HC Deb 22 May 1984 vol 60 cc919-1146

Again considered in Committee.

Question again proposed, That the amendment be made:—

10.15 pm
Mr. Tony Banks

The clause requires local government officers to provide information, under pain of we know not what. No doubt the Minister will tell us later on. I have here the Secretary of State's press notice, issued by the Department of the Environment. I am surprised to see that the Department of the Environment is issuing party political tracts these days. Apparently it is all right for the Government to do that, although nobody else must do it. If this press release had originated in County hall, I suspect that it would not have been cleared by our officers. They would have said that it was an abuse of ratepayers' money. In fact the press release is an abuse of taxpayers' money and, as we are told, there are more taxpayers than ratepayers.

The press release contains a report of a speech made by the Secretary of State at the Penta hotel at Heathrow. He said: to make detailed estimates the districts and boroughs need information about how the upper tier run services at present—and such information is not available because the upper tier authorities are withholding it. However, this will change when the paving bill becomes law because the 7 authorities facing abolition will then be obliged to provide information. The Secretary of State must have underlined the word "obliged" in case his words should be thought to lack conviction. He wanted to leave no doubt that he intends to take powers to oblige local authorities and local authority officers to provide information. In doing so, he is clearly stepping outside the normal relationship that should exist between Whitehall and local authority officers. Of course, much of this Bill and the forthcoming legislation steps far beyond the normal bounds of respectability in the treatment of local authorities.

What the Secretary of State said in that press statement is not altogether true. A mass of information is already available and made available by the GLC to Government Departments, CIPFA and borough councils. A close reading of the Local Government Act 1963 will show that the GLC is obliged to provide information to the public in general. It has done so for the 20 years of its existence, and has done so to great effect and with some efficiency. I am sure that the Secretary of State would wish to join me in congratulating the GLC's information and library services on their excellent provision of information to boroughs and to civil servants. If the Secretary of State wants to study all this information, I can make it far more freely available to him than he has ever made information in the hands of his Department available to us. Opposition Members are charitable, even though we are sometimes sorely taxed by Ministers.

The information will have to be provided before abolition has been agreed. We do not know to whom it will go or what use will be made of it. We do not know what use the Secretary of State will make of it when he receives it. No allowance is made for the fact that officers might have sincerely held conscientious objections to providing the information. Anyone who is about to lose his job because of information provided by himself has every right to raise conscientious objections to providing that information. Nobody can expect officers in local authorities to work themselves out of a job.

If the Secretary of State had seen fit to set up a Royal Commission or an inquiry, GLC officers would have co-operated willingly and no doubt the information given would have assisted the Secretary of State to realise what an awful proposal he is making. Indeed, he might even have been encouraged to drop it altogether, which would have pleased all Opposition Members and what appears to be a growing number of Conservative Members.

Will the Minister tell us what will happen if individuals refuse to co-operate or if the National and Local Government Officers Association or the GLC staff association instruct their members not to co-operate? We might find that the Bill is on the statute book but that the elected GLC still exists before the Act has gone through Parliament. That is perfectly feasible. In those circumstances, officers will be required to give information to do themselves out of a job while their employers, such as me, a directly elected member of the GLC, will still be a member of that council and holding them to account for what they do. Whose will shall prevail—the Secretary of State's or that of elected members of the GLC? Speaking as a member of the GLC, I assure the Secretary of State, that I shall do everything that I can to frustrate what he is doing. I have always spoken openly to him. He should be under no illusions. I shall encourage the GLC staff association and NALGO to ban the provision of information for the Secretary of State because the Bill is bad and the requirements it imposes on individuals infringe their civil and personal rights. They have a perfectly respectable right to tell the Secretary of State or whoever is sent from Marsham street to get the information, "Up yours. You will not get the information from us." In that sense we shall encourage GLC staff to defy this law and give them the support that we can provide as employers.

Mr. Brandon-Bravo

That is anarchy.

Mr. Banks

It is not. Conservative Members are the experts in anarchy—they are about to introduce it into Britain's local government. We are saying that if our staff at county hall have conscientious objections to providing the type of information that is required, we shall support them. It is no use the Minister looking at his watch. I have not finished by a long chalk. At least we can inflict something on the Minister by way of small payment for what he is inflicting on local government in London and elsewhere.

Mr. Malcolm Thornton (Crosby)


Mr. Banks

The hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Thornton) is always at liberty to return to the Tea Room.

Mr. Winnick

Or somewhere else where he would be more at home.

Mr. Banks

Has the Secretary of State thought about the extra demands that will be made on GLC and metropolitan county officers? GLC officers are already sorely taxed in fighting hard to resist the Government's attempts to abolish them. They are also working hard on running London's services and are doing an excellent job. The Bill will impose greater demands on them. If, under its present leadership, the GLC was minded to provide the information and recruited more officers to provide what the Secretary of State requires to abolish us, we would be attacked by him for employing more people when we were facing abolition. Our officers' time is now so sorely stretched that they cannot meet the Secretary of State's demands on them.

What will happen to officers who have conscientious objections to providing information or are told by their unions that they should not provide it, or to those whose work load is such that they cannot provide the information? As an elected member of the GLC who will still be there after the Bill goes through, I shall them not to provide the information. That will put those officers. in a most invidious position. I am sure that many of them will refuse to give the information What will happen to them? Are they going to be dragged to court? The hon. Member for Surbiton. (Mr. Tracey) approached the problem from a completely different, but incorrect, angle. However, be certainly identified something that was missing. What are sanctions? What will happen to those officers who refuse to give information? Will they be dragged through the courts? What will happen to the elected Members like me who incite them to break the law? Will the Secretary of State try to drag me through the courts as well? I would greatly welcome the opportunity that that would present. However, I do not think that he will do so. Nevertheless, he should not leave the matter open.

As on so many other points, many questions remain unanswered and many ends need to be tied up. Frankly, I do not think that the Secretary of State knows what will happen. But it is about time that he directed his attention to such problems, because they will arise, and the Bill is silent on them. That is yet further evidence of the total inadequacy of the Government's proposal. It is a bastardization of legislation and a mess. It deserves someone like the Secretary of State to try to implement it.

This legislation is yet another example of Big Brother. It is an example of the Government coming along with hobnailed boots saying "You will do what we say, and if you don't we'll kick your teeth in. We will take you to the courts and force you to do it." Once again, the whole concept of service is being trampled on by the Government in these clauses. What do the Secretary of State and the Minister think about this issue? Why does the right hon. Gentleman think that he has to coerce officers in that unpleasant way? Why does he not say, "We clearly don't have the information that we need to get this through, so we will look at it again, and ask for some form of independent inquiry."? Then, perhaps, the Government would not have to threaten good, decent loyal officers in the GLC and the metropolitan county councils with a conflict of loyalty and the possibility of imprisonment, a fine, or whatever. Perhaps the Secretary of State will tell us the answer to that.

Mr. Waldegrave

I frequently have to follow the brand of shrill inaccuracy in which the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) seems to specialise. I thought that he was unwise to make that little speech about disobeying the law. His importance, like mine, and that of any hon. Member, depends entirely, such as it is, on the law. If he faced a rates strike by some London ratepayers, he would rely on the law, in the form of the General Rate Act, which was passed by this House. Thus, his position does not rest on his eloquence, such as it is, or on his importance as an individual—which is small—but, as for all of us, it rests on the law. He should think a little more before he makes those rather childish speeches.

I shall start by trying to help the Committee by reminding right hon. and hon. Members of the twin purposes of clause 7. It is intended to assist first in formulating the abolition proposals, and secondly — subject to Parliament's approval—in implementing the transfer of those authorities' functions to the successor authorities. On both counts, access to the necessary information will obviously be vital. It is therefore necessary for the Bill to ensure that such information is available in preparation for the abolition legislation, for consideration of it by Parliament, and in the run-up to abolition.

There is, of course, already a duty on every local authority to provide my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State with information about its functions. We have taken this opportunity to clarify that requirement for the purposes of abolition. Clause 7 therefore makes it clear that the information that the GLC and the metropolitan county councils already have a duty to supply, includes abolition information. That is the answer to the hon. Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Fatchett). I think that he said that he thought that he was such a terrifying figure that I would not even look at him. I can think of reasons for not looking at him, but fear is not one of them.

It is perfectly clear that the information stipulated in the clause is limited to that which relates to abolition, so the time scale would run out with abolition. The clause extends that duty to the officers of those authorities—a provision which would be deleted if the amendments were accepted.

Opposition Members have said that the provision would place officers in an invidious position—

Mr. Freud


10.30 pm
Mr. Waldegrave

The debate has rambled on for many hours. With all due respect, it might be better if I tried to answer some of the points so that we can make progress. [HON. MEMBERS: "Give way!"] No, I shall not give way.

Opposition Members have said that the provision would place officers in an invidious position because they might have to choose between obeying the law and obeying their employers, but that argument is wholly misconceived. In fact, the duty is a protection for the officers concerned. Its effect is to leave no doubt at all as to their obligations. Without it, they could be placed in a very difficult position if conflicting demands were made by the employer, the Government and the lower-tier authorities without there being any guidance as to which course to take.

I do not pretend that the period that the officers concerned will have to work through will be other than difficult. I recognise that there will be great burdens upon them, but they are public servants — part of the apparatus of public service—and we rely on their spirit of public service. I am not so gloomy as to think that they will throw away that tradition at the behest of the Opposition.

In many respects, it may not be a pleasant state of affairs for the officers concerned, but I should make it clear that such a situation will be the creation of the employing authority and no one else. If a statutory duty to provide information is imposed by Parliament, no one—not even the more vociferous authorities involved—has the right to defy Parliament's wishes. The duty imposed in subsections (2) and (3) leaves no doubt as to the course that individual officers must take.

My hon. Friend the Member for Surbiton (Mr. Tracey) asked about sanctions. If such a situation ever arose—I very much hope that it will not—it would be for the courts to pursue the matter by mandamus or possibly by injunctions in certain cases.

Mr. Simon Hughes

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Waldegrave

The hon. Gentleman made a speech which he almost admitted was a filibuster. I shall not give way to him. [Interruption.] For the benefit of those who were not present when the hon. Gentleman spoke—

Mr. Freud

On a point of order, Mr. Dean. The substance of our argument related to clarification of one word—"officer".

The Second Deputy Chairman (Mr. Paul Dean)

Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will come to his point of order. He is now on a point of argument.

Mr. Freud

In those circumstances, surely it is wrong for the Under-Secretary of State to use the term in question without explaining what it means.

The Second Deputy Chairman

It is for the Minister to make his speech in the way that he chooses.

Mr. Waldegrave

I should have thought that the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, North-East (Mr. Freud) could do better than that rather trivial point, but I shall be coming to it due course.

I wish to reassure the Committee also on a related concern. If an officer had to provide information against the wishes of the employing authority, no question of breach of contract of employment would arise because it is an implied term of every contract of service that an employee may not be required to do an unlawful act or to refrain from carrying out a legal duty.

Amendments Nos. 86 to 89 deal with requests for information made by the Secretary of State. They do not affect requests made by the boroughs or districts. The amendments would require the Secretary of State, before asking for information from a GLC, metropolitan council, borough council or district council officer, to consult bodies representative of officers concerned about the terms of the request. I understand that the purpose of that is to ensure that there is no question of an unreasonable request—for example, a request that could not be met for reasons of availability of information. That concern, however, is misplaced, because if it ever came to enforcement the duty would be enforced by the courts through the various discretionary remedies. The courts would apply common sense to the circumstances of the case and would not enforce an unreasonable request.

The amendments would also be damaging in that they would introduce uncertainty and delay into the process of acquiring information from the upper tier. There would be uncertainty about how the representative bodies should be chosen. The amendments are silent on that. Is it for the Secretary of State or for staff interests to determine or, however unlikely it may seem in view of the attitudes that one or two Opposition Members have threatened, for agreement between the parties? An authority determined to be obstructive would no doubt exploit those uncertainties to maximise delay. The amendments are similarly silent about what constitutes consultation. It would provide opportunities for delay if authorities chose to test each case in the courts.

The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) played on the definition of "officer". That is not a difficult point in local government legislation. Section 112(1) of the Local Government Act 1972 states that an "officer" is appointed by a local authority as being, necessary for the proper discharge of…their…functions. The hon. Gentleman also asked what "Secretary of State" meant. Such a phrase also occurs in every Act. The term "Secretary of State" may include civil servants if they are authorised by the Secretary of State to carry out a particular action.

Amendment No. 103 is different. It relates only to the metropolitan county councils. Its effect is to impose the duty to supply information on the proper officer of each MCC. The Committee will know that "proper officer" is a term well known in local government Acts. It is defined in section 270(3) of the Local Government Act 1972, as an officer appointed by an authority for a particular purpose, and was widely used in that legislation.

It would completely frustrate the information provision if the proper officer appointed by the relevant council did not have, and had no means of obtaining, the information that was requested. It would be a completely unenforceable duty because the courts could not force a proper officer to comply with a request if he had no means of doing so. Moreover, authorities generally have no duty to appoint proper officers. The 1972 legislation merely enables them to do so. To apply that approach in the Bill would, therefore, be unsatisfactory. It would be possible for one of these authorities to seek to frustrate the objects of the Bill by failing to appoint a proper officer.

During this wide-ranging debate, Opposition Members have made our case for us. They have breathed threats, and rattled sabres. Who, therefore, can blame the Government for trying to equip themselves with the minimum powers needed simply to provide the information necessary to carry out the will of Parliament? I urge the Committee to reject the amendments.

Mr. Allan Roberts

First I congratulate all my right hon. and hon. Friends on making a devastatingly unanswerable case for the amendments, which, after listening to the Under-Secretary's reply and to the speeches of the few Conservative Members who bothered to turn up, remains devastatingly unanswered.

The Minister dismissed fleetingly the proposal to designate a proper officer. He said that local authorities would not bother to appoint one and would, therefore, subvert the legislation. A requirement to appoint a proper officer could be written into the legislation, which would overcome the Minister's objections.

Liberal Members and others said that people always go to the chief executive for information. However, the legislation permits any local authority designated in the legislation and the Secretary of State to turn for information to a local officer of any rank, including social workers, housing officers and any designated officer. It is a red herring to discuss whether those hon. Members who happen to be councillors in the metropolitan counties or on the GLC will urge their officers to defy the legislation, because they will defy it of their own volition. [Interruption.] It is inevitable because if the Government believe that local government officers will co-operate in giving themselves the sack they must imagine that local government is peopled with those of the disposition of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. It is not on. They will not do that.

One of the pleasing aspects of the legislation is that it instructs officers of the Merseyside county council to co-operate with the Liverpool Labour group. I am sure that the Minister did not intend that Ray O'Brien, the chief executive of Merseyside, should have to assist Derek Hatton the deputy leader of the city council in every detail. I do not support the legislation even though I welcome that scenario.

The Conservative-controlled Sefton local authority will be given the power to manipulate and use the county council officers. At the moment Sefton will not admit that the county council exists. Sefton does not answer its letters, and treats it with contempt. The local authority has been thwarting the spirit, if not the letter, of the Tory Act of Parliament that established the metropolitan county councils and Sefton council.

The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) advanced a strong case not just against this legislation but against the abolition proposal. I hope that all his hon. Friends will support him. I am sure that the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith) will not. I am not so sure about the hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton) because he and the Liverpool Liberals are leading the campaign in favour of the abolition of the metropolitan county councils, or at least they were when they won seats on the Liverpool city council.

In Greater Manchester, Keith Whitmore and the Liberals are leading the campaign against the abolition of the metropolitan county councils. The alliance needs to sort itself out. I wonder how many of its members will be abstaining. The alliance creature is like the Beatles' nowhere man—it does not have a point of view and knows not where it is going.

Mr. Simon Hughes

The hon. Gentleman knows the answer. We have always been in favour of regional government. Regional authorities should be able to take their own decisions. We would never have chosen the form of regional government that was inflicted outside London by the Government. We want something much better, which is why there are the different views that he has mentioned.

Mr. Roberts

The hon. Gentleman has confirmed my ideas about the alliance and its position.

The Opposition have argued strongly against the clause and in support of the amendments. The accusations of Government secrecy, of the destruction of trade union rights, of the destruction of the tradition of loyalty to one's employer, and of the destruction of the impartiality of local government officers, have not been answered. The Government have not said what information they require that is not already available through the plethora of forms that local government has to complete. The Government have not provided a solution to the problem of the conflict of interest and responsibility of local government officers.

None of the points raised by my hon. Friends has been adequately answered, and therefore I urge my hon. Friends and Conservative Members to vote for the amendments in the Lobby this evening.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 175, Noes 306.

Division No. 313] [10.43 pm
Adams, Allen (Paisley N) Fatchett, Derek
Alton, David Faulds, Andrew
Anderson, Donald Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn)
Ashdown, Paddy Fisher, Mark
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Flannery, Martin
Atkinson, N. (Tottenham) Forrester, John
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Foster, Derek
Barnett, Guy Foulkes, George
Barron, Kevin Fraser, J. (Norwood)
Beith, A. J. Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald
Bell, Stuart Freud, Clement
Benn, Tony Garret, W. E.
Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh) George, Bruce
Bermingham, Gerald Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Boyes, Roland Godman, Dr Norman
Bray, Dr Jeremy Golding, John
Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E) Gourlay, Harry
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Hamilton, James (M'Well N)
Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E) Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)
Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith) Hardy, Peter
Bruce, Malcolm Harman, Ms Harriet
Buchan, Norman Harrison, Rt Hon Walter
Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M) Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith
Campbell, Ian Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Campbell-Savours, Dale Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall)
Canavan, Dennis Hoyle, Douglas
Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y) Hughes, Dr. Mark (Durham)
Carter-Jones, Lewis Hughes, Roberts (Aberdeen N)
Cartwright, John Hughes, Roy (Newport East)
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)
Clarke, Thomas Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Clay, Robert John, Brynmor
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.) Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Cohen, Harry Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Coleman, Donald Kennedy, Charles
Concannon, Rt Hon J. D. Kirkwood, Archibald
Conlan, Bernard Leighton, Ronald
Cook, Robin F. (Livingston) Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)
Corbett, Robin Lewis, Terence (Worsley)
Corbyn, Jeremy Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Cox, Thomas (Tooting) Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Craigen, J. M. Loyden, Edward
Cunliffe, Lawrence McCartney, Hugh
Cunningham, Dr John McDonald, Dr Oonagh
Dalyell, Tam McGuire, Michael
Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly) McNamara, Kevin
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l) McWilliam, John
Deakins, Eric Madden, Max
Dixon, Donald Marek, Dr John
Dobson, Frank Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Dormand, Jack Martin, Michael
Douglas, Dick Mason, Rt Hon Roy
Dubs, Alfred Maxton, John
Duffy, A. E. P. Maynard, Miss Joan
Eadie, Alex Meacher, Michael
Eastham, Ken Meadowcroft, Michael
Ellis, Raymond Michie, William
Evans, John (St. Helens N) Mikardo, Ian
Ewing, Harry Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride) Short Mrs R.(W'hampt'n NE)
Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby) Silkin, Rt Hon J.
Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe) Skinner, Dennis
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Smith, C.(Isl'ton S & F'bury)
O'Brien, William Smith, Rt Hon J. (M'Kl'ds E)
O'Neill, Martin Snape, Peter
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Soley, Clive
Park, George Strang, Gavin
Parry, Robert Straw, Jack
Patchett, Terry Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Pavitt, Laurie Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)
Pendry, Tom Thompson, J. (Wansbeck)
Penhaligon, David Thorne, Stan (Preston)
Pike, Peter Tinn, James
Powell, Raymond (Ogmore) Torney, Tom
Radica, Giles Wainwright, R.
Randall Stuart Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Redmond, M. Wareing, Robert
Rees, Rt Hon M. (Leeds S) Weetch, Ken
Richardson, Ms Jo White, James
Roberts, Allan (Bootle) Williams, Rt Hon A.
Robertson, George Winnick, David
Robinson, G. (Coventry NW) Woodall, Alec
Rooker, J. W. Wrigglesworth, Ian
Rowlands, Ted Young, David (Bolton SE)
Ryman, John
Sedgemore, Brian Tellers for the Ayes:
Sheerman, Barry Mr. Allen McKay and
Sheldon, Rt Hon R. Mr. Frank Haynes.
Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Adley, Robert Clark, Sir W. (Croydan S)
Aitken, Jonathan Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)
Alexander, Richard Cockeram, Eric
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Colvin, Michael
Amess, David Coombs, Simon
Ancram, Michael Cope, John
Atkins, Rt Hon Sir H. Couchman, James
Atkins, Robert (South, Ribble) Cranborne, Viscount
Atkinson, David (B'm'th E) Crouch, David
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Vall'y) Currie, Mrs Edwina
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Dorrell, Stephen
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.
Batiste, Spencer Dover, Den
Bellingham, Henry du Cann, Rt Hon Edward
Bendall, Vivian Dunn, Robert
Bennett, Sir Frederic (T'bay) Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke)
Berry, Sir Anthony Eggar, Tim
Best, Keith Evennett, David
Biffen, Rt Hon John Eyre, Sir Reginald
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Fairbairn, Nicholas
Body, Richard Fallon, Michael
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Farr, John
Bottomley, Peter Favell, Anthony
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Fenner, Mrs Peggy
Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n) Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey
Boyson, Dr Rhodes Fookes, Miss Janet
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Forman, Nigel
Bright, Graham Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Brinton, Tim Forth, Eric
Brittan, Rt Hon Leon Fowler, Rt Hon Norman
Brooke, Hon Peter Franks, Cecil
Brown, M. (Brigs & Cl'thpes) Fraser, Peter (Angus East)
Browne, John Freeman, Roger
Bruinvels, Peter Gale, Roger
Bryan, Sir Paul Galley, Roy
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon A. Gardiner, George (Reigate)
Buck, Sir Antony Garel-Jones, Tristan
Budgen, Nick Glyn, Dr Alan
Bulmer, Esmond Goodlad, Alastair
Butterfill, John Gorst, John
Carlisle, John (N Luton), Gow, Ian
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Gower, Sir Raymond
Cash, William Greenway, Harry
Chapman, Sydney Gregory, Conal
Chope, Christopher Griffiths, E. (B'y St Edm'ds)
Churchil1, W. S. Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N)
Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th S'n) Grist, Ian
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Ground, Patrick
Gummer, John Selwyn Mates, Michael
Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom) Maude, Hon Francis
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Hanley, Jeremy Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Hannam, John Mayhew, Sir Patrick
Hargreaves, Kenneth Mellor, David
Harris, David Miller, Hal (B'grove)
Harvey, Robert Mills, Iain (Meriden)
Haselhurst, Alan Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon)
Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael Mitchell, David (NW Hants)
Hawkins, C. (High Peak) Moate, Roger
Hawkins, Sir Paul (SW N'folk) Molyneaux, Rt Hon James
Hawksley, Warren Moore, John
Hayes, J. Morris, M. (N'hampton, S)
Hayhoe, Barney Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)
Hayward, Robert Moynihan, Hon C.
Heathcoat-Amory, David Murphy, Christopher
Heddle, John Neale, Gerrard
Henderson, Barry Needham, Richard
Hickmet, Richard Nelson, Anthony
Hill, James Neubert, Michael
Hind, Kenneth Newton, Tony
Hirst, Michael Nicholls, Patrick
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Normanton, Tom
Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling) Norris, Steven
Holt, Richard Onslow, Cranley
Hooson, Tom Oppenheim, Philip
Hordern, Peter Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.
Howard, Michael Osborn, Sir John
Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A) Ottaway, Richard
Howarth, Gerald (Cannock) Page, John (Harrow W)
Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Page, Richard (Herts SW)
Howell, Ralph (N Norfolk) Parris, Matthew
Hubbard-Miles, Peter Patten, Christopher (Bath)
Hunt, David (Wirral) Patten, John (Oxford)
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne) Pattie, Geoffrey
Hunter, Andrew Pawsey, James
Irving, Charles Percival, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Jackson, Robert Pollock, Alexander
Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick Porter, Barry
Jessel, Toby Powell, William (Corby)
Johnson-Smith, Sir Geoffrey Powley, John
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Price, Sir David
Jones, Robert (W Herts) Proctor, K. Harvey
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Raff an, Keith
Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith Raison, Rt Hon Timothy
Key, Robert Rees, Rt Hon Peter (Dover)
King, Roger (B'ham N'field) Renton, Tim
Knight, Gregory (Derby N) Rhodes James, Robert
Knight, Mrs Jill (Edgbaston) Ridsdale, Sir Julian
Knowles, Michael Rifkind, Malcolm
Lamont, Norman Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)
Lang, Ian Robinson, Mark (N'port W)
Latham, Michael Robinson, P. (Belfast E)
Lawler, Geoffrey Roe, Mrs Marion
Lawrence, Ivan Rossi, Sir Hugh
Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel Rost, Peter
Lee, John (Pendle) Rowe, Andrew
Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh) Rumbold, Mrs Angela
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Ryder, Richard
Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd) Sackville, Hon Thomas
Lightbown, David Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
Lilley, Peter Sayeed, Jonathan
Lloyd, Ian (Havant) Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham) Shelton, William (Streatham)
Lord, Michael Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Lyell, Nicholas Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
McCrea, Rev William Shersby, Michael
McCurley, Mrs Anna Silvester, Fred
MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire) Sims, Roger
MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute) Skeet, T. H. H.
Maclean, David John Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Madel, David Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Maginnis, Ken Smyth, Rev W. M. (Belfast S)
Major, John Soames, Hon Nicholas
Malins, Humfrey Speller, Tony
Malone, Gerald Spencer, Derek
Maples, John Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Marland, Paul Stanbrook, Ivor
Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Stanley, John
Stern, Michael Viggers, Peter
Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton) Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Stevens, Martin (Fulham) Waldegrave, Hon William
Stewart, Allan (Eastwood) Walden, George
Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood) Wall, Sir Patrick
Stewart, Ian (N Hertf'dshire) Waller, Gary
Stokes, John Ward, John
Stradling Thomas, J. Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Sumberg, David Warren, Kenneth
Taylor, John (Solihull) Watson, John
Taylor, Teddy (S'end E) Watts, John
Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman Wells, Bowen (Hertford)
Temple-Morris, Peter Wheeler, John
Terlezki, Stefan Whitfield, John
Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M. Whitney, Raymond
Thomas, Rt Hon Peter Wiggin, Jerry
Thompson, Donald (Calder V) Wilkinson, John
Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N) Wolfson, Mark
Thorne, Neil (Ilford S) Wood, Timothy
Thornton, Malcolm Woodcock, Michael
Thurnham, Peter Yeo, Tim
Townend, John (Bridlington) Young, Sir George (Acton)
Tracey, Richard Younger, Rt Hon George
Trippier, David
Twinn, Dr Ian Tellers for the Noes:
van Straubenzee, Sir W. Mr. Carol Mather and
Vaughan, Sir Gerard Mr. Robert Boscawen.

Question accordingly negatived.

Amendment No. 64 proposed, in clause7, page7, line1,leave out 'and its officers',—[Mr. Beith.]

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided:Ayes 165, Noes 299.

Division No. 314] [10.53 pm
Adams, Allen (Paisley N) Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly)
Alton, David Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l)
Anderson, Donald Deakins, Eric
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Dixon, Donald
Ashdown, Paddy Dobson, Frank
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Dormand, Jack
Atkinson, N. (Tottenham) Douglas, Dick
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Dubs, Alfred
Barnett, Guy Duffy, A. E. P.
Barron, Kevin Eadie, Alex
Beith, A. J. Eastham, Ken
Bell, Stuart Evans, John (St. Helens N)
Benn, Tony Ewing, Harry
Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh) Fatchett, Derek
Bermingham, Gerald Faulds, Andrew
Boyes, Roland Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Bray, Dr Jeremy Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn)
Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E) Fisher, Mark
Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E) Flannery, Martin
Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith) Forrester, John
Bruce, Malcolm Foster, Derek
Buchan, Norman Fraser, J. (Norwood)
Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M) Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald
Campbell, Ian Freud, Clement
Canavan, Dennis George, Bruce
Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y) Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Carter-Jones, Lewis Godman, Dr Norman
Cartwright, John Golding, John
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Gourlay, Harry
Clarke, Thomas Hamilton, James (M'well N)
Clay, Robert Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.) Hardy, Peter
Cohen, Harry Harman, Ms Harriet
Coleman, Donald Harrison, Rt Hon Walter
Concannon, Rt Hon J. D. Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith
Conlan, Bernard Haynes, Frank
Corbett, Robin Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Cox, Thomas (Tooting) Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall)
Craigen, J. M. Hoyle, Douglas
Cunliffe, Lawrence Hughes, Dr. Mark (Durham)
Cunningham, Dr John Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Dalyell, Tam Hughes, Roy (Newport East)
Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S) Radice, Giles
Hughes, Simon (Southwark) Randall, Stuart
Janner, Hon Greville Rees, Rt Hon M. (Leeds S)
John, Brynmor Richardson, Ms Jo
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside) Roberts, Allan (Bootle)
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Robertson, George
Kennedy, Charles Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)
Leighton, Ronald Rooker, J. W.
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Rowlands, Ted
Lewis, Terence (Worsley) Sedgemore, Brian
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Sheerman, Barry
Lofthouse, Geoffrey Sheldon, Rt Hon R.
Loyden, Edward Shore, Rt Hon Peter
McCartney, Hugh Short, Mrs R.(W'hampt'n NE)
McDonald, Dr Oonagh Silkin, Rt Hon J.
McGuire, Michael Skinner, Dennis
McKay, Allen (Penistone) Smith, C.(Isl'ton S & F'bury)
McNamara, Kevin Smith, Rt Hon J. (M'kl'ds E)
McWilliam, John Snape, Peter
Madden, Max Soley, Clive
Marek, Dr John Strang, Gavin
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Straw, Jack
Martin, Michael Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Mason, Rt Hon Roy Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)
Maxton, John Thompson, J. (Wansbeck)
Maynard, Miss Joan Thorne, Stan (Preston)
Meacher, Michael Tinn, James
Michie, William Torney, Tom
Mikardo, Ian Wainwright, R.
Millan, Rt Hon Bruce Wardell Gareth (Gower)
Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride) Wareing, Robert
Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby) Weetch, Ken
Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe) White, James
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Williams, Rt Hon A.
O'Brien, William Winnick, David
O'Neill, Martin Woodall, Alec
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Wrigglesworth, Ian
Park, George Young, David (Bolton SE)
Parry, Robert
Pavitt, Laurie Tellers for the Ayes:
Penhaligon, David Mr. Michael Meadowcroft and
Pike, Peter Mr. Archy Kirkwood.
Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Adley, Robert Buck, Sir Antony
Alexander, Richard Budgen, Nick
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Bulmer, Esmond
Amess, David Butterfill, John
Ancram, Michael Carlisle, John (N Luton)
Atkins, Rt Hon Sir H. Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Atkins, Robert (South Ribble) Cash, William
Atkinson, David (B'm'th E) Chapman, Sydney
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Vall'y) Chope, Christopher
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Churchill, W. S.
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th S'n)
Batiste, Spencer Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
Bellingham, Henry Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)
Bendall, Vivian Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)
Berry, Sir Anthony Cockeram, Eric
Best, Keith Colvin, Michael
Biffen, Rt Hon John Coombs, Simon
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Cope, John
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Couchman, James
Body, Richard Cranborne, Viscount
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Crouch, David
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Currie, Mrs Edwina
Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n) Dorrell, Stephen
Boyson, Dr Rhodes Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Dover, Den
Bright, Graham du Cann, Rt Hon Edward
Brinton, Tim Dunn, Robert
Brittan, Rt Hon Leon Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke)
Brooke, Hon Peter Eggar, Tim
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes) Evennett, David
Browne, John Eyre, Sir Reginald
Bruinvels, Peter Fairbairn, Nicholas
Bryan, Sir Paul Fallon, Michael
Buchan, Norman Farr, John
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon A. Favell, Anthony
Fenner, Mrs Peggy Lawrence, Ivan
Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel
Fletcher, Alexander Lee, John (Pendle)
Fookes, Miss Janet Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)
Forman, Nigel Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd)
Forth, Eric Lightbown, David
Fowler, Rt Hon Norman Lilley, Peter
Franks, Cecil Lloyd, Ian (Havant)
Fraser, Peter (Angus East) Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham)
Freeman, Roger Lord, Michael
Gale, Roger Lyell, Nicholas
Galley, Roy McCrea, Rev William
Gardiner, George (Reigate) McCurley, Mrs Anna
Garel-Jones, Tristan MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)
Glyn, Dr Alan MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)
Goodhart, Sir Philip Maclean, David John
Goodlad, Alastair Madel, David
Gorst, John Maginnis, Ken
Gow, Ian Major, John
Gower, Sir Raymond Malins, Humfrey
Greenway, Harry Malone, Gerald
Gregory, Conal Maples, John
Griffiths, E. (B'y St Edm'ds) Marland, Paul
Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N) Marshall, Michael (Arundel)
Grist, Ian Mates, Michael
Ground, Patrick Maude, Hon Francis
Gummer, John Selwyn Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom) Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Mayhew, Sir Patrick
Hanley, Jeremy Mellor, David
Hannam, John Miller, Hal (B'grove)
Hargreaves, Kenneth Mills, Iain (Meriden)
Harris, David Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon)
Harvey, Robert Mitchell, David (NW Hants)
Haselhurst, Alan Moate, Roger
Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael Molyneaux, Rt Hon James
Hawkins, C. (High Peak) Moore, John
Hawkins, Sir Paul (SW N'folk) Morris, M. (N'hampton, S)
Hayes, J. Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)
Hayhoe, Barney Moynihan, Hon C.
Hayward, Robert Murphy, Christopher
Heathcoat-Amory, David Neale, Gerrard
Heddle, John Needham, Richard
Henderson, Barry Nelson, Anthony
Hickmet, Richard Neubert, Michael
Hill, James Newton, Tony
Hind, Kenneth Nicholls, Patrick
Hirst, Michael Normanton, Tom
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Norris, Steven
Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling) Oppenheim, Philip
Holt, Richard Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.
Hooson, Tom Osborn, Sir John
Hordern, Peter Ottaway, Richard
Howard, Michael Page, John (Harrow W)
Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A) Page, Richard (Herts SW)
Howarth, Gerald (Cannock) Parris, Matthew
Howell, Ralph (N Norfolk) Patten, Christopher (Bath)
Hubbard-Miles, Peter Patten, John (Oxford)
Hunt, David (Wirral) Pattie, Geoffrey
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne) Pawsey, James
Hunter, Andrew Pollock, Alexander
Irving, Charles Porter, Barry
Jackson, Robert Powell, William (Corby)
Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick Powley, John
Jessel, Toby Proctor, K. Harvey
Johnson-Smith, Sir Geoffrey Raffan, Keith
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Raison, Rt Hon Timothy
Jones, Robert (W Herts) Rees, Rt Hon Peter (Dover)
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Renton, Tim
Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith Rhodes James, Robert
Key, Robert Ridsdale, Sir Julian
King, Roger (B'ham N'field) Rifkind, Malcolm
Knight, Gregory (Derby N) Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)
Knight, Mrs Jill (Edgbaston) Robinson, Mark (N'port W)
Knowles, Michael Robinson, P. (Belfast E)
Lamont, Norman Roe, Mrs Marion
Lang, Ian Rossi, Sir Hugh
Latham, Michael Rost, Peter
Lawler, Geoffrey Rowe, Andrew
Rumbold, Mrs Angela Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
Ryder, Richard Thompson, Donald (Calder V)
Sackville, Hon Thomas Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)
Sainsbury, Hon Timothy Thorne, Neil (Ilford S)
Sayeed, Jonathan Thornton, Malcolm
Shaw, Giles (Pudsey) Thurnham, Peter
Shelton, William (Streatham) Townend, John (Bridlington)
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Tracey, Richard
Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge) Trippier, David
Shersby, Michael Twinn, Dr Ian
Silvester, Fred van Straubenzee, Sir W.
Sims. Roger Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Skeet, T. H. H. Viggers, Peter
Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick) Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield) Waldegrave, Hon William
Smyth, Rev W. M. (Belfast S) Walden, George
Soames, Hon Nicholas Waller, Gary
Speller, Tony Ward, John
Spencer, Derek Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Spicer, Michael (S Worcs) Warren, Kenneth
Squire, Robin Watson, John
Stanbrook, Ivor Watts, John
Stanley, John Wells, Bowen (Hertford)
Stern, Michael Wheeler, John
Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton) Whitfield, John
Stevens, Martin (Fulham) Whitney, Raymond
Stewart, Allan (Eastwood) Wiggin, Jerry
Stewart, Ian (N Hertf'dshire) Wilkinson, John
Stokes, John Wolfson, Mark
Stradling Thomas, J. Wood, Timothy
Sumberg, David Woodcock, Michael
Taylor, John (Solihull) Young, Sir George (Acton)
Taylor, Teddy (S'end E) Younger, Rt Hon George
Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Temple-Morris, Peter Tellers for the Noes:
Terlezki, Stefan Mr. Carol Mather and
Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M. Mr. Robert Boscawen.

Question accordingly negatived.

Mr. John Fraser (Norwood)

I beg to move amendment No. 102, in page 7, line 1, leave out subsections (2) and (3) and insert— '(2) Any officer of the council of a London borough or the Common Council, duly authorised in that behalf, and any other person authorised by the Secretary of State shall, for the purposes mentioned in subsection (1)(a) of this section, be entitled during ordinary office hours to inspect and take extracts from any books or documents of the Greater London Council. (3) Any officer of the council of a metropolitan district, duly authorised in that behalf, and any other person authorised by the Secretary of State shall, for the purposes mentioned in subsection (1)(b) of this section, be entitled during ordinary office hours, to inspect and take extracts from any books or documents of the council of the metropolitan county comprising such district.'.

The Second Deputy Chairman

With this I understand that it will be convenient to take the following amendments:

No. 33, in page 7, line 5, at end insert 'reasonably'.

No. 36, in page 7, line 12, after 'may', insert 'reasonably'.

No. 104, in page 7, line 12, at end add.— '(4) A London borough council, the Common Council and a metropolitan district council making a request under this section shall furnish the relevant authority with all such information relating to the request as that authority may by notice reasonably require (5) In subsection (4) of this section, "relevant authority" means the Greater London Council or a metropolitan county council, as the case may be.".'.

Mr. Fraser

It is typical of the jackbooted arrogance of the Bill that the GLC and the metropolitan counties, which are being deprived of their rights and obligations, and the officers in those authorities, are to be subjected to an unconditional right of interrogation not merely by the Secretary of State—we discussed that matter on the last group of amendments—but by the London boroughs and the metropolitan districts. In the Bill there is no qualification of or limit to the purpose for which the information can be required.

Clause 7(1) defines the purposes for which information may be required, but it does not govern subsections (2) and (3). There is no limit on the scope of information that can be demanded, not just of councils, but of officers, and not just by the Secretary of State, but by the metropolitan districts and the London boroughs. I shall give an example. If my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North—West (Mr. Banks) or the man I once recruited into the Labour party, Ken Livingstone, wanted to plain a campaign, poll or protest through the GLC legally and within its powers, the boroughs could demand information and details of consultation documents before they had even seen the light of day. Subsections (2) and (3) are so widely drawn that there is little limit on the information that can be obtained.

Clause 7 enables the London boroughs such as Bromley, Kingston and Merton to have a Watergate without the plumbers. They do not need to tap or bug the GLC; they can simply send in their requests for information under clause 7. The clause is unusual. There are powers to obtain information under the Local Government Act 1972. Section 230 states: Every local authority, every joint board and every joint committee of local authorities shall send the Secretary of State such reports and returns, and give him such information with respect to their functions, as he may require or as may be required by either House of Parliament.

In the drafting of clause 7, the Government have given power to obtain information not just about the functions of the GLC and metropolitan boroughs but about the authorities themselves. Therefore, the Bromley bovver boys who use legal actions and writs in the same way as other people use Dr. Martin's boots and bicycle chains could go on a fishing expedition for information relating to the GLC to found their next set of legal proceedings against that authority.

Therefore, amendment No. 102 limits the demand for information to the purposes mentioned in subsection (1)(a) and (b). Secondly, and properly, it places the burden of the expense of obtaining the information upon those who demand it. After all, if hon. Members put down a parliamentary question that requires much information, we are likely to get a reply from the Department of the Environment or any other Department telling us that the information can be provided only at disproportionate expense. In the amendment, we are saying that the expense should be borne by the person demanding the information rather than by the local authority that has to supply it.

The effect of amendment No. 33 and its associated amendment is simply to put a limit on the information provided so that it can be provided only if it is reasonably required. If the Government resist the amendment, they are saying that authorities such as Bromley, the trouble makers of the London scene, will be able to require information unreasonably. There is no reason why amendments Nos. 33 and 36 should not be accepted, thus limiting the demand for information to that which is reasonably required.

To back up the requirement that the information should be required reasonably, the GLC or the MCC will be able to ask those requiring the information for a reasonable explanation of why the information is sought from them or their officers.

This is a group of amendments that is less far reaching than the last group that we voted on. They propose to limit the expense that will fall on the MCCs and the GLC in the provision of information by making sure that information is not provided for trouble-making purposes, but simply when reasonably required. That is a proper proposition for the Government to accept. It puts the demand for information on the footing of the 1972 legislation, and we hope that after a short debate the Government will accept the amendments.

11.15 pm
Mr. Terry Fields (Liverpool, Broadgreen)

I do not suppose that many Conservative Members will be coming into the Lobby with us on these amendments, but they have a reason to do so. In Roget's Thesaurus, the synonyms for reasonableness are moderate, probable, judicious, sane and right, and then cheap. That may appeal to Tory Members.

I shall speak about the running and the functions of the fire service and the transfer of power. I start by declaring an interest in that I served for 26 years as an operational fireman, working in fire prevention, and during that time I had the good fortune and privilege of representing the firemen on the national executive of the Fire Brigades Union, representing people at the short sharp end of things. I have seen many improvements, in wages, in hours and in manpower, but we would never have achieved them out of the reasonableness of the employers — certainly of the Tory employers. Only the Fire Brigades Union stood strong and tried to improve things in the forces. While politicians are looking at the budgets and balancing the books, the chief officers are drawing up alternatives in fire prevention and looking to the interests of the general public.

We need to expose to the people what the Government are attempting to do through this legislation, and to show the hyprocisy of the Government and some local authorities, who pay lip service to safety and the protection of life, but who are prepared to play Russian roulette with people's lives. That is the reason for the abolition of the MCCs and of the transfer of functions. Our amendments talk about reasonableness and attempt to put a check on what the Government are trying to do.

If our amendments do not succeed, we are heading for the pre-1974 situation before reorganisation. Merseyside, for example, took over fire services that had been run by county boroughs, with ghost establishments, where operational personnel were non-existent, despite Home Office standards, where targets were never reached in recruitment, where there were clapped out fire appliances, where there was what is called jump manning, where one crew was manning two, three and sometimes four fire engines, with poor uniform and equipment. We are demanding reasonableness because we know from what happened before what can happen again.

We have fought for changes and recruitment, and we are not going to give them up because the Government are setting up these quango boards to run the fire service. We have seen Tory local authorities prepared to tear up the agreements that we have had and to give two fingers to the Home Office the standards that have been laid down, because their interpretation of reasonableness is cheap.

The Second Deputy Chairman

Order. The hon. Gentleman is straying rather wide of the amendments, which deal with access to information. He must restrict his remarks to the amendments.

Mr. Fields

Access to information relates to the way in which the boards will be established. They are opening the books because, despite the budgets drawn up by the Merseyside authority, the reasonableness of the demands is far from what we are discussing. We give fair warning that the interpretation of reasonableness may be borne out by the attitude of the Wirral local authority, as part of the Merseyside metropolitan authority. The services are being privatised. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that the fire service will be privatised. It is not long past when insurance interests looked at Merseyside and said that it could operate on six fire stations rather than 30. They are more concerned about paying out for people's lives and property than about running the fire service.

The Government's intention is to open the books, for whatever nefarious reasons. The firemen will stand strong. At their conference last week they gave a clear warning to the Government and everyone else—touch one job and there will be an all-out strike. The Government had better take note of that. We are picking up the lessons of Liverpool; we are banding together to struggle to maintain, on behalf of the public, what the Government want to get rid of—local democracy and the protection of people. We oppose what the Government want to do. We have tabled this reasonable amendment in an attempt to safeguard the country against what the Government are trying to do.

Mr. Simon Hughes

I wish to discuss amendments Nos. 102, 33 and 36.

The Liberal party supports amendment No. 102. If the Government are not minded to accept the amendment, why not? The Minister will recognise the words from their own legislation in earlier forms. They have precedents in two recent Conservative Acts—section 71 of the New Towns Act 1981, and paragraph 14 of schedule 31 of the Local Government, Planning and Land Act 1980. In both those Acts, the method for providing information is to have a delegated officer doing the job. That would reduce the red tape, bureaucracy, overlapping of commands and so on.

If the Government are serious about trying to reduce the obligations of employees in local councils, I ask them seriously to consider the arguments put forward and also the arguments that they put forward only three and four years ago respectively. Those provisions are the way to ensure that the vast amount of information obtained is channeled in the most appropriate way.

On amendments Nos. 33 and 36, I have not added up —but I could have done—the number of times that the Under—Secretary said that the test of the behaviour of local authorities would be "reasonableness". It is the word that he imagines is implied at all times and would be the criterion by which courts would adjudicate whether there had been compliance with the law by officers or members of councils. The amendment would add the word upon which the Under-Secretary has placed so much reliance. The hon. Gentleman's only objection could be that the word was implicit in the Bill. I do not accept that, just as, when the hon. Gentleman said in another connection that the test would necessarily be reasonableness, I did not accept that. In terms of administrative and public law, that is clearly not the case.

I am particularly anxious that the hon. Gentleman should accept amendments Nos. 33 and 36. Let us imagine that there will be, because of the Government's proposed sleight of hand, a sudden overnight change in May 1985 from an elected Labour GLC to a noelected Conservative GLC, even without any legislation being passed. Let us imagine that, after that, my local authority of Southwark, where there is a Labour majority, or the neighbouring authority of Lambeth, decides to make life difficult for the Government-contrived GLC. Southwark, Lambeth and other councils might decide to make the life of the GLC really difficult.

Mr. John Fraser

Bromley is already doing it.

Mr. Hughes

Bromley did it, and there were great debates on the London Regional Transport Bill on just such a clause. However, under the present London Regional Transport Bill proposals, one will not be able to take someone to court even if he is not doing his duty. That possibility will no longer be available. Having reduced the powers of the citizen, the Government take away his remaining right to challenge the abuse of authority.

What would there be to stop Southwark, Lambeth or any other Labour authority with strong Left-wing views from bombarding the Tory transitional GLC with requests for information, in order to derive political advantage for its cause and its case or to bring the work of the GLC to a halt?

If the Government are so determined to convert a Labour GLC into a Tory GLC, do they not realise that one of the consequences of their action may be that they will completely thwart the possibility of their contrived GLC doing its job? That is a ludicrous proposition in terms of practicalities, and it is evidence of the total lack of coherence of the Government's arguments.

Furthermore, unless the Government accept "reasonably"—I shall be surprised if they can find an argument for not writing in a word which we are told is implied in the rest of the Bill—there will also be an implication for the Labour metro-counties. However clever the Government are, they will not be able to change the composition of the metropolitan counties immediately. They may be able to change the balance of power, but not the overall control. Will not the effect of the present proposals be to allow some of the Tory-controlled district councils—Sefton springs to mind, but there are many others—to make life difficult for their Labour-controlled metropolitan counties for the remaining year?

The amendment would prevent the playing of political games. Unless the Government accept the amendment, they are asking for political games to be played. Just as I suspect that the Secretary of State may well ask for the provision of all sorts of information that could not reasonably be asked for, even while the Government are allowing the GLC and the metropolitan counties to exist, by grace and favour, for a further year, I also suspect that unless the seeking and obtaining of information has to be carried out reasonably, there will be unjustified, expensive, extravagant, wasteful and interfering exercises aimed by one side at the other, to prevent councils from getting on with the job of serving their electorates.

I hope that the Minister will accept these amendments, especially amendments Nos. 33 and 36, and explain why, in 1980 and 1981 the Government introduced a proposal that used exactly the words of amendment No. 102 when, three years later, they are not prepared to accept it.

Mr. Tony Banks

I should like to support what my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Broadgreen (Mr. Fields) said about the fire services. In view of his experience, I am sure that he will know that the London fire brigade is likely to react similarly to jobs disappearing. If I am not much mistaken, the London fire brigade is already on record as saying that it will resist all cuts. The GLC has, to its credit, made good all the cuts imposed by the previous Conservative administration. We are pleased about that and I am sure that the ratepayers of London are even happier. If one's house is burning down, it is no good being told that no fire appliance is available because of Government cuts. Such an argument does not wear too well.

11.30 pm

I might add that firemen in Scotland recently took action in support of the miners who are defending their jobs. If they are prepared to do that, how much more likely are they to defend their own. The Minister should think carefully about that. I assume, but cannot think why, the Minister will resist these amendments about the reasonableness of requiring that reasons be supplied before information is given. I am indebted to the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) for putting a malicious thought in my mind, which was a repository of innocence until I heard his speech. I had never thought of the angle that he outlined. I shall now hasten to see my good friend Ted Knight in Lambeth to ensure that what the hon. Gentleman talked of comes true if the Bill goes through unamended. I hope that that encourages the Minister to think about accepting the amendment, as I can faithfully promise that what the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey described will come about.

A far greater risk will come from organisations such as Aims of Industry, which is the shadowy presence behind Lady Porter—the leader of Westminster city council—and Bromley council. The use to which they put information could be malicious. I remind the House that an anti-GLC organisation was set up under the aegis of Aims of Industry by Sir Horace Cutler, then leader of the Conservatives in the GLC, deliberately to drag the GLC through the courts on every pretext that they could conjure up. I can imagine this shadowy organisation that is now called just Aims continuing to do that, and using this part of the Bill to get the doughty Lady Porter, on behalf of Westminster city council, to get information to make vile propaganda against the GLC. Recently Aims has been circulating vile propaganda about the GLC. It is therefore perfectly "reasonable" for us to say that it should be reasonable for anyone requesting information to say why it is required and to what purpose it will be put. Given the looming presence of comrade Ted Knight and Aims of Industry around this place, I hope that the Minister is prepared to accept the amendments.

Mr. Waldegrave

I am afraid that amendment No. 102 is unsatisfactory. I think that the hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. Fraser) argued the wrong way. I should have thought that the mechanism set out in amendment No. 102 — whereby people would look through the books—would encourage the very fishing operation that he rightly thinks would be time wasting. To limit a search for necessary information to looking at particular books in particular places would only waste everyone's time. The request should be properly formulated and then the information, which may not until then have been collated in exactly the way that the request seeks, should be provided. I agreed with much of what the hon. Gentleman said, and one does not want to waste the time of officials in either tier with unnecessary information, or information that is badly formulated or mischievous. However, I should have thought that the mechanism chosen in amendment No. 102 would make that worse.

I turn to amendments Nos. 33 and 36. The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) and I have debated the reasonableness point from time to time. However, the addition of the word in this instance does not add much. Any request for information must be for the purposes defined in clause 7(1). Admittedly, that is a broad definition. Indeed, it is inevitably so, since it would be impossible to list in advance every piece of legislation likely to be needed. Nevertheless, subsection (1) places a real limit on the requests for information that may properly be made. A court would be able to decide whether a request was properly made for one of the defined purposes, or improperly for some extraneous purpose. Perhaps that deals with the point raised by the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) about the behaviour of the leader of Lambeth council. The court would judge whether the information was to be put to a mischievous or improper use. The information has to be of use in the formulation of, or delivery of, the plans for the abolition of the councils.

Mr. Tony Banks

Who will decide what is reasonable?

Mr. Waldegrave

If there is an argument, it would have to be decided by the court. I made that clear in earlier debates. I differ with the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey, because to insert the word "reasonably" is at best meaningless—because, as I have often rightly said, such a discretionary power has to be used reasonably —and at worst it may add vagueness, because the court would want to know why, rather oddly, the world "reasonably" has been inserted at this one juncture. Its inclusion may add to the uncertainty rather than diminishing it.

Section 230 of the Local Government Act 1972, upon which the clause is based, does not impose any limitation on requests for information which may be made by the Secretary of State or Parliament. Although in some respects clause 7 goes wider than section 230, it is subject to an express limitation on the purposes for which the request is made. The amendments are, I think, unnecessary, and I ask the Committee to reject them.

Mr. Boyes

How does the Minister think that the interim bodies will ever work? The number of staff will be reduced, and the staff will be demoralised and very unhappy. There could be challenges in court on a whole series of matters. The Minister has been present all this evening, and has done a long stint in the Chamber. He will remember that earlier I quoted MISC 95 — that mechanisms are set up to deal with these matters. Will he confirm that the obstruction that is anticipated in MISC 95 is a whole series of court battles?

Mr. Waldegrave

I do not wish to stray too far from the amendment. Even the hon. Member for Newham, North-West does not control single-handedly the behaviour of the GLC, and I hope that some of the threats and the sabre-rattling that we have heard will not turn out to be true. It is possible that, if everyone behaves as stupidly as possible, there will be a muddle, but considering the conditions of service, although we may have come to the conclusion that much of the structure is not needed, people such as Maurice Stonecroft will not throw away the traditions of a lifetime and behave absurdly.

Mr. Simon Hughes

Will the Minister reflect on the fact that it would be helpful guidance for the officers of the GLC and the metropolitan counties in their interim form if they knew that they could refuse an unreasonable request? Provision is not made for that in the Bill at present.

Mr. Waldegrave

I have argued that to insert the word "reasonable" is a mistake and might add to confusion, but I am happy to confirm that they will have a defence in the courts against a mischievous search for information for which they believe they could make a good case.

Amendment No. 104 is a probing amendment, but the mechanism that it proposes is unnecessary and undesirable, in that it almost invites an endless process of ping-pong while people send requests and counter-requests to and fro, which would lead only to delay. I need not spend too much time urging my hon. Friends to oppose that.

The three amendments are not among the most powerful urged upon us. There is much in what the hon. Member for Norwood said with which I agree. However, despite the protestations of the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham), who has always tried to persuade us to go down various garden paths, I must urge the Committee to reject the amendments.

Mr. Freud

I wish to speak briefly to only two amendments. In relation to amendment No. 36, following the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State's reluctance to include the word "reasonable" and his insistence that there might be some mischievous inquiry, which, if this were not included, would make this a worse Bill, I wish to tell him that it is a question not of mischief, but of whose reasonable conduct it is. I foresee the Minister asking a metropolitan county council to let him have the numbers of pupils attending a school, and it would be right for that county council to believe that that was an unreasonable request, because the number of children at the school would be declining. He will know that there is nothing that tends to make parents remove their children from school more than the fear that it might close.

The word "reasonable" here would be of great benefit to the metropolitan counties. I am delighted to see that, as we are beginning to get to the end of the amendments and to the beginning of the clause stand part debate, the Government Benches have been reinforced by having the sole support of the hon. Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Brandon-Bravo). Seven Conservative Members are now here to support the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State.

Amendment No. 103 is not mischievous although, on the face of it, it might seem to incite anyone to go to a county council office and ask for this, that or the other paper during office hours. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State has said that there are already procedures for properly formulated questions to be answered, but I wonder whether there will be time for such questions. The staff will be appointed people, already looking for the jobs that they will need after the next elections.

11.45 pm

It seems absolutely right that if the Secretary of State is to have an open book to ask anyone for any information that he wants, officers working for county or metropolitan councils should have the same right to go and ask any question or examine any document during office hours. It is no different from someone appointed to teach at a school as from the autumn term asking for the confidential files on the pupils to prepare himself for what is ahead or a doctor seeking information about a new practice that he is to join. The amendment merely seeks to allow those working for a metropolitan county or for the GLC to have that information during office hours at no expense to the issuing body.

Therefore, I hope that the Minister — who seems deeply interested in talking to the Government Whips—will be persuaded if not to vote with us at least to listen to the arguments.

Mr. Michael Meadowcroft (Leeds, West)

I am moved to speak by the Minister's comment that the courts would he able to deal with "mischievous"—the legal word may be "vexatious" — requests for information. Having studied the provisions carefully, I find it difficult to see how the courts could do that.

The subsections that amendment No. 102 seeks to delete would leave the power of demand for information entirely to the council involved or to the Secretary of State. Is the Minister saying that the catch-all wording used in those subsections could be properly tested in the courts? I do not see how any court of law could in the extreme define any information as falling outside the remit and failing to relate to or affect the work of the GLC or the metropolitan counties. Every matter with which any of those councils is concerned will be open to inquiry under those subsections. There is nothing that someone wishing to create problems for those councils could not ask for under those provisions.

When one considers the functions of the metropolitan councils and the amazing detail of the information that may be requested by anyone taking over those functions, the mind boggles at what an awkward customer —another authority or the Secretary of State himself—might demand. Their functions do not merely include transportation and such major matters. The metropolitan councils are also interested and involved in waste disposal. The Secretary of State or the councils could always find some information to demand about waste disposal, which will be needed by those who will take over the authorities' functions. It is strange wording to have to defend in the courts.

The question of the separation of powers over gipsy sites is a delicate matter. In the past local authorities embarrassed each other by refusing to take over functions relating to the provision of those sites. Again, the Secretary of State or the authorities in question could ask for information which was not readily available, yet which a court could regard as being intended under the two clauses.

The same question arises regarding consumer protection. The detail that could be required if the clause is unamended is immense. The individuals who are running the councils and who are to be dispensed with, even in the interim period, would be hard put to resist those demands.

The difference between the clause as drafted and the clause if amended is between having the power to inspect what is already there and having to dredge up statistics or other information, which might involve immense work. Even in the House, hon. Members are at times refused an answer to a parliamentary question because it would involve an inordinate amount of work at a disproportionate cost.

Mr. Boyes

Is the hon. Gentleman's experience the same as mine in that it is taking increasingly long to receive from Ministers replies to letters about constituents' problems and other matters? If you agree, is it not remarkable that Tory members, who cannot themselves answer questions in a reasonable time, will demand that a demoralised council answers in a reasonable time?

The First Deputy Chairman

The hon. Gentleman must not ask what has been my experience when writing to Ministers. If the hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Meadowcroft) replies to that, he will be wide of the amendment. Hon. Members must speak to the amendments.

Mr. Boyes

I am talking about the Minister and the Secretary of State. With that little rider, I can expect the hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Meadowcroft) to answer my question.

Mr. Meadowcroft

I am grateful, Mr. Armstrong, for your direction to the hon. Gentleman. I agree that it is taking longer to receive more detailed information from Ministers, but I understand their difficulties. The Secretary of State may already be employing his staff to devise questions for the councils. They may be beavering away and thinking of devilish information to request under these subsections rather than replying to hon. Members' inquiries.

At present it is extremely difficult for local authorities. This sword is hanging over them. They are trying to demonstrate the value of having councils, that they are required and wish to continue in their present form. Yet they may have to respond to inquiries for abtruse and detailed information. Having to dredge up such statistics may produce appalling problems for the councils.

The Minister seems to be amused by something. I am not sure that he is taking the debate as seriously as it demands. If the word "reasonable" were inserted, the test of reasonableness would be available to the courts. Many courts have that test—for example, tribunals. Unless and until that is written into the Bill and the amendments are accepted, it cannot be argued that these subsections do not give draconian powers to the councils and the Secretary of State. I beg the Minister to accept the amendments.

Mr. Eric Deakins (Walthamstow)

The Minister's reply to amendments Nos. 33 and 34 does an injustice to his intelligence. He has opened a Pandora's box by talking about the possibility of court actions under clause 7. There could be many court actions and that would frustrate the purpose of the clause and the transitional period. I believe that in those circumstances the Minister has a duty to himself and to his Department to think again about amendments Nos. 33 and 34.

Clause 7(2) and (3) places an absolute duty on the GLC and the metropolitan county councils and yet the Minister was talking about the possibility of court actions. I do not know what legal advice he received, and, if so, whether it came from the Law Officers or from the Department of the Environment legal department. I hope that in his own interests he will check the advice before the Bill proceeds much further. If the word "reasonable" is not included, the courts will say that there is an absolute duty upon the GLC. That will encourage the GLC and the metropolitan county councils to do their best to frustrate what they may well regard as unreasonable requests.

There will not be that frustration if the Minister accepts the amendments because the word would be open to challenge by the Minister and his Department in the courts on the ground that the GLC was not carrying out its duties under the Act.

There is nothing in clause 7 about the time within which the information is to be provided. Is the Minister contemplating that the Department of the Environment will be taking local authorities to court, because there is no time limit?

Amendment negatived.

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

The Committee proceeded to a Division—

Mr. Simon Hughes

On a point of order, Mr. Armstrong.

The First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Mr. Ernest Armstrong)

Order. I have put the Question. The hon. Member knows how to put his point of order.

Mr. Simon Hughes (seated and covered)

On a point of order, Mr. Armstrong. I understood, and had confirmed, that there was to be a debate on the clause standing part of the Bill. I understand that other hon. Members wished to speak to the clause on points that were not covered when we discussed the amendments.

I have specific and separate notes for a clause stand part debate. I ask that you rule, Mr. Armstrong, that we will have an opportunity to debate the clause before it is voted upon.

The First Deputy Chairman

We have had a long and comprehensive debate on clause 7, and, in view of that, I put the Question. I looked carefully, and the hon. Member as not standing when I put the Question.

Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Teed) (seated and covered)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Armstrong. I understood, and had good reason to do so, that if hon. Members wanted the Chair would permit a debate on clause stand part. I was standing at the Bar of the House when you rose to put the Question. I took care to look and I saw that my hon. Friend the Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) was on his feet when you put the Question. Will you put the Question again, or defer putting it, because I do not think that your gaze took in my hon. Friend who, I assure you, was standing when you put the Question?

12 midnight

The First Deputy Chairman

I did look round and I did not see the hon. Gentleman standing. We have had a long and comprehensive debate, but I want to be fair to the Committee and to all hon. Members. I am prepared to call Mr. Simon Hughes. In view of the long discussion we have had, he must not raise any matters that have already been discussed.

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Mr. Simon Hughes

I am grateful, Mr. Armstrong, and in future I shall try to be quicker in standing up.

I shall give our principal reasons for objecting to the clause standing part of the Bill. First, when the Committee last met, it agreed that clause 6 should stand part of the Bill despite objections from this side. Under that clause the Secretary of State and authorities have a duty to supply information to the staff commission. Before we come to clause 7, which will enable further information to be supplied, there is a whole series of provisions under clause 6 which says: it shall be the duty of the commission and of a relevant authority to comply with any direction given to it under this subsection. The direction may relate to the furnishing of any information requested. Already there is a provision which will allow information to be passed over.

Secondly, earlier this evening hon. Members, including myself, specifically asked the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State what information the Department needed that was not supplied by all the other mechanisms that already exist. We have not had an answer. Unless we have an answer, we cannot be persuaded that that information is needed and is not available. It contradicts the Government's own assertion that the proposed legislation is in the interests of economy in running local government when they are providing for the accumulation of more information, which must mean more expense, time and effort.

There are also matters which have not been the subject of specific debate by the Committee which were tabled as amendments and which relate very much to the clause. When one is talking about providing information the principle by which this and every Government act should surely be that the information that is to be transferred and obtained, either by the Secretary of State, as we talked about in regard to subsection (2), or by the GLC or metropolitan councils or the officers of any of them, should be made available to the public, because it is information that the Secretary of State and his friends have been pretending that they have to substantiate their arguments for the whole of the legislation.

The First Deputy Chairman

Order. The hon. Gentleman is straying into discussing amendments that were not selected. He must debate the clause as it stands.

Mr. Hughes

The clause as it stands provides for the transfer of information from one authority to another without the information being seen by the most important people, the public.

Lastly and perhaps most important, in past legislation —I should be grateful to know the Minister's reason for not following the precedent of past legislation since the Government claim, often falsely, in the debates on the Bill that precedent is on their side — there have been attempts to limit the use to be made of the information that is supplied. If the clause stands part of the Bill, information will be provided for constituent councils to use and constituent councils will provide information for the GLC.

The best example of relevant previous legislation is the Local Government Finance Act 1982. The Act makes it clear that once information is obtained by an authority it can be used only for the purpose that is laid down in the Act. We want to know why the Government have not made similar provision in the Bill. Section 30 states: No information relating to a particular body or other person and obtained by the Commission"— that is the Audit Commission— or an auditor, or by a person acting on behalf of the Commission or an auditor"— the circumstances are parallel because this is information about local government that is obtained by an authority— pursuant to any provision of this Part of this Act or in the course of any audit or study thereunder shall be disclosed except—(a) with the consent of the body or person to whom the information relates; or (b) for the purposes of any functions of the Commission or an auditor…or (c) for the purposes of any criminal proceedings. There was sanction in the Act that anyone who disclosed information in contravention of the subsection was liable either on summary conviction or indictment to be dealt with. There is nothing in the Bill that will control the misuse of any information that is acquired. It is appalling, even if it is nearly in the middle of the night, that we should be asked by the Government, or any Government, to give to the present Secretary of State, or any Secretary of State, the power to obtain information and the power to use it for no matter what purpose without any sanction being written into the Bill.

The Secretary of State is proposing widely drawn and badly drafted legislation and it is not sufficient to justify the powers that he is seeking for himself. Every minute that passes in debating the Bill reveals the gross trespass upon constitutional principles that only a year ago he was foremost in proclaiming.

Mr. Waldegrave

All those who have sat through the debate — apart from myself I think that only the hon. Members for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) and for Houghton and Washington (Mr. Boyes) have done so—will have heard the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) make the same speech twice. It did not seem much good on the first occasion and it seemed no better on the second. At the risk of offending my silent hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg) and my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind), the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, who is standing at the Bar, and of getting into trouble generally with the legal profession, I am of the opinion that the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey has in all his speeches this evening indulged in the sort of nitpicking that does the legal profession no good.

It is obvious what sort of information will be needed. The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey recited a list of items relating to grant giving and to Central Statistical Office requirements and asked, "If the Government have all this information, why do they need any more?" I accept that the Government have a great deal of information and that much of the information is available to them, but there will be more needed.

I shall give an example that comes directly from my head. There are hundreds of other similar examples to be found. Let us say that information is available that shows that there is a certain number of employees within an authority's planning department but the borough that will have to organise that planning does not know the grades of the employees or their skills. The bare statistic that there are 25 employees in the office will not be sufficient and the borough will want a little more information, which might not be provided within the present format. It does not need very much imagination to think of the sort of requirements that would arise.

The need for the clause has been made clear to us by some of the sabre rattling from Back Benchers and by charges of obstruction. The need for the clause has been re-emphasised to us and the Government are equipping themselves with the minimum sensible powers that are necessary in the formulation and advancement of their policy. I have no doubt that the Committee will agree that the clause should stand part of the Bill, as it should do.

Mr. John Fraser

The Minister has said that subsections (2) and (3) are limited by subsection (1). He says that that is a reasonable restraint on the requirement for information by the Secretary of State, a London borough or a metropolitan district. I do not think that he is right about that. I do not know how far he is misleading himself or the Committee. The reason for not accepting any amendment is to deny the Committee a Report stage and proper discussion of these matters. If what the Minister said were correct, subsections (2) and (3) of the clause could not operate until the proposals for the abolition of the GLC and of the metropolitan counties had been approved by Parliament. Clause 7 provides: (1) This section has effect for the purpose of facilitating the formulation and, in the event of their being approved by Parliament, the implementation of proposals. The least modification that the Government ought to include is that subsections (2) and (3) are governed by subsection (1). That is not the case. In so far as the Committee has been advised that that is the case, it has been wrongly advised, and we now propose to divide against it.

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

The Committee divided: Ayes 296, Noes, 154.

Division No. 315] [12.10 am
Adley, Robert Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n)
Aitken, Jonathan Boyson, Dr Rhodes
Alexander, Richard Brandon-Bravo, Martin
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Bright, Graham
Amess, David Brinton, Tim
Ancram, Michael Brittan, Rt Hon Leon
Arnold, Tom Brooke, Hon Peter
Atkins, Robert (South Ribble) Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes)
Atkinson, David (B'm'th E) Browne, John
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Vall'y) Bruinvels, Peter
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Bryan, Sir Paul
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Buck, Sir Antony
Batiste, Spencer Bulmer, Esmond
Bellingham, Henry Butterfill, John
Bendall, Vivian Carlisle, John (N Luton)
Berry, Sir Anthony Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Best, Keith Cash, William
Biffen, Rt Hon John Chapman, Sydney
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Chope, Christopher
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Churchill, W. S.
Body, Richard Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th S'n)
Bottomley, Peter Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe) Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)
Cockeram, Eric Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldford)
Coombs, Simon Howell, Ralph (N Norfolk)
Cope, John Hubbard-Miles, Peter
Couchman, James Hunt, David (Wirral)
Cranborne, Viscount Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)
Crouch, David Hunter, Andrew
Currie, Mrs Edwina Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Dorrell, Stephen Irving, Charles
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J. Jackson, Robert
Dover, Den Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick
du Cann, Rt Hon Edward Jessel, Toby
Dunn, Robert Johnson-Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke) Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Eggar, Tim Jones, Robert (W Herts)
Emery, Sir Peter Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Evennett, David Key, Robert
Eyre, Sir Reginald King, Roger (B'ham N'field)
Fairbairn, Nicholas King, Rt Hon Tom
Fallon, Michael Knight, Gregory (Derby N)
Farr, John Knight, Mrs Jill (Edgbaston)
Favell, Anthony Knowles, Michael
Fenner, Mrs Peggy Lang, Ian
Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey Latham, Michael
Fletcher, Alexander Lawler, Geoffrey
Fookes, Miss Janet Lawrence, Ivan
Forman, Nigel Lee, John (Pendle)
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)
Forth, Eric Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Franks, Cecil Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd)
Fraser, Peter (Angus East) Lightbown, David
Freeman, Roger Lilley, Peter
Gale, Roger Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham)
Galley, Roy Lord, Michael
Gardiner, George (Reigate) Lyell, Nicholas
Garel-Jones, Tristan McCrea, Rev William
Glyn, Dr Alan McCurley, Mrs Anna
Goodhart, Sir Philip MacGregor, John
Goodlad, Alastair MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)
Gorst, John MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)
Gow, Ian Maclean, David John
Gower, Sir Raymond Madel, David
Greenway, Harry Maginnis, Ken
Gregory, Conal Major, John
Griffiths, E. (B'y St Edm'ds) Malins, Humfrey
Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N) Malone, Gerald
Grist, Ian Maples, John
Ground, Patrick Marland, Paul
Grylls, Michael Marlow, Antony
Gummer, John Selwyn Marshall, Michael (Arundel)
Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom) Mates, Michael
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Maude, Hon Francis
Hanley, Jeremy Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Hannam,John Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Hargreaves, Kenneth Mayhew, Sir Patrick
Harris, David Mellor, David
Harvey, Robert Miller, Hal (B'grove)
Haselhurst, Alan Mills, Iain (Meriden)
Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon)
Hawkins, C. (High Peak) Mitchell, David (NW Hants)
Hawkins, Sir Paul (SW N'folk) Moate, Roger
Hawksley, Warren Moore, John
Hayes, J. Morris, M. (N'hampton, S)
Hayhoe, Barney Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)
Hayward, Robert Moynihan, Hon C.
Heathcoat-Amory, David Murphy, Christopher
Heddle, John Neale, Gerrard
Henderson, Barry Needham, Richard
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael Nelson, Anthony
Hickmet, Richard Neubert, Michael
Hill, James Nicholls, Patrick
Hind, Kenneth Normanton, Tom
Hirst, Michael Norris, Steven
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Oppenheim, Philip
Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling) Osborn, Sir John
Holt, Richard Ottaway, Richard
Hooson, Tom Page, John (Harrow W)
Hordern, Peter Page, Richard (Herts SW)
Howard, Michael Parris, Matthew
Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A) Patten, Christopher (Bath)
Patten, John (Oxford) Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)
Pattie, Geoffrey Stewart, Ian (N Hertf'dshire)
Pawsey, James Stokes, John
Pollock, Alexander Stradling Thomas, J.
Porter, Barry Sumberg, David
Powell, William (Corby) Taylor, John (Solihull)
Powley, John Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Proctor, K. Harvey Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Raffan, Keith Temple-Morris, Peter
Raison, Rt Hon Timothy Terlezki, Stefan
Rees, Rt Hon Peter (Dover) Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
Renton, Tim Thompson, Donald (Calder V)
Rhodes James, Robert Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)
Ridsdale, Sir Julian Thornton, Malcolm
Rifkind, Malcolm Thurnham, Peter
Roberts, Wyn (Conwy) Townend, John (Bridlington)
Robinson, P. (Belfast E) Tracey, Richard
Roe, Mrs Marion Trippier, David
Rossi, Sir Hugh Twinn, Dr Ian
Rost, Peter van Straubenzee, Sir W.
Rowe, Andrew Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Rumbold, Mrs Angela Viggers, Peter
Ryder, Richard Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Sackville, Hon Thomas Waldegrave, Hon William
Sainsbury, Hon Timothy Walden, George
Sayeed, Jonathan Wall, Sir Patrick
Shaw, Giles (Pudsey) Waller, Gary
Shelton, William (Streatham) Ward, John
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge) Warren, Kenneth
Shersby, Michael Watson, John
Silvester, Fred Watts, John
Sims, Roger Wells, Bowen (Hertford)
Skeet, T. H. H. Wheeler, John
Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick) Whitfield, John
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield) Whitney, Raymond
Soames, Hon Nicholas Wiggin, Jerry
Speller, Tony Wilkinson, John
Spencer, Derek Wolfson, Mark
Spicer, Michael (S Worcs) Wood, Timothy
Squire, Robin Woodcock, Michael
Stanbrook, Ivor Yeo, Tim
Stanley, John Young, Sir George (Acton)
Stern, Michael
Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton) Tellers for the Ayes:
Stevens, Martin (Fulham) Mr. Carol Mather and
Stewart, Allan (Eastwood) Mr. Robert Boscawen.
Adams, Allen (Paisley N) Corbett, Robin
Alton, David Corbyn, Jeremy
Anderson, Donald Cox, Thomas (Tooting)
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Craigen, J. M.
Atkinson, N. (Tottenham) Cunningham, Dr John
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Dalyell, Tam
Barnett, Guy Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly)
Barron, Kevin Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l)
Beith, A. J. Deakins, Eric
Bell, Stuart Dixon, Donald
Benn, Tony Dobson, Frank
Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh) Dormand, Jack
Bermingham, Gerald Dubs, Alfred
Boyes, Roland Duffy, A. E. P.
Bray, Dr Jeremy Eadie, Alex
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Eastham, Ken
Bruce, Malcolm Evans, John (St. Helens N)
Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M) Ewing, Harry
Campbell, Ian Fatchett, Derek
Campbell-Savours, Dale Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Canavan, Dennis Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn)
Carter-Jones, Lewis Fisher, Mark
Cartwright, John Flannery, Martin
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Forrester, John
Clarke, Thomas Foster, Derek
Clay, Robert Fraser, J. (Norwood)
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.) Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald
Cohen, Harry Freud, Clement
Coleman, Donald Garrett, W. E.
Concannon, Rt Hon J. D. George, Bruce
Conlan, Bernard Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Godman, Dr Norman O'Brien, William
Golding, John Park, George
Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife) Parry, Robert
Hardy, Peter Patchett, Terry
Harman, Ms Harriet Pendry, Tom
Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Pike, Peter
Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Haynes, Frank Radice, Giles
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth) Randall, Stuart
Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall) Redmond, M.
Hoyle, Douglas Richardson, Ms Jo
Hughes, Dr. Mark (Durham) Roberts, Allan (Bootle)
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Robertson, George
Hughes, Roy (Newport East) Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)
Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S) Rooker, J. W.
Hughes, Simon (Southwark) Ross, Ernest (Dundee W)
Janner, Hon Greville Rowlands, Ted
John, Brynmor Sedgemore, Brian
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside) Sheerman, Barry
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Sheldon, Rt Hon R.
Kennedy, Charles Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Kirkwood, Archibald Short, Ms Clare (Ladywood)
Leighton, Ronald Short, Mrs R.(W'hampt'n NE)
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Silkin, Rt Hon J.
Lewis, Terence (Worsley) Skinner, Dennis
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Smith, C.(Isl'ton S & F'bury)
Lofthouse, Geoffrey Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)
Loyden, Edward Smith, Rt Hon J. (M'kl'ds E)
McCartney, Hugh Snape, Peter
McDonald, Dr Oonagh Soley, Clive
McGuire, Michael Straw, Jack
McKay, Allen (Penistone) Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)
McNamara, Kevin Thompson, J. (Wansbeck)
McWilliam, John Tinn, James
Madden, Max Wainwright, R.
Marek, Dr John Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Wareing, Robert
Martin, Michael Weetch, Ken
Maxton, John White, James
Maynard, Miss Joan Williams, Rt Hon A.
Meacher, Michael Winnick, David
Meadowcroft, Michael Woodall, Alec
Michie, William Wrigglesworth, Ian
Mikardo, Ian Young, David (Bolton SE)
Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)
Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby) Tellers for the Noes:
Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe) Mr. James Hamilton and
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Mr. Lawrence Cunliffe.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Clause 7 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

  1. Clause 8
    1. cc949-1008
    2. POSTPONEMENT OF EXERCISE OF FUNCTIONS 33,405 words, 5 divisions
  2. Clause 9
    1. cc1008-40
    2. ACCOUNTS AND FINANCIAL CONSULTATION 17,063 words, 4 divisions
  3. Clause 10
    1. cc1040-1
    2. EXPENSES 750 words, 1 division
  4. Clause 11
    1. cc1041-6
    2. SHORT TITLE AND INTERPRETATION 3,006 words, 1 division
  5. New Clause 4
    1. cc1047-64
    2. REPORT ON PUBLIC EXPENDITURE 9,635 words, 1 division
    3. New Clause 9
      1. cc1064-9
      2. RATE PRECEPTS FOR 1985–86 2,999 words, 1 division
    4. New Clause 10
      1. cc1069-76
      2. STREAMLINING THE CITIES" 4,479 words, 1 division
    5. Schedule 1
      1. cc1077-146
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