§ 2.50 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (LORD DILHORNE)
My Lords, I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen to signify to the House that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the London Government Bill, has consented to place Her Majesty's interest, so far as it is concerned on behalf of the Crown, at the disposal of Parliament for the purpose of the Bill. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a third time.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ On Question, Bill read 3a, with the Amendments.
§ Clause 2 [Greater London and the Greater London Council]:
§ THE JOINT PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY, MINISTRY OF HOUSING AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT (LORD HASTINGS)
My Lords, this Amendment has been put down to meet the point made, both in Committee and at the Report stage, by noble Lords opposite. The words to be added widen the scope of the Amendment that we put down during Report stage in order to allow the Greater London Council not only to change its own name, or that of the Greater London area, but also to give a more dignified name, if it so desires, and can find one, to the chairman, vice-chairman and any deputy chairman as well. As in the other cases, of course, the consent of the Minister would be required, but this new provision would not need any order to give it effect. I beg to move.
Page 3, line 19, after ("names") insert ("or make provision as to the titles by which the chairman, vice-chairman and any deputy chairman of the Council are to be known").—(Lord Hastings.)
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
My Lords, I rise just to thank the noble Lord for having brought forward this Amendment for which I asked, I think, at Report stage. I am much obliged to him and, of course, we support the Amendment.
§ On question, Amendment agreed to.1180
§ Clause 4 [General provisions as to exercise in Greater London of existing local authority functions]:
§ LORD HASTINGS
My Lords, this is a purely drafting Amendment and Amendments Nos. 9 and 10 go with it. I beg to move.
Page 6, line 20, leave out ("extending only to the administrative") and insert ("passed with respect only to the whole or part of the existing").—(Lord Hastings.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 6 [Alteration of boundaries of or within Greater London]:
My Lords, with your permission I should like to move this Amendment and Amendment No. 12 together. They are consequential upon the decision of your Lordships on Report to exclude the three northern wards of Epsom and Ewell from Greater London. As a result of my noble friends' famous victory over Epsom and Ewell, we now think it best to cut out the reference to Chigwell here. Chigwell would otherwise be left in isolation and solitary splendour. My right honourable friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government has asked me to take this opportunity to inform your Lordships that the Government are prepared to accept the decision of your Lordships' House on this matter and to leave the whole of the Borough of Epsom and Ewell out of Greater London. I can confirm that it is not their intention to seek further amendment of the Bill when it goes back to another place. In reaching this conclusion, my right honourable friend has naturally taken close account of the views expressed by noble Lords who spoke on this matter in Committee and Report stages in your Lordships' House. He has also taken account of the representations made to him by the right honourable and learned Member who represents Epsom in the other place, and who has, in the past months, continued to maintain that there are features in this case which distinguish it from other proposals to remove particular areas from Greater London and has pressed my right honourable friend on these grounds to reconsider the original decision to include the three northern wards in Greater London. I beg to move.
Page 8, line 25, leave out from ("contiguous") to ("may") in line 28.—(Earl Jellicoe.)
§ LORD AUCKLAND
My Lords, I should like to thank my noble friend Lord Jellicoe for the information which he has just given to the House, and I should like also to thank not only my own noble friends but noble Lords opposite and members of the Liberal Party who went into the Division Lobby on an issue which is not a matter of Party politics but a matter of great concern to a very famous and ancient borough.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
My Lords, that is very nice of the noble Lord opposite. We were glad to give him our support on the Amendment. I thought I had better say a word here, in the absence of the noble Lord, Lord McCorquodale of Newton, who, I am sure, if he had been here would also have spoken. I gather from the Minister of State that the Solicitor General, who is a member of the Government, behind the scenes has come to the rescue of Epsom. Of course, it would have been better if he had come to the rescue in another place.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 43 [Modifications of London Building Acts]:
§ LORD HASTINGS
My Lords, broadly speaking, this Amendment is consequential on Amendment No. 2. In order to conform to the drafting and other provisions of the Bill the reference to Clause 4 is to be deleted from this clause. I beg to move.
Page 62, line 26, leave out from first ("to") to ("the").—(Lord Hastings.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 51 [Shops]:
My Lords, I should like to suggest that we consider this Amendment and Nos. 6, 27 and 28 together as they are linked with it. Their purpose is quite simply to amend the Offices, Shops and Railway Premises Acts, as it soon will be, to take into account the reorganisation of London Government provided for in this Bill. I beg to move.
§ Amendment moved—
Page 72, line 31, at beginning insert—
("(1) The council of a London borough shall as respects the borough, and the Common Council as respects the City, be the local authority for the purposes of the Offices, Shops and Railway Premises Act 1963, and the Greater London Council shall have the functions of the London county council under that Act; and accordingly—
(2) The said Act of 1963 shall be further amended as follows:—
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Amendment moved—
Page 72, line 41, leave out from beginning to ("means") in line 4 on page 73 and insert—
("(2) Until finally repealed as respects all classes of premises and for all purposes by the said Act of 1963—
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 58 [Parks and open spaces]:1183
Page 78, line 37, leave out ("and which is not property") and insert ("not being land").—(Lord Hastings.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 64 [General grants]:
§ LORD HASTINGS
My Lords, this Amendment is consequential on previous Amendments to Clauses 45, 46, and 47 during the course of the Bill. I beg to move.
Page 85, line 3, at end insert ("and any expenditure by way of contributions by that Council—
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 83 [Other adaptations of enactments]:
§ LORD HASTINGS
My Lords, this Amendment is consequential on Amendment No. 2 and is also drafting. I beg to move.
Page 99, line 29., leave out ("extending") and insert ("passed with respect").—(Lord Hastings.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 89 [Interpretation]:
§ LORD HASTINGS
My Lords, this Amendment' is also consequential on Amendment No. 2 and is drafting. I beg to move.
Page 108, line 42, leave out ("extending") and insert ("passed with respect").—(Lord Hastings.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 93 [Repeals and Savings]:
EARL JELLICOE moved to add to subsection (1):
Provided that the repeal of any enactment specified in the said Part I shall not affect the operation of that enactment in relation to an election held on or after the date of the passing of this Act to fill a casual vacancy occurring before that date.
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, I hope that your Lordships will agree to 1184 consider this Amendment and Amendments Nos. 14, 15, 16 and 17 together. They are just a little more than drafting, and I propose briefly to explain their purpose. As at present drafted, paragraphs 6(1) and 10 of Schedule 3 to the Bill prevent an election from being held after the passage of the Bill for any office which is to disappear after April 1, 1965. Section 67(1) of the Local Government Act, 1933, and Section 42(1) of the London Government Act, 1939, in providing for an election to be held within 30 days of the date on which the High Court or the local authority declare the office vacant, or on which notice of the vacancy is given in writing by two local government electors, require all the arrangements for holding of the elections to be put in hand in respect of a casual vacancy occurring before the Bill is passed. If the Bill, therefore, received the Royal Assent, say, at the end of this month, on July 31, under the Bill as at present drafted an election which was to be held on August 1 could not, in fact, be held and there would have been much expense, work and trouble caused to the local authority for nothing. In fact, a vacancy has occurred, I believe in the metropolitan borough of Stepney.
§ The Amendment, therefore, provides for the elections to be held as if the London Government Bill had not been passed and for the councillors elected who fill casual vacancies to remain in office until April 1, 1965, which is the date on which councillors mentioned in paragraphs 6(1) and 10 would have gone out of office. I trust that your Lordships will agree that this is a sensible provision, and I should like to express my regret that we have only lighted on the necessity for this provision at this very late hour. I beg to move.
Page 110, line 30, at end insert the said proviso.—(Earl Jellicoe.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Schedule 1 [The London boroughs]:
Page 114, line 9, after ("Coombe") insert ("and").—(Lord Hastings.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.1185
§ Schedule 2 [Constitution and general functions of Greater London Council]:
§ LORD HASTINGS
My Lords, this is a drafting Amendment to make this paragraph of Schedule 2 consistent with the language of Section 257 of the Local Government Act, 1933, on which it is modelled. I beg to move.
Page 124, line 13, leave out ("expenditure") and insert ("expenses").—(Lord Hastings.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Schedule 3 [Parliamentary and local government elections in and around Greater London]:
§ Amendments moved—
§ Page 130, line 28, leave out from ("the") to end of line 29 and insert ("date of the passing of this Act, except an election to fill a casual vacancy in an office where before that date the office has been declared to be vacant or notice of the vacancy has been given under section 67(1) of the Local Government Act 1933 or section 42(1) of the London Government Act 1939; and any such councillor holding office immediately before that date or elected on or after that date to fill a casual vacancy occurring before that date")
§ Page 131, line 44, after ("any") insert ("such")
§ Page 132, line 2, leave out from ("the") to end of line 3, and insert ("date of the passing of this Act for any electoral area situated wholly or partly in Greater London, unless before that date the office has been declared to be vacant or notice of the vacancy has been given under section 67(1) of the Local Government Act 1933; and any such councillor elected for any such electoral area on or after that date to fill a casual vacancy occurring before that date shall (unless he resigns his office or it otherwise becomes vacant) continue to hold office until 1st April 1965.")
Page 137, line 18, at end insert—
("36. Any modifications of an enactment made by Part II or this Part of this Schedule shall not effect the operation of that enactment in relation to an election held on or after the date of the passing of this Act to fill a casual vacancy occurring before that date.").—(Earl Jellicoe.)
§ On Question, Amendments agreed to.
§ Schedule 6 [Amendments as from 1st April 1965 in Highways Act 1959]:
§ LORD HASTINGS
My Lords, this Amendment requires a little explanation. It excepts the inner London boroughs from the operation of the 1186 advanced payments code in Part IX of the Highways Act, 1959 which, where it applies, requires a developer in a private street to give the street works authority a deposit or security for the cost of street works before he begins to erect a building. The extension of highways legislation, including the advance payments code, to inner London requires new machinery to take account of the fact that the special L.C.C. building control system is retained there. The procedure for requiring payment is linked to the procedure for depositing and passing plans in accordance with building by-laws, but in inner London building control is not by by-laws and plans do not have to be deposited. There is believed to be very little need for the code in inner London, where private streets are few and undeveloped land scarce, and the simplest course is not to apply it in that area. I beg to move.
Page 159, line 38, leave out from ("173(3)") to end of line 39, and insert ("for the words 'boroughs and' there shall be substituted the words 'boroughs other than the inner London boroughs and in all'").—(Lord Hastings.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
Page 160, line 1, leave out paragraph 55.—(Lord Hastings.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Schedule 9 [Modification and re-enactment as from 1st April, 1956, of enactments relating to sewerage and drainage]:
LORD SHEPHERD moved, in subsection (1), to omit all words from "them" down to and including "thence," and to substitute:
directly or through any river or creek.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 20 and also to speak to Amendment No. 21 in the name of my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth and myself. I feel that in some respects I should apologise at this stage for raising this particular point again, particularly as it has been considered on at least four other occasions, both in your Lordships' House and in another place. We still feel that the position in regard to the 1187 dispersal through storm water of perhaps a percentage of sewage is unsatisfactory. Before I continue, may I express great appreciation to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor for seeing me on last Thursday and for the letter that he has written to me? Unfortunately, our postal service is not quite as quick as it should be and I have not seen the letter, but it has been read to me over the telephone, and it would appear that the noble and learned Lord does not feel in a position to help us in this matter.
§ I will try to be as brief as possible, but I think I should put in some background because we shall have to wait to see whether we have to put this question to a Division. The problem in London of the dispersal of rainwater and sewage has been a growing problem. In 1844 there was the first piece of legislation, which made it compulsory for all householders to put their drainage into the metropolitan sewerage system. This caused chaos as far as the River Thames was concerned. In 1855 legislation was passed prohibiting the Metropolitan Board of Works, from which the London County Council sprang, from at any time placing sewage into the River Thames; but in 1858, a mere three years later, it was necessary to amend that legislation because the whole position was thoroughly impracticable. The 1858 legislation was consolidated into the 1936 Public Health (London) Act, which is being repealed by the London Government Bill.
The particular section to which I would refer the House is Section 28. I would submit that it lays a duty upon the London County Council
to construct such sewers and works…as they think necessary for securing the effective sewerage and drainage of the county.
Those words were the same as in the 1858 Act. They also included very important words and words which were found necessary:
so far as practicable".
The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, when he spoke on the Report stage, said that those words had very little significance. I submit that there must have been some significance, in that those words had to be inserted in the 1858 Act and that they were consolidated into the 1936 Act. As I understand it,
the intention then of the Government—because it was a Public Bill—was that the London County Council should not place sewage as of right in the River Thames; that it was their duty to provide a sewerage system which would effectively disperse sewage without putting it into the River Thames; but they recognised that problem at that day, and which exists to-day, that on occasions it would be necessary for sewage to be placed into the river. At the present time I believe the only occasions on which the London County Council are forced to put sewage into the Thames are after heavy storms when the existing sewerage system is unable to cope. Therefore, it is submitted that the words "so far as practicable" have a considerable significance. They are there for the protection of the authority.
§ This particular provision will be repealed by this Bill, and the London County Council, and the Greater London Council which will take its place and will become responsible, will then come under the Public Health Act, 1936. I think it is right that we should take note that the Act to which I referred just now was passed in the same year; in fact, it appears in our records as having been passed after the Public Health Act, 1936; so there is no question of one Act repealing the other. The Public Health Act, 1936, Section 30, in my view puts a total prohibition on the placing at any time of sewage into the Thames. But I believe it goes even a stage further—and this I would ask the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor to consider; in my view it lays a duty upon the authority not to construct sewers or drains which in fact would put sewage into a stream. In other words, whereas at the present moment it may be said that the London County Council can in special circumstances, because of the Public Health (London) Act, put it in, I would guess from Section 30 that the authority would be prohibited from constructing any type of drain which would put water in.
§ I quite agree with the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor that the authority is called upon not to put sewage or foul water into a river or into a stream which might affect prejudicially the purity of the water. When the noble and learned Lord Chancellor brought this point forward on Report stage, I 1189 must say I was rather surprised. I feel that this was perhaps due to the fact that I had not done my "homework" sufficiently well. But I have, naturally, looked up the records, and I find that of course he is quite right. This was a decision made after a case concerning the Attorney General and the Birmingham Corporation. But I think there is a later case in the High Court in which the judgment given was that it was not necessary to prove that the total quantity of water had been prejudiced, and that if it were proved that at the point of discharge you raised the quantity of sewage there was an offence under Section 30.
§ The London County Council are well aware of their duty to reduce the quantity of sewage in the Thames. They are, in fact, spending considerable sums of money in building new sewers and new drains, but, as I have said right through the discussions on this Bill, they are hardly able to keep up with the demand that is being placed upon their system. Therefore, we must anticipate that for a good number of years the authority will have to continue to place storm water and sewage (because it is mixed) into the Thames. The Lord Chancellor will no doubt be aware of the Government publication on the Pollution of the Tidal Thames. At page 21, paragraph 75, this Report refers to the fact that the amount of storm water from the London County Council system is large, and that its polluting load represents a substantial proportion of the total, because it enters the Thames in the narrow reaches of about 10 miles. Its great effect on the condition of the Estuary is indicated by its proportion to the total polluting.
§ There is no doubt that within the narrow area of London at moments of crisis, large quantities of storm water and sewage are put in, and it can be said that the quantity of sewage in the Thames rises quite materially. Therefore, I should have thought that the authority could be said to have committed an offence by putting this material into the water. As I said, under the Public Health (London) Act, 1936, they are in some ways protected by the phrase "as far as practicable", but: if they are really to come within the Public Health Act, 1936, I suggest that they would be breaking the law.1190
§ This is not a political matter. What we are really interested in is seeing that the new authority should come within legislation with which they can comply. May I refer your Lordships to paragraph 4 of Schedule 9 to the Bill? Here the Government are, in fact, giving power to the Greater London Council to cause storm water to be discharged in the area of the Channelsea and Abbey Creek. These particular overflows are at the boundary of the Greater London Council and the Essex County Council. I understand that the reason why it has been necessary to give the Greater London Council power here is the fact that under the River Lea Acts there is a total prohibition, under Section 91 of the Act of 1868, on putting into the River Lea or its tributaries any sewer, drainpipe or channel. Here, within this particular provision, it is quite clear that no authority can put in storm water and sewage. Therefore, it was necessary in this particular Act to make an exception so far as the London County Council were concerned. These exceptions to the general prohibition have, in fact, been included in this Bill.
§ I would put three questions to the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack. The noble Lord stated that the authority will not be committing an offence if they continue to put storm water and sewage into the Thames and do not materially increase the quantity of sewage. What I would ask is whether, from the fact that in this Bill you give particular power in regard to a small number of outflows, you are thereby weakening the general understanding which the noble Lord gave us—that is, that the London County Council and the Greater London Council could continue with their present powers and would, in fact, have the same power as the authority has at present? In other words, by giving particular powers on a limited scale, and by omitting them on a broad basis, would you in fact weaken the power or the provision in that respect?
§ The other question that I would ask the noble and learned Lord is this. The 1936 Act says that you must not construct sewers which would prejudicially affect the quality of the water. If this Schedule goes through, will it prevent the authority, if at any time it should be necessary, from increasing the number 1191 of outflows, which, of course, would have the result that there would be a quantity of water and sewage? As I see it, the 1936 Act will lay on the authority a prohibition against the construction of any further sewers or storm water outflows.
§ With those few, and, I feel, rather inadequate words, I would ask the noble and learned Lord to consider the proposal in our Amendments, which is to bring the present outflow and the present system in regard to putting storm water and sewage into the central part of the Thames, into the same category as those particular outflows in regard to which in this Bill the Government are giving power. I beg to move.
Page 179, line 33, leave out from beginning to ("into") in line 40 and insert ("direct or through any river or creek").—(Lord Shepherd.)
§ 3.19 p.m.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I had hoped that I made the Position clear with regard to this particular matter when I last addressed your Lordships upon it. I hope that I shall make it clear to-day, when I say that these Amendments, the first of which the noble Lord has now moved, would, in fact, give the Greater London Council greater power to pollute the River Thames than the London County Council have ever had, and greater power than they have found necessary.
I cannot agree with the noble Lord's citations from my speech on the last occasion, or with his views upon the law. I pointed out that Section 28 of the Public Health (London) Act, 1936, defines the duty which rests upon the L.C.C. The noble Lord must distinguish between a section which is imposing a duty (and the duty there is limited by the words "so far as practicable"; it is not an absolute duty, but a limited duty) and a section which is empowering the London County Council to do something. It does not follow from the fact that the duty in relation to the creation of sewers is not an absolute duty that they have a power to discharge a polluting liquid into the Thames. The ordinary law may apply. I stressed this on the last occasion, and I stress it again to-day. The noble Lord relies again on Section 28, 1192 but Section 28 must be read in conjunction with Section 31 of the same Act, which puts upon the London County Council liability if they create a nuisance. That applies over the whole field, except where it is cut into by the particular provisions in relation to the "Channelsea river or Abbey creek" to which the noble Lord has referred to-day. There is, and always has been, a liability upon the London County Council, if by reason of their discharge, they cause any nuisance. That is covered by Section 31 of the Public Health (London) Act.
The case put against us, first of all, was that because we were attracting the general Act, the Public Health Act, to the Greater London Council we were putting the Greater London Council in a worse position than the London County Council with regard to the discharge of storm water. That case I have dealt with. I repeat again that, in my submission, the effect of this Bill is to put the Greater London Council in materially the same position as the London County Council with regard to the discharge of storm water. But the noble Lord now wants to go further. By these Amendments he wants to make paragraph 4 of Schedule 9, which applies to the discharges in the "Channelsea river or Abbey creek", apply to discharges of storm water where-ever they may occur. There is only limited liability there for nuisance. The obligation in paragraph 4 isto take all steps to avoid, so far as practicable, the creation of any nuisance…".The effect of accepting the Amendment would be to put the Greater London Council with regard to all its outlets in a superior position to that of the London County Council at present.
When one goes to the reality of the situation, I ask your Lordships to consider this. The L.C.C. do not appear to have suffered any difficulty, or indeed inconvenience, from the form of the present law. A picture has been painted to us on more than one occasion of the terrible position in which the Greater London Council will find itself in having to choose whether to pollute the River Thames or to flood a large number of basements with sewage. If there is any reality in that suggestion, the London County Council must have been in that dilemma for a long time. But in fact there is no such difficulty.
1193 What I am saying to the House is this. We are seeking to put the Greater London Council in substantially the same position as the London County Council, and I cannot advise your Lordships to extend the scope of paragraph 4 to such an extent as to enlarge the rights of the Greater London Council beyond those now possessed by the London County Council. Paragraph 4 was put in to deal with a particular provision, and to deal, in particular, with the difficulties that arose because of the fact that the interests of the British Waterways Board and the Lee Conservancy Board were concerned with those particular outlets. This particular provision in paragraph 4 was contained in the Public Health (London) Act, 1936, and we feel that that particular provision dealing with those particular outlets should also be contained in the London Government Bill now before your Lordships' House. Nevertheless, there is no reason to say that that particular provision should be of general application. It is for those reasons that I invite your Lordships to reject this Amendment.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
My Lords, I shall be only a minute. The short point, as I see it, is that the words which were formerly in the Public Health (London) Act, 1936, which is repealed by this Bill, included the phrase "so far as practicable". That phrase goes under this Bill. I understand from the Lord Chancellor that he thinks those words really mean nothing.
§ Lord Shepherd—quite unintentionally I am sure—misrepresented me. It is not that they mean nothing. They are a limitation of the extent of the duty resting on the London County Council. The distinction is to be drawn between a duty to construct sewers of a particular kind and liability under the Common Law for, it may be, pollution.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
We have been advised otherwise, but in any case I cannot see the reason for taking out these words. They could have been preserved. The words do mean something, and I cannot understand why they should be taken out. To-morrow we shall be considering the Television Bill, and Clause 13 provides that something must be done "so far as practicable". Those are practically the same words. What I am afraid of is that, as a consequence of this legislation in this form, the Council may some day be afraid to allow the imperfect effluent into the Thames—which they will not want to do if they can possibly help it—with the consequence that sewage will go into people's houses, cellars, shops or factories. I am sorry to divide the House at this stage, because we want to get on to the main debate, but I think we must do so, in order that should the situation I have described occur, we shall know which noble Lords were responsible for this disgusting experience and which noble Lords were not.
§ 3.32 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 20) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 26; Not-Contents, 44.1195
|Addison, V.||Latham, L.||Shackleton, L.|
|Alexander of Hillsborough, E.||Lawson, L.||Shepherd, L.|
|Attlee, E.||Lindgren, L.||Stonham, L. [Teller.]|
|Champion, L.||Listowel, E.||Summerskill, B.|
|Crook, L.||Longford, E.||Uvedale of North End, L.|
|Francis-Williams, L.||Lucan, E. [Teller.]||Walston, L.|
|Harvey of Tasburgh, L.||Morrison of Lambeth, L.||Wise, L.|
|Henderson, L.||St. Davids, V.||Wootton of Abinger, B.|
|Inman, L.||Samuel, V.|
|Ailwyn, L.||Brecon, L.||Dudley, L.|
|Allerton, L.||Colyton, L.||Dundee, E.|
|Ampthill, L.||Cowley, E.||Effingham, E.|
|Amulree, L.||Craven, E.||Ferrers, E.|
|Auckland, L.||Denham, L.||Forster of Harraby, L.|
|Balfour of Inchrye, L.||Devonport, V.||Fraser of North Cape, L.|
|Beauchamp, E.||Dilhorne, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Goschen, V. [Teller.]|
|Gough, V.||Jessel, L.||Salter, L.|
|Grenfell, L.||Mabane, L.||Sandwich, E.|
|Hanworth, V.||Mansfield, E.||Sinha, L.|
|Hastings, L.||Mills, V.||Somers, L.|
|Hawke, L.||Milverton, L.||Strathclyde, L.|
|Home, E.||Monsell, V.||Waleran, L.|
|Howard of Glossop, L.||Ogmore, L.||Wynford, L.|
|Jellicoe, E.||St. Aldwyn, E. [Teller.]|
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Schedule 11 [Modification and reenactment as from 1st April 1965 of provisions of Public Health Acts]:
Page 195, line 38, at end insert ("in Greater London").—(Lord Hastings.)
§ Schedule 14 [Functions as from 1st April 1965 with respect to land drainage, flood prevention, etc.]:
§ LORD HASTINGS
My Lords, Amendments No. 23 and 24 go together, and they have been drafted and put down at the request of the London County Council. I beg to move.
Page 213, line 45, leave out ("public sewers") and insert ("that it does not include so much of any public sewer as lies outside the flow and re-flow of the tides").—(Lord Hastings.)
Page 213, line 47, at end insert ("and lies outside the flow and re-flow of the tides").(Lord Hastings.)
§ LORD HASTINGS
My Lords, this is a redrafted version of the saving provision for the Port of London Authority, and I hope that it will satisfy the queries raised by the noble Earl, Lord Lucan, at Report stage. I beg to move.
§ Amendment moved—
Page 213, line 50, leave out paragraph 16 and insert—
("16. Paragraph 7(a) and (b) of this Schedule and so much of paragraph 15 thereof as relates to the said paragraph 7(a) and (b) shall not be construed as extending or restricting the application of any of the local
enactments relating to the tidal Thames to property for the time being held for the purposes of their undertaking by the Port of London Authority or as extending or restricting the functions of that Authority; and the other provisions of this Schedule shall not apply to any property for the time being so held or affect any functions of that Authority.").—(Lord Hastings.)
§ Schedule 18 [Repeals]:
§ LORD HASTINGS
My Lords, I foreshadowed this Amendment and explained it at Report stage. I beg to move.
Page 231, line 44, column 3, at beginning insert ("Section 18").—(Lord Hastings.)
Page 245, line 30, leave out ("18").—(Earl Jellicoe.)
§ Amendment moved—
§ Page 250, line 31, at end insert—
|("1963 c.||The Offices, Shops and Railway Premises Act 1963.||In section 9(6) the words 'nor section 106 of the Public Health (London) Act 1936.'|
|In section 24(9) the words 'or Part XI of the Public Health (London) Act 1936.' Section 77.")|
§ 3.38 p.m.
§ LORD HASTINGS
My Lords, it is now my duty to move that this Bill do now pass. In doing so I wish to say at once that I shall not be making a long speech; in fact, I shall make an extremely short one. All the arguments in favour of this Bill have been fully deployed by Government spokesmen not 1197 only at Second Reading, but also in great detail during Committee and Report stages. It is not surprising, therefore, if I have nothing more to say by way of argument. No doubt the noble Earl who leads the Opposition, when he moves the Amendment on the Order Paper, and those who support him, will once again express their disapproval of this Bill. But I think it would be more appropriate in the circumstances to wait and see whether they have anything new to say, and to leave it to my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor to reply to any final points they may wish to raise.
Nevertheless, I can perhaps make one or two brief comments and give a little statistical information to your Lordships which may be of some interest. For instance, I think it will interest your Lordships to know that we have spent 115 hours on this Bill, spread over 17 days. In fact to-day is the eighteenth day, and no doubt we shall clock up another five hours or so. One hundred and five of those hours have been spent on the Committee and Report stages, compared to 89 hours thus spent in another place. We have gone through the Division Lobbies, so far as I can calculate, some 85 times; and I believe there will be some noble Lords on both sides of the House who, like myself, have not missed one of those Divisions.
As a result of all this work here in your Lordships' House, 785 Amendments have been considered; 80 Amendments of substance were in fact made to the Bill, together with over 200 of a less substantial, consequential or drafting character. Of the Amendments of substance some 30 were made either directly by noble Lords opposite, or as a result of the arguments they had put forward. The other 50 or so were made spontaneously by Her Majesty's Government—with the exception of the little matter of Epsom and Ewell—and many of them were very acceptable to noble Lords opposite.
When we started upon our Committee stage there were some noble Lords who feared that they would not be given time to deal with the London Government Bill in the thorough manner it deserved, and that they would not be able to express their opinions as freely as they wished to do, owing to the lack of time. There were also noble Lords opposite who, in the early stages, claimed that 1198 the Government spokesmen were not replying adequately to the arguments put forward. My Lords, I think that the figures I have just given the House should finally have dispelled any such fears and any such claims. The Government spokesmen—and there were no fewer than seven involved in this Bill—have, I would claim, given every care and attention in their replies; and that, I am glad to say, is also the opinion of the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, who used those very words at the close of our Report stage.
I should like to express my thanks, not only for myself, of course, but also and particularly on behalf of my right honourable friend and the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, who are responsible for this Bill, for the continual and continuous effort that other Government Ministers have made, and for their invaluable and enthusiastic assistance; and I think no small measure of credit is due to all those who have worked so hard in the various Departments concerned. I should like also to pay tribute to the efforts made by noble Lords opposite, and I am very ready to agree that the considerable improvements to which the Bill has been subjected are due in no small measure to those efforts. We have had our tense moments, as was only to be expected during such a highly controversial Bill. But we have, none the less, carried through our task, I believe, greatly to the credit of this House, both with efficiency and with becoming restraint. My Lords, I am sure you will all be glad to hear that I have now spoken my last word on the London Government Bill, and I beg to move that it be now passed.
§ Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(Lord Hastings.)
§ 3.43 p.m.
EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH rose to move, as an Amendment to the Motion, to leave out all words after "That" and insert:
this House declines to pass a Bill which, whilst destroying existing local government in the London area, fails to put in its place a system of local government which will assure to the people of the Greater London area those adequate services and facilities which are their right; and which fails to take account of the serious effect on the finance and affairs of the truncated counties.
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, we have indeed come to the last Parliamentary session in this House on one of the most remarkable and ill-conceived Bills ever submitted to Parliament. Whilst we appreciate very much the attempts that the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, has just made to explain some of the reasons why we have sat so long, and even his concession—and we thank him for it—that some of the improvements in the Bill have been due to the efforts made by my noble friends on this side of the House, it is also true to say that, of course, we ought never to have been required to sit so long as we have done—never! We have actually sat longer, I gather from the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, than they sat in the House of Commons; but if the Bill in the House of Commons had not been guillotined in the Committee stage and in the Report stage, then surely much more of the required debate and possible acceptance of Amendments would have taken place in another place. That did not happen.
§ I ought to say, too, that I am not quite sure in which spirit the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, commenced his recital of statistics of the occupation of time, and the like; but there have been whispers to me, not far removed from the official channels, that there is resentment in the House about the length of time we have been called upon to sit here, and a sort of reversion in the minds of noble Lords to the idea that we have brought into this great and august Assembly too much of the methods of the House of Commons. I can see no reason for that statement at all. First of all, I say the Bill itself is a remarkable Bill—born in political jealousy in a metropolitan area; carried on by intrigue; threatened and promised years ago by the present Home Secretary when he was himself connected with the London County Council; and far worse in its depredations against the present system than even that which was actually recommended by the Royal Commission which the Government set up.
§ The Royal Commission which they set up, although containing some members who were learned in the general principle and practice of local government, did not contain, so far as I can see, one 1200 single person really deeply experienced in the local government required in this great metropolis—not one. I have heard it said that the London County Council members were at fault in not agreeing to appear before the Royal Commission; but in view of their 34 years of majority rule on the London County Council, with all its history of achievement and development which has taken place in all the services in London, why should they appear before a Royal Commission so packed against them? Why should they be there before the Commission, if they were there to pass the death sentence upon their organisation and upon their administration? It was perfectly clear—perfectly clear to me, at any rate—as I read the terms of reference of the Royal Commission, that that was what was fully intended.
§ This is a remarkable Bill, from the time expended on it. One needs only to look at its size—254 pages. It has been increased in size since it came up here. It is an amazing document: 111 pages of it containing the clauses which are the statutory basis of its authority for the future. But think of the work of a small Parliamentary Opposition such as I have here to-day, with just a semblance, among its small numbers, of those legally trained. What sort of a Bill do you think it was for us to deal with? I do not know where we should have got without the skilled help of a good many old friends from the London County Council, and some help occasionally in correspondence from the County Councils Association. But here it is—the whole balance of the 250 pages; 139 pages laid down to Schedule, almost every Schedule effectively altering the basis of the law for the local government of the metropolis. Think about that, from the point of view of studying it, of drafting Amendments, or even of considering whether you are in favour or not of a new set of legislation. Think of the amount of reference and study that this small Opposition has had to do.
§ Then, how much help have we really had from the other side? I exempt from that the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, and the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, because I want to congratulate them upon their patience and their long suffering at times, when we were bound to be rather obdurate. I think they stuck to the job 1201 magnificently. But for a Bill of this size and with these enormous effects, where are the members of the Cabinet? I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack for the time he gave from time to time, and I will merely make this apology for him: that he was dragged off during the course of this Bill to other duties from which he might well have been spared. But, in regard to Cabinet responsibility in this House, for the whole of the detailed debate we have not had, by any means, all that we had a right to expect from those who are responsible in the Cabinet for the whole of the policy, the iniquitous policy, which rests in this Bill. I must say that I wish we could have been better treated than that.
§ I do not want to say very much more, in the general sense, in introducing my somewhat abbreviated remarks that will follow, but I want it to be remembered, as this Bill goes from us, that it not only makes terrible alterations in the system of local government but it does permanent injury. It does permanent injury to the services, which I shall mention briefly, in the county council area as at present; in the boroughs which are to be given greater authority, but in dessicated portions; and it actually does permanent damage, as well as immediate inconvenience, to the truncated counties which are to have great slices cut off their population, their resources and possibly their control of a great deal of future development. For all those reasons we criticise and condemn this Bill.
§ Look at what my noble friends on this side of the House have had to do—not under a guillotine, I agree, but in relation to our numbers and the strain upon us, a guillotine of physical endurance. A certain number of days was laid down during which all this work had to be done, all this complex detail studied. It was a question of physical endurance as to how it could be got through. The time could have been cut to nearly one-half if we had had anything like the arrangements that a Conservative majority in Opposition in 1950 were able to impose on a Labour Government in a small minority in this House. They were able to impose their will on them by saying they would throw out the Iron and Steel Bill unless they could be certain 1202 the appointed day would not be until after the next election. The Iron and Steel Bill was absolutely mandated in a complete statement to the country by Labour in 1945: Let us Face the Future—it was all there. And that was regarded in that way by a Tory majority, a hereditary majority, in this House. And they threatened to throw the Bill out unless we agreed to postpone the appointed day until after the election.
§ We have moved Amendments on this Bill on more than one occasion which would have put back the dates of operation in regard to local government administration and changes to next year or the year after. We moved to delay them another year so that there could have been more time for consideration and adjustment. The country at large were never consulted on this matter; the Government have no mandate at all. The local municipal electorate in the metropolitan areas have all declared against it in the recent elections. You have no shred of foundation on which to stand for your action in this matter. We gave you the opportunity on two or three occasions to defer the date, to give us the same right that you imposed on us in 1950. This could have halved the time for the debate on this Bill in this House; and you must not expect that we shall forget either 1950 or that we shall forget 1963; because we have been forced into a situation which was unfair, unsound and unjust.
§ Now I will just mention the other points briefly that I want to make. Take the services which are being interrupted. In 1902 the Conservative Party passed a major Education Act. In 1902, when I was a junior in an education office, I began to see what a revolution was going to take place in a great county like Somerset. What had been just village school boards and one or two larger borough school boards was spread over the villages and the parishes and the church schools. All that was brought into one comprehensive local education authority and it was absolutely moulded in. We have seen the growth and development of the London County Council education system which has all the advantages of the adoption of the centralised principles of the Act of 1902. It lies to the account now of a Conservative Government to undo in London, to 1203 a large extent, all that has been built up by the principle by which they sought to, and did, revolutionise education administration in 1902.
§ Look around at what is to happen. You will wipe out Middlesex altogether. It has a very good and successful educational system. I have seen and talked with a great number of its local members. What are you to put in its place? You say you are going to put in amalgamation of boroughs or districts which will give you a borough authority large enough, compared with the rest of the boroughs in other administrative counties in the country, to operate. But instead of leaving it like that, you first break up a far more comprehensive and more concentrated authority for education than you can possibly put in its place—except that you will have the satisfaction of so gerrymandering the electorates of municipalities which are to be joined that you hope it will not be possible to have the permanence of a Labour majority on these matters, as you have under the present distribution. That is one of the great charges that lie at the door of the Government on this business of the electorate.
§ If we look at the other services we find the same thing happening. I mentioned education; what about health and mental services? When you come to putting most of the aspects of administration of these matters on to the enlarged boroughs, as compared with the wide area of the London County Council, what sort of service are you going to give them, for some years to come at least, to compare with the comprehensive service which now exists and is practised so successfully as to have become the admiration of local government throughout the world? We have argued and argued; and we have received a little concession here and there, thanks to my noble friends here; but we have not been able to break down this fortress. We do not all have special power with the Government as have the two Conservative Peers who scored such a victory over Epsom and Ewell. We moved Amendments, we put up just as logical arguments; but we were fiercely rebuffed in most of the instances in which we moved Amendments. This was the case in education, health, the mental services, 1204 road transport, housing and planning; in every case it was the same.
§ You are going to break up something and put it into a sort of wider municipal melting pot; but with divisions between them all the time. Obstructions will have to be overcome in administration between area and area, all of which are more or less completely contiguous. You know perfectly well, in your hearts, that this is so. We have had the themes of the learned Members, the commercial Members and the financial Members of your Lordships' House, who seem to have adopted the bug of amalgamation and concentration in all their businesses for the last fifty years, in steady progress.
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
Yes, look at your take-overs; look at the last one that failed in which you the Government are big shareholders. There is always the tendency to say you can be successful only if you can have sufficiently wide control and mounting centralised resources. But in this case, to meet a political gerrymandering, to forward a political intrigue, to try to break the power of a great and successful municipal Labour organisation of the last 34 years, you go back against all your own beliefs and say, "Break it up. Something better is sure to come out of it, if it is a Tory Government that breaks it up and not a Socialist one." It is an amazing situation to have to face.
I am not going to take long. I had a lot more to say, but I am not going to say it: my colleagues who follow me will fill in the gaps. But I am bound to say this. I have been too busy to read and study the Bill and I should not have understood half as much of it as I do if I had not listened to my colleagues who carried the burden of the fight—my noble friends Lord Morrison of Lambeth, Lord Shepherd, Lady Summerskill and Lord Latham, with his great experience of metropolitan administration. All the time I saw how impossible it was for the Government to stand up to their criticism. All that noble Lords opposite could do was to obey their mandate from their Government, not to give way on any major point. As I have said, I appreciate the courtesy of the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, and 1205 the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, but they were bound almost hand and foot. Neither of them is invested with complete Cabinet authority. They did their best against the small number on these Benches who have fought this Bill at every stage.
From the Back Benches I pick out one of my old friends from the House of Commons, Lord Champion, who has applied the local government knowledge he has obtained in a sphere outside London to the discussions on this Bill. He spoke with insistence on what could be done in Greater London, and I am grateful to him. There are also my noble friends Lord Longford and Lady Wootton of Abinger and others (I cannot mention them all), who spoke for this small Party of mine. I must say that I am grateful to them.
If this Government come to an end—and it ought to come within a very few months—I hope that, if it is not possible to repeal the whole of this Bill (although it may be possible to do that), there will be such a reconstruction of it as will bring back the best possibilities and do away with some of the abuses. I refer particularly to lopping off so much of the present resources of a county such as Essex, in which I live, although they are losing less than other counties and are going to have some compensation paid to them. Other counties are to be taxed more heavily on their remaining resources in order to finance the overall scheme of this Conservative Government in the London area. The Government ought to be hanging their heads in shame. I beg to move.
§ Amendment moved—
Leave out all words after "That" and insert:
this House declines to pass a Bill which, whilst destroying existing local government in the London area, fails to put in its place a system of local government which will assure to the people of the Greater London area those adequate services and facilities which are their right; and which fails, to take account of the serious effect on the finance and affairs of the truncated counties."—(Earl Alexander of Hillsborough.)
§ 4.4 p.m.
§ LORD CROOK
My Lords, I rise to support the Amendment which my noble Leader has moved. I do so as a Cockney who is proud of the many years' work of the L.C.C. and as one who has lived 1206 for many years in the County of Surrey and appreciates that the Surrey County Council, although Conservative-controlled, have done a good job of work. Others who will follow my noble Leader will deal in general terms with the Bill. I want to speak of one of those ruined counties on the outside—Surrey. I speak not only for my own Party in that county but I also express, for thousands of members of the Conservative Party in Surrey, something of what they think about the Bill.
There may be agreement between Conservative and Labour in Surrey on very few things, but on our opposition to this Bill there has been agreement from beginning to end. Surrey County Council did what the L.C.C. did—that is to say, they went to the electorate to talk about the proposals in the Bill and got a verdict completely against them. We have worked together to try to stop the Bill, which is now to leave your Lordships' House after many of us have fought for over 100 hours to try to improve it; to secure proper local government in London and the counties around; to make certain that life is left good for the old people; to see that the welfare services are not ruined or disturbed by the passage of the Bill; to safeguard the special children's services and education—to sum up, truly to try to see that the word "local" is not taken out of the phrase "local government."
The Surrey County Council have always agreed on the need for some overall planning machinery. It is perfectly true that they had in mind a much wider area than that proposed for the Greater London Council. They put to the Government their proposals for a joint planning authority to deal with strategic planning over an area no less than that of the Greater London Plan of 1944. They were agreed that local councils of adequate size should have direct responsibilities for the local administration of the big county services. All these views they put to the Royal Commission. They put proposals for full and unfettered delegation under the Local Government Act, 1958. They agreed that main roads and traffic needed a broader treatment than has been possible under the present law. They suggested to the Government that, in conjunction with the joint planning 1207 authority, the existing county councils were available to undertake these responsibilities.
In the speech I made on the Second Reading of the Bill, I referred to the integrity and courage of the leader of the Conservatives on the Surrey County Council, a Member of another place, Sir Cyril Black. He said to us in Surrey last year that there was an easy solution to hand, according with the evolutionary nature of our Governmental institutions over the centuries, but that the Government "quite unjustifiably," were bent on a revolutionary answer involving an unprecedented and drastic upheaval, with the destruction of all the existing tried and tested local government units, with their local pride and traditions built up over the years. It was he who first reminded us that the "local" was to be taken out of local government by this Bill. And, in his own words:All this could only be tolerable if, at the end of the day, there would be a guarantee of overwhelming benefit and improvement to the people of Greater London.He added:That will clearly not be the case.Indeed, he posed the question:What is the price to be paid for this revolutionary proposal for a Greater London Council?He gave the answer that we have tried to give in the 100-odd hours that we have spent on the Bill in your Lordships' House:It is that the big human services which require broad treatment are to be fragmented and damaged to the harm of the people.He was entitled to offer that kind of comment, and we have been entitled to do so. Indeed, he had said in the other place, in February, 1962, to his credit, in the preliminary debate on the Government White Paper, that the Government ought to take away their plan and do some serious thinking; that is to say, to do some serious thinking so that a scheme could be produced more suited to the conditions to be faced, more acceptable to the authorities, the ratepayers and the general public. But he then said—and I think that all our fifteen days of debate here in Committee and Report stages have shown this to be true:The only rethinking appears to have been in the direction of adding complication and confusion to the local government pattern.1208 That complication and confusion is, in itself, serious enough to worry local electors; but, of course, things were, and are, worse than that. What the people of my county see is their services in danger of being damaged, disrupted and delayed while all this upheaval takes place and, withal, being made more expensive for them.
I am not going to try to argue again with your Lordships the basis of the 5d. to 2d. Amendment which I moved on the subject of compensation. I will only say that no relief was forthcoming from any means at all, local or national. When this Bill becomes law, Surrey County Council will have to face a new rate of just short of £1 million, imposed upon them by the Government, for no benefit to themselves but for the benefit of a shibboleth plan which this Government had in their mind about London.
The county of Surrey, I would remind your Lordships, loses, under this Bill, 48,311 acres, which is 7.7 per cent. of the administrative county. In these acres there live 674,840 persons, or 39½ per cent. of the population. The rateable value of these acres is £3,822,926, or 42 per cent. What a clever picture of administration this is! Seven and a half per cent. of a county is taken away; 39½per cent. of the population in that small area goes, and 42½ per cent. of the rateable value disappears. Administrators of a great company, or of a great public board who designed plans of this kind, and made no attempt at any time to put a financial figure on what they were doing, and made no attempt to forecast what the effect would be in due course, would find themselves removed from the board which they graced.
What this Bill is going to do as it moves on, despite whatever we may try to do this afternoon, is to reproduce the very elements which the Royal Commission on this subject found to be so worrying—namely, the power of national Government to be "the boss", in due course. The Royal Commission were worried that unless some method could be found, within the framework of local government, to tackle present problems of Greater London, the central Government would increasingly supersede the local authorities. I will give noble Lords on the other side this credit: that the Government of the day gave lip service to 1209 that, because in the White Paper of November, 1961, paragraph 12, they said:They"—meaning the Royal Commission—thought that it would be disastrous for local government, and they were right".Then the Government continued, in that paragraph, with such grandiloquent phrases as:That is the answer to those who say that a system of local government which recognises Greater London for some purposes is not local government at all.I have no doubt that someone drafting that paragraph knew what it meant. But your Lordships will not need me to remind you that under the Government's plan, which we are now seeing moving to its final stage of becoming law, it is inevitable that there will be much intervention by the Departments of State.
My Lords, what are the facts to be faced? Some 20 boroughs are to be co-ordinated in the field of education; some 33 authorities are to be co-ordinated in the field of health, welfare and children's services. Does this not mean that there will be more, not less, intervention by the Departments of State? Moreover, as time goes on, we predict—as I think is clear from all the amendments we have moved to try to save this situation arising—that one thing is quite inevitable: that the boroughs set up will, in the circumstances and reality of Greater London, increasingly be found too small to administer the education and social services with which they will have been entrusted. We know, and we have said, that they are too small for aspects of many of the services now. The county councils, to which they are accustomed, having been abolished, there will be nowhere for these services to be transferred but to the Greater London Council; to ad hoc committees—which neither the Government nor any of us likes; to joint committees—which do not find much more approval with many of us; or alternatively, to the organised Central Government.
There it is, my Lords. I have tried not to speak too long. Like my noble Leader, there is much more I could have said. It was my last chance to say anything on this deplorable Bill, and I rose knowing that whatever I said would have no effect on the Government, who made up their mind long, long ago.
§ 4.18 p.m.
§ LORD AUCKLAND
My Lords, as the only representative from the Back Benchers of my Party, I hope I may be allowed to make a few observations on this Motion. I do not normally speak on the Third Reading of a Bill because it is a stage on which one does not usually speak unless strong feelings are felt, but I have certain feelings on this Bill, quite apart from Epsom and Ewell, to which I will come in a few moments. I should like, first of all, to make what is in effect a personal statement. During the marathon sitting of the night of July 2 and the morning of July 3, I think I should explain away what may have seemed discourtesy to the House. After the Amendment on the 5d. rate bar I was forced to leave the Chamber for the reason that my wife had driven up from Surrey to meet me and take me home, and one of our children having been ill, I thought it unfair that she should have an abnormally late night.
During these proceedings the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, took me to task, a little harshly perhaps, on the supposition that I had abstained from voting for an Amendment to which I had put my name. May I say at once that I completely accept his apology in the spirit in which it was given, but I hasten to assure him, his noble friends, and the House, that it would certainly be against my principles to abstain from voting on an Amendment to which I had added my name. I will say no more than that. I hope that he will now want to see me again. Whatever his feelings are, I certainly hope to see and hear the noble Lord again, because, whatever political feelings I may have in opposition to him, I know that Parliament would be the poorer without him.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
My Lords, I am much obliged to the noble Lord for his courtesy. For the record, I think I ought to mention that he has one point wrong. I chided him on two Amendments, on the first one of which I think he abstained. The second one was the one about which I apologised, but that was because we found that the noble Lord had voted, and in the right Lobby, too. So I think it must have been an earlier Amendment to which the noble Lord is now referring, and on which I did not apologise. But if he can prove to me that I ought, I will.
§ LORD AUCKLAND
My Lords, I will not go into the technicalities at this stage of the Bill. I completely accept the noble Lord's word, and in any case I can assure him that, far from there being any hard feelings, I think someone like myself, who has been in this House for a relatively short time, has often benefited by the chiding of his seniors, from whichever side of the House it may have come.
Although I support the principle of this Bill, since I think that boroughs will benefit by having more local government, I am unhappy about the rate bar, for the same reason that the noble Lord, Lord Crook, and others are. I shall say no more than that, but I hope that perhaps, even when the Bill becomes law, it will be possible for a review to be had if necessary, so that if the people concerned are heavily penalised, especially those living on fixed incomes and elderly people, it will be possible for some kind of review to be given. I know there are measures in the Bill dealing with these matters, but whether they are strong enough is another matter.
May I now especially thank my noble friends Lord Hastings and Lord Jellicoe for the extreme courtesy which they have shown throughout this Bill and for their great tenacity? I say this in all sincerity. I should like to congratulate noble Lords opposite for the spirit in which they have dealt with this Bill. I am bound to say that there have been times when I have disagreed but, after all, if we cannot have disagreement in a democracy—perhaps at times passionate disagreement—democracy goes by the board. I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, would agree on that score. I have sat through many hours of this Bill and, like other noble Lords, I have worked a sixteen-hour day, because we have had mornings in our offices as well; and I think it has been a fair example of our British Parliament.
I disagree with some noble Lords opposite who say that this is a political Bill. I am not entirely in agreement with that. For one thing, if the Government had thought of it in terms purely of Party politics, bearing in mind the temporary tricky state in which the Conservative Party is at present, they might well have felt disposed either to drop 1212 the Bill or to amend it considerably. If I may be technical for a moment, I would point out that some of the ward boundaries bear that statement out. For example, the merging of Mitcham and Wimbledon and Merton and Morden cannot exactly be the kind of marriage—if you can call it that—to promote the interests of the Party to which I belong. I could instance others. Be that as it may, I certainly hope that, when the Bill becomes law, all councils and councillors, and all those engaged in local government, will band together to make it work. I am unhappy also about the arbitrary number of councillors—the bar of 60. I have not had experience of local government, as have many noble Lords opposite and some of my noble friends, so I cannot comment on that from any personal experience. But, again, I hope that the Government will review the position on this matter from time to time.
May I say a word about Epsom and Ewell? I am, of course, grateful to my noble friend Lord Jellicoe for accepting the situation as it now stands. His replies, whatever shortcomings there may have been in them, were, as always when he replies to a debate, courteous and well studied. I think thanks are due primarily to the Town Clerk and the Council, to the inhabitants of the northern wards, and to the Charter Mayor of Epsom who, as I have said before in this House and elsewhere, has a record of public service in Epsom and in the county second to none. I should also like to thank the right honourable gentleman the Solicitor-General. I think he has been a little unfairly criticised during the course of this fight, but may I make one point here? It was through him that, before this fight began for the three northern wards, one other important ward, Ewell Court, was excluded. Since then, even with his Government Department, he has constantly tried to help those of us who have now obtained what we wanted.
My noble friend Lord McCorquodale of Newton—who has asked me to apologise for his absence to-day; he has to attend a funeral—made a speech which I think will go down in the annals of this House as one of sound common sense on practical issues. The local Epsom and Surrey Press have campaigned for this, not in a partisan but 1213 in a responsible spirit, and all those living in these wards, particularly the Residents' Association, and others, too, have campaigned without any unreasonable partisanship. I would stress again that there has been no lobbying on my own side for this, and no large-scale lobbying in the areas concerned. I think that this was a decision bereft of Party motives.
We are very grateful, as I said earlier, to noble Lords opposite and to noble Lords on the Liberal Benches for their support and to many of my own noble friends. The only sour note, and I am bound to mention it, came from the Economist, in an article headed "Lords for Epsom." I do not propose to quote from it but I can show it to anyone who is interested. It is rather a long article and this is a Third Reading speech.
§ LORD AUCKLAND
Yes, but it is a rather long one. What they said, in essence, is that the unelected House has been irresponsible in making a decision of this kind and that these decisions do our House a great deal of harm. The Economist really cannot have it both ways. They and other papers have been saying from time immemorial that the House of Lords should try, so to speak, to redress some of the Party caucuses in another place, Party caucuses which at times must necessarily operate. I do not say this because this happens to be my own doing; I would say this on any occasion. Here is one on which a decision has been made of a non-Party nature, and I really think that this article in the Economist has been very much less than fair.
As I have said, we have discussed this Bill for a very long time; many of us have sat up late hours; many arguments have been put forward, and we are now reaching the closing stages of a long innings. I would say only this, in extending my own thanks again to all sides of the House: that those who have to operate these proceedings will be faced with a great challenge, and I think that in our quality of government, both national and local, they will not fail.
§ 4.34 p.m.
§ LORD LINDGREN
My Lords, I feel that at this stage of the Bill brevity is called for, because there is little fresh that any of us can say. However, I should like to express, on my own behalf as well as that of my colleagues, the appreciation of the courtesy extended by those in charge of the Bill to the Front Opposition Bench. The noble Lord, Lord Hastings, in introducing the Third Reading this afternoon said that he felt, and the Government felt, that the discussions in this House had been a credit to the House. From this side of the House, as a comparatively new Member, I would say that they have been an education, because the shift system which the Government introduced has enabled us to meet noble Lords opposite whom we have not met before and whom perhaps it will be a long time before we see again. But these meetings, though brief, have been very enjoyable.
During the Second Reading of the Bill I set out various services under the control of the Middlesex County Council and of the L.C.C. and posed the question as to whether in any respect or at any stage either of those Councils had fallen down on the job of providing an effective and efficient service to the citizens of Middlesex and London. That question was never answered by the Lord Chancellor, who replied to the debate at the end of the day. We have had a very lengthy Committee stage and Report stage, and again there has been no accusation whatever, nor any evidence produced, that in any field of local government service either of those two local government bodies have fallen down on their jobs. In fact, to be fair to the Government and the Government spokesman, they have gone out of their way at all stages of the Bill to express the fact, on behalf of the Government, that both Councils have provided good services; and they paid tribute to the quality and standard of administration of those services. The only claim the Government have put forward at all stages of the Bill has been that there are all-purpose authorities, county boroughs, in various parts of the country who administer, or have the power and authority to administer, all the services, and who do that job efficiently. The Government's case is that if it can be done in a comparatively small county borough, or in much larger county 1215 boroughs like Birmingham, Manchester and the rest, then the breaking down of the large authority of Middlesex and of London ought to work out all right in the end.
My Lords, I think it is a little difficult to understand a Government who can disrupt local government services and make no pretence of claiming that the new system they are to introduce will in any way cause a better standard of service, greater efficiency or greater health and well-being of the peoples of London, Middlesex, or the annexed parts of Hertfordshire, Surrey, Kent and Essex. Even at this late stage—and I am sorry that the Lord Chancellor is not at the moment on the Woolsack, because he is to reply—I put a question to him. If, as the Government have accepted throughout all the stages of the Bill, there has been no failure on the part of the existing authorities, and the new authorities will in no way enhance the standard of local government, why create this upheaval? Because, whatever is done—and this is no criticism whatever of the new authorities which will be set up—in the early stages of the re-created boroughs, and re-created educational authorities and the rearrangement of the services, there is bound to be an upheaval; and until they get working smoothly (which may take one year or two years) there is bound to be hardship to the peoples to whom those services are rendered, and there is bound to be the provision for that period of time of a lower standard of service. How anyone who is associated with Government, and who has responsibility for seeing that local government services throughout the country are maintained on as high a standard as possible, can take action which will endanger the standard of services to the people is really beyond me.
The noble Viscount who leads this House has over the past few weeks been preaching—I was almost going to say putting on an act—about high moral tone. There can be no claim to any high moral tone by the Government in regard to the introduction of this Bill. I would put it to the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, again, were he here, that this is a dying Government, to put it at its best. It is a discredited Government, and even noble 1216 Lords opposite would not claim that the Government and the Tory Party generally are in the highest of spirits and are looking forward to an early Election. Then why, in the dying days, or dying months, at most, of a Government should we have this Bill placed on the Statute Book?
Let us face it. My noble Leader today, in his introductory speech, said that whenever an Election comes, if there is the return of a Labour Government that Government will look at the repeal of this Bill, or its rearrangement, in order to reinstitute many of the institutions which have been destroyed by this Bill. That creates even further uncertainty. No effective and efficient service can be rendered in local government during periods of uncertainty as to what is going to happen from month to month or year to year. I suggest that, even at this late stage, the Bill should be at least postponed, as was suggested by my noble Leader this afternoon. If this Government came back at the next General Election, then I am certain we could promise from this side of the House there would be no interference with the Bill. But this Bill is not a credit to the Government which has introduced it. But, what is worse, so far as I am concerned, it leads to an undermining of the standards of local government service to the peoples of Middlesex and London. After all, local government exists in order to render to the people the highest standard of service possible, and equally, at the least possible cost. That is endangered by this Bill, and therefore it is with no enthusiasm that we leave the Bill to-day on its Third Reading.
§ 4.43 p.m.
§ LORD LATHAM
My Lords, I rise to support the Amendment. This day may well be known as London's Black Monday, for to-day this House may decide, at the behest of the Tory Party and Tory Government, to dismantle the local government of London. If this odious Bill becomes an Act, it will cast the people's local government with its comprehensive social services into the unknown, where upheaval, fragmentation and disarray will preside and prevail. This Bill was conceived in malice, was born in iniquity and it will function in confusion. The provisions of the Bill constitute, not, as 1217 is alleged, reorganisation, but the disruption and dismantling of local government, under which frustration and uncertainty will abound. In truth as a measure of reorganisation it is a bogus Bill.
This Bill is the most insidious ever promoted in the history of local government in this country. In their unrestrained haste to hamstring progressive local government in London, this doddering and insecure Government, which are under notice to quit, have decided to sacrifice the social services of the people of London, services which have been built up by their dedicated devotion and that of their predecessors. Thus the interests of the people are to be sacrificed on the altar of Party spite, spittalled with the spleen of little-minded men and women who are vassals of the Party machine.
Throughout the consideration of the Bill, notwithstanding what has been said this afternoon, in Committee or at Report, we were repeatedly told that there could be no departure from the principle decided upon by the Government, on which principle, or alleged principle, the Bill is based. And there was no departure of importance, however wise, however proper, however suitable our Amendments were. It was take it or leave it. In the debates the Government spokesmen sought frequently to justify the provisions of the Bill by reference to some esoteric principle, variable when necessary, and if that sounded a bit thin, as it often did, resort was then had to the Royal Commission, to what the Commission said or did not say. As I stated in the Second Reading debate, the Government have discarded much that the Royal Commission recommended, including elements of the much vaunted "broad design" to which almost lyrical reference is made in the White Paper Command 1562. It could be said that where the Commission were right the Government rejected their recommendations, and where the Commission were wrong the Government have embraced them.
From a wide and comprehensive absence of experience, the Commission made the weird and wonderful discovery that what was needed in London government was to improve its status, to en- 1218 hance its dignity and to foster and cultivate a share of self-importance in the members of the authorities. These are the qualities that matter first before the services and facilities: so said the Commission and so said the Government. Then the Commission made a remarkable discovery, that the commuter resident, among others, in an area to be torn from its historic county—let me emphasise this—considers Greater London to be his city, that he too is a Londoner. Could anything be more inept? I know how the real Londoner would describe a statement of that kind, and so does my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth. And yet it is upon such nonsense as this that the alleged reorganisation of London's government is based, according to the White Paper to which I have already referred.
The purpose of local government is the provision of those collective services, aids and facilities which are part of the attributes of modern civilised society. It is not to puff up the status of local authorities or their members. Nor should functions be given to them in order that they may have something to do. The allocation of functions should be based on how best the functions can be performed, and where. The functions to be given under the Bill to the London boroughs reflect this upside-down wisdom of the Commission. Thus, there are 33 of everything in many cases, and in the inner boroughs there will be 13 of everything, temporarily. And so the dignity of the boroughs will prevail at the expense of the services.
As an example, the Government solemnly insisted that the inner boroughs and the City should have the power to make by-laws covering, if you please, the carriage of offensive matter through the streets. No doubt this will redound to enhance the status of the boroughs, each of which can make, in dignity, separate sets of by-laws, to the greater glory of that offensive matter especially if it possesses a pungent olfactory constituent. Furthermore, and for the same reason, the Government have insisted that the mortuary service should go to the boroughs, doubtless to show the Government's undying devotion to borough dignity, dead or alive. So it comes about that the social services of the people are 1219 to be torn up from their roots, to be replanted in confusion and to be fertilised in inadequacy and inefficiency. This is the Government's gift to the people of London. Let it be said a thousand times that the Government are responsible for this monstrous injustice to London. The executioners are here, led by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor. They are here to do their fell work.
The speeches made from the Government Benches have all been devoid of real understanding and appreciation of the human elements of local government. They were concerned with its form and structure rather than with the warm flesh and blood of men, women and children, whose interests it is the finest mission of local government to serve. Summarily stated, this so-called reorganisation of local government in London will put units in place of people, and dignity and status in place of services and facilities.
I cannot help feeling that there are present in this Chamber this day the elements of a social tragedy, for two great agencies for the welfare of the people are to be destroyed—the London County Council and the Middlesex County Council. As I have said, the executioners are here; albeit, it is not they who are responsible, but the evil men who control the Tory Party and the Tory Government. It is they who are doing this odious thing in order, principally, to destroy the London County Council, one of the greatest municipal authorities in the world, if not the greatest. For three quarters of a century the L.C.C. has served successive generations of the people of this great Capital City, in helpfulness, kindliness and gracefulness for at least the past 30 years. Now, because of its success, because of its achievements, and because of its fulfilment, the London County Council is to be destroyed with all the impalpable ethos of service which it has created and nurtured over the years.
History will pass its ultimate judgment on this foul deed. I think there is little doubt as to what that judgment will be. For my part, as one who served the L.C.C. for wellnigh twenty years, I conclude by saying, may the wrath of the people descend upon those who have done this wicked thing, for they are the guilty men of 1963.
§ 4.55 p.m
§ LORD WALSTON
My Lords, I think my sole qualification for rising this afternoon is the precise opposite from one of the many qualifications that my noble friend Lord Latham has for speaking, and that is that until this Bill found its way into your Lordships' House I was to all intents and purposes entirely ignorant of the working of the London County Council and of all the matters pertaining to it. I cannot say that my attitude with regard to it was that of sitting on the fence; it was rather the attitude of being perched upon a three-legged stool, the legs of which were not too well made. As I have said, my first leg was ignorance of these matters, the fact that I was remote from them, being a resident neither in the London area nor in any of the counties immediately adjacent and affected. The second leg to my stool was my profound respect for my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth, and therefore he was bound to exert considerable influence upon any thought that I might have upon this matter. The third leg of this stool was the fact that I belong to the only progressive Party in this country, and therefore I certainly had no preconceived ideas as to the immutability or resistance to change that there may be in an institution such as the London County Council. In fact, I thought that if anything had been in existence for as long as the L.C.C. had been, it was probably well in need of change and reform in some manner or another. So I looked forward to the discussion with some considerable interest and with a relatively open mind.
As your Lordships have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, we have spent 115 hours listening to, a very small part of which, so far as I am concerned, has been occupied actually speaking on, these matters. I must say that during the course of those 115 hours my views have somewhat crystallised. During the 115 hours I have learned a great deal. I have learned an increased respect for the iron fist in the velvet glove of the Government Whips, for the discipline which has been willingly shown and submitted to on both sides of the House. I have learned that many noble Lords seem to regard late night sittings here with as much pleasure as other people are prepared to spend long hours in 1221 night clubs, or even at some of the stripteases in Soho. I have also learned from the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, in his final spate of statistics, that we have on 85 occasions passed through the Division Lobbies. A short calculation led me to realise that had certain noble Lords, instead of walking that distance through the Division Lobbies, been running between the stumps at Lords during the recent test match, they would have added something like 341 to the English score. I think they would have been far better occupied doing that than by moving round the Division Lobbies here.
But I learned, I think, more important things than that. I have realised the enormous importance of the local government of London, not only to those people who actually live in the London area but also to the country outside. I have learned of the invaluable help that has been given, and is being given to-day, by the L.C.C. to the old people of London, to the homeless of London, to the sick and to the children in the educational services; and I have come to have a great respect for them and gratitude to the people who keep it up. I have also come to realise how very important the whole structure of local government is to the creation and maintenance of democracy in our local government throughout the whole country: that if we have the right structure in our local government, democracy will flourish; and if we have the wrong structure, if it becomes powerless, or impersonal, or too big, or too bureaucratic, it will wither away. If it withers away in local government we cannot expect it to survive in national government. That is the first leg of the stool on which I was sitting.
The second one is this. My respect for my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth has undoubtedly increased (if such a thing were possible), not only because of his obvious love for the L.C.C., his obvious devotion to probably his first and greatest love as a young man; but, above all, because of his knowledge of local affairs and local administration, and his real interest not only in the form of local administration, but in the end results: the people who are being looked after, helped and governed by these democratic organisations.
I come to the third leg of the stool. I still believe that there is need for change. 1222 I do not believe that the L.C.C., even in its present form, is perfect. It is no "sacred cow" which cannot be touched. The letters "L.C.C." do not stand as some people seem to think for "London's Consecrated Cow". It is something which, like all organisations, is capable of improvement. It should be improved and we should not, and do not, reject a new idea simply because it is changing something that is already there. It is to be rejected only if it is changing something that is good for something that is worse. That is the strongest impression I have taken away from listening to all these lengthy debates; that this great opportunity for improving a great organisation has been wantonly thrown away by this Government. This whole Bill is ill-thought out, hurried, and gives every indication of having been pushed with undue haste for reasons other than those of efficient administration.
Again, one has only to look at the figures given us by the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, as to the number of Amendments which have been accepted. I think he told us the figure was 80.
§ LORD WALSTON
My Lords, 80 Amendments of substance. What are the Government up to, bringing a Bill into this Chamber after it has been through another place in such a form that they themselves have to admit (and we are grateful to them for admitting it, though they did so only in face of overwhelming argument) that there are still 80 matters of substance on which it has been possible to improve it? We contend that there are many other matters of substance. I am not being ungracious to them, and we thank them for making that admission; but there is evidence to show that the Bill in its original form was hurried and was not thoroughly thought out. The edict had gone out that Carthage was to be destroyed, and it was to be destroyed by the end of this Session. That is the reason for the ill-considered form in which this Bill has come before us. As I have said, we are in favour of Amendments and alterations which are going to make the administration of the Greater London Council authority, whatever it may be, better. But in the course of our consideration of this Bill we have seen that some of 1223 those things which could be better have been neglected entirely, and many of those things which are already good have been utterly destroyed.
On top of that, no time has been given for any running-in period, for getting over essential teething troubles which anybody who wishes this Bill, even in its present form, to succeed, knows is absolutely essential, unless grave hardship is to be caused to the people concerned. As we have watched the progress of this Bill, it has been borne upon us time and again that the refusal of the Government to accept Amendments has been based not on the lack of merits of the Amendments but on the Government's innate mistrust of anything that has come from this side of the House and their doctrinaire adherence to their preconceived ideas. So I, for one, cannot be surprised if my noble friends on this side have from time to time imputed bad motives to the Government for this indecent haste.
The first question we should ask ourselves, after all this, is: Will London, in its wide sense, in 1970, be a better-governed place as a result of the passing of this Bill, or will it be worse governed? The second question is: Will democracy, local self-government in London, be stronger in 1970 than it is at the present time? Having listened to these debates, I am convinced that the answer to both those questions is, No. What is even worse is that by the passage of this Bill we have postponed for a far longer time than otherwise would have been the case the chance of improving the good, though not perfect, set-up that exists to-day in London. We had a chance, which we on this side should have welcomed, of seeing an even greater Phœnix arise from the ashes of the old Phœnix of the L.C.C. We had a chance of crying, "The London County Council is dead. Long live the Greater London Council!" But that chance has been denied us, because the Government, in their blind adherence to these words which have gone out, "The L.C.C. must be destroyed", have refused to allow to be built on this grand foundation which is already there a structure which is worthy of the new responsibilities. By doing that they have not only dealt a harsh blow to the young, the old, the 1224 sick and the ordinary citizen, who have already been living under the L.C.C. and who have benefited from the good things they have done, but they have also dealt a blow throughout the whole country to this far wider question of local self-government and of democracy. My Lords, that is something which the country will find it very hard indeed to forgive.
§ 5.8 p.m.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, those of us on this side who have been occupied in the long hours of the Bill are grateful for the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, when he praised us for the persistence with which we either attacked him or inquired. The noble Lord referred to a remark I had made at the end of the Report stage, which gave the impression that I had congratulated the Ministers on the manner in which they had looked into and dealt with our particular speeches. However, I would draw the noble Lord's attention to what I actually said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 251 (No. 106), col 878]:I think we shall also wish to thank the noble Lords, the Ministers, for their care and attention in their replies. Not always has their case matched their own eloquence…".We have had many notable and extremely persuasive speeches, particularly from the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, but we have always felt, except in one particular case on Civil Defence, that the Government have not met the case that has been deployed repeatedly from this side. In particular, I think of the children, the health service and, as my noble friend refers to them, the silent ones—those who are mentally sick.
The Government could well have made concessions without affecting the principles that underlie this Bill. I would again refer the noble Earl to the question of elections. My noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth, speaking with all his experience as a Party politician, as a Party manager, and as one intimately connected with London, advised the Government that it would be utterly wrong and against the principles of local self-government if they held the elections for the Greater London Council and the borough councils on the same day. I thought it was appreciated on all sides of the House that the issues that might dominate in a borough election could 1225 well be completely different from the issues that would dominate in a Greater London Council election. There are many here who sit on county councils. They themselves would be the first to say that there are many issues in county council elections which are quite different from the issues that would arise in a parish or rural district election. So far as I know, there is no case where a rural district election has been held on the same day as a county council election.
I think it is recognised by those who have experience in this matter that it is wrong for them to adopt this course, but the Government obstinately refuse to listen to advice. I believe that this is one of the greatest disservices that the Government have rendered to local government in London. It has always been recognised, on all sides, that the political Parties themselves are the mainstay of local interests, either in local affairs or in national politics. If you cannot provide a pattern for elections which political Parties are able to use, by which they are able to put forward their particular points of view, without getting them blurred because of the different issues, then I say that you have not given proper service to democracy and, in this particular case, to local government.
We also are grateful to the Government for having accepted the decision of this House in regard to Epsom and Ewell. I thought an overwhelming case was made, but I would remind the House that an equally good case was made in regard to Caterham and Warlingham. But presumably Caterham and Warlingham do not have the power and the resources that Epsom and Ewell have to put their case.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
Yes; I beg your Lordships' pardon. A similar case was made for these two areas, and I am glad that the House was persuaded by those interested—
§ LORD AUCKLAND
My Lords, I think that Epsom and Ewell is the only borough with a mayor and corporation which has been affected by this Bill. While I agree to a large extent with what the noble Lord has said, I think that is the strongest case for Epsom and Ewell.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
The noble Lord will agree with me that a mayor and corporation do not make an area. They are merely the figureheads and representatives. What we are concerned with are the areas, and the position these particular areas have in regard to the Greater London area. However, we will leave it at that. I am glad that we have had at least one success.
Then we had this remarkable position with regard to the City of London. Noble Lords, have admitted, time and time again, that the government of the City of London is not true local government. Yet while we are to see this change made against the wishes of the electors of the Surrey County Council and others, the one body which is recognised as completely undemocratic is to remain intact. My Lords, this is another reason for expressing our regret to the Government that this is a Bill of a political nature.
I think the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, appreciates the concern in regard to the children's service. I hope that the Government will look carefully at the development of the children's service and if they see that the position of the children is in any way being affected because of this measure will not be slow in admitting their mistake and in bringing forward legislation to rectify matters. It has been said that education should go with children, and that children should go with education. With the creation of this new educational organisation the Government have admitted that, for the time being at least, the present educational service in central London should remain. I should have thought that as the Government had accepted the case for education they could recognise the case for the children's service. It is true that children go with health, but it would not have been beyond the wit even of this Government, to find some flexibility within the health service; because noble Lords have said that there is always flexibility here and that we can always get together. But the problem of health could easily have been overcome. The children's service, which has proved itself to be one of the finest in the country, could have been retained and could have worked side by side with the educational service; but the Government have refused even that.
However, I would beg the noble Earl, because I believe he is a man of good 1227 heart, if his Ministry see a breakdown of this vital service affecting 9,000 children, to be prepared to stake his reputation—because his reputation is at stake, as he has said that he is satisfied—that he will come before this House and say that something shall be done, and will put the measure before us. We will not criticise him for it; we will praise him. Because, my Lords, these 9,000 children should be very much on our conscience.
My Lords, I believe that this Bill may go through its early stages. I do not think it will be put into effect. I believe we shall see a General Election and I have no doubt as to the result. I should be indeed surprised if my Party, which would then be in power, did not take the necessary action to prevent this Bill from being put into effect. We should have to do it because, in our view, with all sincerity, and Party politics apart, we believe that this Bill cannot provide effective local government, that its organisation will not lead to healthy understanding by the people of local government. My Lords, I think this is one of the most retrograde steps that I am aware of in the history of British Parliament.
§ 5.20 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, I am proud to speak in this debate between my noble friend Lord Shepherd and my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth. As our noble Leader, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, has said, the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, assisted by the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, has supplied us with magnificent inspiration in our resistance; and the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth himself has, of course, done more for London government than anyone alive, although he has been ably assisted by the noble Lord, Lord Latham, the noble Lord, Lord Silkin and other noble Lords.
My Lords, this debate brings to a close what is surely a discussion of the most important measure in this Session. I agree if I may say so respectfully, with my own Leader, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, in expressing astonishment that the Cabinet has been represented here so little. I do not know whether there is any excuse for the absence of the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham. It seems to me that there are some movements of the head opposite but I do 1228 not know whether I am to take them as amounting to anything in particular. It is to me astounding that, with this tremendous measure in front of us, the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, does not even bother to come down and sit here. I do not know whether he will bother to vote: let us hope he will be too ashamed to do that. But I hope that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor will tell the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, that in our view his absence to-day is quite indefensible. In many ways he is proving an excellent Leader of the House but, in the view of all of us on these Benches, in connection with this Bill he has fallen a long way below his standard.
Then we have the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor. For a time I thought he had absconded. There was a long moment—at least it was rather more than a moment—when he was not with us. He will forgive me for saying, respectfully of course, that he has played a much less conspicuous part in this discussion than some of us expected when we knew he was to be in charge of the Bill, because we know that he is a very thorough professional man. Of course, on the Second Reading he made the outrageous statement to the effect that the general principles on which this Bill is based command general approval among local authorities and informed people concerned with local government. We have not seen many of them about, and we have not seen many coming out to defend the Government. Certainly there have been very few people on their own side; with the single exception of the noble Lord, Lord Ilford, who should be saluted for at least trying to defend the Bill, we have seen no support from any other quarter of the House.
My Lords, when I think of the part played by the Lord Chancellor in this and the tremendous assaults on his able lieutenants, the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, the noble Lord, Lord Newton, and the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, I recall the story of the Marquess of Clanricarde, who was an absentee Irish landlord and a gentleman whose rents were exceptionally high: I believe that he lived in the Carlton Club. On one occasion he received a telegram from his agent saying, "Tenants say they will murder 1229 me unless you lower rents", to which the noble Marquess knew the answer. He wired back: "No threat to your person can intimidate me". That, roughly speaking, has been the attitude of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor in the face of the assaults on his subordinates. I think he would agree that he has not found it—I think he would say, "necessary" to come to their assistance; at any rate he has not come to their assistance in the great difficulties in which they have found themselves.
Your Lordships will not expect me to run over much of this ground again, but let me just say a few words about the social services. Take the London Teachers' Association. The noble Lord, Lord Ilford, questioned my statement that the London Teachers' Association was 100 per cent. against this Bill. I daresay that was too strong an expression, but certainly they are overwhelmingly against the Bill. I have received a further communication from them to-day. They say:From the first formulation of the Government's proposals for the reorganisation of London local government, the London Teachers' Association has strongly opposed the fragmentation of the London County Council's Education Service as being fraught with grave dangers to London's schools and the education of London's children. All the London associations of teachers, united in a common effort, were joined by great numbers of parents in strongly opposing the Government's original intentions. This led to the modified plan to set up an Inner London Education Authority. The London Teachers' Association, however, believes that the danger to London's schools has not been removed. It believes, too, that the administration of an Inner London Education Service, separated from the other children's and social services, is likely to encounter great difficulties. In particular, the clause specifying a review before 1970 prevents any important planning being undertaken by the I.L.E.A.The London Teachers' Association continues, therefore, strongly to oppose the Bill and welcomes the undertaking given by Her Majesty's Opposition to repeal the Bill when it becomes an Act, if circumstances make this possible. It calls, even at this late hour, for the withdrawal of the Bill, and for consultations between the Government and the local authorities to ensure that London's education system shall continue to develop unhindered.My Lords, I can quote the child care officers; I can quote many of those involved in providing these social services, and many who are interested in those who receive them. In the last resort I 1230 would say that no serious argument has been brought forward from the other side in favour of these changes in the social services as they stand in themselves. At an earlier stage the noble Lord, Lord Newton (and as he is not here and therefore has not perhaps received any bouquets, let me at any rate pay him the compliment of saying that he has always preserved a friendly face in the teeth of a lot of sharp criticism), said that this Bill was intended to improve the arrangements for traffic and planning; and he implied, although he did not put it quite like this, that education therefore had to be fitted in. That has really been the whole story: the social services had to be "fitted in" to the revolutionary plan of the Government.
To take a particular issue, take the Government's defence on the subject of the fragmentation of the children's service. That is a matter on which the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, made so powerful a speech on the Report stage, and the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, if I may say so, made a most gallant and comprehensive attempt to reply to the particular points. It is perhaps just worth looking at the general argument put forward by the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, about the children's service. He said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 251 (No. 105), col. 735]:…given that a choice has to be made—and the choice does have to be made—between health, welfare and housing, on the one hand, and education, on the other, we believe that it is right to associate the children's service with the former group. I would concede that in the best of all possible worlds it would be pleasant not to have to make the choice".Of course there was no need to have to make that choice, and this arises from this Bill. Perhaps I may quote the noble Lord, Lord Hastings—I will not quote him at length, and if he thinks I ought to quote more he will tell me so. He said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 248 (No. 72), col. 1228]:The Government's case for a children's service organised on a borough basis does not rest on the record of the L.C.C. (or of the other affected authorities), but on the belief that, given that local government in Greater London is to be reorganised, the proper place for the children's service—along with the other personal services—is with the boroughs.So that in tackling all these new social services the argument always is that 1231 once one assumes that there must be a fundamental reorganisation, this particular service must move with the others into the boroughs. That has been the basis of the argument, of which I have given two illustrations, throughout the Committee stage and the long discussions on the social services.
So, my Lords, we are back once again asking the fundamental question: "Why this change?" Of course, one may say that the Government are mad; that it is purely fatuous; that there is no reason in it all. I was reading a most attractive autobiography the other day by a friend of some of us here, Mr. Michael Astor. He recalls when, during the war, he was going on leave and was advised by his colonel to have his appendix out. He said there was nothing wrong with his appendix, and the colonel replied, "That does not matter; it makes you a better officer if you have your appendix out". The colonel apparently said, "I had my appendix out whilst I was on leave in India". You may take the line that the whole thing is a fit of madness, that there is no rhyme or reason in it at all. That would be the most charitable view you could arrive at, but I am afraid that I cannot take that view.
I am afraid I must form the opinion that the Government decided at a certain point that the L.C.C. must be destroyed; and once you commit one murder you are led on to others. If you take Macbeth, he murdered Duncan and then after that there was an irresistible case for getting rid of the guards and Banquo, and any available members of the Macduff family and anybody else he could lay his hands on who might possibly interfere with the full consummation of the crime. That is the position of noble Lords. They have decided to destroy the L.C.C., and to "bust" the whole thing up; to build up the boroughs; and then, when it comes to any particular service, they say, "Health has gone already, so child care has got to go with it." They present that kind of argument, and it all stems from the original murder.
We are then forced back to ask the question about motives. It is unpleasant, as I said at a much earlier stage in these proceedings, to impute bad motives to those opposed to one in politics. It is a good rule to avoid such an imputation—and let me say that, in my period in 1232 public life, I cannot remember an occasion when I have found it my own duty to make that sort of attribution. But, of course, for some of us who have been in this House for some years it is not the first time that so-called political motives have been attributed to far-reaching proposals. If we go back to 1949, at the time when the Iron and Steel Bill was being introduced, the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, then the Leader of the House (I gave him notice this morning, but I do not think he is able to be here), did not hesitate to attribute most unworthy motives to the Government of the day. He said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 162, col. 1018]:I will therefore repeat—and I think everybody really knows it—that the motive is purely political…".He was referring to the motive for the introduction of the Iron and Steel Bill.That motive is purely political, and all those elaborate economic arguments about the necessity for increasing production and the closer integration of the industry and so on are pure 'ballyhoo' to deceive the public".That is what the noble Marquess, who then was, and now is, very profoundly admired in this House, said about our proposals—that the arguments behind them were "'ballyhoo' to deceive the public".
What is sauce for the noble Marquess is sauce for lower Members of the nobility on this side of the House, and I can therefore assure him that, in our view, all these arguments that we have heard in favour of these changes are "ballyhoo". I will not even say "to deceive the public". I think I will stop short and, just for once, teach the noble Marquess a lesson in restraint. I will say they are pure "ballyhoo", and leave it there.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
As the noble Earl says, we had a mandate, which is a lot more than the noble Lords opposite have. May I quote the famous orator Grattan, when he was opposing the destruction of the Irish Parliament?—The Constitution may, for a time, be so lost—the character of the country cannot be so lost".I doubt whether even the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, can rescue 1233 the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, now—it is too late, I am afraid; that rescue should have come much earlier in the Bill—but if I might obtain the attention of the Lord Chancellor just for one closing moment (and I can assure him I do not want to interfere at all with discussions) I would say this. Our present rulers, in this last malevolent spasm, are acting contrary not only to the immediate wishes but to the whole character of the people of London. I cannot believe that they will ultimately succeed. I was told that when the Iron and Steel Bill was being carried some civil servants who were asked to prepare the Bill for us were already getting ready a Bill to cancel it out. That may or may not be true, but I hope that they are getting ready a Bill to cancel this one out—although I am bound to say that I do not think it will cause them very much exertion: one or two clauses should do the job. It is a great pleasure and a privilege to speak before the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, and to throw my weight behind him and all the rest of our Party in opposing this wicked Bill.
§ 5.36 p.m.
§ LORD CONESFORD
My Lords, I had no intention whatever of speaking when I entered the House. I so often find the noble Earl who has just sat down agreeable to listen to, and he often deviates into sense, but I am bound to say that I do not think he did on this occasion. I rise only because I think it might perhaps be misunderstood if the whole reply on all this were left to Her Majesty's Government. I was critical, and am critical, of certain parts of this Bill. I made that quite clear in the debate on Second Reading and I made it clear in the Committee stage. I am glad to say that I was not without success in altering certain parts of this Bill, particularly those dealing with transport. Nevertheless, I have never thought—nor, I think, has anybody on this side thought—that there is not a case for the reform of local government in London. I do not think that anybody, whatever his views on the L.C.C., thought, in the events that have happened, that the L.C.C. area represented a reality that should be preserved.
For the moment, I am not concerned whether it is a good Bill or a bad Bill, 1234 whether it does the thing as well as it should be done or does not. But what is the point of saying, as the whole attack on this Bill, that the motive of the Bill is to destroy the L.C.C., if by universal admission by all people who think at all about local government in London the L.C.C. area is known to be the wrong size? I doubt whether even the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, would dispute that. I am not saying at the moment whether all this Bill is wise—the House is well aware that I am by no means satisfied with some of the planning provisions—but I cannot believe that any serious person can possibly think that the whole motive for a major reform of local government in London can arise out of dislike for the L.C.C. Whatever the explanation may be, that explanation simply will not work.
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
It has long been stated by the present Home Secretary. He threatened it, and he is now getting it.
§ LORD CONESFORD
The Home Secretary, I think, has long thought, as have so many people, that in modern conditions the L.C.C. represented an area which was not an area which could be preserved in any reform of local government for the London area. The same conclusion was reached by the Royal Commission; the same conclusion has been reached by a number of experts of all Parties. I am not saying for the moment whether they are right or wrong, but they believed, at any rate, that the L.C.C. area was the wrong size, and had no hesitation in saying so.
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
But at any rate the Government had no mandate for this Bill, and the electorate—those who are really interested in municipal matters and go to the polls—have been against the Government right the way through on it.
§ LORD CONESFORD
I was not dealing for the moment with the question of mandate. I am interested in the sudden conversion of noble Lords opposite to the doctrine of mandate, and particularly interested when I remember their attitude to the abolition of the university seats—a matter on which in the previous Parliament, sitting at a Speaker's Conference, they had agreed without dissension to the 1235 maintenance of those seats. Nevertheless, when they came back, they had no, or very little, hesitation in abolishing them.
This idea of a mandate is a rather novel conversion. It has been said that they abolished University seats because I was a University Member. As a matter of fact, there was a Member for Cambridge University to whom they equally objected; and the late Walter Elliot had also won a seat for a university constituency. The joke was that, the University seats having been abolished, all three representatives came back for ordinary constituencies. The argument at that time was that many of us who then represented University seats could not expect to be elected for any other. I pointed out that the converse was much truer: there were a great many people elected for other seats who could not possibly hope to be elected for the Universities. But I must not be diverted by this.
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, it is a sorry argument to give a university man two votes to the one of the ordinary person.
§ LORD CONESFORD
It is extraordinary that these arguments against University seats were not obvious to the representatives of the Labour Party who sat on the Speaker's Conference and who agreed, without dissension, that the University seats should be preserved; and after they had had some legislation in the previous Parliament on the footing of that agreement, they proceeded—without saying anything about abolition of the seats in their programme—to abolish them. So much for the Opposition's attitude to the mandate.
§ EARL ATTLEE
My Lords, the noble Lord forgets that in the House of Commons Sir Winston Churchill denounced us for abolishing University seats because if he had them it would make a Tory majority. He regarded them as pocket boroughs for discarded and would-be M.Ps.
§ LORD CONESFORD
Really, my Lords, I must not get too involved in this subject. I should like to say to the noble Earl opposite that I think that is a complete misrepresentation of the argument that my right honourable friend, the then Leader of the Opposition in another place, put forward. Possibly, 1236 one of the reasons why he did not proceed to restore the University seats when he formed a Government was not unconnected with numbers. But I may say that, if anybody thought that the Universities could safely be relied upon to vote Tory, they were very much mistaken.
The noble Earl, Lord Longford, made an extraordinary attack on my noble and learned friend, Lord Hailsham, apparently for not being here. I thought that attack, if I may say so with great moderation and politeness, was the most complete poppycock. Noble Lords opposite seem to think that their arguments gain in strength through wearisome repetition; and that, if they all say the same thing often enough and at enough tedious length, that somehow casts a duty on the members of the Cabinet to come here to listen to them again and again. It does nothing of the sort. I have no particular love of all the actions of this present Cabinet—in fact, I think they produce a good many silly Bills—but, nevertheless, I should be very sorry to think that my noble and learned friend, Lord Hailsham, had not something better and more important to do than to listen to the speeches delivered from the other side this afternoon. I should have regarded it as a gross dereliction of duty had he felt it incumbent upon him, with all the important public duties that he has, to listen to them all. I was astonished by the amount of time he spent here. During the all-night sitting I myself urged him to go home and leave it to others, but he thought it his duty to attend the House, in such a way, I should have thought, as to make nonsense of the criticism being brought against him for his absence to-day.
The noble Lord then proceeded to attack my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor for not coming to the aid of members of his Front Bench who have conducted the main battle. But why should the noble and learned Lord perform such a work of supererogation? —the noble Earl, Lord Longford, will know what that means. Anything more superfluous than that the Lord Chancellor should come to the aid of the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, I cannot imagine. Those arguments that came from the Opposition that did not answer themselves were most effectively countered by Lord Jellicoe. Whatever else can be said 1237 against this Bill—and I have found quite a number of things to say against certain parts of it, particularly against the planning provisions—it cannot be attacked on the ground that it was premature to reform the government of London. Nor can it be sensibly attacked because in its main provisions it follows the recommendations of a Royal Commission.
My Lords, I should like, if I may, to conclude by saying a few words about the part of the Bill with which I must admit I am least satisfied. I succeeded in getting a great improvement of the traffic provisions on all the main points I mentioned on Second Reading. I did not have similar success in the main Amendment that I moved dealing with the planning of Central London. As a friend of the architects and planners who have tried their best to plan Central London and who have the most farsighted views as to how that should be accomplished, may I say that I hope an ambitious view will be taken of the powers that, even in the Bill as it stands, are left to the Greater London Council? I believe that if that Council take the view of their duty that they would have taken had they had much greater powers in the centre, they will not be going beyond what they are entitled to do under the Bill as it now stands. I believe that if they bring forward a sufficiently good plan under the powers that are left they will find many friends in all Parties and in all professions who will battle to see that the provisions of their plan get embodied in the plan or plans which finally become law. That is all I will say about the merits or demerits of the part of the Bill of which I am most critical.
As I said in speaking on Second Reading, this at any rate is to be said for the Government: they have tackled the reform of London Government which is a task long overdue. It is quite absurd to say that the whole explanation for that major reform must be a disapproval of or an enmity to the London County Council, when most thinking people know that, whatever one thought of the L.C.C., its area was the wrong one. As can be seen from my earlier speeches (before this Bill was introduced), nobody gave more praise than I did to the Architect's Department of the L.C.C. There were many things about the L.C.C. which I admired, but I cannot pretend that the 1238 area is the right size. I thought it inappropriate that nothing should be said from the Back Benches, after the speech by the noble Earl, Lord Longford, and I hope that the House will forgive me for having detained it.
§ 5.50 p.m.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, I had not intended to speak, but after some of the speeches we have heard to-day, including the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, I should like to say a word or two. I feel that this Bill cannot be ascribed to mere hostility to the L.C.C. I want to say, to begin with, that we have seen a remarkable performance on the part of the Labour Opposition in your Lordships' House. I know only too well the difficulties of trying to run an opposition to a major Bill of this kind. I had to take the lead on the Rent Bill at short notice, and I know what it means. There is no doubt that the Labour Opposition have put up a magnificent performance, day after day, night after night, in their defence of the L.C.C. and in their opposition to this Bill. We supported many of these Amendments, and I believe that if their Amendments had been carried the Bill would have been a much better Bill. But that was not to be.
Like the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, and as one who has no hostility whatsoever to the L.C.C., I believe that this reform in local government had to come. In my view, it is in line with the reform of local government which should have taken place in the country as a whole. In my own country of Wales, in certain parts of England and in Scotland, there is great need for regional authorities able to provide the main services, while the second tier—the boroughs, or whatever they may be—would be able to deal with matters that are particularly near to the people whom they represent. This is a principle which the Liberal Party are anxious to see carried out and which I think is enshrined in this Bill. There is a regional authority for this huge complex of London, and then there are the boroughs. Up to now, the boroughs have not had the authority which they should have had, and as a result they have not attracted the interest and support of the public. If we take the latest by-election in Chelsea, we see that there was—I hesitate to say, a 13 per cent. poll, but 1239 it was not much more. That is the sort of interest which is taken in the boroughs at the moment. I believe that if the boroughs have the authority which they will now have under this Bill, their inhabitants will take a great deal more interest than they have done hitherto.
But there is one blot on this Bill which I must mention. I cannot understand why, if the Government intended to make a real job of this local government reform, they should have included in the Bill the retention of the old, antiquated, reactionary City and Corporation of London. What on earth is the point of keeping that? The authority is elected—or, rather, selected—by a small group of people who masquerade under completely false titles. They are supposed to be tallow chandlers or spur sharpeners or saddle grinders, but they have nothing to do with any trade at all. It is a mere matter of paying a sum of money and getting a couple of friends to nominate them—then they are in.
The actual people who live in the City, a few thousands are nearly all caretakers. There is no real body of electors. Yet we have this great façade of the City of London. I think that by retaining this the Government have ruined their Bill, and largely destroyed their answer to the argument which the Labour Party have brought against them. When the Labour Party say that the Government have destroyed the body which they are so keen on, the L.C.C., but have not destroyed the City and Corporation of London, the Conservative Party have no answer to that. No argument against it. The only reason why they have not interfered with the City and Corporation of London is that so much of their finance comes from the City of London and so much of their support comes from the great bodies in the City. My Lords, this is a blot. No one can persuade me otherwise.
The noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, proposed an Amendment—and I supported him strongly—to create a new borough of the City of London and Westminster, in accordance with the Parliamentary seat, for which there is now one Member. In the same way, there should be a composite borough, the council of which should be elected by the inhabitants, just like any other borough. Then, when the Lord Mayor, 1240 dressed in his robes, welcomes distinguished people from overseas, he will represent somebody. Who does he represent now?—a few bogus tallow chandlers, spur sharpeners and other characters like that. As one who believes in regional government, I think that a great deal more should have been done by the Government of the day in getting these regional authorities. I can but weep for the harm they have done to regional government by leaving in the Bill this reactionary authority, the City and Corporation of London as it now exists.
§ 5.58 p.m.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
My Lords, we now come nearly to the end of our proceedings on the London Government Bill. They have been long, as they were bound to be, but it has been a great experience, and I think that your Lordships ought to be grateful to noble Lords on this side of the House. We have put the House of Lords on the map. People are taking more notice of your Lordships' House than they have done for a long time.
We are grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, who spoke for the Liberals, for the nice things he said about the Opposition's conduct of this Bill. It has been a great effort and sometimes a considerable strain. I am sorry that the noble Lord then went off the lines and gave his qualified blessing to the Bill. After all, it was the Progressive Liberals who first led the L.C.C., for 17 years, and led it, especially for those times, ably, uprightly and in a progressive spirit. They were defeated by the Tories in 1907 at a monstrously conducted election, when the Tories published that ugly poster with the ugly face and red nose marked, "Progressive Socialist. It's your money we want!" I once reprinted it in the London News, and was threatened with action for breach of copyright, after so many years.
The Tories treated the Progressive Liberals abominably. That was typical of the Tories then and it is typical of the Tories now. That is the sort of people they are. Mr. Churchill once asked, "What sort of people does Hitler think we are?" I need not ask, "What sort of people are the Tories?" That is the sort of people they are. I should have thought that, as the Liberal Progressives had done 1241 so much for the L.C.C., the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, would have had more affection for their memory.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, I have every affection for their memory. As the noble Lord knows, Sidney Webb was in the Liberal Party in those days. The point is that time marches on. What was good and adequate fifty years ago is no longer so to-day. In view of the way that London has grown, a new authority is wanted to deal with its increased size.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
I can only say that I believe if those progressive Liberals had been here they would have taken substantially the same line that we have taken. The Liberals have got themselves into difficulty. There were six Liberals in the House of Commons when this Bill was brought in, and all six of them voted for the Second Reading. I do not wonder that they are not doing as well in London as they are in the Provinces and outside London. If they are asking to lose their position, nothing could suit us better, in so far as we are in competition with them. But I assure the noble Lord that the old Liberals of the L.C.C. were a good lot, and if they had been here they would have opposed this Bill.
The interesting thing about this debate to-day, as on other occasions, is that not one noble Lord opposite, except noble Lords on the Front Bench opposite—and this is true also of the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore—has given firm, unqualified support to this Bill. This, also, was substantially true in the House of Commons.
My Lords, if I may interrupt the noble Lord, may I point out that there is a reason for that? If noble Lords opposite had brought any new arguments up to-day, we might have been tempted to speak; but we have been listening to the same points and arguments that we have been listening to for the last six weeks.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
That is a try, but it is rather a poor one. That will not wash; and I do not think the noble Viscount expects that it will, either. Not one noble Lord has given unqualified support to the Bill. I must say that if I were a Minister on the Front Bench opposite, or on the 1242 Woolsack, for that matter, I should be rather alarmed about this situation. The truth is, I believe, that more than half of the Tory Lords do not like this Bill. It is not a popular Bill.
Local Government in Greater London, as things are, is really not at all bad; it is pretty good. Noble Lords have only to walk about the streets of London to find that it is well-governed and well-administered. It is no good assuming that local government in Greater London is in a chaotic state. It is working quite smoothly. Ah! here comes the noble Viscount the Leader of the House, who has actually turned out on the London Government Bill, a matter in which he is not at all interested and in which he has treated the House with utter indifference throughout the whole of its proceedings.
§ SEVERAL NOBLE LORDS: Oh!
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
It is no good noble Lords saying "Oh, oh!". I am entitled to comment about a noble Lord who turns up at the last minute, who is a senior responsible Minister and has not taken part in the proceedings on the Bill. I think it is a bit rough on the noble Lords on the other side who have done the work, that now he turns up at the last minute. I should have thought that the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, would have been the one to wind up this debate. But we have the Lord Chancellor—and we are glad to see him, although we have not seen or heard much of him in connection with this Bill. As my noble friend the Leader of the Opposition said, the Cabinet Ministers in this House have not treated the House very respectfully in the proceedings on this Bill.
I say that London government works well, especially in view of the difficulties of this huge, sprawling, built-up area of Greater London, which none of the local authorities created. But there it is. Anybody who assumes that London is badly governed is, as I say, making a mistake. I agree that there was the possibility of adjustment of areas, both of the County Council and of the metropolitan boroughs and the county districts outside, but it could have been done by agreement, by negotiation and by discussion, though not on this fundamentally large scale. Similarly, with the functions, there 1243 could have been discussion, negotiation and, quite likely, agreement. That could have come about. And, indeed, some was offered by the London County Council to the boroughs, and accepted with appreciation. I say that the system of local government in Greater London works, and you have only to look at London to know that that is so. Indeed, when it was said here on one occasion that saying that a system works is no defence, my noble friend Lord Silkin pointed to this House itself, which is full of anomalies and illogical characteristics, which some noble Lords find charming, and he said, "It works." That is the defence for the existence of this House; and it is not a bad one, either.
By the way, we have heard nothing much about the Metropolitan Water Board, which I understand the Government intended to put in this Bill, but they found that it would necessitate a hybrid Bill, and presumably they will bring in a Bill next Session. The Metropolitan Water Board is an independent authority on which I once sat for three years, which does its work well. But I think it is an anomaly that it continues to exist side by side with the Greater London Council, and if the Government think it wise, as I understand they do, to bring in a Bill to merge the Metropolitan Water Board with the Greater London Council, personally, I would give it my support, although probably that would cause some disappointment among some Labour members on the Metropolitan Water Board.
This Bill, in my judgment, has a Party political origin, and I have some evidence for that. In 1894, or thereabouts, the Conservative Government were to bring in a Bill for the establishment of metropolitan boroughs. That was some five years before the 1899 London Government Bill. They intended, at the same time, to abolish the London County Council, because (may I tell the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore?) the offence then was that there was a Liberal majority on the London County Council. That was the reason why they wanted to abolish it: because they regarded any other than a Tory majority on the great local authority of the capital city as an offence, And so they still do. Well, the Webbs got to hear about this—and, by the way, 1244 Webb was a Fabian Socialist, as well as a Progressive member of the London County Council, at the time, and his business then was to penetrate the Progressives and the Tories and to give them good ideas; and he was very successful. I think that the two Webbs were largely the authors of Mr. Balfour's Education Act of 1902, to which my noble friend the Leader of the Opposition made reference. Lord Haldane got to hear about this plot against the Liberals. He went round to the Webbs and told them, and it so happened, for one reason or another, that that Bill was dropped. Later a Bill was brought in to establish metropolitan boroughs, but not to abolish the London County Council. So the idea is an old one; and in those days it was the Liberals who were the offenders.
Then we have the point that the present Home Secretary said, after the London County Council Labour victory of 1934, that he would not be content until the Socialist L.C.C. was abolished. What he meant may be open to argument, but it is a significant statement. And he was Minister of Housing and Local Government when this Bill was ministerially conceived. That is the second evidence.
The other evidence is that the London Municipal Society gave evidence before the Royal Commission, broadly and roughly on the lines of this Bill. I think the deduction is quite clear: that they could not get a majority at County Hall by the consent of the people, so they said: "We will get it without the consent of the people. We will so enlarge the area that we are pretty sure to get a Tory majority". They have had to give concessions now which have diminished the area, which does not make it so certain. But the motive was there, and is still there. They wanted to legislate the London County Council out of existence, and logically they had to legislate the Middlesex County Council out of existence as well, and parts of the other counties around London. So the London Municipal Society, which is the Tory electoral machine for Tory government in the County of London, gave evidence before the Royal Commission for the purpose of achieving these ends, and the Government have loyally followed the lead of the London Municipal Society since.
1245 I say that the purpose of this Bill—and I am not open to be converted on it—is founded on Party political bias: that it is gerrymandering, jiggery-pokery and that it represents dishonourable conduct on the part of Her Majesty's Government. All this has been done now, in spite of the fact that the Conservatives had a majority on the London County Council between 1907 and 1934. They had 27 years of power. During that time there was no talk about the County Council's getting too much power. On the contrary, Conservative Governments were busy giving the' County Council more power, because there was a Tory majority there. They insisted under the Local Government Act, 1929, on giving them substantially the whole of the powers of the Metropolitan Asylums Board and the 25 boards of guardians—about 100 hospitals, as my noble friend Lord Latham reminds me. Why has the change come? Why have they now come to the view that the central authority should have less power and the boroughs should have more? There is only one answer. It is the Party political explanation, which my noble friend the Leader of the Opposition gave, and which I now repeat.
Let us look at the Bill. I will look at it very briefly, because we have examined it at some length before. The authorities under Part I are all too big in population and in area. The Government said that they wanted to bring local government nearer to the people. But it is taking it further away from the people. The central authority will have a population of about 8,500,000. The local authorities will have enormous populations and very big areas, with the result that the centre of administration will be further from the people than before, and the number of electors to each councillor will be far greater. So that is a failure: the areas are too big.
Here I join forces with the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, about the City. The explanation about the City is perfectly plain. It is true that the Tory Party receives a great deal of its money from the City. It receives a great deal from the County of Surrey as well, which is perhaps why some concessions have been made to Surrey, about which I am glad. But the other thing is that the City as a local authority is a non-Party, one-Party local authority. It is 1246 easy to be non-Party when you are one-Party and it is thoroughly Conservative. I admit that it acts as generous hosts to various people whom the Government want to entertain. But the argument of the Government is that the boroughs must be bigger. What do they do with the City? It is a square mile, with a resident population of between 4,000 and 5,000, and yet the City is left alone; nothing is added to it. I should have been happy if it had been the Corporation of Greater London, with a Lord Mayor as the head of the Corporation of Greater London. Not a bit. They have left them alone for partisan, Party political reasons, because the political composition of the Corporation suits them very well.
It is argued that the Greater London Council is really an enlarged London County Council, and there is something in it. But it is to have much less power than the London County Council, as little power as possible. The London boroughs are to have as much power as possible. It is argued that the boroughs must have the powers affecting the individual. This Bill is produced by a Government, with Cabinet approval, presumably. Notwithstanding all the arguments against my noble friend about the children—education, school medical services; all these services are supposed to affect the individual, which indeed they do—it has been their argument not to give the Greater London Council anything that concerns individual welfare, and that is why the education service has been played about with. I cannot be universally dogmatic about that point, because it is a mixed up solution.
A White Paper has been published on The Modernisation of Local Government in Scotland, Cmnd. 2067. This no doubt has had Cabinet approval, or the approval of a Cabinet Committee. Most of the arguments about London are reversed when the Government come to Scotland. In Scotland it is recommended by the Scottish Office (this document is presented to Parliament by the Secretary of State for Scotland), subject to discussion with the enlarged county councils—and they are of some size in Scotland—that among their functions shall be child care, which in London is to be dealt with by the boroughs. In Scotland it is to be the enlarged county 1247 council, and not the burgh, who will deal with Civil Defence and other defence matters (though there are minor powers which will go to the burghs); food and drugs regulation (which in London is to go to the boroughs), while food and milk administration and libraries will remain a borough power.
How much did we hear about the local health and welfare services having to go to the borough? Yet the same Government produce a White Paper concerning Scotland in which those services go to the enlarged county councils. Remand homes go to the enlarged county councils, and all roads, except unclassified roads, to the county council. But that is not so important. I admit that in this White Paper there are considerations which could lead to an argument a little the other way round. But how can you bless a Government which produces a Bill based on one principle, and a White Paper based upon contradictory principles? It shows what a pantomime Government we are afflicted with in our country at this time.
Part II of the Bill deals with traffic and highways. We have achieved a little improvement, but the Minister still has enormous powers to interfere with the local authorities, although one of the purposes of the Bill was supposed to be to keep the Minister off the local authorities on highways. And there is going to be something of a muddle about metropolitan roads. Part III on housing and planning denies powers of slum clearance to the Greater London Council, which we are absolutely sure will slow down slum clearance in London and extra-London, as was proved by my noble friend Lord Silkin, with his great experience of housing in London. They have stuck to it, and they will slow down slum clearance as a result. There is uncertainty as to the future ownership of the estates and land now in existence under the county council. The planning powers are insufficient for a wider London. We did our best to get improvements in the central area without much success.
Part IV of the Bill deals with education. Here there are two philosophies. In the administrative County of London the Bill establishes an Inner London Education Authority. Outside the present county they have the boroughs as 1248 all-purpose education authorities, although the county councils have discharged important, considerable powers in education, and discharged them very well. The Inner London Education Authority is an improvement. But this is politics, too. They did not make this improvement because they wanted to. They made improvements because of the great agitation of the teachers, whose organisation is politically non-Party. But they have a very powerful influence in elections. The Government were afraid of this. And the parents were upset, including a lot of Tory parents, who liked the education which the L.C.C. gave to their children.
So politics came into it. The Government were afraid of losing votes—which they will lose by this Bill, anyway—and so they invented the Inner London Education Authority, which, at the beginning, was to be for a population of about 2 million to 3 million. Then we pressed and pressed, and so did the teachers, and the Government have now taken in the whole existing administrative county of London. That is an improvement, but it is something of an anomalous body. It will consist of the members of the Greater London Council for the county, plus one member from each borough and one from the City of London. But the Greater London Council will not be able to examine the Education Authority's estimates. They will make them up on their own responsibility, and my experience of education people is that they are great enthusiasts and very able people but they do rather like spending, which is natural. The Greater London Council cannot interfere with their estimates and a precept goes through the Greater London Council to the boroughs to find the money. Even then, it is not finished. There is to be this review in 1970, which is leaving everybody concerned in a state of doubt, uncertainty and apprehension. In outer London it is to go entirely to the boroughs, notwithstanding the very good service of the outer London county councils before.
The school medical services are to go to the boroughs, or, at any rate, to joint arrangements between the Inner London Education Authority and the boroughs; and the poor Inner London Education Authority is to be advised by 1249 thirteen borough medical officers of health: an unlucky number and an unlucky arrangement. The Inner London Education Authority is not even allowed to appoint a chief school medical officer or a chief school dental officer. This is administrative muddle. It is administratively indefensible that one education authority is not responsible for its school medical service and that it is to have thirteen borough medical officers to advise it. That does not square with the Scottish White Paper as to what is being done in Scotland. Youth employment is, for the moment, to go to the Greater London Council, but again with a review in 1970 and greater anxiety as to what is to be done.
Part VI deals with public health, et cetera, and here the City of London (again showing the Government's bias) is the Port of London Health Authority. This square mile is going to be the port health authority for the whole of the river, from the Nore to Twickenham. This is bias again, and I think the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, will agree with me on this particular point—and if we go on like this I shall get him into our Lobby at the end. There it is, and it ought not to be the Port health authority. It is preposterous. This is again showing the City favouritism; that it is one of the Government's darlings. It is a single-Party, Tory authority, and that is why the Government favour it.
Part VII deals with old folks' homes and with the service for old people, who are unevenly distributed over London, who have not children to look after them or whose children do not find it convenient to do so, and who have been well looked after by the L.C.C. This service is to be divided up among the London boroughs purely for the sake of dividing it up. It is the same with the children, over whom we had a great fight, in which my noble friend Lady Summerskill took part. They are to be split up and are to be unevenly distributed all over the London area. Parks are in a somewhat uncertain state, and truncated counties are treated very badly, both administratively and on financial grounds.
Moreover, running right through this Bill are enormous provisions for conferring regulatory and order-making powers on Ministers that I have ever seen in any Parliamentary 1250 enactment. It really is extraordinary that should be so. This is a vast Bill, as my noble friend the Leader of the Opposition has said. It is a Bill for which the Government have no mandate whatever and to oppose which we have ample mandates. The last London County Council election was fought on it, among other things; the last metropolitan borough elections were fought on it, among other things; one county council by-election in Middlesex and one in London were both fought on it; and we won with far greater success, I think, than we did before. And the Government have not been doing very well either in local government or Parliamentary elections in the Greater London area. So they cannot claim any mandate for this Bill. We, on the contrary can claim mandates against it.
This House has had to devote considerable attention to the Bill, partly because it was a big Bill but partly because the House of Commons was treated in a most shameful and scandalous way by Her Majesty's Government. Members had hardly started on the Bill before the Government imposed a cruel guillotine. What is the result of that guillotine? I know, because I have handled guillotines in my time, though I have not such extensive experience of guillotines as this Government have. They have had many more guillotines than we had in our time, even allowing for their—unfortunately—longer period of office. But that not only meant that some Amendments were not reached; it meant, as all guillotines must, that the Opposition had to restrain themselves from talking too much or moving some Amendments in order that they could concentrate on the more vital and important Amendments. It meant that when the Bill came back on to the Floor of the House the Speaker, probably quite fairly, and understandably, had to be more severe in selecting Amendments in order not only to protect the Government but also to protect the Opposition; because if too many Amendments were moved the Opposition would be stultified in the work it had to do.
All this meant, of course, that the Bill, when it came here, was ill-considered. Indeed, not only was it ill-considered but you can tell by the enormous number of Government Amendments that we have had on the 1251 Bill right up to and including the Third Reading—in fact, as my noble friend says, 27 at Third Reading—that it was not a very well considered Bill and that, although the guillotine was there, the Government did not look after the Bill enough. But who would expect anything else while Mr. Macleod is Leader in another place, and presumably Chairman of the Legislation Committee of the Cabinet? But it just shows how important the Bill was.
It has been said that we talked too much. We have even most unfairly been accused of obstructing the Bill. It is not true. All we have done is our Parliamentary duty, both on the merits of the measure and because of the inadequacy of its consideration in another place. We have done our duty. And do not let noble Lords think that we thoroughly enjoyed being here night after night. It is not a very pleasing thing. Those of us from the House of Commons did not come to the House of Lords in order to sit all night, or even to sit late. We came here to have a quieter time. Therefore, we have no temptation to stay here late. I like to go home to my wife, which is the test of a happy marriage. We did not want to stay here, but we had our duty to do, and it was an act of self-sacrifice on our part that we have given so much attention to this Bill. We did our Parliamentary duty, no more, no less. It has been hard work for us; very hard work; and here I wish to pay a tribute to my noble friends, who have really "played ball" and been fine in the great support they have given to us through considerable difficulties and often even inconvenience. I am very grateful to them.
But this is the way not to do legislation of this sort. Government in local government should be fair and impartial. Governments should not bring in Bills like this for Party political motives. It is true that there was a Royal Commission; which was very carefully selected, with remarkably scientific care. Not for nothing have the Government been to universities where they studied political science. The selection of the Royal Commission was real political science. It is true that the London County Council gave evidence to the Royal Commission, as I think was made clear by my noble friend the Leader of the Opposition; and, 1252 if not, that is what he meant to say. They gave evidence. What they would not do, when the Government invited them, was to help the Government in the framing of this Bill. They did not see why they should be self-executioners. I do not blame them; I warmly support them in the attitude they adopted.
Another thing is that in Scotland it is insisted by the Secretary of State (he repeatedly said it) that they must have adequate consultation with the local authorities before legislation is framed. That was not done in the case of the London Government Bill. It may be said that the County Council had the chance to consult with the Government after the Bill was published. They did; but that was to help in hurrying the execution and administration of the Bill, and they said they were not going to be part executioners of their own heads. I do not blame them. For Scotland, the Government have promised to do things differently.
In all justice, a Bill of this character, which uproots things, seizes people's property, local government's property, endangers over a wide area the financial interests of the ratepayers, seizes their property and hands it over to somebody else, ought to have been a Hybrid Bill, so that the local authorities could have appeared before a Select Committee, or Select Committees, by counsel and otherwise, and argued their case out, and the Government would then have had to reply. But no, that was not allowed. In justice it ought to have been allowed. Indeed, they must allow it, I gather, in the case of the Metropolitan Water Board. Why in that case and not this I do not know. I am not thoroughly expert about Hybrid Bills, though I did once run one, the London Passenger Transport Bill. Here was a great case to have a Hybrid Bill with the right to appear by counsel and so on.
The conduct of this fight in your Lordships' House has been interesting; and I think it has been valuable. It is true, as the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, said, that some concessions have been given, and we appreciate them. They have not been many; they have not been very fundamental, but they have been worth having. We on our side have genuinely tried to improve the nature of the Bill. I agree with others—as well as thanking my noble friends, which I 1253 do first, foremost and all the time—in expressing appreciation of the courtesy we have received from the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, and the noble Lords, Lord Hastings, Lord Newton and Lord Chesham. These so-called "Junior Ministers" (though the Minister of State, Home Office, is not quite so junior), have done a very good job: up to a point, they deserve our thanks—not altogether, because we have not got what we wanted from them. But they deserve the thanks of the Government, especially the Cabinet Ministers, who ought to have been here doing their job. They deserve appreciation, and I hope that they will be given consideration in the right quarter in due course, either under this Prime Minister or another one, as the case may be.
This is an important Bill, an enormous Bill, a Bill of fundamental importance to British local government. We do not like it. We reserve the right to repeal it, as the late Hugh Gaitskell said—in fact, he said he would do it. I believe that Mr. Wilson has also said, and the Labour Party Conference, that we completely reserve the right to repeal this Bill in the next Parliament. It must depend on the circumstances of the case, but that is the right we reserve; and, having said so, we shall have a mandate to do it, if it is expedient so to do at the time. This is a bad Bill, brought in from bad motives. It is in large measure a destructive Bill, as a Party political Bill brought in for Party political ends and not for good administrative reasons must be. I do not believe that it will improve, I believe that it will injure and damage the good government of a city in which I have lived my life, in which I have played my part, and which I love very deeply.
§ 6.35 p.m.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I have listened with interest to nearly everything that has been said in the course of this debate. I was sorry not to be able to hear part of the speech of my noble friend Lord Auckland and part of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, to which I will refer in the course of my reply. I hope they will excuse me.
The best part, I thought, of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, was the part in which he 1254 referred to my noble friends Lord Jellicoe, Lord Hastings, Lord Newton and Lord Chesham. I should like to join with him—it is about the only thing on which I can join with him—in the tribute he paid to their ability, their courtesy and their capacity. I naturally part company with him in the criticisms that he and others made in relation to members of the Cabinet, and, in particular, the criticism made by the noble Earl the Leader of the Opposition, the noble Earl, Lord Longford, and the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, of my noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham because he was not here on certain occasions. I thought it had been clear to your Lordships that I was the one primarily in charge of the conduct of this Bill on behalf of the Government, and the criticisms which your Lordships made on that account should have been directed to me—and no doubt perhaps some of them were meant to be. I was sorry that owing to circumstances of which I think most of your Lordships were aware, I was not able to enjoy the rare pleasure of staying up with your Lordships the greater part of one night recently. But I have done my best to be here throughout the debates, and I have listened with admiration to the speeches of my noble friends, in reply to speeches made by the Opposition, and I have never found it necessary to intervene or add anything; I could not think of anything to add that would improve their replies.
My Lords, this has been an interesting debate and, so far as I am concerned, it has had three novel features. I, for one, never anticipated that in the course of a debate on the Motion "That the London Government Bill do now pass" we should embark on a discussion about University seats. Nor did I anticipate that we should hear that the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, had so far left London as to inquire into local government in Scotland. It is quite remarkable that he should pay that attention to it. Of course the one defect in his argument about local government in Scotland was that he failed to contrast the size of a borough in Scotland with one of the new boroughs created under the Bill. He would find, I think, that his enlarged counties more nearly correspond in size to the boroughs under the London 1255 Government Bill than the boroughs of Scotland to which he referred.
The third and other respect which I thought was surprising was the vigour and violence of the language used on this occasion by certain members of the Opposition. The noble Earl, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, went so far as to say that the Royal Commission was packed against the London County Council. And that allegation was repeated by the noble Earl, Lord Longford, and by the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth. What is surprising is that when the names of the members of that Commission were announced, there was not a voice raised in criticism. I myself always rather discount criticism of a body on the ground of partiality when it has produced a conclusion which you yourself do not like. I need not say anything more about that at the moment. I think perhaps the most violent language was that used by the noble Lord, Lord Latham. He really strained his vocabulary. At one stage I thought that he was going to refer to me as the Lord High Executioner.
I should like to congratulate noble Lords opposite on the way they have endeavoured to make sure that none of their arguments should be overlooked—by constantly repeating them. Sometimes it may have appeared that the repetition bordered on what in another place might have been called "tedious", and across the sea as a "filibuster". I myself was puzzled to know what advantage there was in dividing on a particular Amendment without any discussion at all. However that may be, this Bill has certainly been exhaustively examined.
With the interest that the Liberal Party now take in local government it would not be right for me not to say something about the part the Liberal Party have played in our deliberations on this Bill. Sitting for some 17 days, discussing some 446 Amendments in Committee and some 311 Amendments on Report, considering, as we have done, every facet of local government in the Greater London area, I feel that I should congratulate the Liberal Party on having taken part in our debates, in Committee and on Report, on no fewer than ten occasions; and to-day again we 1256 had an interesting speech from Lord Ogmore.
After all that has been said, it is surprising to me to hear noble Lords opposite go on repeating so vehemently, as they have done to-day, that in bringing forward this Bill the Government have been actuated solely by political motives; that our one aim, our one motive and our one object in bringing forward the Bill has been to break up the London County Council solely because it has a Socialist majority. Constant repetition will not lead people to believe that. It has been their constant theme, and no doubt it will continue to be. But it simply is not the case. Indeed the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, put forward what were to me two most surprising explanations. He said that this is a purely political Bill for a political motive. Then he went on to say that this will not be, and it is not, a popular Bill. I am quite sure that the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, would not introduce a Bill with a political motive which he did not think would be a popular measure.
These people who put forward these charges of political motives may sometimes find that they recoil upon themselves. In this connection I should like to remind your Lordships of what the Royal Commission said, in paragraph 210 of their Report. They said there:The London Labour Party is not only the policy-making body, but is also the Party machine for organising the Party and fighting elections. It appeared to us that its principal, and perfectly legitimate, object was to ensure that as far as possible any reorganisation of London Government would facilitate rather than impede its task as a Party machine of gaining and maintaining political power.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Again the noble Lord should not accuse it of being partial because it has produced a result that he does not like.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
They had sufficient experience to express a considered view on the actions and attitude of the London Labour Party.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The difficulty about the Opposition's argument in this matter is that they must, if they really believe in that argument, persuade themselves that the administrative County of London—an area which was established in 1855 chiefly for purposes of main drainage—is still somehow to be equated with "London". As my noble friend Lord Conesford, and I think the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, pointed out, we have got to look at the position and the situation to-day.
In pursuing this obsession the Labour Party have managed to ignore the fact that Greater London to-day includes over 8 million people, of whom only 40 per cent. live in the administrative County of London; that the area covers some 700 square miles but the County represents only 20 per cent. of it. The obsession with the L.C.C. and the County of London appears, I suggest, to obscure from the view of the Opposition the fact that the Government, in pursuing this reorganisation which we believe to be both necessary and desirable in the interests of local government in Greater London, are at the same time risking political unpopularity in the five counties of Middlesex, Essex, Hertfordshire, Kent and Surrey, and in the three county boroughs of Croydon, East Ham and West Ham which are also affected by the proposals.
I should like to remind your Lordships of the view which has been held by the Party to which noble Lords opposite belong. They have not always taken the line that the London County Council area is perfect and inviolate. I would remind your Lordships that in 1921 an earlier Royal Commission was appointed to consider the future of local government in Greater London. Its starting-off point was the pressure put on the Government of the day by the London County Council to establish a system of local government covering the whole of Greater London as it then existed. One of the basic grounds of the London County Council's case was that the piecemeal division of the area made rational administration impossible. The London Labour Party gave evidence before that Royal Commission—
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
In 1921—and their memorandum of evidence contained the following paragraph:The facts conclusively demonstrate to us that the administrative London of the Metropolis Management Act 1855 is no longer the real London. Sheer administrative or economic necessity have burst over the boundaries of the administrative county repeatedly, and device after device—almost uniformly unsatisfactory—have been evolved for the purpose of establishing administrative machinery for particular services.I hardly need to remind your Lordships that the spokesman for the London Labour Party on that occasion was the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth.
Now let us look at the statement which the Labour Party issued in 1942, The Future of Local Government. There is a section on Greater London and, among other things, this is what it says:Built-up Greater London has spread far beyond the Administrative County, whose boundary is still approximately the same as that drawn by the Metropolitan Management Act in 1855. This failure to adjust the structure of Local Government to the rapidly-changing industrial and social conditions of the past fifty years has contributed in no small measure to the unplanned development and urbanisation of the Greater London area".
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Yes. The same thought must have been in the mind of the honourable gentleman who represents Fulham in another place and who led the opposition there to the Bill which we are now considering. In 1938 he published a book called The British Approach to Politics. There is a chapter on London and a section where the author not only reviews the ad hoc bodies which have been set up to deal with problems needing a wider area of administration but also foreshadows the actual title "Greater London Council" for the body which might one day be set up.
But now, however, when the chance comes for a genuinely constructive approach to local government in Greater London we see a strange change in the attitude of the Labour Party. The Royal 1259 Commission was established in 1957 as part of the comprehensive review of local government throughout England and Wales. Naturally the L.C.C. was one of the main witnesses, but it now has a large Socialist majority. Instead of their evidence reflecting the earlier views of that Party on the true nature of Greater London, we find the Council's written evidence saying, "No major defects of structure or organisation exist"; and their final words were that they had "no desire to seek a wider area or a wider field of administration", and so on.
The Royal Commission commented on the attitude of the London County Council spokesman, that the witnesses refused to discuss with them the wider issues of the government of London as a whole, and stuck firmly to the proposition that "London" and the Administrative County of London are synonymous terms and that the London County Council is the government of London. I do not wish to attack or to criticise the London County Council itself. The Council has a fine record as one of the greatest local authorities in this country, perhaps in the world. But I do attack those who accuse the Government of base motives. When their Party was in opposition in County Hall they saw the realities which lie behind London government. But their tune has changed now that they are in power. That change of tune would make it seem that one of their chief aims is to retain that position at all costs, ignoring the rest of Greater London in the process. My Lords, there is a vernacular expression which I will paraphrase into a form perhaps more suitable for your Lordships' House. I would say it would run as follows: "I am not concerned with your predicament, Jack, as my own personal circumstances are eminently satisfactory."
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
I am very much obliged to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor. We shall be most glad to quote certain parts of his utterances as showing a basic admission that the origin of this Bill is political.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, if the noble Earl can read or imply anything of that sort into what I have said, his capacity is even greater than I anticipated.
1260 Two other major assaults were launched on the Bill during the debate this afternoon. One was the allegation that we are breaking up established arrangements through which local government services, and particularly the social services, are administered, without any guarantee that the new proposals will be an improvement. This is a point upon which the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, touched in his speech. In that connection I would draw attention to paragraph 695 of the Royal Commission Report. If I might remind him, it reads as follows:Where things are working well our inclination is to leave them alone. We do not believe that London's problems can be solved merely by improving the machinery of government. Our inclination is to recommend changes only where they appear to be essential. In spite of these predilections the facts we have found to exist and the inferences we feel bound to draw from them drive us to the conclusion that, judged by the twin tests of administrative efficiency and the health of representative government, the present structure of local government in the Review Area is inadequate and needs overhaul.That is really the approach from which one must start, not on the basis that over the whole area the present structure of local government is adequate and does not need overhaul.
The Government have never disguised the fact that their proposals will necessarily involve formidable problems during the transitional period, but such problems are inherent in any worthwhile scheme of reorganisation. But there are other aspects which I would urge upon your Lordships' attention. First, do not let us underestimate the ingenuity and responsibility of all those members and officers of local authorities in Greater London who, no less than your Lordships, will be anxious to preserve and protect the standard of local services. The Government are confidently relying—and believe that any Government can safely rely—on the skill and integrity of all those concerned in local government to apply proposals which Parliament has approved on the basis of the unanimous report of the Royal Commission.
Second, let us not fall into the error of thinking of local government services as static arrangements which have existed since time immemorial.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
In the background there are the ancient environmental health services on which local government was built, but the personal social services so much to the fore to-day in the fields of education, health, welfare, and so on, are constantly changing, developing and expanding. Moreover, there is a new awareness that these personal services must be looked at together not in self-contained packets, but as inter-related aspects of personal and family needs. What we must provide for the future is the right framework within which these services may be expanded for the benefit of the community.
Thirdly, I would extend what I have just said about the personal services to local government as a whole. We should not look at particular provisions and judge them in isolation. This is one of the ways in which local government has been weakened in recent decades. Particular services have been considered at different times and dealt with on their own; often this has resulted in responsibility being transferred from smaller authorities to larger, or from local to central Government without regard to the ultimate effect on the health of local government as a living democratic institution.
I should like to remind your Lordships of the principles upon which the Royal Commission founded their recommendations and which we have accepted. Their first broad principle, which surely must be right, was that London is a single city with a recognisable civic entity and shape; a big town but a single town which, for some purposes, demands to be treated as one. For this purpose a directly elected Greater London Council is to be established whose main responsibilities will be those strategic services requiring the wider treatment. The Royal Commission's second principle was that local government should be greatly strengthened at borough level in order that as many services as possible may become the clear and undisputed responsibility of the authorities which are the closest to their electorate.
The Amendment to the Motion now before your Lordships' House accuses the Government of failing to take account of the serious effect which the Bill will 1262 have on the finances and affairs of the truncated counties; and I must address a few words to your Lordships on this aspect of the problem before I conclude. I think that the charge is rather that this House has shown itself unconvinced by pleas put forward on Second Reading, in Committee, at Report Stage and again to-day. I do not criticise noble Lords for trying again and again and again. If they have shown themselves reluctant to accept reasons put forward, my confidence has been confirmed by the arguments put forward on behalf of the Bill's provisions for assistance to truncated counties. To listen to some of the things that have been said on the subject one might be excused for assuming that the Government had conveniently overlooked the whole subject. But it is dealt with most adequately in Clause 70, as to the contents of which I need not remind your Lordships.
The objections seem to me twofold, First, that the assistance should begin from a much lower burden than 5d. in the pound and in this respect a figure of 2d. has been frequently quoted, Secondly, that the national taxpayer, instead of the ratepayers of Greater London, should foot the bill. The purpose of local government reorganisation is for the benefit of the inhabitants of the area. That is certainly the case here, But what some noble Lords would maintain is that, while the Bill is bad for London, it is perhaps even worse for the counties of Essex, Kent and Surrey, in particular. The noble Lord, Lord Crook, talked of Surrey as "a ruined county"—language which I think was somewhat exaggerated. These contentions have been rejected decisively at every stage in the passage of the Bill. It is indeed a little surprising if the fate of Surrey is to be so miserable that the inhabitants of the three northern wards of Epsom and Ewell are so anxious to share it. Or that the noble Lords, Lord Auckland, Lord McCorquodale of Newton, Lord Crook and Lord Morrison of Lambeth were so anxious to keep them there.
Local government reorganisation is a continuing process. It is only where the changes are of a quite exceptional nature that financial assistance may be appropriate, until the new organisation has had time to get into its stride. In the 1263 circumstances of the reorganisation of London government the right course, surely, is for the ratepayers of one part of the area affected to come to the aid, if need be, of those of another part. The Government's duty is to maintain a fair balance. I am not going to discuss now whether the amount should be 5d. or any lesser sum; we have discussed that point fully in earlier stages of the Bill. I want to make just one further point in this connection. There is no question of the Exchequer absolving itself of what are properly its responsibilities. Rate-deficiency grant is available to authorities, whether affected by reorganisation or not. This is a part of the permanent machinery of government, and, although, naturally, the pattern changes from time to time, through a variety of causes, its help is always available to bring resources up to the average level. It is estimated that, following reorganisation, Essex might attract a rate-deficiency grant of some £600,000, and that Kent similarly might get an increase of the order of £680,000.
My Lords, I am now approaching the conclusion of what may be the last speech on behalf of the Government in support of this Bill. It has indeed taken a long time, and it can be said that it has been exhaustively considered in your Lordships' House. I should like to conclude by saying this. The promotion of this Bill does not imply criticism of the members and officers of the present authorities. But I repeat, again, that it should be acknowledged that the existing structure which divides Greater London among six countries, three county boroughs and some 85 smaller authorities is now out of date; this fragmentation not only impedes present administration but will increasingly obstruct future development. Our aim is to create the best framework within which services can be provided for the community; and as there has been repeated allegation that local government opinion is against the Bill I should like to conclude with a
quotation from the current issue of the Municipal Review, which runs as follows:
There can be no doubt that if the Bill completes its course, as it now seems certain to do, before the summer recess, Greater London can look forward to having within a couple of years a new local government structure more in keeping with the needs of the present time and able to provide efficient services controlled by bodies which are responsible and responsive to the localities in and for which they are provided.
§ My Lords, it is because we believe that under this Bill there will be throughout the Greater London area a new local government structure more in keeping with the needs of the present time, that we have introduced this massive measure to Parliament. I ask your Lordships to support the Motion, That the Bill do now pass.
§ 7.2 p.m.
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, apparently the noble and learned Lord Chancellor wishes me to exercise a short right of reply. I did not wish to delay the House in any way, but I must say that I have listened to his speech with great interest and I shall study it very carefully to-morrow. But I have not been able to persuade myself that there can be any possible argument in it which would persuade me, or my noble friends on this side of the House, to refrain from going into the Lobby on this Amendment. I think that many of the arguments that the noble and learned Lord has used will be exceedingly valuable to us. I am glad that we have been able to fight unitedly in this Party up to this stage, and to come to the decision, which we did not want to have to adopt, to move a reasoned Amendment to the Motion, That this Bill do now pass.
§ 7.3 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 41; Not-Contents, 72.1265
|Addison, V.||Crook, L.||Huntingdon, E.|
|Alexander of Hillsborough, E.||Darwen, L.||Inman, L.|
|Archibald, L.||Douglas of Kirtleside, L.||Latham, L.|
|Attlee, E.||Faringdon, L.||Lawson, L.|
|Burden, L. [Teller.]||Francis-Williams, L.||Lindgren, L.|
|Burton of Coventry, B.||Henderson, L.||Listowel, E.|
|Champion, L.||Hughes, L.||Longford, E.|
|Lucan, E. [Teller.]||Sainsbury, L.||Summerskill, B.|
|Macpherson of Drumochter, L.||St. Davids, V.||Walston, L.|
|Morris of Kenwood, L.||Samuel, V.||Williams, L.|
|Morrison of Lambeth, L.||Shackleton, L.||Wilmot of Selmeston, L.|
|Nathan, L.||Shepherd, L.||Wise, L.|
|Peddie, L.||Silkin, L.||Wootton of Abinger, B.|
|Rathcreedan, L.||Stonham, L.|
|Aberdare, L.||Dundee, E.||Mancroft, L.|
|Abinger, L.||Ebbisham, L.||Mansfield, E.|
|Ailwyn, L.||Ellenborough, L.||Margesson, V.|
|Albemarle, E.||Ferrers, E.||Melchett, L.|
|Aldington, L.||Forster of Harraby, L.||Mersey, V.|
|Allerton, L.||Fortescue, E.||Mills, V.|
|Ampthill, L.||Fraser of Lonsdale, L.||Milverton, L.|
|Balfour of Burleigh, L.||Fraser of North Cape, L.||Molson, L.|
|Balfour of Inchrye, L.||Goschen, V. [Teller.]||Monsell, V.|
|Beauchamp, E.||Grenfell, L.||Newton, L.|
|Blackford, L.||Hailsham, V. (L. President.)||Palmer, L.|
|Bossom, L.||Hanworth, V.||Perth, E.|
|Brecon, L.||Hastings, L.||Remnant, L.|
|Bridgeman, V.||Hawke, L.||St. Aldwyn, E. [Teller.]|
|Carrington, L.||Home, E.||St. Just, L.|
|Clitheroe, L.||Howard of Glossop, L.||Sandford, L.|
|Colville of Culross, V.||Iddesleigh, E.||Somers, L.|
|Conesford, L.||Jellicoe, E.||Soulbury, V.|
|Craigmyle, L.||Jessel, L.||Spens, L.|
|Denham, L.||Long, V.||Strang, L.|
|Derwent, L.||Luke, L.||Strathclyde, L.|
|Devonport, V.||Mabane, L.||Stuart of Findhorn, V.|
|Devonshire, D.||MacAndrew, L.||Westwood, L.|
|Dilhorne, L. (L. Chancellor.)||McCorquodale of Newton, L.||Wynford, L.|
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Bill passed, and returned to the Commons.