try to recreate the upper tier would be a dog's breakfast: it would be much simpler to prolong the upper tier councils. Of the options on offer so far I do not find that offered by the hon. Member for Blackburn particularly attractive.

Sir Nicholas Bonsor (Upminster)

My hon. Friend has not yet dealt with the most crucial point raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Sir I. Gilmour), which is that the terms of schedule I render it absolutely impossible for the local councils to comply with the directions under subsection (5). One cannot possibly make a proper attempt at representing the balance on the councils when there are three parties on the councils and only two members with whom to make that attempt.

Mr. Waldegrave

I tried to make it clear in my response to my right hon. Friend that the duty laid on the lower tier council is to get as near as it can: there will be circumstances where it will not be able to achieve it. I am quite willing to admit that. That is one of the costs of trying to produce the minority representation which we want:. We have to accept that there will be some imperfect situations. It is no good trying to disguise that.

Mr. Corbyn

I thank the Minister for drawing attention to views I expressed earlier. I should like it to be made absolutely clear—perhaps the Minister would care to comment on this—that I and a number of my hon. Friends such as my hon. Friends the Members for Newham, North—west (Mr. Banks) and Leyton (Mr. Cohen) are completely opposed to the idea of extension in office by appointment. We want it reiterated that we believe that people should hold public office only through election and that public office should not be in the Government's gift.

Mr. Waldegrave

I do not think the hon. Gentleman needs my help in self—advertisement. His views are well known and, indeed, are displayed in a number of surprising places about his anatomy.

I turn now to the points raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge . He says that while what is being attempted is clear, not enough detail has been provided, and that it would be better to write in detailed instructions for the lower tier councils. I expect that he has found that considerable difficulties are involved in attempting to produce a satisfactory detailed manual. There is the difficulty of defining individual political parties. for example, and that of defining majority and minority. Indeed, my hon. Friend's amendment itself to some extent illustrates my point.

Amendment No. 21 begins by referring to the "principal minority party" and then tries to define what happens to that party's representation, but nowhere do the definitions refer again to the principal minority party. Instead, reference is made to "the minority parties together" or to the "larger minority party". It would be difficult to try to decide whether "larger" meant "principal" and so on.

It is unfair to criticise an amendment when the point of it is clear. I do so only because we have tried to produce similar amendments and repeatedly have encountered the fact that by trying to put such a provision in the Bill even more anomalies and oddities potentially are produced. However, if a council has a duty only to make a reasonable and sensible attempt, and that attempt is challenged, a court will often decide that, taking everything into account, the people involved have tried to fulfil their duty.

We have tried to wrestle with such a provision as that proposed by my hon. Friend. We cannot consider accepting an amendment along the lines that he has proposed, but we will consider whether we can produce a document of illustration or guidance to which the Bill might refer, and we shall consider amendments to the Bill that would refer to that document. Therefore, there would be advice on hand for councils which genuinely were trying to do it right. Those who want to cause trouble and make a fool of the legislation can always do so. The courts will have to stop that. However, there might be genuine cases of doubt. We might be able to produce a document to help and guide in such instances.

Mr. Shersby

I assume that my hon. Friend is referring to a code of practice or a similar document. I presume that such guidance or code of practice would not have statutory force. One worrying aspect of the nominated authority is that the interests of the minorities should be protected by statute. It is one thing for us to express in the House the hope that all local authorities will act reasonably and sensibly and another to place that requirement upon them. But we cannot be sure that they will act reasonably and sensibly.

Furthermore, I am anxious about the position of the aggrieved minority if it had to pursue the matter to court. The cost would be substantial. Presumably, the parties involved would not have access to legal aid or to financial aid provided by the local authority. Therefore, it would be difficult for an aggrieved minority to pursue its grievance to the courts.

I am encouraged by what my hon. Friend said. I am sure that it is not beyond the wit of expert parliamentary draftsmen—I am certainly not one of them—to produce a watertight formula. I urge my hon. Friend to attempt to do that and at the same time build it into the statute so that it is not an extraneous form of guidance or code of practice, but has statutory force and has been approved by the House.

The Chairman

Order. Interventions should be brief.

Mr. Waldegrave

Although I shall of course consult again on whether the details could be given statutory force, I am not optimistic that such a solution will be feasible. I have mapped out the route of giving some kind of guidance note. It would not be the kind of detailed code that would cause the same problems as if the provisions were written in statute, but would be illustrative and helpful. Moreover, it could be taken into consideration in court when deciding whether the council had been acting reasonably. For example, had the council looked at the code and had it tried to do what it could to meet the requirements of the duty set upon it? I believe that that is a more helpful route to travel.

As for the principal point of the protection of minorities, which this provision is entirely designed to achieve, the duty to make a reasonable attempt at the representation of the minorities still lies firmly on the council. We are arguing about whether it is possible in the multifarious and differing situations of individual councils to write it all out in black and white in a way that does not land us in more trouble. In our view, it is impossible to do that. We have to leave it, therefore, to the definition of reasonableness, which I believe will work reasonably well.

5.45 pm
Sir Nicholas Bonsor

I am sorry to press my hon. Friend, but the matter is vital to this subsection. In the GLC there will be 15 councils which have only two representatives on the new body. What would my hon. Friend say to one of those councils if there were a majority of, say, 30 to 20 Conservative to Labour? Should it represent the balance by appointing both Conservative, which gives a majority, or should it appoint one Labour and one Conservative, which does not reflect the majority?

Mr. Waldegrave

Perhaps the best answer I could give would be to produce the guidance note that I have described. I do not want to disguise the fact that two or more answers would satisfy the test of reasonableness. We could give helpful guidance.

Mr. Christopher Hawkins (High Peak)

My hon. Friend is missing the point. If the seats are 30:20 between the two parties, there is no guidance note in the world that would fairly represent the balance of the parties. With two representatives for a borough, there are only two possibilities—two to one party and none to the other, or one each. Neither of those possibilities fairly represents the spectrum of numbers from 0 to 100. It is logically impossible.

Mr. Waldegrave

With respect to my hon. Friend, I entirely understand the point. I am saying that in some situations the party balance cannot be effectively represented.

Sir Nicholas Bonsor

Might I suggest that this could, in part, be met by an increase in the representation to allow a different solution to be found?

Mr. Waldegrave

Of course. The bigger the council, the easier it is to fine tune, but one then faces other difficulties as a result of having an unwieldy council. We have already been rightly told that there is a limit to the number of councillors in the lower tiers who will have the time and experience to do these jobs. So there is a danger in going too far down that road.

Mr. Charles Morrison (Devizes)

Surely the basis of my hon. Friend's case is that these interim provisions will last only for 11 months anyhow. As the Bill is now drafted, the implication is that there will be the equivalent of one representative in the quango for every two representatives that there are currently in the GLC. Surely it would therefore be more sensible for my hon. Friend to agree to leave out subsection (5), think about it again, and come back with more constructive proposals to meet the points.

Mr. Waldegrave

There are several different points. Perhaps my hon. Friend the Member for High Peak (Mr. Hawkins) has not noticed that the Bill says, at the beginning of subsection (5), "as far as practicable". Those words would not be there if we had not realised that it would not be practicable in some cases.

Two principal issues have emerged from this debate. The first is whether we could have more detail in terms of the division of numbers. I suspect that if we tried to write that in detail in statute it would land us in more trouble, but we shall certainly have another look at that possibility. I imagine that the guidance note is more sensible. The other possibility, on which my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Morrison) is so keen, is for us to make the council bigger. We shall have another look at that, but there is the danger of getting an unwieldy transitional council, as well as the difficulties that I pointed out to my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge..

Mr. Straw

Will not the Under—secretary admit for once that his endeavour to secure a political balance simply defies the laws of arithmetic and is impossible.

Mr. Waldegrave

The hon. Gentleman is getting overexcited. I have freely admitted to my hon. Friends that there is no perfect way of doing it. We can produce in these councils a perfectly defensible and reasonable—that is the legal word that will lie at the heart of the matter—minority representation.

Mr. Simon Hughes

The words in the clause do not refer to reasonableness. They impose an absolute duty "so far as practicable". If those words are left in, reasonableness cannot apply. In no fewer than eight councils in London, there are more than two parties. Therefore, any formula that has a preponderance of only two representatives is bound to fail. Therefore, the wording, "balance of parties" has to go if the clause is to make any sense.

Mr. Waldegrave

The hon. Gentleman shot himself in the foot then because he said that the clause is absolute and added, "so far as practicable". Perhaps he shot himself in both feet, as suggested by the hon. Member for Tyne Bridge (Mr. Cowans).

I do not wish to disguise that in the attempt to find a formula we shall not find an exact and perfect solution for every situation. However, as my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes said, it is worth trying to provide for a minority voice on these short—lived councils.

Mr. Tony Banks

The Bill is an utter shambles. It is a major constitutional cock—up. I almost feel sorry for the Parliamentary Under—secretary when he was being assailed from all sides. He seems a decent sort. Given his function as the all—dancing, all—singing Parliamentary Under—secretary, he has an impossible job. It would assist us if he were to admit that. We might all then have more sympathy for him.

The Government Front Bench team is led by the political equivalent of the Vicar of Bray who has now slipped away. The Secretary of State has not the stomach to see what is going on. As well as the all—dancing and all-singing Parliamentary Under—secretary, there is the acceptable face of Tory extremism in the lengthy shape of the Minister of State. They know that they do not have a case. I really wish that they would come clean, be honest and admit it. They should realise that we are in a terrible mess. The provision is badly thought out—if it has been thought out at all. We are getting more and more into the mire.

It is often said that history repeats itself—the first time as tragedy and then as a farce. This is the farce, but it is a dangerous farce. It is an undemocratic farce. With all the criticisms made by senior and respected Conservative Members, I should have thought that the Government Front Bench would have begun to rethink the provision radically. Surely London and the rest of the country cannot be left with this constitutional restructure.

What would the Tory gutter press such as the Daily Mail and The Sun and the Daily Express say if a Labour Government introduced such a measure? I hope that we would never introduce such a shambles. The right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) made it clear that his hon. Friends will be putting the boot in with great enthusiasm.

Mrs. Marion Roe (Broxbourne)

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that such problems are not unknown in the House when Committees are being formed? I refer to the bottom tier, which the hon. Gentleman is describing. That problem also relates to Committees being formed in the House. He will recall the problems at the beginning of the Session.

Mr. Banks

I accept that, but we are inflicting those problems on ourselves. The Bill is inflicting problems on somebody else. Enough hon. Members have tried to sort out the mess by asking what would happen in their councils and boroughs in which their constituencies are located.

What would we read in the Tory gutter press if a Labour Government had proposed such a measure—what, for example, would we read in the Daily Express? We know what it would be —that we are all in the pay of Moscow. I know that several right hon. and hon. Gentlemen believe that anyway. Those papers would say that the Labour Government were dragging the country towards east European totalitarianism.

This morning I received a delegation from the German Democratic Republic and I tried to explain to them what was happening. It is difficult enough to explain it to my constituents, but to do so to visitors from the GDR. was nigh on impossible—a late night in the House did not make my task any easier. When I told those visitors about the proposal, they marvelled at the Prime Minister' s and the Government's authority and power. I cited the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon), who referred to an elective dictatorship. That is what we now have; there is an arrogance of power which defies and beggars adequate description.

I console myself with the fact that the measure is destroying the Government's credibility. That is worthwhile from our point of view. If that is the price which the GLC pays for its own demise, that would be a fair exchange—the end of the GLC for the end of the Government's credibility. Surely Conservative Members realise that the measure is doing the Government's image outside the House a great deal of damage. I for one am very glad of that.

The Bill refers to political parties. It is, I understand, the first time that such a reference has appeared in an English Bill, and no doubt the Opposition will make much of that.

We are discussing political balance and changing, at a stroke, the political control of an authority — in this instance, the GLC. I refer again to the widely leaked document on local government policies which the Vicar of Bray — or, rather, the Secretary of State for the Environment — circulated as a briefing to Cabinet Ministers. The Secretary of State was trying to help his colleagues over some difficult obstacles. One question in the brief is:

How will political balance be enforced? The answer was:

It will be a statutory requirement. Obviously it won't be possible to reflect political balance exactly in nominations. Well, he can say that again. The answer continues:

Individual authorities will have to work out their own method of complying with the statutory requirement. In case of dispute the matter would have to go to the courts. What does that mean for a chief executive in a local authority when he tries to work through the Bill's provisions?

The Parliamentary Under—secretary keeps referring to the statutory requirement. At some time, that requirement must be interpreted. It will be no good the court reading our proceedings. First, it is not allowed to have regard to what we say and, secondly, it would not assist the court one jot if it read about our proceedings in the Official Report. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary knows that the proposal is a mess. He has no answer to it and everyone in Committee today knows that the Government have set themselves an unattainable objective.

Perhaps we may now consider how the political balance will be achieved in some of the authorities. The composition of Havering borough council is 59 per cent. Conservative, 19 per cent. Labour, 8 per cent. Liberal/SDP and 14 per cent. other. Clearly two of the three seats would go to the Conservative party. Where would the third one go? Would it go to the Labour party which comprises 19 per cent. of the council's seats, to the Liberal/SDP alliance which has 8 per cent., or to the other which has 14 per cent?

That brings us up against another obstacle. What is a political party, as mentioned in the Bill? Who will define such a party? Are the Havering ratepayers association and the Havering independent and ratepayers group political parties, and are they so recognised? If they are, and if they do a deal with the SDP/Liberal alliance, they will end up with 22 per cent. of the seats, which will give them 3 per cent. more than Labour, and appear to make them eligible.

6 pm

Sir Nicholas Bonsor

As the hon. Gentleman is talking about my local authority, I thank him for that suggestion, which I shall be happy to pass on to the ratepayers.

Mr. Banks

I should be interested to see whether they would be prepared to deal with the SDP/Liberal alliance or with Labour. I always thought that independents and ratepayers were Tories anyway.

I have illustrated what takes place throughout the boroughs. Chief executives will have to advise their members. Whether or not the Labour party on the different London councils decides to participate is irrelevant at this stage. Chief executives will have to give information to members so that a decision can be made.

I asked the Secretary of State to say what advice was being given to borough councils by the Department of the Environment. The answer is very little indeed. I was told that an informal meeting is taking place with borough representatives. I do not know which boroughs' representatives they are, what was said at the meetings, or who the people were. I understand that one borough did not attend the informal discussions. I asked who went, what was said and which borough was excluded. I received a holding answer from the Parliamentary Under—secretary of State that he would write to me as soon as possible. I look forward to receiving the information because much will hang on it. Given his track record, I doubt whether he will be able to clear up the total confusion into which he is pushing London local government.

None of this lends itself to any form of rational decision making. The Government are giving impossible tasks to local authorities in London by placing a statutory obligation on them that someone will have to untangle and interpret, and it appears that they will get no help or advice from the Government. One can imagine the sort of confusion that will arise with the GLC being dragged through the courts. No doubt there will be many legal challenges during the interim council's time and we can imagine the expense, the problems, the confusion and indeed the anarchy in local government because of what is being forced upon us. It is an utter disgrace, and it is time that the Minister accepted that.

Mr. Edward Heath (Old Bexley and Sidcup)

I strongly support what has been said by my right hon. Friends the Members for Cambridgeshire, South-East (Mr. Pym) and Chesham and Amersham (Sir I. Gilmour); I share their views.

Because of views that I shall express on other matters, may I say that I sympathise with my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for having to handle this matter at this time? This is the most criticised aspect of the whole Bill. Even the London press, which is favourable to our party, has condemned it strongly. I therefore feel that, whatever his other responsibilities, the Secretary of State should have handled this in the Committee and taken full responsibility for it. I express regret that my hon. Friend has been placed in a most invidious position. His speech made clear that he is in that position. He said that the whole course is unsatisfactory, but that having embarked upon it the Government are going ahead with it. It is indeed unsatisfactory, as my hon. Friend said, although at somewhat greater length.

The Bill mentions 32 London boroughs, 15 of which have only two representatives to be put forward as nominated representatives for a new body. It is therefore practically impossible to meet the balance of parties. There are three others which, because of the problem of defining a party—even assuming that one can define a party, which we have never before had to do—will not be able to find a practical solution. Therefore, for more than half the cases with which we have to deal the clause is nonsense. It is not "so far as practicable" in any way possible. To suggest that guidelines should be issued on something that is clearly impossible assumes a divine ability with which I suspect not even my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary is endowed.

Mr. Merlyn Rees (Morley and Leeds, South)

When the right hon. Gentleman was Prime Minister, the late Dick Sharples—who, sadly, was killed in the Caribbean—was a Minister of State at the Home Office. However, Dick was not a Minister at the time when we at the Home Office had the bright idea of defining political parties in legislation that was to be put before the House to enable the name of the political party to be put on ballot papers. Dick, in his delightful way, said to me, "I must tell you this. The Conservative party doesn't exist! There is no such party, and it will cause us the greatest difficulty if the Government attempt to define it." There was a bit of badinage, which I shall not go into now, but Dick was right. That is why we set about making the definition in a different way.

Mr. Heath

I share with the right hon. Gentleman the view that the issue of what a political party is has not been dealt with by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary; that is a basic objection to the clause.

Then there is the matter of referring any cases of doubt to the courts. If a clause is physically impossible to carry through, how can a court give a decision on whether a council is carrying out its obligation? Clearly that is impossible. The Bill is laying an obligation on the courts which they are incapable of carrying out; it must therefore be bad legislation and should not be passed by the House. The problem for my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under—secretary is that all the difficulties flow from the original decision, which was wrong. Surely he and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, when they saw the difficulties, should have realised that the Bill was unsuitable as part of the process of change which they want to bring about. My hon. Friend did not deal with this issue. The process, if it could be carried out, would mean a transfer of power in London from the Labour party to the Conservative party by edict of Parliament. Does my hon. Friend believe that that is morally or politically justifiable? I cannot believe that he will say that it is.

My hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow)—I am sorry that he is not here at present — made an intervention in which we heard the true voice of authoritarianism. He said that there would be a rump council, but who will cause that? It will be this Government and Parliament. Phrases such as, "They will be there for only a short time" are the sort of phrases whichwe heard in the 1930s. The attitude then was "Ah well, it's temporary and doesn't matter because important decisions will not be taken. Matters can be left to Parliament." Again, that was the true voice of authoritarianism. The process must be stopped.

I am glad to see that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is now here. I put the same question to him: does he believe that it is morally or politically justifiable to change the political control of the authority in the capital city by edict of Parliament? Whatever is said about the difficulties involved, that is what my right hon. Friend is asking the House to do. If the clause is passed, it is bound to happen. I believe that the proposal is completely immoral and should never be sanctioned by the Conservative party.

I ask the House to consider carefully a quotation. I ask the Labour Opposition to consider it also even though it does not mention them:

Conservatives, like Liberals, should greatly fear the present tyranny of the House of Commons. Unchecked, in other than trivial senses, by the House of Lords or the Monarch; dominating the courts and the traditions of common law with an ever—increasing volume of statute—law … brandishing the theory of the detailed mandate in the face of reasoned argument, the legal power of a majority in the present British House of Commons has increased, is increasing and ought to be diminished … it is possible at present for an administration with a majority, if it has for the time being defeated civil service opposition, or if the issue is one with which the civil service is not concerned, to be revolutionary in the most frivolous possible way. With analysis of the consequences of the most intellectually shoddy kind, governments may nationalise great industries, impose laws on Trade Unions, threaten the freedom of the press, or destroy the housing market. Fashions arise, in legislation as in anything else —for the floating of the pound, or statutory incomes policy, or the reorganisation of local government—the object may be worthy, but the plan can be carried through far too easily.

Those are the words of my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under—secretary of State for the Environment in "Binding Leviathan". What has brought about this change? He stands at the Dispatch Box using arguments which cannot be intellectually justified and which contradict everything that he so rightly wrote in his own book. He went on:

In reality, of course, such power is limited by the fact that a democratically elected body is much averse to enforcing anything, at least against anyone who can make a fuss and cause Ministerial unpopularity.

I thought at first that there were grounds for hope—if we can make Ministers unpopular enough, we may get a proper solution. But it does not appear to be so.

Finally, my hon. Friend asks why a Government should be bound by every clause in their first edition of a Bill. Of course they should not be. They should listen to reasoned arguments. This debate has shown, above everything, that this clause is completely unsustainable. It will lead to a completely immoral, unpolitical and impractical position. The House of Commons should not tolerate that for a moment.

Mr. Cowans

I am grateful to be able to follow the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath). Right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House and everyone outside must have been aghast at the deafening silence in response to the question asked by the right hon. Gentleman of his own colleagues, not once, but twice. We must therefore draw our own conclusion when they refuse to answer a perfectly legitimate question, sincerely and honestly asked. I hope, even at this late stage, that a Minister will intervene in my speech to answer that question. It goes right to the root of the Bill.

My hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North—west (Mr. Banks) is a remarkable man. He said that he had explained the Bill to a group of visiting Germans, yet the Minister of State spent 15 minutes trying unsuccessfully to convince his own party. My hon. Friend is a walking genius. Perhaps he should take the Government Front Bench Members outside and explain it to them. In replying to the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Shersby), the Parliamentary Under—secretary of State had the audacity to say that if any of those councils tried to make a foot of the Bill he would deal with them. I have news for him. It is impossible to make a fool of something that is already foolish. He needs no help from those councils. He is doing a magnificent job. It took him 15 minutes—I have four children, three of whom are at school — and a BSc degree to work out that three into two would not go. That revelation will be greeted right across the country.

6.15 pm

This is a Bill of absolute utter nonsense. I felt very sorry for the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State. [HON.MEMBERS: "Why?"] He had no case. He strove manfully to make a case out of nothing.

Mr. Walter Harrison (Wakefield)

He is nodding.

Mr. Cowans

Of course. He knows that he has no case. I sat thinking, "Quit when you're ahead," but at no stage could he quit because he was never there. It was disastrous to place him in that situation, but we can help him. Indeed, he can help himself. In the amendment, we are suggesting the deletion of subsection 5—that subsection of rubbish which even the Minister's hon. Friends have now told him is unworkable. Clearly we should like to see the whole Bill deleted, but if subsection (5) is deleted at least some sense will be made of what at present is nonsense.

The Minister of State inadvertently misled the Committee. If subsection (5) is removed, the nominations part of the clause remains. That will allow the local authorities to decide whom and how they will nominate. They know—they have known for a considerable time —that three into two will not go, and they will make a sensible decision. That is the whole basis of the amendment. No one is saying that the amendment is perfect, but we all know that the Bill is nonsense, so we are trying to make a little common sense out of it. If the Minister agreed to that, the local authorities would have the right to nominate whom they wanted to serve them on the interim body until the main legislation was passed.

It is bad enough to take away the people's right to vote, but then to impose on them the order, "Thou shalt pick only those whom I tell you to pick" is even worse. That, fundamentally, is what is happening.

Much play has been made with the political control and balance of the existing districts. Not a word has been said about the existing political control of the GLC. If it is valid in one context, surely it must be valid in another. Although the Government do not like it, political control of the GLC was gained through the ballot box. The Conservative Government are trying to achieve, in the GLC—I shall come to the other metropolitan councils in a moment—what they could not achieve by the will of the people. If that is not sleight of hand and gerrymandering, I do not know what is.

In the metropolitan councils, the Government are achieving by this method more seats for their party than they ever achieved through the ballot box. In my council of Tyne and Wear, they have never achieved as many seats as they have allocated to themselves—not through the will of the people but by gerrymandering and rigging; there is no other name for it.

I am sorry that the hon. Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) is not here. If what he said was not naive, I do not know what is. He explained away all that concerned his own party by saying, "Why, it is only temporary," as if he were talking about putting in a bunch of caretakers for a short time. The interim body may well have to determine a rate. If that is not political, what is? At the same time, it will be representing people and running services vital to those people, so it is not as if it was some temporary measure which will go away. People—if there is any reason for this debate, this is it—must realise how easy it is for democracy to be taken away from them if they sit idly by. It takes an afternoon or a day in this Parliament to do away with the rights of 18 million people to vote. I give them this warning. They had better be careful, or this Government may stay in permanently, because general elections could be next.

Our case was made very well by the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Shersby), who is sincerely trying to do something here. Obviously I disagree with it and I shall come to that in a minute. One of the premises he mentioned in favour of his amendment was that the borough elections were more recent than the GLC elections. I shall give him an answer to that: hold the elections for the metropolitan county councils and the GLC, and we cannot get any more recent than that. If that is the argument, I would expect the hon. Gentleman to be in the Lobby to vote against the Bill, so that the elections can go ahead. There can be no more recent decision than that.

But, again, the political complexion of the existing authority is not taken account of, so, by deviousness, the GLC goes Tory—not by the will of the people via the ballot box but by the will of this Government. If that is not deplored inside and outside the Chamber, we are in deep trouble.

There are many inconsistencies in amendment No. 21. If we are really seeking political balance, how can we say that, when the minority parties have at least 33 per cent., only the larger minority party has the seats? The two statements are inconsistent. Later the amendment says that, where the minority parties have 25 per cent., only the larger minority party gets seats. Therefore, it is not a spread of political bias across the board but a method of putting more Tories on the GLC. Although I do not think that he drafted the amendment with that intention, that would be the outcome.

However, I have no news for the hon. Gentleman. There is one way, and one way only, that he could persuade me to support amendment No. 21. If every Member of Parliament, including the Prime Minister, resigned his or her seat tonight and we applied the hon. Gentleman's criteria and let the local government people come in according to them, we would probably get a Labour Government. If the hon. Gentleman is prepared to do that, there is a good chance that I will support him, because that is exactly what the Government are doing to the local authorities. They are not worrying about the ballot box. I shall give the hon. Gentleman a few seconds to stand up and say that he will do that. Then we can all resign and go home tonight. If he will apply his criteria for local authorities to Members of the House, he has a good chance of getting my support.

Apart from that, in no way does the amendment make the Bill better. In my humble opinion, it makes it worse. To honour their manifesto commitment to give freedom to local government — apparently "freedom" means abolishing it — the Government must accept our amendment deleting subsection (5) and allow the local authorities to get on with the job which it is patently obvious neither the Secretary of State nor the Parliamentary Under-Secretary can do. That has been demonstrated today.

Mr. Charles Morrison

I share the sympathy that has been expressed by others for my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State because of the impossible task with which he has been landed. It seems odd to me that the group of amendments involves issues on which the Government could reasonably make concessions without a major loss of face.

Subsection (5) has been adequately dissected by several right hon. and hon. Members and it has been clearly demonstrated to the Committee that, as it stands, it is nonsense. Given that it is nonsense, surely it is not beyond the Government to accept that it is nonsense and to come forward with an amendment to cope with the points that have been so well put by hon. Members.

My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State—I think that I quote him correctly— said that councils will wish to do the right thing. I am sure that if the Bill as drafted becomes law, councils will genuinely wish to do the right thing, but it will be utterly impossible for them to do so, given the existence of subsection (5) and schedule 1. Therefore, I hope that the Government will think again about the amendments.

The Government's difficulties stem from the fact that they maintain that there is no precedent for the present situation, in which they seek to abolish one type of local authority and, instead of transferring the powers to a new set of local authorities, transfer them to existing local authorities. The Government are correct in saying that, but there are plenty of adequate precedents that can be invoked to take account of the present situation. By treating it as though it is wholly unprecedented and by using wholly unprecedented solutions, the Government are trying to legislate in a way that is entirely unacceptable to a large number of hon. Members.

I ask my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench again whether they would legislate as they propose to do if the situation were reversed. In the past there has been a Conservative majority on the GLC when collectively there were Labour majorities in the London boroughs which would have ensured that on the type of quango proposed there would have been a Labour majority. Would my right hon. Friend have legislated then as he is now? Of course he would not, and he knows it full well.

To remove the powers of an elected majority of one party and pass those powers to an unelected majority of another in a temporary quango is just as unacceptable to me now as it was when the Bill was first debated on Second Reading.

6.30 pm

There is an honourable tradition of gerrymandering against itself in the Conservative party. It happened in the course of the London Government Bill when the then Conservative Government did not accept the recommendations of the independent Boundary Commission — to their own disadvantage. It happened during the passage of the Local Government Act 1972 when, again, amendments were made in respect of the boundaries of some of the metropolitan counties, which ensured that there was disadvantage to the Conservative party. It would be highly regrettable if this excellent, tradition were now breached, and this Conservative Government were to gerrymander—as would be claimed for ever after—for themselves.

The fact that the interim provisions are to last for only 11 months does not make the proposals any more acceptable. They remain, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East (Mr. Pym) said yesterday, constitutionally unacceptable. Whatever logical arguments the Government may put forward in support of their Bill—the arguments seem to me pretty thin — constitutionally and politically it remains unacceptable. If amendment No. 20 is not accepted by the Government, the Government will leave the Conservative party open to accusations of malpractice for many years to come, so I hope that the Government will think again.

Mr. Straw

With the solitary and wholly isolated exception of the hon. Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow), no right hon. or hon. Member who has intervened or spoken in the debate, other than from the Treasury Bench, has said a word other than of the deepest opposition to the proposals that we are debating this afternoon.

The Government may win the vote, since many Conservative Members who have not been listening to the debate and have not appreciated the total intellectual and arithmetical bankruptcy of the Government's case will be marched into the Lobby by the Whips.

I hope that the Secretary of State will take no comfort from his so-called victory if that is so. He ought to listens not only to Opposition Members, but to his right hon. and hon. Friends. They are pleading with him, not to save the Labour party, but to save what they regard as important principles for the Conservative party. We know—I say this without disingenuity — that both the Secretary of State and the Parliamentary Under—secretary are honourable men who command the respect of the Committee. But I must say to them both that there is no spectacle so demeaning as seeing honourable men performing dishonourable deeds, and closing their ears to the arguments and their eyes to the consequences of those deeds.

What the right hon. and hon. Gentlemen are proposing this afternoon is dishonourable and disreputable, both to the Committee and to the traditions of the Conservative party. They are proposing to gerrymander, to fix the results of an election which will not take place , and to change political control not through the ballot box but through the edict of the House.

The right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) asked the Parliamentary Under—secretary whether he thought it was morally or politically justified to gerrymander in this way. He would have asked the Secretary of State if he had been present. The Parliamentary Under—secretary was silent. I again offer him a chance to answer that question. Does he personally believe that it is morally or politically justified to change political control in this way without an election?

Mr. Waldegrave

That was the debate that we had last night. Today's debate is on the much narrower point of the representation of minority interests. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State put out last night at considerable length and with great force the arguments in favour of the course we are taking on the membership of the transitional councils.

Mr. Straw

All right hon. and hon. Members have heard that answer.

Mr. Bidwell

It was not an answer.

Mr. Straw

It was not an answer. It speaks volumes about the true opinions of the Parliamentary Under-Secretary. He knows that this course of action is not justified morally, politically or intellectually. If the Secretary of State, who is responsible for pushing the policy through even the considerable barrier of the Prime Minister's instincts, wishes to come to the Dispatch Box to answer the question which is on the lips of every right hon. and hon. Member—that is, whether this is morally or politically justified—I would be happy to give way. Perhaps at the same time he would answer his hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Morrison) who asked whether the Government would have gone down this road had the GLC been Conservative—controlled and had there been a majority among the representatives from the boroughs. Of course they would not. This is a crude political manoeuvre and the Secretary of State and the Conservative party ought to be thoroughly ashamed of it, It is not too late for them to redeem themselves.

The situation is even more appalling because, not only is the measure morally and politically unjustified; it is also wholly impractical. In no sense is it a piece of good government. My hon. Friend the Member for Tyne Bridge (Mr. Cowans) put the point with his customary wit when he said that the Conservative party has suddenly discovered that three into two does not go. It certainly does not go.

This provision will drag parliamentary legislation and the courts into disrepute and it will place a burden on the courts to interpret a piece of legislation that is plainly nonsense, not in terms of the normal cut and thrust across the Floor of the House, but in arithmetical terms. It is a piece of impossibilism that cannot be fulfilled and it will produce the most capricious, arbitrary and unfair results. It will not be possible to achieve a political balance.

There is only one solution to the problems that the Secretary of State is now trying to force upon the Committee and that is for the Government to reconsider the whole clause and recognise what they have so far failed to recognise, that the real alternative to this can of worms lies in following precedents. Those caused political arguments but they did not bring Parliament into disrepute or give rise to justified allegations that the Government were gerrymandering political control of particular authorities. That solution would be to allow elections to take place as normal in 1985. If it were then the will of the House, substantive legislation should contain any necessary transitional procedures.

At the very least, it is in the interests of the Secretary of State and his party to accept amendment No. 20 and to remove any possibility of subsection (5) becoming law. I urge my hon. Friends to support amendment No. 20.

Mr. Tim Rathbone (Lewes)

In view of the course of the debate this afternoon, I must add my words of concern to those already expressed by many of my hon. Friends.

Yesterday and today we have had a peculiar and depressing debate about a Government acting not from principle or practicality, but from expediency. The Parliamentary Under—secretary made that only too clear. I fear that that expediency has been sadly tinged with a desire for political manipulation as has already been pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Upminster (Sir N. Bonsor) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Sir I. Gilmour). The point was brought home to me very clearly when the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) spoke of the possible ramifications of such an action if applied, for instance, to the restructuring of East Sussex county council. I hate to think of the uproar that that would cause in the Conservative heartland of the south.

The Bill changes the balance of parties in the GLC rather than maintaining it. As others have pointed out, it would have changed it elsewhere had it not been for the Labour gains in the recent borough elections. Far better that the present GLC had its time extended, only for 11 months, with additional financial controls applied if necessary, while plans were prepared, reviewed and eventually executed for the repositioning of its current responsibilities.

Whatever route the Government take, I plead with them —as others have pleaded already—to review their plans in clause 2. Clause 2 is crucial. It makes a point that is both practical and philosophical with which the House must always be particularly concerned, because it is about power: not only who has it, but also that no one should have too much of it. Power, when it is unrepresentative and unanswerable, is a bad thing. Yet the Bill seems to want to establish just such a power, and it is undemocratic of the Government to aim in that direction.

If the Government do not accept this amendment, I beg them to consider a similar one when the Bill goes to another place. At present, it is a paving Bill that is sadly cracked.

Sir Kenneth Lewis

Early this morning, when replying to the debate on amendment No. 14, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said that he had considered the options open to him, including extending the life of the present GLC, and that he had decided against that for practical reasons. I think that he will find, if he looks in Hansard, that he used those words.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin

indicated assent.

Sir Kenneth Lewis

Having been present for most of the debate, I think that the most fascinating part was the Parliamentary Under—secretary trying to explain how the councils would nominate their members to the new body that would take the place of the old GLC for 11 months. It was clear that he was finding it very difficult to explain. None of us could be sure exactly how the arithmetic would work out, and what would be the solution to the problems of the many councils which would have to decide whether they had one member from each party, or two members from one party and one member from another. He said that he would give us a code of practice or guidelines, but was clearly uncertain how he would be able to provide such guidance.

6.45 pm

If my right hon. Friend has really decided on such action, for "practical reasons" when he reads Hansard tomorrow he must see that the way he has chosen cannot be the most practical. On his own arguments, he really ought to think again.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 168, Noes 271.

Division No. 289] [6.45 pm
Abse, Leo Clwyd, Ms Ann
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.)
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Cohen, Harry
Ashton, Joe Conlan, Bernard
Atkinson, N. (Tottenham) Cook, Frank (Stockton North)
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Cook, Robin F. (Livingston)
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Corbett, Robin
Barnett, Guy Corbyn, Jeremy
Barron, Kevin Cowans, Harry
Beckett, Mrs Margaret Cox, Thomas (Tooting)
Bell, Stuart Craigen, J. M.
Benn, Tony Cunliffe, Lawrence
Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh) Cunningham, Dr John
Benyon, William Dalyell, Tam
Bermingham, Gerald Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly)
Bidwell, Sydney Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'!)
Blair, Anthony Deakins, Eric
Boyes, Roland Dewar, Donald
Bray, Dr Jeremy Dormand, Jack
Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E) Douglas, Dick
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Dubs, Alfred
Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E) Duffy, A. E. P.
Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith) Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.
Buchan, Norman Dykes, Hugh
Callaghan, Rt Hon J. Evans, John (St. Helens N)
Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M) Faulds, Andrew
Campbell—savours, Dale Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Carter—jones, Lewis Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn)
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Fisher, Mark
Clarke, Thomas Flannery, Martin
Clay, Robert Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Forrester, John Michie, William
Foster, Derek Mikardo, lan
Fraser, J.(Norwood) Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Freud, Clement Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
George, Bruce Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian O'Brien, William
Godman, Dr Norman Owen, Rt Hon Dr David
Golding, John Park, George
Ground, Patrick Parry, Robert
Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife) Patchett, Terry
Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Pendry, Tom
Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Penhaligon, David
Heath, Rt Hon Edward Pike, Peter
Heffer, Eric S. Prescott, John
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth) Pym, Rt Hon Francis
Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall) Radice, Giles
Home Robertson, John Randall, Stuart
Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath) Rathbone, Tim
Hoyle, Douglas Redmond, M
Hughes, Dr. Mark (Durham) Rees, Rt Hon M. (Leeds S)
Hughes, Roy (Newport East) Richardson, Ms Jo
Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S) Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark) Robertson, George
Janner, Hon Greville Rooker, J. W
John, Brynmor Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside) Rowlands, Ted
Kilroy—silk, Robert Sedgemore, Brian
Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil Sheerman, Barry
Kirkwood, Archibald Sheldon, Rt Hon R.
Knox, David Shersby, Michael
Lamond, James Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Short, Ms Clare (Ladywood)
Lewis, Terence (Worsley) Short, Mrs R.(W'hampt'n NE)
Litherland, Robert Skinner, Dennis
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Snape, Peter
Lofthouse, Geoffrey Spearing, Nigel
Loyden, Edward Steel, Rt Hon David
McCartney, Hugh Stott, Roger
McDonald, Dr Oonagh Straw, Jack
McKelvey, William Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Mackenzie, Rt Hon Gregor Torney, Tom
Maclennan, Robert Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
McNamara, Kevin Wainwright, R.
McTaggart, Robert Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Madden, Max Wareing, Robert
Marek, Dr John Weetch, Ken
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Winnick, David
Martin, Michael Wrigglesworth, Ian
Maxton, John
Maynard, Miss Joan Tellers for the Ayes:
Meacher, Michael Mr. James Hamilton and
Meadowcroft, Michael Mr. Allen McKay
Meyer, Sir Anthony
Adley, Robert Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)
Aitken, Jonathan Boyson, Dr Rhodes
Alexander, Richard Braine, Sir Bernard
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Brandon—bravo, Martin
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Bray, Dr Jeremy
Amess, David Brinton, Tim
Arnold, Tom Brittan, Rt Hon Leon
Aspinwall, Jack Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes)
Atkinson, David (B'm'th E) Browne, John
Baker, Nicholas Bruinvels, Peter
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Bryan, Sir Paul
Bendall, Vivian Bulmer, Esmond
Buck, Sir Antony Bulmer, Esmond
Berry, Sir Anthony Butterfill, John
Best, Keith Carlisle, John (N Luton)
Bevan, David Gilroy Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Carttiss, Michael
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Cash, William
Body, Richard Chalker, Mrs Lynda
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Channon, Rt Hon Paul
Bottomley, Peter Chope, Christopher
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Churchill, W. S.
Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n) Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe) Jones, Robert (W Herts)
Clegg, Sir Walter Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Cockeram, Eric Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith
Colvin, Michael Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine
Coombs, Simon Key, Robert
Cope, John Kilfedder, James A.
Corrie, John King, Roger (B'ham N'field)
Couchman, James Knight, Gregory (Derby N)
Cranborne, Viscount Knight, Mrs Jill (Edgbaston)
Currie, Mrs Edwina Knowles, Michael
Dorrell, Stephen Lamont, Norman
Douglas—hamilton, Lord J. Latham, Michael
Dover, Den Lawler, Geoffrey
du Cann, Rt Hon Edward Lawrence, Ivan
Dunn, Robert Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)
Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke) Lennox—boyd, Hon Mark
Eggar, Tim Lightbown, David
Evennett, David Lilley, Peter
Eyre, Sir Reginald Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham)
Fallon, Michael Lord, Michael
Farr, Jhon LyeIl, Nicholas
Fenner, Mrs Peggy Macfarlane, Neil
Fookes, Miss Janet MacGregor, John
Forman, Nigel MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)
Forth, Eric Maclean, David John
Fowler, Rt Hon Norman Madel, David
Fox, Marcus Major, John
Franks, Cecil Malins, Humfrey
Gale, Roger Marland, Paul
Galley, Roy Marlow, Antony
Gardiner, George(Reigate) Marshall, Michael (Arundel)
Gardner, Sir Edward (Fylde) Maude, Hon Francis
Garel—jones, Tristan Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Glyn, Dr Alan Mayhew, Sir Patrick
Gloodhart, Sir Philip Mellor, David
Goodlad, Alastair Merchant, Piers
Gow lan Miller, Hal (B'grove)
Greenway, Harry Mills, lain (Meriden)
Gregory, Conal Moate, Roger
Griffiths, E. (B'y St Edm'ds) Molyneaux, Rt Hon James
Griffiths, Peter (Porstm'th N) Montgomery, Fergus
Grist, lan Morris, M. (N'hampton S)
Grylls, Michael Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)
Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom) Needham, Richard
Hamilton, Neil(Tatton) Nelson, Anthony
Hampson, Dr Keith Neubert, Michael
Hanley, Jeremy Newton, Tony
Hannam,John Nicholls, Patrick
Hargreaves, Kenneth Norris, Steven
Harris, David Onslow, Cranley
Harvey, Roberte Oppenheim, Philip
Haselhurst, Alan Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.
Hawkins, C. (High Peak) Ottaway, Richard
Hawksley, Warren Page, Richard (Herts SW)
Hayes,J. Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil
Hayhoe, Barney Parris, Matthew
Heathcoat—amory, David Patten, Christopher (Bath)
Heddle, John Patten, John (Oxford)
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael Pattie, Geoffrey
Hickmet, Richard Pawsey, James
Hind, Kenneth Porter, Barry
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Powell, Rt Hon J. E. (S Down)
Holland, Sir Philip(Gedling) Powell, William (Corby)
Holt, Richard Powley, John
Hooson, Tom Price, Sir David
Hordern, Peter Proctor, K. Harvey
Howard, Michael Raffan, Keith
Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A) Raison, Rt Hon Timothy
Howarth, Gerald (Cannock) Rees, Rt Hon Peter(Dover)
Hubbard—miles, Peter Renton, Tim
Hunt, David (Wirral) Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne) Ridsdale, Sir Julian
Hunter, Andrew Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)
Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas Robinson, Mark (N'port W)
lrving, Charles Robinson, P. (Belfast E)
Jackson, Robert Roe, Mrs Marion
Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick Rost, Peter
Johnson—smith, Sir Geoffrey Rowe, Andrew
Rumbold, Mrs Angela Terlezki, Stefan
Ryder, Richard Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
Sackville, Hon Thomas Thompson, Donald (Calder V)
Sainsbury, Hon Timothy Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)
St. John—stevas, Rt Hon N. Thornton, Malcolm Thurnham, Peter
Sayeed, Jonathan Tracey, Richard
Scott, Nicholas Trippier, David
Shaw, Giles (Pudsey) Trotter, Neville
Shelton, William (Streatham) Twinn, Dr Ian
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) van Straubenzee, Sir W.
Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge) Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Silvester, Fred Viggers, Peter
Sims, Roger Waddington, David
Skeet, T. H. H. Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield) Waldegrave, Hon William
Smyth, Rev W. M. (Belfast S) Walden, George
Soames, Hon Nicholas Speller, Tony Walker, Cecil (Belfast N)
Spencer, Derek Waller, Gary
Spicer, Jim (W Dorset) Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Spicer, Michael (S Worcs) Watson, John
Squire, Robin Watts, John
Stanbrook, Ivor Wells, John (Maidstone)
Stanley, John Wheeler, John
Stern, Michael Whitfield, John
Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton) Wiggin, Jerry
Stevens, Martin (Fulham), Wolfson, Mark
Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood) Wood, Timothy
Stewart, Ian (N Hertf'dshire) Woodcock, Michael Yeo, Tim
Stokes, John Young, Sir George (Acton)
Stradling Thomas, J. Sumberg, David
Taylor, Teddy (S'end E) Tellers for the Noes:
Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman Mr. Carol Mather and
Temple—morris, Peter Mr. Robert Boscawen.

Question accordingly negatived.

Question put, That the clause stand part of the Bill:

The Committee divided: Ayes 270, Noes 166.

Division No. 290] [6.56 pm
Adley, Robert Carlisle, John (N Luton)
Aitken, Jonathan Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Alexander, Richard Carttiss, Michael
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Cash, William
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Chalker, Mrs Lynda
Amess, David Channon, Rt Hon Paul
Arnold, Tom Chope, Christopher
Aspinwall, Jack Churchill, W. S.
Atkinson, David (B'm'th E) Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Vall'y) Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Clarke, Rt Hon K.(Rushcliffe)
Bellingham, Henry Clegg, Sir Walter
Bendall, Vivian Colvin, Michael
Berry, Sir Anthony Coombs, Simon
Best, Keith Cope, John
Bevan, David Gilroy Corrie, John
Biggs—davison, Sir John Couchman, James
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Cranborne, Viscount
Body, Richard Currie, Mrs Edwina
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Dorrell, Stephen
Boscawen, Hon Robert Dover, Den
Bottomley, Peter du Cann, Rt Hon Edward
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Dunn, Robert
Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n) Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke)
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Eggar, Tim
Boyson, Dr Rhodes Evennett, David
Braine, Sir Bernard Eyre, Sir Reginald
Brandon—bravo, Martin Fallon, Michael
Brinton, Tim Farr, John
Brittan, Rt Hon Leon Favell, Anthony
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes) Fenner, Mrs Peggy
Browne, John Fookes, Miss Janet
Bruinvels, Peter Forman, Nigel
Bryan, Sir Paul Forth, Eric
Buck, Sir Antony Fowler, Rt Hon Norman
Bulmer, Esmond Fox, Marcus
Butterfill, John Franks, Cecil
Freeman Roger Marland, Paul
Gale, Roger Marlow, Antony
Galley, Roy Mather, Carol
Gardiner, George (Reigate) Maude, Hon Francis
Gardner, Sir Edward (Fylde) Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Glyn, Dr Alan Mayhew, Sir Patrick
Goodhart, Sir Philip Mellor, David
Goodlad, Alastair Merchant, Piers
Gow, Ian Miller, Hal (B'grove)
Greenway, Harry Mills, lain (Meriden)
Gregory, Conal Moate, Roger
Griffiths, E. (By St Edm'ds) Molyneaux, Rt Hon James
Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N) Montgomery, Fergus
Grist, Ian Morris, M. (N'hampton, S)
Grylls, Michael Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)
Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom) Needham, Richard
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Nelson, Anthony
Hampson, Dr Keith Newton, Tony
Hanley, Jeremy Nicholls, Patrick
Hannam, John Norris, Steven
Hargreaves, Kenneth Onslow, Cranley
Harris, David Oppenheim, Philip
Harvey, Robert Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.
Haselhurst, Alan Ottaway, Richard
Hawkins, C. (High Peak) Page, Richard (Herts SW)
Hawksley, Warren Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil
Hayes, J. Parris, Matthew
Hayhoe, Barney Patten, Christopher (Bath)
Heathcoat—amory, David Patten, John (Oxford)
Heddle, John Pattie, Geoffrey
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael Pawsey, James
Hickmet, Richard Porter, Barry
Hind, Kenneth Powell, Rt Hon J. E. (S Down)
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Powell, William (Corby)
Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling) Powley, John
Holt, Richard Price, Sir David
Hooson, Tom Proctor, K. Harvey
Hordern, Peter Raffan, Keith
Howard, Michael Raison, Rt Hon Timothy
Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd—on—a) Rees, Rt Hon Peter (Dover)
Howarth, Gerald (Cannock) Renton, Tim
Hubbard—miles, Peter Rhodes James, Robert
Hunt, David (Wirral) Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne) Ridsdale, Sir Julian
Hunter, Andrew Roberts, Wyn (Convey)
Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas Robinson, Mark (N'port W)
Irving, Charles Robinson, P. (Belfast E)
Jackson, Robert Roe, Mrs Marion
Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick Rost, Peter
Johnson—smith, Sir Geoffrey Rowe, Andrew
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Rumbold, Mrs Angela
Jones, Robert (W Herts) Ryder, Richard
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Sackville, Hon Thomas
Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
Kellett—bowman, Mrs Elaine St. John—stevas, Rt Hon N.
Key, Robert Sayeed, Jonathan
Kilfedder, James A. Scott, Nicholas
King, Roger (B'ham N'field) Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Knight, Gregory (Derby N) Shelton, William (Streatham)
Knight, Mrs Jill (Edgbaston) Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Knowles, Michael Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Lamont, Norman Silvester, Fred
Latham, Michael Sims, Roger
Lawler, Geoffrey Skeet, T. H. H
Lawrence, Ivan Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh) Smyth, Rev W. M. (Belfast S)
Lennox—boyd, Hon Mark Soames, Hon Nicholas
Lightbown, David Speller, Tony
Lilley, Peter Spencer, Derek
Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham) Spicer, Jim (W Dorset)
Lord, Michael Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
LyeIl, Nicholas Squire, Robin
Macfarlane, Neil Stanbrook, Ivor
MacGregor, John Stanley, John
MacKay, Andrew(Berkshire) Stern, Michael
Maclean, David John Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)
Madel, David Stevens, Martin (Fulham)
Major, John Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)
Malins, Humfrey Stewart, Ian (N Hertf'dshire)
Maples, John Stokes, John
Stradling Thomas, J. Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Sumberg, David Waldegrave, Hon William
Taylor, Teddy (S'end E) Walden, George
Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman Waller, Gary
Temple-Morris, Peter Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Terlezki, Stefan Watson, John
Thomas, Rt Hon Peter Watts, John
Thompson, Donald (Calder V) Wells, John (Maidstone)
Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N) Wheeler, John
Thornton, Malcolm Whitfield, John
Thurnham, Peter Wiggin, Jerry
Townend, John (Bridlington) Wolfson, Mark
Tracey, Richard Wood, Timothy
Trippier, David Woodcock, Michael
Trotter, Neville Yeo, Tim
Twinn, Dr Ian Young, Sir George (Acton)
van Straubenzee, Sir W.
Vaughan, Sir Gerard Tellers for the Ayes:
Viggers, Peter Mr. Michael Neubert and
Waddington, David Mr. Tristan Garel-Jones.
Abse, Leo Fisher, Mark
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Flannery, Martin
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Ashton, Joe Forrester, John
Atkinson, N. (Tottenham) Foster, Derek
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Foulkes, George
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Fraser, J. (Norwood)
Barnett, Guy Freud, Clement
Barron, Kevin George, Bruce
Beckett, Mrs Margaret Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Bell, Stuart Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Benn, Tony Godman, Dr Norman
Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh) Golding, John
Benyon, William Ground, Patrick
Bermingham, Gerald Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)
Bidwell, Sydney Harrison, Rt Hon Walter
Blair, Anthony Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Boyes, Roland Heath, Rt Hon Edward
Bray, Dr Jeremy Heffer, Eric S.
Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E) Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall)
Brown, N. (N'c'tle—u—tyne E) Home Robertson, John
Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith) Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)
Buchan, Norman Hoyle, Douglas
Callaghan, Rt Hon J. Hughes, Dr. Mark (Durham)
Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M) Hughes, Roy (Newport East)
Campbell—savours, Dale Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)
Carter—jones, Lewis Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Janner, Hon Greville
Clarke, Thomas John, Brynmor
Clay, Robert Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Clwyd, Ms Ann Kilroy—silk, Robert
Cocks, Rt Hon M.(Bristol S.) Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil
Cohen, Harry Kirkwood, Archibald
Conlan, Bernard Knox, David
Cook, Frank (Stockton North) Lamond, James
Cook, Robin F. (Livingston) Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)
Corbett, Robin Lewis, Terence (Worsley)
Corbyn, Jeremy Litherland, Robert
Cowans, Harry Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Cox, Thomas (Tooting) Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Craigen, J. M. Loyden, Edward
Cunliffe, Lawrence McCartney, Hugh
Cunningham, Dr John McDonald, Dr Oonagh
Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly) McKelvey, William
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'I) Mackenzie, Rt Hon Gregor
Deakins, Eric Maclennan, Robert
Dewar, Donald McNamara, Kevin
Dixon, Donald McTaggart, Robert
Dormand, Jack Madden, Max
Douglas, Dick Marek, Dr John
Dubs, Alfred Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Duffy, A. E. P. Marshall, Michael (Arundel)
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G. Martin, Michael
Dykes, Hugh Maxton, John
Evans, John (St. Helens N) Maynard, Miss Joan
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Meacher, Michael
Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn) Meadowcroft, Michael
Meyer, Sir Anthony Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Michie, William Rowlands, Ted
Mikardo, Ian Sedgemore, Brian
Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby) Sheerman, Barry
Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe) Sheldon, Rt Hon R.
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes) Short, Ms Clare (Ladywood)
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Short, Mrs R.(W'hampt'n NE)
O'Brien, William Skinner, Dennis
Owen, Rt Hon Dr David Snape, Peter
Park, George Spearing, Nigel
Parry, Robert Steel, Rt Hon David
Patchett, Terry Stott, Roger
Pendry, Tom Straw, Jack
Penhaligon, David Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Pike, Peter Torney, Tom
Prescott, John Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Pym, Rt Hon Francis Wainwright, R.
Radice, Giles Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Randall, Stuart Wareing, Robert
Rathbone, Tim Weetch, Ken
Redmond, M. Winnick, David
Rees, Rt Hon M. (Leeds S) Wrigglesworth, Ian
Richardson, Ms Jo
Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N) Tellers for the Noes:
Robertson, George Mr. James Hamilton and
Rooker, J. W. Mr. Allen McKay.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

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