§ 3.20 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.
§ LORD WOOLTON
My Lords, I beg to move that the House be put into Committee on this Bill. In doing so will you allow me to fulfil a promise I made on Friday to the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, about the Commissioners? This is the reply which I hope you will be good enough to allow me to read. As regards the Commissioners it may be desirable to start with a negative. It is not intended that they shall be selected to represent the interests of any particular type of local authority. The preliminary conversations which the Minister of Health had with the Local Government Associations disclosed a general desire that the Commissioners should not be regarded as advocates or even arbitrators appointed by parties, but that they should be as far as possible selected for their capacity to take a broad view. Indeed the Associations, very wisely, expressed the unanimous view that they should not be consulted in the appointment.
As is stated on page 14 of the White Paper, the aim must be to secure the best possible design of local government areas in the future and not merely to adjudicate on the merits of conflicting claims. It is contemplated that three of the Commissioners will be appointed on a part-time basis; that the Chairman shall give the whole or the bulk of his time to the work of the Commission, at any rate in its earlier years; and that the Deputy Chairman shall give at any rate a substantial portion of his time. As Chairman the Government would hope to obtain a person who would enjoy the confidence of all sections of local government, and indeed of Parliament and the public— broadly speaking, a person of judicial calibre and outlook. Beyond these 550 general observations it is not practicable for the Government at this present moment to make any statement, but the House can be assured that the Government's intention is to place on the Commission persons whose record, experience and outlook are such that Parliament can feel the fullest confidence in their capacity and impartiality. I hope the noble Marquess will regard that as a tolerably satisfactory answer to the question he addressed to me and to which I promised to reply at this stage. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Woolton.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly: Bill reported without amendment.