§ Amendments made: No. 109, in page 161, line 13, at end insert—
|'20 & 21 Geo. 5 c. 43.||The Road Traffic Act 1930.||In section 121, the definition of "Highway authority".'.|
No. 61, in page 166, line 2, column 3, leave out `Sections 30 and 34(9)' and insert 'Section 30'.
No. 62, in page 166, line 39, leave out
`paragraphs 1, 4, 5(2), 7A, 7B'
'paragraph 1, in paragraph 2 the words from "such other matters" onwards and paragraphs 4, 5(2)'.
No. 63, in page 174, line 12, column 2, leave out `Areas'.
No. 64, in page 175, line 16, column 3, leave out `paragraph 13(1)(a), (b) and (c)' and insert
`in paragraph 13, sub-paragraph (1)(b) and (c) and in subparagraph (2) the words "(b), (c) and".'.
No. 65, in page 179, line 54, at end insert—
|1983 c. 55||The Value Added Tax Act 1983.||In section 20(6) the words "the Greater London Council".|
Order for Third Reading read.
§ 9.1 pm
§ Mr. Kenneth Baker
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
We are now concluding one of the most extensive examinations of any Bill in recent times. We had a full two days on Second Reading; two days on the Floor of the House discussing clause 1; and then 35 Committee sittings upstairs with 176 hours of debate. We have spent 216 hours discussing the Bill. That is more than twice the amount of time that the House spent considering the London Government Bill in 1963. Today, the GLC took full-page advertisements in several of our national newspapers—I have one of the advertisements with me—to complain that a ridiculously short time limit had been set on debate.
742 The GLC clearly does nor understand how the House works. It singled out ILEA. But the time that we spent in Committee on ILEA, some five and a half hours, is exactly the same length of time as was spent on the ILEA clauses in the 1963 Bill, which set up ILEA from scratch. The GLC also said that we spent little time on fire and civil defence. But we spent a considerable amount of time on those subjects in Committee upstairs, whereas in the 1963 Bill only 10 minutes was spent on them.
The GLC claim that we spent four hours debating the funding of voluntary bodies, whereas we spent 12 hours debating that. Indeed, the Bill has broken another record—for the amount of public money spent on misleading advertising. By the time that the GLC is abolished it will have spent more than £10 million of ratepayers' money on its awareness campaign alone. The metropolitan county councils have also joined in the bonanza.
Today, the GLC excelled itself. Two separate full-page advertisements and one half-page advertisement on the Greater London Enterprise Board appeared in The Times. There were full-page advertisements in The Guardian, the Daily Mail and the Daily Express. The total cost to London ratepayers was £63,348. It is absolutely scandalous that such money should be spent by the GLC. It would have bought some 30,000 meals on wheels and would have given support to many of the voluntary bodies that the GLC always tells me that it must save. What sticks in the gullets of many of London's ratepayers is that the GLC has not spared spending money on the best advertising agencies and the best public relations firms that money can buy.
§ Mr. Baker
Representatives from the public relations firms attended our Committee sittings and have been very active. No doubt they will again be very active. Indeed, I hope that they will be active, because the GLC has spent a lot of money on them. As I have said before, no tin of caviar has been left unopened and no bottle of champagne has been left uncorked in the attempt to persuade people of the virtues of the survival of the Socialist GLC.
§ Mr. Straw
I have not had any, and neither have my hon. Friends. It is a fantasy. As the Minister is talking about misleading things, will he have the guts to admit that he gravely misled the House and the country when he claimed that he had believed in the abolition of the GLC throughout the 1960s and the 1970s, when year after year he actively supported the GLC?
§ Mr. Baker
The hon. Gentleman has raised this consistently and has quoted from my collected works. I have answered the point on many occasions and I will say now what I have said before, that I supported the GLC when it was a matter of having a strategic body for land use planning. As I made clear in my speech last night. I have always maintained that view and I continue to maintain it. The strategic over-view needed for land use planning and roads is indeed an essential part of this Bill.
I was dealing with the advertising campaign of the GLC. I note with interest that the GLC still includes on its advertisements the assertion that "74 per cent. say no" but I have also noticed that the size of the "74 per cent." saying no has been shrinking and it is now tucked away in the corner of the advertisements. Could it be that the GLC are backing off this particular statistic?
743 The hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) admitted that there have been other opinion polls, and I have discovered that further polls have been commissioned. We understand that in fact the figure was more like 60 per cent. or 50 per cent., and the opinion polls are being fudged and fiddled. We have a right to know what the opinion polls say, because it is the ratepayers of London who are paying for them.
I do not really expect the hon. Member for Newham, North-West to answer any of our questions because he has now been elected, by 26 votes to 20, chairman-elect of the GLC for its last year. I have asked him on several occasions and the House is still waiting to hear from him whether he is going to collect his chairman's allowance of £8,000 or is he going to give it up. [HON. MEMBERS: "Cheap."] It certainly is not cheap; the hon. Gentleman is not to be had as cheaply as that.
People are now beginning to ask how these authorities can find the time and the money to devote to publicity campaigns on this scale. Why are they not devoting their energies to giving ratepayers better value for money?
There is certainly no doubt about the view of the House on the Bill. In December there was a majority of over 130 for Second Reading of the Bill. Last night there was a majority of over 124 against an amendment which Mr. Ken Livingstone had welcomed asthe biggest breakthrough in the battle against the Bill".He claimed that the amendment showedthe overwhelming disquiet in the Conservative party about abolition".Once again Mr. Livingstone backed the wrong horse.
Last night the House made an emphatic statement—that it wants to see the end of the GLC and does not want to see a directly elected successor body with executive functions and a power to raise money. The majority was substantial. In effect, 61 per cent. of those voting said yes to the end of the GLC and yes to no successor authority.
It is four months since we introduced the Bill. Many of those affected by the change have chosen to act as though it would never happen. I have news for them—it will. Mr. Livingstone may not recognise this, but many other people do.
The more responsible successor councils with the real interests of staff and ratepayers at heart are well on in their detailed consideration of what needs to be done in their areas. Getting on for half of them have discussed their plans with my Department. Even authorities which remain formally opposed to abolition are making preparations in this way.
Good progress is being made in planning the transfer of services to the London boroughs, the district councils and other successor bodies. The point is well illustrated by the statement which I made earlier today.
The independent staff commission has begun to make its contribution to smoothing the transmission for staff. The Government shares the commission's aim to keep redundancies to a minimum, to retain expertise in local government and to maintain services to ensure the smoothest transition.
I understand that even the GLC, despite its refusal to enter into discussion and to accept abolition, has submitted formal comments to the commission. I am glad that it recognises that the interests of staff must be properly considered.
744 Outside London, I welcomed the decision by the West Midlands county council's NALGO branch to enter into discussions with the Commission and the Government. It recognises that abolition will happen and that it would be unwise to wait until Royal Assent to discuss staffing issues. By then it will be too late to change the Bill. I have also just had an approach from the midlands region branch of TGWU requesting a meeting. I shall see them as soon as I can.
At this stage in the progress of the Bill it is worth pausing to consider why there is now a much more positive approach to abolition by the successor authorities. It is because the MCCs have failed to create and define a role for themselves. It is because, as we saw in our debate yesterday, those who want an overall body in London have no coherent view on why there should be such a body, what it should do, or how it should be constituted. It is because the GLC and the MCCs are now seen to be squandering ratepayers' money in a last desperate attempt to save themselves. It is because these authorities have always been thoroughly disliked by the boroughs and districts which are the real power base in local government in the conurbations.
In Committee I referred to the disdain—that is not too strong a word—expressed by some hon. Members towards the activities of borough councillors. It has been suggested that a district councillor cannot lift his eyes above the boundaries of his own borough. I quote the words of the Conservative leader in Trafford, Councillor King. In an article in the Local Government Chronicle he said:The suggestion that I as a borough councillor can represent my constituents when talking about education or housing but that if I talk about the police or the fire service this is somehow undemocratic, is preposterous … The charge that we are incapable of rising above parochial interest and reaching agreement across geographical and party lines is both insulting to districts and has no basis in history or reality.Councillor King is right. I fully endorse that sentiment. District and borough councillors have an interest which is wider than that covered by their area or conurbation.
In our 1983 election manifesto we said:The metropolitan Councils and the Greater London Council have been shown to be a wasteful and unnecessary tier of government. We shall abolish them and return most of their functions to the boroughs and districts. Services which need to be administered over a wider area—such as police and fire, and education in inner London—will be run by joint boards of borough or district representatives.In almost exactly one year from today we shall fulfil that manifesto promise. The metropolitan counties and the GLC have just 368 days left. The boroughs and districts will have the powers which they have sought for so long. The people of London and the metropolitan counties will have a more effective and cheaper system of government. The House has clearly shown its support for the Government's policy. I commend the Bill to the House.
§ Dr. Cunningham
The Minister of State talked about borough councillors lifting their sights. It is a pity that the Minister of State in his speech did not lift his sights above the petty, the tawdry and the insulting. Perhaps he was right, because this is a petty, tawdry Bill. It is also dangerous and damaging.
The Minister not only insulted the House and elected representatives in the GLC and metropolitan councils in 745 his opening remarks, but he insulted the 18 million people who live in the GLC and met areas. He has done his reputation no good.
§ Dr. Cunningham
It is interesting that the Secretary of State for the Environment has not even bothered to take part in much of our deliberation on the Bill to defend his own proposals.
We face the final vote, by one set of the people's representatives, on a measure which abolishes another set of elected representatives. The fundamental question right from the outset has been: why should we have the Bill and why has it been put together in this way? The honest answer, which is recognised by the overwhelming majority, including many Conservatives in spite of the votes and strenuous whipping, is simply because the representation in the great conurbations, including our capital city, does not suit the Government and does not find acceptance by the Administration. The councils are being abolished principally for that political reason.
Much has been said in the discussion on the Bill about the important services that will be adversely affected—trading standards, refuse disposal, fire services, administration and funding of the arts, and the strategic development of the cities and the capital. The Bill is really about the tyrannical attitude of the Government and the way that attitude is being enforced by what many people regard as an elective dictatorship.
The Secretary of State is perhaps an unlikely sounding tyrant. However, he and his Cabinet colleagues are systematically removing the rights of people in a succession of measures which have been forced through the House. The Government have been able to get away with it because the people are governed without constitutional protection.
To most of us on this side of the House the right hon. Gentleman seems probably more accident-prone than tyrannical. If we consider his record in his present office, in his determination to trap Sheffield by rate-capping he also trapped Portsmouth, thereby losing a safe Conservative seat in a by-election. If we go further back to his energy-saving days, he exhorted people to brush their teeth in the dark, no doubt while he was using an electric razor. Again in 1980 he had to be persuaded by his Cabinet colleagues not to damage seriously the budget of his own Department of Health and Social Security. As Daniel Defoe wrote:all men would be tyrants if they could.
An even closer examination of the right hon. Gentleman's more recent history demonstrates his tendencies. In 1979 he acted outside the law, abusing his powers to dismiss an area health authority, a decision overturned by the courts. There was his refusal to accept his responsibilities under the law with respect to the Greater London development plan; he changed the law to get out of his legal obligations there. In the consideration of this Bill in Committee and again yesterday and today he brought amendments and new provisions to the House to change matters retrospectively to suit his own political purposes. That is the record of the right hon. Gentleman in removing people's rights on the one hand and acting beyond his powers on the other.
In some cases at least the people who were affected could take him to court, but in this Bill the Government 746 are taking away the right of people to vote for direct, democratic control of a host of local services, many of them of considerable importance to our daily lives. I can understand why the right hon. Gentleman does not want to listen to his record, because it is so abysmal. Some of the services will be run indirectly by people elected for other purposes or by ministerial placemen or by ministerial diktat. Others will be run we know not how, as was made clear again today in the debate on refuse disposal.
After all the hours of discussion, consideration and debate, to which the Minister for Local Government referred, fundamental questions remain unanswered. That is the reality of the paucity of the Government's case. Yet more provisions that exist and are important in the everyday life of people will simply disappear because the resources—the money—will not be available to sustain them.
It has become clear from our consideration of the Bill that the impact of abolition, contrary to Government claims, will have far-reaching and damaging effects on people's lives, on the delivery of services and on the quality of services on which so many people depend. Other local authorities and agencies, the private sector and voluntary organisations will be adversely affected.
The Bill has been shown to have what are often called major constitutional implications. Yet we have no constitution in this country against which to test it. Two thousand years ago Plato in his Republic discussed the passing of democracy into despotism. Recent history provides examples and reminds us of how a formal constitution can protect the people from that kind of transition.
It was in Germany before the last war that a lack of such constitutional structure and built-in safeguards allowed despotism to develop and to tyrannise the world. It was no accident that after that conflagration the western powers imposed upon Germany a carefully tiered structure of local, regional and federal government with elections at every level to provide checks and balances. No element in that structure could be struck out by a simple vote of the national Parliament. Yet that is exactly what this House is being asked to do tonight—to strike out a tier of democratically elected local government.
In the United States as recently as the 1970s, constitutional provisions have been used to protect the American people from the disordered will of their then President. Yet tonight the House is being asked to eliminate a tier of local government for which 13 million citizens of our country are entitled to vote. That part of the democratic rights of people living in all our major urban areas is being removed. Ironically, all that may stop it — may — are the votes of people in another place, themselves not elected, but there by an accident of birth or by appointment.
Let the House remember that, in considering the passage of democracy being undermined by this Government, the Bill follows by only a few months the Secretary of State's and the Government's previous assumption of central authoritarian powers under the Rates Act, formerly widely dispersed to other elected politicians. The Rates Act also involved centralisation, under the right hon. Gentleman's control, of decisions formerly at the discretion of local councillors. Like the whale in John Donne's "Progress of the Soul", the Secretary of State is insatiable — his gulf-like throat sucks in everything that passeth near. The passage of the 747 Bill has taught us much—[Interruption.] The Minister for Local Government might complain, but I am more concerned about the democratic and constitutional issues than he was in his pathetic and tawdry speech to the House a few moments ago.
§ Mr. Marlow
As the hon. Gentleman knows, the democratic and constitutional process will allow his party to fight a general election. If it wins, that process will allow his party to reinstate what is being changed by the Bill. Will he give us a commitment from the Dispatch Box that he will reinstate these authorities?
§ Dr. Cunningham
I shall come to that in a moment. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman can be too keen on the prospect of a general election just at the moment. The Opposition would strongly welcome the people of London and of other major conurbations being allowed to have a vote in the elections that should have been taking place. We are confident of what the outcome would have been. It is the hon. Gentleman's party which is running away from and circumventing the ballot box, not the Labour party. We are willing to put our faith in the people and to let them vote on these issues. They have not had the opportunity properly to consider these matters at any time during the Government's term of office.
The passage of the Bill has taught us much. We have learned that the GLC and the six metropolitan authorities have a real and necessary role. They have important functions, which are best performed under elected supervision. We have learned that, in their relatively short lives, they have offered services which are appreciated by the people in the areas that they control. We have learnt that they have been run by diligent politicians of all political parties, working in their spare time to improve the quality of life for their fellow citizens.
We have learned also that the local administrative structures of the country require a thorough review, whether they fall under the Department of the Environment or other Ministries. The disaster of these proposals is that they are not based on any proper systematic, independent, authoritative, review but are cobbled together in haste without any evidence to support or substantiate them. We still adhere to the view that such an examination or review should take place before any fundamental constitutional changes such as this are proposed.
When in government, we shall ensure that there is a proper review of local government structure, functions and role.
§ Dr. Cunningham
No, I am coming to the end of my speech and do not want to speak any longer.
We have all learned that the Secretary of State is not interested in democratically expressed criticisms from whatever direction, source or political party. Perhaps it is worth reminding Conservative Members of what a famous Conservative—Edmund Burke—had to say about such matters:Bad laws are the worst sort of tyranny.We are today seeing yet another example of such tyranny. It is only the latest in a long line which the Government have brought to the House.
748 Many people before the Secretary of State and the Minister for Local Government. including William Pitt, have said:Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom.That is the kind of argument that we have had from the Government to justify what they are doing, and it is simply not good enough.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. It might be for the convenience of the House if I announce that the Front Benches will seek to rise at 9.50 pm. Many hon. Members wish to speak. Will they please bear that in mind?
§ Sir John Osborn (Sheffield, Hallam)
I have followed the proceedings of the Committee and Report stages with immense interest, and I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Minister for Local Government on the way in which he has conducted them. I have supported the Bill throughout. Within 15 years, however, I have listened to Second Reading and Third Reading Front Bench speeches, and both Conservative and Labour Ministers have reversed their arguments in that time.
I shall touch on the future, with the benefit of hindsight into what happened in the early 1970s. My former right hon. Friend the Member for Crosby, Graham Page, was largely responsible at that time for the administration of the transition to the two-tier system. The transition was so great that it was inevitably not smooth. In the early 1970s I supported my right hon. Friends and thought that the two-tier system would work, but since then the political supporters of the Conservative party in south Yorkshire — those in the professions and industry — have increasingly pressurised me to do away with that extravagance. That is why I welcome what was written into the Conservative manifesto at the last election.
In Committee and on Report, issues such as refuse disposal standards were debated. While the Committee was sitting, officials from the various departments in south Yorkshire affected by the transition invited me to see what they were doing. Although I have had good contacts with Conservative county councillors in south Yorkshire, Sheffield and other districts, I felt that the officials had not been at ease in approaching me or my right hon. and hon. Friends.
The chief executive for south Yorkshire, Mr. John Harris, approached me as the only Conservative Member for that area. Representatives of the unions in south Yorkshire have come to me and were especiall—y worried about severance pay. I suggested to them that the Socialist-controlled county council with its "no redundancy" policy, when industry in the area was having to declare redundancies, may have brought this on itself and its employees. I said that in the long term the county council may well not have been a good employer.
Officials have appealed to me because they want a smooth transition, and I have sent my right hon. and hon. Friends letters. I hope that county councillors will get together with district councillors, and that officials will get together, especially in south Yorkshire.
Many people have told me that they will be declared redundant. However, the services which have been carried out by the county council will not necessarily be 749 dismantled, but will be carried on by the district councils. Therefore, there are opportunities for those affected by the change.
It is imperative that the employers — in south Yorkshire they are the South Yorkshire county councillors, their officials, the district councillors and their officials—act as good employers, work together and ensure that as many people as possible retain employment using the skills that they have acquired under the county council. I hope that my right hon. and hon. Friends will take that matter up, especially when they visit south Yorkshire.
§ Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey)
In 1964 the Greater London council was born—created by a Tory Government. Eleven years ago the metropolitan county councils were born — created by a Tory Government. In 1979, when the Tory Goverment came to power, the jewel of their crown was the GLC, but that changed when the GLC was taken over by the Labour party. Therefore, in May 1983 the Government changed tack and decided to abolish the GLC and the MCCs. "Abolish the GLC and the Mets," they cried. "Two-tier government in the Met areas is now inappropriate," they claimed, although in the predominantly Tory shires it was to continue.
Abolition went into the manifesto. The Government fought the election on that manifesto and lost support, but our perverse system gave them more Members of Parliament, despite the decrease in public support for them. Then the new Conservative concept was born. They were wedded to their manifesto. Their actions were unprecedented. There was no royal commission, no public inquiry, and what comments they sought, they refused to publish.
For years the Liberal party has argued that we are too centralist a state. We have argued for devolution and regional government. We saw the GLC as a prototype for regional government, and supported its creation. The proposed six metropolitan authorities were in all cases much too small to be regional authorities and, therefore, we opposed their creation. The Bill will abolish all seven.
We want London to have a proper regional authority; to do that, one should develop and improve, not abolish what exists. Strategic functions will always exist, and they should always be controlled by a democratically elected authority, not by a combination of the powers of the Secretary of State, quangos and joint boards. We wish the metropolitan counties to be replaced too, but by democratic regional government, not by the muddle that the Government propose.
Even my hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith), who on Second Reading supported the Government, will not support them tonight. He and my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton), like the rest of my colleagues, find the proposals unacceptable. The House should now take the opportunity to have the sort of inquiry that we proposed. If there is not to be a royal commission, there should at least be local public inquiries. While galloping through the Bill, the Government have made hardly any concessions. Almost every expert in the land is ranged against them. The Government, in their conception, birth and development of the Bill, have always intended to take liberties, not for local government but with local government. Liberals and 750 our alliance partners believe, of course, that as much power as possible should be held by localboroughs and districts, but we believe that in each region of Britain there should be democratic structures at all levels. More powers to the Secretary of State, more quangos and more joint boards are unacceptable.
The Government's distorted, apparent majority in the House reflects the distorted attitude of the present centralist Tory Government. We reject their centralist, arrogant and muddled attitude to local democracy.
§ Mr. Hughes
The hon. Gentleman might be right.
We shall oppose this politically misguided, muddled, party political Bill. If we cannot stop the Bill on Third Reading, we look to the House of Lords, as it did last year, fundamentally to turn round the Government's course in the months ahead.
§ Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood)
It is always difficult at this late hour in such a debate to make further significant points, but I must say that the Bill has been an extremely unhappy experience for many Conservative Members. It has been a dialogue of the deaf, and a case of the bland leading the blind. We have seen a parliamentary steamroller driven with great suavity but a remarkable lack of conviction.
For many months, many of us have tried to persuade our right hon. Friends on the Front Bench that the course upon which they were embarked with regard to London was not entirely wise. Of course, it was difficult to do so, because we were faced with immense preconceptions on the part of our right hon. Friends.
The Government's attitude can be exemplified in two quotations. The first is from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State who, when answering the amendment of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Feltham and Heston (Mr. Ground), said yesterday:Is it not clear that all the major planning and transport decisions fall inevitably … to the Government and to the House? … Where does London begin and end?"—[Official Report, 27 March 1985; Vol. 76, c. 560.]From somewhere on the Back Benches came the cry, "In Marsham street." Of course that is right. As the Shadow Minister for Local Government said in reply to the debate, we live in an era of grant-related expenditure assessments, of targets, of ratecapping and of a decline in autonomy and local accountability. The Bill will accelerate that process, to the detriment of London's government, as was so forcefully put across in the cogent speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Sir I. Gilmour).
The other quotation from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State came in the Second Reading debate when he said that London is justa series of separate local areas with diverse characteristics. Camden has little in common with Croydon; Hackney has little in common with Harrow; Redbridge has little in common with Richmond."—[Official Report, 3 December 1984; Vol. 69, c. 27.]The alliterations may have made good rhetoric, but those of us who live and work in London know that there are common interests which transcend borough boundaries, and certain functions that need to be fulfilled properly on a central basis because it is more rational and cost-effective so to do.
751 The Government, had they chosen, had the mechanism in the Bill to provide a sensible division between services provided at a local level and services provided at the centre. The mechanism was straightforward. All services and functions that could be, should be transferred to the boroughs. We do not quibble, we make no cavil about those services that, in this legislation, are so to be transferred. However, those that, in the Bill, are to go to joint boards, to the Secretary of State and to the strategic planning commission should more democratically and properly go to a directly elected, Londonwide body. In Heaven's name, why should this party be afraid of democracy and of the ballot box?
This last point is the aspect of the measure which is so shocking to us, because implicit, if not openly acknowledged, in the Government's approach has been the understanding that if we could prevent any successor democratic body being established, we would somehow prevent a new "subversive element" — those were the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) — emerging south of the river. However, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Feltham and Heston pointed out, it is up to the House to set the precise role and responsibilities of the new body, and to define them.
My right hon. Friend the Minister for Local Government yawns. I understand. It has been a long and tedious process for him and it must be particularly exhausting if he does not entirely believe in the legislation which he has had to carry through. Nevertheless, there is no reason why the successor body, if it is divested of discretionary spending power, should arrogate to itself new and inappropriate responsibilities.
In the last analysis, the Bill will be judged by its effect on the pockets of the ratepayers of London. The Government have skated over the financial implications of the Bill. There was a disparaging speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Highgate and Hampstead (Sir G. Finsberg) about the excellent work done by Cyril Taylor, the deputy leader who has financial responsibility on the Tory group in the GLC, called "London Preserv'd". That document is the most comprehensive analysis of the financial implications of the Bill and it was backed up by the officials in county hall. It does not prove that there will be dramatic savings.
My borough of Hillingdon, in a letter from its leader on 28 February, asked for assurances that the extra functions imposed on it will be met in full by extra resources from the centre. However, we know that the Treasury is steadily seeking to reduce the amount of local government expenditure financed by the rate support grant. Against this background, and particularly as resources have been flowing away from London in the past five years, how can boroughs which are having to take on new functions be assured that there will not be an adverse effect on their ratepayers?
I believe that many of my hon. Friends have felt like saying, "Let us leave it to the other place. Let us set our consciences aside on this occasion. Their Lordships will do our work for us." This is a dangerous principle. We may have a big majority, but numbers do not necessarily equate with the force of the argument. That has been the lesson of this measure. If benefits do not accrue to 752 Londoners from this legislation, the Conservative party will be judged severely in elections in London in the future.
§ Mr. Tony Banks
With the Third Reading of this Bill we are approaching the end of what I believe to be one of the most shameful and sordid episodes in the history of this House.
The abolition of the GLC and metropolitan county councils was conceived in spite and vindictiveness by the Prime Minister. It has been nurtured in prejudice and ignorance, and the Bill will leave the House surrounded in controversy and injustice. The Government's unthinking and largely uncaring majority will be used to steamroller through a Bill which has no widespread popular support in the country and which continues to give rise to great concern among a large number of Conservative party supporters inside and outside Parliament. An example of that was the speech of the hon. Member for Ruislip, Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson).
At no time throughout the passage of the Bill have the Government been able to quote a single impartial, independent or authoritative voice in favour of their proposal to abolish the GLC. Voluntary organisations, amenity groups, professional institutions, the churches, trade associations and learned bodies have spoken almost with one voice against the Bill.
It is a sad day for democracy when a measure so universally unloved and unnecessary can tie up the affairs of Parliament and be pushed towards the statute book simply because one person, the Prime Minister, so dislikes the politics of the Labour administration at county hall. Throughout the many months of public debate the only truly honest statement about the abolition of the GLC coming from a Minister was that made by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry on 14 March of last year, when he said:The Labour Party is the Party of division. In its present form it represents a threat to the democratic values and institutions on which our Parliamentary system is based. The GLC is typical of this new, modern, divisive version of socialism. It must be defeated. So we shall abolish the GLC.There we have it. The Bill is designed to give statutory reality to a party political vendetta originating from a Prime Minister whose obsessive loathing for all opposition calls into question her very commitment to democratic freedom.
All other major changes in our structure of local government have followed careful and close examination. But such former standards and traditions count for nothing in today's Tory party — [Interruption.] —noted for its extremism and intolerance.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I have said that the hon. Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) persisting in that way only takes time out of the debate, in which many hon. Members wish to take part.
§ Mr. Banks
The Government also say that abolition will cut out 7,100 jobs, but, again, they have failed to identify the service areas from where workers will be taken to push up the already scandalously high levels of those unemployed in Britain. Everybody must surely now know that not GLC nor metropolitan county services will be abolished but, rather, the democratic accountability by the electorate over those who administer those services. Elected councils are to be replaced by joint boards, quangos—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The behaviour of the hon. Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) is intolerable.
§ Mr. Banks
Elected councillors are to be replaced by joint boards and quangos, and ever-increasing powers will be concentrated in the hands of Ministers and civil servants in Whitehall. With the abolition of the GLC elections in May, the Government have revealed clearly their dictatorial tendencies and their fear of the ballot box. In London, the electorate will surely exact revenge on the Tory party in the 1986 borough council elections. For their part in the shameful and unconstitutional exercise, Ministers of the Department of the Environment have earned the contempt of the House. They have sold themselves for the dross of office at any price. They have betrayed what few political principles they might have had by being prepared to humiliate themselves and their former views in the service of the Prime Minister.
§ Mr. Banks
Nearly 100 years of continuous citywide local government in London is drawing to a close. We must now look to another place to achieve what rational argument and good sense could not achieve in this place.
I was first elected to the GLC in 1970, and I speak with some feeling when I say that I find it difficult to believe what I am witnessing tonight.
§ Mr. Banks
Whatever happens to this most shameful Bill, I remain utterly confident that in the years ahead a directly elected Londonwide council will still be sitting in county hall long after this discredited and divisive Government of second-raters and self-seekers have been deservedly swept from office.
§ Mr. Straw
I commend to the House the eloquent and brave speech of the hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson). The hon. Gentleman was right to say that 754 the Opposition might lose the vote tonight, but opponents of the Bill on both sides of the House have won the arguments.
All reorganisations of local government are controversial, but two things distinguish this one from all those which have gone before. In every reorganisation and organisation, including those of 1835, 1888, 1963 and 1972, there have been disagreements about the nature of change but full agreement throughout the country about the need for change. All the previous reorganisations of local government affected local authorities of all political persuasions or none. In this reorganisation there is no agreement or consensus about the need for change. It is the only reorganisation that has ever taken place in which the party in government has sought to reorganise seven local authorities whose only difference from it is that they are controlled by Opposition parties.
§ Mr. Straw
No, I shall not give way to that stormtrooper, the hon. Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow).
That difference exposes the disgrace of the Conservative party. That is what exposes the Government's true motives.
The hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood said that the Minister for Local Government does not believe in the Bill. Of course he does not. Year after year the right hon. Gentleman supported the case for a strategic planning authority for London and for the GLC. He moved Bill after Bill in that light. Of course he does not believe in this measure, but he believes in his own ambition. It is his desire—to his eternal shame—to take the Secretary of State's job. That lies behind his prosecution and advocacy of this extraordinary measure.
§ Mr. Straw
In his desperation to rise under the Thatcherite regime, he is willing to jettison old friends and old principles with all the consistency of an Iago. No case has been made for this measure. Not once have we been told the basis of the outrageous claims of savings of £100 million. This measure will cause disorganisation. It will undermine the level of services and reduce the quality of life of the 14 million people who live in the GLC and metropolitan areas.
§ Sir George Young
Five magic words were missing from the speeches of the hon. Members for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) and for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham)—"We will repeal this Bill".
§ Sir George Young
Anyone who was expecting during the passage of the Bill a clear statement of Labour party policy on local government has been sorely disappointed. The hon. Member for Copeland treated the House to a series of abuses of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of 755 State and the Government. My right hon. Friend was called a tyrant and the Government were called dictators. The hon. Gentleman called us dictators because we were striking out a tier of government. Has he forgotten what his right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufmann) said:We shall legislate to create unitary district authorities which will be responsible for all the functions in their area. We shall set up no more inquiries. We shall legislate.What about the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker), an Opposition spokesman on the Environment, who has made it quite clear that he will not lift a finger to save the metropolitan county councils?
Those who have followed the Bill have noticed a change in the mood of the House. After the vote on 12 December, the hon. Member for Copeland rose on a point of order and referred to what he calleda moral and humiliating defeat." — [Official Report, 12 December 1984; Vol. 69, c. 1182.]We have not heard much of that sort of language recently after the vote in the House last night. After that vote, I hope that all the posters that say, "74 per cent. say no" will come down and be replaced by posters that say, "61 per cent. say yes".
§ Sir George Young
At the last election in London the prospect of abolition was a policy that secured widespread support and gained a record number of seats for my hon. Friends. I am confident that, at the next election, the reality of abolition will be equally popular. I predict that at some convenient moment, the Labour party, which has already jettisoned the commitment to bring back the metropolitan counties, will also abandon the commitment to exhume the GLC.
§ Sir George Young
I shall not give way.
After 1 April, next year, life in London will not grind to a halt as we were told in Committee. The major difference for most Londoners is that rates will be lower than they would otherwise have been. Many Londoners look forward to better government in London.
§ Sir George Young
Many Londoners in London are looking forward to better, more accountable and more responsible local government and to services being delivered more economically. I am confident that when these policies are delivered and on the statute book, the country will realise that they are right and that the commitment to repeal, if it ever comes, will be abandoned. I ask the House to give the Bill a decisive Third Reading.
§ Question put:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 325, Noes 170.760
|Division No. 173]||[10 pm|
|Adley, Robert||Emery, Sir Peter|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael||Evennett, David|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Eyre, Sir Reginald|
|Amess, David||Fairbairn, Nicholas|
|Ancram, Michael||Fallon, Michael|
|Arnold, Tom||Farr, Sir John|
|Ashby, David||Favell, Anthony|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Fenner, Mrs Peggy|
|Atkins, Robert (South Ribble)||Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey|
|Atkinson, David (B'm'th E)||Fletcher, Alexander|
|Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Vall'y)||Fookes, Miss Janet|
|Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset)||Forman, Nigel|
|Baldry, Tony||Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)|
|Banks, Robert (Harrogate)||Forth, Eric|
|Beggs, Roy||Fowler, Rt Hon Norman|
|Bellingham, Henry||Fox, Marcus|
|Bendall, Vivian||Franks, Cecil|
|Best, Keith||Fraser, Peter (Angus East)|
|Biffen, Rt Hon John||Freeman, Roger|
|Biggs-Davison, Sir John||Fry, Peter|
|Blackburn, John||Galley, Roy|
|Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter||Gardiner, George (Reigate)|
|Body, Richard||Gardner, Sir Edward (Fylde)|
|Bonsor, Sir Nicholas||Garel-Jones, Tristan|
|Bottomley, Peter||Glyn, Dr Alan|
|Bottomley, Mrs Virginia||Goodhart, Sir Philip|
|Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n)||Goodlad, Alastair|
|Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)||Gow, Ian|
|Brandon-Bravo, Martin||Gower, Sir Raymond|
|Bright, Graham||Grant, Sir Anthony|
|Brinton, Tim||Greenway, Harry|
|Brittan, Rt Hon Leon||Gregory, Conal|
|Brooke, Hon Peter||Griffiths, E. (B'y St Edm'ds)|
|Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes)||Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N)|
|Browne, John||Grist, Ian|
|Bruinvels, Peter||Grylls, Michael|
|Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon A.||Gummer, John Selwyn|
|Buck, Sir Antony||Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)|
|Budgen, Nick||Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)|
|Burt, Alistair||Hampson, Dr Keith|
|Butcher, John||Hanley, Jeremy|
|Butler, Hon Adam||Hannam, John|
|Butterfill, John||Hargreaves, Kenneth|
|Carlisle, John (N Luton)||Harris, David|
|Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)||Harvey, Robert|
|Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (W'ton S)||Haselhurst, Alan|
|Carttiss, Michael||Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael|
|Cash, William||Hawkins, C. (High Peak)|
|Chalker, Mrs Lynda||Hawkins, Sir Paul (SW N'folk)|
|Channon, Rt Hon Paul||Hawksley, Warren|
|Chapman, Sydney||Hayhoe, Barney|
|Chope, Christopher||Hayward, Robert|
|Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th S'n)||Heathcoat-Amory, David|
|Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)||Henderson, Barry|
|Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)||Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael|
|Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)||Hickmet, Richard|
|Clegg, Sir Walter||Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.|
|Colvin, Michael||Hill, James|
|Coombs, Simon||Hind, Kenneth|
|Cope, John||Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)|
|Corrie, John||Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling)|
|Couchman, James||Holt, Richard|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Hordern, Peter|
|Crouch, David||Howard, Michael|
|Currie, Mrs Edwina||Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)|
|Dickens, Geoffrey||Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)|
|Dicks, Terry||Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldford)|
|Dorrell, Stephen||Howell, Ralph (N Norfolk)|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.||Hubbard-Miles, Peter|
|du Cann, Rt Hon Sir Edward||Hunt, David (Wirral)|
|Dunn, Robert||Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)|
|Durant, Tony||Hunter, Andrew|
|Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke)||Irving, Charles|
|Eggar, Tim||Jackson, Robert|
|Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick||Percival, Rt Hon Sir Ian|
|Jessel, Toby||Pollock, Alexander|
|Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey||Portillo, Michael|
|Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)||Powell, Rt Hon J. E. (S Down)|
|Jones, Robert (W Herts)||Powell, William (Corby)|
|Jopling, Rt Hon Michael||Powley, John|
|Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine||Prior, Rt Hon James|
|Kershaw, Sir Anthony||Proctor, K. Harvey|
|Key, Robert||Raffan, Keith|
|King, Roger (B'ham N'field)||Raison, Rt Hon Timothy|
|King, Rt Hon Tom||Rathbone, Tim|
|Knight, Gregory (Derby N)||Rees, Rt Hon Peter (Dover)|
|Knight, Mrs Jill (Edgbaston)||Renton, Tim|
|Knowles, Michael||Rhodes James, Robert|
|Lamont, Norman||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Lang, Ian||Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas|
|Latham, Michael||Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)|
|Lawler Geoffrey||Robinson, Mark (N'port W)|
|Lawrence, Ivan||Roe, Mrs Marion|
|Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel||Ross, Wm. (Londonderry)|
|Lee, John (Pendle)||Rossi, Sir Hugh|
|Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark||Rost, Peter|
|Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd)||Rowe, Andrew|
|Lightbown, David||Rumbold, Mrs Angela|
|Lilley, Peter||Ryder, Richard|
|Lloyd, Ian (Havant)||Sackville, Hon Thomas|
|Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham)||Sainsbury, Hon Timothy|
|Lord, Michael||St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.|
|Luce, Richard||Sayeed, Jonathan|
|Lyell, Nicholas||Scott, Nicholas|
|McCrindle, Robert||Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)|
|McCurley, Mrs Anna||Shelton, William (Streatham)|
|McCusker, Harold||Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)|
|Macfarlane, Neil||Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)|
|MacGregor, John||Shersby, Michael|
|MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)||Silvester. Fred|
|MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)||Sims, Roger|
|Maclean, David John||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|McQuarrie, Albert||Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)|
|Madel, David||Smyth, Rev W. M. (Belfast S)|
|Major, John||Soames, Hon Nicholas|
|Malins, Humfrey||Speller, Tony|
|Malone. Gerald||Spence, John|
|Maples, John||Spencer, Derek|
|Marlow, Antony||Spicer, Jim (W Dorset)|
|Maude, Hon Francis||Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)|
|Mawhinney, Dr Brian||Squire, Robin|
|Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin||Steen, Anthony|
|Mayhew, Sir Patrick||Stern, Michael|
|Mellor, David||Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)|
|Merchant, Piers||Stevens, Martin (Fulham)|
|Miller, Hal (B'grove)||Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)|
|Mills, Iain (Meriden)||Stewart, Ian (N Hertf'dshire)|
|Mitchell, David (NW Hants)||Stokes, John|
|Moate, Roger||Stradling Thomas, J.|
|Molyneaux, Rt Hon James||Sumberg, David|
|Monro, Sir Hector||Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)|
|Montgomery, Sir Fergus||Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman|
|Moore, John||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Morris, M. (N'hampton, S)||Terlezki, Stefan|
|Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)||Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M.|
|Moynihan, Hon C.||Thomas, Rt Hon Peter|
|Murphy, Christopher||Thompson, Donald (Calder V)|
|Neale, Gerrard||Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)|
|Needham, Richard||Thurnham, Peter|
|Nelson, Anthony||Townend, John (Bridlington)|
|Neubert, Michael||Tracey, Richard|
|Newton, Tony||Trippier, David|
|Nicholls, Patrick||Trotter, Neville|
|Norris, Steven||Twinn, Dr Ian|
|Onslow, Cranley||van Straubenzee, Sir W.|
|Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.||Vaughan, Sir Gerard|
|Osborn, Sir John||Viggers, Peter|
|Ottaway, Richard||Waddington, David|
|Page, Richard (Herts SW)||Wakeham, Rt Hon John|
|Parris, Matthew||Waldegrave, Hon William|
|Patten, Christopher (Bath)||Walden, George|
|Pattie, Geoffrey||Walker, Cecil (Belfast N)|
|Pawsey, James||Walker, Bill (T'side N)|
|Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth||Walker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)|
|Waller, Gary||Winterton, Mrs Ann|
|Ward, John||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Wardle, C. (Bexhill)||Wolfson, Mark|
|Watson, John||Wood, Timothy|
|Watts, John||Yeo, Tim|
|Wells, Bowen (Hertford)||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Wells, Sir John (Maidstone)|
|Wheeler, John||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Whitfield, John||Mr. Carol Mather and|
|Whitney, Raymond||Mr. Robert Boscawen.|
|Abse, Leo||Foot, Rt Hon Michael|
|Adams, Allen (Paisley N)||Forrester, John|
|Alton, David||Foster, Derek|
|Anderson, Donald||Foulkes, George|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Fraser, J. (Norwood)|
|Ashley, Rt Hon Jack||Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald|
|Ashton, Joe||Freud, Clement|
|Atkinson, N. (Tottenham)||Garrett, W. E.|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Godman, Dr Norman|
|Banks, Tony (Newham NW)||Gould, Bryan|
|Barnett, Guy||Ground, Patrick|
|Barron, Kevin||Hamilton, James (M'well N)|
|Beckett, Mrs Margaret||Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)|
|Beith, A. J.||Hardy, Peter|
|Benn, Tony||Harman, Ms Harriet|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Harrison, Rt Hon Walter|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Heffer, Eric S.|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)|
|Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E)||Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall)|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Home Robertson, John|
|Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E)||Howells, Geraint|
|Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith)||Hoyle, Douglas|
|Buchan, Norman||Hughes, Dr. Mark (Durham)|
|Caborn, Richard||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)|
|Callaghan, Rt Hon J.||Hughes, Roy (Newport East)|
|Campbell-Savours, Dale||Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)|
|Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y)||Hughes, Simon (Southwark)|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Janner, Hon Greville|
|Cartwright, John||John, Brynmor|
|Clarke, Thomas||Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald|
|Clay, Robert||Kilroy-Silk, Robert|
|Clwyd, Mrs Ann||Lamond, James|
|Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.)||Leighton, Ronald|
|Cohen, Harry||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)|
|Coleman, Donald||Lewis, Terence (Worsley)|
|Concannon, Rt Hon J. D.||Litherland, Robert|
|Conlan, Bernard||Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)|
|Cook, Frank (Stockton North)||Loyden, Edward|
|Cook, Robin F. (Livingston)||McCartney, Hugh|
|Corbett, Robin||McKelvey, William|
|Corbyn, Jeremy||Mackenzie, Rt Hon Gregor|
|Cormack, Patrick||McNamara, Kevin|
|Cowans, Harry||McTaggart, Robert|
|Cox, Thomas (Tooting)||Madden, Max|
|Crowther, Stan||Marek, Dr John|
|Cunliffe, Lawrence||Marshall, David (Shettleston)|
|Cunningham, Dr John||Maxton, John|
|Dalyell, Tam||Meacher, Michael|
|Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli)||Michie, William|
|Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly)||Mikardo, Ian|
|Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l)||Millan, Rt Hon Bruce|
|Deakins, Eric||Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)|
|Dixon, Donald||Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)|
|Dobson, Frank||Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)|
|Dormand, Jack||Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)|
|Dubs, Alfred||Nellist, David|
|Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.||Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon|
|Eadie, Alex||O'Brien, William|
|Eastham, Ken||O'Neill, Martin|
|Edwards, Bob (W'h'mpt'n SE)||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley|
|Ellis, Raymond||Park, George|
|Evans, John (St. Helens N)||Parry, Robert|
|Ewing, Harry||Pendry, Tom|
|Fatchett, Derek||Pike, Peter|
|Field, Frank (Birkenhead)||Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)|
|Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn)||Prescott, John|
|Fisher, Mark||Randall, Stuart|
|Flannery, Martin||Redmond, M.|
|Rees, Rt Hon M. (Leeds S)||Sheldon, Rt Hon R.|
|Richardson, Ms Jo||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|Roberts, Allan (Bootle)||Silkin, Rt Hon J.|
|Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)||Skinner, Dennis|
|Robertson, George||Smith, C.(Isl'ton S & F'bury)|
|Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)||Smith, Rt Hon J. (M'kl'ds E)|
|Rooker, J. W.||Snape, Peter|
|Ross, Ernest (Dundee W)||Soley, Clive|
|Rowlands, Ted||Spearing, Nigel|
|Ryman, John||Straw, Jack|
|Sedgemore, Brian||Tinn, James|
|Sheerman, Barry||Torney, Tom|
|Wainwright, R.||Woodall, Alec|
|Wardell, Gareth (Gower)||Young, David (Bolton SE)|
|Weetch, Ken||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Wilkinson, John||Mr. Frank Haynes and|
|Williams, Rt Hon A.||Mr. Allen McKay.|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.
§ Bill read the Third time, and passed.