§ 2.42 p.m.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH rose to move to resolve, That the proposals in Cmnd. 1562 will not meet the needs of democratic local government of Greater London, and will create administrative difficulties for the counties of Essex, Kent and Surrey. The noble Lord said: My Lords, let it be understood straight away that, as one who has spent his life in effecting changes of one sort or another in local government administration and in national government as well, I am not opposed to change merely in order to take up a negative position. In fact there are some changes which the Government could have made which are modest and moderate and which I think would be justified. But while it is not for us to resist change merely for the sake of resisting it, it is equally sound to say that there is no point in making changes unless there is advantage in making those changes. That is a view which I have also held among my political friends, whether in government or outside it. The case for the change has to be proved, and my submission to the House will be that the case for this body of changes is not proved by any means.
§ It is curious that, when those same people who condemn the London County Council and other county councils for wishing largely, though not entirely, to preserve the status quo approach the borders of the square mile of the City of London, they suddenly decide that they do not want any change at all, except to increase the powers of the City of London Corporation and to make it a Greater London borough; and, as I will indicate, with a population of well under 5,000. I think that in this crisis the City of London ought to be standing shoulder to shoulder with the London County Council. We have not been bad friends to the City, since the Labour Party has been in power at County Hall, and they have been appreciative of that fact. I think it is time for the City, as one of the pioneers of local self-government and, indeed, of Parliamentary democracy, to lend a hand to the London County Council in this wicked attempt to destroy it for Party political reasons.171
§ My Lords, it is said that London local government is in a bad way; that it is a confusing muddle; that it is in a state of mouldering decay. As Goebbels said when he was Propaganda Minister in Nazi Germany, if you say something often enough, even though it be a lie, people will come to believe it. That is what is happening about these allegations that London government is in a bad way. My Lords, I have visited most, or at any rate a large proportion, of the cities of the world and, with every respect to the other cities, many of which have first-class local government, I do not know another capital city which is better governed than is this London of ours. So I think this allegation is a palpable untruth.
§ Consider the operation of civil defence in the war, which was a new service. I know it very well, because I was Chairman of the Civil Defence Committee of the London County Council before the war broke out and for some months after it broke out, until Mr. Churchill, as he then was, invited me to join his Government. Civil defence operated in the main in relation to the existing powers of the county councils, the county boroughs, the county districts of Greater London and the metropolitan boroughs in the County of London, and they took on functions which were related to their normal peacetime functions. My Lords, it worked very well. Would anybody say that civil defence in London under this structure of local government, under the stress of war, was a failure? They would not. I say that the metropolitan boroughs, the county districts, the county councils and the county borough councils, taking them by and large, did a first-class job in the interests of the citizens of Great London under the stress of war, under heavy enemy bombing, and they did much to maintain the morale of the citizens of this great City.
§ This is a Government-cum-Royal Commission scheme, and nobody would charge the Government with being impartial about it. If the Conservatives had won the last London County Council election, we should not have heard about this. This is a plot, a rather contemptible plot—I almost said a corrupt plot—inspired by the London Municipal Society and the Conservative 172 Central Office, not to destroy the London county Council because it is the London County Council, but because they challenge the right of the people of London to have anything but a Conservative majority at County Hall. That is the motive and it is a very pitiful motive indeed.
§ It is assumed in the argument that there is no problem in London government other than traffic and planning, and nearly the whole of the argument of the supporters of the scheme begins with and centres upon the problems of traffic and planning. They say that London has become too big. It is not our fault that it is so big; it is the result of past neglect of Governments and municipalities before ever we were in power. But, my Lords, local government does not live by traffic and planning alone. The people who use this traffic and planning argument are forgetting that local government is concerned with people, with human beings, with men, women and little children. They do not talk about the men, the women and the children; they talk about crowded thoroughfares and planning. That is an indication of the wrong premises, from which they begin to assume that the only problems are traffic and planning. Therefore, that argument is not reasonable as history proves.
§ There are three possibilities. There is the Government scheme, which does not solve the problem. If it be true that the planning problem is concerned with built-up London and beyond—and it must be concerned with beyond as well, because we need to preserve some green round London; and, indeed, that was the purpose of the Green Belt which we got through in co-operation with the Conservative county councils. Labour county boroughs and a Conservative county borough—there is an argument for the area to be bigger. The county councils therefore put before the Government a method of dealing with the traffic and planning problem. That was to permit the counties to appoint representatives to a Greater London Board; that there should be others representing the Ministry of Transport, the railways and so on; and that this Board should be executive up to the point that it makes the Greater London Plan, but 173 that the day-to-day administration of the plan, within its limits, should be carried out by the present planning authorities—namely, the county councils and the county borough councils. That was a constructive alternative, but the Government would not have it.
§ There is an alternative. And here I raise the point: what are Government Departments for? What is this curious Ministry of Housing and Local Government for? It is a curious Department in every way. Surely, when the planning schemes come up from the planning authorities, or, if this Greater London Board were accepted, from that Board, then one of the duties of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, as the State Department concerned with planning, is to compare them with its own wishes and to compare them with proposals from surrounding planning authorities beyond the area, and for it, as a Department, to come to a conclusion on whether or not these plans require modifying or altering. What is the Ministry paid for? What is the Minister paid for? They say they do not want to interfere with the local authorities. My Lords, I have yet to meet a Government Department which does not in any way want to interfere with local authorities, including that one—and especially the Ministry of Transport. The poor Minister of Transport would have a rough time if he could not go round interfering with, or patronising, local authorities.
§ In the case of transport, the Minister of Transport is interfering; he is doing too much interfering, I think. But he has extensive powers over a wide London traffic area, and he can require the highway authorities to do certain things by way of straightening out, extension or maintenance. He pays them grants (except that he does not pay maintenance in London and the county boroughs) and that gives the Minister very great power. If a local authority, a highway authority, is not doing the right thing, he can require it to do something else. Therefore, these functions of co-ordination are in the ordinary way functions of the State Department concerned; but if they want an overall plan-making authority, then the local authorities have suggested this executive Board. In any case, in the light of the Govern- 174 ment's argument about the Greater London area, the area that they have chosen is not big enough, because it ought to include a green area around in order that that green area may be protected.
§ The record of the London County Council is, I think, a very good one. The first majority was the old Progressive Liberal majority from 1889 to 1907, at which date they were made the victims of a very unscrupulous campaign: but the old Progressive Liberals did a great job at County Hall, and they laid down fine traditions of clean government and incorruptibility. The Conservatives came in and they did their job; we came in and we have done ours. Who is going, to get up and prove that the London County Council is an incompetent local authority?
§ When Commonwealth or foreign visitors interested in local government come to this country they may go to the ancient City, as a matter of courtesy, and visit this ancient authority—and that is very natural. But when they want to know about London local government, they come to this great authority, the London County Council. It has a great name in the world, as, indeed, is admitted in the Royal Commission's Report, and in some of the ministerial expressions.
§ I myself have had a varied local government experience, so I am not London County Council alone; indeed, I am off it now, and have been for some time. But I was a member of the Metropolitan Borough of Hackney, having been its Mayor. I have sat on most of the ad hoc bodies for special purposes in London; and I have sat on the London County Council. I say that the record of the London County Council is a very good one, and ought to command a feeling of pride on the part of this House, as it undoubtedly has commanded pride on the part of the citizens of London, as manifested at successive elections.
§ Now, my Lords, let us have a look at some of these personal services, services that affect human beings—men, women and little children; because, as I have said, local government does not live by traffic and planning alone. Let us take the Education Service. Here, the evidence of the Ministry of Education, presumably authorised by the Minister, to the Royal 175 Commission extended not only warm praise to the London County Council Education Service, which is the pride of the teachers and the parents, but also very considerable praise to the county council education services outside London, as well as to the other authorities participating in education outside London. The Royal Commission itself paid a tribute to the Education Service of the London County Council. But along come the Government. They do not want to transfer the Education Service to the Greater London Authority, though they were intending to do so earlier on. They do not even want to transfer higher education to the Greater London Authority and the primary schools to the boroughs—on the merits of which proposals I make no observations, because I think the service is good as it is.
§ My Lords, consider the wide variety of things that the education authority does. It provides education of all sorts, of great variety, calculated to meet the varying requirements of people of all ages, people of all professions and people with all kinds of future. It organises the school meals service, which is more economically run by a large authority than by a small one. The L.C.C. conducts the school medical service, and it runs the special schools—and here there is a very real difficulty. Often these schools are for handicapped children of one sort and another. They must necessarily serve a wider area than any individual borough, even the larger boroughs proposed by the Government. What is going to happen to these schools? And this is a very valuable and human service for unlucky youngsters.
§ Then there are higher education and technical education. Who is going to run the Woolwich Polytechnic, which is presumably outside the proposed central education authority? It is in the Borough of Woolwich, but it serves a population much wider than the Borough of Woolwich. Then there is the vast service of further education, which used to be known as continued education, or evening classes, and so on, but which is now much wider. What is going to happen to the School for Printing and the Graphic Arts now being built at the Elephant and Castle, which serves the whole of London, and probably some in 176 Greater London as well? We are not told. There are so many things we are not told.
§ It must also be remembered that the Education Department depends for its success not only upon itself but upon other departments in the Council's service—for example, the Supplies Department. Through that, the Council buys in bulk, often direct from manufacturers, and at economic prices, which save the ratepayers large sums. The Government propose to break that up, presumably. And yet I pay this tribute to a former Conservative majority on the London County Council. I believe it is to their credit that they started the Supplies Department of the London County Council, which has served the ratepayers well and saved them a lot of money. But along come this Government, who want to break it up. The Education Department needs the help of the Supplies Department.
§ Moreover, in the building and maintenance of the schools, and in a number of other ways, there are a team of chief officers and their staffs who are of the utmost value to the Education Department. These teams—and they are considerable teams—could not be available in effective numbers to the boroughs if they became education authorities. I refer to architects, engineers, valuers, doctors, and the medical services. In the County Council Education Service, borough boundaries are not important; there is no reason why they should be. The schools are placed where they will render the maximum probable service, particularly in the case of secondary, higher educational, or technical schools. All this gives to the parents a much wider free choice as to which school their children shall attend, and the London County Council have been extraordinarily successful in meeting the problem of parents' choice.
§ Then there is another aspect. The relations between London and the surrounding county education authorities and the denominational authorities—the church schools of various denominations—have been good. One hardly hears of trouble concerning this matter. It is not an easy task to administer, because denominational schools are drawing upon large amounts of public money. But things have worked smoothly, and 177 I believe that one of the reasons why they have worked smoothly is because those bodies were dealing with large authorities. Now they will, over the County of London, be dealing with fourteen authorities instead of one, and so far as Greater London is concerned. 34 education authorities (I think it is) instead of the quite limited number that now exist.
The Catholic Education Council recently issued a statement in restrained terms in which it was clear that they had very serious doubts about having to deal with this large number of education authorities. They tried to keep out of the battle about the fundamental issues involved, but they expressed apprehension about how this scheme is going to work as regards the denominational schools. The statement says, among other things:
The Catholic Education Council, in conjunction with the Archdiocese of Westminster and the Dioceses of Southwark and Brentwood, had previously written to the Ministry of Education drawing attention to the need to ensure that the establishment of many additional educational authorities in the London area (in the Government's scheme there would be some thirty instead of the present nine) should not act as a restriction on parental freedom of choice. The Council's letter pointed out that it would not be possible to provide a complete system of Catholic schools in each individual borough, particularly in the case of secondary schools, and that the freedom of parents to send their children to schools in other boroughs should be safeguarded. The letter asked for an assurance that the Government would consult the voluntary bodies over their proposed legislation, and that they did not wish to allow local government reorganisation to imperil parental freedom of choice. The Minister said during the debate that he was ready to give this assurance.
That is, the assurance of consultation.
The Government's proposals raise a number of other important issues affecting organisation and administration of Catholic schools, and these will require further consideration.
It is quite clear from that statement that there is serious apprehension in the minds of the Catholic hierarchy. I gather—no doubt the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of London will express the views of the Church of England during the course of the debate—that there are rather similar apprehensions, very naturally, in the minds of the Church of England authorities, and probably in the minds of other denominations as well. It is much easier for people to do business with a big authority—and a big authority with
a very large rateable value—than it is to do business with smaller authorities of varying rateable values.
§ It may be said that all these problems of borough boundaries, and distribution of this, that and the other being unequal, can be met by co-operation and collaboration between the boroughs. But what does this mean? Not only in this service but in other services which I am going to mention it will mean a mass of joint committees or joint authorities. I have never been enthusiastic over joint authorities. I used to say that there are too many "joints" and not enough authority over them. Moreover, they are undemocratic. Direct municipal legislation and direct municipal election is better, though so far as the counties are concerned you may have to resort to this with regard to planning and traffic if this scheme is to be avoided. But if we do not look out, we shall have a mass of joint committees, with more officials, with more meetings for the members of councils to attend, at grave inconvenience to themselves. Moreover, so far as I know, the metropolitan boroughs have not sought educational powers. These powers are being thrust upon them, and as to the majority, at any rate, of the metropolitan boroughs, and possibly others as well, they do not want educational powers.
§ Just as traffic and planning has been featured in the discussion, so has education very naturally been featured, because it is such a vital service. Parents and teachers in the County of London are proud of London's education. Believe me or not, my Lords, I have known a number of Conservatives who have moved into the County of London in order that their children may get the advantages of London County Council education. I met a Conservative a week or so ago who said that he had been trying to move into London for that very reason; and I know some other Conservatives who will not go out of the County of London because they do not wish to imperil the education of their children. These feelings are there, quite apart from Party-political affiliations.
§ I have dealt with education. There are similar considerations as regards housing and slum clearance. No one knows that better than my noble friend Lord Silkin, who was for some years the Chairman of the Housing Commit- 179 tee. The metropolitan boroughs have done a very good job of housing, and they deserve praise. But they could not have done the lot, because it would have been beyond their financial means. One of the good things about this county government is that you get an equalised county rate; and the rich City of Westminster, the rich City of London, the Royal Borough of Kensington and the Borough of St. Marylebone, all have to make their contributions to the county rate; and that benefits the poorer boroughs. This may be why Westminster is welcoming the Government scheme; it will save them money. There are large numbers of County Council housing estates as well as borough council housing estates in the county and out of the county, and the County Council can deal with housing the population on a wider basis than can the borough authority, though the borough authority is doing, and will continue to do, a useful job. Transfers at the request of occupiers from one estate to another is much easier, because they can go over the borough boundaries; the borough boundary does not affect the question.
§ Slum clearance on a big scale is infinitely easier for a big authority, and will be infinitely more difficult for a relatively small authority. Industry has to be taken into account. If slums are being cleared and factories have also to be moved, or if a great highway or public improvement is being made and industries have to be shifted, then the bigger central authority can handle the transfer of industries with far greater ability, elasticity and common sense, and good relationships with industry, than will be possible with the smaller authorities Therefore, whilst the borough can do, and is doing, a useful job, it cannot solve the housing problem on its own.
§ Your Lordships may have noticed that the Camberwell rate has gone up by about 4s. The Conservative Opposition on the Council wanted to know why. If I remember rightly, the leader of the Conservative opposition on the Camberwell Borough Council said, among other things, that the Borough Council had been doing too much housing at its own cost, instead of leaving a material proportion of housing to the L.C.C. They were landed with this big rate partly as 180 a consequence of that, and partly by the higher interest charges brought about by Her Majesty's Government. That statement came from the Conservative leader, yet his Party are advocating that nearly all housing should be done by the new Greater London boroughs. They cannot have the argument both ways. A feature in the field of housing are the teams of technical officers—professional men of great ability, who have won great praise from the architectural profession—which have been brought together by the County Council.
§ There is the Children's Service, which arose out of the Curtis Committee's Report. I think it was I, as Home Secretary who appointed that Committee. This is a service dealing with children who, for one reason or another—it may be because of bad homes, or because they are orphans—are difficult and who may be under court orders as being out of control. The County Council look after these children, but there are not enough of them—and I am glad that there are not enough of them—to make the basis of a successful service by relatively small authorities. These youngsters do not know borough boundaries, and it is sheer madness to try to make the children's service a borough service. The homes to which the children go—those who are not boarded out with foster parents; and the Council do everything they can in that direction—are not all in the county. Some of them are a long distance out of the county.
§ At one time I was a member of the Committee of Mile Oak Approved School. That is near Brighton. To which borough will that school be given? And what about the others outside the county? It has been suggested that there should be joint committees. For Heaven's sake!do not afflict London with a crowd of joint committees, instead of a democratic administration. The Royal Commission were wrong in their facts about the Children's Service. This is a personal service, I admit. Nevertheless, it ought, by its nature, to be a county service. If it is said that there are county boroughs in the provinces, with less population than the proposed Greater London boroughs, who can manage these things, I would say that it is no good comparing a county borough in the provinces, with its own 181 history and its own town identity, with the continuous built-up area of Greater London, which has another sort of history behind it. Problems and their solution have grown up with the county boroughs. In London's case, they have grown up to become an L.C.C. service.
§ I go from the young to the old, to the Welfare Service for old people who are accommodated in homes. These homes are not on a borough basis. They are where they are needed, and we ought not to try to put them on a borough basis, especially when there are various kinds of homes. The old people are worth your Lordships' sympathetic consideration, because the same problems arise with them. Again, the L.C.C. have a staff that can be moved from one old persons' home to another in any emergency that may arise, but this will not be easy under the new proposals.
§ Another welfare service is that for the handicapped, including handicapped children. There is also the problem of the homeless, which, goodness knows!, is not a local problem or one that can be solved on a local basis. This has given "headaches" to all sorts of people, and the L.C.C. have dealt with it as best they could. They have not had all the help they might have had from the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, who refused to give them requisitioning power in this direction and left the baby on the County Hall doorstep. The fourteen boroughs to be created cannot individually solve the problem of the homeless.
§ I have already mentioned the teams of very capable officers, with long experience, who deal with planning. These teams also include lawyers who, in the case of planning and compulsory purchase, are important people. Planning and the administration of building regulations need these teams. Parks and open spaces are not distributed on a borough basis. Their distribution has been largely gratuitious. In their redevelopment plan the L.C.C. are providing for increased open spaces, but these cannot easily be distributed equally among the proposed fourteen boroughs.
§ My Lords, there are many matters which are left uncertain in the Government's White Paper. The Government in no way face up to the problem of staffs and their future—and this is an 182 enormous problem. Your Lordships must remember that this is not like the Local Government Act, 1929, under which central and local services were transferred to the L.C.C. This is the problem of transferring services from a central authority and from county authorities to fourteen other authorities. Heaven knows what is going to happen to these chaps! It is all very well to give compensation, but the L.C.C. staff is a pretty high-powered organisation, as it ought to be, in view of the Council's responsibilities. But not a word is said about this matter by this wonderful Ministry of Housing and Local Government. Nothing is said about finance. It is said that it is a problem, but that they cannot deal with it at the moment. They cannot. However, my noble friend Lord Latham, who has had great experience on the L.C.C. Finance Committee for a number of years, will no doubt be referring at greater length to this aspect.
§ There is public control and motor licensing. I understand that this is to be broken up. Yet the county licensing authority for motor cars is not only useful to the motorist and to visitors from abroad, because they know where to go, but it is on many occasions useful to the police. If they want to trace a motor car and have to find their way around fourteen authorities there will be complications and the criminal in the meantime will get away. Then, weights and measures: it is doubtful if there is much point in breaking that up.
§ I suppose I had better declare my interest in the British Board of Film Censors. There is film censoring, which is not mentioned, and presumably not thought of by this extraordinary Ministry of Housing and Local Government. Is that to be done by fourteen separate authorities instead of the one London authority? But quite apart from the British Board of Film Censors, the film people have every right to go to the local authority, and the local authority has the right to come to its own decision. We have one authority in the administrative county of London. Are we now to have fourteen? Are we to have a film forbidden on one side of the street and allowed on the other side of the street; a "U" film on one side and an "X" film on the other; cuts on one 183 side of the street and no cuts on the other? Have the Government thought of this? Are they really using their heads about this problem? Or are they so animated by Party political spite, because London has dared to elect a Labour Council, that they are not thinking at all except about the politics of the matter? Or have they left their thinking to the Conservative Central Office and the Leader of the House of Commons, sailing around under that polite title, but merely functioning as the Chairman of the Conservative Party organisation? Have they thought about the arts? Who will run the Old Vic, Sadler's Wells, the Royal Festival Hall and other places? They say nothing about that. Who will run the parks concerts and plays, in which has been embodied a great deal of experience, and the museums?
§ We lose the automatic equalisation of the county rate. And if the Government go in for a big scheme of rates equalisation or Government subsidy (on which I am not sure they will want to spend the money, even though the Chancellor of the Exchequer does not seem to be very successful at limiting public expenditure) then it will follow that, instead of there being less Whitehall interference with local authorities, there will be more. I do not know about your Lordships' rates, but the rates of many people will cost them more under this Government scheme; and that is quite apart from the new assessment which is coming.
§ No doubt the Government feel that they are being politically clever; but I do not think they are. They have that assessment to come, although they may postpone it for political reasons. They have this scheme proposed, and the rates will go up and the citizens are to be stung. I do not know whether they think that will do them any good. I should have thought that they had enough to think about with the result at Blackpool, without walking into this further political trouble. And this in the last Session of a dying Parliament is shockingly bad Parliamentary management. I have had great experience of Parliamentary management, of legislative programmes for the whole of the Labour Government; and we did it well. Why do the Government not come to 184 me for a little advice about it? I would not even charge them a fee. But I give them some advice about it this afternoon.
§ The Greater London Council area is too big. It is not local government at all. It is rather on the principle of an Australian State, although not quite so big. It has a population of 8,400,000, and an area of 850 square miles. This is the proposal of a Government who talk about the desirability of making local government more local! It is a vast sprawl as an area. How are the councillors (I gather there will be one for each Parliamentary constituency, much less touched by the electorate than the existing councillors) to represent 50,000-odd people? How are they going to know all about Greater London, from Epsom and Ewell right up to the north, to the far east and the far west? It really is absurd. Yet, even so, it is not big enough for the purpose for which the Government claim it is big enough. Allowing for the passage of time, it is a sort of Metropolitan Board of Works over again; and that was created in 1855.
§ If established, as I have shown, the powers of the Authority are not big enough. Why did this wonderful Ministry of Housing and Local Government, in the terms of reference to the Royal Commission, exclude consideration of merging the Water Board into the Greater London Authority? This is another joint authority. I have sat on it, and it does a good job. But it is over-machined for the job it has to do. Why was it excluded from consideration for such an Authority? And, for that matter, the police were excluded, as well. I frankly confess that I have resisted ideas within the London Labour movement for the municipalisation of the Metropolitan Police. One of the arguments was that the areas would not be suitable, and you would have to break up the Metropolitan Police, which would not be good. We were not fragmentisers as this Government are. But the Government are proposing to make the Greater London Authority substantially similar in area to that of combined Metropolitan and City Police districts. In those circumstances there would not be such a good argument left to resist the Metropolitan Police and the City Police being put under the Greater London Authority. That is a point 185 which has possibly occurred to Ministers and the Home Office.
§ But when we come to the Greater London boroughs, they are not local government either. Take some of these new borough districts, some in London and some outside. In Middlesex, we have, from Brentford and Chiswick right down to Staines, an area of thirteen miles. Who is going to say that this is more local government, when you live six to eight miles away from your town hall, to which people often turn in case of difficulty? In Essex, there is part of Chigwell, Chingford, Leyton, Waltham-stow, Wanstead and Woodford, with a population of 355,000. This is what they call local government. We want government to be more local.
§ In Surrey (and, by the way somebody might inquire haw many subscribers to the Conservative Central Office funds live in the County of Surrey; I do not suppose the Chairman of the Party organisation knows, but I gather it is a considerable proportion, and it might be worth his while to find out) there is to be a merger of Caterham and Wanlingham, Coulsdon and Purley and the demoted County Borough of Croydon, with a population of 362,000. In Kent, there is to be a merger of Bexley, Chislehurst and Sidcup, Crayford and Erith, with a population of 253,000. In London, we have a merger of Bethnal Green, Poplar, Shoreditch and Stepney, with a population of 246,000. Some of these boroughs could have been merged with the City of London, if they had wanted the City of London to be a larger area. They want everybody else to have a larger borough boundary. Why not the dear old City? I could make some suggestions, but they would be too startling to be accepted by this Government.
§ Then there is Hampstead, St. Pancras and Holborn. This is a shot-gun marriage. The late Minister of Housing and Local Government sits for Hampstead. He is a former Leader of the Conservative Opposition on the London County Council. He appointed the Royal Commission, through the Prime Minister, and my recollection is that there was not a single member or supporter of the Labour Party on that Royal Commission. I believe the Chairman, Sir Edwin 186 Herbert, has distinct political views although not of my sort. So Mr. Brooke, the former Conservative leader on the County Council, knew what he was doing. As I have said, this is a shot-gun marriage between Hampstead and St. Pancras. How will Hampstead like being married to the former Red Flag borough of St. Pancras? I wonder they do not feel a little apprehensive about it. Of course, the idea is that there will not be much risk of another Labour majority because Holborn and Hampstead will outweigh St. Pancras. That no doubt is the idea. The City of London has a population of 4,771, and an area of one square mile. And, believe it or not, it is to be called, or it is to be deemed to be, a Greater London borough—one square mile with 4,771 population a Greater London borough! Let the "Greater" be printed in italics so that we do not forget.
§ Why have the Government enlarged the boroughs? I know. Their major purpose is to abolish the London County Council and Middlesex, too, which has had two Labour majorities, although it is rather a feckless place. I do not object to that, because ours is a free country. The Government probably think, "That is a dangerous place as well. Abolish it." Having established the Greater London Authority, or provided for it, and having determined upon transferring to the boroughs enormous powers, including education, the Government have said we must have bigger borough areas otherwise they cannot discharge these functions at all; and they will not discharge many of them very well in any event. Yet the London County Council and the boroughs agreed in 1955—seven years ago, my Lords—on the transfer from County Hall to the borough councils of maternity and child welfare, day nurseries, and a number of other important health services.
§ It would have been operative, but who stopped it? Who stopped these increased powers for the metropolitan boroughs? The Government. The Ministry of Housing and Local Government is quite capable of it, and I imagine it was the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. The county council and the boroughs agreed about it, and the Government said, No. They may have had the excuse that they were waiting for the Report of the Royal 187 Commission. Moreover, there are some delegated powers enjoyed by the metropolitan boroughs under town planning, and the same is true of the counties around London. So the idea was to cut up London, to abolish London. We used to sing in the war "There'll always be an England", and I want to go on singing "There'll always be a London". I may be a Cockney and a Londoner, but I am entitled to be proud of the place. I have met some Conservative Members of Parliament who have said, "I agree with you, but this is Party politics. Central Office is keen about it, and I cannot very well get in the way". That is a nice state of affairs.
§ Think of the effects on these out-counties. Surrey will lose 62.6 per cent. of its population, 66.1 per cent. of its rateable value, and 22.4 per cent. of its area. Essex will lose 54.5 per cent. of its population, 58.6 per cent. of its rateable value and 7.4 per cent. of its area. Under this scheme, Kent will lose 30.4 per cent. of its population, 33 per cent. of its rateable value, and 5.6 per cent. of its area. It is going to be very hard for these counties to get on with these severances, these murderous attacks upon their population and rateable value. It may be thought that this is an entirely new idea. It will surprise your Lordships, as it surprised me, to find that evidently this idea of destroying the London County Council and substituting a borough government was in the Conservative Party's mind as long ago as 1894, six years after the Local Government Act, 1888, because London then committed the crime, in their eyes, of returning a Progressive Liberal County Council.
I should like to read an extract from Mrs. Sidney Webb's book Our Partnership. She says of the late Lord Haldane, who had an extraordinary capacity of knowing what all Governments were going to do, whether he was in or out of them, his Party or anyone else's: and I know, because he collaborated with me once to stimulate some opposition to a Bill to save the Tories themselves going in opposition, which was a wise move:
Grosvenor Road, June 20. 1894—Haldane just been here: says the Unionist Party will make a determined attack on the L.C.C. and
an attempt to break London up into separate municipalities.
That was in 1894—and, as we say, there is nothing new under the sun. She goes on:
That this has been in the mind of Chamberlain, Balfour and Salisbury is clear from their recent utterances. But Sidney"—
that is, Sidney Webb—
says that it is an impossibility; you could not divest the L.C.C. of the great bulk of its powers though, of course, it would be possible to change its constitution and reinstate the Metropolitan Board of Works. But that would be too much to propose.
This was the beginning of the metropolitan boroughs and this was the idea. But the Progressives had had a tight go at the previous London County election. By the time the Government were getting on the move there had been another County Council election, and the Progressives won a big victory. I am looking to see whether my Liberal friends are here to hear the nice things I am saying about them. Maybe the reason for their absence is the Orpington by-election. That will be another interesting result.
§ The idea then was to establish the metropolitan boroughs and destroy completely the central authority. So this has been in the mind of the Conservative Party for a long time. They deny the right of the people of London to elect what kind of central authority they like to elect. It is undemocratic. There it is. It has been about for a long time. There was the previous effort of 1894.
§ I said earlier on that the Government are mad about these schemes. I say now, in the light of the White Paper, that the Government are madder than ever. It really is insane. They have the Blackpool result, and they are in a shaky position. Why do they want to land themselves into all this trouble? At the next General Election, if this thing comes off, I will stump London and we will fight in London to denounce the Government for this piece of political jobbery; and I assure the Party opposite that they will lose votes as a result. It will not matter to your Lordships because we do not stand for election, but it will matter for somebody else. That is what they have to face. The public do not like it.
§ This is not a popular scheme. After all, it was a big issue at the London 189 County Council elections of 1961, when we won and the Conservatives lost. We have a mandate to oppose the proposals, and therefore I invite Her Majesty's Government to take the scheme away, forget it, or, at any rate, start thinking about it. In 1940 Adolf Hitler sent bombers to destroy London. Owing to the Royal Air Force, the anti-aircraft men and the morale of the people of London, he failed. Hitler tried to destroy London and failed. Now the Conservative Party, for Party political reasons, are trying to destroy the municipality of the Capital City. It is my belief and hope that they will no more succeed than did Hitler.
§ Moved to resolve, That the proposals in Cmnd. 1562 will not meet the needs of democratic local government of Greater London, and will create administrative difficulties for the counties of Essex, Kent and Surrey.—(Lord Morrison of Lambeth.)
§ 3.40 p.m.
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL AND MINISTER FOR SCIENCE (VISCOUNT HAILSHAM)
My Lords, it was, of course, clear from the moment the White Paper proposals were put forward that this House would require a full debate on the subject of London Government; and it was inevitable, in view of his long experience, close interest and strong views—which we have just heard—and it was also appropriate, that the burden of introducing the Motion should fall upon the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth.
My Lords, I have risen thus early in the debate for two main reasons. The first is out of courtesy to the noble Lord who has just resumed his seat. The noble Lord has held some of the senior offices under the Crown with great distinction, and I think that when a person of his position delivers himself of a speech of the character which he has given us this afternoon he should be answered as soon as is convenient by a member of the Government, although in my case I cannot claim either his long experience of local government or the positions of high authority which he has occupied in the London County Council. The second reason is that I would wish to give to the House before we immerse ourselves, as we must do, in a forest of detail—to some of which the noble Lord 190 has introduced us—some sight of the wood itself; some picture, that is, of the general line of argument which we shall be called upon to pursue and the general area of territory which we shall be called upon to cover.
It is fair to the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, to say that he has made it clear from the start that both the Royal Commission Report and the Government proposals are anathema to him. Indeed, I am bound to say that as he spoke I could not help feeling that he would have made a more convincing case to-day had he been able to appear as one who was at least taken to have an open and unbiased mind; but the noble Lord has not, and, indeed, did not pretend to have, an open mind. From the first he has attacked these proposals with a fury which has at times been almost inarticulate. I cannot help feeling that he would have been more effective as a critic if he had managed to appear slightly more relaxed. There are some of us in this House—and I sincerely believe that I am among them—who would wish to arrive at conclusions on this matter based on reason and not on vituperation.
Since the noble Lord has accused us and, as I understood him to do, Members of the Royal Commission of the basest Party motives; of a wicked attempt to destroy London for Party political reasons; of imitating Goebbels and Hitler; of palpable untruths and of a contemptible—he almost said corrupt—plot, I think it is as well to examine this indictment a little more carefully and, so far as I can, a little more coolly, if I may say so.
I could not help regretting the attack upon the Chairman of the Commission. He is a man of very great distinction. He has risen to the head of his profession, having been President of the Law Society. I inquired, since I did not know, from the Conservative Central Office, whether he was known to have any political activities on its behalf, and the answer was that, so far as that Office knew, he had none. It would be fair to say that he is known to me personally, but I do not think this is very much against him. I knew him best as President of the Alpine Club at the time I was serving on its Committee. But perhaps that, too, is evidence of a contemptible, almost of a corrupt, conspiracy 191 between us to destroy the city of London—
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
—since the offices of the Alpine Club are in the Central London Area within the Administrative County.
The other members of the Royal Commission are equally persons of distinction, who no doubt are entitled to resent charges against their honour. They have performed a public function and have spent a very great deal of time examining the issue. They have declared their own attitude to what I might call the Party political aspect of this matter, and in view of the very serious things that the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, with all the authority of a Privy Counsellor and one who has held the highest offices under the Crown, saw fit to make, I feel that I owe it to the Commission, and to your Lordships' House, to indicate, in a sentence or two, what they said about the political aspect of the matter.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
The noble Lord has implied that I accused the Chairman of the Commission and the Commission of political jobbery, corruption and has referred to some other adjectives that I used. They were directed to the Conservative Central Office; I did not make the charge against the Commission. All I said was that there was nobody on the Commission with the Labour Party point of view.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
What the noble Lord said is within the recollection of the House. What he was attacking was the findings of the Commission, which in these respects are identical with the Government's proposals, except for two major matters to which I shall refer in due course.
And it was quite plain, both from the noble Lord's utterances to-day and from what he saw fit to say about the Commission's Report before the White Paper, when he called it in this House—and I apologise to your Lordships for the expression—an "abortion". It was quite clear that the charge was that the Conservative Central Office had gerrymandered this Report. This is a charge 192 against the honour of the members of the Commission, and it is fair, therefore, that I should remind your Lordships—I am duty bound to the Commission—exactly what they said about it. Because I think they are entitled to resent the implications and innuendoes of which the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, has been guilty.
My Lords, the Commission said two things which I think are worth quoting. In paragraph 243 they said:We do not conceive it to be any part of our duty to have regard to considerations of party politics.And they quoted that aspect of the matter in paragraph 250:… we have rejected all suggestions made to us that we should consider the political consequences of one form of organisation or anotherA clearer declaration of political integrity it would be hard to imagine. And, my Lords, I say, with respect, that this charge against members of a Royal Commission is unusual and improper. I am bound to say that the noble Lord has not supported it with a tittle of evidence and, when challenged about it, has sought to deny he was making a charge at all.
I now come to the charge against the Government—or the "whipping boy" called the Conservative Central Office. I think the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, here was guilty of a somewhat peculiar ambivalence. He really ought to make up his mind before he comes down and levels a charge of this nature, whether in fact he is dealing with a devilishly clever Government trying to destroy the London County Council for political advantage and cut up the city of London, or whether he is dealing with a particularly short-sighted and idiotic set of nincompoops who are offending their own supporters in the last Session of Parliament, destroying the financial basis of their subscriptions in the County of Surrey, destroying their support in the outlying counties and rendering themselves liable to lose the next General Election. Either of those charges can be made plausibly against any Government that proposes changes in the local government structure. What is really apparent, however, or would have been apparent had not the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, choked himself into a state of mental incoherence, is that 193 the two sets of charges cannot live together.
I would seek to justify these proposals on grounds other than partisan. It is quite true, as the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, said, that there are many members of my Party who do not agree with them, and I daresay that on this as on so many other subjects there are many members of the Labour Party who, if the truth were known, do not think they are as bad as the noble Lord would have us believe. The noble Lord's imputation of Party motives to us and to those of us who support this matter must, I must tell him, only give rise to some misgivings as to his own in opposing the White Paper. He is—and, believe me, I intend not the smallest offence to him—because he has held high office so often and so long, himself, the great Panjandrum of the London Labour Party. Is he on this occasion entirely free from the influence of Party? If we are governed, as he says, entirely by the belief that the new proposals will give London a permanent Conservative majority, can it be that his passionate, almost religious, attachment to the status quo of 1888 is partly influenced by the fact that he believes that if London were to be given more or less contemporary boundaries his built-in Labour majority which he has enjoyed for so long as a result of the 1888 status quo would disappear overnight? In charging us with Party motives, as he has done, I could not help remembering when I listened to him the rather absurd story of the man who said to his friend late at night, "You must be drunk; you have two noses".
There are some of us who think with the Royal Commission that the status quo of 1888 can no longer be justified. This is really the answer to all the invective of the noble Lord. No doubt if you once make the assumption, as the noble Lord appears to do, that there is something so holy about the boundaries achieved by the Local Government Act, 1888, that they must be deemed to have descended from Sinai on two tablets of stone, engraved, no doubt, with the words "Administrative County of London" and "The Local Government Act, 1888", respectively, the noble Lord's attitude and his various arguments are perhaps the best he can muster. But there are some of us upon 194 whom it has begun to dawn that London has grown since 1888. With the Royal Commission, we recognise in Greater London a discernible civic unity and shape. We see neither necessity nor sense in preserving a local government structure inherited from much earlier days under which the major services of that unity are administered by six county councils, three county borough councils and three separate systems of local government existing side by side. If this view is taken, and I shall ask the House to say it is the right view, something like the Government scheme is bound to follow.
Of course, much remains to be decided: the size and functions of the boroughs, the exact powers of the central body, the organisation of education. But, basically speaking, a Greater London area with a Greater London Council emerges, and if it be true, as the noble Lord appears to think—I do not know if it is true; Conservative voters are apt to be more volatile than Labour voters in their loyalties, whether that is a criticism of them or not—that the area which corresponds with the contemporary size of London will result politically in a permanent Conservative majority, this is a misfortune to which the noble Lord must in the end learn to accommodate himself with patience, since it can only be because the people of that area are in truth Conservatives.
The truth is that this matter should, I think, be approached from a single point of view, and a rather different one from that which the noble Lord stated. The first question I would ask is whether London is a city or a mere conurbation. And on this issue of whether London is a city or mere conurbation, if he will forgive my saying so, as he has reproached the Government and criticised the motives of the Government, the noble Lord has been at times somewhat strangely ambivalent. In his first review of the Royal Commission's proposals on December 21, 1960, the noble Lord said, with his usual temperateness of language:What has my city done to deserve this abortion?And to-day he has used not altogether dissimilar, although possibly more moderate, language. But in the same 195 speech the noble Lord said—and this was then the burden of his song:This Report really arises out of the existence of what are known as conurbations. Greater London is one of those conurbations but not the only one …and he then went on to cite Birmingham, South-East Lancashire, the West Riding of Yorkshire and the West of Scotland, and to argue, with his usual force and enthusiasm, that if you did this to London you would have to produce a series of similar schemes for those other conurbations.
This is the first and perhaps the most fundamental issue between the noble Lord, on the one hand, and the Royal Commission and the Government on the other. To the Commission (and I must emphasise this because it is fundamental to their reasoning) London is not a great conurbation but a city, and being a city it deserves a city government which, under the present arrangements, it does not possess. For all his rhetorical claim that we are cutting up London or that we are denying London the ineffable benefits of the London County Council, for all his rhetoric about local government and democracy, the fact of the matter is that if London is a city the noble Lord would continue to deny to the citizens of London a city government, and the Commission and the Government intend to grant it one. And this point is so fundamental an issue between the noble Lord and the Government that I feel entitled here to quote again three short extracts from the Report itself which emphasise the point. I pause for a moment to remind your Lordships that the Commission's Report was absolutely unanimous.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
Naturally, of course, if you make the charge that they were dishonest, as the noble Lord has done, but not if the noble Lord now seeks to say that the charge was never made. The Report says:On the whole. London has grown as a single great city, rather than as a 'conurbation', a growing together of important urban centres once separate. There is nothing in the Review Area remotely like, for example, the constellation of county boroughs and boroughs to he found in the West Midlands. The maps which we annex show a growth outward from 196 the centre, at a pace accelerated as transport facilities improved.We feel therefore that the boundaries given us do in general define an area recognisable as a city, even though it is a very large one, and we expect the urban character of the whole area to be emphasised rather than diminished in the next fifty years. We have therefore with some substantial modifications (particularly in Hertfordshire) adopted it for the purpose of this Report.Greater London within these boundaries, very large though it is, possesses nevertheless a recognisable civic unity and shape, largely because it has grown outwards from a single centre.It is this point which emerges as the cardinal issue between this side of the House and noble Lords opposite.
It has also emerged with equally stark character, not only from the underlying attitude of the noble Lord but from the evidence given by the London County Council before the Commission. This is how the evidence given by the London County Council was criticised by the Commission in paragraph 178 of their Report, where the Commissioners said:The witnesses,"—that is, the witnesses from the London County Council—however, resolutely refused to discuss with us any of the wider issues of the Government of London as a whole, and stuck firmly to the proposition that London and the administrative county of London are synonymous terms and that the London County Council is the Government of London.If you believe, as we do, that London as a whole remains a civic unity, having grown outwards from the centre, you do not have to label, as the noble Lord appeared to think we were driven to do, the London County Council as incompetent. I make no such charge. What I do say, however, is that it is based on a constituency—namely, the Administrative County of London—which has existed on the Statute Book only from an Act of 1888; and that this is the status quo fundamental which the noble Lord is at such pains to preserve with an almost—
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
Yes, I think in a sense it does. I am grateful to the noble Viscount the Leader of the Opposition for making the point. He said, quite rightly, that the charge that I was 197 making against the London County Council was one which could rightly be made against every other county council in the country. But what the noble Lord has really forgotten, and what I must beg the House to remember, because it is vital to an understanding of these proposals, is that the present proposals affecting London are part of a more general review which covers the whole country. When this was decided upon, the whole country apart from Scotland, was divided, for purposes of convenience, between the Royal Commission on Greater London, whose work we are now reviewing, and the Local Government Commissions of the rest of England and Wales, whose labours are still continuing, and the results of which are beginning to emerge. I believe that was a convenient arrangement, and I do not think it was criticised much at the time.
I think we must bear this in mind. The present structure of local government in London and elsewhere dates, as the noble Viscount quite rightly reminded us, from 1888. The last new county borough to be created was, I think, Doncaster, in 1926. The boundaries of the smaller authorities were looked at in the 'thirties. If we are dealing with London in separation from the rest of the country, it is only because the whole problem is too big to be taken at one bite, and what we are doing is part of a greater review which is just beginning to emerge.
But, when they had come to the conclusion, as I must say I invite your Lordships to do, that the Greater London area is a city, albeit one of 840 square miles and having over 8 million inhabitants, it then became necessary for the Royal Commission, and it becomes necessary for Parliament, to consider what sort of government it should have. Here both the Royal Commission and the Government considered that, as a unit for all purposes, the Greater London area was too large. The noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, made this point himself, and I am happy to say that we are in agreement with him. Greater London would be too remote for an all-purpose local authority, and we, and the Royal Commission before us, therefore opted for, as the primary unit of local government, a collection of urban boroughs—the Royal Commis- 198 sion based them on a population of 100,000 to 250,000, and the White Paper on a population with a minimum of about 200,000.
It is said that these areas are too small, and that the authorities created are too numerous. They are not so small and not so numerous as the 90 subordinate areas which now exist, ranging, from Holborn, which the noble Lord was so anxious to preserve, with a population I think of 20,000, to Wandsworth, which the noble Lord did not mention, with a population of 350,000. They are not significantly smaller than the cities of Coventry and Leicester; and as I heard the noble Lord ranging from one function of local government to another, from the care of old people to child care, to education, he seemed to me to be overlooking the fact that from the point of view of local government, county boroughs all over the country, of approximately this size and under, are carrying out the same services with commendable efficiency. The noble Lord said that one cannot compare the Cities of Leicester or Coventry with a London borough—and the differences are indeed obvious. But from the point of the argument which he was making—that, for instance, in the field of child care there would be an insufficient number of children in care, and that the unit was therefore too small; or, from the point of view of welfare, that the range of services would not be available—that is precisely where one can compare them. I would say that I can conceive of no greater fillip to local democracy than to move them from the London County Council building across the river, many miles sometimes from the area concerned, to 30 or more town halls locally placed and exercising real authority.
The truth, of course, is that, apart from these local services, over a number of vital services nothing will substitute for an authority, in our proposals the Greater London Council, which will represent our city as a whole, think of it as a whole, plan for it as a whole and govern it as a whole. This is precisely what the noble Lord would deny us. It will deal with, above all, land use planning, with the growing congestion and pressure on land—the major schemes of redevelopment, traffic questions (described by the Commission, incidentally, as insoluble under the present machinery), or the 199 planning and construction of the main road system, refuse disposal, overspill housing, fire and ambulance services.
The noble Lord, with a great show of feeling, went on to say that local government was about people. Does he really think that traffic and town planning are not about people? Does he not think that the lives of the young and the old, and even, as he movingly said, the little children, are not affected by town planning and traffic and overspill? These are functions which he would deny us in the city of London.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
What are you talking about? This is "elementary, my dear Watson". The noble Viscount keeps talking about the "City of London". There is a City of London which is a square mile in area. Will he, for heaven's sake!, use his terms with more precision? Do not let him be so shocked by the word "abortion". After all, he is Minister for Science—he ought to know about it.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
There are a lot of things I know about in science that, quite frankly, I would not express in your Lordships' House. But the noble Lord is only underlining what I was saying. The noble Lord opposite is actually denying to the greater London area the title of "city".
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
My Lords, the noble Viscount has just made an important pronouncement. I gather that he is telling us that the new Greater London Authority is to be called the "City of London Council", or the "City of London Corporation". Is that right?
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
I was not talking about words; I was talking about facts. I was saying that London is a great city and that I am a citizen of it, and I was pointing out that the whole of the noble Lord's case depends upon a denial of the civic unity. Nine separate authorities govern Greater London, with representatives from Folkestone, Godalming, Harwich and Baldock. And the noble Lord has the nerve to talk about local democracy in this connection, when he would put the fringe areas under such diverse and heterogeneous representatives!
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
I thought I was not incapable of coherent thought on this matter.
My Lords, the relatively tidy plan of London boroughs under a Greater London Council which has emerged from this discussion came under criticism from the noble Lord last time. Precisely because it was so much tidier than the status quo, the noble Lord said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 227, cols. 1028–9]:I think that behind the Royal Commission's Report there is a passion for superficial tidiness. … In government",he told us with his usual practical wisdom,tidiness is not the only consideration. We ought not to be the slaves of tidiness".But, my Lords, this criticism gives too little credit to the deep reasoning of the Royal Commission, for the truth is—and here I shall quote them again—that they started from exactly the opposite point of view. And since the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, specifically said they had started from the assumption that the two most important local government functions were traffic and town planning, I think I should quote from their Report, because the truth is that the Commission started from the desirability of a local community's being represented by representatives of that community, and not by people far off.
This is what they said:We have, therefore, not approached our task in any spirit of tidy-mindedness. Where a system is working or being made to work our predilection has been in favour of leaving it alone. As we have explained in an earlier chapter, we have approached our task from the point of view of examining each function of local government separately, deciding whether it is being adequately performed, considering whether any inadequacies are due to the machinery of government, and then concluding whether for the proper performance of functions the machinery should be altered. We have only made recommendations for change where we have felt driven to do so in order to provide the machinery necessary, in our judgment, for the solution of London's problems as they are to-day and as far as we can foresee them in the future.My Lords, it was, in short, an impartial consideration of the evidence, not a contemptible—not to say corrupt—plot, which drove the Commission to the conclusion that the tidier of the solutions 201 which they examined (which appears very largely to coincide with Scheme "A" provided for them by the London School of Economics) should be adopted as the better solution.
Now, my Lords, I want to say only a word or two, since the noble Lord has mentioned it, about education. I mention it specifically, partly out of deference to the noble Lord's speech and partly because it is the second of the two points on which the Government differ from the findings of the Royal Commission. I have no criticism myself of the London County Council apparatus for education. For over 30 years, at any rate during the greater part of my adult life, I have had experience of it as the governor of a technical institute, and for a shorter period—but still a recognisable one—as the governor of a controlled school.
My Lords, the machinery works. I think the officials are enlightened. It seems from the outside—and here I speak from the governors', and therefore, no doubt, also from the parents', point of view (one which perhaps is not quite so obvious to anyone who is actually at the top of administration at County Hall, but, none the less, an important point of view) almost inconceivably impersonal and remote. It is, as the Commission point out, much too much hag-ridden by Party politics. I was a foundation governor of both the institutions I have mentioned. The governorships of schools are souped out by rote to members of Parties as such, rather than to people. There is too much doctrine and too much propaganda. I am bound to say that when the schools came to be evacuated in 1939, some of the country schools seemed to have produced pupils at least as good.
Still, for a thing that size, and by Ministry of Education standards—which are sound administation and educations! standards—the London County Council is a good local education authority, and the Ministry said so to the Royal Commission in the course of their evidence. I should not like to give the contrary impression now, though I am not quite able to swoon with pleasure at the London County Council system to the same extent as the noble Lord.
I must say, frankly, too, that I was not unattracted to the Royal Commis- 202 sion's solution which the Government have in fact rejected. It would have had the advantage of retaining the central planning—and, since my own interest in London education has a technical school bias, it would have had great advantages from the point of view of the technical colleges and polytechnics founded by my grandfather.
The opposite solution, that of the complete devolution to the boroughs, I have never personally regarded as a "runner" within the Central Area. It is not that boroughs of that size cannot run viable education services. Of course they can. From one point of view I believe their administration to be better, because more intimate, than anything so large as the L.C.C. But the fact is that the system which has grown up in the centre around one administration will not fit readily into another pattern—even with "free trade" in pupils and teachers, which, as the noble Lord reminded us, is not always easy, though usually desirable, to attain. The physical locations of the central institutions, the catchments from which pupils are drawn, the patterns in which they are arranged, are, to some extent, functions of London government, and to some of London transport.
The real argument which destroyed the Royal Commission proposal was the failure in the fringe areas of divisional executives and excepted districts—the failure, that is, of the two-tier system in the places where it has been tried. This failure was, in fact, clearly described in the Royal Commission Report; the Government find themselves here in disagreement with the Commission, because they were unable to distinguish between the system thus shown to have failed, and that which the Royal Commission proposed. I have confessed to some personal regrets on this—even to some personal reservations. But among the solutions put forward by the noble Lord the two-tier system was not, of course, to be found. His talisman is the status quo of 1888, and this, I should have thought, was the one cock that will not fight. The end of this chain of reasoning is evidently the Central Authority, and I must say to the noble Lord, if he is still persisting in his charge of Party motives, that if we had in fact been dominated by such motives the 203 Central Area Authority we have proposed is hardly a suggestion we should have made.
My Lords, I turn from education to make one more criticism of the noble Lord's speech, before I go back to more general matters. I do not myself share the noble Lord's dislike of the City of London in its narrower sense of the Corporation of the City of London. Here, again, I could not help wondering whether the aversion of the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, would have been quite so marked if the members of the Court of Common Council had been notable for their more Socialist convictions. But the truth is, that there is nothing quite like the City of London, in its narrower sense, anywhere else in the country.
The noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, pointed out that it is quite unthinkable that this particular area could be properly represented, in any circumstances, by the 5,000 people who happen to sleep there. It is, in fact, like other things a community, but one which has grown up with the years into something quite unlike anything else in the world. It has distinct and traditional ceremonial functions which it is well adapted to perform, and practical responsibilities which it happens to discharge very well. I cannot think why the noble Lord would interfere with it, unless he wanted to give the Clerk to the London County Council a fur hat and its Chairman a Sword of State, both of which would be quite inappropriate in a body with the austere traditions of the London County Council. On the lowest level, my Lords, someone in Whitehall impiously remarked that, if we had such a thing still alive as a dodo we would take steps to protect it. More respectful beings like myself say, more politely, that it is a little bit of old England that I should be very sorry to lose.
In view of the noble Lord's attack upon the Commission itself, I will simply content myself with saying this. The Royal Commission spent nearly three years in an examination of local government in Greater London. They held 114 meetings; they took oral evidence at 70 of them; they spent another 88 days visiting the area. They had evidence—written, oral or both—from local 204 authorities throughout the area, from their associations, from Government Departments and from many professional, academic, political and other bodies. I think their Report, for those of us who have read it, shows how exhaustive and how impartial their examination was. They explored every side of their subject, the history of London's growth, the development of its local institutions, its economic, social and physical pattern.
They carried out a thorough examination of each of the main functions of London government, they made a penetrating analysis of the working of the whole local government structure, and of the relations between local government bodies, which play a part in the government of London. I should have thought that no one could have read the Report, whether they agreed with it or not, without being impressed by the profundity of the analysis of the problems which the Commission were charged to examine, and by the clear and logical way in which their recommendations followed from that analysis.
My Lords, the Commission's diagnosis of our problem was as follows:The general conclusions which we have stated at the end of each of the previous chapters devoted to some particular function of government will have already made it clear that we have been driven to hold that administratively the present structure of government in the Review Area is inadequate to deal with many of the major problems of the Review Area as they exist to-day and as they are evidently going to develop. The considerations we have set out in the foregoing sections of this chapter have driven us also to the conclusion that the present structure of government in the Review Area is not conducive to the health of representative government. … Where things are working well our inclination is to leave them alone. We do not believe that London's problems can be solved merely by improving the machinery of government. Our inclination is to recommend changes only where they appear to be essential.In spite of these predilections the facts we have found to exist and the inferences we feel bound to draw from them drive us to the conclusion that, judged by the twin tests of administrative efficiency and the health of representative government, the present structure of local government in the Review Area is inadequate and needs overhaul.The advocates of the status quo, those who complain, as the noble Lord has done, that comparatively minor adjustments are all that is needed to fit the structure of local government for the tasks of to-day and the future, must 205 refute those carefully considered conclusions, and the detailed and carefully argued analysis on which they are based. In spite of that, the noble Lord has treated us to a number of intemperate charges against the Government and the Commission, which I am happy to deny, and which he has not attempted to support with a tittle of evidence.
§ 4.26 p.m.
THE LORD BISHOP OF LONDON
My Lords, we cannot be unmindful of the complexity of the problems we are discussing this afternoon, with which we are all concerned. I believe that I am, by virtue of my office, a corporation sole, and therefore can claim to be the oldest living Londoner, of some 1,600 years of age. As such we all have our concern for the 8½ million men, women and children who inhabit this great metropolis, who are all affected in different ways by the organisation on which their social associations depend.
What is under discussion, I believe, is what form of local government will help them to the fullest development of their own personalities, so that they may make the most effective contribution to social well-being. It is in this context that I venture to express to your Lordships some of the anxieties which are felt within the voluntary bodies, in the sphere of education. The Royal Commission rightly said that education is among the most important functions of local government. The proposals in the White Paper for education do arouse anxieties, which have been already expressed to the Minister of Education, and in his speech recently in another place he gave assurances, for which the Churches, in particular, are grateful. But the proposals for education are so vague that it is very difficult to form a reasoned judgment upon them, and I believe it is not unreasonable to ask that the points on which we in the voluntary bodies feel concerned should be made explicit as soon as possible, in order that we may have a considered judgment.
My Lords, there are, it is generally accepted, four partners in the ever-increasing task of education: the State, in its central and local expression; the Churches; the parents, and the teachers. And possibly there is also a fifth partner—so often overlooked—the children and the students who are the object of the 206 exercise. From the educational point of view, we have to ask ourselves how far the proposals in the White Paper, so far as they can be understood, help each of these partners to be more effective in his partnership.
First of all, what of the Churches? The Church of England, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Jewish Board of Education have since 1944 embarked upon large and expanding schemes for their share in education, and in spite of the generous grants from the Ministry of Education, particularly since 1959—for which we are most grateful—the voluntary bodies are committed to large capital expenditure. They have built and are building new schools, and enlarging and modernising old schools in accordance with development plans worked out in close co-operation with the existing educational authorities. But these development plans have not taken into account the possibility of the existence of the new county boroughs as local education authorities, as is envisaged in the White Paper. We are therefore bound to have a concern whether the development plans will continue to be operative when some thirty authorities, instead of three, are involved. Will a new development plan be required to be drawn up with each new local education authority; and can the voluntary bodies proceed with their school-building programmes, which have been drawn up both on a short-term and a long-term basis?
The new voluntary schools, and especially the matching secondary schools established under the 1959 Act, with the help of the existing local education authorities, whose very close co-operation and assistance we are only too ready to acknowledge, have been sited to fit in with the transport facilities so as to allow the maximum freedom of parental choice, and there is no doubt that they could be seriously affected by the new educational boundaries. In terms of the new boroughs alone, some would have no Church of England grammar schools; some would have no Roman Catholic grammar schools; some would have denominational schools for boys but not for girls, and some would have denominational schools for girls but not for boys. In other words, a plan which has been devised by the Churches, in association 207 with the local education authorities, to be, so far as possible, a balanced, comprehensive plan, might be in danger. From some figures I have seen produced by the London County Council, it would appear that, of over 34,000 pupils who entered secondary schools in the London County Council area in September, 1961, 25 per cent. were admitted to secondary schools outside the proposed new London boroughs in which they live; and it is not unreasonable to assume that a very considerable proportion of that 25 per cent. were admitted to denominational schools, which recruit from very wide areas.
It is unthinkable that the new voluntary schools, erected at vast cost to the State and the Churches, should in some cases become redundant and have to be replaced on new sites. Equally, it is unthinkable that the freedom of parental choice should be reduced by the new arrangements. The Minister of Education has repeatedly emphasised his determination to preserve and improve the variety of choice for children and parents; and, in a sense, the White Paper recognised this in its provisions for a central London education authority.
But we are concerned about the ways in which this freedom of choice could be preserved. It could be done only by complex arrangements between the boroughs about extra-district charges, which themselves are difficult and complicated, as the Minister of Education's Manual of Guidance in the Choice of Schools has shown. As I read that not altogether lucid document, I could find many reasons why a new borough, as a local education authority, could claim that an unreasonable expenditure of money was being involved in travelling expenses for children who, on denominational grounds, wished to go to secondary schools outside their own area. I appreciate that the Minister himself has recognised this difficulty and has given assurances which we in the voluntary bodies respect and welcome. But we would urge that the complicated arrangements that will be necessary should be worked out fully in advance and not left until after the proposals have been brought into force, if they are brought into force.
My Lords, there is more involved here than just the question of denominational 208 schools. We should all agree that what is necessary is that parents should take more interest, and not less, in the details of their children's education; and this must involve for them a full freedom of choice between schools and courses. We shall all agree that nothing is more necessary than that students themselves should have available to them the widest possible variety of courses and schools. Inter-borough arrangements of a very far-reaching and flexible nature will be essential if the existing freedoms of choice and variety are not to be diminished from the position which they occupy in the London of to-day. In fact, after a fairly long experience in educational administration, I myself question whether an education authority serving a total population of only 200,000 can provide the variety of schools, courses and institutions of further education which modern circumstances demand.
But there is another point to which I must refer. It is at least possible that the new proposals might produce single-school areas where they do not now exist. In the negotiations which led up to the 1959 Education Act, much reference was made to single-school areas as a real cause of grievance and hurt of conscience on the part of the Free Churches. Since 1959, the Church of England and the Free Church Federal Council, associated in their Joint Educational Policy Committee, have worked together with a quite splendid identity of purpose to remove any causes of grievance. The Joint Educational Policy Committee, of which I have the honour to be the chairman, has shown a capacity to understand these difficulties and to deal with them; but it would be tragic if, at a time when we have got rid of most of the problems, further problems of this nature should be created for us. I would therefore again express the hope which has been expressed in another place: that the Churches will be consulted in advance about the details of arrangements for inter-borough planning on education if the proposals in the White Paper are implemented.
The proposals will involve many consequential changes, which perhaps are not the concern of your Lordships' House. They may involve alteration in diocesan boundaries—and I can assure your Lordships that the heat engendered 209 by a proposal to change diocesan boundaries is not much less than that engendered by a proposal to change local government boundaries. In the Diocese of London we shall certainly find that we shall have to re-draw the boundaries of our archdeaconries and rural deaneries. This is not, of course, an argument against changes in local government areas, but it is a factor of which we should not lose sight. Moreover, in the sphere of religious education we have other minor problems which have to be faced and which must be considered in advance. For instance, shall we have to draw up 30 new agreed syllabuses of religious instruction? As the Act stands, it might be necessary. Will the articles and instruments of government of every aided secondary school and primary school have to be re-drawn? I am advised that, legally, it is possible that this may be necessary. These, again, though they are not essentially difficult questions, raise complicated administrative problems, and our submission on the side of the voluntary bodies is that thought must be given to them in advance. We are, indeed, most concerned about the vagueness of the White Paper on these details of educational administration.
It may be, my Lords, that the time has come for some radical change in the local government of Greater London. But I do urge that, so far as education is concerned, as one of the major functions of local government, the whole question of inter-borough planning of education, not least as it will affect denominational schools and parental choice, should be worked out in advance if difficulties are not to be created, and if the happy partnership between the Church, the State and the local authorities in education is not to be in any way affected.
§ 4.39 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, I must say at once to the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of London how much I have enjoyed listening to his, I think, very fair comments on and criticism of this matter; and, with him, I hope very much that his complaints about at least the present vagueness of the references in the White Paper to those matters of great importance to which he has 210 referred will be met by the Government. I hope that they will take very great notice of what he has said. I am happy to know that the problem of the single-school area is receiving such joint attention from the Church of England and the members of other denominations, including my own; but I must say that I wish we had not been left quite so high and dry in the choice of religious educations for our own children as the movements in regard to denominational schools have left us. However, I am very glad to know good fellowship is prevailing in tackling the problem.
My intention to-day is to deal almost exclusively with something in which I have a particular interest. I am a resident in, and a ratepayer of, Essex; and I spend a great deal of time with my daughter in another borough affected by this scheme, the Borough of Enfield, which apparently is being calmly sacrificed by one of its sitting members, who is the Leader of the House of Commons and the Chairman of the Conservative Party. They are the two things that interest me most.
Before I get down to those particular problems, may I say that I support my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth in every word that he has uttered this afternoon, and I congratulate London upon having such a capable and adequate representative to put the case for the existing administration of London to this House of Peers. I have never heard a case better proved. I have never heard a case more reasonably stated, and I do not think he has uttered any more hard words than the noble and learned Viscount who leads the House would generally approve of in these political warfares. At any rate, when I think of the noble and learned Viscount's comments upon some of the remarks of my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth, I am quite prepared to go back a few years in my political memories to see how debates of this sort were engaged in, not only on the House of Commons but also on the public platform.
We are all very great admirers of, indeed we have an affectionate regard and love for, Winston Churchill. But I do not think that he ever pulled any punches when he was dealing with a Party which he thought was interfering 211 with principles which he was especially wanting to promote. If we compare the language of my noble friend this afternoon with regard to this matter and the comments of Mr. Winston Churchill (as he was then) upon the Tory Party, we find it was comparatively mild. I can remember, word for word, what Mr. Winston Churchill said:The Tory Party is a Party of vested interests, with corruption at home and aggression abroad to cover them up; with dear food for the millions and cheap labour for the millionaires; with sentiment by the bucketful, and patriotism by the Imperial pint".Is there anything more likely to be criticised than that kind of political language, compared with what my noble friend has uttered this afternoon? I wonder why it was, after charging my noble friend with having engaged in a sort of choking exercise, he should himself have become so excitable and choked about the matter before he got very far in his speech. At any rate, this is a great and serious matter, and I do not think that in dealing with such a serious subject we need to bother too much about language. If we feel very deeply about how the proposed changes have been brought to the stage of being a White Paper recommendation, then I think we must be allowed to speak as if we do feel deeply.
If you are going to think about implying motives, then let me say that I have never been free in all my political life from being charged with having political motives, and I do not see why the members of the present Government should be so upset because we are apt to prove now and again that they have very strong political motives. If we think of the plight of the London County Council in trying to deal with the housing situation of London, and of the 3,000-odd homeless in London alone, as the result of the rent policy of the man who used to lead the Conservative Opposition in the London County Council, I do not think we can be very far out in thinking about political motives being behind proposed legislation of this kind.
I was a servant of a county council in the country for nearly twenty years. I have seen county council administration, and I recognise the values which came to the local populations from such Acts as, say, the 1888 Act, and also 212 from the Technical Education Act, which came within a few months after the other, a very important Act. Or there was the Act of 1902, to which Nonconformists like myself raised very strong objections with regard to the amount which had to fall on the State for the maintenance of buildings at that time, and after that for the erection of buildings, for particular sects and churches.
I must say that since 1888 county councils have performed a unifying service, and a more efficient service because of the area to be covered, than was expected at the time, and I believe that their work will stand up. However, during my time with the county council staff I must say that one of the principal problems was how to defend the administrative county concerned against the depredations of people who wanted greatly to expand the boundaries of cities or boroughs within their geographical county, and to make the additional area part of those particular boroughs or cities. These proposals are the reverse of that, so far as I can see. They make me think of some of my religious thoughts and opinions which I express sometimes about the Reformation. I think some of the actions of our people to-day are like the Reformation in reverse. This, in my view, is what we are doing in the case of London: we are putting great and productive reformations in local government and education, which have now been on the Statute Book for years, very largely into reverse, and seeking to make it more difficult for true social democracy to function in local political democracies in municipalities and counties.
I should like to turn from that matter to say a word or two about Essex and about Enfield. I was reminded by my noble friend just now that Essex is not at all unconnected with how he described Middlesex. Essex has on more than one occasion had a Labour majority on its county council. It does not matter how we look at it; the result of the change which the Government propose to make for Essex will mean that Essex will hardly ever have an opportunity to gain a Labour majority again—and the Government know that. If we take the case of Middlesex, the same thing applies. The harm that is being done 213 to Essex in other ways is quite extraordinary.
I do not know what political pressures could have been brought by the Conservative Central Office on these counties since the Government's report in the White Paper came out. But I look at my County of Essex, and at the long and very detailed statement which was issued to all Members of the House of Commons on February 15. Something has happened since then, for the complete, or near complete, unity on the Essex County Council between the parties in relation to the submissions made to Members of the House of Commons on the White Paper on March 6 turned tail; and although they have not withdrawn all their criticisms, they are not opposing this Scheme on the basis before us. I should think the same sort of operation has gone on in connection with Kent; but I believe there has been some pretty quick and heavy pressure brought to bear from the Tory Party Headquarters to see that what looked like an almost solid phalanx of five counties against the scheme would he broken up.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
Having said that, let me make the main point that I want to put on behalf of Essex. The Essex County Council say that what is proposed is a new form of regional government. My noble friend has already said that this proposal is going to destroy the best elements of local government. It will no longer be local, but regional government. That is the case put by Essex County Council. The new regional authority is to cover nearly 9 million people—8½ million, certainly—one-sixth of the population of England and Wales in one organisation, and the rateable value of the area will be one-third of the rateable value of the whole of England. This "local" government, this "municipal" government, is surely an amazing piece of organisation. In the course of his speech my noble friend gave figures which show that the new authorities covering Essex and Surrey are robbing these counties, in the one case, of about 60 per cent. and, in the other case, of well over 50 per cent. of their populations. In the case of my 214 own county, we shall be losing 55 per cent. of our rateable value, with all the administrative tasks to remain in the county.
The noble and learned Viscount does not seem to appreciate the point that I am putting, but he must remember that I understand every stage of local government work. I used to be secretary of a county branch of the National Association of Local Government Officers. These counties, with diminished resources, will have the same tasks to carry out and the same staffs to maintain, and at the same time will have increased responsibilities, because they will remain the dormitory counties for London. Not only that; they will be setting up new estates and new towns in order to relieve the population problems of London, so they will continually be increasing their responsibilities and liabilities, but with greatly diminished resources. I do not believe that the Government have yet given anything like full consideration to that aspect.
The alternative plan which was originally put forward by the five counties was dismissed by the Government unfairly. It was not given adequate consideration or fair statement. When the Government scheme in its present form is brought into operation, it will dislocate the county services. I do not know what measures will be taken for the introduction of the new scheme. We know so little about what the Government have in mind. So we are bound to fall back on our administrative and local government experience. Will it take twelve months, two years or three years? The Government have first to face the problem of finding the staffs for the completely new regional authorities, and many of the people who would naturally be chosen to go there are wanted on the staffs of the authorities which are to be robbed of their present status and reduced in their resources. The dislocation may be met in one way or another, of course, but it is giving all the counties concerned grave anxiety.
I had intended to say a good deal about the effect of the scheme on education, but the case has been put so well by my noble friend and by the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of London that there is no need for further comment by me. But I am quite persuaded of this: that if we are going 215 to divide the area which has been organised so excellently by the L.C.C. Education Committee into a large number of split-up units, we shall not get the same education for the same cost. It will add to the burden to be met by the ratepayers, and, as my noble friend said—and he was supported in this by the right reverend Prelate—it will limit the choice of parents of schools for their children. We oppose the scheme very strongly on that basis also.
Does not the noble and learned Viscount feel that it is very strange that on such an important matter as this the White Paper contains nothing about finance? What is there for the ratepayers who vote regularly in their local elections to go upon to judge the action of the Government? What is there by way of firm forecast of how this is likely to affect them financially? Nothing at all. The electorate has never been consulted. The matter was put before them only when it was made an issue at the recent election in London, in which the Government side was hopelessly defeated. That is an extraordinary thing. The people who are now asking questions about finance in other areas must feel very hot under the collar. A lot of extra charges are going to be made. In Essex, it is estimated that the rates would go up almost immediately. They would go up 3s. in the pound because of the expenses arising from the take-over alone, and there would be further increases because of the additional services which will have to be met and which will be thrown entirely on a reduced area with a reduced rateable value. I think that when this position is made widely known throughout the country, it certainly will not redound to the credit of the Government.
It is argued that people will be closer to the town halls, which will be promoted by the break-up of the present local government administration. The town halls will be easier to get at. The Essex County Council are strongly of opinion that there can be no great advantage to be got from this. There are town halls in the boroughs now, where there are a great many local services. If the advantages obtained in education and from other London administrative programmes and work are taken into 216 consideration, there is no great comfort in saying that people will be able to deal with all that by travelling to a town hall, which is not their local town hall but a new one to be set up in a much enlarged borough. They will have to travel miles to do it at far greater expense, whereas we had a system running under which there was collaboration between the London County Council and the local borough authorities so that they shared services between them.
I want to say now that the position arises, since this changed decision of the Tory-majority County Council in Essex, that they do not now attack the scheme as a whole; but I also want to point out that they are still very much against some parts of it. I want to plead for a better share of the resources which will enable the administrative County of Essex to perform its duties by retaining within the county certain boroughs all of which wish to remain in the administrative county.
I dare say the boroughs which are concerned in these schemes will not always take exactly the same view, depending on their geographical position and the like, but I say, from information I have had in answer to questions I have put, that there are at least five boroughs which are at present to be hoisted out of Essex but which individually want to remain in the administrative County of Essex. Speaking from memory, I would say that those five are Barking, Dagenham, Chigwell, Romford and Chingford; and they have a population between them of nearly 400,000. With the rating resources they have, they want to stay in Essex, because they do not accept what is stated in quite a general phrase in the White Paper of the Government that all the people in such places regard themselves as Londoners. They do not. Great masses of them are locally employed. You can go to Dagenham or to Romford and see their local industries, and the number of the people who are completely at home in their citizenship of the administrative County of Essex: their housing, their employment, everything is there. It is no good blandly to state in a phrase of the White Paper that they are all Londoners; it simply is not true All these five boroughs, in the case of Essex, want to 217 remain in the administrative county. I suggest to the Government that they ought to take this point into consideration and, so far as possible, grant the wishes of the local ratepayers and citizens.
If the Government are going on with the scheme as a whole, county councils would very much like to know in advance what they pledge in regard to financial support. Is there any prospect of that? The noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, is going to reply to the debate. What is he going to pledge? I look at my County of Essex (I live near Colchester) and we have some excellent educational institutions. But we are now going to have a university, for which a site has been secured between Colchester and Wivenhoe, with all the expenses involved. This will mean very heavy charges, and the expected influx of population in quite a number of places in order to relieve the population of London, about which either agreements have been made or negotiations are proceeding, will add further cost for general social services, from education to old age. I fear very much for the future of the rating of Essex unless we can get some pledges. At present we have absolutely nothing to go on. One matter which has been pointed out to me by local councillors is that there is no real scheme of what I might call long-term compensation for the damage done to the whole machine and the future prospects of the particular administrative county. I should be glad if a word could be said about that in the reply.
There is one other thing they say about the Green Belt. I did not gather the noble and learned Viscount to say much about this but my noble friend certainly mentioned it. What we have had in Essex and in certain other of the counties contiguous to the administrative County of London are gradual steps forward in maintaining the Green Belt, because there has been an agreement as to actual siting in different places. What we want to see established for Essex is that there will be no interference whatsoever, by the passing of the Green Belt under other administration than it is under now. Can that be secured? They want the Green Belt as it exists in Essex to remain a part of Essex. That part which exists at present in the administrative County of London 218 —if they have any part of the Green Belt in that administration—let it stay there; we do not want that interfered with. There is not a word in the White Paper to give me any hope about this, but I would ask that it should be particularly considered.
I come now to Enfield. Here the Government are paying not only great respect but prostrating themselves almost flat out in obeisance to the City of London and its traditions. I do not know that I should criticise this, because I am a Liveryman and Freeman of the City of London, and I am as proud of its traditions and history as anybody else. But does that apply only to the City of London? I wonder what the Member for Enfield, West, who is the Leader of the House of Commons, thinks about this plan. Does he think there is no tradition in Enfield? Enfield has great traditions. Edward VI was in the Tudor Palace at Enfield when he was notified of his accession to the Throne. There is a great deal of other tradition about Enfield, not only in the matter of royalty and law, but also in education. I should think that the name of Dr. Uvedale, the great Cambridge scholar, who was a product of the Enfield Grammar School and went back there to be the headmaster and was also a very noted figure in botanical science, adds a great deal to the educational lustre of Enfield. Well, it has borough status; it is just beginning to reach the point when it would normally, under ordinary local government law, be ready for county borough status. But the Member for Enfield, West is doing his best to destroy that hope. I say that the manner in which this matter is being dealt with, dividing up Enfield to push all West Enfield, a Tory constituency, into one direction, and the Labour one into the other, is just splendidly providing opportunities—along the two lines of demarcation—for certain territories to be made permanently Conservative, so far as that can be done. It is therefore no use for the noble and learned Viscount to complain about the language my noble friend used.
There is a great objection from the Urban District of Cheshunt, which is in Hertfordshire, to the manner in which this is being pushed into the same sort of relation. I may point out to my noble friend that the council in Enfield is a 219 Labour council, and the general situation there does not leave me any less disturbed about the matter. I would put it this way. We all have our secret sins, I expect, but in the Conservative Tory Headquarters I should think that a little gerrymandering leads to a little thought as to how they should go about their business. We suspect this. From things that have happened in the past we might also say that we expect it.
I beg the Prime Minister, who set up this Royal Commission, not to be too proud to think again. I do not think it would lose him great public regard. I ask him to think about it again. Out of all the attacks that my noble friend was making—and I think rightly making—the noble and learned Viscount concentrated, apparently, on an inference that he had lodged a special attack on the political side upon the members of the Royal Commission. That is not so. I sat right alongside listening to my noble friend, and he certainly had not that intention. But he was perfectly right to challenge the manner in which the Royal Commission was set up, how it was chosen, how it called its witnesses, and who they were. Who were the great people of experience of local government on the Commission? Would the noble and learned Viscount tell me? There was a learned professor from Manchester who was a Professor of Government. Who was the experienced person of local government otherwise on the whole Commission? Whom did the Royal Commission choose to consult?
Does the noble and learned Viscount think that if one or two people experienced in local government, both on the Conservative and Labour side, had been appointed they would have been anything but reasonably impartial in that Royal Commission? If they did not wholly agree—well, a Minority Report has never hurt anybody yet, has it? We regard this Royal Commission as having been, maybe not in intent but in its operations, insufficient to avoid a charge that it was not properly set up and reporting, because you did not go to the best sources for your information or your judgment—neither one nor the other. If you had wanted somebody to go along and give them some advice on the actual machinery of local government in London—and my noble friend will not mind my 220 saying this—would not Lord Morrison of Lambeth have been able to do it? Do you think he would not have been reasonably impartial in any evidence he was asked to give? No, you do not think of things like that.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
My Lords, the noble Viscount has asked me a question. I attribute many virtues to the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, but impartiality on this subject is not one of them.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
I have known my noble friend a great number of years, and on a question of principle in the matter of government I have always found him to act impartially, in the interests of the country. I do not think you can find any outstanding example of an act of his that differs from that—not one. If you can, get up and mention it and I shall be glad to deal with it. But certainly the Royal Commission was insufficient in its capacity upon all these matters to enable it to give a sound and a wise judgment. And even the Government themselves have had to find that it did not go far enough to please their aspirations and desires, and so they have gone further. I leave it at that. As I said at the beginning, I support my noble friend up to the hilt.
§ 5.16 p.m.
VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS
My Lords, the noble Viscount who leads the Opposition has drawn to the forefront of your Lordships' minds again the actual Report of the Royal Commission. Since Her Majesty's Government have, I am glad to say, accepted all but two of its recommendations, it is inevitable that this debate should centre very largely upon what that Report has said. It is also fortunate that your Lordships need not rely solely upon the aspersions of partiality which I quite clearly remember having been cast by the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, and the other criticisms just made by the noble Viscount who leads the Opposition. Your Lordships need not rely solely on those views in order to evaluate what attention should be paid to the conclusions of the Report and the reasons which led up to them.
Your Lordships will have read the Report, and I feel sure that many of you, 221 at any rate on this side of the House, will feel, like me, that it is inspired and inspiring; and being, as the Report itself says, the first full view of the subject which has been taken since 1832, it fully and absolutely fulfils the duty for which the Commission felt themselves responsible, that is, to make a complete and thorough survey of the whole plan.
In their conclusions the Royal Commission pointed to several major problems, all of which, so far as I can make out this afternoon, the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, burked completely. He did so, as far as I can see, for one reason, and one reason only; and that is, that he followed the line taken by the County Council for which he is the protagonist, when they gave evidence before the Royal Commission, He considered London as consisting of nothing but the administrative county, and disregarded altogether the fact that there are other things outside the administrative county which also deserve sympathy and require to be dealt with.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
If that is the line being taken, I think I might say this. The actual Report is not very far apart from the evidence given by the Conservative Municipal Society to the Commission.
VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS
Your Lordships can judge for yourselves. For myself, I accept the good faith of the Commission, and I also accept their fundamental point which has already been put to your Lordships by my noble and learned friend who leads the House. They saw Greater London as a single unity, and they saw it as possessing problems which disregard the totally artificial boundaries which now dissect it, and which require a larger solution than that apparently ever produced by any of the present authorities within it.
Your Lordships will also be able to take refuge in the thought that that Commission was wide enough and wise enough to be able to take cognisance 222 of the fact that certain evidence, such as that given by the London County Council, was slanted, either for tactical or for political reasons. Where they found that to be the case, they did not disregard the evidence as valueless: they managed to transcend the political or tactical view point, and to put it in its proper perspective and find out how it could contribute to a solution of the problem as a whole.
Nevertheless, the Commission found that the parochial attitude which has for a long time bedevilled this subject was still very much alive, and I am delighted to find that Her Majesty's Government have managed to reject the purely parochial attitude and are looking at this matter as a whole. And if the parochial attitude is being mentioned, are not those who insist now in dealing with this problem on a purely local wavelength following very closely in the footsteps of the vested interests who in, I believe, the 1830s so persistently refused to contemplate the municipal borough reorganisation? And are they not following in the footsteps of those who about a century ago refused to contemplate a wider designation of the City of London and all that that would at that stage have meant for advantage?
The White Paper and Royal Commission put forward a solution to these basic problems in the form of a dual combination of authorities. For the essential overall matters they said that there should be a Greater London Council and that for the more local, personal services there should be Greater London boroughs with sufficient powers. The criticism that has been made against the Greater London Council is that it is not local, that it is not local government in any sense or form. Of course it is not local government, if by that is meant parochial government, because it is covering an area which does not deal with parochial problems. It is bound to deal with wide and important problems affecting, perhaps, a very much larger area than many other local authorities. That is one of the problems with which it has, in fact, to deal. I entirely agree with my noble friend who leads this House that they do not suffer from the defect that they do not deal with people. Planning and transport are matters which directly concern the people of the Greater London area.
223 In the sphere of building, the Report says that between 1948 and 1958, 44.4 million square feet of office space was permitted in Central London. No doubt some of that was rebuilding, but your Lordships will be able to conceive of something of the problem that that presents in terms of commuting. So far as traffic is concerned, if your Lordships have read items 14 and 15 at the back of the Royal Commission's Blue Book the sad history of the Narrow Street Bridge in Stepney and Hammersmith Flyover, your Lordships can have no doubt whatever that the machinery which allows that state of affairs to carry on is utterly and totally inadequate.
So far as overspill is concerned, is it a very cheerful prospect that in Middlesex the County Council and the county district councils quarrel so passionately that they have been quite unable to agree on any site for the construction of a new town outside Middlesex? Nor is it very elevating in the London County Council area to find the London County Council and the metropolitan boroughs squabbling over rare sites for housing which the London County Council want but Which are the only ones available to the metropolitan boroughs concerned because they have no powers to build outside their own boundaries. Is that a very elevating prospect?
The present system of refuse disposal is quite inadequate, and I think that, fortunately, this is one thing that few people have denied. Again, few people have denied the immense worth that would come with the intelligence department which is to be set up and which must help in the solution of a great number of problems. Perhaps those are not parochial problems, but if they are not dealt with by the Greater London Council, who is to deal with them? They can be dealt with only by a central government in one form or another, as indeed the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, admitted; and if anybody thinks that that is local government that seems to me a strange concept.
On the other hand, where services can be administered locally, in the Greater London boroughs, everything possible is done by this scheme to ensure that that will be done; and such, indeed, is now 224 the case with education, at least for some of the boroughs. Is all that to be overlooked when the Greater London Council Is examined? Here is the concomitant of the Greater London Council with direct local government in that borough, local government, moreover, of a type which as nearly as possible will be the equivalent of county borough status, which is exactly the sort of thing that boroughs like Enfield, mentioned by the noble Viscount, have been hankering after for years. What more direct or local form of government can be provided than that? What is more likely to stir interest in local government, in the minds both of the public and of the councillors who administer it, than that sort of greater responsibility which will be given them under this scheme? I must say that it astonished me to hear the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, say that he does not think that these boroughs will fulfil these duties very well. It does not seem to me that he has much trust in some of the people who will have to be dealing with the situation.
No doubt there are difficulties. The noble Viscount who leads the Opposition has mentioned the financial side. It is true that Surrey is in a slightly worse position even than Essex, for which he spoke. They will lose, so far as I can make out, 61 per cent. of their population and 66 per cent. of their rateable value. It has, however, apparently escaped everybody's notice that if they lose that, presumably they will lose, too, a very great deal of the expenditure on which the rates now go.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, I hope the noble Viscount will forgive my interrupting him. Would he recognise that, with this loss, Surrey will be losing urban industrial areas, leaving an imbalance of the rural, which cost the most to develop?
VISCOUNT COLVILLE or CULROSS
Not entirely. They will still have a considerable number of urban areas, such as Woking and Guildford. But, in any case, Paragraph 52, I think, of the White Paper provides some solution upon which I hope the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, will, if he can, expand later. There should be some form of mitigation of any serious situation which arises as a result of this plan.
225 Other financial quibbles have been raised, and one of them is over the matter of the general grant. It is said that, as a result of this reorganisation, the London Area will lose £5 million in general grant in the course of the year. I should again be grateful if my noble friend Lord Jellicoe could say whether this is not simply a matter of a formula for the application of the general grant which can, if necessary, be put right, as also can the matter of rate equalisation, if that is found to cause a problem.
Then there is the problem of the administrative staff of the various authorities concerned. From a personal point of view, I have great sympathy with those who feel that there are going to be difficulties. There are, no doubt, two categories. People like town clerks, of whom there will be too many, and also no doubt people like children's officers, of whom, in the first instance, there are bound to be too few. In the first category, what is going to happen to them? Will they receive compensation? In the second category, are the recruitment prospects good enough to make sure that no serious dislocation will take place in the new government authorities that are to be set up? I must say that, if I have spympathy with the staffs of some of these authorities, I have very little sympathy with the approach that has been made by the staff of at least one of the local authorities concerned, not on transfer matters, which would be quite understandable, but on a matter of policy and on a matter of broader issues. If the staff do not trust their own authority to protect them on this matter it is a sorry state of affairs.
None the less, there are, of course, wonderful services being administered within these areas, and it will be tragic if fine teams are broken up to such an extent that the services may deteriorate. I hope that Her Majesty's Government have this point very closely in mind when they envisage what I suppose is bound to happen—that is, the farming out of some of the staffs among the new authorities.
To be fair to the London County Council, since they gave evidence to the Royal Commission they have expanded their field of vision slightly, and they have joined in what is now known as the Surrey Plan, which is the wider Board 226 to consider the broader aspect of this problem. It seems to me that this is the only serious alternative that is in the running, and I should like for a moment to look at that alternative plan, because so much faith has been placed upon it by the antagonists to the Government scheme. What immediately strikes me is that it suffers from that chronic fault which the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, criticised so much, in that it would be a Joint Board; and it is remarkable that he places so much faith in so despised an organisation. Nevertheless, if it is purely consultative—which I believe it is not—it is unlikely, I believe, to be very effective. On the other hand, if it has executive powers it is going to add a third tier to the existing structure of local government which cannot but result in even worse confusion.
Secondly, I very much doubt whether the Board would be adequate. I think that it would be too big; and there is grave danger—as indeed the Herbert Commission themselves pointed out—that each of the constituent authorities on it will tend to look at the problems through their own county blinkers and will be unable to see the broader point of view. Nor does it seem to me to eradicate the grave disadvantages inherent in the present system. It does nothing to stop the state of what appears to be near-civil war in Middlesex between the district councils and the County Council. It does nothing to increase the status and responsibility of the metropolitan boroughs, and the only thing the London County Council are able to offer is some tinkering with powers, which must be agreed exclusively between the metropolitan boroughs and the County Council themselves without any outside interference. I feel it is a totally inadequate alternative for the grave situation which I believe exists to-day.
On the other hand, my Lords, I believe that this alternative may have a germ of good in it. For there is no doubt that some sort of broader regional planning of things like the Green Belt, traffic, commuting and overspill is overdue in the South-East of England, and it might be that some such organisation, could be set up, in an advisory capacity, to review of the whole of the South- 227 Eastern area. That would, I believe, be of great advantage to planning authorities in the area. But if that were to happen, one important voice on it, in fact the most important voice, would be that of London; and it should be that of London speaking through the Greater London Council, and not through a collection of separate county boroughs, county councils and so on.
Finally, the question which everybody desires answered is the question: is this volcanic upheaval really necessary? This has been put in two ways. One of them was put, if I may paraphrase him, by the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, in December, 1960, when he asked: Is it worth while walking into this highly contentious and difficult proposition? Is it worth while to involve ourselves in all the fighting in Parliament and the fighting with the existing local authorities? The other way it is put is by the Surrey County Council, in their scheme about which I have just spoken. They say: These drastic steps are justified only if such an overwhelmingly strong case for change is established that the results, from the public's point of view, would produce with reasonable certainty more effective local government than that given to-day, and only, moreover, if no other proposals of a more limited character would enable the necessary improvement to be made.
Noble Lords have already quoted the parts of the Royal Commission's Report which deal with their answer to these questions, or at any rate the second question. I should like to quote only one more. They say, in paragraph 672:We have in preceding chapters reached the conclusion that with the exception of some of the environmental health services none of these major functions can be discharged best by the local authorities which exist under the present structure of local government, and that some of them cannot be adequately discharged at all under the present structure.I accept that position and I accept that, although the existing local authorities have on the whole been doing their best, although there have been criticisms of them, they are no longer adequate. And I am therefore convinced that if, in Lord Morrison of Lambeth's terms, fighting there must be, let there be battle. And I applaud Her Majesty's Government on the way they have accepted this Report.
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, may I congratulate the noble Viscount who has just sat down for what I think the House would recognise was an admirable speech, at any rate from the point of view of Her Majesty's Government? This has been rather an exhilarating debate. My noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth did not hide his hatred, his bitterness of the Government measures. Taking out the political charges that he made, I thought he made a devastating case against the general proposals of Her Majesty's Government. The noble Viscount who leads the House, I thought, in face of great provocation kept his head very cool, at least as cool as we have seen it.
The noble Viscount certainly came to the aid and assistance of the City of London. He spoke of its great virtues. My noble Leader also spoke, I think it was, of Enfield. I would remind the House of Kingston, a city of ancient kings, the capital of Surrey. Is it to be protected in the same way as the City of London? No. It is to be dragged out of its county and it is to be brought into what the Government regard as a crowd of Londoners. I find it hard to see how the Government make the case for the City of London but forget Kingston.
These proposals of the Government based on the White Paper have met with very considerable objection. There is an objection from the London County Council which the Government could write off as being of a political implication. But the objections come from other fields. To-day, I understand that the local medical committee of the County of London, who represent nearly 3,000 practitioners, have placed on record their very serious objections to the Government's proposals. They make one point which I think is worth considering. It is that infection and disease do not recognise any boundaries; and they fear that the boroughs that are being set up will be so watertight that there may be a failure of co-ordination. Under the Government proposals, as I see them, there is now no organisation for co-ordination for health. Presumably this will be necessary eventually. I wish to ask the Government whether that coordination is going to be there for the 229 Greater London Council or whether it will come under the Ministry of Health.
The noble Viscount who leads the House told us, I think quite rightly, of the status of the Royal Commission. I personally do not attack them; I think they did the best with the job that was put before them. But I think regard must also be had to the fact that in the County of Surrey there are men and women who have dedicated long periods of their lives in selfless duty to the people of Surrey. These people are knowledgeable; they are possessed of vast experience. They have placed on record their view which I will read to your Lordships. They consider:That the Government's proposed solutions are unsound, as are those of the Royal Commission, and are open to grave objections.They observe thatfar from producing such advantages the Government proposals would, in many important respects, provide less effective and convenient local government than exists at present; would result in more rather than less Government intervention in local government, and in the case of education would be seriously retrograde.Those are the declared views of the men and women, the councillors, of Surrey. Their views should be taken equally into account with those of the Royal Commission.
What are the Government proposals? They are that there should be set up in London the Greater London Council of 110 members who are to represent 81 million people. Each member would represent 70,000 to 80,000 persons. I would not want to be considered parochial, but I ask: is that local government as we have understood it in this country? I would suggest that it is completely alien to every conception we have had. As I see it, one of the necessities of local government, which is the essential instrument for democratic government, is that the person elected to a local authority should have intimate contact with the people who have elected him and should administer local affairs. I do not think that is doubted or would be contradicted anywhere.
I ask your Lordships: can a member representing 70,000 to 80,000 persons on the electoral roll, let alone their children, provide the type of service that our present county councillors are providing? May I further illustrate the point by taking the case of Surrey? There 230 are 900,000 Surrey people who are affected by the Government proposals. At present, these people are represented by 52 members on the county council. If this proposal goes through, 11 members will represent nearly one million people. To suggest that that is local government is farcical.
To turn to the borough councils, which are to be about the lowest strata of local government in the centre of London, the Metropolis, we are going to have groups of from 250,000 to 350,000 persons. What is going to be the membership strength of those borough councils? Is it going to be 100, or 200? I would strongly suspect that it will be in the region of 50. Can we honestly say that 50 members on a local borough council can satisfactorily represent 250,000 to 350,000 people? We cannot. I have had no experience of local government, but I know many who have. I know the type of problems that are daily and nightly brought before them, and in regard to which the individual says, "I must go to see my councillor." How can those councillors, representing large numbers of people, provide that essential service? We are not marching to a healthy local government; we are going backwards, and the service that will be provided will be far less than it is to-day.
I wish to make one point in regard to these councillors. The Government have said that they wish to see healthy local government. That does not depend entirely upon the responsibilities that are placed upon the local authority; it depends upon the type of man and woman who is attracted to the council. It may be that a different type of person will be attracted to-day—though God forbid that that should be necessary! We might attract more people to local government if we gave them more powers to administer it. But you may well do something to the contrary. I know many areas where my political Party, in endeavouring to find candidates to fight a county council or a local government election, have great difficulty in finding persons of the right calibre who can give the time for this duty.
If a man of 35 to 40 has the desire to go into local government and he sees that, if elected, he may be called upon to do two or three days' work a week, 231 he then has a great decision to make. Do you, in the service of your community, sacrifice your own children? Do you sacrifice your own promotion? I think we have to look at the real fundamentals. It is not only a question of finding the type of work to make it interesting to the people; you have to find ways of making the work possible for those individuals who are interested in it.
I have one other objection. This may seem strange coming from a Labour Party Bench. I have always thought that one of the attractions in local government is that local communities have an opportunity, through the ballot box, of expressing their particular grudge or point of view. Throughout the country there are still independents, or people representing a particular minor issue. Who would be able to fight the constituencies for the Greater London Council? The only people who will be able to take on the expense and provide the machinery to fight will be the three major political Parties. I do not think that is right. I think it is against the whole concept of local government. I believe that the political Parties should be involved in local government; but I do not think that the machinery should be so rigged that a person of independent mind and thought is not permitted to sit on the council.
It is said in regard to housing that the new proposals would provide for a quicker growth in housing. I do not accept this. I think there is every indication that, with the break up of the London County Council into borough authorities, the resources that will be available to the boroughs are bound to react against the speed of building; and I strongly suspect that in time not only will it be more expensive to build but, because the borough will be able to work only within its own area, the price of land will be put up. This would be a bad thing. At least the London County Council and the Surrey County Council have flexibility to-day. If they cannot buy land at a reasonable price in one place they can go elsewhere. But that will be prevented in the case of a borough council. I therefore think that we should look again at the whole question of whether responsibility for housing is placed directly in the borough.
232 My noble friends have already spoken about education. I live on the outskirts of Surrey—at least it will be on the outskirts of Surrey if these proposals go through—and I see all the youngsters coming off the trains in the morning from what will be the Greater London area on their way to the Oxted Grammar School, a very great school. My Lords, if these proposals go through, will these children be allowed to go to the Oxted Grammar School? I doubt it, because Surrey—as I shall try to show later—will themselves be desperately short of grammar school places. Undoubtedly, if the Government's proposals are accepted there will be less flexibility, not only in regard to the teaching of the children and the type of school to which the child may be sent, but also in regard to the teachers, in that their opportunities for promotion will be reduced. This applies to the Surrey County Council as well as to the London County Council. I believe that with this fragmentation of the London County Council and Surrey County Council educational services the children will be far worse off than they are to-day.
I should like to say something about what will happen to Surrey, but, before I do so, I think I should again echo the words of my noble Leader on the question of finance. The rates in this country are already high; and in many respects they are completely and utterly unfair. A person is called upon to pay his rates not according to his ability to pay them, but according to the house in which he lives. The rates bear unfairly upon the old, and particularly heavily upon the very young who are starting out on married life. I am quite convinced that, if these proposals go through, the cost will be out of all proportion to any good that can come from the Government proposals. I would not hazard a guess as to the effect on the London rates, but this will put a tremendous burden on the people who can least afford to pay.
The noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, mentioned some figures showing what will happen in Surrey. He rather brushed to one side the point I made, that Surrey will be losing its more valuable rateable areas. In fact, the county to-day represents 449,000 acres. If the proposals go through, it will be left with 98,000 acres of urban district 233 —the district which has the higher rateable value—and 250,000 acres of rural district. I would ask the noble Viscount if he would look at those figures tomorrow to see whether he can stand by the point he made. The rateable value for the whole of Surrey is £27,539,000. My Lords, if this deal goes through, the rateable value that remains will be £9,340,000.
VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS
That will still leave Surrey, in regard to rateable value, among the top fifteen counties in England and Wales.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
No, my Lords. Permit me to finish my point. Surrey will sustain a loss of rateable value of some £18 million—and that is not "chicken-feed". If we are to develop—as we must develop—our rural districts, we must have what Surrey has created in the past 20 or 30 years; that is, a balanced economy (which is something the Conservative Government have never recognised) in which the rural districts can be supported by the urban districts. Surrey has developed its industrial area. If you go down to Croydon, Caterham, or Whyteleafe you will see factories springing up everywhere. All that will go; whatever the Surrey County Council has done will disappear.
My noble Leader asked about financial recompense. I doubt whether they could be recompensed for what has been done. The county councils have not been difficult. They objected to the Government proposals, but they did not take a negative attitude. They got together and produced what I consider to be a same, sensible, workable solution. It is easy for the noble Viscount and the Government to write them off. I do not believe that the Government have ever seriously considered the proposals of the county councils. In fact, I believe that the councils themselves take that view. They believe, as does my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth, that the Government were so obsessed with the destruction of the London County Council that they intended to proceed irrespective of the consequences in the outlying districts. It will be said that the Conservatives may lose some financial support in Surrey, because Surrey is a Conservative county. I know why the Government do not worry about upsetting their 234 supporters: it is because they know that, when the issue comes, the Tories, irrespective of what has been done to them, will close their ranks. So they have gone ahead.
What is going to happen? Many people in Surrey will be taken out of a county to which they have given their loyalty, a county which they have built up. They are to be extracted, and (I hate to say this to my friend who is a very great Londoner), they are going to be made Londoners. The people of Warlingham and Caterham are not Londoners. They may come to London to work, but they live in Surrey; and their community life is where they live. The Government have decided, with this obsession that they have, to destroy the London County Council, irrespective of the consequences. These people will be dragged in, because that is the price that must be paid in order to make a sorry picture look a little better.
§ 5.58 p.m.
My Lords, this is a very important matter, and I must apologise to your Lordships for not having been present when the debate opened. There are certain occasions in life when one is unavoidably prevented from being in one's place at the appropriate time, and so far as I am concerned to-day was such an occasion. I also regret not having heard the opening statement of the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth. At all events, I shall have the great pleasure of reading it in the OFFICIAL REPORT to-morrow. Whether or not one agrees with Lord Morrison of Lambeth is a matter of opinion, but he is an established genius and a veritable encyclopedia of knowledge on the County of London.
I do not want to indulge in the privilege of wandering aimlessly over the whole ground, but let me come to the position as I understand it. I think every one of your Lordships realises that the real problem arises in relation to Greater London. As I said on a previous occasion, if by the grace of Providence we are alive in 1970 we shall see one street from London to Reading, and a similar state of affairs will exist North, South and East of the metropolis. There is a growth of population, with the increasing influx of immigrants and the marked drift of population from the 235 North and the Midlands towards the South of England from a line drawn from London to Bristol. London cannot be regarded as a series of big off-shoots and growths in various directions. There should be one overall authority for this area.
That brings me to the point that some of the recommendations of the Royal Commission, as modified by Her Majesty's Government, certainly deserve the most serious consideration. In the first place, there can be no reform unless there is a different structure. As we all know, the idea is that there will be a two-tier system. All I can say is: thank goodness there will not be a three-tier system, which is an abomination of desolation. The upper tier will be the greater London Council and, as your Lordships know, the lower tier will consist of 34 boroughs with a population of 200,000 to 250,000 in each borough. The City of London will be a single borough on its own, and I prefer not to say very much about that now. The old pals' club of millionaires and big bankers will have to be very softly and gently approached.
The area of the Greater London Council will comprise the area of the London County Council, the whole of Middlesex, and adjoining parts of Surrey, Essex, Kent and Hertfordshire. I can well imagine the un-Parliamentary language of those counties, when they are deprived of some of the most valuable parts of their respective areas, which assist them in financing the needs of other and less well-to-do parts of their counties. However, it is impossible to make any change in this world without causing disadvantage somewhere.
The vital question, of course, is what happens to education? On the subject of education we could speak for a year and write a library of books, and we should have not the slightest measure of agreement. What is the objection to technical and special education being the responsibility of the Greater London Council, while primary and secondary education are a borough responsibility? In the case of other functions, the Government's division of services outlined in the White Paper is certainly worthy of very serious consideration. Local health and welfare services will be the respon- 236 sibility of the boroughs. There does not appear to be any firm policy about drainage, but it is suggested that this should be entrusted to the Greater London Council. I have not had the opportunity, the advantage or the pleasure of listening to all the speeches, but I have heard practically nothing about the subject of finance. Being Scottish, it is the one thing which really interests the Lord Chancellor and myself—we both agree on that point. Has anybody said anything about the debts of the London County Council and the various adjacent counties? This is a serious matter and it should be clarified before there is any alteration of structure and allotment of functions.
I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, is not present in his seat to hear my last observation, because he talked about the system of rates. He said that people should be made to pay rates according to their capacity to pay, and not according to the property in which they live. How on earth can you charge rates on a house, in respect of the income of the persons occupying that house? That income may vary from day to day. The number of people bringing money into the house may vary from day to day. How on earth can any local authority responsible for raising rates assess a house in that way, when, possibly, the occupiers of the house have a different income every month? My Lords, that suggestion is one of the greatest canards that has ever been ventilated, and I hope that it will die a quick, sudden and horrible death.
§ 6.5 p.m.
My Lords, there is no difficulty in finding complications and problems in the White Paper, but I think it would be more helpful to both sides of the House if we tried to be a little more constructive in seeing what the Government are trying to do and what they should do, instead of concentrating entirely on the difficulties. The noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, who initiated the debate made a speech that was almost entirely destructive, but he did put out one or two—
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
What is that, my Lords? Will the noble Lord forgive me for interrupting him? 237 I was not destructive; it is the Government who are destructive. I was trying to preserve good things, even with modifications. How dare the noble Lord call me destructive!
My Lords, if the noble Lord had allowed me to finish my sentence, he might have heard something kinder. I said that he was almost entirely destructive, but I was about to add that he made one constructive suggestion with which, strangely enough, I agreed.
He suggested that, if the Government were going to undertake a reorganisation of this size, they might at least take in the Metropolitan Water Board. That suggestion seems to me to have a good deal to commend it. That Board represents a vast undertaking, whose functions must be closely allied with such matters as drainage, the fire service, sewerage and so on. The constitution of the Board is at present drawn from the metropolitan boroughs with, I think I am right in saying, six members from the London County Council and one or two members from other bodies such as the Conservancy Boards. Whatever happens as a result of this change, there will have to be a reorganisation of the membership of the Metropolitan Water Board; and if the Government are carrying out a vast tidying-up process of this sort they might as well include in it this Board. The idea should appeal to the financial experts, because surely there would be big administrative savings in that, instead of having this double system, of water rates and general rates sent out separately to every householder in London, they could both be combined. That would surely mean a saving of money.
I have made the one point with which I agreed with the noble Lord. May I now make one or two further suggestions, on which the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, who is to reply to the debate, may be able to help us, even if he cannot give us a completely direct answer this evening. A great deal has been said this afternoon about the City of London, and, of course, from a purely debating point of view, the proposals are an anomaly. On the other hand, we can be too tidy. I think the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, himself made that point. I very much regretted it when in another place we lost the 238 University seats. For, with them, one had a chance of occasionally having a really independent Member.
If we are going to continue with the City of London—and I am very glad that we are—I think that there is an opportunity for marrying that up with this body called the Greater London Council. I will give only one instance of this, and it may not be one of great importance; but it is the sort of thing which might be considered. The City of London is (what shall I say?) the main entertaining and civic body in this great city. The London County Council does a good deal of entertaining on its own, quite well but on a lower plane, because it has not the same traditions behind it. If we are to have a Greater London Council, it would seem to me quite unnecessary for that body also to try to carry out functions of this sort. We already have the Government reception centre at Lancaster House, which works very well; and there is the City of London, which we shall leave much as it is. I think that there might be a case, when it comes down to considering details, for having the Lord May or as an ex officio member of the Greater London Council. The City of London certainly should be represented.
My noble friend Lord Colville of Culross, in his excellent speech, made some reference to the problems of staff. I think it would be of immense help if the Government could give the staff a more definite undertaking than they have given so far. I am talking, of course, about the administrative staff, which numbers over 10,000 in the case of the London County Council. Then, of course, there are all the other councils.
It would be of immense help if the Government could make a more definite statement than they have yet done: that possibly a Commission, or something similar, should be set up which would concentrate entirely on placing the members of that staff, many of whom will have to move from one authority to another. All the Government have said on this subject so far is that they are well aware of the problem and are anxious to take as little time as possible in bringing forward their legislation. But such is the complication of what they have undertaken that I think it is practically impossible for them to do that for another year or two; and in the meantime 239 we shall be losing staff, and many people who would be joining will not be joining. I therefore think that something much more definite than has been said so far would be to everybody's interest.
My Lords, the point has been made time and time again this afternoon that what is proposed by Her Majesty's Government is not local government—and, of course, the Greater London Council is quoted as an example. Surely, that is a complete red herring as regards what the Government are trying to do. The whole point of the Government's proposals, as I see it, is to give greater local powers to the boroughs, who have been pressing for them for years. Surely, that is exactly what we should describe as local government.
I have only one other thing to say, and the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, really said it himself in his speech. Surely, if any Government wanted to create trouble with their own supporters, this would be a very good Bill to introduce. There is bound to be opposition from every sort of quarter. Some of it would come from vested interests; some of it would be perfectly genuine. I think we must give credit to the Government for the fact that, although they already have plenty of little local difficulties before them, they have had the courage to introduce proposals of this sort, and my only hope is that they will bring in legislation at the earliest possible moment.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ LORD LINDGREN
My Lords, the noble and learned Viscount who leads this House stated when he started his speech that he was going to be cool, calm and collected. If that was so, I should really like to see him when he is excited, because—
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
What I said was that I was going to be somewhat cooler than the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth.
§ LORD LINDGREN
The noble Viscount was following a very good example. But I want to say again that, in my belief, this is a political move, of course. As the noble Lord, Lard Morrison of Lambeth, said, had the Tories won the last London County Council election we should have heard no more about the reorganisation of local government, at 240 least in the form of destroying the London County Council. May I remind the noble Viscount of the statement of his own Prime Minister at the time of the L.C.C. elections, when he said that if the Tories could win the L.C.C. it would be the brightest jewel in their crown? They do not like a bright jewel in any other hands than their own, and they have spent many millions of pounds in trying to get control of the L.C.C.
§ LORD LINDGREN
I am not going to go as far as that, but may I say that I do not know why the noble Viscount is so touchy about the political motive, because the Tory Party has been engaged in furthering it in local government all the time.
If one had to declare an interest, it is nearly 40 years since I entered local government, associated with minor authorities and county councils, and anywhere and everywhere that I have been associated with local government very effective, very efficient, Tory agents and their office staffs have been providing their representatives on local government bodies with suggestions for the reorganisation of wards, the redistribution of wards, in order that they might maintain or gain control of local government bodies. The Tory Party believes in democracy so long as it can make sure that the democracy is of the sort that it wants.
Only recently, within the last six weeks, I sat on a commission set up by the Hertfordshire County Council to inquire into a request from a Tory organisation at Boreham Wood for a redistribution of wards. On that occasion, the Tory agent, when pressed, admitted that the real reason why they were making their application was that under the present distribution of population there was not a chance of the Tories ever getting control of the local authority. Now we have seen this happening all over the place. I am not going to say that even a Labour-controlled council has not resisted ward 241 redistribution because it might be to their disadvantage. So why the noble Viscount should want to deny it in the way that he has, I am not sure.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
I will tell the noble Lord, since he has asked me. The Commission said—and I agree—that political motives openly avowed are perfectly lawful and legitimate things on either side, but when people level accusations against both the Government and a Commission of a contemptible, not to say a corrupt, plot—
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
"Contemptible plot" was the term used by the noble Lord; I took it down at the time. And he added, "I almost said a corrupt plot". When that sort of language is used, one is entitled to ask that it should either be substantiated or withdrawn.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
My Lords, this is really silly, and the noble Viscount knows that it is silly. I accused the Government of those things. I still accuse the Government of those things. I will go on accusing the Government of those things to my dying day. I did not accuse the Commission of those things. I said that the Commission were improperly constituted; and as to the quotation about the London County Council evidence, I think thereby the Commission manifested a very undesirable bias. But I never accused them of corruption, because I did not have the chance to do so.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
My Lords, all I was saying was this: that his noble friend, from whom he has now taken over, was asking me why I was touchy about the imputation of motives, and my answer is that honourable people do not like being accused of "a contemptible, I almost said a corrupt, plot". That is why I am touchy. The noble Lord now has the answer to his questions, despite his noble friend's intervention.
§ LORD LINDGREN
In spite of this little exchange, may I go on? The fact is that I was one of those who gave evidence before the Commission. May I say that we were received very kindlily? 242 And what we said, I believe, was taken notice of. But I must emphasise a point that has been made by one noble Lord—I have forgotten which: in my appearances before the Commission, I found no one, with the exception of a civil servant who was very experienced in Civil Service administration in the local government field, on that Commission who, from a local government point of view, one would have accepted as experienced in local government. That, from my point of view, was rather important.
My Lords, I must again declare an interest. I am a member of the Hertfordshire County Council and lead the Labour group on that council. Reference has been made by the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, to the extension of London. So far as Hertfordshire is concerned, Barnet is to be brought into this area; so is Cheshunt. The people of Barnet and Cheshunt do not like to be referred to as Londoners. They do not mind being called "hedgehogs". They are as proud of being called "hedgehogs" as I am of being described as a Londoner. The whole of their affiliation and community of interest is much more with Hertfordshire than it is with London. It is not like the case of some of the Surrey boroughs, where people commute to London to work. In Cheshunt they live and work in the same area. It is true that in Barnet there are some commuters, but the vast majority live and work in the area, and they do not want to be brought into the London area. Both of those councils, I might say in passing, are Tory-controlled councils.
I am not one of those—one who has been associated with local government for a long time cannot be—who will not admit that there are things wrong with local government. As the noble Viscount who leads the House has said, it is true that county councils were established in 1888, and the urban and rural districts in 1894. It was a time when the speed of man was almost dependent upon the speed of a horse. Communications have developed since then, and it is foolishness to say that what happened then should necessarily happen now. But this does not really deal with what, to my mind, are the fundamental problems of local government. Finance is perhaps the greatest problem in local 243 government at the present time; that is to say, the division of finance as between Treasury and ratepayer, and the ability of the local authority to acquire its finance. The noble Lord who sits on the Liberal Benches, Lord Meston, referred to the difficulty of charging rates according to ability to pay. At one time it was true that persons tended to live in a house, the rateable value of which had been determined by its rentable value, a value which they could afford; but that time has long since gone, particularly so far as London is concerned, and the incidence of rates to-day falls unfairly on some people.
What is equally worrying is that, in my 40 years in local government, the standard of local government representative has been falling and the standard of local government officer has been rising. It would not be unfair to say that, in many parts of our local government administration, the good name of efficiency of local government has been maintained by the local government officer rather than by the elected councillor. That is not applicable to us. Forty years ago in the Labour movement it was an honour to be selected as a candidate. Now, quite often, I willingly admit we have to go round and ask people whether they will accept the "honour" of nomination. That that should be so is not a good thing for local government. I gather, from talking to Tory representatives whom I meet at various local Government bodies, that their problem is much the same as ours. Therefore, on the fundamental problems of finance and of representation by the people who determine the policy of local government, as things stand these problems are not being dealt with. In fact, it is worse because, as the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, said, service on the Greater London Council is bound to be such that the type of person who can accept membership of it will be in extremely short supply.
I want to refer for a moment to what has been said earlier on—the general question of staffing local authorities. If I may say so, the two basic points in the Government's White Paper are that they want to devolve greater power upon the boroughs, and to have a Greater London Area to cover certain functions 244 which the boroughs will not be able to deal with. I have admitted that, so far as local government is concerned, the more we can do to make the work interesting and effective for those who go on to local authorities, the better. Perhaps it will give an opportunity to secure better standards of representative, and equally give the authorities a greater rateable value with which to deal.
Even under the Government's White Paper, however, the new boroughs are not small authorities, in which the association between the elected representative and the citizen of the area is close. If, in fact, we have a county borough, or what is almost a county borough, of 250,000 or 300,000 people, naturally the association between the elected representative, the person serving on the local authority, and the citizen is not close, and never can be. And I do not see that it need be. After all, if a mother is worried about the fact that her baby is off its food, she does not want to go and see the borough council; she wants to see the doctor at the clinic. If an old lady cannot cope with her housework, again she does not want to go and talk to the borough council; she wants to see the person in charge of home-helps, so that she can get her floors washed. If a parent is worried about "little Willie" not getting on at school, he does not want to meet the chairman of the education committee; he is much more concerned to meet the headmaster at the school, and the teacher teaching his son m the classroom. They are the persons who interpret the law, and interpret the policy of the council.
After all, the elected representative has the function of determining policy; that is his job. Then, the policy having been determined, the local authority employ administrators who arrange and organise the service, and the employees give effect to it. It is the standard of the administrator, the teacher, and the rest of them, which really determines what standard of service there is going to be; and it is these people the ordinary citizen wants to meet.
Of course the break-up of the L.C.C. does not enhance the association of ratepayer and elected representative. But I admit that the majority of local government electors do not worry about what 245 type of authority they are under. What the elector wants is service—schools, parks and open spaces, houses, a police force and a tire service—efficient services, naturally at the least possible cost. It really does not matter tuppence to him whether his authority is called a borough or an urban district, or whether it has a chairman or a mayor. What he is concerned about is service for himself and his family.
I am not in any way convinced that under this plan there is going to be any better service for the citizens of London and of Greater London. No one has pointed to where an improvement in the standard of service is going to come from. No one has claimed, no one has asserted, that this is going to be any cheaper. There is not a claim of better service, greater efficiency or cheaper cost. Therefore, as I said at the beginning of my remarks, I wonder whether there is any other reason for the introduction of this plan. This talk by the Government of closer affiliation between the ratepayer and the local government elected representative, much as it is to be desired, is very much Utopianism.
My experience as a Member of the House of Commons of the service given to constituents, in what was all "the surgery", is that many of the problems brought to us as Members of Parliament were in fact local government problems. I have already said that the function of the councillor is to determine policy, and it is the function of those employed in the council services to carry out that policy and give effect to it faithfully. The standard of the administrative officers, engineers, surveyors, architects and the rest, is very much determined by the rate of pay which the authority can afford to pay them, the scope and interest they give to the work they are called upon to do and the opportunities the officers have for advancement.
It is a very surprising thing to me, recognising the vital part which administrators and local government employees play in the efficient conduct of our local government system, that there is not a single reference whatever in the White Paper to local government servants; nor is there any statement in any form about what is going to happen to local government servants already employed in the boroughs and counties affected. I should have thought that it was vital to say 246 straight away how these employees are going to be dealt with.
They are not extraordinarily well paid. I think that they are reasonably well paid, but not as well paid by any means as men in similar jobs outside in industry and commerce. And they are concerned about their standards, their status, their rates of pay and the prospects of continuity of their employment. This complete reorganisation is going to destroy their continuity of employment in many cases and there is not one single mention of the employees in the White Paper. In a situation such as this, these are the first things they think of. Some noble Lords will not appreciate this, but, having been an employee, I know that that is so. I hope that the noble Earl who is going to reply will make a statement in regard to how the staffs of the new authorities, when they are formed, are going to be appointed.
If I may make a suggestion, I think that a special board should be set up. There should be a guarantee to the existing staffs of local authorities that they are going to be able to maintain their present standard of livelihood, irrespective of whether or not the new authorities want to accept members of existing authorities on their staffs. Such a board would avoid the possibility of accusations of favouritism, if it had power to apportion staffs to the new authorities. Otherwise, there are bound to be many square pegs in round holes. The various trade unions and staff associations involved ought to have representation on the board.
I am against this whole plan. I do not see that the Londoner is going to be any better served in the services that he receives. There is no evidence that he is going to get them in any cheaper form; nor is there any evidence that he is going to be able to take any greater part in them either. Therefore, so far as the general construction is concerned, I would prefer that things remained much as they are. Those who are not Londoners may not have an affection for London, but no one who goes abroad and hears people in Paris or in Rome speaking about their own cities fails to think of London as the capital city of England—of Great Britain. I am corrected by my noble friend. I think that even the Scots would accept that. But 247 I think it will be hard for the Londoner to have an affection for a London which is being taken out to the other side of Croydon, to the other side of Barnet and all the way over to West Ham. London is an entity and ought to be left as such from the point of view of local government service.
The biggest point I make against the scheme is in regard to the staffs, who have served us so well, who are not mentioned in any shape or form in the White Paper, who are given no guarantee of continuity of employment or of maintenance of the standards of their employment, and who ought, through representatives from their trade unions and associations, to have some say in the reallocation of those who are going to take part in the new scheme.
§ 6.40 p.m.
§ LORD AUCKLAND
My Lords, I have been looking forward to this debate for a long time, because I took part in a similar debate, also initiated by the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, as far back as December, 1960. The tone of the noble Lord's speech to-day was much the same as it was then. I regret to have to say that, in my opinion, it was a completely non-constructive speech. I regret having to say that, because I have always had a great admiration for the noble Lord both as a Minister and as an administrator. But he seemed to condemn this plan from first to last. I shall have some criticisms to make in a moment, but, as I did in 1960, I should like to pay a sincere tribute to Sir Edwin Herbert and his colleagues for a clear and concise Report.
I believe that the Government White Paper is in essence fair and intelligible. I shall have a few words to say about Surrey in a moment, because for the last eight years I have lived in that county, and I will be quite frank in saying that I do not like the proposals for Surrey. But, so far as Essex is concerned, I believe the proposals to be sound. After all, building of high density stretches out as far as Ilford; and most Essex people to whom I have spoken who live in that perimeter between Barking, Romford and Ilford call themselves Londoners and are proud to be known as such. Let me say at once that in many ways 248 the London County Council, even under Socialist control, have rendered some good service. But they are not a paragon of virtue.
§ LORD AUCKLAND
Because I think they have been under Socialist control for too long and certainly their housing policy, particularly in relation to slum clearance, leaves much to be desired. But, as I say, they are not perfect. I will be fair and say, too, that the Hertfordshire County Council and Surrey County Council, both Conservative controlled, are not perfect.
I turn now to Surrey. I was impressed with much of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd. By and large, it was a fair speech because it put into perspective what a great deal of Surrey is thinking about this plan. Let me deal first with the Green Belt. Fifty-seven per cent. of Epsom and Ewell is in the Green Belt area. I happen to reside in the constituency of Epsom and Ewell, and here a curious situation arises. Electorally speaking, Epsom and Ewell takes in Leatherhead, Fetcham, Bookham, Ashtead and a number of surrounding villages. Epsom and Ewell itself will under these plans be absorbed under the Greater London Authority. Leatherhead, Fetcham, Bookham and Ashtead will, as the plans go at present, come under the Surrey County Council. I should like my noble friend Lord Jellicoe, who is to reply to the debate, to comment on this situation, if not to-night, perhaps at some time later.
In the local Leatherhead paper of February 22 there is an interesting letter from the chief solicitor to the Surrey County Council, from which I should like to quote an extract. It says:There is a possible suggestion that Leather-head could be included if Epsom and Ewell go into a Greater London borough. If Leatherhead remains in Surrey the local government reshuffle can still have serious consequences locally The creation of the Greater London boroughs would mean a loss to Surrey of approximately two-thirds of its population and rateable value.Under the Rating and Valuation Act of last year rating for industry was raised to 100 per cent. Under these proposals Surrey is going to lose a great deal of 249 its industry to the Greater London Authority. My noble friend Lord Colville of Culross said that Woking and Guildford would remain. Certainly Woking has a reasonably high proportion of industry. But I would contest what my noble friend says about Guildford, because there is not much industry around there. Admittedly, in the area of Camberley and Yateley a few small factories have been started, but there is really not sufficient to compensate for what will be lost. It is also fair to say that Leatherhead has a certain amount of light industry. But there is genuine anxiety in Surrey as to what is going to happen so far as industry is concerned.
Epsom is an ancient and historic town. It was described by Professor Abercrombie in his 1944 Greater London Plan as athriving market town almost entirely surrounded by natural barriers to further outward expansion, consisting of its famous town. Woodcote Park, Epsom Common and the hospital's.If this plan goes through, what guarantees are there that these rural areas will be preserved? What is going to be the future of Nonsuch Park, which has historical interests dating back to Henry VIII? Indeed, what is going to happen to the Green Belt? There have been assurances from the Government that the Green Belt will be preserved. But the building operations of the London County Council have already stretched far and wide outside the bounds of London.
I cannot dispute that there is need for the London County Council to look elsewhere for land, but Surrey has a greater proportion of Green Belt than any of the counties concerned in this plan. The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, mentioned Kingston, which is the county town of Surrey. I should like an assurance from the Government that the needs of Kingston will be seriously considered. It is an important town; it is an historic town. What is going to be the future county town of Surrey—Guildford or where? I think that is a point which we should know more about. In fairness, I should say that the right honourable gentleman the Leader of the House of Commons gave assurances that local residents and other organisations would be fully consulted before this plan goes through—and it is not scheduled, according to the White Paper, to be put into 250 any positive action until something like 1964. But 1964 is not a long way ahead.
What are the other parts of Surrey which are to be included? Esher is 17 miles from the nearest point of London and Epsom and Banstead are both 15 miles from London. The tentacles of this octopus are going to stretch a very long way. My criticism of these proposals is more on geographical lines than administrative lines. It might be argued that I am reacting like a two-headed hydra—that I want my cake and eat it, Of that Surrey wants its cake and eat it—but in Epsom last week there was a protest meeting regarding these plans, attended by 1,400 people. The verdict against the inclusion of Epsom and Ewell was carried with only three teenage dissentients. This meeting was organised by the Epsom Ratepayers Association, although other parts of Surrey were included.
Surrey has an area of 450,000 acres, and I think I am right in saying that something dike 350,000 acres will disappear under this plan. Surrey still retains vast tracts of countryside, and even around Epsom there are many country lanes where you can walk for a long way without seeing a house. I have lived in London for quite a large part of my life. I like London, although I cannot say that I love it. I do not think the people of Esher, Claygate or Walton-on-Thames will like being called Londoners. I can see some sense in including perhaps Mitcham, and even certain parts of Croydon, because many of those people commute into London. Many people commute from Epsom and Walton-on-Thames, but many people also work locally. I notice in my local train in the morning many people disgorge into London, but many disgorge into Epsom, Ewell and Stoneleigh. I hope the Government will look again from a geographical angle into these plans.
Having said that, I should like to reiterate what has been said by some of my noble friends. The Government have not gone into these proposals rashly. They have been given a good deal of thought. The Royal Commission sat for something like three years and produced an admirable Report, most of which the Government have accepted. It is important to remember that we are not discussing to-day the Second Reading of a 251 Bill. I will be quite frank: if we were discussing the Second Reading of the Greater London Bill to-day I would not go into the Government Lobby, because I believe that the inclusion of such places as Epsom and Ewell, and, as the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, said, Barnet and Cheshunt—both of which towns I know quite well—is wrong. But that does not mean to say that the inclusion of many other places is wrong.
The London County Council needs reorganising. As has been said, it dates back from the end of the nineteenth century, and we are now over half way through the twentieth century. Many people have moved out of London into areas which are not covered by this plan, so I think it is quite wrong to oppose it at this stage. But I hope that the Government will do as the Leader of the House of Commons has said, and that is to look into the individual grievances, of which there are many. Having said that, I commend the plans in general as being a courageous and practical effort to solve a very thorny problem.
§ 6.58 p.m.
§ BARONESS WOOTTON OF ABINGER
My Lords, I much regret that, owing to a public duty elsewhere, I was not able to hear the whole of the speech of my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth, but from what I did hear of its concluding passages I am certain that I should be rash indeed if I were to try to compete either with his eloquence or with his command of the general issues involved. Neither should I attempt to compete with the rhetoric with which the noble and learned Viscount who leads the House replied to my noble friend. In fact, the points I wish to make to your Lordships this evening are not, I think, points of eloquence. They are not what are often called, in a derogatory sense, debating points. They are entirely practical matters that relate to one section of our population, and one with which your Lordships, I know, will have great sympathy.
I want to speak exclusively about the effect of this plan upon the children's services and to press upon Her Majesty's Government that they will have second thoughts about the design of the plan as it affects these services. They have had second thoughts already about the educa- 252 tional field, or, perhaps I should say, they have had one-and-a-half thoughts about their educational projects. I want to express the hope that it is not too late for a revision of the plan to be made as it affects these children. At any one time there are something around 9,000 children who are in the care or guardianship of the London County Council; and if you add to this figure the children who are in the care of the Middlesex, the Surrey, the Essex and the Kent County Councls—the Councils most affected by this plan—you will get a total which approaches 17,000 children actually in the care of the local authority at one time. I imagine that not very many of your Lordships' children are included in this figure, and I would, therefore, ask if you would bear with me for a moment if I remind your Lordships who these children are, and I wish only to refer to those categories of which I have actual personal and individual knowledge.
Among these children you will find those whose parents are ill, either permanently or temporarily, and there is no reason to suppose that these are in any way different from children of other parents who are in good health; they are prefectly normal children. There are others, now fortunately a tiny minority, who are victims of cruelty or indecency in their own homes. There are others, again with whom I have much sympathy, who are persistent truants from school and who cannot be got to school unless school is brought to them. There are others with whom I have had to deal and who are, for example, abandoned foundlings, children whom you will occasionally find in the church porch or in a church pew, babies with a note pinned to them saying: "Please look after my baby". There are difficult and nervous, handicapped children who require specialised treatment. I must remind your Lordships that these children are not only quite young children at school; they are of all ages, up to adolescents in their teens who are already well established at work. They are of all ages from babies a few days or weeks old up to boys and girls of 16, 17 and even 18 years of age. In addition to these children who are in the actual care of a local authority there are many other children who get into trouble with the courts and for whom the 253 local authorities provide important services.
The Royal Commission largely ignored the problem of this body of 17,000 children, and where they did refer to them their references were not always distinguished for their accuracy. The Royal Commission reported that 80 per cent. of these children were in care for only short periods and that the proportion who are put into the care of the local authority by the courts was only a small one. Actually, in London the proportion who are in care for short periods—and I reckon a short period is anything up to as much as six months—is less than 10 per cent. of the total; and the proportion who are in care of the London County Council by direction of the courts is as much as 27 per cent. of the total. The figures for Middlesex are very much the same. The proportion who are in short-term care is under 8 per cent. and the proportion who are put into the care of the local authority by the courts is as much as 21 per cent. The problems of these children, as I have said, received scant attention from the Royal Commission; and they did not receive much attention from the Minister in another place. Indeed, in his opening remarks in the debate in another place no reference was made to these children at all. It is intelligible in a plan so complex as this, where there are so many other problems to be sorted out, that those of some 17,0001or more unfortunate children may easily be overlooked; but I know your Lordships would not wish them to be overlooked in this House.
My Lords, may we consider for a moment some of the effects in practice of this proposed upheaval? First of all, may I direct your Lordships' attention to those children who appear for one reason or another in our juvenile courts? Children are no respecters of geographical or administrative boundaries. From any boroughs, new or old, either in the London County Council area or in the whole of the new area, children occasionally will go on shoplifting or stealing excursions into other administrative areas. When they appear in court for whatever peccadilloes they may have committed or for whatever troubles may have come their way, they have the services of the appropriate children's committee. In every juvenile court in the 254 London area two officials of the London County Council's Children's Committee are permanently attached, and those officials act as the liaison with all the Council's services—the medical services, children's committee services and the education services.
It would seem that under this new arrangement, in every court, instead of two officials, we should need to have, at the very least, fourteen; and your Lordships will understand if I say that it is with some alarm that the magistrates in London contemplate having to deal with fourteen different officials representing fourteen different boroughs. Indeed, the number may he very much larger. Occasionally we have children from outside the County Council area who wander into the Council area and commit their offences. These children come from Essex, Surrey, Kent and Hertfordshire, and we may intermittently have to deal with not only our London County Council officials but also officials from the other counties. The number of those with whom we have to deal is usually not more than the four or five I have mentioned, but it may now be anything up to another twenty. The people who will suffer from this enormous additional complexity in the administration are bound to be the children themselves.
These are some of the practical problems that arise. Some of these children cannot get on at school. For better or worse, it seems prudent to consider whether a change of school would be beneficial. This can now be quickly brought to the notice of the education authority, because the children's committee officer who is present in court is also an officier of the same council as the education authority. The education and children's services are combined under the one authority. Now, if a change of school is to be contemplated, if this plan becomes operative, the representative of the children's committee or children's committees will have to aproach a distinct education authority before any kind of plan for a change of school can be operated.
Again, from time to time we have little arguments as to who is responsible for a particular child, as to whether he is doiciled in one county or another. Those are at present exceptional. They 255 hold up proceedings—they are deplorable because they hold up proceedings—and they delay a decision as to the best disposal of the child. When we have to deal with some thirty-odd authorities these are likely to be very much more frequent, and we are going to get back, as it seems to me, to something like the old law of settlement that we had under the nineteenth century Poor Law.
May we turn from the children who appear in court to the children who are actually in the care of a local authority? For these children London County Council provides an immense range of specialised services. They are not all stuck into one children's home, of every age from a few days old to 17 or 18; they are distributed between reception homes for the first impact; foster homes for those who may be boarded out with appropriate foster parents; remand homes for those who are awaiting disposal by the courts or in respect of whom further advice is necessary; hostels for those who are old enough to go out to work but still need homes of their own; and approved schools.
This is a large and specialised provision such as can be provided only by an authority with very considerable resources. It is sometimes said that the advantage of smaller units would be a more personal contact, but the true paradox of the situation is that it is just because an authority is large that personal contact is possible, because it is only a large authority which can be sufficiently specialised to provide a personal contact of an appropriate character for every child.
To give only one illustration of what that means, every child has his welfare officer to whom he can turn for help and advice. As he moves perhaps from the day nursery where he is first accepted to a children's home, and from there to a hostel, perhaps, when he leaves school and goes out to work, he moves around geographically in what may be a wide area; and with a large authority controlling all these institutions every effort is made to see that the same welfare officer follows him through his career. If this plan goes through the distribution of resources among the boroughs-to-be is going to be quite fantastic.
256 I do not want to detain your Lordships too long, so I shall mention only one or two examples of how the situation is going to work out. Let us take first of all the proposed new borough of Southwark and Lambeth, which last October had a little over 1,300 of its children within the care of the L.C.C. Within the boundaries of that borough there is not accommodation for 1,300 but for only 138 in one single home. Take again the borough-to-be of Bethnal Green, Poplar, Shoreditch and Stepney, with 1,280 children in the care of the L.C.C. Within the boundaries of that new borough there is accommodation not for 1,280 but for 52 children in two homes. So far as I can see, the best provided of all the new boroughs-to-be is the borough of Lewisham. But even this has insufficient accommodation: with 370 children in care it has accommodation for 166.
The White Paper speaks of the positive advantages which will follow from the concentration of responsibility for the children's services and other associated services such as housing and environmental health in the hands of the same authorities. But the White Paper says no more about the positive advantages than that they are likely to follow from this concentration. The Minister in another place said no more about the positive advantages, and we have waited in vain this afternoon to hear about the positive advantages from the concentration of the children's services in the hands of the new county boroughs. The argument that has been used is that if attention is called to the disadvantages of the new scheme, this is belied by the fact that throughout the country and the provinces boroughs of comparable size—and this is true—are running all these services. This is the argument that was used in another place. This is the argument that was repeated this afternoon by the noble and learned Viscount who leads this House.
This argument overlooks some important differences between the proposed new boroughs of the Greater London region and the provincial boroughs with which comparison is made. The provincial boroughs have a much greater organic cohesion. There is not the same mobility from one to another as there is from one part of London to another, 257 where the population is extraordinarily mobile. Moreover, the provincial boroughs are mixed communities; they have slum areas and areas with property of much higher rateable value and people in much better economic circumstances. They are far more economically and socially mixed than some of the proposed new boroughs, some of which are concentrated in areas of comparative poverty and some of which will be very much better off. They are, moreover, geographically larger; they have more room; and this is not unimportant when looking for sites for children's homes and similar institutions. And they have a smaller proportion of their child population in care. The proportion of the London child population in the care of the local authority is nearly double that of the average for the country as a whole.
If we make one or two specific comparisons, if, for instance, we compare the proposed borough of Finsbury and Islington, which has some 1,100 children in care, with the city of Liverpool, which has about the same number, also a little over 1,100, we find that the city of Liverpool has six times the acreage and a far more mixed population and that the County of London has four times as high a proportion of children to cope with. I could make many similar comparisons but I do not want to detain your Lordships for too long.
Even if we were to concede that in the end these new boroughs will be able to run these complex specialised services so that children do not suffer, what is going to happen in the lengthy interim period? We have to remember that a child is a child only once, that the valuable years of its life occur only once, and if damage is done then it is no compensation to say in five or ten years' time that succeeding generations of children will be properly taken care of. The stock answer that we constantly hear to all these problems is that there will be joint arrangements, certainly in the interim period, perhaps permanently, between the various boroughs. The mind reels at the number of joint arrangements which would be necessary before a borough with 1,300 children in care and places for 138 could find accommodation for the whole of the remaining child population for which it is responsible.
258 We are told that this new arrangement will give useful and satisfying work to people concerned with children's problems and perhaps to the councillors in the new boroughs. It looks very much as if the useful and satisfying work will not be work primarily related to children but work concerned with inter-borough negotiations, to which most of us, I think, would hesitate to apply those particular adjectives. In the meantime the boroughs will have, pending these new arrangements, no alternative but to go back to the old conception of the all-purpose institution, the one children's home with the delinquent child, the nervous, neurotic, difficult, unhappy child, the child who has been the victim of an offence and the perfectly normal child whose parents happen to be ill or dead or in prison, all mixed up together in something very like the old workhouse.
A young schoolboy of my acquaintance was asked the other day by his parents what he proposed to give up during the season of Lent. He thought for a moment and then he said, "I think I shall give up Daddy". That is the reaction of a child who in a stable and secure home can afford to give himself the luxury of a little innocent fun at his father's expense. The children about whom I have been speaking have no such stable and secure home; the only stability that they know is the welfare officer and the services that he has behind him at his command. They are defenceless; they have no parents to plead for them; they have no trade union to plead for them. But it looks as if, at the very best, for several years to come the welfare of these children, a whole generation of them, is to be sacrificed to a major administrative upheaval.
§ 7.20 p.m.
§ LORD CONESFORD
My Lords, in one respect, at any rate, I propose to follow the admirable example of the noble Baroness who has just sat down, in that I shall confine myself to a single topic. I only wish I could deal with it as she has dealt with her topic; I can assure the House that I feel quite as passionately about it.
In this interesting debate many with great experience of local government have taken part. I can claim no such 259 experience, and I intervene on only a single topic—an important one, I think: the architecture and town planning of our capital city. I can at least claim a lifelong interest in it. In June of this year twenty years will have passed since I had the honour of addressing the Town Planning Institute on three-dimensional planning. In my opinion, architecture is the greatest of the arts, and I am convinced that on the place we give it and the way in which we practise it depends, more than upon any other art, the happiness of our people. I believe that on the Government's appreciation of the problems involved and on the steps they take in the near future a vital matter depends. That matter is simply this: is the contemplated reform of London Government to lead to a great and hopeful future for our capital city; or is it to lead to the most lamentable failure to construct a London worthy of its history and its fame?
I support most strongly the statement recently issued by the Royal Institute of British Architects. I am delighted to know that that statement is strongly supported and corroborated by the Royal Fine Art Commission. Let me remind the Government that that statement is by no means unfriendly to their main plan. Indeed, it starts off with the statement:The Royal Institute of British Architects believes that the reform of local government in Greater London is long overdue, and it is in broad agreement with the main objectives of Government policy as stated in the White Paper, London Government: Government Proposals for Reorganisation.I must say, though I always have this paint of sympathy with the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, that we are bath enthusiastic and loyal Cockneys, that I did rather regret to hear such a good old radical speak so passionately in favour of the status quo of 1888. I thought he might have advanced just a little.
What are the requirements of the planning and architecture of London as a capital city? Let me remind the House of what I think must be obvious to everyone: that London is not merely a colleotion of boroughs, and that it has to deal with a scale and range of physical problems probably unparalleled in the world. What, then, must be some 260 of the minimum requirements? First of all, London must be so organised as to attract architects and planners of the highest calibre into its service. Secondly, quite clearly, there must be no divorce between the planning and the execution of many great building projects. Thirdly, and equally obviously, the central area of London must be considered as a whole. The responsibility for carrying out the development plans in that centre cannot possibly be divided between the City and the five boroughs which thrust wedges into the centre. If I may give a simple example, there are large areas of the City and Holborn and Westminster which call for comprehensive development with separation of traffic and pedestrians at different levels. It is quite inconceivable that such a project should be carried out by the three boroughs, each one working for itself
Here, I am brought to what I think is perhaps the least adequate of the paragraphs of the White Paper. It is the least adequate because it contains such under-statements—I refer to paragraph 34 of the White Paper. In my view, it simply is not true, if we are to have a worthy reconstruction of our capital city, that the Greater London Council should have little more than reserve powers. They must have much more than reserve powers of building and execution of plans. In architecture and planning they must be an executive as well as a planning authority. Curiously enough, this fact is recognised in another connection, as Sir Robert Matthew has recently pointed out, in paragraph 17 of the White Paper. But when we get to paragraph 34 the authors of the White Paper seem largely to have forgotten it.
To deal with Central London, it is, I think, clear to every architect and town planner who has really studied the matter that either a new borough must be created for Central London or the centre must be designated as a special area within which not only would the most important applications be referred to the Greater London Council, but the Greater London Council would have powers of initiation and execution. Indeed, the Greater London Council will need to act as an executive body in carrying out great building projects, not only in that central area but also to aid 261 the boroughs themselves. The size of the problems of urban renewal, the size of the job to be done and the organisation required to do it, will, I am convinced, require the assistance of the Greater London Authority even in the boroughs themselves.
I wish that any words of mine could convince the Government and the House what a splendid and valuable organisation to-day exists, and has been built up in recent years, in the Architect's Department of the London County Council. One of the main failures of planning in this country generally has been the failure to match the achievements of planning on paper with the level of execution in architectural and urban terms. But we have had combined, in recent years, in the Architect's Department of the London County Council a system of planning theory, planning administration, and the idea of the architectural development group for housing and schools. The Department has exercised actual responsibility for designing, building and maintenance. This machine may have been cumbersome, but it has been comprehensive and vital and has drawn imaginative architects into its service. I think that this Architect's Department of the L.C.C. as we now have it not only is famous and unique in this country, but has something of a world reputation—which it deserves.
If I wanted to show an intelligent visitor to this country some of our best recent achievements in architecture, I should not take him to one of our new towns, or even to a reconstructed area in one of our devastated cities, although good work is to be found in both those categories. I should take him to see some of the work of the Architect's Department of the London County Council. It has been responsible for admirable urban estates in various parts, which at this late hour I will not trouble to enumerate. It has constructed some admirable schools, is engaged in most interesting work in constructing the Sports Centre at the Crystal Palace, and is doing some admirable reconstruction at the Elephant and Castle.
My Lords, I cannot exaggerate, from the point of view of the future of our capital city, the importance of preserving the Architect's Department of the 262 London County Council. I should like to see the whole Department taken over by the Greater London Council; or perhaps some of it could be transferred to the enlarged boroughs. One thing we cannot afford is to lose this accumulated skill and tradition. If we were so foolish as to do that, no matter how good the rest of the Government's scheme were to be, the final result on our capital would be disastrous.
I should now like to turn from the centre to the boroughs. My Lords, we are reducing 107 county, non-county and metropolitan boroughs and urban district councils, by amalgamation, to 34 borough councils. Of these only eleven have at this moment independent architects' departments. Clearly, it will have to be a statutory requirement of the Government's Bill, when they introduce it, that every borough must have a borough architect as chief officer in his own department. It will also be necessary, in my opinion, to provide that architecture and town planning must be handled in a single department. But, my Lords, wonder if the House realises quite how short the transition stage will be. According to the Government's White Paper, the election for the new Authority will take place in the autumn of 1964, and the takeover will be in April, 1965. That is a short period in which to organise a number of efficient Architectural Departments.
I have raised these matters, not because I am against the reform of local government in London—like the Royal Institute of British Architects, I believe that it is long overdue—but because I want this country, and this capital, to benefit from these reforms. This will not be the case if we throw away things of great value which we enjoy at present. I do not demand the preservation of the L.C.C.; nor do I demand that the structure of London as it now exists should be permanent. But I do demand a recognition of those things which the L.C.C. are doing supremely well. In the past I have had a number of quarrels with the L.C.C.'s Architect's Department. It may be that some members of the House remember my not unsuccessful intervention in the matter of Piccadilly Circus. But, my Lords, having said all that, I would repeat that 263 the Architect's Department, with the skill and enthusiasm which it has collected, is absolutely vital for the future of London.
My Lords, I would make a final appeal to the Minister who is going to reply. He has already won a fine reputation for himself; he bears a name that is not only famous in the Senior Service but very well thought of in the architectural world—I do not here refer to his own efforts, but to those of a distinguished relative. I find it difficult to exaggerate—and I assure your Lordships that I do not believe I am exaggerating—either the importance or the urgency of the problem, a problem that has already been brought to the Government's notice by the Royal Institute of British Architects and by the Royal Fine Art Commission.
Let me mention, in order to express my agreement with it, a most interesting lecture that was delivered to the Architectural Association by a very distinguished former architect of London, now Professor of Architecture at Edinburgh University, Sir Robert Matthew. I beg the Government to pay attention to his advice and to the advice of the Royal Institute and the Royal Fine Art Commission. If they do, it is not too late for them so to frame their legislation that we get all the benefits they desire to achieve by their reform without sacrificing the good instruments which we already have and which will certainly be threatened unless early steps are taken by the Government for their protection.
§ 7.40 p.m.
§ LORD BURDEN
My Lords, I am sure that we are all indebted to my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth, for opening the debate this afternoon on the reorganisation of London government. It was the speech of a great Londoner, one passionately devoted to the welfare of the citizens of London, and to accuse my noble friend of being wedded to the ideas of 1888 is utter, sheer nonsense. What my noble friend is fighting against, and what he will continue to fight with all the vigour at his command, is what he sees in the Government's proposals: a tearing up, a breaking down, a worsening of the great edifice of social services and other similar types of benefit for 264 our people which has been built up by the London County Council and other councils since 1888. As I said, to say that my noble friend is wedded to the ideas of 1888 is utter, sheer nonsense.
I served my apprenticeship in local government, and naturally, at the outset of my consideration of this plan, I looked at the Government's White Paper to see what was proposed in regard to the County Borough of East Ham, on which served for over twenty years. It is suggested that this should be amalgamated with West Ham. I leave on one side the bringing into the new area of that part of the metropolitan borough of Woolwich which lies North of the Thames. I have known these two boroughs intimately for a very long time, and I can assure the Minister that the proposal to amalgamate these two county boroughs is a profound mistake. Fortunately, the Minister in another place indicated that alternative proposals, if submitted, would be considered, and I am sure that from both county boroughs these proposals will be forthcoming.
Like the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, and the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, I am going to confine myself to one topic only at this very late hour, I turn to a subject which surprisingly received little attention in the course of the two days' debate in another place—I refer to the position of the many thousands of professional, clerical and technical staffs now employed by the local authorities. To say that these people are anxious about what the future holds for them is an understatement. There is grave anxiety. I am quite aware that the Minister in another place stated that new, improved compensation arrangements would in due course be forthcoming. I hope that the National and Local Government Officers' Association will be consulted in regard to these regulations while they are in draft, to ensure that they apply fully to the officers likely to be affected.
While that statement of the Minister in another place is good so far as it goes, a moment's reflection will show that it has also the effect of increasing anxiety among the staff, as it seems to indicate that the Minister anticipates redundancy on a fairly large scale, if and when the Government's proposals are carried into effect. As my noble 265 friend Lord Lindgren rightly said, we are greatly indebted to the work of local government officers. To mention only a few of the grades—the public health inspectors, the public cleansing department inspectors, the weights and measures inspectors, along with many other grades of officers—it is to their devoted service that we owe the possibility of a civilised existence in our urban communities to-day. If one contemplates for a moment what life would be like with a breakdown of these services in our urban communities, one sees what we owe to them.
I am sure that the Minister desires to do the right thing by these officers, and therefore I suggest for his sympathetic consideration that, on the appointed day, the staff concerned should be deemed to be transferred to the new appropriate local authority. There is ample precedent for this suggestion in the Transport Act, the National Health Act and the Electricity and Gas Boards Acts. Where there is an amalgamation of existing authorities as they stand to-day, the problem is relatively simple compared with other problems, although one realises that a good deal of work would have to be undertaken after the amalgamation took place.
As Sir Isaac Hayward, Leader of the London County Council, pointed out in a letter in The Times last Saturday, the Government's proposals are far more complex than a straightforward merging of smaller authorities. I should like to quote two short extracts from this letter. One is:Some county services are to go to the Greater London Council; others are to be split and divided among the new boroughs; the London education service is to be torn asunder and given in part to a new central education authority and in part divided among some of the boroughs.The second is:There are some 10,000 staff not attached to particular establishments, who will have to be used somewhere in the new set-up no one knows where. Who is to decide where each is to go? Who is to be responsible for compensation in appropriate cases? Who is to pay the pensions?Yet on this personnel, on these men and women, will devolve the work of carrying out the transfer with all that uncertainty hanging over their heads.
While Sir Isaac Hayward raises these questions so far as the L.C.C. staff is 266 concerned, it must not be forgotten that there are many thousands of clerical, professional and technical staff outside the L.C.C. area who are confronted with the same problems as to their future. I listened with interest and pleasure to the eloquent—it is not going too far to say passionate—defence of the Architect's Department of the L.C.C. by the noble Lord, Lord Conesford. It seems to me, after the skilled and professional advice that the noble Lord has submitted to us, that the appropriate place for at least the bulk of the Architect's and Planning Departments of the L.C.C. is with the new Greater London Authority if that authority comes into being. We surely are not going to throw on one side, ignore as of no consequence, the splendid work which the Architect's Department and the Planning Department have done in the rebuilding of London.
So far as the education service is concerned, the great work of the London County Council in developing London's educational service on the foundations laid by Sidney Webb (Lord Passfield) some sixty years ago—a great work which enables one to say without fear of contradiction that to-day London's educational system is one of the finest in the country, if not in the world—is, as I understand the plan, to be shattered into fragments.
My Lords, it may be—so much has not been said; so much has been left to conjecture—that the Government have some answer, some solution, to the points I have raised. But, in any case, I would suggest that if the Government wish to do the right thing by the staff—and I repeat that I do not for one moment suggest otherwise—they should take the officers' trade union so far as the clerical, professional and technical staffs are concerned fully into their confidence. And, bearing in mind the in. terests of thousands of men and women intimately connected with the decision which the Government will make in connection with this matter, I am sure that I am not asking too much in requesting an assurance that the fullest consultation will take place. I do not ask for it to-day or to-morrow, but, before things harden up, even before the Government's proposals are put into legislative form, let us have the fullest consultation.
267 My Lords, it is remarkable that during the debate in another place the Government's proposals found very little support. Even though I have strongly urged that the many staff problems should now be given fullest consideration, I must not be taken as approving the Government's proposals for the so-called reorganisation of London local government. The Minister claims that, if his proposals are carried out, local government will rise to higher levels and greater achievements. I do not believe that to be the case; but, in any case, there is a grave possibility that, without careful handling of these problems, if the Government get their own way so far as putting the proposals into legislative shape is concerned, there will be a breakdown of local government both in and outside London and in the whole of the Greater London area. There is a grave risk of this if the manifold staff difficulties which the Government proposals involve are not resolutely met and adequately solved. In the interests of good administration and of decent treatment of men and women who have served London and the other local government areas brought within this plan, I plead for that fair treatment, which they deserve from us and which I am sure the people in their own areas would desire.
§ 7.56 p.m.
§ LORD LATHAM
My Lords, we have had a long and comprehensive discussion upon what some of us feel would be accurately described as the dislocation of London local government. We have heard some penetrating and, at times, lively speeches, and my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth submitted the Motion in what I think must be conceded to have been a most impressive speech based upon unique experience not only in local government but also in central government.
My Lords, during the war, from June, 1940, there went out from London to the world each night a token of hope and assurance for freedom and democracy. None of us is likely to forget those moving words, "Ici Londres!" Today, we are discussing whether democratic local government shall survive in Greater London or whether it shall be suppressed under the euphemism of 268 its reorganisation. Under the proposals of the Government, it will, in fact, be reorganised out of existence. It will cease to be local in any real sense, and its democracy will be vitiated, as has been stated on several occasions this afternoon, by a remoteness and by the dismemberment of the existing structure around which and out of which—and this should be stressed—there have grown up civic entities, the existence of which is none the less real because the Royal Commission questioned it and the White Paper denies it.
These proposals of the Government, as inadequately set out in the White Paper, are, if I may say so, rather like a jigsaw puzzle, with several of the important pieces missing or, indeed, not yet fashioned For instance, the absence of any statement of the financial results of the intended proposals is a significant omission. What kind of reorganisation is it that involves the destruction of the London County Council and the Middlesex County Council, and which claws out of adjacent counties large and important areas? This is not reorganisation, my Lords: it is the wanton shattering of the whole local government edifice, covering 840 square miles and having, as has been said on several occasions this afternoon, a population of about 8½ million souls. As my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth said, the only reason for this exercise in structural vandalism seems to have been the assumed needs of planning and traffic management. The whole conception, the point of initial departure of the Royal Commission, seems to have been this overriding prerequisite. All the other services must be made to fit in, tidily or not, efficiently or not, economically or not: they must be pushed into the framework otherwise determined. That, my Lords, is the fundamental and profound error of the Commission, and the mistake of the Government in adopting the error.
My Lords, the proposals of the Government, as set out in the White Paper, are also based upon the adoption of two false notions conceived from imperfect knowledge and experience by the Royal Commission and then subscribed to by the Government, who really should know better, especially the former Minister of Housing and Local Government. I cannot help feeling a little 269 sorry for the present Minister at finding this squalling infant on the doorstep of his Ministry when he arrived and being bound, in loyalty to his pal, to take it in and adopt it. As such a parent, he showed no great enthusiasm for the infant. The Times said that he was unsure. And no wonder he is unsure at these proposals!
The first of these notions—here I quote from the White Paper, Cmnd. 1562, paragraph 10—is that:… the Government entirely agree with the Commission that Greater London has a recognisable civic unity and shape"—such as, I suppose, my Lords, the rash of ribbon development on the Great West Road and elsewhere in the Review Area. In reading the Commission's Report, I felt that they were so pleased to have discovered this alleged unity that they really could not believe it themselves and spent quite a number of repetitive observations in an effort to convince themselves of its existence. I do not think they succeeded, either in convincing themselves or in convincing the informed public generally.
Nor are the Government convinced to the extent of considering that the alleged unity is sufficient to support the Commission's proposal that education should be a Review Area function. That proposal has been rejected. And, my Lords, neither are the citizens resident within the areas which are to be torn from Essex, Hertfordshire, Kent and Surrey, likely to discern this illusory, new-found civic unity—nor are they likely, indeed, to wish to create it. It would be an amusing exercise to visualise the commuters from, say, Kingston or Esher, or elsewhere, who are being forcibly abducted from their present counties into Greater London, turn out with flags and banners to proclaim their allegiance to the civic unity of the Review Area. What a preposterous notion this is, and what fustian of reason to state that Greater London is their city, as is done in paragraph 11 of the White Paper.
The second false notion is that, by creating the London boroughs as primary units of local government with somewhat wider powers, it will be possible more easily to attract men and women of quality and ability to serve as councillors. There is no evidence to show that this will be the case. In the large county 270 boroughs, which are all-purpose authorities, there is the same difficulty in getting people to serve as in smaller units. It is a pity that it should be so, but it is so. Moreover, the intended size of some of the proposed London boroughs will not help in this respect. Some suggested boroughs are ten miles in length, as has been mentioned this afternoon, and one is thirteen miles across. There is no evidence that the proposed London boroughs will necessarily attract more suitable persons to their service because of their enlarged functions. Is not this just conjuring up a kind of phantom army of persons rushing to serve the Landon boroughs, which will in fact consist of units forcibly amalgamated, and with their former civic entities suppressed?
To judge from the comments which are being made about the possible groupings as set out in Circular 56/61, it is likely that the new borough councils will be divided by reference to their former entities. This, of course, is not likely to create a sense of civic unity or identity. Identification will be more likely to be based upon disputes between councillors from former autonomous authorities. So far from a civic unity being created, I can envisage a state of unedifying squabbling instead of harmony. It will be the "unity of the disunited".
Then there is another fundamental defect running through the Report, and which seems to have been followed by the Government, and it is that there is more concern by the Commission for the form of local government and the persons in it as members than for the quality of, the extent of, and the availability of, the services provided or to be provided. My Lords, local government does not exist to exalt the status of persons who are pleased to serve it; it exists to minister in gathering measure and quality to the social needs of the people, not to find councillors something to do, or to exalt authorities by giving them functions which can be more satisfactorily performed by other authorities.
In the last generation local government has moved from being a kind of first-aid service for those who fall by the wayside; it is now a comprehensive network of various services and provisions embracing the whole span of life, providing in case of need or otherwise those 271 aids and facilities which are now accepted as being the social attributes of civilised society. These services must be provided in the best and most efficient way from the point of view of the citizen and the authority. I submit that the premises upon which the Report and the White Paper based these proposals are wrong, and accordingly that the proposals are wrong. I cannot accept the dictum of the Commission's Report that the present structure of local government in the Review Area is inadequate and needs overhaul. Since the war, local government has functioned, on the whole, very satisfactorily in a world of changing difficulties, aggravated by the recurrent vacillations, changes and shifts of policy on the part of central Governments, such as changes of grant, of subsidy, of high rates of interest, "Stop and start" with the initiation and carrying out of schemes of development.
The fact that the central Governments have not kept up with the changing conditions of the location and movement of the population, and the resettlement which has taken place, is not due to any defects or failures of local government. Any defects that exist can be remedied without dismantling the whole structure of local government in the Review Area. The real cause of planning and traffic management getting out of hand is, I submit, as regards planning, the evisceration of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, of which my noble friend Lord Silkin is entitled for ever to be proud. This evisceration of the Town and Country Planning Act led, among other things, to rocketing prices of land, and, what is more important, the misuse of land in a social sense. As regards traffic, it is due to the failure of central Governments to formulate and carry through adequate long-term programmes of road construction and road improvements.
These problems of planning and traffic will not be resolved by uprooting our present system of London local government; they are more likely to be exacerbated. No one would wish to deny the importance of planning and traffic management, but there are many other services just as important. We cannot live by location and movement alone, and the motor car is not yet the only staff of life. Traffic engineering must not 272 subordinate social engineering, which is precisely what these proposals are doing.
I will not here deal in detail with the disastrous effects that this upheaval in the mechanism of local government in the Review Areas will have on individual social services. Other noble Lords have done so this afternoon. One hesitates to conjecture the consequences. For years the wide-ranging services of the local authorities will be in a state of turmoil, flux, uncertainty and disarray, at inestimable cost in terms of injury to, and arrested development of, these social services. For many a year, the consequences of this unnecessary and wanton act will be felt both by children and aged and by all that vast crowd of men and women between, to whom the present local authorities minister from day to day.
Why should the people of London be treated in this careless and perverse way, without being asked whether they want their local government service torn asunder and dispersed? Why this passion to break up what the many years have built up? Why, for example, when every consideration dictates that the unitary education system of the L.C.C. should be preserved—and the Government admit that a unitary system is necessary for the central London area—should the Government propose to split up the present system, turning roughly one-third away for distribution between certain unspecified boroughs and transferring the rest to a central undefined authority. Could anything be more irresponsible?
What has the education service of London done that it has to be torn asunder at all costs? Surely it is, by common consent, regarded as one of the finest comprehensive yet unitary systems of public educational service, primary, secondary and further, in the widest sense, to be found anywhere. That being so, the question poses itself: why destroy it? No satisfactory reason has been given in the debate this afternoon; nor does it appear in the White Paper.
What motive lies under this reckless tear-down policy? Why are the Government doing this? There are some who think, as has been indicated this afternoon, that it is Party political spite, more gerrymandering than reorganisation. In this respect, the statement made in 273 another place on February 20 last by Mr. Macleod, who, besides being the occupant of other posts, is Chairman of the Conservative Party, is perhaps not without significance. He said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 654 (No. 59), col. 333];It is local government itself which is on trial and London is the test case.Why should London be the test case? Why should London be the guinea-pig? Why, indeed? Is it for Party political reasons? Is it to achieve legislatively what the Tory Party has failed for nearly 30 years to secure electorally? Is that one of the reasons or, indeed, is it the principal reason? The people of London are wondering what the reason is.
Furthermore, are the other conurbations in the country to be dealt with in this way because they consist of the principal industrial areas of the country and because they have a certain political orientation? Shall similar gerrymandering take place in the provinces generally? There are those who think so, and I must say that the whole business looks to me more than a little suspicious.
These proposals, if proceeded with, will have a calamitous effect. They are based upon a wrong conception and understanding of local government in Greater London, of what it is and how it provides the services for which it is responsible. The dominant consideration is, has been and ought to be, the wellbeing of the people, not the jumped-up importance of this authority or the other, nor the status and importance of those who serve on its councils, nor finding them something to do. These proposals, I submit, are misconceived and ill-digested. They will deal a mortal blow to the structure and functioning of all London local government. They will destroy and not build up. They will disorganise and not reorganise. In the cause and in the name of democratic government in London, they should be withdrawn.
§ 8.17 p.m.
THE JOINT PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY, MINISTRY OF HOUSING AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT (EARL JELLICOE)
My Lords, this debate has embraced, I believe, the whole field of local government. This is as it should be. For of course the sub- 274 ject of local government is wide enough and important enough to demand the broadest view. It is a great and serious matter, as the noble Viscount the Leader of the Opposition said. If ever there was a subject on which a narrow parochial or partisan attitude was out of place, this, in my submission, is it.
I do say that, Before turning to the main burden of my speech, I should like to say a word about the criticisms which have been made of the Royal Commission. It has been criticised because of its composition; or those who chose it have been criticised for the way they composed it. It has been said that it did not contain members with a wide or intimate knowledge of local government problems. Apart from Sir John Wrigley, there were two members of the Royal Commission who had served their stint on local authorities.
That is as it may be.
When the local authority associations were consulted earlier this year on my right honourable friend's proposal to hold discussions about future borough groupings in London, the Metropolitan Boroughs Standing Joint Committee said in reply that they did not think that town clerks would be suitable for this job. They added that the Committee felt that persons with knowledge of London, like individual members of the Royal Commission on London Government, would be preferable. But, that said, I would admit that there is obviously a dilemma here, a dilemma which probably arises in the choice of all Commissions. There are two choices. It is possible either to choose people with expertise in the subject under discussion—you choose, for example, the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, and risk a slight bias being imported into the Commission—or to choose Commissioners with no expertise on the particular problem, like me in twenty years' time, in which case you are accused of having a Commission which has not the necessary expertise.
I admit that this is a dilemma. But I would remind your Lordships that I 275 heard no criticism of the composition of the Commission until this Report was received. I wonder whether it would have come if the Report had, for example, recommended the continuance of the London County Council.
May I now remind your Lordships of the context in which this debate is taking place and the main guiding principles which link the many diverse and, indeed, detailed matters that we have been discussing? In doing so, I shall deal with as many as possible of the points which have been raised in this debate. I may not be able to deal with them all, but I will attempt to communicate with noble Lords who have raised points which I do not cover. What is the context? Basically, of course, it is the Royal Commission's Report and the twin principles on which the Commission founded their proposals. I find those twin principles logical and compelling. May I just repeat them?
The Commission found, first, that the continuously built-up area which constitutes the town which everyone recognises as London is a single entity, and must be treated as such for certain functions and services: for the preparation of a single development plan; for overspill housing; for the planning and construction of main roads and for traffic control. For these purposes the Commission proposed—and the Government agree—that a new directly elected Council should be established with executive powers over the whole of the built-up town. Secondly, the Commission said that local government services which did not require this broad treatment should be administered locally by the borough councils; and that the boroughs should be no larger than was necessary to give the populations and resources needed to support these increased responsibilities. My Lords, nothing has been said during to-day's debate to shake my belief that these twin principles are plumb right.
§ LORD BURDEN
My Lords, the first principle the Government have accepted. Have they accepted the second one?
May I now turn to some of the arguments which have been advanced against the proposals in the White Paper? I 276 should like, first, to deal with the arguments advanced against the Greater London Council. Some critics claim—and it has been claimed in your Lordships' House to-day—that the problem of London cannot be separated from the larger problems of the South-East region as a whole. It is argued that London creates problems for the whole area, and that the problems of the area impinge on London. Granted. But it does not follow from this that, because some London problems affect the wider area, it is wrong to set up a body with executive authority over the built-up area.
My Lords, I think we are all becoming increasingly aware of the need for the regional approach in planning. I listened with great interest to what my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross said in this respect in his very able and forceful speech. But there is still wide disagreement over how that approach can best be embodied in the machinery of government, whether central or local. But if, for the sake of argument, the need were established at some future date for some form of regional advisory machinery or the like, the steps which the Government are now taking to create a body competent to speak for London will be seen as a great advantage—indeed, almost as a pre-requisite.
We have heard a good deal this evening about the so-called Surrey Plan, and I feel that your Lordships may wish me, in winding up, to examine it. I must make it quite clear, first of all, that the Government are firmly of the opinion that this Plan provides no real solution to the problems we have to face. I must also make it clear that the Government have not come lightly to that conclusion. They have not, as the noble Viscount the Leader of the Opposition suggested, summarily dismissed the Surrey Plan. They have carefully examined it, and the result of that examination has been their conclusion that it does not stand up on its own merits. Why is this so? The real snag is that this proposal is not designed to reorganise London government on strong and secure lines. Its real purpose, I would suggest, is the maintenance of the status quo, with a polite obeisance to the inescapable facts which the Royal Commission's Report has disclosed—or 277 so the pedigree of the Plan would suggest.
Before the Royal Commission reported, the county councils were disinclined to admit that anything needed doing at all. Is it unreasonable, therefore, to assume that the impetus which produced this scheme was the desire to find some basis upon which "the mixture as before" could be justified? I do not say this from any desire to run down those who have given years of their lives to local government and who are naturally biased in favour of the institution with which they have identified themselves.
Not at all. It would be strange if things were otherwise. It is natural that noble Lords opposite should appear before us sporting somewhat old-fashioned dockets labelled "1888".
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords. I think it is about time this sort of thing was not said. The London County Council to-day is a totally different thing compared to what it was in 1888. Take the services all the way through the last years; you have had new services steadily. You did not touch education in London until 1902. At every stage since, legislation has been taken on a sound, wise and completely successful basis. Let us stop this nonsense.
§ LORD LINDGREN
Before the noble Earl rises will he admit that in 1888, when the London County Council and other councils were established, they had two functions—the militia and the lunacy?
So far as I know, the area over which the County of London extends is the same as in 1888.
However, the Government have responsibilities at this moment which noble Lords opposite have not.
On the strength of their own assessment of the situation, and of the unanimous Report of the Royal Commission, the Government 278 believe that a reorganisation of the structure of London to-day which does not contain certain basic strands would be worse than useless. One of those basic strands is that London Government must reflect the physical fact that Greater London is a single city with a recognisable existence of its own: it is a living organism with its heart, its limbs and its lungs. The Surrey Plan does not recognise this important basic fact.
Secondly, the Government regard it as vital that the functions that need to be exercised over the whole of Greater London should be in the hands of a body with real positive powers. In no other way can such a Government be effective.
This is the vital weakness of the Surrey Plan. The powers of the Board would be purely negative. How can such an approach meet the urgent needs of the city? It is claimed, of course, that the Board would have more than advisory and co-ordinating functions; and this may be so. But that is unimportant beside the crucial fact that the Board would not have had executive functions. We live in an age where positive physical planning within our great conurbations is a necessity. But you cannot get that positive physical planning if you divorce the functions of planning from the functions of execution.
There are other objections to the Surrey Plan. It would involve an overlapping of responsibilities. It would entail the creation of three tiers of authority in the built-up area of London. Surely this would be a move in the wrong direction if one is aiming at a greater degree of interest in local government and if one believes, as I do, in the words of the Royal Commission, that the extraordinary complication of local government in Greater London is confusing to the electors.
Noble Lords have criticised the proposed London Council as something which would be a remote ivory tower, unworthy of the name of a local authority and unable to attract councillors of the requisite stature. I would suggest that these criticisms miss the 279 target, since they mistake the nature of the new Council. It will not be inconsistent with local services, those services which touch citizens individually. These will be in the hands of the new London boroughs. It will be to the town hall that the ordinary man and woman will turn on all those matters, which clearly brings him or her into direct touch with local government. The larger Council will be responsible only for those services which need to be dealt with over the whole of the metropolis. It will need members with a broad view, capable of looking at the needs of London as a whole, rather than the detailed circumstances of one particular district. I would suggest that there is nothing undemocratic about this. It is surely the principle which Edmund Burke enunciated to the electors of Bristol.
The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, has suggested that we shall not find the right people to present themselves for election to this body. The noble Lord strains our credulity. Does he really believe that, in this city, with all those great traditions of local government of which many noble Lords have spoken, we shall not find suitable candidates to fill 110 places—only 110, my Lords—on a Council entrusted with powers of such importance?
§ LOKD LINDGREN
My Lords, if I may say so, the Tories have to go out to Hertfordshire to get their Leader.
Other noble Lords have suggested that this Plan will not amount to real local government. To that I would reply, again in the words of the Royal Commission—and I make no apology whatsoever for quoting that Report:Now, having completed our task, we are convinced that the choice before local government in Greater London is, in truth, to abdicate in favour of central government, or to reform so as to be equipped to deal with present-day problems.That, I suggest, its the real choice here. Either you establish a firm central authority over the whole built-up area, equipped to deal with those things which are common to that built-up area, or you abdicate responsibilities to central government.
§ LORD LATHAM
My Lords, would the noble Earl not agree that the Report is littered with instances where the central Government must be consulted?
Of course I would agree to that, but there is every difference, I would suggest, between consultation and local government. Of course, local government consults central Government, but that does not mean that local government should not be equipped with full and adequate powers.
A moment ago I stated the Government's belief that a plan on the lines of the Surrey scheme would not begin to meet the needs of the situation. Nothing that has been said in the debate this afternoon causes me to retract one iota or to retreat one inch from that statement. Nothing that has been said persuades me that there is any fundamental defect in the broad scheme for a Greater London Council, as proposed in the White Paper. Yet, when all is said and done, it would be idle to pretend—and the Government do not pretend—that the proposed reorganisation, drastic as it is, will not bear hardly on the counties on which it bites. There is, first, the loss of population—small in Hertfordshire, one-third in the case of Kent, just over a half in the case of Essex, and two-thirds in the case of Surrey. For the counties on which this surgery is imposed, these are indeed grievous amputations. Yet we must preserve a sense of proportion here. Take the hardest case, that of Surrey, and take the case which the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, adduced—that is, the financial impact of these amputations. On to-day's figures, a £1 rate will produce £16 6s. 8d. per head in Surrey—that is, in the truncated scheme.
—and that would be higher than in any other county, except West Sussex, East Sussex, and Hertfordshire.
§ LORD LINDGREN
My Lords, will the noble Earl help us? There are normal things in local government. There is rateable value, upon which the local authority is based. There is a penny rate, and there is a rate which is so much in the pound. Is the noble Earl talking about these councils raising a rate of 20s. in the pound? There is no council raising such a rate.
In terms of rateable value per head of population, if you like—and that is a pretty acid test in terms of financial resources—after reorganisation Surrey would still be fourth in the county league table. That, I would submit, is not a very terrible financial predicament for Surrey to find itself in.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
My Lords, would the noble Earl mind giving us the figures for the administrative County of Surrey as it is, and then the figures for the new administrative County of Surrey as it will be when it has been cut to pieces by the Government?
§ LORD BURDEN
And would the noble Earl add to that what a penny rate would produce, and what a penny rate in the truncated area would produce?
I think the figures for the full county and the truncated county have already been given by my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross early in this debate.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
Why has the noble Earl not got them? What is the good of this Department?
If the noble Lord wishes to challenge me on my statement that, after truncation, after the amputation of this part of Surrey, in terms of rateable value per head of population 282 Surrey will still be fourth in the county league table, let him do so.
I should have thought that it was a pretty firm and solid test of the financial resources of any local authority. With this in mind, the Government have no reason to dissent from the Royal Commission's view that, even after reorganisation, the four counties affected by the reorganisation will be financially viable. Perhaps they may require some special financial assistance in the transitional period.
Perhaps they may, as suggested by the Royal Commission. Noble Lords who read the Royal Commission's Report were perfectly well aware that this is what the Royal Commission suggested. It raises difficulties which are also made perfectly clear in the White Paper. But, as to this, I will reaffirm that the Government are perfectly prepared to consider carefully any evidence which may be put forward of exceptional difficulties calling for exceptional solutions.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
May I ask, then, whether the actual known estimate of Essex for the initial costs of the change will be an additional 3s. rate in the pound and that Essex have been given no idea now whether the Government are going to help them eventually on it? What about the long-term compensation that they ought to get?
If the noble Viscount would like me to deal with the general financial implications of the proposals I will gladly do so I was proposing to confine myself to the effect on the truncated counties, but I will gladly deal with the general financial implications. Criticisms have been made this evening, and repeated constantly from the Benches opposite, of the fact that the White Paper says very little about the financial implications of the proposals. That little is said about the financial effects is not because this is thought to be unimportant—of course, this is a vital aspect of the matter—nor does it indicate that the Government 283 entertain any long-term doubts as to the validity of their proposals. Why cannot the Government at this stage be more specific? The simple answer is that at this stage there are too many unknown factors.
For example, we do not know the final limits of the Greater London Area which is proposed. That is subject to a process of consultation and study which is about to be undertaken. Secondly, we do not know the way in which final borough groupings will be made. That again is going to be subject to a process of consultation. Further, we do not know what will be the effects of the revaluation which has now been going on for the 1963 lists; and the consequential effect on grants. We do not know what that factor is going to turn out to be. Finally we do not yet know what precise form equalisation grant arrangements will take. With so many unknown factors it would have been ludicrous for the Government in their White Paper to come forward with cut-and-dried financial proposals. So much for general finance.
May I turn now to another aspect of the proposals, in so far as they affect the counties, which have been ventilated pretty fully in your Lordships' House this evening? A further difficulty which is keenly felt in Surrey (and we have heard the same fear expressed as regards Essex by the noble Viscount who leads the Opposition) concerns the Green Belt —the effect on the Green Belt of the White Paper proposals. Fears have been expressed that the creation of the Greater London Council may lead to a renewed push by London into the Green Belt, especially any part of it incorporated in the Greater London Area.
I would remind my noble friend Lord Auckland that my right honourable friend has invited all the local authorities concerned to let him have any comments they may wish to make on which areas should finally be included or excluded from the Greater London Area. Through those consultations, the local authorities in Essex, to which the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, referred, will be able to make their case. They will be able to put in their case and to make their representations. Furthermore, my right honourable friend has given a 284 clear undertaking that no areas not at present embraced in his draft proposals will be included unless that turns out to be the clearly expressed wish of the people in the districts concerned.
He also recognises that some areas included in his provisional scheme raise special difficulties. Those are the local authorities' areas the head of which may be in the built-up area of London while the tail lies in the Green Belt. To those areas special consideration will obviously be given. But I would remind noble Lords that even if, for example, any Green Belt land is eventually included within Greater London the Government's proposals in the White Paper relate only to local government. They carry no implication whatsoever of any change in the Government policy towards the Green Belt. I can assure noble Lords who raised this issue that the Green Belt is, and will remain, an essential part of Government policy. These proposals are in no way affecting our policy towards the Green Belt.
I should now like to turn to the proposed London boroughs; the new London boroughs. Here the basic thesis of the Commission, and indeed of the Government, is, I suggest, a perfectly straightforward one. We want to see as many local services as possible administered as locally as possible. We believe that this will not only provide efficient and humane administration, but will also serve and help rehabilitate borough government. We believe that in Greater London it is quite possible to organise the borough governments in effective groups based on existing communities and local government areas. We further believe that with populations of 200,000-plus we shall obtain boroughs large enough to match all the main local government services and to command resources adequate to these responsibilities.
My Lords, human needs are indivisible. They cannot be disentangled from each other and, of course, they involve whole households. Ill-health, mental and physical handicaps, the disintegration of family life, trouble with the neighbours and the landlord, delinquency in the young—only too often do we meet this sort of linked progression. These needs cannot be isolated. The attack on them 285 requires the closest co-operation between trained workers in all fields of the social and welfare services.
What does this mean in terms of local government? I believe it means that if the well-being of mothers and their babies, if midwifery, health visiting, care of the aged and the handicapped, and of deprived children, can be handled by local government, by the local authority closest to the citizen, that is a compelling argument for so handling them. If these personal services can be so organised that the medical officer of health, the children's officers, the health visitors, the public health inspectors, the midwives and the housing managers can work together as a team, that is a compelling reason again for so organising them.
In my study of the Royal Commission Report I saw many instances alluded to where the teamwork was not as close as I should have thought desirable. Of course I know the tendency is to bring these various groups of workers closer together in a team. I would, of course, grant that that is the tendency. But I would also submit that this is not always achieved.
Again, if one authority can be given full responsibility for a service, cutting out the need for schemes of delegation, arrangements for representation by one group of authorities to another's committees, references from town hall to county hall and back again, cutting out the frustration and friction of divided responsibilities, that I would submit is again a reason for entrusting the service to one authority. As the Royal Commission put it:The various services should operate whenever possible from one council building and there should be a conscious effort to achieve good team work between the officers concerned. They should not be mere voices on the telephone or signatories to letters to each other, but men and women who can be seen at any time by walking down a corridor.
§ BARONESS WOOTTON OF ABINGER
My Lords, if I may interrupt the noble Earl, he seems to be giving admirable arguments for the concentration of these services in the hands of a large county council. Would he explain how this system of walking down the corridors 286 will be achieved in the juvenile courts where, instead of dealing with one authority, we shall have fourteen?
I should like to come to the children's services in a moment, if the noble Lady will permit me. My Lords, any one of those reasons would suffice to justify the Government's proposal to make the borough the primary unit in London of local government. In the circumstances of London I suggest that all those reasons are valid and, in the Government's view, add up to an unanswerable case for establishing the 30-odd new London boroughs.
Now my Lords, what have our critics said this afternoon? I have listened attentively to most of the speeches which have been made. I would apologise to my noble friend Lord Auckland for having been absent during part of his speech, and to the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, for having been absent during part of hers, but I am aware of their criticisms. I think that they can be summarised much as follows. Some noble Lords have argued that the new boroughs will not be big enough for certain services. The noble Baroness, in particular, has urged that the children's services require a larger population—a larger catchment area, I think the horrible jargon is. I followed her argument very closely, as I know the contribution which the noble Baroness has made in this field, and, indeed, in many others. But I would suggest to her the following considerations.
I should like to point out to her that many county borough councils have found that they can cope perfectly well with numbers of children in care well below the figure of 500 which was proposed or embodied in the Curtis Committee's Report. I know that the noble Lady has said that county borough councils in this respect are in a very different position from London boroughs. I would grant that. They may be more self-contained, more dispersed even; there may be less free trade in children in care across frontiers. That I would grant. But I merely draw her attention to the fact that the average size of county boroughs in this country is some 165,000, and that is a great deal smaller than the average size of the proposed new London boroughs, which on present provisional 287 groupings will amount to some 255,000—nearly 100,000 more, in population.
I do not wish to dwell too heavily on that particular rather bleakly statistical argument, but I would remind the noble Baroness (though she knows these matters far better than I do, and, I suspect, better than most people in your Lordships' House this evening) that many child-care authorities have fewer than the figure of 500 children in care and are coping perfectly satisfactorily.
Again the aim, as the noble Baroness also well knows, is increasingly, and I think rightly, to try to keep children with their families rather than receive them into care.
§ BARONESS WOOTTON OF ABINGER
My Lords, would the noble Earl accept, while we all agree that the object is to try to keep children in their families, that anyone who has contact with the conditions under which children are received into care in the London County Council will be very well aware that, far from the Council snatching the children from their families, they are most reluctant and most strict about the conditions in which they receive them. The fact that the percentage of children in care in the London County Council is approximately double the national average is a great tribute to the fact that they alone provide an adequate service.
My Lords, I should not wish in the least to dispute those facts with the noble Baroness. I do not know whether she will find any reassurance in this, but I should like to state that, in making arrangements for apportioning existing premises, regard will of course be had to the needs of each area; and we certainly intend to see that the facilities now available for children in care will still be available to them. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary will, I know, make sure that satisfactory arrangements in this respect are worked out. Secondly, I would suggest to the noble Baroness that there is advantage, indeed great advantage, in having the children's officers working, in the same teams as all those other social workers who concern themselves with the different aspects of family life.
Yes, I think there would be great advantage in including education; and that, I think, is one of the advantages in having education, outside the central area, as a responsibility of the individual borough.
§ BARONESS WOOTTON OF ABINGER
Are we to understand that education and the children's services are to be under the same control?
I certainly would not go as far as that, but I agree that the educational liaison is obviously extremely important here. I think that my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross also asked me a question in this context. He asked whether we could guarantee that the recruitment of new children's officers will meet the needs of what may well be an expanded children's service. On that I would say that this is a matter which will certainly most closely engage our attention, and we will see, in so far as we are able to, that in the allocation of the present staff the best possible use is made of existing skill and experience.
My Lords, I have been dealing with the criticism that the boroughs are too small. Other critics in your Lordships' House have suggested the boroughs are too big and that the result will be to de-personalise local government, and that in any event the proposed groupings are for the most part objectionable and distasteful for those who are to be grouped. In answer to the question about size, I would say this. As your Lordships know, the Royal Commission, in their Report, propose that the new London boroughs should each be in the population range of 100,000 to 200,000. The proposed average size is now of the order of a quarter of a million—substantially larger. For certain services—education, mental health and the children's service, which I have just been discussing—we believe this increase to be highly beneficial. The Government also do not accept the contention that with boroughs of about a quarter of a million local government will become de-personalised and remote. There are many county borough councils of this size, and I am sure that they would not 289 accept those strictures. Is local government unhealthy and undemocratic in the metropolitan borough of Lewisham, where the population is 21,000 above the minimum figure of 200,000?
Nor do we accept the contention that groupings of the sort we have proposed will not work. Perhaps in certain cases they can be improved upon: there is nothing sacrosanct about the provisional map, which all noble Lords have doubtless seen. That is why we have not committed ourselves to any cut-and-dried solution of the particular geographical groupings. That is why my right honourable friend proposes to institute a whole process of consultation in the spring. But, in essence, we see no reason why boroughs of this size, possessed of really tangible powers—I would emphasise that it is really important to have tangible powers—should not shake down into effective units of local government.
The noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, questioned whether we should be able to attract good councillors to these new London boroughs. He referred to the decline in the standard and quality of many people engaged in local government. On that I should like to quote once again from the Report, paragraph 685, which says:In the course of our informal visits we could not help feeling that but for their housing activities, none of the metropolitan boroughs or county districts now had enough real work to attract either able or ambitious councillors or able officers. That many of them are able to attract competent officers is due more to the magnetic attraction of London than to the magnetic attraction of their jobs".I submit that there is a far better chance of getting councillors of the quality which we all want if these London boroughs are to be endowed with real, tangible and important functions.
§ LORD LINDGREN
My Lords, you cannot get them for the counties now. How do you expect to get them for the new London boroughs—34 of them? Every county council is short of them.
I think that possibly the noble Lord is making a general criticism of local government rather than a criticism of the Government's proposals as embodied in the White Paper.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, could the noble Lord help me by indicating how many councillors these boroughs will warrant? Will it be 50 or 100 to represent, say, 250,000 or 361,000 people? Is it to be based on one member per number of electors? Can the noble Earl give any indication?
My Lords, I do not think any precise figure or ratio has yet been worked out, but I would assume that there is no reason to depart from the general principles which operate throughout the rest of the country in that regard.
No doubt in this process of reorganisation old loyalties will be tried hard, at least to begin with. I think everybody in this House is conscious of the importance of those old local loyalties, and rightly so. But we have gone over all this before. Let me just quote from a speech by Herbert Gladstone, during the Second Reading of the London Government Bill, in 1889—the Bill which set up the metropolitan boroughs:Why should you force St. George's, St. James's, St. Martin's and the Strand into a union with Westminster, which they detest? … I saw a communication from one of these aggrieved vestries bitterly complaining of the proposal to include them in Westminster. Why should these parishes be combined? There is no unity of administration between these different areas which this Bill proposes to merge in Greater Westminster".My Lords, for Herbert Gladstone, 1899, read Herbert Morrison, 1962. Your Lordships will have noticed—
—that the critics, as critics often do, contradict themselves. Some claim that the proposed boroughs are too large; others that they are too small. But this contradiction is perfectly natural. If you ask the experts on particular services what population is ideal for their particular service, you will get a different answer for every service and, I suspect, from every expert.
If we are wedded to the notion of multi-purpose authorities in London we have, as my noble friend the Leader of the House, I think, pointed out at the start of this debate, to decide on 291 the sort of range of population which will best fit the requirements of all the services. That inevitably means compromise. It means that for certain services the population will fall somewhat below the ideal, and for certain others rise somewhat above it. That, I think, is inevitable. Of course, if you wish to depart from the principle of multipurpose local authorities, you can take your pick. But if you depart from that principle you go a long way away from the principle of local government. So, as regards size, I am quite content to rest on this assertion that the Government have every right to be satisfied that boroughs with a minimum population of, say, 200,000 should provide the level of work required in all the services to enable the authorities to provide an efficient and fully equipped organisation with proper provision for specialist staff and facilities.
My Lords, before concluding, I think I should just touch on at least two other matters which have been raised in your Lordships' debate to-day. One is the important question of staff, and the other is the linked question of the Architect's Department of the London County Council. I think that staffing problems were referred to, and rightly, by a number of noble Lords to-day. The scope of the public services in London is not going to be reduced by the reorganisation of the London government structure. Indeed, the purpose of the exercise is to make local government more effective so that the services it provides can be developed and extended to meet the needs of the times.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, I think the only thing the noble Earl has explained all the way through his speech, probably on the brief of his Department, is that you mean to go through with this execution of the London County Council because they have been so successful and they have been so strongly supported for 28 years by the electorate.
I thought that perhaps the noble Viscount the Leader of the Opposition would wish to hear what I had to say on what I think is an important matter, the question of the staff of the local government services involved in this reorganisation. If he does not 292 wish to hear this, which surprises me, then I shall not refer to it. But for the sake of other noble Lords I will continue.
It will be true to say, therefore, that the new authorities will need all the expert knowledge and experience now available in the permanent staffs of the present councils. In the long run, reorganisation will open up new opportunities for worthwhile service, but in the transitional period there are obviously problems to be faced. I should be the last to pretend that they do not exist. At the same time, I reject the defeatism of those who imply that the difficulties are so great that reorganisation should be abandoned, or that local government officials are so incompetent that they cannot meet and overcome the short-term difficulties.
First, there are the problems connected with services in which a number of highly trained officers play a key part. These officers will in future be working for different authorities. It sometimes seemed to be assumed that the transition to the new system will automatically produce complete chaos and the loss of all experience built up by teams of workers who have been operating together. I shall be coming, in a moment, to the Architect's Department, and giving reasons for thinking that there is no reason why the work of that department should not be conducted under the ægis of the Greater London council. But as for other branches, I think that the new arrangements, with the health, welfare, children's and other personal services all in the hands of the new London boroughs, will also offer new opportunities in team work by trained officers. I believe, too, that the change can be brought about without the dire consequences which have been forecast and sometimes foreseen. But of course there must be most carefully worked out arrangements for what is admittedly a difficult interim period.
I would entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Burden, that these arrangements should be made after due and proper consultation with the local authorities and staff organisations. I think I can assure him that my Ministry will be taking the lead, and an early lead, over that particular matter. As for the proposal which he and I think 293 other noble Lords have made, for establishing some form of Board or Commission during this interim period, to act, as it were, as a referee for the interests of the staffs concerned, I think that is a very interesting suggestion, and I shall be very glad to bring it to the early attention of my right honourable friend.
My Lords, I do not think that there will be any vast general posting of staff or any great disruption which is sometimes foreseen, but there will be some particular grades in which reorganisation will inevitably produce a certain amount of redundancy. Let me say that, while I acknowledge that some officers are understandably apprehensive, I do not believe this particular problem is going to be such a big one in practice as it may now in theory appear. But if an officer does lose his job or has to accept a lower salary there will be provision for compensation. I know that compensation is only second best. It is much better for a man to keep his job than for him to be compensated for losing it; but in some cases compensation will be unavoidable.
Could I come to that now? As my right honourable friend mentioned in the debate on London government recently in another place, the terms of compensation are being very definitely improved over those current in the post-war years. These improvements include better arrangements for middle-aged and older officers, more favourable arrangements for part-time officers, and the introduction of a form of compensation which amounts to early retirement with the full accrued pension.
§ LORD LINDGREN
My Lords, we accept this. But who will pay? This is placing an added burden on the ratepayers. We want to know whether the Government are going to carry the cost?
§ LORD BURDEN
My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the Minister again, but it is very important that we get this on the right lines from the beginning. Will negotiations take place with the appropriate organisations before these proposals are approved, in order that we may see that they are as watertight as possible?
I think I can give the noble Lord the assurance he seeks on that point.
A number of noble Lords have voiced their fears about the future of the London County Council's Architect's Department. I am glad that my noble friend, in particular, raised this important issue, because it enables me once again to pay tribute to the work of the L.C.C. Architect's Department. I think it is universally accepted that the L.C.C. have produced some remarkable and impressive architecture in recent years. The physical shape of London is changing more rapidly than at any time since the blitz. It would be sad—indeed, mad—if at this crucial moment we were to take, or sanction, action which might lead to lower architectural standards in London. But, my Lords, I have no reason to believe that this will be the case. On the contrary, I believe that the proposed reorganisation could, indeed should, encourage better local authority building throughout Greater London.
In the first place, the Greater London Council will have very large responsibilities for building. It will be the sole authority for overspill building, and that overspill building will cover not only the 3¼ million population of the L.C.C. area, but the 8½ million population of the Greater London Area. But, of course, it is not only outside London that the new Council will have definite building responsibilities; it will also have powers to carry out major housing schemes within Greater London, and, in addition, it will be expected that the Council will have a vital rôle to play in sponsoring and executing large-scale redevelopment schemes—the Elephant and Castles and Brandons of the future. There is every reason to anticipate, therefore, that the Greater London Council should be able to stimulate a quite sufficient flow of new building to 295 give full scope for a really first-class Architect's Department.
But, of course, quantity is not the only criterion. Ultimately it is the quality of the individual architect that counts. How many architects did Christopher Wren have in his Architect's Department? I would suppose that, above all, it is the challenge of responsibility and of interesting and varied schemes that acts as a magnet to first-class architects. With their responsibilities at the centre and for large-scale redevelopment, I should have thought that service with the new Greater London Council would offer just as exciting a challenge for architects as service with the L.C.C.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, would the noble Earl allow me to interrupt? Does he appreciate that so far as staff are concerned—whether architects or administrative officers—their future is a most important thing to them? Can he give an assurance comparable to that given to officers in the hospital service: that arrangements will be made, centrally or otherwise, as my noble friend has suggested, so that new appointments will not be made and possible redundancies may thereby be avoided, and that there will not be either loss of salary or loss of employment? Otherwise men now in the service will start looking for jobs almost at once.
I do not think I could possibly give that assurance. Surely, it is a matter for the London County Council.
§ LORD STONHAM
The point is this. If the London County Council is going to cease to exist, then people at present in the employment either of the boroughs or the London County Council, being fearful of their future, are going to look for other jobs, and we shall lose first-class men unless assurances about their future can be given now by the appointment, as my noble friend Lord Burden suggested, of a central body 296 or commission which can ensure their continuity of employment in the Authority or the new boroughs when they are set up.
I thought I had given very full assurances just now in discussing the whole question of staff.
There is another aspect of this which I think is of great importance. I should like to remind noble Lords that, instead of the 100 or so present housing authorities, there will, under the proposed reorganisation scheme, be only 34, with populations around the quarter-million mark. With resources of this scale, and with clear-cut housing responsibilities, the new London boroughs should, in the Government's view, certainly be able to maintain substantial building programmes backed by effective architectural organisations. Indeed, it would be our hope that in the quality and the variety of architecture there should he a positive gain when not one, but several, high-class architectural organisations share the massive programme of building and redevelopment which lies ahead of them.
§ LORD CONESFORD
My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend for dealing so fully with this matter, but there is one matter of great importance with which I think he has not yet dealt. In the central area there will be schemes, not necessarily enormous schemes, involving several boroughs. What I am anxious to know is that the admirable Architect's Department, when transferred to the new authority, will have power to execute a scheme and not merely a reserve power.
My Lords, I am quite certain that the Architect's Department or the architects in dealing with actual building will obviously have powers to execute schemes. There is also, of course, the question of the central area, to which my noble friend also referred. He mentioned the dangers of divided responsibilities in dealing with important developments at the heart of London, questions like the siting of tall buildings around the parks, which we discussed in a recent debate in this House—and I know the importance which many of your Lordships rightly attach to this matter. The Government for their part fully recognise the need 297 for arrangements which guarantee effective control for the future over building development in the historic heart of London. The Royal Commission recommended that, in certain defined areas of special importance, certain types of development should be referred to the Greater London Council. Those are, in fact, the lines on which we are pursuing our study of this important matter at present.
My Lords, we have had a long, a full, and I hope a rewarding debate. Although I have spoken for long, I am only too well aware that I have not dealt with all the questions which have been put to me.
§ THE EARL OF IDDESLEIGH
My Lords, I would remind the noble Earl of a matter to which he has not replied; that its the very important speech of the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of London. I am very anxious not to interrupt the noble Earl's peroration, but I should be most grateful if he could comment on that speech.
My Lords, I was proposing to write to the right reverend Prelate about this important matter which he raised, but I can assure the noble Earl that there will be full facilities for the advance consultation for which the right reverend Prelate was asking. My right honourable friend the Minister of Education is, of course, fully seized of this particular point regarding the voluntary schools, and the other day he gave an assurance in this regard in another place.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, does that mean that the right reverend Prelate, the Lord Bishop of London, is right in what he says: that the information given so far is so vague that they do not know where they are going? Is that an admission by the noble Earl that that is the position and that the matter has to be gone into anew?
No, my Lords, I do not think that is at all the implication to be read into what I have just said. I think there are a great many important matters which could not be covered in a relatively short White Paper. That is the explanation.
§ LORD LINDGREN
My Lords, will the noble Earl forgive me for interrupting? This is a very important point, and, whilst we all know that the noble Earl is most polite and will write to the right reverend Prelate, the Members of this House ought to know. Can this information be made available in the Library or in some other way, so that we may all know the answer?
Of course. I think that the gravamen of the charges against the proposals in the White Paper is that they do not meet the test of democratic local government and that their execution would be fraught with great administrative difficulties. I would remind your Lordships once again that the proposals stem in line direct from the Royal Commission's unanimous Report. If ever a State paper was impregnated with a feeling for practical democracy it is that document. May I just quote one passage from it, from paragraph 697:We have made clear our belief that administration on the one hand and effective public participation on the other are integral parts of one whole … and that anyone who reads what we have written up to this point will see that this is not merely a matter of theory but comes out constantly in practice. As we turn now to examine what changes in the structure of local government we should recommend, we hope that it will be equally clear that we have throughout tried to hold simultaneously in mind these two organically connected elements in the situation.My Lords, the heart of the Government's proposals is to seek to achieve these twin requirements. What are the democratic needs of London? Surely it is that the affairs of London should he in the hands of people elected by Londoners to serve them. When the Government's plans are brought into effect—I say "when" advisedly, my Lords; there is no "if" about it—we shall indeed have placed the affairs of this metropolis squarely in the hands of London authorities. The needs of London will be all the better met when there is an effective local government body in a position to consider those needs which affect all Londoners alike, and when the administration of the personal services is carried out solely by London councils whose members will be a good deal closer to the citizen than are those of the councils which now carry these responsibilities.
299 The argument that these proposals do not represent local government and are undemocratic is really pretty thin, if only because it ignores our safeguards for democracy. These proposals will have to run many gauntlets before they reach the Statute Book. We have already heard a sharp rattle of musketry from the peripheral counties. The sound of the opening cannonade from County Hall has just floated across the Thames. And we have listened to the preliminary rumblings from the Benches opposite. I personally have sufficient confidence in the workings of Parliamentary democracy in this country, and in our proposals as they stand, to assert that when they reach the Statute Book they will be found to be good for democratic local government in Greater London, and thus good for London.
But the noble Lords—scurrying back to their second line of defence—say: "But what about all those terrible administrative difficulties?" My Lords, I would submit that, in great matters of government, administrative difficulties are placed in the way for two purposes: the first is to help hard-pressed Opposition spokesmen to make bricks without straw; the second, and more important, is for them to be overcome. I do not deny for one moment that the proposed reorganisation, drastic as it is, will present difficulties If we were as tired as Opposition speakers at the week-end like to make out, if we were as irresolute, and if, above all, we were not convinced of the essential rightness of these proposals, it would be only too easy for us to run for cover behind this smoke-screen of administrative inconvenience. But as the Government are neither weary, nor faint-hearted, nor half-hearted in their pursuit of a contemporary structure for 20th century London government, I would reply to the noble Lord, The difficulties will argue for themselves".
My Lords, in his book on the government of London the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, wrote:Whether the future will witness a straightening out of the tangle of London government consistent with the principles of democracy, I do not know. I hope so.So, indeed, do I. It is precisely because I am convinced that the Government's proposals do represent a straightening out of the tangle of London government, 300 consistent with the principles of democracy, that I ask your Lordships this evening emphatically to reject the Motion standing in the name of the author of that book.
§ 9.29 p.m.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
My Lords, the noble Earl who has just sat down is popular in all quarters of the House We like him; he is courteous; and that is why we are sympathetic with him in the job he had to do to-night. I do not blame him. He is largely dependent on a rather second-class Department, and he has done the best he can with the brief which was supplied. So far as I can see, most of the reply must have been supplied before the debate ever began. But, really, it is unsatisfactory. The amount of information he should have had but cannot give us is terrific. Is it not obvious that, if you are going to give the rateable value of the new truncated administrative County of Surrey, you want to have a comparison with the figures as they are in the whole County of Surrey at the present time? He had not got them. And, really, when a Department lands its Parliamentary Secretary with that muddle, he should go in the morning and have the top civil servants before him and "cane" them thoroughly, because it is too bad that this should be so.
The noble Earl says that he is going to make a strong Greater London Authority. Then he says we are going to have strong boroughs; that the primary unit must be the borough; that the borough must have all the powers you can give it. However can you do both? If you have a powerful Greater London Authority, you will have a weaker borough than you are trying to make out. If you have a powerful borough, you will have a weaker Greater London Authority. What is the good of coming with these stories? The noble Earl talks about people speaking with a sense of responsibility. We have all tried to do so. It is the Government who are acting with a sense of irresponsibility. As my noble friend the Leader of the Opposition has said, the only thing that comes out of this debate, the only rational thing—and it is a wicked, abominable and crooked thing—is that, because the people of London have dared to elect a Labour majority in the capital city—
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
Loud cheers on the Tory Benches! Let it be noted, that there were loud cheers on the Tory Benches when I said that, because the people of London had dared to elect a Labour majority on the London County Council, then this Government, with twisted and, I would say, almost corrupt motives—
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
—come along and say, "Because you have dared to do this, we will abolish the London County Council". Then the noble Earl—bless his heart!; as I say, I like him—comes along and says that, in putting forward this policy, he is intending that true democratic processes should he applied. He is not: he is reversing the democratic processes. Last year the people of London elected a London County Council with a full mandate to oppose these proposals. He is ignoring that and going on with this scheme.
There was a misrepresentation made about the proposed planning and traffic board—and here I will not quote from the London County Council; I will be more impartial. I will quote from a document from the County of Essex, which has a Conservative majority. This contradicts flatly what the noble Earl says. It says:The White Paper deals with the alternative plan put forward by the County Councils of Essex, Kent, London, Middlesex and Surrey unfairly, dismissing the Counties' proposal for a Joint Executive Planning Board as a largely advisory board. In fact it was proposed that the Board should lay down in its master plan the main road framework, target populations, disposition and levels of employment, the main consideration for dealing with traffic, etc. The effect of its decisions in the master plan would be binding.That is a complete contradiction of this fairy tale that the Government have been telling us.
Then there is this education business. We do not know how the central education authority is going to be elected. We know it is intended that it should cover only two-thirds of the administrative County of London, which is a funny idea. Thereby, of course, we shall have a three-tier authority: Greater London, Greater London boroughs and the central education authority. We do not know how it 302 is to be elected. The noble Earl has not told us. I do not know whether he would like to get up and tell us now how it will be elected. I do not think he would, and I would not advise him to try, because it is almost certain that he will be wrong because the Government themselves do not know. In fact, the Government know nothing except that they want to abolish the Labour majority on the London County Council. They are a Government of gerrymanderers messing about for the purpose of getting by legislation what the electorate would not give them in a free election in London. It is a monstrous and shameful state of affairs.
Then, when the noble Lord or the Cross Benches very rightly asked for a reply to the points raised by the Lord Bishop of London and the ones that I raised from the Catholic as well as the Church of England point of view, he said that he would write to the Lord Bishop about it. It is not good enough. This House is where this matter has been raised, and it is not good enough to put it in the Library. We ought to have a statement in this House incorporating what is said to the Lord Bishop of London. We ought to have that, and I hope that the noble Earl who has been preaching about democracy will be a sufficiently good democrat to do that.
My Lords, we have had a useful debate in which we on this side have completely had the best of the argument.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
I do not know whether I can persuade my noble friend Lord Montgomery of Alamein to come and vote with us, or whether the pattern of uniformity that he has learnt as a result of his visits to certain countries abroad has so eaten into his mind that he thinks, "How nice it is to see a Tory Government following the example of the countries behind the Iron Curtain!"
Now I do not know what is going to happen. I would remind your Lordships that this is a free assembly. The other place cannot be as free as we are, because the House of Commons can bring down the Government, and they have constituencies. But noble Lords are perfectly entitled to vote on the merits of the question, and are not bound to 303 vote merely out of a sense of loyalty to the Government or to the Central Conservative Office. I should hope that your Lordships would put this great capital city before the Party political considerations which obviously affect the Government in this matter. Therefore, we shall go to a Division, and we trust that your Lordships will vote in favour of the Motion which I have had the honour to move. We have had a useful day. As I say, we have had the best of the debate. We clearly did in the other
§ place as well—and, my goodness!, we certainly did on the London County Council. The truth is that the promoters of this conspiracy against democracy have not got a leg to stand on, and the sooner they fall over themselves and meet themselves coming back, the better it will be.
§ On Question, Whether the said Motion shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 21; Not-Contents, 59.303
|Addison, V.||Kenswood, L.||Nathan, L.|
|Alexander of Hillsborough, V.||Latham, L.||Peddie, L.|
|Burden, L. [Teller.]||Lawson, L.||Shepherd, L.|
|Citrine, L.||Lindgren, L.||Silkin, L.|
|Crook, L.||Lucan, E. [Teller.]||Stonham, L.|
|Henderson, L.||Macpherson of Drumochter, L.||Walston, L.|
|Hughes, L.||Morrison of Lambeth, L.||Wootton of Abinger, B.|
|Ailwyn, L.||Derwent, L.||Milverton, L.|
|Airlie, E.||Devonshire, D.||Molson, L.|
|Aldington, L.||Ellenborough, L.||Montgomery of Alamein, V.|
|Ampthill, L.||Ferrier, L.||Mowbray and Stourton, L.|
|Ashbourne, L.||Forster of Harraby, L.||Newton, L. [Teller.]|
|Auckland, L.||Goschen, V.||Northesk, E.|
|Bathurst, E.||Gosford, E.||Perth, E.|
|Bossom, L.||Hailsham, V. (L. President.)||Rathcavan, L.|
|Boston, L.||Harcourt, V.||Remnant, L.|
|Brecon, L.||Hastings, L.||Robertson of Oakridge, L.|
|Carrington, L.||Horsbrugh, B.||St. Aldwyn, E. [Teller.]|
|Chesham, L.||Howard of Glossop, L.||St. Oswald, L.|
|Chtheroe, L.||Hylton, L.||Somers, L.|
|Colville of Culross, V.||Iddesleigh, E.||Stuart of Findhorn, V.|
|Conesford, L.||Jellicoe, E.||Swinton, E.|
|Congleton, L.||Kilmuir, V. (L. Chancellor.)||Teynham, L.|
|Craigton, L.||Massereene and Ferrard, V.||Waldegrave, E.|
|Crathorne, L.||Mclchett, L.||Waleran, L.|
|Croft, L.||Merrivale, L.||Wolverton, L.|
|Denham, L.||Mersey, V.|
Resolved in the negative, and Motion disagreed to accordingly.
§ House adjourned at thirteen minutes before ten o'clock.