§ 4.7 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. It is a massive and important Bill of 90 clauses, and my task in moving the Second Reading is lightened by the fact that your Lordships have already debated the question of local government in Greater London on two occasions. On December 21, 1960, the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, initiated a debate to call attention to the Report of the Royal Commission on Local Government of Greater London, and on March 14, 1962, he started another debate on the Government's proposals contained in the White Paper, Cmnd. 1562; and, for good 1124 measure, the noble Earl, Lord Longford, made a very critical speech on these proposals in the debate on the Address. My Lords, these two debates and the speech of the noble Earl have made it clear beyond all doubt that this Bill will be opposed by the Party which the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, and the noble Earl, Lord Longford, adorn. That, I must confess, does not alarm me, for it will not, I think, be the first time that the Labour Party have opposed a constructive and progressive measure.
The Royal Commission found that the present structure of local government in Greater London, however satisfactory it might have been in the nineteenth century, no longer fits the physical facts of the present day. When the administrative County of London was established in 1888, it roughly corresponded to the built-up area; but to-day the continuously developed area which constitutes the town of London includes 8 million people, of whom only 40 per cent. live in the County of London. It covers an 1125 area roughly the size of Hertfordshire or West Sussex, and only 20 per cent. of that area is within the London County Council area. Within Greater London there are three county boroughs, two complete counties and parts of four others. The result is that Greater London cannot be treated as a single entity for vital services such as planning, main highways and traffic control, all of which need to be looked at in relation to the Metropolis as a whole.
There is no provision at present within the local government system for a single authority to consider a plan for Greater London. The area is split up among 9 major authorities, some of whom have extensive and important responsibilities for areas right outside the Metropolis. In addition, there are more than 80 boroughs. metropolitan boroughs, and urban districts responsible for services whose range is not necessarily related to the size or resources of those authorities. Big metropolitan boroughs in the County of London have a narrower range of functions than many smaller authorities elsewhere. This is a result of historical causes, but it reflects the centralised tradition which the London County Council inherited from their predecessors, the Metropolitan Board of Works.
In Middlesex and the metropolitan fringes of Essex, Hertfordshire, Kent and Surrey we find county district councils ranging from comparatively small authorities with populations below 30,000 to boroughs of the size and standing of Ilford and Ealing which have on several occasions promoted Private Bills seeking county borough status. In many cases these authorities exercise powers delegated to them by their county councils, and the friction and duplication which such delegation is likely to engender was criticised by the Royal Commission.
My Lords, I hope I have said enough to make out a very strong case for a change in the present system of local government in Greater London. The fact that its present structure no longer fits the physical facts of the present day; that it includes three county boroughs, two complete counties and parts of four others and has, as I have said, 80 boroughs, metropolitan boroughs and urban districts with different functions, surely reveals a situation which requires to be dealt with. The complexity of the present system and the fragmentation of 1126 the area are surely not conducive to good and satisfactory administration. Many boroughs are entrusted with an insufficiently wide range of responsibility, and the result is that service upon them is not so attractive as it should be.
It is not, I think, surprising that the Royal Commission found a direct link between the present arrangements and the comparative indifference of the electorate in Greater London to the conduct of public business through local authorities. From the point of view both of administrative efficiency and the health of local government the present system is grossly in need of overhaul, and I hope that this will not be challenged. If this is accepted, then the question becomes one of determining what changes should be made: not whether any change should be made, but what changes.
The Commission said they did not believe that London's problems could be solved merely by improving the machinery of government and also that the health of local government could not be restored within the framework of the present structure. I think, myself, that they are right, and the Government agree with the Royal Commission's diagnosis and also, as your Lordships know, with the main lines on which they proposed that the reorganisation should take place. The essential basis for reform must be acceptance of the fact that Greater London is one single city and that the local government system for this city must reflect this. The system should embrace the whole of the built-up area and be treated as a single entity for those services which need to be planned and administered over Greater London as a whole.
No one would deny that the influence of Greater London is felt over a wider area, indeed over the whole of South-East England; but the developed area within the Green Belt is a unit, with its own special problems, and one which demands a special system of local government of its own. This is what the Bill provides, and it proposes the establishment of a single, directly elected, overall authority for those functions needing to be related to the whole area. The second principle on which the proposed reorganisation proceeds is that the present boroughs, metropolitan boroughs and urban districts should be replaced by a pattern of fewer, but stronger, boroughs in whose hands there 1127 should be concentrated all local government functions which do not require to be administered over the wider area.
Such a system will not only be more logical and comprehensible but also have the great advantage of concentrating the whole range of related personal services in the fields of health, welfare and education in the hands of the boroughs, the local authorities who would be closest to the populations they serve. It is, I think, true to say that these twin principles of treating Greater London as a whole for certain overall services and of concentrating all the personal services into the hands of the more local bodies have been welcomed and accepted in a great many quarters and, not least, in local government circles.
I shall be interested to hear whether the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, challenges these principles. He may perhaps take the view that the whole of the Greater London area should be placed under the control of the London County Council. I do not propose to debate that with him to-day. I can see many objections to that. But if that is not accepted—and I do not think that there will be found to be many who would accept that—then I submit to your Lordships that the principles embodied in this Bill are the right ones for the local government of Greater London.
This main framework of structure and services derives directly from the Royal Commission's Report, but there are two respects in which the Bill departs from the Commission's recommendations. These affect the size of the new London boroughs and the administration of the education services, and I think your Lordships will probably wish me to say something now with regard to them.
The Commission thought that the new London boroughs should in population range from 100,000 to 250,000. In the Government's view, there would be advantage in providing that the London boroughs should be larger than the Commission proposed, and they suggested that a minimum population of 200,000 should be the aim wherever possible. In a continuously built-up area, boroughs of this size could be established without endangering the efficient administration of local services, and the greater strength which the higher figure implies would 1128 enable the new authorities to tackle a wide range of developing services with greater efficiency and confidence.
The future administration of education will no doubt be further debated during the subsequent consideration which your Lordships will give to this Bill. I therefore do not propose to do more than mention the main facts. The Royal Commission thought that the overall responsibility for education should rest with the Greater London Council but that substantial powers should be conferred on the London boroughs. In the Government's view such an arrangement would have serious disadvantages as regards both the size of the overall education authority and the division of functions between the Council and the boroughs. Given that the London boroughs would be larger and stronger than the Royal Commission originally suggested, so that even the smallest London borough would be larger than the average for county boroughs throughout the country, the Government came to the conclusion that there was no reason to think that the boroughs could not support the full range of education functions.
Central London, however, presents a particular problem. There has never in this area been any delegation of educational functions. It has always been a centralised service, with schools sited without regard to administrative boundaries, and that highly developed transport system permits a considerable amount of movement of pupils between the metropolitan boroughs. The White Paper made it plain that, in the Government's view, there is a case for a single education authority in Central London, embracing an area substantially larger than could be offered by a single borough. In the Bill, the present L.C.C. area has been adopted, but the Bill provides for a review of the arrangements within five years, after consultation with the new authorities.
My right honourable friend the Minister of Education has emphasised that the Bill lays on the Minister no obligation to make changes, if none are considered desirable, and that the interest of the education service will be the paramount consideration. The education authority in this central area will 1129 be a new one—the Inner London Education Authority—to be composed of those members of the Greater London Council elected for the inner area, together with one member appointed by each of the inner London boroughs and the Common Council. This authority will be wholly responsible for education in all its aspects, including finance, but as a committee of the Greater London Council, it will be able to call upon the common service departments of a larger body without having to set up its own organisation in connection with, for instance, architects, engineers and supplies.
I have now stated the main principles on which the reorganisation of local government for Greater London proposed by the Bill are based and the two main respects in which the Bill departs from the recommendations of the Royal Commission. I am sure that your Lordships will not wish me to go through the Bill—which comprises more than 200 pages—clause by clause, for that would take a very long time; but I should like to refer to particular parts of it. Part I of the Bill establishes the new structure of local authorities in Greater London—the Greater London Council for the whole area and 32 London boroughs, to be formed mainly by amalgamation of existing areas, as set out in Schedule 1. This Part of the Bill also provides for the abolition of the existing county boroughs, metropolitan boroughs and urban districts within this area. The first four Schedules set out the constitution and powers of the Greater London Council, provide for electoral matters and adapt to the circumstances of Greater London the principal Act dealing with the mechanism of local government—that is to say, the Local Government Act, 1933.
The timetable for these changes is important, and I think that your Lordships would like me to say something with regard to it. The territorial areas of administration established by the Bill—the London boroughs and Greater London itself—come into existence directly the Bill is passed. The new authorities will be elected in the spring of 1964, the Greater London Council in April and the London borough councils in May—that is provided for in Clause 1(5) and Clause 2(3)—and they will come into being when they are elected. They will exist 1130 as local authorities, with power to engage staff, as from the spring of next year, but they will not take over responsibility for any local government functions until April 1, 1965, when the present authorities will cease to exist. During the overlap period of some eleven months, the old and the new authorities will exist side by side until the final transition to the new system takes place in 1965.
The main local government functions and the way they will in future be administered are dealt with in Parts II to VII of the Bill. No doubt these Parts will be closely examined in Committee, but the principle we have acted upon is to allocate functions so as to give as much responsibility as possible for the administration of local functions, especially in the field of personal services, to the boroughs, and to the Greater London Council those functions which need to be administered with the needs of the whole of Greater London in mind. Indeed, the Bill gives as much responsibility as possible to the borough councils, even in fields where the Greater London Council has a major role. For example, Clauses 24 to 29, which deal with town planning, make the Greater London Council responsible for the strategic planning of land use in Greater London. But, within the overall plan, it is left to the borough councils to fill in the details and to exercise day-to-day planning control, subject to appropriate safeguards to make sure that the strategic plan is paramount.
Part VIII applies the general financial machinery connected with rating, general grants and rate-deficiency grants. It also provides for the possibility of a rate-equalisation scheme to cover the whole or any part of Greater London and contains a provision, on which your Lordships will not expect me to dwell as this stage, for a measure of transitional assistance to those home counties hit financially by the loss of their metropolitan fringes.
Part IX of the Bill contains a number of important provisions, which your Lordships will doubtless wish to examine in Committee. They cover, among other things, the transitional arrangements, provision for the safeguarding of staff interests and the adaptation of local Acts. Mention of local legislation leads me to draw your Lordships' attention to one 1131 of the subsidiary aims of the Bill—that is, to reduce as far as is possible the difference which exists between the L.C.C. area and the rest of the country in the realms of both general and local legislation. Many of these differences spring from purely historical causes, and, as the Royal Commission pointed out, it would be for the convenience of the public as well as that of administrators, if the powers and duties of local authorities in the London area could be assimilated to those of authorities throughout the rest of the country.
My Lords, I do not doubt that in the course of this debate we shall hear the objections that have already been put forward to the Government's proposals. We shall be told that the Government have no mandate to proceed with the reorganisation of London government; that all informed opinion is solidly against the proposals, and that the Bill is massively opposed by the inhabitants of London. I should like to say something with regard to each of these three points.
Local government for London has been under consideration, I think I am right in saying, ever since 1945. On several occasions since then, Private Bills seeking county borough status for boroughs in Greater London have been rejected—on the advice of Governments of both complexions—on the grounds that London must not be reorganised piecemeal. It is now more than five years since the Royal Commission was appointed, and it would not be easy to justify further delay in dealing with this problem, the existence of which has been recognised for so long. Supported by the unanimous report of the Royal Commission, the Government have ample justification for this Bill, introduced to meet a situation in which (and I do not believe that the Opposition will seriously dispute this) reorganisation is both necessary and overdue.
While it is perhaps not unusual for politicians to describe opinions which agree with their own as "informed" opinions, it is just not true that all informed opinion is against the Government. There has, of course, been criticism on particular points by various interested bodies. That was to be expected, and I certainly make no complaint at all about it. But it is quite misleading 1132 to say that these bodies are against the proposals as a whole, or that their objections on particular points add up to a wholesale condemnation of the Government's proposals.
May I refer to the Royal Institute of British Architects as an example? This association has been very vocal in mentioning detailed points concerning planning and architecture, and its criticisms have received considerable publicity. But what has not been so well publicised is the fact that the R.I.B.A. are in general agreement with the Government's proposals. I should like to quote from the preamble of the association's memorandum sent to my right honourable friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government earlier this year. This is what it said:The R.I.B.A. 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. This is still the view of the R.I.B.A. and the criticisms and proposals made in this paper are intended to make the London Government Bill more effective for its stated purpose. They are not intended to whittle away the reform.Similarly, I would refer to the Greater London Group set up by the London School of Economics, a Group to whose constructive contribution the Royal Commission paid a well-deserved tribute. On the publication of the London Government Bill, the Group drew up a number of comments and criticisms, and they commenced their memorandum by saying this:We strongly support the general case for the reorganisation of the boroughs and the need for a body covering the whole of Greater London to be responsible for certain important functions.It would indeed be remarkable if such a long and comprehensive Bill as this one did not lead to a large number of comments on details. Criticisms always attract more attention than approval. But your Lordships would be misled if you allowed yourselves to be persuaded that the principles on which this Bill is based do not command general approval among local authorities and among informed people concerned with local government.
The noble Earl, Lord Longford, will no doubt disagree with this and seek to pray in aid some public opinion. His committee has been organising a Petition against the Bill, and if he would be frank, 1133 I am sure he would admit that the support he secured from that Petition fell notably short of the number of signatures it was hoped to attract. The Petition was finally presented, not, as one would have expected, on the introduction of this Bill, or on its Second Reading in another place, but part of the way through the Committee stage in another place. I can only assume that the organisers delayed the presentation of the Petition in the hope of getting further support, but then came to the conclusion that further delay in presentation would only underline the fact that their cause roused only negligible popular feeling.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
If the noble and leaned Lord has a moment to spare, he may like to know how many signatures we collected. He has not ventured to give that information to the House. In fact, over 170,000 signatures were collected. I should be surprised if the noble and learned Lord has ever collected 170 signatures. Certainly neither he nor his colleagues have achieved that in regard to this Bill.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I think the noble Earl has been less than frank in that statement. He did not state the number of signatures that were the target. I am under the impression that he was seeking to obtain, and publicly stated it, something like half a million signatures.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
Since the noble and learned Viscount has accused me of being less than "Frank", may I say that I cannot be bullied, or "Bullered", by the noble and learned Viscount. But I think, I am doing him undue honour: the noble and learned Lord no doubt has a Viscountcy as a target, but has not yet achieved it.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I hope the noble Earl does not feel at all sore about the lack of success that attended his efforts. I admit that he got, as he says, some 170,000 signatures, but I am sure he was disappointed that, despite his valiant efforts, he did not obtain more. I am afraid it is a fact that the man in the street does not feel deeply moved by the reorganisation of London government, and many of us who live in London can only feel astonishment at some of the claims made by those who allege that there is popular clamour 1134 one way or the other. We can well understand and appreciate the feelings of councillors, but we must not mistake these for widespread public opinion.
Nor, my Lords, must we be sidetracked into thinking—as one might believe from many of the statements that have been made—that this Bill is concerned only with the L.C.C. and the County of London. No one is disputing the claim of the L.C.C. to take its place as one of our greatest local authorities. But the County of London is only a small part of Greater London as we know it to-day, and the Government have addressed themselves to the needs of the whole area, and of all who live in it, and not only to the needs of the minority who live in the L.C.C. area. I hope this is a sufficient answer to those who repeatedly state that the Government are actuated solely by political dislike of the L.C.C.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Reorganisation is bound, whatever form it takes, to produce a considerable upheaval. This is unavoidable, and, indeed, no worthwhile reorganisation could possibly take place without it.
There are two aspects of the transitional period to which I should like to refer. One is the maintenance of services and the protection of staff interests. There has been widespread anxiety that the abolition of the existing authorities and the transfer of functions to the new ones will mean a dislocation of local government services, with consequent detriment to the people for whom they are provided. That there is a danger of this the Government recognise, and it is a danger that must be faced. There are, it is true, formidable problems; but there is a no need to exaggerate them or to discount the skill and ingenuity of local government members and officials whose responsible concern for the maintenance of local government services will be just as great as that of your Lordships. It is true that the new authorities will not come into being until after the first elections next Spring, and that the overlap period is none too long when it is borne in mind that so many preparatory steps have to be taken. But we see no reason why the preparations should 1135 not begin straight away. The Bill provides for the setting up in each of the new boroughs groups of joint committees of the existing local authorities, including the county councils. In addition, the Bill contemplates the establishment of a joint committee of the county councils and county boroughs which will consider the transitional problems from the point of view of the future Greater London Council.
We have before us a period of practically two years before April 1, 1965, when the new authorities will take over their full responsibilities, and a great deal can be done in those two years. Joint committees have, in fact, already been established in many of the borough groups, and their ability to work amicably together is evidenced by the fact that ward proposals have already been submitted by most of them to the Home Office. My right honourable friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government has during the last few days written to all local authorities in the Greater London area proposing that they should now commence the task of considering how county services and their related properties should be transferred, in the case of those services which are to be exercised by the boroughs. Suggestions have been made that it would be wise to delay the transfer of some of the services to allow more time for the transitional arrangements to be planned and brought into operation. This has attractions and the possibility was carefully considered. But on balance the Government think that the new authorities should become fully responsible from the start, rather than that the period of uncertainty should be further prolonged.
The problem of safeguards for local government staff will be discussed further, I have no doubt, as the Bill proceeds. The Government naturally appreciate the anxiety felt by local government employees. One basic ground for reassurance is that local government services will need to go on and, indeed, to be developed in the future. There is no reason, therefore, to fear that there will be any appreciable redundancy. None the less, the Government have sought to give the greatest possible reassurance on this point, but they have never disguised their inability to give absolute guarantees, because they are not themselves the 1136 employers. Moreover, they would be most reluctant to interfere with the responsibilities of local authorities in staffing matters, or to intervene on questions relating to salaries or conditions of service, which are normally settled by negotiation.
But general assurances do not help in individual cases, and so the Government have tried to go as far as they can in writing further safeguards into the Bill itself. The detailed provisions concerning the transfer of staff will be made in orders under the Bill. This is usual in all cases of local government change, and there will be full consultation with the local authorities and other interested bodies. The orders in this case will be made under Clause 81, but there are specific requirements in Clause 82 which will be binding on Ministers. First, there is an obligation to ensure that all whole-time local government employees are transferred to one or other of the new authorities in 1965. Secondly, any order which transfers local government officers must provide that they shall hold office by the same tenure and on the same conditions as those on which they were employed before the transition, and adds a guarantee that they shall not be paid less than before that date while engaged on similar duties.
This last point repeats earlier statutory provisions, but I recognise it does not go as far as staff organisations would like. These organisations have urged on my right honourable friend that transferred officers should be guaranteed their previous salary for a minimum period, whether they are engaged on similar work or not. My right honourable friend has undertaken to give this matter most careful consideration, but I am not yet in a position to give your Lordships further news on this point. It will, of course, go without saying that the pension rights of present and past employees will be safeguarded, and there will also be compensation for those officers—and we are certain that they will be comparatively few—who are not in the end permanently engaged by the new authorities, or who have to accept a job carrying a lower salary.
Finally on the question of staff, let me refer to the obligation placed on the Minister by Clause 82(5) to establish a Staff Commission within a month of the 1137 passing of the Bill. There is no precedent for setting up a body of this kind, but the size of the operation we are now contemplating, in my submission, amply warrants this special measure. We envisage a small body of three commissioners whose impartiality and standing will commend them both to employers and to employees alike. Assisted by a full-time secretariat, which we hope will be drawn by secondment from the local government field, their task will be to keep the whole pattern of staff transfers under review in order to ensure as far as possible that every employee gets a fair deal. We should not wish at this stage to fetter the Commission with rigid or precise instructions. Their terms of reference will need to be discussed with the local authorities and staff organisations, and with the commissioners themselves. But we have in mind a body to whom authorities and staff organisations will have access, whose advice will be followed, but whose views will in the last resort be enforceable by direction of the Minister. The Staff Commission cannot be formally established until after the Bill has become law, but it is my right honourable friend's intention to bring it into existence as early as possible so that its members can start their preparatory discussions.
My Lords, I think I have now said enough in introducing this Bill, and I should just like to say this in conclusion. The Bill we now have before us is likely, if past experience is any guide, to lay the foundations of London government for many decades. The system we are now seeking to establish will, I trust, serve Londoners for the rest of this century, and it is our responsibility to ensure that in so doing we look to the future and not just to the past,. We surely must recognise that London is one city which can no longer be subdivided by administrative boundaries which have long since lost most of their practical significance. Vital services such as planning, highway construction, traffic control and overspill can no longer be tackled in a piecemeal fashion unless we are content to see local government gradually wither as further intervention by the central Government becomes inevitable. That is what will happen unless we establish a system which is based on the realities which face us.
1138 It is no good thinking we can tinker with the existing arrangements in the hope that we can make do for a few more years. An attempt to maintain the status quo, even in a disguised form. would be no better than burying our heads in the sand in order to shut out all sight of the developments which have changed the face of London during the last fifty years. We must recognise that local government will be healthy and vigorous only if local authorities are given a worthwhile job to do and are entrusted with the fullest responsibility. This means giving as many powers as possible to the boroughs, especially in the personal services which bring the individual most frequently into direct touch with his local authority. If we keep our eyes firmly on the physical facts of London as it exists to-day, acknowledging the transitional problems of reorganisation wihout being overwhelmed by them, we shall, I trust, be able to establish a system which will serve the future and the developing needs of the whole of our great capital city. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ 4.48 p.m.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
My Lords, the Lord Chancellor, of course—the Lord High Chancellor of England—is a skilled and experienced advocate, and I pay him the compliment that he has expounded his brief competently and well, as I should expect him to do. He has, of course, entered into a highly political argument. This is a highly political Bill, with a highly political purpose, and, indeed, the Lord Chancellor's speech began with a political touch. Therefore, if we are driven during this discussion to forget that we are dealing with the Lord High Chancellor and the head of the Judiciary and we deal with him as a Party politician and treat him accordingly, I am sure he will not complain. That is inevitable in the circumstances of the case, as evidently the noble Viscount the Leader of the House preferred that the Lord Chancellor should take the Bill rather than the Leader of the House, as I thought he would.
The Lord Chancellor has said that London local government is in a state of fragmentation. But what is this Bill 1139 doing? This is fragmenting various local government services in London. It is doing it throughout the area outside London with education, with the old people, with the children, with public health, and in a number of other respects. Indeed, that is one of our charges against the Bill.
Then the Lord Chancellor said that there was not much manifestation of interest in the London County Council; and, incidentally, I agree with him that this Bill is not entirely about the London County Council. There are some other county councils it is very much to do with. But he said that the electorate at the elections did not manifest much interest in the London County Council, as evidenced by the lowness of the polls. Well, I have some figures. At the 1961 county council elections, the London average voting for the County Council was 36.4. If I remember rightly, it has, not so long ago, been as high as over 40 per cent. So I got some other figures. In Berkshire the figure was not 36.4; it was 34.8. In Oxfordshire, notwithstanding all the radiating influence of that great University, it was 23.7—in a highly Conservative county. Warwickshire, 36.1—rather better. The East Riding of York-shire, 24.2. I am sorry that I do not have the figure for Northamptonshire, with which the Lord Chancellor was formerly connected, but I doubt whether it would be very high.
If we come to county boroughs, the figure for Birmingham was 36.6; and that is a great city with a great civic tradition, and let that be remembered.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
Yes, it was Tory, but it has now seen the light. For Croydon, a Conservative county borough, 36.1—lower than the L.C.C. Kingston-upon-Hull, I am sorry to say, 33.2; Manchester, 36.7; Tyne-mouth, 34.6; Warrington, 34; and Wigan county borough, 29.3. The Lord Chancellor really ought to know his stuff better than to make this general accusation about apathy in London without asking the Ministry of Housing and Local Government or the Home Office to give him the figures about some other areas. After all, if a Conservative Government or a Conservative county council won a great majority, which in their time they have 1140 done, with a low percentage of voters polling, they used to say: "Ah well, that shows how content they are with the county council. They do not trouble to come out and vote against us. It is true, not so many voted for us as we should like, but it shows there is general contentment with the council."
The Lord Chancellor referred to the elections. There are going to be one lot in April and another lot in May. I do not know which informed local government opinion gave them this advice. These are hotly-contested elections. The one for the Greater London Council is bound to be hotly contested and, presumably, so will the one for the boroughs, although there may be a greater apathy there because they will not be able to recognise themselves. But it is the case that to plan two big local government elections, one in one month and another in the next, is to invite low voting and apathy and to put a great strain on the Party organisations, which is not in the public interest. I think that is really a most foolish thing to have done. I must say that I am surprised that the Lord Chancellor should support it.
He says, all informed opinion supports the Bill. What conceit!
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The noble Lord really must not misquote me. I did not say "all informed opinion"; I said "informed opinion".
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
That is something like the poster on smoking and cancer about which the noble Viscount the Leader of the House was getting rather excited—somewhat unjustifiably, I thought—last week. I do not know quite what the difference is between "informed opinion" and "all informed opinion". If the Lord Chancellor says "informed opinion" he is leading people to believe that informed opinion generally supports this Bill. It does not. The Bill has no enthusiastic support among local authorities. Some of them have been whipped into acquiescence by the Central Office. That is true, I admit it. But there is no enthusiasm for it in local government quarters or among local government officers—except the boys who hope their transfer will be beneficial, but that will not be a majority of the local government officers, who, I 1141 hope, will be able to settle down in their new duties.
I suppose that "informed opinion" undoubtedly includes the London School of Economics and Political Science. This organisation has not a terribly high reputation in the university world. It was started by two Socialists, Sidney and Beatrice Webb. What they would think of it now I do not know, but that may be pleasing to noble Lords opposite. But it is not as high and mighty a body as all that, nor has it a great, intensive experience of local government. I am sorry, therefore, to make these criticisms of the Lord Chancellor's speech, but he came into the arena and he seems to be bearing up reasonably well. At any rate, he will have to. If he goes into the Party political arena roaring a bit, he must expect others to roar back.
How did London develop? How did this problem of London arise? Because unless we understand that, we are liable to go wrong. As it is, there may be further development of London. If the Government are not careful there may be a complete urban spread to the South-East Coast. That is the tendency. It has happened, in part, already. If you drive from London to Rochdale, as my wife does sometimes, and go out of the built-up area, going north from Hampstead, which is on the edge of the County of London, you do not meet much open country for a large period until you are at St. Albans; and that is owing to the past neglect by Governments and by local authorities. But. if London is permitted to spread to the coast, with commercial development and residential development—which it will unless the Government do something about planning and really push industry to go to the North and the under-employed areas—then, logically, according to the Lord Chancellor's argument, we shall extend the area of the Greater London Council to include the whole of the South-East region. That would not be local government at all. That would be more like a regional seat of government than local government in any way.
But London developed. It evolved from hamlets, villages and small towns; and a lot of them are still there, in what the Lord Chancellor insists this Greater London area is, a city. If you take 1142 some of these sparsely populated centres, the villages and small towns of Surrey, Essex and Kent and tell the people there they are Cockneys you will not win elections; they will not like it. I do not mind it myself, but they do not like it. It was the case that London spread out, and it was a big spread area of hamlets, villages and small towns. Then they grew and the population spread. Immigrants from the North, Scotland, Wales and, indeed, Ireland came, and a lot of these hamlets, villages and small towns grew into each other and formed the built-up area.
The Southern electric railway came—one of the great achievements of a very fine general manager of the old Southern Railway, Sir Herbert Walker—and it gave us good electric trains going right down over the Southern area. What is the result? The result is that an enormous number of houses have been built in the outskirts of London, and that is how Greater London came about. It happened in these ways, largely as the result of there being lack of planning on behalf of the Government and of local government. And so local government evolved. There used to be a collection of odds and ends of commissioners of sewers, commissioners of this, that and the other, quarter sessions, justices of the peace, and there really was not local government. And then the Board of Works came in 1855 and this is the 1963 model of the Metropolitan Board of Works. The Local Government Act, 1888, created county councils. The Local Government Act, 1894, created urban and rural district councils, and the London Government Act, 1899, created metropolitan boroughs. This is how the system of local government has come along. It could have been different.
I have had quoted against me a book which I wrote, called How London is Governed, and I have just re-read a chapter on this subject and I find that I was sound, quite right, perfectly consistent with where I am to-day. In this chapter, "The-Might-Have-Been", on page 154, I wrote:But the difference between the development of the local government of such towns as these and that of the City of London was that the great provincial county boroughs took in the new built-up areas, and the City of London Corporation did not. Had it done so, the story of London's government would be 1143 very different from that which I have portrayed in this book. The square mile of the City Corporation has remained fixed, and the problems of local government structure in the hundreds of square miles of Greater London outside the city have been dealt with by Parliament and by themselves almost as if the central square mile was in no way concerned with them.And that is the central evil that has existed all along: that the City preferred to be selfish. It stuck to its square mile. Its poorer population went over the river to Southwark, but the City did not want to take on Southwark. The City ought to have expanded. It might have blossomed into the London County Council, and maybe into a Greater London authority, with minor local authorities functioning for the smaller areas; and then we should have had a real municipality, with a Lord Mayor, Sheriffs and so on. But that has been denied to London because of the rigid view of the City of London that it must stick within its walls of the square mile; and governments have become increasingly afraid of it as the years have gone by, though I assure the Government that there is nothing to be afraid of. There should have been a natural growth, instead of this artificial development, as we went along.
The present system, when all is said and done, works. Let noble Lords go on the streets of London. All over London they will find a pretty well governed city, as well administered, I think, as any provincial city—though I know the advantages of county borough government; advantages which we shall not get with any Greater London, and I do not expect it. But, as I say, it is a well-governed city, as a whole. Its public services, as a whole, are pretty good. We can have political quarrels about whether this Party does it better than another, and they are all perfectly legitimate. But, taking London as a whole, it is pretty well governed and the existing system of local government does work, and so do the counties outside the County of London. Although they have a two-tier system—as indeed has the County of London—it works in those counties outside London. They have their county, with its large-scale education services, fire brigade, ambulance and so on, and they have their county districts, non-county boroughs, urban and rural dis- 1144 tricts. The set-up works all right, and there is a high degree of co-operation between these local authorities—certainly in London; I believe in Surrey; not so good in Middlesex, but it could have been, and probably would have, improved; and I think pretty good in Essex.
Adjustments are possible within the existing system. The county councils and the county boroughs, I believe, indicated that they would agree to the setting up of an executive Board representing them and the Ministry of Transport and police, and so on, for the purpose of making and protecting the Greater London Plan. They agreed to that, and also that the Board should be the traffic authority, which this Bill, on the face of it, does with the Greater London Council. These offers were made in all good faith. The L.C.C., to do it justice, offered to transfer to the metropolitan borough councils the very important service of maternity and child welfare, and some other functions as well. Who stopped it? The Ministry of Housing and Local Government. They said, No—possibly on the basis that they were waiting for bigger schemes for Greater London which they had in mind. But the L.C.C. offered it, and it was agreed between them and the metropolitan boroughs and it was stopped by Her Majesty's Government.
There could have been, of course, metropolitan borough amalgamations of a limited character and subject to agreement. I know all the metropolitan boroughs very thoroughly. They all have their character. One of the smallest is Deptford. But the people of Deptford are very proud to be Deptfordians. They do not want to be interfered with—I am talking about the people, not the councillors. The people of Deptford are proud of their borough; they have a tradition of civic spirit and service. But I agree there is a case for amalgamating Deptford and Lewisham as proposed; and if one could get agreement between the two boroughs I would do it. But I do not think it is worth while, just for the sake of this bureaucratic passion in the Ministry of Housing and Local Government for uniformity, to make all these boroughs the same, to make them about the same size and all looking the same. This is not a conception of local government. One of the 1145 joys of local government is its variety, the fact that there is, very often, a difference of spirit and approach.
There could have been some amalgamations between metropolitan boroughs and some of the districts outside. Indeed, looking at the map of the County of London some years ago I came to the conclusion that there was, so to speak, an open space on the North-East side where East Ham and West Ham are; there is a jag going into the South-East boundary, formed by Mottingham; and on the North-West there is Willesden. They could come in. I never raised the question when I was leader of the London County Council; I never pushed it, for two reasons. First, because it would have made a row with the local authorities, with whom we were living at peace, and they were living at peace with us; and, secondly, because all of these happen to be Labour areas, and we had a nice working majority and I did not want the majority to be any bigger. For if a majority gets too big it can become a little light-hearted. A two-thirds majority is good enough for me; I personally do not want any more. A two-thirds majority will suit us in another place as well, and it looks as if we shall get it. However, that must take care of itself. I was not a Party politician. I was not like this Government that stoops down in the dirt of Party politics and does things such as it is doing with this Bill primarily for Party political reasons. I did not do it because I thought it would be an indecent thing to do. We were all right, they were all right, and to make an attack upon them was unnecessary and undesirable.
Then we could have taken over the Metropolitan Water Board. After all, the Government has found a way of taking over London education into the Greater London Authority and yet not into it—I will come to that later. The Water Board could have come under the London County Council, and the outside areas could have been represented on the Water Committee. It is a silly thing that the Water Board was ever created, because its work could have been done quite easily by the L.C.C. Incidentally, the Government have found that the Water Board cannot be touched without a Hybrid Bill, and it has gone out of this Bill. It would be interesting to know why 1146 they need a Hybrid Bill for that and not for this. The only light I have on it is that it deals with water and not local government. But, taking the country as a whole, the provision of water is predominantly a local government service; and in London the Metropolitan Water Board is in essence a local authority.
The Lord Chancellor referred to the question of mandate. I do not want to overdo it—I have made some qualified references to the mandate doctrine in my book on Government and Parliament—for this reason: that a Government come in on mandates based on an election manifesto, but as time goes on they may find something that is most urgent and pressing, which must be seen to in the public interest. If the Government have not got a mandate and the public interest demands that action should be taken, I think that is legitimate. But this matter was not urgent; there was no demand for this change. There was no urgency about it, no necessity for it. I tell the House that the origin was Party political reasons. Where it will finish up we shall see when the elections come. I am not sure. But the motive was political: to get rid of the insult of a Labour and Socialist majority on the great municipality of the capital city. That was the motive, and I think it is rather disgraceful.
But if a Government come to a matter which is highly controversial, which is not pressing and not urgent, then I think they need a mandate behind them. The Government have no mandate. I believe that something has been said about their wanting a strong and vigorous system of local government. They did not say, "We will abolish the London County Council because we want to kick the Socialist Party out of County Hall". That would have been too honest for the Conservative Party. They have no mandate at all. But we have. There was a London County Council election in 1961 which we fought largely on this question of London government and the Government's policy. There were metropolitan borough council elections in 1962. Again, these were fought largely on the question of London government policy. We won both times—better than we won before. We even held the marginal borough of Lewisham and won the marginal borough of Wandsworth. So every metropolitan borough south of the Thames is now 1147 Labour controlled, and the majority on the other side are with us too. So there is a mandate the other way. This year or lest year—I am not sure which—there were two county council by-elections. They were both fought mainly upon this issue of the Greater London proposals. We held the central Wandsworth seat, whit h is marginal, with a bigger majority than before. We won back the seat in Middlesex, near Acton. We won it back with a bigger majority than that by which we had lost it.
These are mandates. This is something to talk about. It is no good the Lord Chancellor talking about informed public opinion, whether it is all informed public opinion or whether it is just informed public opinion. The truth is that London opinion is against these proposals. This is not only so in the County of London. The bulk of the Conservatives in the County of Surrey are against it, and I suspect that other counties are in the same position, except that the Central Office has been round doing a bit of whipping, and they have taken notice because they do not want to embarrass the Government.
Although it has its significance, the question of mandate is not the most important thing. This is a bad Bill. It is badly conceived, badly drafted and undemocratic, as I will show in due course. The Lord Chancellor has said that the time-table is—I forget whether he meant that it was on the quick side or on the slow side, but this in the end I gathered to be his thought—about right. I have had experience of amalgamations in local government. The late Mr. Neville Chamberlain's Local Government Act, 1929, which was a big and a courageous measure, transferred the functions of the 25 Boards of Guardians in London a little to the metropolitan boroughs but mostly to the London County Council, together with the Metropolitan Asylums Board with perhaps not quite so many as one hundred special and general hospitals. These were transfers. This we went through. My noble friend Lord Latham went through it, and so did my noble friend Lord Silkin. We were in opposition for a good deal of that time, and the Conservative majority had to carry it through. These were mere transfers into 1148 an existing authority in the same area, but it took quite a number of years before it settled down. Those concerned got it done in two or three years, but I would say it had not settled down for five or six years.
This is a totally different matter. Here you are making new municipal areas and doing a lot of breaking up and fragmenting of municipal functions. All that is being done is a much more complicated and tricky operation than was the Local Government Act, 1929. We also suffered the loss of our hospitals under the National Health Act, 1946. We were sorry to lose them because they had done a good job. That took time to get accustomed to, not so much on the part of the County Council as on that of the new hospital authorities, and they are still having developing and growing pains there.
Then there is a most curious proposal. In 1964—that is, next year, less than twelve months from this date—there are to be elected new local authorities who are to sit side by side for twelve months with the existing local authorities. I must say that I do not remember this happening hitherto. The existing local authorities will go on with their functions as before; they can have some joint committees and that sort of thing, but both local authorities will exist side by side for twelve months. This Government are really geniuses for doing the wrong thing. The physical transfer of powers comes in 1965, and then there can be elections three years after that. But if the Government are going through with this Bill, I greatly hope that Amendments will be made whereby the elections will not come on top of each other, within two months. They should not even be in the same year. We arranged that in London the county council elections and the metropolitan borough elections should not be in the same year, of which there was a danger; otherwise you get the apathy about which the Lord Chancellor was so rightly sorry.
I do not object to change in principle. What I object to is change for the sake of change, and especially if it is for rather mean, gerrymandering, Party political motives. Why should a Socialist object to change? It is the Conservatives who want to conserve. We want to change many things, but I do not like 1149 change for the sake of change or for unworthy motives. The Royal Commission has been quoted. Well, I have not a great deal of faith in the Royal Commission. I think the chairman was very Conservative in his politics. I did not recognise one member of that Royal Commission as an outstanding Labour person. It was set up under the advice of Mr. Henry Brooke, who is the Minister who has started all this legislation. Mr. Henry Brooke was a former Conservative leader on the London County Council. I am told that when we got our majority he said he would not be happy until he destroyed this Socialist L.C.C. I must say that he has done his best, having started all this at the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. But I will not mention Mr. Henry Brooke any more, because he is in enough trouble, anyway, from day to day and from time to time. The London Municipal Society were for it, of course, because they are the boys who failed to win the Council back. They wanted this, and in fact they are the true authors of the Government Bill. And some of the Parliamentary Secretaries at this Ministry have been former officials of the London Municipal Society.
Let us now look at the Bill itself. Part I deals with the London boroughs. There are wholesale amalgamations so as to produce as much uniformity as this Ministry of uniformity could get. The amalgamations are too wholesale The Lord Chancellor said how desirable it was that the people and the local authorities should be close to each other. That is the very thing that this Bill alters in the wrong way. These boroughs are very big in size, and people may be an 8d. or 10d. bus fare away from their town hall. They are going to be inconvenienced very much. This is not a Bill to bring the citizen and the local authority nearer together. It is a Bill to make them farther away from each other. Their area is too big; the functions are really too big, having regard to the welfare of the people of London as a whole; the powers are too great—which I will come to later. There is education in the outer London boroughs; there are the old folks, the children, parks and open spaces, some of which, such as Victoria Park, are in three boroughs; there is housing; and there is the City. There- 1150 fore, I think the idea of the London boroughs is a mistake.
Then in regard to the Greater London Council—again with reference to what the Lord Chancellor said about wanting people to be near to the local authority—is this what the Lord Chancellor calls near to the local authority? Each member of the Greater London Council will on average have 80,000 electors as compared with a much smaller number at the moment. The population under the Greater London Council will be about 8,500,000. The area will be about 800 square miles. And having set up this Greater London Council—the name of which I should like to be somewhat more dignified—they have not set it up with enough powers. In principle, I am not against some of the powers conferred locally, but I think some of them could be better discharged centrally under the Greater London Council. Indeed, this is part of the dilemma: once having decided to destroy the London County Council, and with it Middlesex (which is marginal politically), and to cut up the counties of Surrey, Essex and Kent, the Government then feel they must have a big Greater London area and big boroughs, in order to give those boroughs as many powers as they can. That is the real motive, the secret, behind it.
Part II of the Bill deals with highways, trunk roads, Metropolitan roads, roads that will go under the boroughs, and traffic. The theory of the Royal Commission, and of the Department, in arguing about these matters and a good many more was that there is too much Whitehall interference with local authorities in London because they have not got the right structure—too much White-hall direction, interference and sanctions. But if one reads this Bill one finds its pages straddled all over with powers of Ministerial directions, Ministerial consents, And as for the Minister of Transport, as I told your Lordships months ago, if you think you are going to stop that gentleman from playing about with London traffic when he gets such attractive and understandable publicity out of it, you are making a mistake. He has plenty of powers under this Bill to give directions, to give consents, and, in the case of dispute, to settle it. So the White-hall argument has gone west.
With regard to housing and planning, one of the great things in London has 1151 been that the London County Council and the boroughs have had concurrent powers. My noble friend, Lord Silkin went through all this as chairman of the housing committee, and Lord Latham did as chairman of the finance committee. When we agreed to do something there was no trouble about it with the boroughs. I do not remember a single first-class row. It paid everybody to do the things they were most fitted for, and we wanted to avoid disputes and quarrels. There is a great deal to be said for concurrent powers between the central authority and the local boroughs. That ought to be so with the Greater London Council, but there is such a mix-up of provisions on this that where it will all end, I really do not know. Then there is the doubtful future of the London County Council estates. There is a mix-up about planning between the Greater London Council and the boroughs, and how this is all going to work out is very doubtful.
I said that it takes a lot of trouble to carry through even the merging of local authorities. The chief officers of the London County Council, who are not political people at all (I have never known what the political views of any of them was, and I do not want to know) have collectively reported to their appropriate committee that:Many of us had practical experience of the enormous complexity and difficulty of the transfer of functions which took place in 1930 and in 1948, when there was integration and not fragmentation and when the new functions were undertaken by existing local authorities. With that experience in mind and in the knowledge of the current difficulties of recruiting and retaining adequate local authority staffs, we think it our duty to express the view that, if the proposals of the Bill are carried out to the timetable and in the way contained in the Bill, there will be a grave risk of breakdowns in the local government services in London.That is a declaration by really first-class experts in public administration and in local government. I am perfectly sure they are absolutely genuine in their apprehensions about it.
Education in inner London, as it is called, comes to the Greater London Council, perhaps. This is a very curious set-up. There is to be an Inner London Education Authority—which I must say does not sound a very dignified designation. It is like the old School Board for London, except that that was directly 1152 elected by the people of London for educational purposes. In this case the County of London members of the Greater London Council are to be the education authority for Inner London, but there will be added to them one from each London borough and one from the dear City of London. Why ever should the City of London, with a population of between four and five thousand, with a child population which is negligible, except again for reasons of political bias, have the same representation on the Inner London Education Authority as a big London borough with a population of possibly over 300,000? I hope that somebody will tell us when the reply comes, because it really is extraordinary—except that the City means one more Conservative Vote on that Authority.
But there is another point. The Inner London Education Authority, not directly elected for this purpose (though I have no doubt that, as at present, it will come into the election campaigns in the County of London) will frame its own estimates; and, having settled those estimates, will pass them onto the Greater London Council which must under the Bill proceed to precept the boroughs and the City for the amount of money which is required. So that the education body will have a great deal of freedom from financial control, though no doubt it will have its own finance committee. But it is a little "tall" that the Greater London Council should be bound to accept those estimates, whatever they are, and then issue precepts to the various boroughs. But even this arrangement is to last only until 1970, when there can be a review. The school health services are to be co-ordinated with the borough services. That is going to be a nice mix-up between the two of them. Equally, the youth employment service will go to this Inner London Education Authority, but outside London both education and the youth services will go to the boroughs. But, again, there is to be a review in 1970 as to Inner London.
Part V of the Bill deals with sewage and trade effluent, and I still cannot understand why the main drains and trade effluent were not transferred—the whole lot—to the Greater London Authority in one go. In the main they are. Part VI deals with the public health functions, and here, I think, there is some degree of confusion. Part VII deals with health 1153 and welfare, and in this Part of the Bill (I am dealing only with parts here and there) responsibility for old persons is transferred to the boroughs. The distribution of these old folk varies a lot as between the London boroughs, as do the children in care; and in due course there is hound to be utter confusion and chaos on these matters. Part VIII deals with rating and valuation, et cetera. There is to be a scheme of equalisation, but another place and your Lordships' House are not good enough to be told what this scheme is. It is to be by order, as is so much else under this Bill. The financial Parliamentary institution is not told. It will see it, in due course, in the orders; and Members may have the chance of voting for or against it, though they will not be able to amend it. There will be some scheme of equalisation, but how far it will be effective nobody knows. The Bill goes through in the meantime.
Consider, my Lords, the case of the dismembered counties, the fragmented counties. Surrey will lose more than half of its population and more than half of its rateable value. Kent will be much the same, and Essex will be much the same; and, though I do not think they are quite so badly off as Surrey, they are badly off. The bit of Surrey that is left, the bit of Essex that is left and the bit of Kent that is left, will have to do the best they can. This is fragmentation. My noble friend the Leader of the Opposition comes from Essex. This is not playing the game by these people.
Having done that the Government then invent a scheme—which will not by any means solve all their problems—whereby graduated and diminishing over a period of years there will be some compensation to the surviving truncated county. The Government have created the problem, the Government have cut these counties up, and in the main they are respectable Conservative counties. Why the Government should be so rough on them, I do not know; but they are. The Government will then have them compensated under the Bill. But, surely, if the Government go into a vicious attack upon counties, especially Conservative counties, in this way, when the question of compensation arises it ought to be paid out of the Exchequer. Oh no, my Lords! They are going to charge it up to the general fund of the Greater London 1154 Council. So that those of us who live in London or in Middlesex, who are to be completely abolished, will have to pay towards the compensation for Surrey, Kent and Essex, because they are being carved up—not by us, but by this Government and Parliament. I think that that is monstrously unjust; and this should come out of Parliamentary Governmental funds.
Research and information is to be a function of the Greater London Council. What a noise there was about this when the Report came out! The London County Council have been doing it for years. They publish London Statistics and a great many other reports covering greater London, and they are very valuable. There is provision in this Bill for frequent amendments by Ministerial direction and order; and amendments of the existing law can also be made by ministerial order. I invite your Lordships to see Clauses 79, 80, 81 and 84. There will be a great break-up of the teams of specialist administrators at the London County Council, which is a real tragedy and a very serious thing. So, all the way through, we get all these mentions of "the appropriate Minister".
This is all so tragic because it is irrelevant to the problems with which our country is faced at this time. Here we are, having financial troubles, industrial difficulties and economic difficulties. There was an article by Mr. Aidan Crawley, M.P. (now a Conservative: he used to be with us), in the Sunday Times on Sunday, about relations between capital and labour, in which he made a series of suggestions about ways in which the Government should legislate to improve the situation. My noble friend Lady Wootton of Abinger had an article in the Observer about the scramble for incomes. Parliament ought to be concerned with these things; and also defence, as to which there are heaps of problems with which Parliament, in all probability, is not dealing as much as it would like to do. There are all sorts of ideas floating about on defence, including ideas from the noble and gallant Field Marshal. Lord Montgomery of Alamein, which ought to be considered. The Government do not have time for Parliamentary discussions on these things, but they have a lot of time for this Bill, which is neither urgent, relevant nor necessary. It is not a Bill for the 1155 development of local government; it is a Bill for the partial extinction of local government. It is not a Bill to diminish ministerial control; it is a Bill to increase ministerial control. My Lords, this is not a Bill which should ever have been submitted to Parliament.
§ 5.39 p.m.
§ LORD CONESFORD
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, has put me in a rather difficult dilemma, for this reason: that I came to offer some criticism of this Bill and I intend indeed to do so. But there will be a danger, I suppose, that if I confine myself entirely to those things in the Bill which I believe to need amendment, it might be thought that I agreed with the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth. I may say that over many years I have disagreed with him on a great number of things. But I think one of the things that I have always found rather endearing about him, if he will allow me to say so, is his love, which I share, for London. My Lords, we have that in common, and I think that, if we approached this Bill dismissing as far as possible the controversy between the Parties, there might be points on which we should find ourselves in agreement. I think there is something to be said for such a course, because, after all, this is a great measure which has been approved by the House of Commons. Nobody supposes that this House will do anything with a Bill passed at all its stages with such a majority by the House of Commons except to seek, by Amendment, to improve it.
In the speech he has just made, the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, made one or two statements which I found illuminating and one which I found entirely astonishing. The one which I found astonishing was that he was no Party politician. That seemed to me a novel view of his own character which I had never before heard either him or any other person express. But the matter on which I thought he was enlightening was his remark that there was a time when he might well have wished to promote an important reform in the government of London but that he did not wish to provoke a row with the local authorities. My Lords, I understand that sentiment; but it also gives some reason for admiration of the Govern- 1156 ment at least for this: that they have had the courage to embark on a great measure of local government reform which, in the nature of things, cannot be popular, because great local government reforms never are. That does not mean in the least that the reform they are proposing is in every respect right, and I hope to convince the House, perhaps on some points to-day and perhaps on other points in Committee, that on certain points this Bill needs considerable amendment.
My Lords, my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack reminded the House that, before we had seen this Bill, we had debated the reform of local government in London in the debate initiated by the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, on March 14 last year. In that debate I avoided, I think, the main matters of controversy between the Parties and confined myself to a single topic—the architecture and town planning of our capital city; and I mentioned what I thought were some of the minimum requirements that we must seek to secure in those spheres. I indulged, I think, in what some of my noble friends may have thought was almost excessive praise of the Architect's Department of the London County Council. Nevertheless, I have great admiration for the Architect's Department of the London County Council, and I was most anxious that the benefits that they could offer to the citizens of London should not be lost.
To-day, my Lords, I wish to deal with two related subjects. They are the provisions of the Bill dealing with transport and the provisions of the Bill dealing with town planning. Unless we get those provisions right, we shall not merely fail to use a great opportunity for improving London: we shall run a serious risk of making matters worse. Whatever our political differences, this House can, I hope, unite in improving this Bill, which will so greatly affect the future of London and the happiness of its people. If I confine myself to criticism, it is not because I question either the good intentions of Her Majesty's Government or what is valuable in these reforms; but because I think it may help Her Majesty's Government to know the matters on which some of us feel very strongly and on which we shall, in due 1157 course, be putting down Amendments, in the hope that the Government may consider these problems and, perhaps, table their own Amendments.
My Lords, I suppose that the public causes with which I have been concerned for most of my life, both in office and outside, in Parliament and in private life, have been questions of town and country planning, amenities, the influence of road policy and so forth. Let me come to my criticism of the traffic proposals of this measure. I fear that the Bill shows a fundamentally wrong approach in dealing with road traffic and highways. I do not mean because it comes at a very early stage and in a separate section, before town planning is dealt with at all. That as probably rendered necessary, from a drafting point of view, by the fact hat different Statutes are concerned when we are dealing with highways. Nevertheless, my Lords, I cannot emphasise too clearly that traffic is not a subject that can be divorced from planning. It is an essential part of planning. The planning of a great city must be a matter of teamwork between planning experts, architects, engineers and others, none of these regarding their work in isolation. In my criticisms of the traffic provisions I am in very general agreement with the Royal Institute of British Architects and some admirably well—informed leading articles in The Times of January and February.
My Lords, I greatly admired my right honourable friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government for entering the lion's den, so to speak, and addressing and debating with the Royal Institute of British Architects on January 10 of this year. I have a great deal of sympathy with my right honourable friend if this Bill started with some faults which could have been avoided had the L.C.C. given him more technical help by consultation and advice. I am not arguing why they did not do so—we may differ in this House as to whether their reasons were good or bad—but the fact that my right honourable friend had not the benefit of the advice of some local authorities who had the greatest knowledge on the subject caused the Bill, in its initial stages, to be less good than it might otherwise have been. That has been recognised by Her Majesty's Government themselves, who 1158 tabled several Amendments which were carried in another place, and who will no doubt table a number in this House.
My Lords, may I mention some of my criticisms of the traffic proposals in the Bill as it now stands? In that part of the Bill, the only thing that the Greater London Council are required to have regard to in exercising their traffic functions is—and I quote the exact words:the desirability of securing and maintaining reasonable access to premises ".Is there a noble Lord in any quarter of this House who thinks that that is the only thing that a great authority should have regard to when exercising its traffic functions? I cannot believe that there is anybody who could hold such a view. Nothing is said about the comfort or living conditions of the inhabitants whose health and happiness may be disastrously affected by the traffic scheme. I am only going to mention two or three points to give Her Majesty's Government a general idea. Let me mention the second point.
There is to be by statute, and I quote the exact words, "a director of traffic". That is one of the compulsory appointments by the Greater London Council. There is no provision for a chief planning officer; there is no provision for a chief architect. I do not doubt for one moment that Her Majesty's Government have every intention that the Greater London Council will appoint both those officers even if the two functions may be combined in a single person. But what is to be said for naming a "director of traffic" without making any provisions for a chief planning officer or a chief architect? I have read the proceedings in another place, both on the Floor of the House and in Committee, and I am aware of the arguments which suggested that the defect to which I have drawn attention is not quite so mad as it appears; but I believe that it is very nearly as mad.
I pass to the third criticism of these traffic provisions. This is one point which the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, did mention in passing. If the Greater London Council try to do their duty as a planning authority there is nothing whatever in the Bill as it stands to prevent their work being wrecked by the directions of the Minister of Transport. The only restraint on the Minister of Transport is contained in some of the most remarkable words that I have ever 1159 seen in a Bill. I doubt whether they will pass in their present form. Let me read them. The Minister of Transport must not give any direction to the Council under certain named sections—and now I come to the immortal words:unless he is satisfied that circumstances exist which make it necessary for him so to do in order that the matters aforesaid may be secured, or may be secured only, in a manner and to an extent which is proper".I suggested to my noble friend behind me that perhaps these words could be set to music. I do not know if they would then become more comprehensible.
I do not know what meaning these words convey to the minds of other noble Lords, but I would remind them that, although we do not know in the least what meaning these words will convey, either to the present Minister or to any future Minister of Transport, it does not in the least matter under the Bill what meaning they convey to anybody else. Because one thing, I think, is absolutely certain: if these words remain as they now stand, the Minister of Transport who is given these powers or, if the Government prefer, is allowed to retain them, will be able to do anything he likes in the way of direction without enabling the Greater London Authority or anybody else to call his direction in question. The Minister of Transport who is given these wrecking powers is not himself concerned under the Statutes with the quality of our environment at all. No duty is imposed on him to pay attention to the quality of our environment or the effect that his proposals will have on the health and comfort of the people; but only on the free movement of traffic and so on.
I am not going to labour my criticism of this Part. I can only say that, if we leave the traffic proposals as they now stand, they are capable of undoing every benefit to the people of London which the rest of the Bill can confer. In my long life, in which I have thought for many years about the planning of our cities, I have come to one conclusion about which I have no doubt whatever: that every problem of Her Majesty's Government in relation to London will be made more difficult and worse, and not easier and better, if districts of London in which it is at present pleasant to live become places 1160 in which it is unpleasant to live. If you so treat London that people do not even wish to live in it, and so that the main population is that which comes in in the morning and goes out in the evening, every problem you have will become more difficult. I suggest that one principle of planning to which there is scarcely an exception is that the Government and all planning authorities should treat as a first requirement that any place in which it is at present pleasant to live shall not be converted into a place in which it is unpleasant to live. That is a very simple proposition; but it is not always obeyed, even by Her Majesty's Government.
My Lords, I have seen traffic proposals for Highgate, for Chelsea and Blackheath, which, although they might help the free flow of traffic, would destroy the amenities of some of the pleasantest places in this great area in which people can now live. I say that it is our absolute duty to see that roads and road transport are put in their proper place under a great planning authority, and that transport is not treated as a thing that has nothing to do with planning. Neither the Minister nor anybody else should be given the power to wreck the best endeavours of the planning authority, whatever it may be, without any possibility of calling his action in question—except, of course, by Parliamentary question. I am not saying that there are not powers as regards transport that the Minister should have in the Greater London Area; but I am saying that, if you wish the Greater London Authority to be a great local authority, one of the greatest in the world, you cannot allow the Minister, or any Minister, to wreck the best endeavours of planning by a direction which is wholly uncontrolled.
Let me pass from the traffic provisions to those that deal with town planning. This Bill introduces for the first time a statutory division of planning powers between two planning authorities—the Greater London Authority and the London borough. That is not necessarily wrong, but it is novel and difficult. We have to be extraordinarily careful to see that the provisions dealing with this difficult and complicated system are workable and reasonably clear. Noble Lords will find these provisions in Clause 24 and the following clauses. Under Clause 24(4) and (6) the Minister has power to 1161 do various important things by regulation. Until we know something of the use he intends to make of these powers, it is difficult to see the full machinery as it will work and as it is intended to work. I can only give, from my experience of this subject, my impression at this stage. It is that the division of responsibilities is so complicated and obscure that I greatly doubt whether it can work without interminable correspondence and delays; and, if there are such interminable correspondence and delays, then the system will not satisfy the Greater London Authority, the London boroughs or the intending developers. I think that these provisions will need the closest examination.
This brings me to my final criticism—because I know how many others wish to speak; that is, the failure to provide adequately for the town planning of central London, perhaps the most famous and historic, and certainly to most of us the best loved, of all cities in the world. The problem is extraordinarily difficult. Its difficulty and importance are recognised by the Royal Commission itself, particularly in paragraph 774 of their Report. In this area of central London the boundaries of the London boroughs are almost meaningless so far as town planning is concerned. Can we possibly get a city worthy of its traditions and its name under the divided planning control of so many authorities? I do not doubt for one moment the Minister's good intentions and his desire for the right solution, but I fear that in the Bill as at present drafted the future of central London is in danger. I would remind your Lordships, if I may, that the problem of planning is not merely to prevent bad development but also to secure good development. It is very difficult to do that if the division of powers is not readily comprehensible.
There are many other points in which I am deeply interested, and with which I could deal on another occasion, but I have confined myself to these two—traffic and planning—because on both I think that the intentions of Her Majesty's Government may be good, but I am convinced that hitherto they have failed in the Bill that is now before us. I do not believe that it is beyond the power of this House, if the Government aid us and themselves draft amendments, to remedy all these matters. I differ from the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of 1162 Lambeth, and agree with the Royal Institute of British Architects, in thinking that the reform of London Government is overdue. I admire the Government's courage in tackling this matter, but I beg them not to insist on retaining the Bill as it now stands but to give attention to some of the points to which I have drawn attention.
§ 6.6 p.m.
§ BARONESS SUMMERSKILL
My Lords, I am sure that we all welcome many of the points which the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, has made, but I feel that his contribution has been concerned with the inanimate aspects of the Bill, interesting, but not so human as those with which I propose to deal. I listened with interest to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor when he made his exposition of the Bill. When it came to the question of the transfer of functions, I observed that he was a little hesitant. He was not quite sure whether it would be possible to transfer these functions in the very limited time which is given in the Bill. My noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth, who has a wonderful knowledge of these matters, read out to us the opinion of officials of the London County Council. Whatever knowledge we may have of local government—and one of the qualifications I have for speaking this afternoon is that for many years I was a member of the Middlesex County Council—I think that all of us, on both sides of the House, would agree that we should be impressed by the views of these officials of large county councils, men and women who devote their days and their years in administering these huge authorities; and I would remind your Lordships that politically they are impartial. My noble friend told us that officials of the L.C.C. warned us that there might be some serious breakdowns.
I propose to discuss this afternoon two important aspects of the working of a local authority—children in care and the mentally disabled. I am very concerned with the timetable of this Bill. I feel that it is geared to a rigid timing, which will bring hardship to the most helpless. I would remind your Lordships that there are 9,000 children in care under the L.C.C. to-day. As I read this Bill last night, I felt that it is designed to fit people into a tidy plan as expeditiously as possible. The business of a local 1163 authority is not to preoccupy itself with its boundaries and its councillors. Its primary business is to look after people. This Procrustean approach to devising a scheme, which certain doctrinaire people have come to the conclusion is the one into which people should be fitted, might enchant the planners, the tidy-minded people who cannot bear, as my noble friend said, anything but uniformity, but the plan shows little mercy for the victims.
While the Greater London authority is to be given slum clearance and rehousing powers in order to raise the standard of living, it neglects the children, the delinquents. By my definition, delinquents are not necessarily children who find themselves in a reformatory or remand home. There are also the near-delinquents who are sent to homes in London where they will be looked after carefully and observed. There are delinquents who are emotionally unstable—and emotional instability is very common, not only outside, but often inside Parliament as well. There are large numbers of children who are emotionally unstable in consequence of their upbringing. These children, those deprived of their parents, are often the by-products of the slums, and, in my opinion, in the next few years they are to be denied the benefit of the special institutions shaped to their needs. I cannot believe it is possible to transfer these functions in the short time in which it is planned.
When this Bill was debated in another place, the parents of the normal children—and by that I mean those in normal homes—made a protest. They lobbied Parliament and succeeded in securing for their normal children the postponement of the educational proposals for five years. What I am hoping is that this House, when it comes to the Committee stage, will regard the children that I have described as equally important and that noble Lords will take the place of the parents who lobbied Parliament for normal children and be prepared to safeguard the rights of these children who are taken into care.
Of course, they cannot be docketed easily and they cannot be placed administratively into pigeon-holes. There is our difficulty. In the 19th century 1164 there was little difficulty at all. If you were poor and your child was in need of care, or if you were mentally disabled, there were just two alternatives: the workhouse or the asylum. The London County Council in this century have developed a comprehensive child care service designed to meet the total needs of the children, whether they be educationally subnormal, maladjusted, physically handicapped or simply have difficulties of behaviour. Each of these children has been carefully considered and placed in a home which a most responsible committee has decided is appropriate: and some indication of the scope of the work can be seen in some of our crowded boroughs.
I hope your Lordships will forgive me if I weary you with a few figures (I do not ask you to remember them; they will be recorded in Hansard), but they will give some indication of the amount of detailed work that is necessary in order to place these children, and some indication of what must happen if there is to be an effective transfer of functions. In Lambeth there are 770 children in care. These are placed in 60 L.C.C. establishments, 40 private homes, 30 voluntary homes, 70 boarded out in inner boroughs and 111 in foster homes further afield. I will take one other crowded borough, that of Islington. Here there are 1,021 children in care. These are placed in 65 L.C.C. establishments, 65 private establishments, 43 voluntary homes, 66 children are boarded out in the inner boroughs and 205 in foster homes outside the borough. How can these new boroughs, in the short time of a few months, provide such varied accommodation? If it is decided that a radical change is called for, then let us do it gradually, in the interests of the children, and not solely in the interests of tidy local government administration.
The neglected child, the unloved child and the insecure child can be expected only slowly to regain confidence in the integrity of any adult. The adult world has betrayed the child. It will then find itself at the mercy—yes, my Lords, at the mercy—of a local authority which may be humane, just, understanding and sympathetic, or may not. But that child has lost its confidence in the adult world, and then it has been taken and sent, in Lambeth and Islington, to these various places because it has been decided that 1165 this child's form of emotional instability is such that it might settle in a foster home, but it may not settle in a bigger place. It may be now that the child's best friend, after a long time, is the child care officer, the house parent or the foster mother.
May I dare say this to your Lordships? Many of you were sent to boarding school as small boys—a custom of which your parents approved, but one which I absolutely deplore. As a small boy you may have felt in that strange world insecure, unhappy and bullied; but at least you said to yourself: "I am going home in the 'hols'". Nevertheless, that effect upon you must have remained for the whole of your lives. A child's memory is very long. Indeed, I would dare say this to your Lordships: that that experience might even have warped your own personalities; you may have become introverted and shy and may have lost confidence. Nevertheless, you had something to look forward to in the holidays. I say this because I ask your Lordships to consider the 9,000 small boys and girls in London who are completely friendless and who, as a result of this Bill, are going to have their roots pulled up, roots which have been put down in a new environment, and they are going to be directed to some new place quite quickly. It will be desperately important for a lot of people not to lose face. This has to go through; this transfer of functions must take place, although some of us say that it cannot be done in the time.
I was very depressed when I read the speech of the Minister of Health in another place. The Minister of Health was cold and calculated and discussed boundaries and tidy local authorities, but he did not deal much with the human element, with the child that has to be transferred. He said:What we shall do is to take them out of a large house and perhaps put them in 15 small houses.Somebody on the Opposition side called out to the Minister and said:Why?The Minister of Health did not understand the interjection. The humane person who interjected from the Opposition said "Why?" because he knows—and I am sure your Lordships know—that human happiness depends on right personal relations. It may be a large house; 1166 it may be a small house; it may be a palace or a cottage; but I believe the only recipe for happiness in this world is right human relationships. When the Minister of Health advocated this Bill and this policy by telling the other place that these children might be taken out of a big house and put in a small one, he failed to understand that interjection, "Why?". I have said what I have to say about the children, and I hope I have impressed upon your Lordships the need to go slowly and the importance of taking the greatest care and greatest time in regard to the transfer of these particular functions.
I come now to the mentally disabled. I have said that for some years I was a member of the Middlesex County Council. Noble Lords know that the Middlesex County Council is now to be merged into the Greater London authority and will completely lose its identity. I am interested in the work of the Middlesex County Council because I was a former member. It is significant that in an official report on the transfer of the mental health service of Middlesex, the change was described as beingthe least unsatisfactory way of dealing with the problem.This is a masterly piece of understatement. How can the new London boroughs have the expertise or the money rapidly to equip various services for the mentally disabled similar to those which have been carefully organised over the years by a large authority? May I give your Lordships an outline? When we are thinking of mental disability, do not let us forget that 50 per cent. of the beds of our hospitals in this country are filled with people suffering from some degree of mental disability. Whether it be a psychosis or a neurosis, it is necessary for them to have help. Again, I would say that in perhaps only the last forty years has psychiatry become respectable. The mind is still a closed, mysterious place, and only now are we getting glimpses of the workings of the mind, particularly of the sick mind.
For that reason, the mental health services are of primary importance to any local authority. In Middlesex the principal officers are the senior medical officer, the county psychiatric social work organiser, the administrative head 1167 and a training officer. These form a group of specialists, each with his own team of workers capable of sustaining a complete community mental health service. The growth of this service depends, of course, upon the operation of the team, and the lines of progress are carefully worked out. There are not sufficient people to break up this team into nine units which are necessary under the Bill, each capable of sustaining a complete community mental health service. For instance, among the field staff there are ten psychiatric social workers who work as a team over the whole area of Middlesex. Divided, they would provide one psychiatric social worker for each of the boroughs.
Those who do not understand this question would say, "Let us increase the establishment". Where are the others to come from? The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor to-day spoke about redundancy. If he were here I should have to apologise for being a little discourteous, but he really has not done his homework. There cannot possibly be redundancy in the mental health service. I am saying that the mental health service of Middlesex is such, because there is a shortage of workers, that it can be administered over a large area only. When we come to the psychiatric social workers—most of them are women—they are key workers, yet we have consistently neglected them and in consequence there is a universal shortage. Where are more to come from? Can we train them? That is impossible in eleven months because it takes years to train a psychiatric social worker.
Then we come to accommodation. May I remind noble Lords that it is necessary to provide sheltered workshops and day centres for the mentally ill and aged, hostels for severely subnormal children and severely subnormal adults? For the chronically mentally ill we need more hostels, as well as accommodation for the more self-sufficient mentally ill person, the aged mentally ill, and the psychopath. I have read your Lordships that list because here we have two different categories of mentally sick people who have to be provided for, not only with experts in their field, but with accommodation. Again, can the new boroughs provide a service as comprehensive as this 1168 in a comparatively short period? It seems to me—and I want to be constructive about this—that the only practical approach is to keep the skilled and experienced team of Middlesex together in order to help and guide the boroughs. It might then be possible to plan over a wide area without strict relation to the Greater London borough boundaries. Furthermore, it is of paramount importance to provide a transitional period during which the health services could be progressively delegated.
In a few years' time Conservative Members of both Houses may turn to Labour Members and say, "You see, we did do it after all". But I ask noble Lords: What delinquent child of that period could say, "I was not properly placed"? What mentally disabled person could say, "No, I was not properly placed. Nobody took any notice of me"? It just happens that we are dealing with certain groups in our society who have no power to retort at all and, therefore, for them there is a degree of hardship which cannot be assessed. They are powerless, they have no pressure groups, and their voice can never be raised in protest. Therefore, at this stage only this House can recognise that here is a problem of transition which we must deal with if we are to do these people justice.
§ 6.27 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF IDDESLEIGH
My Lords, the noble Baroness has made a singularly interesting speech on which I venture to congratulate her. Were it opportune, I should have liked to follow her into the field of child care, which is also an interest of mine. I find myself generally in agreement with many of her observations. There are certain others of her observations which I would be so daring as to dispute. Notably, I would not quite share her views about the small and the large home.
However, it is not my intention to enter into that field this afternoon. It seems more advantageous that I should offer to your Lordships a few observations from the point of view of voluntary schools. It is not, of course, for those who manage and control voluntary schools to enter into the controversial question of the principles of this Bill. It is for them to accommodate themselves to the system of local government which Parliament finds good for the country; 1169 and they will endeavour to accommodate themselves to the system which Parliament will provide in this Bill. At the same time, the representatives of the voluntary schools have at present harmonious relations with the Education Committee of the present London County Council. They have reason to be grateful for much fair and considerate treatment from the existing authority, and they naturally feel some degree of apprehension at having to deal with several entirely new bodies. They will have to deal with the Inner London Education Authority, at least until 1970, and also with a number of new boroughs; and naturally they feel some degree of apprehension as to whether they will be able to establish with those new authorities the same degree of harmony as they have with the Education Committee of the L.C.C. to-day.
It will be within the recollection of some of your Lordships that when we discussed the Royal Commission's Report last autumn the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of London made a powerful speech in that sense. As a result of consultations that have taken place between the representatives of the voluntary schools and the Ministry, and as a result of much consideration of the question in another place, a degree of protection for voluntary school interests has been afforded in Clause, 31. I speak particularly of subsection (7), which provides that there should continue to be free movement of pupils from different areas to the voluntary schools of their parents' choice. This we value, and for this we thank Her Majesty's Government.
At the same time, the right to attend school in the area of another authority is limited in value if parents are not assured of the payments of transport for their children. The Bill says nothing about the payment of transport for children in one borough of London who are attending a voluntary school in another borough; and, having regard to the high fares which public transport in London now have to charge, I must hope that Her Majesty's Government will be able to offer some reassurance on this point. I would be rather unwilling to see it left entirely to the varying discretions of the large number of local education authorities that would be established by this Bill. This is not, 1170 of course, a matter on which I can move an Amendment in Committee, since it imposes a charge upon the taxpayer and the ratepayer; but I very much hope that Her Majesty's Government will realise the importance of the point which I have made and will make provisions that will avoid considerable hardship to parents if the present satisfactory arrangements give way to less satisfactory provisions by the new L.E.A. It should also be mentioned that, though the provision for free movement protects parents within the Greater London area, those living in Kent, Surrey, Hertfordshire and Essex, beyond the limits of the new Greater London, may find that the right of free movement which they had within the whole of the former county areas is now jeopardised. The problem of the new frontiers must be seen in relation to the divisions that will be made between homes and schools.
Voluntary schools are also perturbed because, particularly at secondary level, they frequently serve wide areas, areas which will include several of the new boroughs; and these representatives of the voluntary schools anticipate that, as a result, they may face considerable difficulties over the establishment of new schools. They recognise, of course, that new development plans are to be drawn up and approved by the Minister of Education, and they wish to emphasise that it is of crucial importance that, where their schools are concerned, planning should be on a basis wider than individual boroughs, even wider than the large boroughs which this Bill will constitute, in order that minority interests may be properly provided for. But a difficulty will, I think, arise with regard to the selection of sites intended for schools which are serving more than one unit of local government, in that there may be reluctance on the part of any one borough to provide a site for a voluntary school with which it is only partly concerned. There may be a feeling that, while the borough will participate in a scheme for a voluntary school, yet that voluntary school should be constituted elsewhere. Here is another matter on which we must rely on ministerial protection.
I have already alluded to the areas excluded from the County of London, and in many cases the problems created by the new frontiers will be very serious. Surrey, for example, has, as a matter of 1171 policy, taken up very substantial numbers of free places at independent and direct-grant grammar schools which has made it unnecessary to build aided grammar schools in certain areas. Parents have had to plan the education of their children on the basis of this policy, and the schools in question have undertaken financial commitments on the assumption that it would continue. It may be that some of the new authorities will continue this policy while others will not. The results of not continuing this policy will fall hardly on parents and schools, and the fact that there is no assurance of a consistent policy among the authorities will place great difficulty in the way of alternative plans.
These are matters, my Lords, on which I hope to receive some reassurance from Her Majesty's Government, and I shall feel that I have not wasted my time if I have persuaded Her Majesty's Government that they are at least important problems, and that they will affect a very considerable number both of the inhabitants of the new London and of the counties which are to be deprived of a part of their territory in the course of the scheme.
§ 6.37 p.m.
§ LORD STRATHCLYDE
My Lords, it is seldom that a Scottish Member of your Lordships' House intrudes in a Second Reading debate on a Bill which, at any rate at first sight, would appear to be solely concerned with English interests. In this case, however, as I see it, other interests are concerned, and it is for that reason that I would crave the indulgence of your Lordships for a few minutes. The sole matter to which I wish to draw attention relates to the provisions in the Bill governing the audit of the accounts of the 34 London boroughs proposed to be established under the Bill. At present, according to the best of my information, 19 of these 34 boroughs are wholly or mainly composed of authorities who, under the Local Government Act, 1933, have the option of having their accounts audited by either district auditors or professional accountants. As the law stands then, they have the right to choose between district and professional audit. The Bill proposes that that choice should be taken from them and that in future they should be compelled to accept district audit whether they like it or not.
1172 I would observe, in passing, that, other things apart, it seems to me to be somewhat strange that a Conservative Government which consistently and constantly emphasise their belief in local government, and that they place implicit trust in the local authorities, should at this time seek to restrict their freedom of choice in this respect, and the only logical conclusion that would seem to be able to be drawn from that will be obvious to your Lordships. Certainly it does not accord with their professions; that is, that they can trust the local authorities to act at all times in the best interests of their constituents.
I do not propose to enter into the respective merits of these two forms of audit. To embark on such a course might well lead to the deployment of highly controversial arguments which would do no one any good and which well might become acrimonious and permanently embitter relations between those concerned. I am accordingly going to assume that each form of audit is as good as the other, and I hope that course may commend itself to those of your Lordships who may speak on this matter. I would, however, say this. In the country as a whole 399 county boroughs and non-county boroughs have the option which the Bill proposes to deny to the new London boroughs, and of those 399 authorities 251 have exercised their option in favour of professional audit, while 148 have chosen the district auditor.
I have seen the correspondence which since last July has passed between the Minister of Housing and Local Government and his Ministry, on the one hand, and the President of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, on the other, who in this matter is acting for and on the authority of not only his own Institute but also the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Scotland, the Association of Certified and Corporate Accountants and the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland. In the correspondence the Minister puts forward certain arguments which induce him to favour this alteration in the law, many of which arguments, I must say quite candidly, are to my mind quite untenable.
This is not the time to argue this matter in detail; that time will come at 1173 a later stage. But I do want to place on record what the accountancy profession ask. It is that, where the existing law allows a choice, the right of that choice should not be withdrawn but should be continued. Surely that is not too much to ask the Government to concede. What is it that the Government fear? Do they fear that these newly constituted boroughs will opt for professional audit and thus create unemployment among a body of admirable public servants? And why on this small issue the Government should go out of their way to antagonise a great profession is indeed difficult to understand. I do beg of them not to do it, but to think again. My hope is that, when the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor gives the reply, he will at least be able to assure the House that this matter will receive further and more sympathetic consideration than his right honourable friend has hitherto given it, and thus allow me to escape from what I can only regard as a very awkward predicament.
§ 6.44 p.m.
§ LORD CROOK
My Lords, I am proud of having been born a Cockney, but for the last 35 years I have been living in an urban district of Surrey, a small urban district gathered round village ponds, a self-contained community which has been in existence long enough to have been noted in the Domesday Book. Its name of Carshalton is itself derived from ponds and water, "a place on the water"; and the river Wandle still flows from Carshalton down to the Thames. The old church, worshipped in by Anne Boleyn, is there by the ponds, part of the central area next to the old estates which were bought by wise local councils in the past. They used the houses as part of the local equivalent of the town hall, making the grounds into an excellent park. They also bought the Oaks Estate, after which the race is named, and which forms part of the Green Belt around London. We know nothing of London except that we have trains to go to it. Nothing has happened, so far as we know, to justify what has suddenly come upon us; that we are to be made part of a Greater London borough called Borough No. 21. It has no reality; it has no relationship to its neighbours; it has no convenient means 1174 of transport among the three sections which will make up the new borough.
Why is it being done? I do not know. I have never really known why this is happening to some of the urban districts of Surrey. I have heard all the arguments about the London County Council and so on. It is for this reason, with all due respect to what the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack said about informed opinion, that I rise here to-day to support the informed Tory opinion of the County of Surrey, that this is a thoroughly bad Bill which ought not to be passed. I put myself now, as I have done throughout this business, behind the rather courageous Tory in the other place, with whose views on everything, from drink to traffic, I do not agree, but who has shown an integrity and a courage, and the courage of his convictions, in voting each time, on Second and Third Reading, against this Bill and on leading the Conservative County Council of Surrey against this Bill throughout the whole period. I am talking of Sir Cyril Black.
§ LORD SOMERS
May I interrupt the noble Lord for a moment? I may say that I know Carshalton quite well, and live not far from it. Would he not admit that one must move with the times? After all, there was a time when Kensington was a little village miles from London. Would he have kept Kensington separate?
§ LORD CROOK
I do not in the least mind the noble Lord's interruption, but if he had allowed me to develop my point he would have found that I was going on to say that I believe we must all move with the times and do certain things; and I was even going to suggest what the Government should have done, instead of trying to "steamroller" this Bill through against the informed opinion of the localities who object to it.
I have joined throughout the campaign of the Tory majority in the Surrey County Council, together with all my Labour colleagues in the country. London was not the only county that submitted this question to the electorate. The noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, told us how the London County Council, in their election campaign, had deliberately made the whole question of the Royal Commission Report a subject for the voters' consideration; and to the credit 1175 of both Parties in Surrey the same thing happened there. And, just as the London County Council Labour majority went back pledged against this scheme, so the Conservative Surrey County Council went back similarly pledged. There has never been any attempt at real consideration of what the people of the counties thought or wanted; that is my reply to the noble Lord who asked me a question just now.
There has never been the slightest attempt to get a round-table gathering. Indeed, the honourable gentleman to whom I have referred in another place had a cynical or sarcastic comment to offer when he reminded the Government that, had London been an island in the Mediterranean or the West Indies, there would have been a round-table conference a long time ago. Members of the Government would have been commuting out to the little island, and sending planes to bring people here, in order that the round-table conference might discuss what was best in the interests of all concerned. But the informed opinion of Surrey, Essex, Middlesex, Kent and London has never been brought round a table like that. They are not a little island; they are, I think, about a quarter of the population of this country.
What is more, those of your Lordships who have read what happened in another place will probably have noted, as I have, how little attention was ever given to a county such as Surrey, for which I am deliberately speaking this afternoon. Indeed, the only real comment about the county that I could find was by a Back Bencher. the honourable Member for Putney, a good friend of many of us, who said:It may be necessary to ask people living in Surrey to make certain sacrifices for the larger community of which they are a part.One already knows of a great amount of sacrifice made by the county of Surrey, and by everybody living in it at the moment, from looking at the terms of this Bill, which take away from the county 40 per cent. of the population and 43 per cent. of its rateable value.
As I said in reply to the noble Lord opposite, I am not so foolish as to think that change does not have to take place. I am not so foolish as to suggest that there should not be sacrifices for the common 1176 good. But I want to see justification. So far as I am concerned, this Bill destroys. I do not know that it erects anything worth while as a structure in place of what it destroys. It creates, and has already created, confusion, and if it becomes an Act it will, as some of my noble friends have already said, take years before it can be put into effective operation. It will remove local government as we in Surrey have known it, from a lively contact with the people to something that is quite remote.
In my own district, which is to be part of the new nameless borough No. 21, administration will have to come not from the centre, but from some distant and remote part of the area cut off from many by transport difficulties. The new local councillors will be representing huge areas. They will be out of touch with the electorate. They will have no real knowledge of other parts of their sprawling borough—a borough called into being not because of a community of interests or of local tradition, but solely because it suits a formula, as others of my noble friends have said, of the numbers and the people to be lumped together in an amalgamation of existing units of administration. There will be no regard had to existing schemes and none to the ability to administer. The big county boroughs of the present day are single places which have grown up over the years with the business and civic centre in the middle. But adding together two or three local communities and districts of this kind will not produce a new borough at all.
Finally, I say, what do we know of the cost of this grandiose thing that is going to be pushed upon us? I have not remembered any comment so far this afternoon about this. None of us knows what the cost is going to be. The Royal Commission made no attempt to try to tell us what it thought it would cost, and the Government have made no attempt to tell us, either. Whether the Bill goes through in its present form, or whether it is amended as the result of some of the efforts which I hope some of my colleagues will make, it will not be a Bill which will produce an Act of which any of us can be proud. The Government have no real support for this plan. Lord Morrison of Lambeth had something to say about mandates. Perhaps, before I sit down, I may recall the first reference 1177 to mandates that I ever heard when I came into this House. It came from the then Leader of the Opposition, the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, who in 1948 said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 158, col. 212.]:The people were never consulted on it, and it could be justified only by some evidence of desperate need in its favour.We have no evidence of desperate need for this Bill. I shall vote against this Bill to-morrow, and on every occasion on which there is a Division.
§ 6.55 p.m.
My Lords, like the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, I shall address myself to the mentally subnormal and mentally ill, and I should like to say here that, for once at any rate, I entirely agree with what she has said although I come to some slightly different conclusions. The services for the mentally subnormal and mentally ill are to be handed over lock, stock and barrel to the Greater London boroughs, and I hope to prove to your Lordships that this is not in the best interests of either the children or the adults. The Mental Health Act, 1959, put the mentally subnormal on the first rung of the ladder of progress, and since then services have improved, surely, if only slowly; but it cannot be said that these services are adequate, and there are still waiting lists both for hospitals and for training facilities. Those of us who take a keen interest in this work have watched with deep gratitude and, I may say, with patience, the improvement in the understanding of and assistance to these unfortunate people. To my mind, it is quite clear that progress will be materially halted if the responsibility for the mentally subnormal is decentralised to the Greater London boroughs without—and I repeat, without—direction from the Greater London Council.
The main services in Greater London are at present administered by the London County Council and the Middlesex County Council, and it is indeed a fact that these two County Councils are far in advance of others throughout the country in carrying out the spirit of the Act. In general, the services are, as the noble Baroness has said, administered by the county medical officers, naturally under the direction of the County Council and the Minister of Health. The county 1178 medical officer has a mental health department, and the finance to run his programme emanates from the county council, which allows for far-reaching planning. There are plans for a great expansion, which is undoubtedly required if the services are to be brought in any way into line with those provided under the National Health scheme for normal people. I cannot see how the Greater London boroughs can finance the present, and far less the future, services which are so urgently required without assistance from a central body.
I would here ask my noble friend the first question of which I have given him notice—namely, what are Her Majesty's Government's plans for financing the services to the mentally subnormal and the mentally ill in Greater London? Maybe I shall be told that the county boroughs throughout England do finance these services; but, frankly, I am not impressed with this argument, as, with a few notable exceptions, no outstanding services have been achieved by these bodies. It is possible that the Greater London boroughs will get together and pool their resources in order to achieve a reasonable service; but I am far from satisfied that, without assistance from above, a really good service will emanate.
Before turning to a more detailed examination of the problems that the Greater London boroughs will face, I should like to say a few words on the training of teachers. The Scott Report, which goes in detail into the training of teachers for the mentally handicapped, has been most definite on the necessity for this training and how it should be carried out. At the present time the training of teachers has been carried out by the National Association for Mental Health, who run a one-year course and give a diploma, and the Middlesex County Council, who run their own course of two years. The Scott Report shows that at December 31, 1959, 2,149 persons were employed in training centres, of whom 1,466 had no relevant qualification. The Report also recommends that courses of two years' training should be provided in places approved by a Central Training Council. The mentally handicapped have the right to be educated within the ceiling of their ability, and there can be no doubt whatever that teachers must be trained if the best results are to be achieved.
1179 This brings me to my second question. As the Middlesex County Council will disappear, is it the intention of Her Majesty's Government to rely solely on the National Association for Mental Health for the training of teachers, or do they propose to implement in some way the Scott Report with some form of central control? In my opinion the training of teachers cannot possibly be carried out with success on a county borough basis; it would be a mere waste of effort. It is essential that this teacher training should be carried out, and it is only a matter for the Government to decide on which method they propose to adopt. Either the training should be left in the hands of the National Association (which, in spite of the great work they do, is not sufficient); or the training should come under the Greater London Council, which would draw their students from Greater London.
I should now like to turn to the Greater London boroughs. I have already stated my belief that overall finance and training should be in the hands of a central body, and here I must state my belief that teachers, mental welfare officers and psychiatric social workers should feel that they belong to the borough, and hence should be employed by the borough.
I turn now to the difficulties, as I see them, which will occur if the service is fully decentralised. I propose to base my arguments, as did the noble Baroness, on Middlesex, the county with which I have been most concerned, although my daughter is now under the auspices of the London County Council. First of all, I should like to speak about the junior training centres for mentally subnormal children under sixteen. In Middlesex these centres, amounting to eight in number, have been strategically spaced where land and housing were available to serve the whole county. Under the new scheme in the area which was Middlesex there will be three training centres in one borough, two in another, and no centres at all in two boroughs. Frankly, I do not see great difficulty arising from this situation, so long as boroughs work in with each other; but there will be difficulties in finance and in regard to buses picking up children from another borough and bringing them to school. Let us not forget 1180 that it is obligatory for parents to send their children to school; hence some arrangement must be worked out.
I turn now to adult training centres, which is a far more difficult problem. It is hoped that at the age of sixteen the child will be trained in personal cleanliness and in those things which make a child ready to face the outside world. But it is unlikely that he or she will be able to travel alone, or take up a job in industry. It is at this stage that the adult training centre must take over and train the mentally handicapped to do simple jobs and earn money. The future visualises adult training centre with hostels for those who for various reasons have no home, and sheltered workshops in order to teach them simple trades. In Middlesex there are six such centres, one of which is Brentford, which at the moment serves what will be six boroughs. There will be two centres in two boroughs, and none in four. These centres need to be large to make economical use of coaches, to allow expensive machinery to be used to best advantage, and to provide a wide variety of work in a factory setting capable of undertaking competitive contract work, and located in or near factory estates. I cannot see that it is possible to provide these centres on a county borough basis. If we are to keep these people gainfully employed and out of hospital, plans must be made on a central basis for adult training courses.
Lastly, my Lords, I would say one word about the aged. Future plans envisage sizable day centres for the aged mentally ill to prevent the tragic admission of so many old people to psychiatric hospitals. As the catchment area will be wide, it is hard to envisage any such service on a Greater London borough basis. It is vitally important as a service, and central planning seems clearly to be required. To sum up, my Lords, I am convinced that this young, vital and glowing service to our citizens and their families will inevitably be retarded unless central control is placed in the hands of the Greater London Council, who should have a medical officer in charge, and the field staff should belong to the borough. Training of teachers must be under the Greater London Council unless Her Majesty's Government are prepared to implement the Scott Report. Naturally, I feel very strongly about the case of the mentally subnormal, and I trust that 1181 the Government will make quite certain that their future is assured. I cannot believe that, with all good intentions—and, indeed, there are good intentions—their future under the Greater London boroughs will be what they deserve or desire.
§ 7.7 p.m.
§ LORD TAYLOR
My Lords, I should like first to endorse what the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, has so movingly said to us. I believe that every word he said is correct. I believe also that the difficulties of doing this sort of work have not yet been properly faced or realised by Her Majesty's Government. I have lived for about twenty years in two North London working-class boroughs, and over those years those boroughs have changed out of all recognition—changed for the better in almost every respect. And almost all of those changes have been due to the London County Council and its work as an education and housing authority. Now, this work is to be stopped, to be undone, for what one can only conclude are very poor reasons indeed.
I have watched the two-tier system of government at work, and if one observes it and studies what has happened with two-tier systems of local government over a period of fifty years or so, one sees that it inevitably happens that the functions of the lower tier are transferred increasingly to the higher tier, because it is the only way to get the job done efficiently. We have seen that happen with the health services, the hospitals, the schools; and I am absolutely certain that, if this Greater London Authority is created, it will in due course take over a large number of functions which are now being allocated, quite wrongly, to the boroughs. There are certain functions which could properly go to the boroughs, as Lord Grenfell has mentioned, but there are many for which they are quite unsuitable.
I have lived mainly in a very large borough which is hardly having anything added to it at all, the Borough of Islington, to which will be added 33,000 people in the Borough of Finsbury. So, in fact, Islington will be a prototype Greater London borough. My Lords, this does not honestly fill me with enthusiasm. Although it has been a Labour-governed borough, I do not think this is the sort 1182 of way in which we ought to run London. Had we not had the London County Council, with its very high calibre of officers and, if I may say so, also its very high calibre of members, to govern London and to provide the social services that London needs, we should not have got the services we now have.
I do not believe that the Government have thought about this Greater London Council at all seriously, for it is creating here a government for a regional authority. It is creating a government which will look after a greater population than the population of Sweden, for example. Yet it is circumscribing it and giving it what I can only describe as half-baked powers. It is giving it different powers in different areas for no good reason, except that it has found itself in an appalling muddle. Why should it be improper for the borough of Islington and Finsbury to run an education service, when it is not improper for the combined borough of Hornsey, Wood Green and Tottenham to run an education service? I can see no reason whatever for this. It seems insanity to me to give a full-scale education service to either, and it will be disastrous. Indeed, in the one case the powers are not given to the borough of Islington and Finsbury combined, but retained with this peculiar Committee for Education in Central London. There is no rhyme or reason for it.
Is this great authority going to function like a local authority, or is it going to function like a regional Parliament? Is it going to have the conventional committee system of the local authority, or is if going to have a Cabinet system like a regional Parliament? Is it going to have a Question Time? It might be a very good thing if it did have a Question Time. But if it is going to be a sort of regional government, then it ought to have powers to make the major regional decisions, but more and more it seems to me deprived of them.
The noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, referred to the extraordinary decision in connection with auditors. We have the strange provisions wherein some chief officers are specified and other chief officers are not. Your Lordships will know that, in the passage of the Bill 1183 through the House of Commons, a requirement was put in that the new boroughs should appoint chief architects. We can be quite sure why that was done; it was done because the architects of Britain were so dismayed at the dismantling of the first-class architectural department which the London County Council have built up, and because it was known that many boroughs did not have architects but used borough surveyors instead; and one can, when one sees some of the borough buildings, realise the tragedy of this. Indeed, when one compares borough building with London County Council building, I am afraid it is going to be a very sorry sort of London that we are going to see growing up in the future, from the housing point of view.
There is one last point on the general theme, and that is the question of payment of members of this Council. Personally, I think they should be paid. I am a member of a New Town Development Corporation and I am paid £500 a year. I personally think it is right that the members of a regional authority should be paid—but this is something that has not been properly discussed or considered—because many of them will inevitably be working far away from their homes. They will be having to travel in from this considerable scatter, or they may be working in their boroughs as well as living in their boroughs, and I think the Council will be functioning much more like a regional Parliament than a conventional local authority.
Now just a few words about the health services. I think they can be split without serious disadvantage. Indeed, the London County Council proposed to delegate certain of them to the borough councils, and in my opinion rightly proposed to do so, but then were stopped from doing so by Her Majesty's present Government, which was a pity. I think the things that can properly be delegated to the boroughs, and can desirably be delegated, are the local authority clinics for maternity and child welfare, the home nursing services and the health visitors—they are non-specialised services—and, indeed, the provision of health centres, general practitioner premises and group practice premises. Those are all things which can be properly delegated. In the case of school medical services, there is 1184 not the slightest doubt that these should remain with the school authorities, whatever they are. To separate them is just ridiculous.
When one comes to specialised extra-hospital care, there the bigger the unit the better; and, indeed, it is essential that there should be big units. As your Lordships know, when the question arose of what were the proper units for hospital services, it was decided that they must be Regional Hospital Boards, very large areas indeed, in order that there could be adequate and proper specialisation. It is precisely the same with the specialised local authority services, of which one of the most important is that of which the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, was speaking—the care of those who are suffering from mental subnormality, whether as children or as adults. To take this away and put it into these borough councils, and not to concentrate it in the major authority, would be tragic and a grave mistake.
I do not think this proposal has been studied as it ought to have been studied. It is just an exercise in map drawing, so far as I can see. My noble friend Lord Crook spoke of Carshalton. If you look at the map, of course Carshalton fits in neatly—that is all there is in it. At the other side of London is the constituency which I used to represent—namely, Barnet. It is now represented by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer. I was a little tickled to get a letter from the Barnet Urban District Council, asking me whether I would oppose their inclusion in the Greater London Council area.
§ LORD TAYLOR
As informed opinion, as my noble friend Lord Crook says. I do not know what their present Member of Parliament is doing, but I propose to oppose the inclusion of Barnet, for old time's sake, if for no other reason. I am only sorry that they do not seem to have obtained the measure of vigorous representation that they ought to have in this matter from their own Member of Parliament.
I do not want to say any more, my Lords. I think this is a tragedy, a tragedy of major magnitude, and something which I hoped would never happen and I hope will never happen. But if it does 1185 happen, then, for goodness sake! let us make sure that the new Greater London Council has the proper powers to do for the people of Greater London the proper job which must be done for the future.
§ 7.20 p.m.
§ LORD AUCKLAND
My Lords, it is inevitable that a Bill of this nature should be very controversial, and it should be recognised at once that opposition to it or to certain parts of it is not confined to one Party. I propose, in my contribution to this Second Reading debate, to be somewhat parochial, because the Committee stage is bound to be long and it cannot be guaranteed that we shall all be in our places when the relevant Amendments come up for discussion. But I will try to keep my speech on as general a basis as possible.
My remarks will be devoted to the County of Surrey, where I have lived since 1954. From 1954 to 1957 I lived in Stoneleigh, which is one of the parts of Surrey which is being pushed into the Greater London Council. Epsom is in fact about the only borough concerned in this Bill which is being truncated in the manner which I am going to describe. Three complete wards are being sliced off and pushed into Greater London: they are being merged with the county town of Kingston. I should have thought that Kingston had enough on its plate, without having slices of Epsom. I have likened this operation to one by a surgeon who says to his patient, "I am going to amputate two legs." The patient then protests, and the surgeon eventually says, "Well, all right; I will amputate only one." Because originally, my Lords, four wards were going to be taken away from Epsom, but an interview with the then Minister of Housing obtained a partial reprieve. Nevertheless, there is a great deal of concern in this town.
Now, it should not be thought that the people of Epsom have looked on this matter with disinterest. In fact, the converse is true. On March 7, 1962, a meeting was held in the Baths Hall at Epsom which was attended by over a thousand people. This meeting was not sponsored by the local council, which is Conservative controlled, but by residents of the borough. It was addressed by the Member of Parliament for Epsom, my right honourable friend 1186 Sir Peter Rawlinson, who has done much to save at least a good deal of this borough from extinction so far as Surrey is concerned; also by Mr. Chuter Ede, who is a Charter Mayor of Epsom, and who has done very valuable services for the town; and by several local councillors. When the vote was taken, it was unanimously decided that Epsom and Ewell wished to stay as it now is—completely in Surrey. I recognise that petitions do not always make effective government. One can obtain five hundred thousand petitions for the reprieve of a murderer, but it does not mean that the murderer should necessarily be spared the rope, or some other punishment. But this was a sane meeting. It was restrained; it was addressed without any Party bent; and the points put forward were all eminently sound. These meetings have been held not only in Epsom, not only in Surrey, but in many of the affected counties, with similar results.
Out of the number of people interviewed in Epsom and Ewell, somewhere in the region of 96 per cent. have opted to stay in Surrey, and only 2 per cent. wish to go into London. The wards that it is proposed should go into the Greater London Authority are Stoneleigh, Cuddington and Ewell Court. Here, an immediate difficulty occurs—and I should like to ask the noble Lord in charge of the relevant part of this Bill to consider the point I am now going to make before the next stage of the Bill, because in Committee Amendments are going to be moved to stop the inclusion of Epsom in the Greater London Council. Ewell Court House is situated in what will become, if this Bill becomes law, the area of the Greater London authority. It is the headquarters of the Parks Committee, and a number of the local welfare services, also, are housed there. Many of the people who use these services, such as clinics and other things, will, under the Bill, still live in the area which will be in Surrey. In other words, there will be some people in the proposed Greater London area and some in the Surrey area using it; and, as I see it, there will be a great deal of muddle and misunderstanding if this proposal goes through. I should like the noble Lord to consider this point.
The other point concerns the Parks Committee. Epsom has a number of very 1187 attractive parks, and all the hothouse plants and other exhibits are kept in Ewell Court House. What happens to these plants? Will the Greater London authority be empowered to exercise complete influence, or will the Epsom Council, the Council for that part of the area which will still remain in Epsom, be permitted some say as to where the plants can be put and how their park gardens can be kept? This is an important point and it concerns the local council very much—and also, of course, the employees in that particular section of it.
Under the Bill 27 per cent. of the total population will be lost to Surrey, and a great deal of the rateable value will be lost. This brings me to Clause 68 of the Bill. I believe that the Government are giving further consideration to this clause, because as it stands at present the allowances on the new rating are based on the old assessments, whereas on new assessments areas are going to be hit very hard. I would therefore ask the Government to look at Clause 68 and see whether more equitable terms can be given to the areas affected by this Bill. Moreover, a good deal of the catchment area for Epsom Hospital comes from areas now affected by this Bill, and it should not be thought that Epsom or Ewell is a kind of suburb of London. Far from it! Epsom and Ewell have long histories. Stoneleigh was built in the main only in 1936, and there are still a number of rural areas round there. Only yesterday I toured with the Town Clerk of Epsom the areas affected by this Bill. In the Hogsmill district particularly, there is a large area of Green Belt, and I should like to ask the Minister what the proposals are regarding the Green Belt land in the area affected by this Bill. Can a guarantee be given that it will be preserved? Because there is a good deal of local concern as to what is going to happen.
As regards education, a number of towns outside the proposed area in the Epsom constituency, Leatherhead, Fetcham and Ashtead, are affected educationally by this Bill because Epsom is a local education authority headquarters. Will there be free movement for children who will be living in the Greater London area to continue their studies in the schools in which they are at present, if those schools are in the Surrey area? I 1188 have been critical of this part of the Bill, but the Bill as a whole has a good deal to commend it. But even at this late hour, I would ask the Government to look again at the proposal regarding Epsom and Ewell, because it seems quite unnecessary to truncate this borough as has been done. It is surely possible to leave Stoneleigh, Cuddington and Ewell Court in Epsom, where they have far more affinity than with Kingston. I will support the Second Reading of this Bill, but when it comes to the Committee stage I and a number of my noble friends will have some critical remarks to make, certainly regarding Surrey.
§ 7.35 p.m.
VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS
My Lords, I join with my noble friend Lord Auckland in supporting this Bill on its Second Reading, in just the same way as I supported Her Majesty's Government when the White Paper was discussed in March of last year. On that occasion I disagreed with the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth; and, if I may be so bold, I do so, with one exception, again to-day. But, now that your Lordships have seen the Bill, it is no longer so much a matter of general approbation as of dealing with the contents of the Bill itself. I can promise your Lordships I will be brief, but I want to mention two matters already raised before the House by two of my noble friends.
The first is the point to which my noble friend Lord Strathclyde referred, the matter of audit. The apparently innocuous words in paragraph 28 of Schedule 4 say that Section 239 of the Local Government Act, 1933, shall not apply to a London borough. This apparently simple little phrase has aroused an enormous amount of indignation among the accountancy profession. The difference between district and professional audit is, as I understand it, an historical one; and some sorts of local authority have the choice of either, while others are allowed only to have a district audit. It so happens in this Bill that the local authorities which previously were part of the counties of Middlesex, Kent, Essex and Surrey, all had, or have now, the option to choose between district and professional audit, whereas the metropolitan boroughs have never had this choice, and have always been entirely governed 1189 by a district audit. It also so happens that, of the boroughs and urban districts which had the choice, not many have taken it, and most of their audits are, in fact, carried out by district auditor. On the other hand, the fact that so many other local authorities have chosen professional audit does, I think, underline what my noble friend said: that there is at least as much merit in that system even if there are differences from the system of district audit. Therefore, it seems a strange thing that in this Bill, which is not really a local government Bill, per se, Her Majesty's Government should have chosen to take away the choice from those authorities which now have it.
As I understand ii, the argument which the Minister has previously put forward is that he is doing so in order to maintain the status quo. This is clearly not true, because he is taking away a choice where it previously existed. Equally, the alternative (this is the only way in which it is possible to be consistent in the alternative and give a choice to everybody) is not to maintain the status quo either, because that would mean extending the choice to those boroughs which previously did not have it. If I have to choose between the two, I should have the choice extended to all, rather than see it taken away from those authorities that previously had it. If it should so happen later that the two points which I think, technically, do raise difficulties in professional audit have to be put right, this is not the Bill to deal with it. Clearly, there should be some local government measure for that purpose.
The two points where professional audit seems to have certain disadvantages are, first, that the professional auditor has not the power to surcharge or to disallow expenses—a fact which might in some cases be a serious disadvantage to the ratepayers of the authority concerned. The second difficulty is that there is no system of public inspection of the accounts of the professional auditor, whereas the ratepayers can see the district auditor's accounts. Both these two points are satisfactorily dealt with by professional auditors in Scotland, and I see no reason why the good sense which prevails North of the Border should not come South.
The other point concerns the matter of planning—and I wish to refer briefly 1190 to what my noble and learned friend Lord Conesford said on this. I was glad that my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor stated in his opening speech the general proposition on planning by saying that it was for the Greater London Council to do the strategic planning, while the London boroughs were to fill in the details and exercise day-to-day control, subject to safeguards that would see that the general plan is carried out. Of course, this matter of planning really falls into two halves. The first part of it is the submission of the development plan itself, which is the blueprint for the development of the entire district. I think there is very little doubt that under the Bill the broad outlines will be done by the Greater London Council, and submitted to and approved by the Minister, whereafter the boroughs will fill in the details and send the plan up to be approved by the Greater London Council; thence it will go to the Minister for final approval. In that way the whole thing will be filled in.
However, I think it is important that the Greater London Council should deal with the right things when it deals with general policy. No doubt it will have an eye to office policy, to things like plot ratio and parking facilities which have to be provided in new buildings, and it may be also that the point of my noble friend Lord Conesford about how to integrate traffic with development is something that would be of general application and could be part of the written statement of the development plan as put forward by the Greater London Council. But when it comes to development control, which is the second half, this Bill is much more complex. Here I agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, said, that there is a great deal to be said for concurrent powers in planning; that there seems to be a mix-up in this Bill and that the whole thing ought to be clarified.
In fact, there is nothing novel about concurrent powers in the field of town and country planning, there are delegated powers not only from county councils to county districts but also to area committees—for instance, in Surrey there are numbers of area committees—so that applications may be made first of all through the urban district and, if approved by them, or indeed disapproved 1191 by them, go on to the area committee and thus to the council itself. So there is nothing new in having a three-tier system to deal with planning applications. This could be made to work, but only if it is a clear-cut system; if it is made perfectly evident which are the applicants which are dealt with by whom and, above all, if by the time the application has gone through the whole rigmarole and perhaps reached even the fourth stage of the Minister, the whole thing is not so cluttered up with amendments because of smaller matters of detail that months or years have elapsed since the application was first put in.
I am bound to say that when I look at the provisions of Clauses 24(4) and (6), which appear to me to be either inconsistent or overlapping, or both, I wonder exactly whether this clarity is going to be achieved in the allocation of which matters are going to be dealt with by the boroughs and which by the Greater London Council. Perhaps it is slightly out of date now, but in Sir Edwin Herbert's Royal Commission's Report it was said that the London County Council was dealing with 12,000 planning applications a year. If we consider the number that is going to be dealt with by the Greater London Council, we realise the figure is simply astronomical. It is perfectly clear that, if the strategic planning is something the Greater London Council is intended to do, it certainly cannot deal also with even a fraction of the applications which come in from its area. Therefore, I fully support the idea that the London boroughs should be the best authority as a rule to deal with applications in their area. I do not think that there is anything in the Bill which confuses this issue or takes away their power.
However, when it comes to the central area, I am not so sure. My noble friend Lord Conesford thought that there might be different considerations here and this might well be so. In Sir Edwin Herbert's Report, the whole of this problem is fully discussed, not only in paragraph 774, but in paragraphs 772 and 773 as well. An enormous number of possibilities were considered. While I am talking about this Report, I would say that I very much deprecate Lord Morrison of Lambeth's attack upon the chairman of this Royal Commission. If 1192 there is anybody I know who would not descend to Party politics on an issue like this, it seems to me that Sir Edwin Herbert is the man, and I have the greatest faith in the contents of this Report and in the absence of any political motive being put into it.
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, if the noble Viscount will excuse me, I must say on behalf of my noble friend that I entirely agree with him. For a Royal Commission of this kind, dealing with an area which has been governed by a Labour majority for tens of years, to have Labour practically unrepresented on the Commission and for the Commission to be presided over by a Conservative chairman is an anomaly. I think that it is even worse. It is gerrymandering of the worst type.
VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS
My Lords, the noble Earl and I disagreed about this the last time, and I am afraid I disagree again. I do not think that Sir Edwin Herbert would describe himself as a Conservative. I know him very well and I am sure he would be particularly careful to avoid that.
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
Why were there not Labour representatives on this Royal Commission, in view of the circumstances? Why were there not?
VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS
It is no use the noble Earl asking me that. I am merely stating my confidence in the chairman of this Commission and in what he has produced.
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
That only reduces my confidence in the Government to be trusted on such a matter as this.
VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS
It increases my confidence in this Commission that there should be a chairman of the calibre of Sir Edwin Herbert. I cannot take it any further, but I do deprecate what the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, said. To return to what I was saying, in these paragraphs there are a large number of ideas about the sort of things which might be dealt with by the Greater London Council. I am not thinking only of the central area but of all over the Greater London area. No doubt your Lordships 1193 will immediately think of high buildings, but it is not only a matter of high buildings overshadowing Royal Parks or this Palace, but also of high buildings in places like Hampstead or the Crystal Palace, which are equally important, and must perhaps be dealt with outside the local authority concerned. Apart from that, there are things like comprehensive development areas and neighbourhoods of through-traffic routes.
I do not think that there is any case for complete centralisation of the central area. Indeed, the Report makes it clear that it is impossible at any one time to define permanently the central area of London. Obviously, this is something which would have to be done by regulation, which would have to be changed from time to time. But there will be no merit whatever in appointing general architectural and planning staffs in boroughs, and not only in peripheral boroughs but also in boroughs like Westminster and the City of London, unless we are going to give them something constructive and worthwhile to do. If we want to get architectural staffs of the necessary calibre, we must avoid the mistake of making so many regulations, taking away powers from these central boroughs, that there will be nothing left for them but shop-fronts and fenestration questions—if that.
Finally, the whole conception of this Bill has been that there should be joint responsibility between the two sets of authorities, the Greater London Council and the London boroughs. I am sure that this can be worked out in the planning field, as in every other, but so much will depend upon the regulations and so little can be seen from the Bill as it stands. Of course, there will be good will, and everybody will try to make it work, but we must try to avoid a hopeless bog-down, in which applications go shuttling from one body to the other and nobody knows who is to deal with what. I think that it would be no bad thing if Her Majesty's Government would say something, during the course of the Bill, about how they envisage this joint concurrent planning will work when it comes into operation. Then there will be some possibility that your Lordships will be able to examine it properly at this stage, before we get to regulations which we cannot amend. However, perhaps my noble friend Lord Hastings will be able 1194 to say something about this to-morrow. With those words, I commend this Bill to your Lordships; I support it, and I hope it will pass.
§ 7.50 p.m.
§ LORD REITH
My Lords, only one short remark from me at this time of day, and that is of cordial and unreserved support of the observations made by the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, and the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, by way of protest at the exclusion of the professional auditor, and of their plea to the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack that he will be so kind as to ensure that further consideration be given to this exclusion, which a great many of us deplore.
§ 7.51 p.m.
§ LORD LATHAM
My Lords, I gather that my speech will conclude the first day's debate on the Second Reading of this Bill. We have certainly had a wide-ranging debate, as indeed should be the case in view of the importance and, I would add, the sinister intent of this measure. I do not propose to follow the speeches which have been made from all sides of your Lordships' House, except to say that I do not consider that any informed and convincing case has been made in support of the Bill. In my view, the whole concept, as embodied in the Bill and in the White Papers which preceded the Bill, is disingenuous if, indeed, not dishonest. It is also an unnecessary Bill.
As my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth said, the Bill does not improve the local government of London. The Title of the Bill is, in my opinion, a misnomer. Primarily it is a Bill to destroy the London County Council and to dismantle the existing local government of Greater London. It is a Bill to destroy a system which has provided, and is still capable of providing, an efficient and, on the whole, satisfactory structure of government which is local, adequate and adaptable to meet the changing and developing needs of modern society. We are in the presence of the rape of the local government of London. Let none be in doubt as to that or be meally-mouthed about it. That is what this Bill will do, and that is what it is intended to do.
The provisions of the Bill do nothing to improve the existing pattern of London local government. On the 1195 contrary, they will throw the municipal affairs and services of the people of London into disarray, into confusion and, indeed, near chaos and do irreparable damage to them. They will pull down what has been patiently built up by the dedicated efforts of countless men and women of goodwill, infused with a spirit of service to their fellows and to the community at large. All this is to be sacrificed to the vindicative spite of the Tory Party. Even the Royal Commission, whose imperfect knowledge of local government in London shines through their report like the guiding light of Mr. Selwyn Lloyd, felt impelled to say that the London County Council had achievedto give the administrative county of London a strong and able form of government which makes its standing very high among municipal governments of the world.This is no more than the plain, if somewhat restrained, truth.
The Commission found little to criticise as regards other important local authorities in the London region. Why then, fairminded people are asking, are the present Government doing this baleful thing? I propose to give the answer, and to do so I must go back somewhat into history, which, by the way, is not without its interest or its lessons. Inescapably the story concerns the L.C.C. For it is my belief that the origin of these proposals is to be found in the unrelenting hatred of the Tory Party for the London County Council, especially when it is not controlled by them. All else stems from that. This Bill derives from this historic Party hatred, which became an obsession when Labour got and retained control. The Tories of the day said: "Sure, the Progressives were bad enough, but we cannot endure these Labour people controlling London, the capital city of the Commonwealth; we must get rid of them somehow." This Bill, my Lords, is the "somehow", all other efforts having failed.
But to revert to history, this hatred manifested itself in acute form in the early days of the London County Council, when the Progressives were in control, and when, let it be abundantly acknowledged, they did some splendid work in laying the foundations of progressive local government in London in the face of sustained opposition which was thoroughly unscrupulous in more than one respect. 1196 In 1894 the then Lord Salisbury expressed his opposition by describing the Council asthe place where collectivist and socialistic experiments are tried … where a new revolutionary spirit finds its instruments and collects its arms''.That is really a fine was not so intended, of course.
Then he also in occasion, condemned described as theinsensate progressivity of the Progressive Party".In the same year there was a cartoon in Punch with this caption: "Salisbury Frankenstein", and addressing the L.C.C. he says:Sorry I ever put you together, you great hulking boob! But just you wait a bit. I'll soon take you to pieces again.And he did, my Lords. For in 1899 he constituted the metropolitan borough councils as a counterweight to the L.C.C., as witness his speech when he is recorded as saying that the question of the London County Council would not be solved unless they gave a large part of the duties at present performed by the London County Council to a number of smaller municipalities operating in narrower areas.
To-day it is not a question of smaller authorities functioning over narrower areas, but proposals for larger authorities over larger areas. But the motive is the same: hamstring the L.C.C. or destroy it, as is now proposed. To the lasting tragedy of London, the Tory Party, in the guise of Municipal Reformers and/or Moderates, obtained control in 1907 after one of the most abominable election campaigns in local government history. Truly, the Tory Party then forged its way to victory. It was a sorry day for Londoners, for the Tories retained control for 27 years. During that long period the Council was administered in a mean and shabby way by people who really did not believe in progressive and developing local government; who saw it as a kind of first-aid provision for those who fell by the wayside. The spirit of the old Poor Law infused many of the Council's services. The means test became a sort of watchword. The Council had no influence, at least for good. Its status in the world of progressive local government was very low. It was 27 years of reaction.
1197 Then the scene changed. In 1934, the Labour Party secured control. The long agony of London was over. Reaction was banished. Local government in London moved into its rightful place. A new spirit prevailed at, and pervaded, County Hall. A policy was followed which adumbrated a conception of social provision which later became accepted nationally as part of the Welfare State. All which, some may say, is of interest, but what has it to do with this Bill? Everything, my Lords. It is the answer to the question: why this Bill? As I have said, the Bill was cradled in the Tory hatred of the L.C.C. The man who conceived and initiated the proposals in this Bill is the man who failed to turn Labour out of County Hall. Londoners, finding that they approved of the new management and the new policy, have kept Labour in control for 29 years, despite every effort by the Tory Party to displace them, including the intervention in the election of 1937 of the then Prime Minister and other Ministers of the Crown. This Bill, the dismantling of London local government and the abolition of the L.C.C., is the price the Londoner has to pay for voting Labour on eight successive occasions.
It was only when at length it was realised that the Tory Party stood no chance of displacing Labour control electorally that the insidious proposals of this Bill were formulated and put forward. The whole of the local government structure in Greater London is to be uprooted, and the interests and rights of some 8 million men, women and children are to be thrown into disarray and sacrificed, in order to achieve a Party purpose and advantage. All common form was gone through. First, a Royal Commission; then their Report; then the White Papers; and then this Bill. This is gerrymandering of the worst and most sinister type. When the present Home Secretary was Leader of his Party on the L.C.C. he never raised in Council the question of the need for the reorganisation of local government in London. Still less did he propose, or even mention, the abolition of the L.C.C. Nor did he seek the views of the electorate on the question. Not a word: not a murmur from Mr. Brooke that the L.C.C. should be abolished. For very good reason. The Londoner would have 1198 spurned him with contumely, which is attested by the fact, as my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth said, that in the two recent elections, the Government's proposals have been decisively and derisorily rejected.
I return to the Home Secretary, who was, after all, for several years Leader of the Tory minority, which was a responsible position, as I believe lie acknowledged. I recollect that as Lord Morrison of Lambeth said, when Mr. Brooke became Leader of the minority Party he declared that his objective was to turn the Socialists out of County Hall. I suppose there is nothing wrong with that. Different people have different missions, laudable according to time, circumstance and purpose. Of course, it is not unimportant to succeed. Now the Home Secretary did not succeed, as all the world knows. Instead, he journeyed across the bridge into ministerial office, his self-imposed task unfinished. The ballot box did not give the desired result. Labour remains, and remains solidly in charge at County Flail. Hence, this Bill. This is the finish of the mission.
My Lords, this is a wretched story—using the Legislature and the shape of local government for Party ends. It is an evil thing that is being done almost at the end of the life of this discredited Government, clothed in the odour of sanctity of a Report of a Royal Commission—in part, at least; because, of course, the Government have rejected the Commission's recommendations at least in three important respects. So much for the raison d'être of this Bill. I make no apology for recounting it, for it should be widely known for the sordid story that it is.
I come now to another aspect of this matter. Ministers and others supporting these proposals frequently seek to justify them by asserting that they are based on the Report of an expert Royal Commission who independently and carefully examined the structure and functioning of local government in the review area. The main proposals in the Bill are not based on the Commission's recommendations. The Government have discarded the prime base upon which the Commission built up the whole pattern of their scheme, structure and functions—their "broad design" as the White Paper describes it. 1199 The Commission were throughout insistent that they did not favour a two-tier Government: that there should be no major or minor authorities, but equal partners. That idea has gone down the drain, as witness the provisions of the Bill. Furthermore, the Commissioners were no less insistent that the Greater London Council should have only a limited range of impersonal functions, whereas the Bill provides for quite a list of powers—housing, parks and education in the L.C.C. area among them. This recommendation also goes down the drain. And, no doubt to show their abiding trust in the Commissioners, the Government have rejected their recommendation as to the size of the boroughs in terms of population and area. Out of 32 boroughs, 15 will have a population in excess of the maximum recommended by the Commissioners. This, of course, will lead to boroughs of inordinate size, and will make a mockery of local government.
The Commissioners' theme, with its projection of the identity and independence of local government in the review area, is in ruins. The vaunted "broad design" referred to in the White Paper becomes a broad let-down. Throughout their Report, the Commissioners are energetically insistent as to the imperative need for the maintenance of the real independence of the new authorities to be constituted. At page 59, in paragraph 222 of their Report, they say:By local government we mean local self-government'.I emphasise that the meaning is, "self-government". How far is self-government provided and preserved by this Bill? Is it preserved? Is it maintained? By no means. On the contrary, the Bill seriously vitiates and erodes that principle. 1200 In fact, to judge by the number of occasions where the authorities to be set up will be required to obtain the consent of this or that Minister or Ministers, or where they are required to consult with him or them, local government in Greater London will become the handmaiden of Whitehall. I understand that the number of occasions where consent or direction must be obtained is no less than 64 and, in addition, there is an infinity of matters upon which the Ministers, and especially the Minister of Transport, can make orders. This is a shabby pretence of self-government. Local authorities will be the mere agents for the central Government in a multitude of matters. One critic has said, and I think perhaps not incorrectly, that local government in London will become a complex of consents and consults. Plus, of course, the infinity of orders to be made by the Minister of Transport.
Under this Bill there will descend upon the manifold services to be provided by local government in London a blight of muddle and deterioration of quality and character the like of which has never before been seen. In the interests of the people of London, this must not happen. The Government should withdraw the Bill and think again, uninfluenced by any consideration other than the interests of the men, women and children who will live out their lives in London.
§ Moved, That the debate be now adjourned.—(Lord Hastings.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned accordingly.
§ House adjourned at twelve minutes past eight o'clock.