HC Deb 22 May 1984 vol 60 cc949-1008
Mr. John Fraser

I beg to move amendment No. 39, in page 7, line 13, leave out subsection (1).

The First Deputy Chairman

With this it will be convenient to take the following: amendment No. 105, in page 7, line 14, leave out ', or continue to consider. ' .

No. 106, in page 7, line 15, leave out '(whether before or'

New clause 12—Development plansWhere consideration by the Secretary of State of any proposals for the alteration of the Greater London development plan or a structure plan for a metropolitan county has been postponed in pursuance of section 8(1) of this Act, such proposals shall be deemed to have been approved by him on the date of the coming into force of any order under section 1(2) of this Act repealing the said section 8(1).

Mr. Fraser

This is an extremely important matter of substance, not of procedure. Clause 8(1) relieves the Secretary of State of the duty to consider alterations to the Greater London development plan or the metropolitan county structure plan which may be submitted to him. At the moment, approved structure plans are in force for the GLC and for each of the metropolitan counties. Planning authorities are expected to keep their structure plans under review. Under section 10 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971, they submit alterations to their structure plan in the light of developments. The Secretary of State then holds an examination in public under section 9 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971. Under clause 8(1) of the Bill, the Secretary of State will no longer be required to examine such proposed alterations to structure plans. If the Bill goes through, and is followed by a further Bill along the lines of the recommendations in "Streamlining the Cities", the Government will be committing the grossest act of planning folly and irresponsibility in respect of both Greater London and the metropolitan counties.

I shall try to deal almost exclusively with the GLC area and, if he catches your eye, Mr. Armstrong, my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark) will deal with the metropolitan counties. The proposals in "Streamlining the Cities" are grossly irresponsible in abolishing any kind of comprehensive structure plan for one of the largest capital cities in the world. It is no exaggeration to suggest that that is what the Government are doing. Paragraph 2.5 of "Streamlining the Cities" states: The borough and district councils already have responsibility for certain planning functions; and it is proposed that they should on abolition take over responsibility for the structure plan function at present carried out by the GLC and the MCCs. The existing system of structure and local plans will be retained, but with differences to reflect the special circumstances of the metropolitan areas. Responsibility for both the structure and local plan function will rest with the borough and district councils. The Greater London Development Plan and the structure plans for the metropolitan counties will remain in existence for statutory purposes until such time as the borough and district councils, with the agreement of the Secretary of State for the Environment, undertake a review of the structure plans for their areas. Thereafter, the White Paper makes it clear that the structure plan for each county — I am particularly concerned with the structure plan for the GLC—will come to an end.

That is the long-term effect. However, in the short term, the effects are just as serious. The Bill will delay any alterations in the structure plan for London. With the passage of time, alterations become almost as important as the plan itself. There have been massive changes in technology—in the way in which offices operate, for instance — the use of energy and forms of transport. Immense changes have taken place since the GLC development plan was first produced in the 1960s. That plan has become very much out of date. In reality, the delay in considering alterations is only a preliminary to the abolition of any single plan for London as a whole. This is a matter of planning irresponsibility.

The Government said that the GLC proposed that there should be further alterations to the structure plan, which seems only reasonable. After all, the plan for Greater London was prepared in the 1960s. It was submitted to the Department of the Environment in 1969, after which there was the Layfield inquiry, and as a result the plan was not approved until 1976. Therefore, 20 years have passed since the structure plan for Greater London was produced. For the Government to say that it would be a costly extravagance to consider alterations to that structure plan is plain irresponsible. It is an arrogant contempt of London and Londoners to deny the GLC the opportunity to undertake a long-overdue review and alteration of its plan, and an even greater arrogance and contempt towards London eventually to propose any abolition of the planning structure for London as a whole unit. It passes comprehension that the Government should propose the measure.

London has a population of almost 8 million—bigger than that of many nation states. It is one of the biggest conurbations in the world. It is not merely an important conurbation, but the centre of the national railway network, the air transport system and the road transport system. It is a major port. It is a major river and drainage area. There are all the implications of the boundaries between one borough and another, and the inter-relationship of travel by rail and air. All those matters have implications for London as a total planning unit.

The matter is important not only to London but to the surrounding counties. If the sprawl of London might engulf southern England and be a threat to the countryside, London must have a total planning policy, including the reinforcement of the green belt. Yet the Government White Paper does not provide for a single town plan for London, nor does it provide even for a co-ordinating function in planning terms. In other words, planning for London will be regarded as less important than planning in a national park.

12.30 am

Other matters need to be planned throughout London as a whole. It has an acute shortage of housing, with one third of a million families on housing waiting lists, and housing needs to be treated as a totality. One of London's housing problems is that it is a mixture of ghettos and gardens. Some boroughs, such as Southwark and Lambeth, are, because of the pressure of cuts in housing programmes, becoming residual ghettoes, while other. parts of London such as Kingston, Richmond and Surbiton, are not interested in building houses for those in need or those in the lower income groups. There is a London of segments—a city with some of the richest areas in the world, and others, such as Hackney, that are the poorest and most deprived areas in the country.

The existing differences between one borough and another in housing, to give only one illustration, go to show how enormously important it is to have a strategy for London's housing, as one is needed for transport, preservation of the green belt and land use. All these considerations are thrown to one side by the Government White Paper, "Streamlining the Cities" and in particular by clause 8, which even prevents a long-overdue updating and revision of the Greater London structure plan.

The Government are proposing the Balkanisation of London into 32 separate structure plans. Although they will be co-ordinated by central Government and have some guidance from central Government, the Minister cannot deny that, with the proposition in "Streamlining the Cities", we could finish up with no total plan for London and with 32, or, including the City of London, 33 structure plans for the Greater London area. That is planning madness. There is nothing constructive about that, and there is no care for London. That is a destructive proposal, and there is not a shred of credible argument for what is being proposed. Every opinion points to the reverse conclusion—that we need a structure plan and a strategy for London as a whole.

Mr. Chris Smith

Will my hon. Friend consider the point that the Secretary of State made to a number of London Members of Parliament who went to see him about a future plan for the whole metropolis of London? He told us that, apart from the provision of fire services for the whole of London, he saw no need for any coherent planning or strategic thinking for the capital city. Does that not reveal a gross misunderstanding of the planning needs of our capital city?

Mr. Fraser

I agree with my hon. Friend. What is planned is, in municipal terms, equivalent to the sack of Rome in 1527.

Every other reorganisation, even in planning terms, has been preceded by a commission or an inquiry in depth. After all, the present arrangements were the result of the report of the Herbert commission, which said: It is no doubt the business of central government to hold the balance between Greater London and the rest of south-east England, as it is also the business of central government to hold the balance between south-east England and the Midlands…This task of holding the balance would not be facilitated but would be made all the more difficult if the central government were to become to all intents and purposes the planning authority, in broad terms, for Greater London. The Government are not even proposing that. They are proposing the Balkanisation of the planning of London.

The Herbert commission went on to say: We have no hesitation in finding as a fact that the presuppositions of the Greater London Plan"— the Abercrombie plan of 1944— require an early reconsideration, and that this can only be done, so far as the Review Area as a whole is concerned, by some body which has the statutory duty of examining the Review Areas as a whole and planning accordingly.

We now have a Conservative Government's reaction to those conclusions. They said: The Royal Commission were convinced that, unless some method could be found within the framework of local government to tackle the pressing problems of Greater London, the central Government would increasingly supersede local authorities. They thought that that would be disastrous for local government, and they were right. That is the answer to those who say that a system of local government that recognises Greater London as a unit only for some purposes is not local government at all. In the Government's opinion, it is the only way to enable Greater London to enjoy an adequate measure of responsible self-government.

The Government's reaction to the Herbert commission was: The need to have one plan for the whole of Greater London was the point on which there was the most complete agreement among the authorities in their comments on the Commission's report. The alternative proposals put forward by the councils envisaged a master plan prepared by a joint planning board—a set of general principles, within the framework of which the present planning authorities would prepare their own development plans. The Government do not believe that this scheme would prove effective.

Any consideration by a Royal Commission or by Government has reached the conclusion that London must have a comprehensive single structure plan dealing not with detailed matters, but with the broad strategic issues for London. Within that context, each borough should produce its local plan. There is no credible evidence that any other system will serve London well.

I wish to conclude by citing two examples from my constituency. One of them I could take from the GLC publication about "Streamlining the Cities". There are a number of pseudonyms on page 44 about the pedestrianisation scheme. It shows an aerial view of "Westmole hill"—which is in my constituency, and the London borough of Bromley.

In a corner of my constituency there is an area that needs careful planning. Crystal Palace is an area of both Greater London and national importance. It has a national sports centre. It has been a centre of national importance for well over 100 years. It was moved there from Hyde park. There are difficult planning problems in getting the area to work as a whole. On one side there is Lewisham borough council, next to it is Southwark borough council, then Bromley borough council, Croydon borough council and Lambeth borough council. Five London boroughs meet at one point in my constituency. The idea that the five separate London boroughs will each have a separate structure plan for an area of London of national importance is absolutely ludicrous. I give that one example from my constituency. It is illustrated in a different form in the GLC publication. Even given the present proposals, what is planned in "Streamlining the Cities" is anarchy.

In a residential road in my constituency there is a waste transfer station. They are not popular in any borough in any part of London. If each London borough had a structure plan for waste transfer stations—it is much the same for other anti-social activities—it would want to push such activities on to the doorstep of its neighbours, with adverse consequences for residents. Waste transfer stations are a strategic resource for London as a whole. It is only a body such as the GLC—a planning authority for the whole of the county—that can take a sensible overview about the needs of the metropolis for such an operation.

Those are two examples from my own constituency. If I wished to prolong the debate, I could give 20 more examples of the way in which the Government's proposals will create anarchy and cause a serious deterioration of the amenities of our capital city. Hon. Members will early be able to supplement my examples. I hope that after this debate on planning—my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing) will talk about planning in the metropolitan counties—the Government will see the error of their ways.

The Government are doing a gross disservice not just to the people of London but to Britain's whole reputation. London is an academic centre, an artistic centre and a shopping centre, as well as a centre of commerce. All those matters need to be co-ordinated in planning terms. For instance, London is a tourist centre. One has to consider how tourists are to be accommodated not just in Oxford street and the West End but in the whole of the capital. Again, London is a conference centre. The Government are building a conference centre over the road. That will have implications for the whole city.

It is gross irresponsibility to abolish the planning strategy for our capital city and in the meantime not to permit the GLC to bring a 20-year-old plan up to date. I hope that both sides of the House will see the sense of our proposals and will support the amendments.

Mr. Wareing

More than most of the other clauses, clause 8 makes clear the pre-emptive nature of the Bill. We should ask ourselves what the purpose of the Secretary of State can be in trying to prevent the updating of development plans.

Merseyside county council recently began consultations with its five district councils as part of its review of the Merseyside structure plan. The existing plan was approved by the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) in 1980, when he was Secretary of State for the Environment. As Secretary of State, he told a Conservative party conference that the way to tackle the problems of areas such as Merseyside was to pour more public investment into them.

In the right hon. Gentleman's letter of approval, he stressed the importance of a review after five years. His letter mentioned the vital importance of making the best use of public resources, for example, for housing renovation and urban regeneration. The review is particularly needed to ensure that housing land is made available without eating into the green belt and other environmentally valuable areas. In many of our conurbations, the preservation of the green belt is a highly desirable objective. There is much dereliction and waste of land in such areas.

We are trying to preserve our heritage. We have a rich heritage on Merseyside, and we are trying to conserve and protect it. The district councils have expressed their concern about their ability to protect such areas in the absence of an up-to-date structure plan. Ministers have pressed local authorities, as a matter of priority, to incorporate in their plans criteria for making housing land available, to ensure an adequate land supply. If the structure plan review is delayed, the Secretary of State may be compelled to permit on appeal planning applications which he would have turned down had there been an up-to-date strategic planning framework.

The degeneration into ad hoc decision making will be wasteful of Government time and of the community's resources. The building industry, for example, will be endangered if major building programmes are delayed because land allocations for development have not been updated. The number of planning applications that depart from the development plan is bound to increase because of the age of the existing structure plan. That will result in more planning appeals, which means more time being devoted by local planning authorities and the Government to inquiries and more cost to ratepayers and taxpayers.

12.45 am

One of our main criticisms is that all of clause 8 is pre-emptive and assumes that Parliament will pass the abolition Bill. We realise that Conservative Members can be regarded only as Lobby fodder—few of them have attended debates on the Bill. Moreover, there are plenty of Tory peers who creep out of the woodwork whenever the Government crack the whip, although some of them have difficulty finding their way to Westminster. I understand that some of the peers who voted for the rate-capping Bill had to ask directions to Westminster when they arrived in London. I am sure that they can be dragged out again. There are, however, some hon. Members and noble Members of another place who will no doubt show their honour by defending democracy by voting against the Bill.

It is interesting that clause 8, the most pre-emptive of all, did not gain the support of 39 Conservative Members on Second Reading. It is also interesting that the proposal, in clause 8, to suspend the local government boundary commission's activities was criticised by the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) who said: If the main bill gets through, there is no doubt in many experts' minds that there must then be a revision of the boundaries to make some of the boroughs viable under the new system."-[Official Report, 11 April 1984; Vol. 58, c. 428.] He was correct. The local government boundary commission should be doing its work now. The five district councils on Merseyside, including Tory-controlled Sefton and Wirral, are to take on responsibility for the police, fire, traffic management, arts and culture and waste disposal.

I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Norwood (Mr. Fraser) mentioned waste disposal, as we on Merseyside have just the same problems as he outlined. There is enough trouble about where there should be a waste disposal site with the cohesive force of Merseyside county council. Heaven know what will happen when the Tories in Sefton and in Wirral have to dispose of their own rubbish, as plenty comes from that party in those places.

The Bill specifically debars the boundary commission from doing the job that it should be doing. The Secretary of State has been noticeably absent from our discussions on clauses 7 and 8. I have a question for him, and I am sure that his parliamentary private secretary, the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Thornton), would love to know the answer. Just what will happen to the boundaries of Sefton and Knowsley as a result of the Bill? I suspect that the Tory majority in Sefton will be at risk. It will almost certainly inherit parts of the Knowsley district, and—

The First Deputy Chairman

Order. The hon. Gentleman will know that the issue of boundaries is covered by the next group of amendments. The amendments under debate are concerned with the structure and development plans.

Mr. Wareing

Thank you for your guidance, Mr. Armstrong. I shall endeavour to catch your eye when those amendments are debated, but I shall try not to repeat everything that I have said so far. However, it is worth pointing out in relation to the structure plan that I received a letter only yesterday from the Merseyside Churches' Ecumenical Council. It clearly supports the maintenance of Merseyside as a county council. That is important, because if strategic planning is to mean anything in Merseyside, there must be a coherent plan for the entire area. It is not something that can be left to five separate districts.

Indeed, I am sure that four of the districts do not want the problem of taking over what is rightly the job of a body that can represent the entire area of Merseyside. The Merseyside Churches' Ecumenical Council told me in that letter that at a full council meeting attended by the Bishop of Liverpool and other church leaders, and chaired by the Archbishop of Liverpool, two speakers were heard. One was in favour of the Government's proposals and the other was against them. Those involved voted on whether the council was in favour of the Government's White Paper. Two were in favour of it and 14 were against, with five abstentions. I have been asked by the council to note its concern and to use my influence to resist the White Paper's proposals.

The letter points out the churches' concern that the county structures, which have brought a unity of decision making and provision for the appropriate areas of responsibility, are to be abolished. The council then mentions the joint boards and committees. It is referring to the fact that Merseyside is an entity, or a sub-region. The river Mersey is not a barrier between the people who live on north and south Merseyside, but a spinal cord that unites the entire area. As I have said before, it is not a coincidence that Merseysiders who may never have studied local government structures or composition can come together at a football match and shout the name of Merseyside. Merseyside means something to people like me who were born and bred in that area.

As Londoners are a cohesive unit, so is this true of Merseyside. Merseysiders are proud of the fact. If there is to be proper planning of roads and of the arts—we are very proud of our cultural heritage on Merseyside—if there is to be a police force that is concerned with community policing, which is accountable to a body that is representative of the people of the area, and if the fire service is to work in the interests of the people of Merseyside, it must be done by the people of Merseyside, who understand the problems. Civil servants drafted in to the joint board and advised by people who are not primarily interested in that function cannot do the job.

How many councillors who are appointed to bodies at present attend their meetings? We are always complaining, no matter to which party we belong, that people do not attend meetings. If there is to be a statutory plan for Merseyside, it must be kept up to date. Here the Government are taking powers to say that the work on the strategy plan must finish. There is no guarantee in the clause that, whether the Bill is passed, strategic planning will be taken up by democratically elected authorities, or even by elected borough or district councils.

On Merseyside, along with our friends in London, and in the other major conurbations, we all—

Ms. Clare Short (Birmingham, Ladywood)

And in the west midlands.

Mr. Wareing

I must placate my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Ms. Short). Of course, that is true, but nowhere in this country outside London is there a togetherness as there is in Merseyside. I am glad to see the hon. Member for Crosby with us again. He is not wearing his Merseyside county council tie that he wore on Second Reading. I bet he did not pay for that; I bet the Merseyside ratepayers paid for it. He will agree with me that the people of Merseyside belong to a sub-region in the north-west of England, and that they wish for proper democratic representation in the drawing up of strategic plans.

Mr. John Cartwright (Woolwich)

I support strongly these amendments because of the impact that clause 8 might have on planning in London. The intention of clause 8 is clear: it is to abort the efforts of the Greater London council, the London boroughs and other statutory bodies to update the existing Greater London development plan. Most hon. Members who understand the problems of London must realise that the plan desperately needs updating. The hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. Fraser) was right to remind us that it is now nearly 20 years old. It was prepared in the early 1960s and submitted in 1969. It was the subject of a celebrated public inquiry—the Layfield inquiry — into the merits of the motorway network and, finally, after amendment, it was approved by the Secretary of State in 1976.

Most people will accept that there have been considerable changes even since 1976 and many of the elements of the plan go back very much further. Therefore, I believe that there would be general support for the proposition that a plan as important as the structure plan for Greater London should be kept up to date.

1 am

Life has clearly changed considerably in relation to a number of the issues dealt with in the plan. Unemployment is just one example. There was a time in the 1960s and early 1970s when parts of inner London still nurtured hopes of holding on to manufacturing industry or even of attracting it back. Many of us now feel that that is perhaps a forlorn hope and that we may have to rethink the original idea and consider the prospects for service industries. I do not say that that is a final solution, but issues of that kind need to be debated against the background of a structure plan for Greater London.

Not only central London but many outer areas rely heavily on office employment, but with the growth of new technologies there are now doubts about whether that concentration of workers in offices will be anything like so necessary in the future as it was in the past. Some planners are already suggesting that we may have to face the problem of redundant office blocks and what to do with them. A living, developing structure plan will have to tackle that problem, too.

As the hon. Member for Norwood fairly mentioned, there is also the problem of housing. Again, the problems of the 1980s and 1990s may not necessarily be the same as those of the 1960s and 1970s. There is the continuing problem of physical deterioration of the housing stock. The 1979 Greater London housing condition survey showed that a quarter of London's housing stock was unfit, lacked modern amenities or needed extensive repairs. There is also the comparatively new problem of hard-to-let housing units in the public sector. About 100,000 units in inner London are already officially described in that way. There is the growing problem of homelessness, which existed in the 1960s and is with us again very strongly in the 1980s. In housing there are new problems and accentuations of previous problems and the development plan clearly needs updating to tackle those problems.

A factor which strongly affected the Greater London development plan was retailing, a sector in which there have been massive changes since the plan was approved. The comparative decline in popularity of traditional town centre shopping and the continuing decline of the small corner shop have been accompanied by a massive growth in support for hypermarkets, superstores, regional shopping centres and modern mass retailing of that kind. Those changes have all kinds of planning implications for transport, housing, roads, and so on, and clearly need to be taken into account in updating the plan.

On transport, there have been all the problems of energy costs since the development plan was approved. There is also the prospect of early completion of the M25, which is expected to alter various private and commercial vehicle routes through Greater London and especially through central London. The impact of the M25 will be felt not just on transport but on the location of industry and services generally. Traffic congestion in central areas is again becoming a major problem. The problems and opportunities presented by the Thames, river transport, and so on, are all issues that the development plan should tackle as new problems and opportunities facing Londoners. There is a stronger interest in urban environmental problems in the 1980s than there was when the plan was first drafted. They attract more public attention now than they did in the 1960s and 1970s, and should be a major element of an updated plan.

There is the problem of leisure, some of which is welcome and some forced on people who must enjoy it. An up-to-date plan for Greater London should tackle the problem of how to provide leisure opportunities for Londoners. On these and many issues it is essential that we have a Greater London development plan which keeps pace with change in Greater London and changing problems and opportunities.

The GLC did a great deal of work on updating the original Greater London development plan. The draft alterations, for example, run to 128 pages of proposals, and there are about 200 revised or new policies. I do not claim to support every one, but they raise issues which Londoners should be debating when they consider London's future.

I am puzzled to know why the Government believe that all the work to produce those draft alterations should be torn up and thrown away. It is not only the work of the GLC. Many individual London boroughs contributed to it. About 350 observations were submitted to the GLC's draft alterations for consultation. Thirty-one of the 32 London boroughs made observations about the draft alterations.

The matter even extends beyond the confines of Greater London. The London and South East Regional Planning Conference offered considerable support for the broad aims of the strategy for London. That body brings together the views of the shire counties and the county district councils outside Greater London. Through the conference they have been pressing for an updated plan for London. Obviously, what happens in London affects the policies in areas surrounding London. The conference concluded: It is essential to effective regional planning that policies for London should be reviewed and brought up-to-date and Conference finds it particularly helpful, at a time when it is seeking the revision and updating of regional strategic guidance, to have before it the Council's proposals for amending the GLDP. That reaction is not from wicked Labour-controlled authorities or the dreadful GLC, but from areas outside the GLC area, which welcome what has been done to update the GLDP.

The hon. Member for Norwood reminded us that we cannot consider the proposal in isolation from the Government's suggestions "Streamlining the Cities" as a planning arrangement for Greater London. It is a great shame that, if the Government have their way, we shall for the first time since the Abercrombie county of London plan of 1943 have no overall Greater London plan and no overall strategic planning body. That will be a disaster. I am comforted that that view is also shared by solid, sober business men in London.

The London Chamber of Commerce and Industry had some tough things to say about the Government's proposals. It said that it was convinced that a single strategic plan is necessary for an area as complex as London. It continued by saying that it did not believe that an advisory planning commission with no formal power engaged in no doubt lengthy and contradictory consultations with the local authorities in London, other planning authorities in the South-East and other interested bodies is likely to produce a clear and coherent framework within which the private sector can contribute effectively to the regeneration of London.

Like others who have studied the problem, I do not see how the boroughs can be left to themselves to produce a coherent plan for the whole of London. They cannot have an overall view. They are not in business to have an overall view. Their purpose is to look after the interests of their boroughs. Boroughs cannot decide what is right for areas outside their boroughs. What seems to be right to them may not be right for Greater London.

I thought that the matter was well put by the Town and Country Planning Association in its comments on "Streamlining the Cities". It said: It is in relation to strategic planning that the metropolitan districts and the London boroughs will find it impossible to take on a strategic role which requires them to consider interests and problems beyond their own boundaries. This is not a matter of professional capability but of political reality. By their very nature the districts and boroughs will not be able to speak for a whole metropolitan area individually. In many cases they do not themselves relate to any recognisable social, geographical or economic catchment area but are mostly arbitrary slices of urban geography with boundaries that were drawn up on the basis of securing authorities of a certain size rather than socio-economic cohesion. Thus, any real co-ordination across boundaries between areas with common problems must of necessity be at a higher political level if positive decisions are to be reached.

The Government may well dismiss the TCPA members as a bunch of interested planners. The view of many of us of the proposal to leave the London boroughs to themselves to produce a patchwork quilt of structure plans which do not fit together as a cohesive whole is supported by the CBI. Its reaction was: The majority of our members are not convinced that the inter-authority co-operation needed both on the policy side and in the sharing of specialist resources can be satisfactorily achieved by the arrangements the Government propose. We do not believe that voluntary co-operation would in many cases be forthcoming and the means of encouraging such co-operation through guidance from the Secretary of State (himself advised by an appointed Planning Commission and standing conferences of district planning authorities) and the ultimate sanction of calling in structure plans will be time consuming and may cause costly delays to business. Business men reject the Government's approach.

What we shall obtain from the Government's proposals for a planning structure for London and what is proposed in clause 8 is a frozen London with an out-of-date plan. It will have a planning system that is effectively hamstrung and prevented from developing a strategic view of the, important problems that London faces.

It has been accepted for generations that London needs an overall planning approach to its problems. The Government's proposals are a recipe for disaster. I hope that even at this late stage the Committee will reject the Government's proposals by supporting the amendments.

Mr. Hardy

I shall give relatively brief support to the amendments largely because I believe that the Minister needs to offer an explanation to the Committee and local government and I should not wish to speak for so long that I watched him enter an even more intense state of exhaustion so that he could not offer that explanation.

The Minister may feel that the Government have adequately explained clause 8 where it deals with structure plans. He may be aware that local government is not satisfied by the meagre explanation and defence which has been offered. I do not believe than any was offered on Second Reading and I have not developed such a familiarity with the Committee's records that I have noticed any adequacy in the explanations given there.

An explanation is necessary, because the Secretary of State appears to be taking somewhat premature powers which are perhaps rather more draconian than other parts of this unpleasant Bill.

London Members can speak for London. I want to refer merely to the metropolitan counties. Is the Minister saying that the metropolitan counties, where they have virtually completed their structure plans, should be prevented from doing so? I hope he can offer reassurance. That is necessary for one reason above all. The Minister knows London very well, but he may not be so familiar with the metropolitan counties. My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing) demonstrated the economic and social needs that exist on Merseyside. There are similar needs in other metropolitan counties. Economically they are perhaps the most needy areas in the country. We should be very careful indeed before we inflict any disadvantage on them.

1.15 am

In south Yorkshire there has been a dedicated endeavour on the part of the staff of the county council to improve the environment. If the Minister asks any of the bodies with which his Department is in contact they will testify that, whatever disagreements there may be about the political flavour of south Yorkshire county council, it is widely recognised as setting an example to the rest of the country in its concern for the enhancement of the environment. That could be imperilled if the Government go ahead with their proposals on plans.

The Government's forward plans for public spending envisage a severe reduction in the amount of money which local government may spend. If there are to be savage economies, the new district councils will have to do a considerable amount to determine priorities and to work out which of the many things that need to be done should be done. It is essential that in their new role the authorities should have some understanding of the priorities which the structure plans of the metropolitan counties can provide.

I do not think that it is necessary for the Minister to take action so far in advance of reality. The Minister may feel that the backwoodsmen who occasionally attend another place will support the Government loyally through thick and thin, but many Members of another place may take the view that this is an unnecessary step and that the Government have not explained or defended it adequately. With the predominance of south country interests which has been demonstrated clearly by the attendance on the Government Benches during this debate, the Government have a responsibility to ensure that the hard-hit areas covered by the metropolitan counties do not suffer greater disservice.

Mr. Tom Cox (Tooting)

Hon. Members who have spoken so far have clearly shown how crucial the clause is. My hon. Friend the Member for Norwood (Mr. Fraser) referred to its importance for London. As London Members, we believe that we must have a Greater London development plan. The plan began some 20 years ago; the years and years of consultation show how vital it is to have an overall plan for the capital city of the country. Indeed, it was the first of the structure plans in England and, as has already been mentioned, it was approved by the Secretary of State as long ago as 1976.

Those who are involved in politics in London agree that it is time for the plan to be updated. We need to have it updated because of the changes that have taken place in London over the years. There have been certain key issues in London and other cities. There has been an enormous population movement in London, which was reflected clearly prior to the general election when London lost many parliamentary seats because of the decrease in its population. There has been a loss of employment in every London borough and overall there have been massive job losses. The inner London boroughs have suffered even more than the outer boroughs. There have been ever-increasing social problems. London's population is sadly becoming an aging one. We had the sad experience of disturbances in some inner London areas two or three years ago.

If we are to see any meaningful progress in dealing with the problems in London, there must be a strategic plan and a system of government that allows a central authority, in consultation with the boroughs, to devise plans and proposals that will start to give Londoners hope. There are 32 independent local authorities in London and there are similar problems in many of the boroughs, but there are real differences between the issues in London and those in the outer boroughs.

It is a credit to the GLC that in 1981 it decided that it was time for a review of the planning policies for London. Each London borough was consulted and asked for its views on the changes that were needed within its area. There was a great deal of consultation in the borough in my constituency. There were public meetings and approaches were made to various organisations to seek their comments. It became clear from the observations that by groups and individuals at public meetings that there was a need for a review and updating of the existing plan.

The Minister should be reminded that, while that process of consultation was taking place, there was consultation with officials at the Department of the Environment. It is important to set out the background to the consultation, because I think that London Members cannot be criticised for thinking that they have been cheated by the Department. In February 1983 the Department assured the GLC's officials that the necessary amending regulations to bring into force the procedural provisions that would be needed for the structural changes would be introduced as the necessary permission would be given. The general election stopped that promise being put into effect.

The GLC thought that, once the election had ended, it would be able to return to the Department for the necessary approval to be given. It was not until August 1983 that the GLC was informed that the matter had been reviewed and that Ministers had decided that to give the GLC the statutory powers to amend the Greater London development plan would be inappropriate in the circumstances of the time. I think that we are entitled to hear from the Minister some firm details as to why, despite all the promises that were given by the Department prior to the election, the GLC was told that it could not have the approval that it had sought in the most democratic way by the fullest consultation with the 32 London boroughs.

Such was the disgust felt by the GLC that it took the Department of the Environment to court. The court hearing took place last November. The case was heard before Mr. Justice Hodgson, who found in favour of the GLC and was highly critical of the actions of the Secretary of State in refusing to give the GLC approval to update its plan. Not only was Mr. Justice Hodgson highly critical of the actions of the Department of the Environment, but he awarded the GLC costs for the action that it brought. That speaks volumes for the view of the judiciary of the country on the actions of the Department of the Environment. As many of my hon. Friends have said, threaded through the Bill is the denial of the rights of the people of London to decide what kind of local government they wish to see.

The issue of land use arises under the clause, and the strategic plan for London. In south London, as, I am sure, in other boroughs, the problem of housing arises week after week. Thousands of people are on the housing list with virtually no hope of getting any help from the council. If help is to be given to people who live in Wandsworth, or in any other part of inner or outer London, there must be an overall plan for the use of land. Parliament has had debates for many years on the lack of willingness of outer London boroughs, which do not face the same housing problems that inner London boroughs face to offer assistance. If there is an overall plan, there is some hope that sympathetic outer London authorities will be prepared to offer help by way of land that may be unused in their own boroughs.

Unemployment is a consideration in many boroughs. I have listened to many hon. Members at Question Time referring to the unemployment that exists in their regions. It cannot be disputed that the figures are tragic in many areas of the country, but nowhere in the country has the overall unemployment figures that apply in London. There are over 15,000 unemployed people in the borough that I represent. The unemployment problem in London is enormous. We must give the GLC the authority that it is seeking, to create employment and to work with boroughs in the development of industries that will offer employment. The GLC has been in the forefront of trying to give hope to inner-city areas with high rates of unemployment. The existence of the Greater London development plan has made that possible.

1.30 am

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, when the GLC was consulting as part of the process of updating that plan, over 350 observations were sent in, showing the interest among London organisations in the issues involved. For example, the London and south-eastern regional planning conference welcomed the actions of the GLC.

Like other hon. Members, I have received much information on the issues that we are discussing. The British Roads Federation, an organisation not particularly sympathetic to the Labour party or the GLC, in a letter which, I gather, has been sent to many hon. Members, illustrating that body's concern about clause 8, said: We express concern at the absence of an authority with London-wide strategic planning powers, which we believe to be the fundamental element of any effective London-wide transport policy. We hope that very careful attention will be given to the constructive proposals that we have incorporated in cur responses, without which further delays will mean much-needed road improvements will not take place, they will cost more and will lead to less efficient traffic management. Hon. Members, whether they come from London or elsewhere, will agree that much needs to be done about the capital's traffic problems. That is why that federation believes that the GLC's plans are of great importance.

Cardinal Hume said: The existence of a central elected body has enabled services to be provided for a variety of groups whose needs could be neglected by individual boroughs. We cite, for example, not only the single homeless but other groups such as alcoholics and drug addicts. Sadly, many boroughs, in London and elsewhere, close their eyes to the needs of those people. But the plans that the GLC have made in co-operation with interested boroughs have brought help to many such people. That is yet another reason for the existence of the Greater London plan.

The Government's attitude to many matters is to destroy or privatise. The Department of the Environment has let down many people. Before the last election, the Department clearly showed that the GLC's proposals would be approved. I hope that many Conservative Members will show that they are really concerned about the issues affecting their constituents by going into the right Lobby and revealing that their foremost considerations are for the people of London and the London that we hope to build in the coming years.

Mr. Tony Lloyd (Stretford)

I shall be brief because the comments of my hon. Friends have mirrored the position in Greater Manchester. Greater Mancurians—I use that rather unusual term — are puzzled, because, although it is generally accepted that the overall tenor of the Bill and the legislation that is to follow reflect an act of gross political spite, almost no one understands why it is necessary to have powers in clause 8 affecting the structure plan.

It is generally agreed that the structure plan has been useful to Greater Manchester. The Secretary of State cannot argue that there could be an attempt by Greater Manchester or any of the other authorities to sabotage the structure plan during the final years of its operation, simply because he has the residual power to decide whether to accept that plan. It is important for areas such as Greater Manchester to have a cohesive plan for matters such as land use, especially housing, transportation and the green belt, which is important in highly built-up areas of conurbation. All that will be stripped away in this clause.

The Greater Manchester council structure plan came into operation in 1981, and is due to expire in 1986. Already a considerable amount of work has been done to revise that plan, yet it appears that the Secretary of State wishes to throw away all that work. That is an act not just of folly, but almost of sabotage, which will be resented by the people in the area.

At the very best, with the re-creation of the joint boards, there will be a minimal attempt at co-ordination. Basically, however, there will be a lack of co-ordination because the representatives on the joint boards will act for the districts and, by definition, will oppose each other. Conflict will automatically be built into the system.

The triumph over the years of the GMC and other bodies is that they have taken a Greater Manchester view of matters and have sorted out problems on that level. I can illustrate that point in the same way as my hon. Friend the Member for Norwood (Mr. Fraser) did in relation to Crystal Palace. My constituency and the adjoining constituencies face the problem of the dereliction of the former Manchester and Salford docks. It is only because the Greater Manchester council put its effort into planning and co-ordination that there are now proposals to use that area as, for example, a leisure centre. It is certain that if such matters were left to the districts those plans would be impossible and a grossly derelict space would be left in the middle of an area that badly needs the type of improvement about which the GMC is talking.

With regard to road planning, because of the massive cuts in capital finance from the Government to the GMC, there is already a need to revise the structure plan simply because we need a new dimension in the structure plan to avoid the problem of planning blight caused by highways that were once planned not being built. We can avoid that only by altering the structure plan.

For all those reasons, I want to add my voice to that of my hon. Friends, and to make the case that this aspect of clause 8(1) to abolish structure plans, in effect, has no useful role for conurbations, which need conurbation planning. We will not have that planning with what is proposed. It will be a tragedy, not just for London, with its special and important problems, but for all the metropolitan areas, which have their own unique problems and need to balance the richer resources on the perimeter with the poorer areas of the inner city. It will be disastrous if the Minister does not accept the logic of the amendment.

Mr. Tony Banks

Earlier this morning, we discussed hon. Members such as myself who suggested that bad laws should be disobeyed and defied. I stand by what I said. Much that the Government are doing now I would be more than ready to defy and disobey, and I would encourage others to do likewise. In the event of my doing so, I will be faced with the necessary consequences of my action, but the clause is interesting because the Secretary of State himself has been defying the law; he has been breaking the law, but because the Secretary of State is the Secretary of State, with great power, he does not have to worry about the possibility of going to gaol. All that he does is put forward a piece of legislation that changes the law to his advantage.

The law that we are discussing is the Town and Country Planning Act 1971, which the Secretary of State wilfully ignored. My hon. Friend the Member for Tooting (Mr. Cox) put his finger on it — he was taken to court himself. Therefore, we have clause 8, which is all about getting the Secretary of State off the hook that he is now on.

There has been much discussion of the Greater London development plan and the fact that it is 20 years old. It needs revising. It must be brought up to date. It reflects assumptions and expectations about, for example, population changes, the economy and employment that are based on research studies undertaken not before the 1981 census, but before the 1971 census results were available, and before the consequences of the mid-1970s oil crisis were apparent. The plan that we are operating under in London takes no account of the change in population expectations since then, of the prolonged economic recession, exacerbated by Government economic policies, and its impact on employment in London, of the changes in the cost and availability of energy, of major social changes, of the growing emphasis on community needs and community structure, of recent inner city initiatives, of the new emphasis on the need to eliminate disadvantage experienced by ethnic minorities, women, the disabled, the elderly and other groups, and, of course, of the increased concern in London with environmental and ecological matters, and of the accelerating effects of new technology on our capital city.

Therefore, from being the first area with a structure plan, London now has a plan that is least up to date, and many later structure plans for other areas have been subsequently reviewed, some more than once. Of all areas, it is probably London that now most needs an up-to-date plan because the plan is the framework that guides the boroughs in the preparation of local plans for their areas, which is what the legislation is offering for the future. About half of London has yet to be covered by local plans, and the Greater London development plan guides other public and private agencies in drawing up their own local plans. Together with borough plans, it provides the main basis for some 40,000 planning applications in London each year.

The Labour GLC decided in 1981, rightly, that we wanted to revise planning policies for London. In March 1982, the council decided in principle upon a selective alteration of the Greater London development plan.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Tooting said, a great deal of consultation took place. There was a great deal of discussion with groups in London and the boroughs on the need to alter the Greater London development plan. All along, the GLC was given to believe that this was in order and that they should go ahead and prepare a new plan and submit it to the Department of the Environment. It was on this basis that the GLC proceeded.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Tooting also said, it was clear that the Secretary of State was dragging his feet after the general election. Therefore, the GLC had to go to court to point out that the Secretary of State was clearly in breach of his statutory duty. What is the difference between the Secretary of State being in breach of his statutory duty as a resonable Minister who should discharge such duties, and a Member of Parliament who decides to defy a law? The difference is that the Secretary of State can then change the law to suit himself. Justice Hodgson was critical of what the Secretary of State had done, and the GLC got the judgment in its favour, and costs.

1.45 am

The judgment is a valid one to repeat because it referred to the supremacy of Parliament. This is something with which Conservative Members are no longer concerned. All that they have is the arrogance of the great majority, which means that they can ride roughshod over Parliament, because Parliament is more than this Chamber. Until Parliament amends or repeals the Town and Country Planning Act, it remains the will of Parliament, and therefore even great Secretaries of State are supposed to discharge their responsibilities under that Act. The Secretary of State knew what his responsibilities were, and he systematically and cynically dodged them.

We now want to bring the Greater London plan up to modern-day requirements. In London, we are looking for a Greater London development plan that will remain the statutory plan for London well into the 1990s. The updating process is well advanced and what has so far been achieved is material consideration in future planning decisions for the individual structure plans for the boroughs that the Government seemed so keen on.

I ask the Minister four questions, to which I should like the answers in the summing-up. What will be the benefits to anybody of delaying approval for an up-to-date plan for London? What is wasteful in having a statutory plan that is up to date? Why is it an extravagance—as Ministers have been claiming—to have an approved statutory plan by 1986 rather than waiting for non-statutory guidance to start to be prepared in 1986? What is the waste of resources in completing the job that the council has a duty to carry out and in which it has, until recently, received encouragement from the Department of the Environment, and why should it start again?

Even if the proposals to abolish the GLC were to be enacted, there would be a considerable advantage to the Secretary of State and all concerned with planning in London in having a last opportunity to consider, within a statutory context, a strategic plan for London as a whole. Far from being a wasteful extravagance, the completion of the remaining stages of the statutory alteration process would provide Londoners with their last opportunity to participate in a full-scale public debate on the future of their city as a whole.

The GLC draft proposals for the alteration of the Greater London development plan are already a material planning consideration to which regard is being paid in the exercise of statutory planning functions. They represent the best current thinking on strategic planning issues. Their value as such will be further enhanced when they have been revised in the light of the views and representations of the public and other interested persons. It is apparent that the Secretary of State does not believe that it is possible to complete the apparently simple process from submission to approval between July 1984 and April 1986. Frankly, that is hard to understand, especially when the Government are claiming that the dismantlement of the GLC and the six metropolitan counties, and their replacement by a plethora of bodies — including the proposal for a new unitary system development plan — can be completed in the same period.

The Secretary of State knows that the new shortened procedure for consideration of modification of the GLC development plan will not involve us in the long-drawn-out process that we had with the original GLC development plan. Most of the objections in the 270-days hearing were about road proposals. There are none in the modified plan. Within the foreshortened period of consultation, a revised GLDP can be provided.

When the Secretary of State gave evidence to the Marshall inquiry in 1979, he appeared to be of the opinion that we needed a strategic plan. In a letter that he sent to the Marshall inquiry, he said: Local planning was often frustrated because we had to operate under a regional plan for which no authority was really suitable. There was a great need for proper strategic planning that existed only on paper…. It was essential to bring strategic planning and transport under the same control…. I therefore believe that we have got progressively to return to the concept of the GLC as a strategic authority. The GLC remains responsible for London Transport and its planning should be progressively integrated with its strategic land use planning". That is what the Secretary of State said in 1979.

The Secretary of State is now trying to dismantle the GLC and to get himself off the hook that he was on when he defied the 1971 Act. He was breaking the law, so he changes the law. It follows on from the philosophy of the Government. If one gets in the way of the Government, they put in the boot. If they do not like someone, they eliminate him.

There is a perfectly good case to be made by Opposition Members for a revised GLC development plan. I want the Minister to direct himself to those questions and to tell us why that should not be done.

Dr. David Clark (South Shields)

If before the debate the Minister had any doubts about the unpopularity of the clause, not many of those doubes can now remain. It is no secret that the Opposition find in the Bill much that is unpleasant. But the clause is not only unpleasant; it is important because it can lastingly damage many of the conurbations and Greater London.

We have had a tour around the conurbations during the debate. Hon. Members all argue the same thesis—they plead with the Government to see some sense on this issue. It is not an issue of high political principle in the theological sense—it is one of practical planning that affects the standard of life of the ordinary people.

We claim that clause 8(1) should not be part of the Bill because it is an interim provisions Bill. The subsection is by no means an interim measure. If the Bill becomes law, the Secretary of State is no longer obliged to consider the structure plan reviews. They can be repealed by an order of the Secretary of State, but an appeal is not contingent upon, or automatic should the main Bill proposing abolition fall. In that sense, clause 8 is unlike any of the other clauses. It is not an interim provision.

We have heard cogent arguments from Merseyside, the west midlands, various parts of London including Newham, south Yorkshire and Manchester. The message was the same in every case. Even at this late hour—in every sense—we ask the Parliamentary Under-Secretary to listen carefully to our argument and to concede that we may have a strong case. The clause would cause unwarranted delay to the review of the strategic planning framework within the metropolitan counties and the GLC. Even is the main legislation is passed, structure plan reviews all have to wait until the district councils have sorted themselves out. The delay would be damaging and unnecessary and would add to the unemployment and the misery in the metropolitan districts and the Greater London area.

It is difficult for us to understand why the Secretary of State is fearful of letting structure plan reviews go ahead, given that he has final control over the contents of such plans and that there is therefore no possibility of reckless behaviour on the part of the authorities. That was the Secretary of State's argument on an earlier part of the Bill.

My hon. Friends have given examples from their own regions of why it is necessary to have an ongoing review of the structure plans, which is what these amendments would provide for. I should like to draw attention to a couple of examples from Tyne and Wear, part of which I represent. I should like to explain to the Minister the difficulties that we will face if the clause is not amended, and show him why he should concede this point.

There is the Nissan argeement. Nissan has been attracted to Sunderland, a metropolitan district of Tyne and Wear. Nissan came to the area largely because the five district councils, under the aegis of the county council, were able to put together a deal involving green belt land, industrial land, communications and transport by road, rail, sea and river.

It is interesting that in discussing the structure plans for Merseyside, London and Manchester—where there is the ship canal—reference has always been made to the rivers. Rivers and ports have to be treated at a regional structural level. In many cases, ports and port facilities would be lost.

Another example is of a great success in Tyne and Wear. No hon. Member would challenge the importance of the metro transport system on Tyneside. It is a fine example of an integrated transport system. People from all over the world come to see it. When Tyne and Wear put forward our structure plan in 1979–80 we suggested an extension to the metro scheme. At that time the Secretary of State rejected the idea. A great deal of work has been undertaken by Tyne and Wear in drawing up a revision of the structure plan to extend the metro to Newcastle airport, to Tyne dock in my constituency—where much of the work connected with the export of Nissan cars will presumably take place—and down to Sunderland, the only district in Tyne and Wear that does not benefit from the metro. That would greatly help Nissan.

If clause 8 is passed unamended, where will Tyne and Wear stand as regards the metro and the amendments needed to the first structure plan? They are vital to the industrial development of the area. I have given just one example and hon. Members from other conurbations have given similar ones.

The Minister should concede the point. The logic of our case is impeccable. The Minister has nothing to lose because he has the final say. For sanity and good planning, it does not make sense to put the brake on or to stop planning and then get it going again later. We are urging a continuation of planning so that we can have better planning and planning on a conurbation level. I hope that the Minister will accept this group of amendments.

2 am

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Sir George Young)

Perhaps I might deal first with the final point made by the hon. Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark), which was also made by the hon. Member for Wentworth (Mr. Hardy), about existing structure plans if alterations are suggested by the metropolitan councils. No alterations to those plans are with my Department, nor do we know whether any alterations will be submitted. Clause 8(1) does not prevent the Secretary of State from agreeing to amendments if they are advanced. The crucial point is the timing of the submission. That is what the Secretary of State will have in mind when considering whether to proceed with the alteration or to invoke clause 8(1). I shall return to that point to shed some light on why we think that we need clause 8(1) to prevent the planning departments from misusing resources.

I find this an interesting debate. I suspect that I am the only person who has read all of the transcripts of the inquiry into the Greater London development plan from 1970 onwards, because I was vice-chairman of the strategic planning committee. Although there are enormous theoretical attractions to strategic planning in London and elsewhere, there is a tremendous gap between the theory and the practice. For example, we have only to consider Westway, which is half of a road going horizontally across the north of London and the south circular road to realise that strategic transport planning in London has never been achieved. We have only to consider the docklands to see that the GLC, under the administration of both parties, has failed to take a strategic approach to the dereliction of docklands. The only answer was to set up a development corporation to get anything done.

I agree with what Professor Peter Hall said in the report of the Joint Centre for Land Development Studies on the GLC's approach to strategic planning. At paragraph 2.18 he said: It has not been an effective strategic physical planning authority because it has lacked powers of implementation, and because in consequence it has not found it possible to produce a true strategic plan independent of the boroughs. The report concludes in paragraph 2.22: The conclusion, which emerges powerfully from the history, is that essentially the GLC failed to perform effectively the strategic planning and transport functions which had been seen as its central functions by the Herbert Commission in 1960 and by the Government in 1963. There were many good intentions behind the setting up of the GLC in regard to strategic planning, but the evidence is simply that those ambitions have not been fulfilled.

Mr. Chris Smith

Does the Minister agree that if the docklands development corporation is given £50 million to achieve the ends it has been set, it is bound to be more successful than a Greater London council that is continually starved of resources?

Sir George Young

I do not agree with that argument. The GLC had grappled since 1964 with the problems of docklands. It had 16 years in which to make some progress. The early 1970s was a period of enormous expansion and there was no shortage of resources, yet nothing happened. When speaking of London, no hon. Member mentioned the London planning commission, which is referred to in paragraph 2.7 of the White Paper "Streamlining the Cities". We made it quite clear that the Government consider that it would be appropriate to establish a London planning commission to advise the Secretary of State on the strategic issues that many hon. Members have mentioned.

Mr. Cohen

Will there be a democratic element in the London planning commission? So far the Minister has not made that clear in any of the written answers that have been given.

Sir George Young

The White Paper makes it clear that the London planning commission is not an elected body.

I turn to the four amendments before the Committee, which would maintain the Secretary of State's duty to consider proposals submitted to him for the alteration of the Greater London development plan or of the metropolitan county structure plans. The Government's view is that it would be a waste of time, money and effort to have to consider alterations that could not be processed before abolition took place, or which would be unlikely to be proceeded with by the transitional councils.

I shall deal with London first. There is, at present, an approved structure plan in force in Greater London and, indeed, in each of the metropolitan counties. As the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) mentioned, the GLC and the planning authorities are expected to keep their plans under review. Under section 10 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971, they may submit to the Secretary of State such alterations as they consider expedient, and then the Secretary of State may hold an examination in public, under section 9 of the 1981 Act, before taking a decision on any alterations.

In the White Paper "Streamlining the Cities". and the associated consultation paper on planning, we propose that the structure plan function should be transferred to the metropolitan districts and to the London borough councils. However, the existing metropolitan county structure plans and the GLDP would remain in force in the relevant boroughs and districts until it was replaced by a new plan prepared by those councils.

On 4 May, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced simplified proposals. The principle that all planning powers should be devolved remains, but instead of being responsible for both structure and local plans we now propose that the successor authorities should prepare a new simpler type of unitary development plan, which combines the features of both the structure plan and the local plan. We are making no changes to our proposals for regional guidance, for planning conferences or for the London planning commission.

Mr. Straw

If the London planning commission is not to be elected, what sort of individuals does the hon. Gentleman expect to be appointed to it? Will any of them have any function that is representative of individual London borough councils?

Sir George Young

We have not taken any final decisions on the composition of the London planning commission. However, we certainly hope that there will be people on that body who are experienced in London planning issues. Representatives, or people who have been put forward, may provide the input that the hon. Gentleman has suggested. As I think he knows, the commission's role will be art advisory one, and it will have no powers in relation to the borough councils.

I was explaining the position on our proposals for unitary plans. The hon. Member for Newham, North-West mentioned, in particular, the contretemps that we had with the GLC last year on the alterations to the key policy issues, such as employment and offices, to update the GLDP. My Department prepared regulations to govern the formal process of consultation, submission and examination in public of such amendments, but our manifesto commitment to abolish the GLC led us to reconsider the laying of such regulations.

We concluded that it would be illogical to give the GLC formal powers to amend a document which would ultimately be replaced by new plans to be prepared following abolition. As the hon. Gentleman said, the GLC challenged that decision in the courts and obtained a ruling that the Secretary of State was under a duty to make the regulations. In announcing his intention to comply with that ruling, my right hon. Friend made it plain that he still considered the GLC's proposals for amending the GLDP to be a wasteful extravagance in view of our intention to introduce new planning arrangements for London following abolition.

The content of the proposed alterations emphasises the point that they include such matters as policy for women and community areas which, while important, can hardly be regarded as relevant to a land use structure plan. When announcing that the regulations would be made, my right hon. Friend made it crystal clear that he would be seeking the approval of the House to the inclusion in legislation, to be introduced in this Session, of a power enabling him to defer consideration of such proposals. Subsection (1) meets that commitment.

New clause 12, to which no hon. Member spoke but which is included in this set of amendments, deals with the position of development plans should abolition not be proceeded with following the enactment of the paving Bill. The effect of the new clause is that any alterations to the GLDP or to a metropolitan country structure plan that had been submitted to the Secretary of State and consideration of which had been postponed under clause 8(1), would be automatically approved when clause 8(1) was repealed. That is wholly inappropriate. If abolition were not proceeded with, submitted alterations to the GLDP or to a metropolitan county structure plan should be dealt with as though clause 8(1) of the paving Bill had not been in force. Then, of course, the Secretary of State would need to consider alterations and follow the statutory procedures, including probably an examination in public, before deciding whether to approve the alterations, with or without modifications, or to reject them.

Subsection (1) is a necessary provision in that it helps to prevent the waste of time and money by the Secretary of State and others in considering proposed alterations to structure plans, and I therefore ask the Committee to reject the three amendments and the new clause.

Dr. David Clark

The Minister mentioned at the beginning of his speech the possible amendments to the structure plan, and I and my hon. Friend the Member for Wentworth (Mr. Hardy) believed that he would return to that point. He said that he had received no suggested amendments from the counties, which is probably the case, but I have two letters dated 6 April from Councillor Fitzsimmons, the chairman of the planning committee of Tyne and Wear council. Although this is a specific inquiry on behalf of Tyne and Wear, I know that it applies to other metropolitan counties. It states: I would, therefore, welcome your assurance"— this was written to the Secretary of State— that you will consider any amendments to the structure plan on"— In this case, metro extensions— and thereby remove the concern that this new power, if passed, will be an obstacle to making progress. That will be a matter of great concern to all the metropolitan councils in the next few weeks and months: are the Government prepared to accept amendments to the structure plan if those counties wish to submit them, and will the Government view them with sympathy?

Sir George Young

Clause 8(1) is not yet enacted, so of course we must do so. The answer to the hon. Gentleman's point is that we would consider suggested alterations on their merits. In no way does the passage of clause 8(1) preclude the Secretary of State from amending the structure plan if the merits of the case require him so to do.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 135, Noes 268.

Division No. 316] [2.13 am
Alton, David Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Anderson, Donald Kirkwood, Archibald
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)
Ashdown, Paddy Lewis, Terence (Worsley)
Atkinson, N. (Tottenham) Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Barnett, Guy Loyden, Edward
Barron, Kevin McCartney, Hugh
Beith, A. J. McDonald, Dr Oonagh
Bell, Stuart McGuire, Michael
Benn, Tony McNamara, Kevin
Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh) McWilliam, John
Bermingham, Gerald Madden, Max
Boyes, Roland Marek, Dr John
Bray, Dr Jeremy Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E) Martin, Michael
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Maxton, John
Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E) Maynard, Miss Joan
Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M) Meacher, Michael
Campbell, Ian Meadowcroft, Michael
Campbell-Savours, Dale Michie, William
Canavan, Dennis Mikardo, Ian
Carter-Jones, Lewis Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)
Cartwright, John Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) O'Brien, William
Clarke, Thomas O'Neill, Martin
Clay, Robert Park, George
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.) Parry, Robert
Cohen, Harry Patchett, Terry
Concannon, Rt Hon J. D. Pendry, Tom
Conlan, Bernard Penhaligon, David
Corbett, Robin Pike, Peter
Corbyn, Jeremy Radice, Giles
Cox, Thomas (Tooting) Randall, Stuart
Craigen, J. M. Redmond, M.
Cunliffe, Lawrence Richardson, Ms Jo
Cunningham, Dr John Roberts, Allan (Bootle)
Dalyell, Tam Robertson, George
Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly) Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l) Rooker, J. W.
Deakins, Eric Ross, Ernest (Dundee W)
Dixon, Donald Rowlands, Ted
Dobson, Frank Sedgemore, Brian
Dormand, Jack Sheerman, Barry
Dubs, Alfred Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Duffy, A. E. P. Short, Ms Clare (Ladywood)
Eastham, Ken Silkin, Rt Hon J.
Evans, John (St. Helens N) Skinner, Dennis
Fatchett, Derek Smith, C.(Isl'ton S & F'bury)
Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn) Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)
Fisher, Mark Smith, Rt Hon J. (M'kl'ds E)
Flannery, Martin Snape, Peter
Forrester, John Soley, Clive
Foster, Derek Straw, Jack
Fraser, J. (Norwood) Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)
Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald Thompson, J. (Wansbeck)
Garrett, W. E. Tinn, James
George, Bruce Warden, Gareth (Gower)
Godman, Dr Norman Wareing, Robert
Hardy, Peter Weetch, Ken
Harman, Ms Harriet White, James
Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Winnick, David
Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith Woodall, Alec
Haynes, Frank Wrigglesworth, Ian
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth) Young, David (Bolton SE)
Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall)
Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S) Tellers for the Ayes:
Hughes, Simon (Southwark) Mr. James Hamilton and
Janner, Hon Greville Mr. Allen McKay.
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Aitken, Jonathan Atkins, Robert (South Ribble)
Alexander, Richard Atkinson, David (B'm'th E)
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Vall'y)
Amess, David Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset)
Arnold, Tom Banks, Robert (Harrogate)
Batiste, Spencer Hargreaves, Kenneth
Bellingham, Henry Harris, David
Berry, Sir Anthony Harvey, Robert
Best, Keith Haselhurst, Alan
Biffen, Rt Hon John Hawkins, C. (High Peak)
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Hawksley, Warren
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Hayes, J.
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Hayhoe, Barney
Boscawen, Hon Robert Heathcoat-Amory, David
Bottomley, Peter Heddle, John
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Henderson, Barry
Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n) Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Boyson, Dr Rhodes Hickmet, Richard
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Hind, Kenneth
Bright, Graham Hirst, Michael
Brinton, Tim Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)
Brooke, Hon Peter Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling)
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes) Holt, Richard
Browne, John Hooson, Tom
Bruinvels, Peter Hordern, Peter
Bryan, Sir Paul Howard, Michael
Buck, Sir Antony Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)
Bulmer, Esmond Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)
Butterfill, John Howell, Ralph (N Norfolk)
Carlisle, John (N Luton) Hubbard-Miles, Peter
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Hunt, David (Wirral)
Cash, William Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)
Chapman, Sydney Hunter, Andrew
Chope, Christopher Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Churchill, W. S. Jackson, Robert
Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th S'n) Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Jessel, Toby
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) Johnson-Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe) Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Cockeram, Eric Jones, Robert (W Herts)
Coombs, Simon Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Cope, John Key, Robert
Couchman, James King, Roger (B'ham N'field)
Cranborne, Viscount Knight, Gregory (Derby N)
Crouch, David Knight, Mrs Jill (Edgbaston)
Currie, Mrs Edwina Knowles, Michael
Dorrell, Stephen Lang, Ian
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J. Latham, Michael
Dover, Den Lawler, Geoffrey
du Cann, Rt Hon Edward Lawrence, Ivan
Dunn, Robert Lee, John (Pendle)
Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke) Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)
Emery, Sir Peter Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd)
Evennett, David Lightbown, David
Eyre, Sir Reginald Lilley, Peter
Fairbairn, Nicholas Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham)
Fallon, Michael Lord, Michael
Farr, John Lyell, Nicholas
Favell, Anthony McCrea, Rev William
Fenner, Mrs Peggy McCurley, Mrs Anna
Fletcher, Alexander MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)
Fookes, Miss Janet MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Maclean, David John
Forth, Eric Madel, David
Franks, Cecil Major, John
Fraser, Peter (Angus East) Malins, Humfrey
Freeman, Roger Malone, Gerald
Gale, Roger Maples, John
Galley, Roy Marland, Paul
Gardiner, George (Reigate) Marlow, Antony
Garel-Jones, Tristan Marshall, Michael (Arundel)
Glyn, Dr Alan Mates, Michael
Goodhart, Sir Philip Mather, Carol
Goodlad, Alastair Maude, Hon Francis
Gorst, John Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Gow, Ian Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Greenway, Harry Mayhew, Sir Patrick
Gregory, Conal Mellor, David
Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N) Miller, Hal (B'grove)
Grist, Ian Mills, Iain (Meriden)
Ground, Patrick Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon)
Grylls, Michael Mitchell, David (NW Hants)
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Moate, Roger
Hanley, Jeremy Moore, John
Hannam, John Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)
Moynihan, Hon C. Stanbrook, Ivor
Murphy, Christopher Stanley, John
Neale, Gerrard Stern, Michael
Needham, Richard Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)
Nelson, Anthony Stevens, Martin (Fulham)
Nicholls, Patrick Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Norris, Steven Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)
Oppenheim, Philip Stewart, Ian (N Hertf'dshire)
Osborn, Sir John Stokes, John
Ottaway, Richard Stradling Thomas, J.
Page, John (Harrow W) Sumberg, David
Page, Richard (Herts SW) Taylor, John (Solihull)
Parris, Matthew Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Pattie, Geoffrey Temple-Morris, Peter
Pawsey, James Terlezki, Stefan
Pollock, Alexander Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
Porter, Barry Thompson, Donald (Calder V)
Powell, William (Corby) Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)
Powley, John Thornton, Malcolm
Proctor, K. Harvey Thurnham, Peter
Raffan, Keith Tracey, Richard
Raison, Rt Hon Timothy Trippier, David
Rees, Rt Hon Peter (Dover) Twinn, Dr Ian
Renton, Tim van Straubenzee, Sir W.
Rhodes James, Robert Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Ridsdale, Sir Julian Viggers, Peter
Roberts, Wyn (Conwy) Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Robinson, P. (Belfast E) Waldegrave, Hon William
Roe, Mrs Marion Walden, George
Rossi, Sir Hugh Wall, Sir Patrick
Rost, Peter Waller, Gary
Rowe, Andrew Ward, John
Rumbold, Mrs Angela Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Ryder, Richard Warren, Kenneth
Sackville, Hon Thomas Watson, John
Sainsbury, Hon Timothy Watts, John
Sayeed, Jonathan Wells, Bowen (Hertford)
Shaw, Giles (Pudsey) Wheeler, John
Shelton, William (Streatham) Whitfield, John
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Whitney, Raymond
Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge) Wiggin, Jerry
Shersby, Michael Wilkinson, John
Silvester, Fred Wolfson, Mark
Sims, Roger Wood, Timothy
Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick) Woodcock, Michael
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield) Yeo, Tim
Soames, Hon Nicholas Young, Sir George (Acton)
Speller, Tony
Spencer, Derek Tellers for the Noes:
Spicer, Michael (S Worcs) Mr. Archie Hamilton and
Squire, Robin Mr. Michael Neubert.

Question accordingly negatived.

Mr. Straw

I beg to move amendment No. 40, in clause 8, page 7, line 18, leave out subsection (2).

The Second Deputy Chairman (Mr. Paul Dean)

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

No. 107, in clause' 8, page 7, line 20, leave out', or continue to carry out. '.

Amendment No. 111, in clause 8, page 7, leave out lines 26 to 28, and insert 'Provided that this subsection shall not have effect in relation to any initial review of electoral arrangements which the Commission have already commenced pursuant to section 50 of and Schedule 9 to the principal Act'.

Mr. Straw

By clause 8(2) the local government Boundary Commission for England is required not to

  1. (a) carry out, or continue to carry out, any review of the electoral arrangements for Greater London or a metropolitan county; or
  2. (b) formulate proposals with respect to those arrangements or submit a report or any proposals with respect to those arrangements to the Secretary of State".
Amendment No. 40 proposes that clause 8(2) should be deleted. Amendment No. 107 deletes the words "continue to carry out" in line 20 of the clause and amendment No. 111 provides for reviews which have already begun to continue notwithstanding the other provisions of the subsection.

It will be well known to hon. Members that by part IV of the Local Government Act 1972, the local government Boundary Commission is required to conduct reviews of the area, status and electoral arrangements for each local authority. Clause 8(2) proposes that the Boundary Commission should no longer review the electoral arrangements within the metropolitan counties or the GLC.

At first blush it may seem to be sensible and consistent that where the Government are proposing to abolish the metropolitan county councils and the GLC they should also propose to suspend the reviews of the electoral arrangements for those authorities. On further consideration, I hope that my hon. Friends and Conservative Members will agree that it is not so sensible and that some important questions are raised about the operation of the local government Boundary Commission in the interim period.

This clause, like many others, raises an important issue of principle—whether action should be taken by the Bill which pre-supposes that the substantive abolition Bill will be passed during the next Session of Parliament.

The Secretary of State keeps telling the Committee that he is in no sense attempting to pre-empt the will of Parliament, and that this is an interim provisions Bill which will be triggered only when and if the main abolition Bill receives the approval of Parliament. Clause 8(2) clearly pre-supposes that the abolition Bill will go through, and triggers off the arrangements now rather than when it goes through, if it does.

Reviews of county electoral arrangements are taking place, and it would be sensible to continue them. It is possible that the Secretary of State will fail in his attempt to have the Bill passed by both Houses of Parliament because he is not assured of the same supine majority in the other place as he is here. He is not assured that his hon. and noble Friends will stay out of the Chamber so that they will not be affected by arguments that are put forward but will simply go into the Lobby to vote in favour of this outrageous Bill.

2.30 am

The other place may well turn out this Bill. More probably, when it sees the colour, nature and full horror of the substantive Bill, it may reject it. If this Bill or the substantive Bill is thrown out by either Chamber, county elections will have to take place immediately in 1985. They would not be affected by the current review, but further elections and by-elections would be affected by any review of electoral boundaries.

The second and more important reason why this clause is both undesirable and unnecessary is its impact on the other work of the local government boundary commission. I know that it is early in the morning, but I should be grateful if the Parliamentary Under-Secretary would be kind enough to apply himself to what I am saying because I hope that he will deal with it in his reply. As I read part IV of the Local Government Act 1972 the Boundary Commission is required to conduct reviews in three categories which are inter-related—reviews in the area of each authority, reviews related to the status of each authority and reviews related to the electoral arrangements for each authority. Electoral arrangements are defined fairly narrowly to mean the size of the council and the number and size of the electoral divisions.

If the Bill goes through it is obvious that existing London boroughs and metropolitan districts will have to undertake much more substantial functions than they have at present. The metropolitan districts were devised only some 11 or so years ago and population shifts in those districts may not have been so great as to require a major review of the overall boundaries, although some of the population shifts in the metropolitan areas over the past 10 years have been substantial.

Within London population shifts have been significant. I make no prejudgment, but I think that it would be agreed on all sides that some London boroughs are of such a size that at least a question is raised as to whether they can continue at their present size for the next 10 or 20 years and whether there may not come a time when their area and size will need to be reviewed by the local government Boundary Commission.

I hope the Parliamentary Under-Secretary will be able to make it clear that that work of the Boundary Commission, which should be continuing, will not be undermined or halted by the narrow restriction put upon it to prevent it reviewing electoral arrangements. When the Under-Secretary replies I hope he can make it clear that the Government accept that not only the passage of time since the London Government Act 1963 but the additional responsibilities placed on the shoulders of the London boroughs as well as on metropolitan districts mean that the overall boundaries will have to be reviewed.

Sir George Young

Perhaps it will help if I intervene now. The only arrangements that we seek to suspend are those which involve the authorities that are about to be abolished, which are the GLC and the metropolitan county councils. There are no implications for the boroughs or the districts beneath them in the proposals that are before the Committee.

Mr. Beith

Then why is the clause drafted as it is with references to electoral arrangements for Greater London"? There are references to Greater London but not to arrangements for the Greater London council.

Mr. Straw

As always, I defer to the hon. Gentleman's superior legal judgment. As the subsection is drafted, it is not confined to the GLC and the county arrangements, for it refers to the electoral arrangements for Greater London". If words are supposed to mean what they say, it is my judgment that the boroughs are included as well.

Mr. Gerald Bermingham (St. Helens, South)

Does my hon. Friend agree that when the parliamentary boundaries were being reviewed and the challenge to the boundary commission was taking place it was argued by the commission that the London boroughs' boundaries could not be crossed in electoral terms in creating parliamentary constituencies and that the size of the boroughs themselves was due to be reviewed by the local government rolling boundary commission?

Mr. Straw

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I recall that the rules for devising boundaries stated that the constituencies were not allowed to cross borough boundaries. That means that there are wide disparities in the size of constituencies within London. For example, in Hammersmith there are two very small constituencies and in other areas there are much larger ones. That is a supplementary reason why the boundary reviews should continue.

Our principal consideration is the determination of a sensible area for the boroughs themselves and the need for a review of borough boundaries to take place, which should not be thwarted by the provisions in the Bill. Apparently that could happen as a result of provisions which are loosely worded and open to misinterpretation. I am sure that the Committee would be delighted to accept manuscript amendments, subject to your approval, Mr. Dean, if it is the intention to restrict subsection (2)(a) to electoral arrangements for the GLC.

I think that I have set out the anxieties and worries which lie behind the amendments. I look forward to the Minister's reply.

Mr. Beith

The purpose of amendment No. 40 is to remove clause 8(2), which gives rise to many great issues of principle, some of which I shall deal with in my remarks. First, I must start by trying to establish exactly what the provision means. I came to the same view as the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw). It seemed clear to me that it would extend beyond the GLC and the metropolitan county councils. Subsection (2)(a) removes the obligation to carry out, or continue to carry out, any review of the electoral arrangements for Greater London or a metropolitan county". Greater London is not an authority which has specific electoral arrangements. It is an area within which there is a Greater London council and several London borough councils. A metropolitan county is not an authority; it is an area within which there is a metropolitan county council and metropolitan district boroughs, and even within those there are some parish or local councils. The use of the generic term "metropolitan county" or the general term "Greater London" can clearly be taken to embrace the authorities within it just as, if we were discussing electoral arrangements for Scotland, they would be electoral arrangements not for some all Scottish body, but for those areas which were within Scotland. If the Minister is in some difficulty here, we would be happy for the Committee to adjourn for half an hour while the Government looked into the matter more closely and clarified it. There is no doubt in my mind, from the wording as it stands, that it is specific not to a type of authority, but to areas within which there is more than one type of authority. That is not a minor technicality.

If my interpretation is correct, the Bill will prevent the boundary commission from carrying out its duties in respect of bodies that the Government have no intention of abolishing—indeed, bodies whose functions, as the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) says, the Government wish to enhance, and whose continued existence is in no doubt. It cannot be right for the normal operations of the boundary commission in relation to all London boroughs, all metropolitan districts and the parish and local councils in metropolitan areas to be suspended, and for the Minister to be relieved of his obligation to lay orders relating to electoral boundary changes in those areas.

This adds a further dimension of importance to the other criticisms that I wish to make of the clause. It also brings it down to a severely practical level. On many of the other points about which I shall argue, the Minister will think, although he will probably not say, "It does not matter what the hon. Gentleman is saying, because we all know that we are going to abolish these bodies. The Bill will be brought forward in due course, it will pass, and therefore it is an academic argument." We do not see it in that way. We intend to oppose the Bill. For the London boroughs the metropolitan boroughs, the parish councils and the local councils, it is far from being an academic question. It is a question that will extend far beyond the abolition Bill, and it will clearly cause a great deal of anxiety and puzzlement in these areas.

At some stage in the proceedings, I hope that the Minister will give us a revised definitive view. I say "definitive", but I do not think that I am likely to accept his word on it. He has no doubt been advised that the clause is intended to relate solely to the authorities that the Government intend to abolish. Indeed, his early intervention suggested that. There can be no explanation for any other objective. It is not for the Minister to interpret the law, however, that is for the courts. If the courts have this placed before them, they will be confronted with words which to any reasonable man convey what I have suggested—that is, whole areas with different tiers of authority in them, and not those specific authorities that the Government intend to abolish. Perhaps we can return to that aspect later after I have dealt with the general principles. At this stage of the consideration, I do not think there can be any alternative to an amendment—perhaps a manuscript amendment—to make the meaning clear.

We all know the position in which the Government have put themselves. They are determined that the Bill will not be amended in Committee in any respect. They intend that there will be no Report stage of the Bill, and are so organising the proceedings. Have any government come before the Committee with a Bill in which they have such total confidence in the parliamentary draftsman that they can advise, through the usual channels, that they intend to take Third Reading on the only remaining day that they have set down for the Bill because there simply will not be any amendments, and no necessity will be discovered to amend the Bill?

I believe that we have now hit upon one of those necessities, and it will emerge in debate whether I am right. I think that we have come across one of the cases where the Bill ought to be amended in Committee. If the Government resist removing this subsection, not on the merits of the issue, but because they are anxious to protect themselves from having a Report stage, reporting the Bill to the House and having further amendments considered, we are in an impossible position. It does not end there. The Government cannot even give the assurance that they will amend the Bill on Report. They intend that there shall be no Report stage. They can only make vague references to what will happen in another place. But what will happen there with this Bill is more doubtful and puzzling than with any other measure in the Government's legislative programme.

2.45 am

Important issues of principle are raised by this part of the clause. It suspends the writ of the boundary commissioners in relation to authorities in Greater London and the metropolitan counties. That is an extremely dangerous action for the Government to take. Governments should stand well back from messing about with the boundary commission process. After all, it is an aspect of our democratic electoral system that must be protected as much as possible from Government interference. Why else do we have boundary commissioners with their supposedly independent status, and preserve the apparatus of a separate process for arriving at decisions about boundaries? We do that because it is considered that Governments should not be involved in that process. Any Government who suspend the right of the boundary commissioners to investigate electoral boundaries are setting a highly dangerous precedent and are treading ground which previous Administrations have trodden at considerable peril and under considerable criticism.

Mr. Bermingham

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that one of the functions of the local government boundary commission, which is a rolling commission—that is, it continues without needing to be set in motion each time—is to review the boundaries of shire and metropolitan counties so as to remove anomalies? Under the clause as drafted, that function is also suspended; the metropolitan county areas become locked as they are at present so that the review, which in due course will develop into a parliamentary review, will itself be impeded.

Mr. Beith

The hon. Gentleman is right and, as his closing words reveal, it has a double significance. It freezes boundaries which in some cases should reasonably be the subject of re-examination, and it has a knock-on effect on the parliamentary boundary commission because the boundaries so frozen are the building blocks from which parliamentary constituencies are made up. The whole process of the parliamentary boundary commissioners is thereby brought in. That is all the more reason why the Government should stand back from this process. But, far from standing back, Ministers are placing themselves right in the firing line, for the clause says: The Secretary of State need not while this section is in force make an order giving effect to any such proposals made to him by the Commission before the passing of this Act. In other words, the Secretary of State is taking unto himself the ability to tell the boundary commissioners, "I shall not put forward your proposals. Go away. I do not want to bother with them"—the very power that hon. Members of all parties, in debating our democratic system, have argued that Ministers should not have.

The Minister should cast his mind back to a Home Secretary who did not want to put the proposals of a boundary commission before Parliament. He had to do so in the end. Indeed, he had to ask his hon. Friends to vote against them. The right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Callaghan) was that Home Secretary. At least a few Conservative Members will remember those days. They probably took part in the debates in which the most ferocious indignation was expressed at the very idea that a Minister should seek to delay or interrupt in any way the bringing forward of proposals by a boundary commission.

Yet here we have Ministers seeking the ability, by statute, to have no obligation to bring forward boundary commission proposals. What has happened to the indignation that was rightly expressed on that occasion? This is placing Ministers at the very heart of the process of implementing electoral boundary change, a position from which they should be distancing themselves and from which our procedures have traditionally distanced them.

How Conservative Members, who were so critical of the Government in 1969, can now seek to give the Government powers more draconian than any that were exercised at that time, I cannot understand. After all, the then Home Secretary had an obligation, and his only recourse was to vote down the proposals that he did not want. The Secretary of State is giving himself the opportunity to slide out of that responsibility.

That extremely dangerous step is made doubly dangerous by the contingent and premature nature of the Bill. The Bill's proposals are contingent on the passing of a Bill which is not yet before the House to abolish those authorities. The operation of this clause is not dependent on the passing of that later Bill, and that is one of the worst features of the legislation. This measure comes into force without its supposed justification coming into force. The contingent nature of the process on which we are engaged, which depends on the House subsequently deciding to abolish certain local authorities, makes it even more dangerous for Governments to take these powers.

What happens if the abolition Bill is not passed? That is a clear possibility. Conservative Members may see the light and respond to the strong and powerful eloquence of some Conservative Members. The right hon. and learned Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) called this a squalid Bill and, no doubt, he will have some comments to make when the abolition Bill comes forward. Some conversion may take place among Conservative Members. I should like to be optimistic, although I know that, looking at the Conservative Benches, that is difficult. I should like to feel that there is a chance of a dramatic change of mind. The legislation must still be considered in the other place. I should like to think that there is at least a possibility that the abolition Bill will not be passed. That possibility must be in the forefront of the Committee's mind when considering the provisions of this Bill.

It is dangerous to make provisions on the basis of legislation that has not been passed. Governments have done that before. Hon. Members will remember when workmen were sent scurrying about putting together benches and seats in Edinburgh and buying buildings in Cardiff for assemblies to be set up in Scotland and Wales. Taxpayers' money was spent on setting up facilities for assemblies for which the House had not voted. I voted for the creation of those asemblies, but I did not support the idea of buying buildings to accommodate them and engaging carpenters to set out benches on which the members could sit before the House had legislated for those assemblies.

The Government of the day got their fingers burned, or, to be more precise, the taxpayers' fingers, which the Government were holding in the fire, were burned, because the Government were spending their money on something on which Parliament had not yet decided. That is a bad principle by which to operate, but that is what is happening in this case. The Government are making provision for something on which we have not yet legislated.

Let us assume that the abolition Bill falls. At best, the boundary commissioners' work will have been interrupted for a year, and they will have to turn to the task of sorting out the boundaries of the Greater London council, the metropolitan councils and, if my argument is right, of all the other councils that will be abolished. The commission will have missed out at least a year in the work on those complex provisions and will have less time to consider the problems of the county boundary changes, to which the hon. Member for St. Helens, South (Mr. Bermingham) referred.

Many wider issues are involved, such as the precise boundary of the GLC, the development of the motorway box, which has affected the views of some people on what the GLC's boundaries should be, and the question whether some London boroughs are too big, which in turn affects the size of the electoral wards. Population changes in London occur all the time, and sometimes they are quite dramatic. If the docklands schemes work as we would like, there will be incursions of population into the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes). There will still be movement from some constituencies. The boundary commission will not be able to do the necessary work on all those issues.

At worst, if the abolition Bill is not passed, the structure of local governments could be thrown into disorder. It is assumed that the Secretary of State will come shame-faced before the House of Commons to bring forward an order under clause 1(2) to repeal parts II to IV. Just suppose that so mercurial are the shifts of opinion on the Conservative Benches that the Secretary of State's hon. Friends decide not to give him the opportunity to carry that order. They might vote against it. They might be so sick of the way that they have been mucked about by the Government dragging them through the Lobby on the Bill, when the abolition Bill might be lost in another place, that they will say, "We've had enough of these orders." When the Minister brings forward a repeal order, they might vote it down. Therefore, there would be no procedure, and the matter would be entirely dependent on orders. Instead of there being a long-standing statutory basis for the organisation of local government electoral boundary reform, everything will depend on the Minister's ability to get one order through at a later date. Therefore, there are several contingencies.

Let us consider what will happen if the Bill is passed. Many questions will be raised about what the precise size of the metropolitan boroughs should be. Their functions—[Interruption.]

Mr. Corbyn

On a point of order, Mr. Dean. There seems to be a noise coming from the Government Benches.

3 am

Mr. Beith

I was referring to the situation if the abolition Bill is passed and trying to discern how clause 8(2) would operate, working on the Government's own intentions. It is likely that there will be several pressures for altering boundaries. There will be some pressures to alter the size of some of the London metropolitan boroughs. Their functions will have changed. That in itself is a hideously complex task and is interlinked with the issue of ward and electoral boundaries. If the boroughs are increased in size, the ward structure will be changed. Any change in the borough structure will depend upon the viability of the building blocks which the wards constitute. The commission will need time to consider such an issue. It may want to use the year in which the Bill may be in force to consider those issues, and assemble the information that it would use in either event—if it was dealing with abolished authorities or if the Bill were not passed.

Let us imagine that the commission's normal work had been interrupted and eventually it brought forward some ward boundary proposals. Any such proposals are prey to litigation. It has become apparent in recent years that parties not a million miles from where I am standing are prone to litigate about the report of boundary commissioners. The hon. Member for St. Helens, South has referred to that subject. I have wondered to this day whether some hon. Members on the official Opposition Benches—for example, the former leader of the Labour party, now on the Back Benches, and the right hon. Member for Bristol, South (Mr. Cocks), the Chief Whip of the official Opposition—dug deep into their own pockets to fund a large case against the previous report of the boundary commissioners. Perhaps they received financial support from elsewhere or perhaps there are ready sources of funds to take the boundary commission to court. If so, I hope that someone will write to or telephone me afterwards and let me have the details of where I can have access to them. The point that I am making is that litigation on the boundary commissions' reports is possible.

Mr. Bermingham

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the London borough of Enfield went to court, and held up the whole parliamentary boundary commission for many years, I believe, at the ratepayers' expense?

Mr. Beith

That is true. It is not unknown for local authorities to take cases involving the boundary commissioners to court, as well as private individuals, supported or otherwise by outside sources. There are many ways in which litigation can arise. Again, that puts the pressure on the boundary commissioners, in the amount of time that they need to do their job properly. Their job will be seriously set back if their work is interrupted in this way.

In summary, there are major reasons of principle why the Government should not bring forward the clause. The distancing that I thought Conservative Members believed was necessary between the Government and the boundary commission will be destroyed if the Government, first, take away the powers that the boundary commission should exercise and, second, give to themselves the power to ignore the boundary commission's recommendations. As a matter of principle, that is destroying the distance that should exist between the Government of the day—the Executive—and the boundary commission. They are creating practical problems for the local authorities. It is based on an assumption about the passing of the abolition Bill that it is not reasonable for the House to make at this stage, however confident the Government may he, arid it raises problems that will exist even if the abolition Bill is passed—problems for those authorities that the Government intend to abolish and for many local authorities that are not intended for abolition.

Here I return to the defect that I have already described—the application of clause 8(2) (a) to all the local authorities in the Greater London area and the metropolitan counties for which the boundary commission has statutory responsibilities for the electoral boundaries. This clause is a Pandora's box of legal and practical difficulties and of major issues of principle, and I do not believe that the Government have thought them through. Therefore, I hope that we can prevail on them, at this late hour, to make manuscript amendments to the clause, withdraw it, or give undertakings that they will bring it forward in a drastically changed form on a Report stage which it is becoming increasingly apparent this Bill will need.

Mr. Bermingham

I make no secret of the fact that I have had some slight interest in Boundary Commission matters over some considerable time. Although the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) made a good case, he rather spoilt it by making some unncessary, semi-political cracks. Perhaps he should look at some of the examples of what has happened in America, Australia, New Zealand and other such places, where it has been necessary on occasions to challenge the interpretation of the Boundary Commission, and where the question of the quality of the value of the vote is at stake. One would then see the worthwhile use of the court of commission, to find out what should be the case.

When I first looked at clause 8(2), the matter that struck me straight between the eyes was that the mistakes of the 1983 Boundary Commission report, which I have challenged in a professional capacity, will be carried through to the 1989 Boundary Commission report. The commission is due to report between 1989 and 1994 on the restructuring, once again, of the Parliamentary boundaries. One of the appalling things to arise in the last Boundary Commission report was the disproportionate seats arrangement in London. Of the 10 smallest constituencies in England, nine of them are in London. Hammersmith, on the 1976 electoral figures, was 31.6 per cent. below quota.

The problem in London is that every parliamentary seat has to lie within the area of the relevant local London borough. Clause 8(2) as it is drafted means that the review of London local government boundaries, which is now long overdue for a number of reasons, is stopped. The effect of this is that the mistakes of the 1983 report gave a heavily biased result in London to the Conservative party, which will now be carried forward into the 1989 review.

The seat allocation vis-a-vis the country as a whole gives London four more parliamentary seats than it is entitled to, because under calculations of entitlement, it is entitled to 79.97 seats, that is 80, and there are 84. It is interesting to note the boroughs, and the difference in the rounding up and rounding down principle. Normally, if one had 6.5 that gave 7, while 6.45 would give 6, but in London there was a different rule, and the .45 was rounded up. As a result, four boroughs received an extra seat—Barnet, Greenwich, Bexley and Bromley. I do not need to tell the Committee which party was the main recipient of such a benificence of extra seats. It was not my party, and it was not that of the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed either.

Mr. Winnick

Who does that leave?

Mr. Bermingham

I leave that to the Committee to decide.

The matter was worse than that because the way that the London boroughs are structured in size means that many of the overweight seats are in the inner city, perhaps in declining areas, while places such as Barnet and Finchley seemed to have small seats. The overall position was that there was a bias of anything up to 10 seats in favour of the Conservative party at the end of the day.

If the local government Boundary Commission is to be suspended and the mistakes in London are not rectified between now and the next review, the bias will continue, if the predictions by certain eminent psephologists about weighting in favour of the Government party are correct. It is indeed a blatant example of gerrymandering—one more example from the Bill.

Mr. Corbyn

Is my hon. Friend aware of the discrepancy between the number and size of the parliamentary constituencies within the borough of Barnet, and the number within the neighbouring borough of Haringey, which has the largest constituencies of any urban area in the country and also some of the most severe social problems? The Boundary Commission is perpetuating Tory control in the better-off parts of London and giving under-representation to the worst-off parts.

Mr. Bermingham

That is a valuable point. On the 1976 figures, used by the Boundary Commission, Barnet was entitled to 3.45 seats and given four, and Haringey was entitled to 2.43 seats and given two. That demonstrates my point. It is crucial that there should be parity of representation between boroughs.

The London boroughs were set up under the London Government Act 1963, which also set up the GLC. It was envisaged then, when many of the former London boroughs were amalgamated to form the new boroughs, that there would be a population flow with the passage of time which would in turn lead to the necessity of amalgamating various boroughs in order to provide boroughs of a viable size for the administrative purposes of local government. No hon. Member on either side of the Chamber would not agree that once a borough's population has fallen below a certain level, the situation must be reconsidered. If a borough becomes too small in real terms, its administration becomes top-heavy. A certain realignment of the borough boundaries becomes necessary in order to create a population that can sustain the services that should be provided within the borough.

That has become necessary in certain London boroughs. One that springs to mind is Kingston upon Thames, which had an electorate of 105,000 in 1976 and in parliamentary terms was entitled to 1.60 seats and was given two. That is a very small borough and the question of the area and its needs has been considered again.

It is not just on the basis of London that I suggest that this is blatant gerrymandering. The metropolitan districts are the areas within which the parliamentary constituencies were constructed. In its 1983 report, the Boundary Commission on occasion crossed metropolitan district boundaries—for example, in Tyne and Wear and, I believe, in Greater Manchester. However, because of the adjacent county areas, there will be further problems in the 1989–94 review. Those problems could have been taken care of if the local government boundary commission had been allowed to function properly.

Clause 8(2) should be struck from the Bill because it is a disgrace. I hope that the Minister will come to the Dispatch Box and say that it was not the original purpose, but an intepretation of the drafting. There comes a point in time when local government boundaries have to be reviewed, and that time is rapidly approaching on the question of size and other matters within London. Some of the fringes of the metropolitan area need tidying. We hope that they will be tidied by a local government commission during the next couple of years.

Mr. Corbyn

Will my hon. Friend cast his mind forward? He has a great deal of experience of Boundary Commissions. What will be the long-term effect on the representation of the people of London of the passage of the Bill, with the open-ended central control and the nonexistence of the Boundary Commission? What will be the long-term implications of the parliamentary representation of the people of London, especially in the poorest inner-city areas? He has already demonstrated that they are under-represented.

The Second Deputy Chairman

Order. I hope that the hon. Member for St. Helens, South (Mr. Bermingham) will not stray into the question of parliamentary boundaries. I realise that there is a link for London, but we must stick to the local government boundary commission.

Mr. Bermingham

At this late hour, I do not seek to stray. However, the layout of local government is the building block of boundaries. I suspect that the representation of those most in need will continue to decrease rather than increase because the flow of population will benefit the richer areas at the expense of the poor areas. The democracy of London will begin, once again, to suffer.

I ask the Secretary of State to look again at clause 8(2), to take it away, to have it redrafted, to clarify exactly what it means and to come back with the reassurance that the local government commission which, over the years, by and large has produced reports that were fair in overall content and dealt with the district councils, county councils and even parish councils, should begin the review of the London boroughs that is long overdue. I trust that the Government do not intend to trespass down the road of invasion of local democracy and the way in which people are represented at a local level. The path that the Government currently seek to tread is extremely dangerous. The Secretary of State is taking upon himself the power to determine who should vote, where and when he feels like it.

Mr. Winnick

Has my hon. Friend considered the existing position where, apparently, the average electorate per councillor varies from about 8,600 in Tyne and Wear to over 19,000 in the west Midlands? The Boundary Commission is aiming for an average of 15,000 to 20,000 electors. If the clause goes through as it stands, is there not a clear danger that the discrepancies will continue? That is a strong reason why the Boundary Commission should be allowed to carry on its present duties. Is my hon. Friend aware of the discrepancies to which I have referred?

3.15 am
Mr. Bermingham

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I am well aware of that type of discrepancy, which is a tragedy, that will continue if clause 8 goes through because the ironing out of such discrepancies has been proceeding under the present commission. That is yet another aspect of this matter that affects metropolitan authorities. It seems that they are once more being singled out for special treatment. It might be because they pro vide better services than the adjacent shire counties. Of course, I would not know about that.

Representation is an important matter that goes to the heart of our form of local democracy. I wonder what the local government Boundary Commission will do when it is suspended. Its review of district councils is complete and its review of many county councils is almost complete. It was about to start on the interesting areas such as London. No doubt the Minister will tell us how he intends to employ it once he has managed to suspend most of its work because it does not suit his party.

Mr. Winnick

I understand that if the main Bill were defeated or withdrawn, the elections that are due next year would be held on the present boundaries, with all of their defects. Is it not wrong that the emphasis of this paving Bill is another Bill that we have not debated and the results of which we do not know? On the assumption that we take one Bill at a time, we must work on the basis that there will be elections next year. If there are, all of the defects will continue because the Boundary Commission has not wound up its work.

Mr. Bermingham

My hon. Friend is right. It is like telling a man that he will be hanged in the morning and that we shall have his trial the following day to find out what we hanged him for. That is what the Bill is all about. We are to get rid of the GLC and the metropolitan counties and then be told why. None of us is so naive as not to know what is going on. Such councils are being abolished because they provide services that people like. In south Yorkshire, where I have lived for many years, we have a bus service of which we are enormously proud. People actually use it and sign petitions in huge numbers in support of its retention.

The Second Deputy Chairman

The hon. Gentleman is now straying from the amendment.

Mr. Bermingham

I would not dream of arguing with you, Mr. Dean. I was merely using that as an example of the exercise of the democratic right to sign a petition to protect the bus service. Opposition Members are asking the Committee to support the concept of democracy by voting for amendment No. 40. It will do away with this attack on the fundamentals of democracy—by which I mean the periodic review of areas and the right of representation. I ask the Committee to support amendment No. 40.

Mr. Corbyn

I strongly support amendment No. 40. Although it might seem curious to outsiders that we should be discussing boundary commissions at 3.20 am, if they realised just how much the Bill impinges on so many of their democratic and civic rights, they would be even more appalled than they are already.

The amendment seeks the deletion of subsection (2), which states: The Local Government Boundary Commission for England shall not at any time while this section is in force—

  1. (a) carry out, or continue to carry out, a review of the electoral arrangements for greater London".
I have the privilege to represent Islington, and through the London Labour party I have experience of many hours of discussion over boundary commissions and the way that the boundaries are drawn in London. Unless the process can be continuous, and there is a continuous review of how the boundaries operate, inequalities become fossilised and further inequalities are created. As a result of the shift in population, that works to the detriment of the poorest parts of London.

Mr. Chris Smith

When considering the borough that we both have the privilege to represent, will my hon. Friend bear in mind two particular areas of the borough of Islington? The first is the Finsbury Park area in the north, and the second is the Kings Cross area in the south. Kings Cross is covered by two, and Finsbury Park by three, neighbouring boroughs. However those areas are communities in themselves, and the existing boundaries are detrimental to the servicing of community life there.

Mr. Corbyn

My hon. Friend has pointed out a very real problem for some inner city areas. Kings Cross is part of his constituency, but it also has a boundary with the borough of Camden. Part of Finsbury Park is in my constituency of Islington, North, but it also includes part of Haringey and part of Hackney. The long-term effect of not being prepared to consider how boundary changes could improve services in the area is that areas such as Kings Cross and Finsbury Park become outposts of the borough. They are ignored by all the boroughs, because they are the furthest flung areas. Consequently, they tend to be ignored in the way that local services are administered. In the case of Finsbury Park, we have tried to overcome that by the establishment of an inter-borough committee.

Mr. Straw

I was a councillor for a ward that took in one quarter of Finsbury Park.

An Hon. Member

Now it is all coming out.

Mr. Straw

It was not my fault, but was due to the way in which the boundaries were drawn. Finsbury Park is bisected not only by ward boundaries but by borough boundaries and it was almost impossible for any representative to get action taken in that area, and it shows.

Mr. Corbyn

I thank my hon. Friend for making that point. He represented part of the Finsbury Park area. It is almost a superhuman problem to try to put pressure on British Rail to improve its station and clean up the station's facilities. It is, indeed, a superhuman problem to overcome the bureaucracies of three borough councils as well as deal with British Rail and the many other statutory authorities. Problems occur whenever an area is bisected by borough boundaries.

That is the sort of problem to which borough councils and others will want to address themselves when considering the long-term implications of not carrying out the Boundary Commission proposals. As hon. Members have said, the Bill is open-ended, and an open-ended form of control is passed to the Secretary of State. It is taken away from local authorities and from the Boundary Commission. Is it right that the unequal and often wrongly drawn boundaries in London, which involve such ridiculous problems—as witnessed in Finsbury Park, for example—should be allowed to continue merely because the Government are trying to force this legislation through to destroy elected authorities in this country?

Mr. Winnick

Does my hon. Friend agree that this is just the obnoxious feature of the Bill to which the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) referred? Will my hon. Friend bear in mind the point made by the former leader of the Tory party, who asked the pertinent question: what would be the reaction of Conservative Members if a Labour Government tried to introduce this and other measures in the Bill? Is it not interesting that this measure, which gives to the Executive much more power than it should have, has not met with the opposition that one would expect from Conservative Members, especially with all their talk about controlling the Executive?

Mr. John Page (Harrow, West)


Mr. Corbyn

I realise that everyone is queueing up to join in the debate. I am glad, because it is important. My hon. Friend's point is important, because if the Bill goes through—

Mr. Winnick

He has been silenced.

Mr. Corbyn

I hope that no one has been silenced in this debate—

Mr. Winnick

On a point of order, Mr. Dean. As far as I understand the position, the hon. Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Page) wished to intervene in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn), but a Government Whip has tried to persuade him not to intervene.

The Second Deputy Chairman

Order. I am sure that the hon. Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Page) is perfectly capable of looking after himself.

Mr. Page


Mr. Corbyn

I do not wish anyone to be gagged. This is a place of free speech—perhaps one of the last few, but nevertheless a place of free speech.

Mr. Page

I was hoping to make a great speech myself, Mr. Dean, and I thought that the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn), who has always been courteous to me in the past, was giving way to me. All that I wanted to say to my hon. Friend the Minister, in contradiction of the hon. Gentleman, was that the people of Harrow are longing for the Boundary Commission to stop mucking about with the boundaries, as is practically everyone else in London. The longer that he can keep the Boundary Commission locked up the better we shall like it.

Mr. Ian Wrigglesworth (Stockton, South)


Mr. Corbyn

I shall try to deal with one point at a time. I understand that some people might not want boundaries to be changed, but I suppose that a Tory who represents Harrow would not want boundaries to be changed, would he?

The serious aspect of this, as my hon. Friend the Member for St. Helens, South (Mr. Bermingham) said, is that parliamentary boundaries are set on the basis of local government boundaries. That is the rule on which all boundary commissions work. If the clause is passed, the Boundary Commission in London will stop working. There will be fossilisation throughout London. What will happen in a few years' time? Will the Home Secretary then creep to the Dispatch Box and do what he has condemned others for doing: say that the Government cannot go ahead with the parliamentary review because the groundwork has not been carried out?

Mr. Tony Banks

Does my hon. Friend accept that the time has come when all the boundaries of the London boroughs should be examined? The London Government Act 1963 reduced the number of boroughs, and we have now reached the stage 21 years later where boroughs should be further reduced. The number of boroughs in London should be halved in order to complement a large regional authority, which we hope will be a future GLC.

Mr. Corbyn

I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. He has a great understanding of government in London and the problems that go with it. He has studied those matters for some time, and he made a valuable point.

We are in danger of fossilising existing boroughs boundaries and we are also in danger of continuing the dreadful inequalities in the sizes of boroughs. Does this have something to do with some people's wish to control the London Boroughs Association?

Mr. David Penhaligon (Truro)

Those of us from more rural areas than Islington are somewhat puzzled by the hon. Gentleman's use of the word "outpost" in describing the difficulties experienced in urban areas. As we have as much right to vote on this as anyone else, perhaps he will explain the problems further so that those of us from rural areas who wish the opposition to the Bill well can follow in more detail the difficulties arising in three districts relative to a railway station. As we are not used to such densities of population we do not quite follow that part of the hon. Gentleman's argument.

3.30 am
Mr. Corbyn

I sympathise with the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Penhaligon) as I understand that there are not many railway stations left in his part of the world following recent closures. Having grown up in a rural area I am familiar with the problems of county boundaries that split areas. The border between Shropshire and Staffordshire was a few hundred yards from my home and created many administrative problems. For example, three times as many children passed the 11-plus in one county as in the other, which created all kinds of social divisions in the village. That kind of problem exists to this day because county boundaries are so chaotic in many areas. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman understands the word "outpost". He might not recognise Finsbury Park as an outpost of the kind that exist around Truro, but he would certainly recognise it as an area of divisions and possibly some conflict.

Mr. Bermingham

Perhaps My hon. Friend will comment further on the suggestion by the hon. Member for Harrow. West (Mr. Page) that the Boundary Commission should stop mucking about. Can he explain why Harrow, West has an electorate of 73,151 whereas Harrow, East has an electorate of 79,926 and Surbiton has an electorate of only 46,949? How can the electors of Harrow, East or West, be expected to feel that they have a fair crack of the whip when not many miles away there are electorates of roughly half the size? That certainly does not seem fair to me.

The Second Deputy Chairman

Order. I hope that the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) will not be tempted to go down that road. We must not discuss detailed points of that kind. The amendment is about whether the work of the Boundary Commission should proceed.

Mr. Corbyn

I am grateful to you, Mr. Dean. The Committee and the public must understand, however, that if the local government Boundary Commission is prevented from carrying out its work the rules under which it operates and the fact that its work constitutes an ongoing process mean that parliamentary boundaries will inevitably be affected. Parliamentary boundaries in London never cross borough boundaries, so if borough boundaries remain unchanged the inequalities will remain. My hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson) must feel deep anger at the size of his constituency and his work load compared with the very small electorate of the hon. Member for Surbiton (Mr. Tracey). That is just one of the many inequalities in London.

The latter part of subsection (2), with which I have not yet been able to deal due to the large number of interventions, provides that the Secretary of State need not while this section is in force make an order giving effect to any such proposals made to him by the Commission before the passing of this Act. That is an absolute scandal. The Boundary Commission was set up to examine things and is now at work. If this provision is passed, the commission's work will be stopped at a stroke, the hopes of many people will be destroyed and the inequalities will continue. That is the effect of the clause. Our amendment seeks to bring some sanity to the way in which local government boundaries are drawn.

Mr. Tom Clarke (Monklands, West)

Like the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Penhaligon) I am listening with interest to the exchanges and trying to be as objective as possible about which Lobby to enter. My hon. Friend made several references to the Boundary Commissions. Does he know whether they were consulted about the clause?

Mr. Corbyn

My hon. Friend draws attention to an important question. [Interruption.] It is important and any hon. Member who doubts it, should listen carefully. The Boundary Commissions were created with the specific intention that they should be independent. Many hon. Members will have gone before Boundary Commissions, mounted arguments against their proposals and said, "I don't like it. They are biased." But the Bill destroys the work of the Boundary Commissions and hands control for boundary-making directly to the Secretary of State. It moves them from the concept of independence to control by the Secretary of State.

The Bill destroys elections, gives the Secretary of State enormous powers of patronage, and, in this clause, interferes with the work of the Boundary Commissions and all that goes with them in terms of political power, the distribution of wealth in London and even the control of the London Boroughs Association because of the size of particular boroughs.

The amendment is especially important. It has not hit the headlines. The predominant headline has been the Government's roughshod riding over democracy in London and the metropolitan counties by destroying elections. The by-product of destroying elections is the destruction of equality and fairness of future elections. I hope that the Committee will recognise that and support the amendment. If we do not, many people will say, "What on earth are democratically elected politicians doing sitting up all night if all they do is allow the Secretary of State to destroy elected government in London and the metropolitan counties and the basis of future democratic elections in local authorities?"

I wonder whether the Government have similar plans for the borough councils, and whether the centralisation of power will stop at the metropolitan counties. The Committee must consider those implications. Unless hon. Members are prepared to see the inequalities that exist within borough councils—

Mr. Tony Banks

On a point of order, Mr. Dean. Although I am sitting in the closest possible proximity to my hon. Friend, I cannot hear what he is saying because many hon. Members are baying and laughing. There might be—[Interruption.] One cannot even make a point of order. Some hon. Members may wish to go home, but I am happy to stay longer to listen to my hon. Friend's excellent points.

The Second Deputy Chairman

I am sure that the Committee wishes to hear the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn).

Mr. Wrigglesworth

On a point of order, Mr. Dean. Is it in order for the Minister to show a flag of surrender during the course of the hon. Gentleman's speech? It is a novel parliamentary procedure and I wonder how it might be recorded.

The Second Deputy Chairman

Order. The hon. Member knows that that is not a point of order.

Mr. Corbyn

I realise that some hon. Members do not want to discuss this matter seriously. I have been looking at the Conservative Benches to see a white flag or a tie raised or waved, or a shirt taken off, but that has not happened yet. I see that the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Thornton) offers me a tie.

We are discussing a serious matter, and I hope that the Committee recognises that we will not allow our local elections, our local government, and its democracy and independence to be destroyed by this cavalier, miserable bunch who have tried to destroy democracy in so many other ways.

Mr. Wrigglesworth


Sir George Young

Two arguments have been put forward. One was that the Government had inadvertently knocked out a number of other reviews—the parliamentary boundary commission and the review of the ward boundaries within the boroughs and the districts. I will say a word about that in a moment. The other argument was that the measures were premature and anticipated the main abolition Bill. When I intervened in the speech of the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw), I confirmed that the Government's intention was to suspend the review for the authorities that were being abolished. That point was developed by the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith).

One must do some detective work to find out why that is the case. In clause 8(2)(a) there is a referene to any review of the electoral arrangements". Clause 11(3) provides: Any expression used in this Act which is also used in the principal Act has the same meaning as in that Act. Electoral arrangements are defined in section 78 of the principal Act, the Local Government Act 1972, in such a way that they have meaning only when they are related to a principal area. "The principal area" here is clearly Greater London or a metropolitan county, not the London boroughs nor the metropolitan districts, each of which is a separate principal area, because that is what is provided in the subsection.

As drafted, the Bill would have a direct impact only on the authorities that were to be abolished. As far as I can see, this cause has no implications for the electorate in Truro; the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Penhaligon) can set his mind at rest on that point.

A further argument adduced by a number of hon. Members related more to the priniple in this part of the Bill. The Government brought forward the provision to prevent the waste of time and resources by the local government boundary commission and the Home Office. It seemed to us that to continue with reviews of electoral arrangements for local authorities which were to be shortly abolished, and for which the elections scheduled for 1985 will be abolished by the Bill, would have been open to criticism. However, I recognise the genuine anxiety that has been expressed and there are clearly strong arguments both ways. In the circumstances, it would be right for the Government to consider the point further, and if the amendments are withdrawn I give an undertaking that the Government will reconsider the matter carefully in the light of the debate.

Mr. Straw

This is the first occasion on this Bill and the associated Rates Bill that the Government have accepted the force of the arguments advanced on a substantial issue.

Mr. Waldegrave

Swinging moorings.

Mr. Straw

The Minister says "Swinging moorings" from a sedentary position, but we both know that the taxation of swinging moorings was not the main purpose of the Rates Bill. In contrast to swinging moorings, the issues raised by this clause represent major issues of principle.

I congratulate my hon. Friends the Members for St. Helens, South (Mr. Bermingham) and for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) on their eloquent arguments on the principle. We are glad that the Government have recognised the force of the argument. In the light of the categorical undertaking that the Under-Secretary of State has given, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Hon. Members


Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 17, Noes 251.

Division No. 317] [3.44 am
Alton, David Madden, Max
Ashdown, Paddy Meadowcroft, Michael
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Penhaligon, David
Beith, A. J. Richardson, Ms Jo
Clay, Robert Skinner, Dennis
Cohen, Harry Wrigglesworth, Ian
Corbyn, Jeremy
Freud, Clement Tellers for the Ayes:
Kirkwood, Archibald Mr. John Cartwright and
Loyden, Edward Mr. Simon Hughes.
Aitken, Jonathan Hanley, Jeremy
Alexander, Richard Hannam, John
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Hargreaves, Kenneth
Amess, David Harris, David
Arnold, Tom Harvey, Robert
Atkins, Robert (South Ribble) Haselhurst, Alan
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Vall'y) Hawkins, C. (High Peak)
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Hawksley, Warren
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Hayes, J.
Batiste, Spencer Hayhoe, Barney
Bellingham, Henry Heathcoat-Amory, David
Bendall, Vivian Heddle, John
Berry, Sir Anthony Henderson, Barry
Best, Keith Hickmet, Richard
Biffen, Rt Hon John Hind, Kenneth
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Hirst, Michael
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling)
Boscawen, Hon Robert Holt, Richard
Bottomley, Peter Hooson, Tom
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Hordern, Peter
Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n) Howard, Michael
Boyson, Dr Rhodes Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)
Bright, Graham Howell, Ralph (N Norfolk)
Brinton, Tim Hubbard-Miles, Peter
Brooke, Hon Peter Hunt, David (Wirral)
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes) Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)
Browne, John Hunter, Andrew
Bruinvels, Peter Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Bryan, Sir Paul Jackson, Robert
Buck, Sir Antony Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick
Bulmer, Esmond Jessel, Toby
Butterfill, John Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Carlisle, John (N Luton) Jones, Robert (W Herts)
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Key, Robert
Cash, William King, Roger (B'ham N'field)
Chapman, Sydney Knight, Gregory (Derby N)
Chope, Christopher Knowles, Michael
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Lang, Ian
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) Latham, Michael
Cockeram, Eric Lawler, Geoffrey
Coombs, Simon Lawrence, Ivan
Cope, John Lee, John (Pendle)
Couchman, James Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)
Cranborne, Viscount Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd)
Crouch, David Lightbown, David
Currie, Mrs Edwina Lilley, Peter
Dorrell, Stephen Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J. Lord, Michael
Dover, Den Lyell, Nicholas
duCann, Rt Hon Edward McCrea, Rev William
Dunn, Robert McCurley, Mrs Anna
Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke) MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)
Emery, Sir Peter MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)
Evennett, David Maclean, David John
Eyre, Sir Reginald Madel, David
Fairbairn, Nicholas Major, John
Fallon, Michael Malins, Humfrey
Farr, John Malone, Gerald
Favell, Anthony Maples, John
Fenner, Mrs Peggy Marland, Paul
Fookes, Miss Janet Marlow, Antony
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Mates, Michael
Forth, Eric Mather, Carol
Franks, Cecil Maude, Hon Francis
Freeman, Roger Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Gale, Roger Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Galley, Roy Mayhew, Sir Patrick
Gardiner, George (Reigate) Mellor, David
Goodhart, Sir Philip Miller, Hal (B'grove)
Goodlad, Alastair Mills, Iain (Meriden)
Gorst, John Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon)
Greenway, Harry Moate, Roger
Gregory, Conal Moore, John
Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N) Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)
Grist, Ian Moynihan, Hon C.
Ground, Patrick Murphy, Christopher
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Neale, Gerrard
Needham, Richard Stern, Michael
Nelson, Anthony Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)
Neubert, Michael Stevens, Martin (Fulham)
Nicholls, Patrick Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Norris, Steven Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)
Oppenheim, Philip Stewart, Ian (N Hertf'dshire)
Osborn, Sir John Stokes, John
Ottaway, Richard Stradling Thomas, J.
Page, John (Harrow W) Sumberg, David
Page, Richard (Herts SW) Taylor, John (Solihull)
Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Parris, Matthew Temple-Morris, Peter
Pattie, Geoffrey Terlezki, Stefan
Pawsey, James Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
Pollock, Alexander Thompson, Donald (Calder V)
Porter, Barry Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)
Powell, William (Corby) Thornton, Malcolm
Powley, John Thurnham, Peter
Proctor, K. Harvey Tracey, Richard
Raffan, Keith Trippier, David
Raison, Rt Hon Timothy Twinn, Dr Ian
Renton, Tim van Straubenzee, Sir W.
Rhodes James, Robert Viggers, Peter
Ridsdale, Sir Julian Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Roberts, Wyn (Conwy) Waldegrave, Hon William
Robinson, P. (Belfast E) Walden, George
Roe, Mrs Marion Wall, Sir Patrick
Rossi, Sir Hugh Waller, Gary
Rowe, Andrew Ward, John
Rumbold, Mrs Angela Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Ryder, Richard Warren, Kenneth
Sackville, Hon Thomas Watson, John
Sainsbury, Hon Timothy Watts, John
Sayeed, Jonathan Wells, Bowen (Hertford)
Shaw, Giles (Pudsey) Wheeler, John
Shelton, William (Streatham) Whitfield, John
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Whitney, Raymond
Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge) Wiggin, Jerry
Silvester, Fred Wilkinson, John
Sims, Roger Wolfson, Mark
Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick) Wood, Timothy
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield) Woodcock, Michael
Soames, Hon Nicholas Yeo, Tim
Speller, Tony Young, Sir George (Acton)
Spencer, Derek
Spicer, Michael (S Worcs) Tellers for the Noes:
Squire, Robin Mr. Tristan Garel-Jones and
Stanbrook, Ivor Mr. Archie Hamilton.
Stanley, John

Question accordingly negatived.

Mr. Beith

On a point of Order, Mr. Deputy Chairman. I know that the Minister was trying to be helpful to the Committee, and I would want to acquit him of any suggestion that he was not being as helpful as he could be, but, just before the Division, he had to skip quickly over references to principal statutes, and could make only the briefest reference to a concession that he hoped to make—without specifying where it was—in another place. I therefore invite you to consider whether the Committee sitting could not be suspended for a short time so that we could get the position clearer.

There is a second reason why I think that it might be useful to do this, as well as getting that little extra information from the Minister who, I think was genuinely trying to be helpful at that stage. During the latter part of that debate, there were Whips and all sorts of hon. Members—people fom the Conservative party and from the Labour party—scurrying about the Chamber, obviously trying to engage in some other urgent and pressing business which it would be easier to facilitate if there were a short adjournment. I invite you to consider that matter, Mr. Deputy Chairman.

The Second Deputy Chairman

The hon. Gentleman is not raising a point of order, but making comments about the Minister's speech, which often happens in the Chamber.

Mr. Meadowcroft

I beg to move amendment No. 96, in clause 8, page 7, line 29, leave out subsection (3).

Subsection (3) of clause 8 states: The Secretary of State need not at any time while this section is in force consider, or continue to consider, proposals submitted to him…under section 25 of the Water Act 1973. The section of the Water Act to which this refers is a provision that enables the transfer of recreation and amenity functions to the Greater London council. That Act was introduced by the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) in 1973. It will be noted that the the right hon. and learned Gentleman has consistently opposed the main provision of the Bill with regard to local government.

The Water Act 1973 set up a body called the Water Space Amenity Commission. It also provided for the devolution of the powers of amenity and recreation to the GLC. It is interesting to note that among the distinguished Members of Parliament who responded to the debate on that occasion were Lord Tonypandy and the present Secretary of State for the Environment, who duly voted for the Second Reading of that measure.

The provision now before the Committee will further weaken powers in relation to water amenities. The Water Act 1983 abolished the Water Space Amenity Commission, despite opposition from the Liberal Benches. It was a national body which, with a modest budget, was inaugurated to promote the recreational use of water. Again, however, the Government abolished what their predecessors, under the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath), had set up.

We now have the situation of a previous Government having introduced a power under the 1973 Act by which they deliberately took out of the hands of an appointed body—on that occasion, the Thames water authority—certain functions that they believed at that time were better placed in the hands of a democratic body, and they therefore devolved them to the GLC.

4 am

Mr. Chris Smith

The hon. Gentleman has misread the Water Act 1973. It did not provide for the immediate transfer of powers as he suggests. It provided for the water authority to propose the transfer of powers and for the Secretary of State to consider the matter, which is different from what he has been describing.

Mr. Meadowcroft

The hon. Gentleman is correct but is nitpicking in the sense that the purpose of the Act was to enable the transfer of powers from a body that was largely appointed to one that was totally elected. But, 10 years later, the Water Act 1983 had the effect of putting it all into the hands of the Secretary of State. At least the Government are being consistent in their approach to local government because in the way that the 1983 Act took away those functions and placed them in the hands of the Secretary of State for the Environment, so we are vesting in one Minister all the powers that previously related to a democratic body.

There was no mention of water recreation in "Streamlining the Cities" and we have continually objected to the way in which the water authorities were set up, being put into the hands of appointed members, rather than of local authority elected members, so that they have become about the worst sort of quango imaginable. For that reason this provision will be disastrous for the public in the GLC area who are interested in water sport and amenities. Hence the need for the amendment.

Mr. Tony Banks

When I was—[HON. MEMBERS: "Get on with it."] Despite the lateness of the hour, at least I am capable of reading, which is more than can be said of most Conservative Members.

When I was chairman of the arts and recreation committee of the GLC, this issue concerned us greatly. Under the Water Act 1973 it was envisaged that the GLC would be responsible for the recreational resources and facilities on the Thames, and that made sense because, apart from anything else, the GLC's arts and recreational facilities and functions make that council uniquely qualified to organise recreational facilities on the Thames. I never understood how one could imagine that the Thames water authority should be given such a function.

It also made sense because the GLC owns many of the major piers in the central London area. Westminster, Charing Cross and Tower piers are all GLC owned. I was pleased, as chairman of the arts and recreation committee, to suggest that we should transfer the old Battersea park pier down to the south bank and open the new festival pier, which is now outside the Royal Festival hall, on the river. It was a matter of great delight that, when Her Majesty the Queen went to open the new Thames barrier, she left from the new GLC festival pier in her launch and sailed down the Thames. It is practical for the authority running the piers to run services from those piers. Until the transfer of functions is effected, the GLC cannot do so.

There has been a gradual deterioration in the general level of services provided by pleasure craft. Those craft attract large numbers of Londoners and visitors to our capital city enabling them to go up and down the Thames to see the sights. Frankly, at times I have been dissatisfied with the quality of the commentary given by boat owners to tourists. I looked carefully at regulations on those commentaries so that real information could be imparted to our tourists, rather than a glib, running commentary, which in many cases was totally inaccurate in conveying the history and industry of London. It seemed to us that, if the GLC could have the responsibility for running boat services as well as the piers, a much better service could be given to Londonders.

The new Thames barrier provides a further opportunity for recreational facilities when the barrier is up. It could provide a large lagoon in which a number of exciting and interesting sporting events could take place to the great delight of Londoners and all our visitors.

We were concerned that we were unable to get the transfer of functions that the Water Act 1973 envisaged. [Interruption.] I am trying to speak above the babble of the malcontents on the Conservative Benches, who thought that they were going home—

Mr. Cartwright

On a point of order, Mr. Armstrong. The hon. Gentleman is making some very important points on an amendment that is of great concern to a number of Londoners. It is impossible for alliance Members to hear what is being said because of the noise of hon. Members beyond the Bar of the Chamber. I ask you, Mr. Armstrong, to ensure that speeches are audible.

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

Order. The Committee has heard the hon. Member.

Mr. Banks

We are accustomed to boorish behaviour by Conservative Members.

It makes a great deal of sense for an authority such as the GLC, with its vast experience in providing recreational facilities, to provide these facilities on the Thames. The delay in making the transfer under the 1973 Act has not only damaged tourism in London, especially the boat trade on the Thames, but has resulted in a failure to make the logical step in providing sport and recreational facilities.

Mr. Corbyn

Does my hon. Friend think that the lack of democracy that is associated with quangos and the great deal of democracy that goes with the election of the GLC may mean that the dream of many Londoners, especially in the east end and the south-east, to travel on their river and enjoy their facilities will be dashed by this nasty legislation which will take away the birthright of many working class people in London?

Mr. Banks

I agree with my hon. Friend, which would hardly come as a great surprise to Conservative Members. One of the great delights of London is that we have the cleanest urban river in the whole of Europe. Great tribute should be paid to the London county council and the GLC for taking steps to ensure that the river was cleaned up.

Hon. Members will have read of when the House was suspended because of the stench from the river. Fortunately, those days are now long past. The river was cleaned up because of the steps taken by the public authorities—the big, city-wide public authorities in London. Therefore, if we can gain more access to the river for Londoners, we will be discharging—

Mr. Corbyn

My hon. Friend is talking about the cleanliness of London's river and the improvements that have taken place. Can he think of any occasion anywhere in the world when a private enterprise operation in charge of waterways had done anything about pollution other than to make it worse?

Mr. Banks

I cannot quote such an example because my hon. Friend knows that what he said is true. We have the cleanest urban river in Europe. One has only to think of rivers in other parts of western Europe to know how fortunate we are to have such a clean stream a few yards away.

Mr. Wrigglesworth

Will the hon. Gentleman, for the benefit of those who represent constituencies outside London who are not familiar with the things that he is talking about, speculate on what might happen if the amendment were not accepted by the Committee?

Mr. Banks

Some of the rivers in the north-east could do with being cleaned up. I ask hon. Members from the north-east and the north-west to look at the river here and, when they go back to their constituencies, compare it with the rivers on Merseyside and Tyneside. Much river life is now returning to London. The salmon are coming back up the Thames. It is a great tribute to the GLC and the LCC—

Mr. Corbyn

The chickens are coming home to roost.

Mr. Banks

I was referring not to chickens but to salmon. Chickens may eventually come up the Thames, but at the moment it is definitely salmon—

Mr. Corbyn

I meant that the chickens are corning home to roost on the Conservative Benches.

Mr. Banks

I see. Whether it is chickens or salmon coming up the Thames—walking or swimming—I am delighted that life is returning to our river.

If the amendment were passed, we would have a sensible transfer of functions, and the GLC could more sensibly and rationally approach the question of further provision of recreational facilities for Londoners.

Sir George Young

The amendment seeks to maintain the Secretary of State's duty to consider proposals submitted to him on the transfer of recreation and amenity functions from the Thames water authority to the GLC.

We put subsection (3) in the Bill to avoid abortive work and unnecessary expense in the transitional period leading to abolition. Suspending this duty is entirely reasonable. There is simply no point in transferring to the GLC a function which, some months later, would revert to the Thames water authority if the GLC were abolished. Although the duty is being suspended, the Secretary of State will still be able, if he deems it expedient, to consider the proposals. Should abolition fail, the provision would be repealed by order under clause 1.

The transfer of those functions has been under discussion between the Thames water authority and the GLC since 1975, and it does not seem to me enormously damaging to suspend the negotiations and the Secretary of State's duty at least until Parliament has decided the main abolition issue. For that reason I ask the Committee to reject the amendment.

Mr. Meadowcroft

The principle enshrined in the phrasing in this part of the 13i11 is undemocratic, as shown by the words: The Secretary of State need not at any time…consider". Thus it is incumbent upon us to reject the arguments—

Mr. Beith

Before my hon. Friend goes on, will he reflect on the point that the Minister spoke as though—assuming that the abolition Bill fails at a later stage—these provisions will automatically be repealed. However, that is not so, as the Secretary of State may bring forward an order, which the House may pass. I hope that my hon. Friend will bear this in mind in the advice that he gives to the Committee.

Mr. Meadowcroft

My hon. Friend's point is valid. The Committee cannot let pass any part of the Bill that allows the Secretary of State certain powers that are dependent on other legislation that we have not yet seen. Therefore, we shall press this to a vote.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 22, Noes 235.

Division No. 318] [4.14 am
Ashdown, Paddy Kirkwood, Archibald
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Madden, Max
Barron, Kevin Marek, Dr John
Beith, A. J. Maxton, John
Cartwright, John Penhaligon, David
Cohen, Harry Sedgemore, Brian
Conlan, Bernard Skinner, Dennis
Corbyn, Jeremy Wrigglesworth, Ian
Fisher, Mark Young, David (Bolton SE)
Flannery, Martin
Freud, Clement Tellers for the Ayes:
Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith Mr. Michael Meadowcroft and
Hughes, Simon (Southwark) Mr. David Alton.
Alexander, Richard Harris, David
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Harvey, Robert
Amess, David Haselhurst, Alan
Arnold, Tom Hawkins, C. (High Peak)
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Vall'y) Hawksley, Warren
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Hayes, J.
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Hayhoe, Barney
Batiste, Spencer Heathcoat-Amory, David
Bellingham, Henry Heddle, John
Bendall, Vivian Henderson, Barry
Berry, Sir Anthony Hickmet, Richard
Best, Keith Hind, Kenneth
Biffen, Rt Hon John Hirst, Michael
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling)
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Holt, Richard
Boscawen, Hon Robert Hooson, Tom
Bottom ley, Peter Howard, Michael
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)
Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n) Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)
Boyson, Dr Rhodes Howell, Ralph (N Norfolk)
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Hubbard-Miles, Peter
Bright, Graham Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)
Brinton, Tim Hunter, Andrew
Brooke, Hon Peter Jackson, Robert
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes) Jessel, Toby
Bruinvels, Peter Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Bryan, Sir Paul Jones, Robert (W Herts)
Buck, Sir Antony Key, Robert
Bulmer, Esmond King, Roger (B'ham N'field)
Butterfill, John Knight, Gregory (Derby N)
Carlisle, John (N Luton) Knowles, Michael
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Lang, Ian
Cash, William Latham, Michael
Chapman, Sydney Lawler, Geoffrey
Chope, Christopher Lawrence, Ivan
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Lee, John (Pendle)
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe) Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd)
Cockeram, Eric Lightbown, David
Coombs, Simon Lilley, Peter
Cope, John Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham)
Couchman, James Lord, Michael
Cranborne, Viscount Lyell, Nicholas
Crouch, David McCrea, Rev William
Currie, Mrs Edwina McCurley, Mrs Anna
Dorrell, Stephen MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J. Maclean, David John
Dover, Den Madel, David
Dunn, Robert Major, John
Emery, Sir Peter Malins, Humfrey
Evennett, David Malone, Gerald
Eyre, Sir Reginald Maples, John
Fairbairn, Nicholas Marland, Paul
Fallon, Michael Mates, Michael
Farr, John Mather, Carol
Favell, Anthony Maude, Hon Francis
Fenner, Mrs Peggy Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Fookes, Miss Janet Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Mayhew, Sir Patrick
Forth, Eric Mellor, David
Franks, Cecil Miller, Hal (B'grove)
Freeman, Roger Mills, Iain (Meriden)
Gale, Roger Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon)
Galley, Roy Mitchell, David (NW Hants)
Gardiner, George (Reigate) Moate, Roger
Garel-Jones, Tristan Moore, John
Goodhart, Sir Philip Moynihan, Hon C.
Goodlad, Alastair Murphy, Christopher
Gorst, John Needham, Richard
Greenway, Harry Nelson, Anthony
Gregory, Conal Nicholls, Patrick
Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N) Norris, Steven
Grist, Ian Osborn, Sir John
Ground, Patrick Ottaway, Richard
Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom) Page, John (Harrow W)
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Page, Richard (Herts SW)
Hanley, Jeremy Parris, Matthew
Hargreaves, Kenneth Pattie, Geoffrey
Pawsey, James Stradling Thomas, J.
Porter, Barry Sumberg, David
Powell, William (Corby) Taylor, John (Solihull)
Powley, John Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Proctor, K. Harvey Temple-Morris, Peter
Raffan, Keith Terlezki, Stefan
Raison, Rt Hon Timothy 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 Tracey, Richard
Roberts, Wyn (Conwy) Trippier, David
Robinson, P. (Belfast E) Twinn, Dr Ian
Roe, Mrs Marion van Straubenzee, Sir W.
Rossi, Sir Hugh Viggers, Peter
Rowe, Andrew Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Rumbold, Mrs Angela Waldegrave, Hon William
Ryder, Richard Walden, George
Sackville, Hon Thomas Wall, Sir Patrick
Sainsbury, Hon Timothy Waller, Gary
Sayeed, Jonathan Ward, John
Shaw, Giles (Pudsey) Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Shelton, William (Streatham) Warren, Kenneth
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Watson, John
Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge) Watts, John
Sims, Roger Wells, Bowen (Hertford)
Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick) Wheeler, John
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield) Whitfield, John
Soames, Hon Nicholas Whitney, Raymond
Speller, Tony Wiggin, Jerry
Spencer, Derek Wilkinson, John
Squire, Robin Wolfson, Mark
Stanbrook, Ivor Wood, Timothy
Stanley, John Woodcock, Michael
Stern, Michael Yeo, Tim
Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton) Young, Sir George (Acton)
Stevens, Martin (Fulham)
Stewart, Allan (Eastwood) Tellers for the Noes:
Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood) Mr. Michael Neubert and
Stewart, Ian (N Hertf'dshire) Mr. David Hunt.
Stokes, John

Question accordingly negatived.

Mr. Cartwright

I beg to move amendment No. 108, in page 7, line 34, leave out subsection (4).

The amendment relates to the Reservoirs Act 1975, which replaced the Reservoirs (Safety Provisions) Act 1930, which was regarded as no longer effective in the modern situation. Although the Act was put on the statute book in 1975 and last year had been in existence for eight years, it was only in 1983 that the Government announced that they were to bring it into force.

The Act makes county councils responsible for registering all reservoirs in their area. It gives them power to demand safety certificates from the owners of reservoirs and to require remedial works to be done when necessary to ensure safety. The Act is an extremely important safeguard for ordinary members of the public.

Despite the importance of the safety factors, subsection (4) of clause 8 would prevent the Reservoirs Act 1975 from coming into force in the GLC area and the metropolitan counties at least until 1986. Any delay in bringing the 1975 Act into force in those areas would extend the period during which the inhabitants of those areas are at risk. During that period the 1930 Act will apply. If that Act had been sufficient to tackle the problems, the 1975 Act would not have been passed.

In the GLC and metropolitan county areas, the power which, in the rest of the country, will be exerted by the county councils will devolve upon the London boroughs and the metropolitan districts. There must be considerable doubt about whether the expertise necessary to the undertaking of the important safety functions will exist in those bodies. Clearly it exists in the county councils, but it may not exist at the lower level. In any case, I wonder how many of the London boroughs contain a reservoir. I understand that there are about a hundred reservoirs in Manchester, responsibility for the safety of which will devolve upon the metropolitan districts in Greater Manchester. Operating such powers at the lower tier of a two-tier system will result in extra cost, duplication and bureaucracy and, I would suggest, less effective supervision. Boroughs with reservoirs will, no doubt, have to appoint reservoir safety officers and reservoir departments, when the job could be done much more effectively by retaining power at county level. This issue underlines the Government's shortsightedness in abolishing authorities that operate over a wider area and pool expertise in such technical problems. What the Government are doing will not reduce costs, but rather increase them and I therefore have pleasure in commending the amendment to the Committee.

4.30 am
Mr. Wrigglesworth

Amendment No. 108 incorporates many of the alliance's objections to the Bill. A new bureaucracy, in the form of joint boards, will have to be established to deal with reservoir safety. It is a prime example of the wasteful change that will result from the Bill.

The Government are also introducing a more indirect method of administering safety measures in regard to reservoirs. Such services can be provided much better and more responsively by directly elected bodies. We therefore oppose what the Government are doing on democratic grounds.

Moreover, an obvious regional responsibility is being ignored. The new administration will be responsible for reservoirs that are not neatly situated in district areas. They serve regions and therefore responsibility for them should lie with an elected body that covers the region concerned, not an appointed board. In this regard, our three objections to the Bill emerge once again—more indirect administration, more duplication and wasteful bureaucracy and regional responsibility being given to bodies that are not regional.

The importance of this part of the Bill should not be underestimated. Reservoirs are used by many thousands of adults and young people for fishing, sailing and other recreational purposes. Those of us who have young children know the anxiety felt by parents when their children go off to use such facilities. Therefore, it is only right that parents should be satisfied that they can have confidence in the administration proposed.

Mr. Freud

Does my hon. Friend accept that the knock-on effect of an ill-used and ill-maintained reservoir will be felt by all Members of Parliament with fishing in their constituencies? At present, many people fish in reservoirs in London and the metropolitan counties.

Mr. Wrigglesworth

Yes. I was a little concerned about what my hon. Friend was going to say when he referred to a "knock-on effect", but I gather that he is referring to the fact that fishermen travel all over the country to use the facilities offered by rivers and, in particular, reservoirs. In London and other metropolitan areas different types of fishing are available to fishermen from all over the country in different seasons.

I was thinking in particular not of adult anglers, but young children. After all, the amendment is concerned with safety, and such facilities are now used quite extensively—and many of us have pressed for this over the years—by young people. Parents want to be reassured that those facilities are properly maintained, that proper safety standards are laid down, and that there is someone to go to—now their locally elected county councillor—when they have a problem. Members of Parliament listen to complaints and anxieties in their surgeries and, similarly, parents want someone to go to who is responsible to them. If they are not satisfied with the facilities, they can have the matter raised, and do something about it.

For all those reasons, we want the Government to accept the amendment. I hope that the Minister can reassure the Committee that the safety provisions will be maintained and that the Government accept the very real anxieties that we have expressed.

Mr. Penhaligon

I find the amendment particularly interesting. Before being elected to the House, I used to work as an engineer with a mining company. At times I was involved in checking soil stability. I have done some work with civil engineers who are responsible for analysing the data obtained from such experimentation, and for making estimates of the safety of dams and the concrete structures from which they are made. The awesome task of saying that the reservoirs are structurally safe could well belong to more than one authority.

Reservoirs and rivers have some connection with one another, and rivers often form the boundary between authorities. Therefore, it might be common to have a reservoir between two authorities. As I understand the clause, one borough authority might be responsible for half the reservoir, and another authority responsible for the other half. It is difficult to imagine a greater folly.

With some experience of such calculations, I could imagine that one authority would say that it was safe to fill the reservoir to 63 ft and the other authority would say that it was safe to fill it to only 58 ft. The Minister must recognise that that would present some problems to district authorities. Someone must be given the responsibility for making those calculations, not least because some of the equipment needed to analyse small movements, stress in concrete and structural and sub-soil safety can be expensive. I have no doubt that my former company will be pleased if the clause is passed, because it can then set about selling much equipment. But the present position is preposterous.

I imagine that the Minister has studied this matter in great detail, but has he ever discovered the means by which small movements in concrete relative to large stresses behind them are analysed? It is important for the Committee to understand this in some depth. If the Minister is not aware of how that is analysed, I might be able to rake my memory and tell him. In essence, one must attach to the concrete at an appropriate moment a strain gauge of a non-wire type that can be stretched over a large distance. Someone then has the responsibility—[Interruption.] My colleagues here are laughing, but this is an extremely important technical matter. I am often frustrated by the House's attitude to any technical matter that is brought to its attention. At 4.41 am, strain gauges in dams are not a subject that I expected to have the opportunity to bring to the attention of the Committee. But it is a serious problem, and serious tragedies can result. I recall that in France a few years ago reservoirs were known to collapse.

I hope that the Minister can say in reply who will be responsible for saying that a reservoir is structurally safe and strong. It is lunacy to contemplate a position whereby two authorities are responsible for doing that. If the Minister's intention is to give one authority the finite responsibility for making the measurements that I mentioned, he should say how that will be done under the Bill.

This is not just a matter of structural safety. There are few matters that cause greater rows in my area than that of access to fishing rights on reservoirs. It is one of the new, great sports. I can envisage that one authority will try to build the stock of fish in a reservoir, and will regularly and enthusiastically use its ratepayers' money to stock it with trout, or whatever may be the fancy of fishermen in the area. However, the authority on the other side of the reservoir might take the opposite view—

Mr. Tony Banks

I am interested in what the hon. Gentleman is saying, because I was once a keen angler. I gave up the sport because I believed that it might be cruel. What is the hon. Gentleman's opinion about how cruel angling is?

Mr. Penhaligon

Much as I wish to help those hon. Members who represent metropolitan areas, the hon. Gentleman can hardly expect me, when about 3,000 of my constituents rely on fishing for their living, to become involved in such a debate. I would prefer the Committee to concentrate its mind on the position that I outlined earlier, with different authorities having different policies for the stocking of the reservoirs on their boundaries.

I mentioned the possibility of one authority deciding that the stock needed building up and the other taking the opposite view. Another possibility is that the authorities may differ as to the kind of fish required, one taking the view that pike is ideal while the other decides on trout. As anyone with any knowledge of these matters knows, that will doubtless increase the population of pike in the reservoir but the authority that spent a great deal of money investing in a stock of trout will certainly not be satisfied with the result.

4.45 am
Mr. Corbyn

Before leaving the analogy of the pike and the trout, would the hon. Gentleman care to reflect on whether, comparatively speaking, the GLC and the Government should be regarded as pike and trout or vice versa?

The First Deputy Chairman

Order. If the hon. Member reflects on that he will be out of order.

Mr. Penhaligon

I should not dream of doing so, Mr. Armstrong. I am making a serious point. As a matter of fact, I do not know of any authority which actually stocks a reservoir with pike, but I see no technical reason why that should not be done as many anglers find pike extremely good fishing.

I may not have treated this with the seriousness that it requires, but the basic point is very simple. There can be no greater insanity than authorities that are responsible for the safety, exploitation or leisure aspects of one reservoir being able to take opposing views. It is certainly not possible to control the movement of fish within a reservoir. It might be possible to have sailing on one side and speedboat racing on the other, although there would be difficulties at the margin due to the movement of the water, and so on.

The Minister must tell the Committee precisely who will be responsible for the reservoirs and for the important issues that I have raised—technology, exploitation policy, leisure, fishing and safety. The Bill is neither clear nor satisfactory on that point.

Sir George Young

I begin by giving a direct answer to the last question. The hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Penhaligon) will be pleased to know that under the Reservoirs Act 1975 reservoir undertakers will be required to appoint a named supervising engineer to keep each reservoir under continual supervision between inspections at intervals not greater than 10 years. When the hon. Gentleman loses his seat to the Conservatives at the next election, in view of his experience in these matters I shall use what influence I can to try to find him a suitable job in that area.

The amendment seeks to remove a good housekeeping provision for no good reason at all. I have to tell the alliance that it is one of the least plausible amendments in the entire Committee stage. [HON. MEMBERS: "It is a Labour amendment."] The Labour party had the good sense not to move it.

The Government wish to implement in full the Reservoirs Act 1975 with as little delay as possible. That Act, however, will confer new functions and responsibilities on local authorities. It would be pointless and a waste of work to give new functions to the GLC and the metropolitan county councils before a decision has been taken on abolition. The obvious solution is to go ahead with implementation in the shire counties but to delay implementation in the GLC and metropolitan counties pending Parliament's decision on abolition.

As it stands, however, the 1975 Act can be implemented only by order applying to the whole of Great Britain at the same time. All that this relatively innocuous subsection does it to allow implementation in different areas at different times. That means that we can avoid abortive work without introducing unnecessary delay in areas unaffected by abolition proposals. We are so confident that this part of the Bill stands on its own that we have specifically excluded it from the repeal provisions in part I, clause 1(2). It is not undemocratic as the hon. Member for Stockton, South (Mr. Wrigglesworth) said because the powers will be discharged by the borough councils, not the joint boards. Therefore, councillors will be answerable for this proposal. On those grounds I hope that the hon. Member for Woolwich (Mr. Cartwright) will not press the amendment to a Division.

Mr. Cartwright

I listened with interest to the Minister's reply. It has been an extremely interesting and useful debate. It covered an area which is wider than I expected it to be when I tabled the amendment. I disagree with the Minister in that I believe that the debate fully justified the official Opposition tabling the amendment. It also throws doubt on their wisdom for deserting it, together with the House, the debate and the issue.

The Minister has still not dealt with the two important issues arising from the amendment. First, in the interim period before abolition, if it takes place, the standard of reservoir safety enforcement in the greater London council area and the metropolitan counties will be different because of the subsection. Those areas will still operate under the Reservoirs (Safety Provisions) Act 1930. The notes on clauses provided by the Government say that in the interim period the 1930 Act will apply in the GLC areas and the metropolitan counties. That is obviously inferior protection to the Reservoirs Act 1975. Therefore, for a comparatively short interim period two levels of safety enforcement will operate—a higher level in the rest of the country and a lower one in the GLC area and metropolitan counties.

If abolition takes place, the enforcement powers in the GLC area and the metropolitan counties will be exercised at borough and district level. I am sad that the Minister did not attempt to tackle the problem that enforcement at that level involves a host of individual authorities taking on what should be an overall supervisory responsibility. The Minister has not allayed our fears about the subsection and, therefore I strongly urge my right hon. and hon. Friends to support the amendment.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes, 21, Noes, 211.

Division No. 319] [4.52 am
Alton, David Meadowcroft, Michael
Ashdown, Paddy Michie, William
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Penhaligon, David
Barron, Kevin Sedgemore, Brian
Cartwright, John Skinner, Dennis
Cohen, Harry Smith, C.(Isl'ton S & F'bury)
Corbyn, Jeremy Wrigglesworth, Ian
Fisher, Mark Young, David (Bolton SE)
Freud, Clement
Hughes, Simon (Southwark) Tellers for the Ayes:
Madden, Max Mr. A. J. Beith and
Marek, Dr John Mr. Archy Kirkwood.
Maxton, John
Alexander, Richard Coombs, Simon
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Cope, John
Amess, David Couchman, James
Arnold, Tom Cranborne, Viscount
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Currie, Mrs Edwina
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Dorrell, Stephen
Batiste, Spencer Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.
Bellingham, Henry Dover, Den
Bendall, Vivian Dunn, Robert
Berry, Sir Anthony Emery, Sir Peter
Best, Keith Evennett, David
Biffen, Rt Hon John Fairbairn, Nicholas
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Fallon, Michael
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Farr, John
Boscawen, Hon Robert Favell, Anthony
Bottomley, Peter Fenner, Mrs Peggy
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Fookes, Miss Janet
Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n) Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Forth, Eric
Bright, Graham Franks, Cecil
Brinton, Tim Fraser, Peter (Angus East)
Brooke, Hon Peter Freeman, Roger
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes) Gale, Roger
Bruinvels, Peter Galley, Roy
Bulmer, Esmond Gardiner, George (Reigate)
Butterfill, John Garel-Jones, Tristan
Carlisle, John (N Luton) Goodhart, Sir Philip
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Goodlad, Alastair
Cash, William Gorst, John
Chope, Christopher Greenway, Harry
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Gregory, Conal
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N)
Grist, Ian Page, Richard (Herts SW)
Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom) Parris, Matthew
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Pattie, Geoffrey
Hanley, Jeremy Pawsey, James
Hargreaves, Kenneth Porter, Barry
Harris, David Powell, William (Corby)
Harvey, Robert Powley, John
Haselhurst, Alan Proctor, K. Harvey
Hawkins, C. (High Peak) Raffan, Keith
Hawksley, Warren Renton, Tim
Hayes, J. Rhodes James, Robert
Hayhoe, Barney Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)
Heathcoat-Amory, David Robinson, P. (Belfast E)
Heddle, John Roe, Mrs Marion
Henderson, Barry Rossi, Sir Hugh
Hickmet, Richard Rowe, Andrew
Hirst, Michael Rumbold, Mrs Angela
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Ryder, Richard
Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling) Sackville, Hon Thomas
Holt, Richard Sayeed, Jonathan
Hooson, Tom Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Howard, Michael Shelton, William (Streatham)
Howarth, Alan (Stratfd-on-A) Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Howarth, Gerald (Cannock) Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Hubbard-Miles, Peter Sims, Roger
Hunt, David (Wirral) Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne) Soames, Hon Nicholas
Hunter, Andrew Speller, Tony
Jackson, Robert Spencer, Derek
Jessel, Toby Squire, Robin
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Stanbrook, Ivor
Jones, Robert (W Herts) Stanley, John
Key, Robert Stern, Michael
King, Roger (B'ham N'field) Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)
Knight, Gregory (Derby N) Stevens, Martin (Fulham)
Knowles, Michael Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Lang, Ian Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)
Lawler, Geoffrey Stewart, Ian (N Hertf'dshire)
Lawrence, Ivan Stradling Thomas, J.
Lee, John (Pendle) Sumberg, David
Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh) Taylor, John (Solihull)
Lightbown, David Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Lilley, Peter Temple-Morris, Peter
Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham) Terlezki, Stefan
Lord, Michael Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
Lyell, Nicholas Thompson, Donald (Calder V)
McCrea, Rev William Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)
McCurley, Mrs Anna Thornton, Malcolm
MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire) Tracey, Richard
Maclean, David John Trippier, David
Major, John Twinn, Dr Ian
Malins, Humfrey Viggers, Peter
Malone, Gerald Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Maples, John Waldegrave, Hon William
Marland, Paul Walden, George
Mates, Michael Wall, Sir Patrick
Mather, Carol Waller, Gary
Maude, Hon Francis Ward, John
Mawhinney, Dr Brian Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Warren, Kenneth
Mayhew, Sir Patrick Watson, John
Mellor, David Watts, John
Miller, Hal (B'grove) Wells, Bowen (Hertford)
Mills, Iain (Meriden) Wheeler, John
Mitchell, David (NW Hants) Whitney, Raymond
Moate, Roger Wiggin, Jerry
Moore, John Wilkinson, John
Moynihan, Hon C. Wood, Timothy
Murphy, Christopher Woodcock, Michael
Needham, Richard Yeo, Tim
Nelson, Anthony Young, Sir George (Acton)
Nicholls, Patrick
Norris, Steven Tellers for the Noes:
Osborn, Sir John Mr. Michael Neubert and
Ottaway, Richard Mr. Tim Sainsbury.
Page, John (Harrow W)

Question accordingly negatived.

THE CHAIRMAN, being of the opinion that the principle of the clause and any matters arising thereon had been adequately discussed in the course of debate on the amendments proposed thereto, forthwith put the Question, pursuant to Standing Order No. 50 (Debate on clause or schedule standing part). That the clause stand part of the Bill:

The Committee divided: Ayes 207, Noes 21.

Division No. 320] [5.02 am
Alexander, Richard Hanley, Jeremy
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Hargreaves, Kenneth
Amess, David Harris, David
Arnold, Tom Harvey, Robert
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Haselhurst, Alan
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Hawkins, C. (High Peak)
Batiste, Spencer Hawksley, Warren
Bellingham, Henry Hayes, J.
Bendall, Vivian Hayhoe, Barney
Berry, Sir Anthony Heathcoat-Amory, David
Best, Keith Heddle, John
Biffen, Rt Hon John Henderson, Barry
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Hickmet, Richard
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Hind, Kenneth
Bottomley, Peter Hirst, Michael
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)
Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n) Holt, Richard
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Hooson, Tom
Bright, Graham Howard, Michael
Brinton, Tim Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)
Brooke, Hon Peter Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes) Hubbard-Miles, Peter
Bruinvels, Peter Hunt, David (Wirral)
Bulmer, Esmond Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)
Butterfill, John Hunter, Andrew
Carlisle, John (N Luton) Jackson, Robert
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Jessel, Toby
Cash, William Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Chope, Christopher Jones, Robert (W Herts)
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Key, Robert
Clark, Sir W, (Croydon S) King, Roger (B'ham N'fleld)
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe) Knight, Gregory (Derby N)
Coombs, Simon Knowles, Michael
Cope, John Lang, Ian
Couchman, James Lawler, Geoffrey
Cranborne, Viscount Lawrence, Ivan
Currie, Mrs Edwina Lee, John (Pendle)
Dorrell, Stephen Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J. Lightbown, David
Dover, Den Lilley, Peter
Dunn, Robert Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham)
Emery, Sir Peter Lord, Michael
Evennett, David Lyell, Nicholas
Fairbairn, Nicholas McCrea, Rev William
Fallon, Michael McCurley, Mrs Anna
Farr, John MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)
Favell, Anthony Maclean, David John
Fenner, Mrs Peggy Major, John
Fookes, Miss Janet Malins, Humfrey
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Malone, Gerald
Forth, Eric Maples, John
Franks, Cecil Marland, Paul
Fraser, Peter (Angus East) Maude, Hon Francis
Freeman, Roger Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Gale, Roger Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Galley, Roy Mayhew, Sir Patrick
Gardiner, George (Reigate) Mellor, David
Garel-Jones, Tristan Miller, Hal (B'grove)
Goodhart, Sir Philip Mills, Iain (Meriden)
Goodlad, Alastair Mitchell, David (NW Hants)
Gorst, John Moate, Roger
Greenway, Harry Moore, John
Gregory, Conal Moynihan, Hon C.
Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N) Murphy, Christopher
Grist, Ian Needham, Richard
Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom) Nelson, Anthony
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Neubert, Michael
Nicholls, Patrick Stradling Thomas, J.
Norris, Steven Sumberg, David
Osborn, Sir John Taylor, John (Solihull)
Ottaway, Richard Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Page, Richard (Herts SW) Temple-Morris, Peter
Parris, Matthew Terlezki, Stefan
Pawsey, James Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
Porter, Barry Thompson, Donald (Calder V)
Powell, William (Corby) Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)
Powley, John Thornton, Malcolm
Proctor, K. Harvey Townend, John (Bridlington)
Raffan, Keith Tracey, Richard
Renton, Tim Trippier, David
Roberts, Wyn (Conwy) Twinn, Dr Ian
Robinson, P. (Belfast E) Viggers, Peter
Roe, Mrs Marion Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Rowe, Andrew Waldegrave, Hon William
Rumbold, Mrs Angela Walden, George
Ryder, Richard Wall, Sir Patrick
Sackville, Hon Thomas Waller, Gary
Sainsbury, Hon Timothy Ward, John
Sayeed, Jonathan Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Shaw, Giles (Pudsey) Warren, Kenneth
Shelton, William (Streatham) Watson, John
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Watts, John
Sims, Roger Wells, Bowen (Hertford)
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield) Wheeler, John
Soames, Hon Nicholas Whitfield, John
Speller, Tony Wiggin, Jerry
Spencer, Derek Wilkinson, John
Squire, Robin Wood, Timothy
Stanbrook, Ivor Woodcock, Michael
Stanley, John Yeo, Tim
Stern, Michael Young, Sir George (Acton)
Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)
Stevens, Martin (Fulham) Tellers for the Ayes:
Stewart, Allan (Eastwood) Mr. Carol Mather and
Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood) Mr. Robert Boscawen.
Stewart, Ian (N Hertf'dshire)
Alton, David Meadowcroft, Michael
Ashdown, Paddy Michie, William
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Penhaligon, David
Barron, Kevin Sedgemore, Brian
Beith, A. J. Skinner, Dennis
Cohen, Harry Smith, C.(Isl'ton S & F'bury)
Corbyn, Jeremy Wrigglesworth, Ian
Fisher, Mark Young, David (Bolton SE)
Freud, Clement
Hughes, Simon (Southwark) Tellers for the Noes:
Madden, Max Mr. John Cartwright and
Marek, Dr John Mr. Archy Kirkwood.
Maxton, John

Question accordingly agreed to.

Clause 8 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Back to
Forward to