§ 3.52 p.m.
§ Report stage resumed.
§ LORD HASTINGS
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, has returned to the attack on the question of the dates which are written into the Bill for holding the first elections and, subsequently, for the transfer of functions. The Government believe that there is a principle involved here which is quite basic to the whole argument. That principle is whether, when changes have been decided upon, they should be carried into effect as soon as possible, having regard to the need to safeguard the operation and the standard of the services affected. In a situation like this, of course, there are always two opposing forces at work: on the one hand, the desire to have as long a period as possible in which to make the preparations, and, on the other, the need to end as soon as practicable the period of uncertainty, which is liable to damage the services or at least slow down or arrest their development. There are two distinct dates which must be considered separately: the date of the first elections (and that is the subject of this Amendment), and then the date on which the new authorities will assume responsibility for their functions—a matter that is the subject of a further two Amendments, if not three, later.
Dealing with the possibility of holding elections in April, 1964, the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, referred at the end of his speech to "this rush at 1964". It is my duty to prove, I hope to the satisfaction of noble Lords opposite, that it is quite possible to hold elections at that date. My noble friend Lord Jellicoe explained during the Committee stage what the programme was to be, or was likely to be, and I also, in a later Amendment at that stage, discussed the same matter and elucidated a few points which had been brought out subsequently. Perhaps I may repeat, very briefly, why we 25 think it possible to hold elections in April, 1964. In the first place, the draft ward proposals have now been received from nearly all the new borough groups. These proposals will be published as soon as possible after the Bill has been passed.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
Can the noble Lord give an indication of what he means by "as soon as possible"? Our experience in this House has been one year, two years, one week.
§ LORD HASTINGS
Very soon indeed, almost immediately after, provided that all ward proposals are in, as we reckon they will be by that time. A period for objections will, of course, be allowed, and where representations are made which call for a public inquiry then any such inquiries will be held in about October and November. Wards should be settled and included in the incorporation instruments, Royal Charters or incorporation orders, by January of next year in time for the elections in May.
At Committee stage I think some noble Lords thought that the time allowed for inquiries was insufficient. I would point out now that such inquiries do not have to be held by the same person. Even supposing inquiries were needed in all 32 of the London boroughs, there is nothing in theory to prevent all 32 being held together by 32 separate commissioners appointed by the Home Secretary. I hope noble Lords will realise that there is no insuperable difficulty about holding proper inquiries in good time That really is the case for the possibility of holding elections by April, 1964. We see no point in delaying it and a great deal of damage in fact might result if we did delay.
I am not quite clear whether it would be the wish of noble Lords opposite, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, that I should refer in detail to the question of the transfer of functions. He mentioned this matter generally in the course of his speech but he did not go into a great deal of detail; and, of course, Amendments Nos. 5 and 8 deal with that more specifically. I would ask him whether I should reserve my remarks on that particular aspect for those Amendments, or whether it would be the wish that I should deal with the point now.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
I think that, as there are specific Amendments 26 down, which is why I did not deal with it at length, it would be better if the noble Lord would reserve his remarks until those Amendments come up.
§ LORD HASTINGS
I thought that might be the case, but I did not want to weary noble Lords with the same sort of speech on two occasions. Therefore, we are dealing simply with the quite straightforward point of whether elections can be held in April, 1964—
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
I am sorry to interrupt. It is not so much a question of whether elections can be held by then as whether they ought to be held by then, which is a different matter.
§ LORD HASTINGS
I think I have proved that they can be held by then. The noble Lord's comment that they ought not to be held then brings us to the argument he was making about the politics of the matter. He felt that the Government were acting against the interests of our democracy because it was too short a period—and it is rather difficult for me to keep off the further argument on transferred functions which I shall be developing later. The fact is that we feel that the sooner this operation is put into effect the better. It is in the interests of all the local authority staffs who are involved to cut out the uncertainty, and also in the interests of the services involved; and we feel that nothing will be gained from putting off the original initial elections by yet another year, which would mean a date getting on for two years from now. We see a lot of disadvantages in that, and the sooner the matter is got on with, the more it will be in the interests of everybody concerned.
So far as the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth is concerned, about people having to be educated in regard to what is involved in London local government, I really feel that, following up another comment he made, they are the most educated and sophisticated people so far as Parliamentary democracy is concerned, and they are not likely easily to be fooled by politicians, of whatever Party. I do not think there is any danger that the people of London will not be able to understand what London government is about and what 27 the new aspects of it will be when the Greater London Council is appointed. From that point of view, I do not think the argument that they need an extra year to understand is in any way valid. Therefore I hope that your Lordships will agree with the Government in withstanding this Amendment, which is basic to the whole Bill and the efficient way in which we hope to see it carried out.
§ 4.2 p.m.
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, it is really quite astonishing and amazing that the Government should continue upon the particular path they are following. Obviously, this is a dying Government. It is a Government which is discredited in the country at large. It is following a course which is directly against all the desires shown by municipal elections on this matter in the boroughs and the Greater London area. The Government know full well that their hopes of remaining in office are so tentative that they may have a General Election this autumn; they will certainly be much more likely to have one by the spring, in the midst of these other elections. Then, in respect of a completely unmandated piece of legislation that they are putting on the Statute Book, they are going, if they can, to force the local electorate to answer these questions at the same time. I think that is wholly unreasonable, and, in regard to political questions I think it is not particularly honest. As I say, the whole thing is unmandated.
So far as they have been able to understand it, the electorate have, in the last two municipal elections, county and borough in London, been against it. Yet here we are now debating this question on the Report stage—we are the second House to consider it—and with all the political atmosphere around and about us at the present moment pointing to an early death of the Government. In the country the Government have made no gain anywhere for years now in a byelection—they are losing ground. They have what I might almost call the insolence to say to the London electorate, "We know that we shall not be here long and "—using the words that no doubt the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, was thinking of in another sense—"the 28 sooner it is done the better." That will be interpreted by the mass of the electorate as an attempt to get this rather shady piece of legislative change through Parliament and on to the Statute Book while they are still in office, but knowing that they are most likely to go out.
I hope that if the Government propose to adhere to this course of action, other parties who are interested in local government in London boroughs and the Greater London area will see to it that, if this Bill is put on the Statute Book in these circumstances, it will be repealed altogether at the first opportunity.
§ 4.5 p.m.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, said that he set out to prove that elections could be held. I would not dispute with him that the mere mechanics make it possible to hold these elections in April. But the question that my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth put was whether they should be held. My noble friend took the line, as my noble Leader has done, that this Bill is completely unmandated, and I said on the Committee stage that the only people who in fact have a mandate are those who are opposed to the Bill—the Surrey County Council and the Essex County Council; in fact all the major authorities are fundamentally opposed to this legislation.
But the point I would make to the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, is that that is not the question at all; it is, when elections should be held. You will have your wards properly divided up by the end of January. The full knowledge would then be available to the local political Parties at the end of January. I wonder whether we can take it from the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, as it is his department, that the street registers will be available at the end of January. You cannot fight an election properly and give the public the opportunity of knowing all the facts and of being able to decide how to cast their vote unless you are properly able to canvass the district and are able to supply the political literature that is part of a political campaign. Will the street registers be available and when? At the end of January or the end of February?
Then, until we know the size of the wards, how will the local Parties find 29 out who are prepared to be the candidates for the particular wards? We have heard many times in your Lordships' House, not on this Bill but on other matters of local government, about the problem of finding the right men of the right calibre, and, above all, men with the time and opportunity to give service. Until the size of the ward is available and until the character of the ward is known it will not be possible in many cases for the political Parties to decide who should be the candidate. Therefore, we may well find that the political Parties will not be able to appoint candidates until February or March, giving five or six weeks for the candidates to go round a ward of 15,000 electors, to make themselves known as individuals, to be able to put their case to the electors, and then for the electorate to decide. This is the point to which the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, must reply.
The question is not whether you can hold an election. Elections can be held in Russia or Czechoslovakia where there is only one list of candidates. But you may find, as you do in borough elections, not only the three main political Parties taking part, but minority interests taking part, too. I have said before, and I say again, that I want to see these minority interests taking part in elections. It may well be that the main political Parties could overcome all the problems that will arise; but whether these small minority
§ interests, in the time that will be available, will have the opportunity to organise themselves and put forward their candidates is a matter of doubt. It is not a question of whether the Government can set up the machinery for an election. What really matters is whether those who are interested in local government will be able to set up their own organisation, put their case and their proposition to the electorate; and then to give the electorate, those who must decide, a reasonable opportunity to reach their judgment, so that when they go to the polling booths and vote they will clearly know and understand what they are voting about and whom they are supporting.
§ The noble Lord, Lord Hastings, will not be doing a service to local government or to democracy if, merely to drive this Bill through before the Government go out of office, he denies the electorate the opportunity of taking part, not only by voting but also by understanding the case which is being put. A reasonable time must be given. The time set by the Government is unreasonable, and I contend it is a disservice to democracy.
§ 4.10 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment (Amendment No. 2) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 33; Not-Contents, 51.31
|Addison, V.||Harvey of Tasburgh, L.||Samuel, V.|
|Alexander of Hillsborough, E.||Henderson, L.||Shepherd, L.|
|Amulree, L.||Kennet, L.||Silkin, L.|
|Amwell, L.||Latham, L.||Sinha, L.|
|Archibald, L.||Listowel, E.||Stonham, L.|
|Attlee, E.||Lucan, E. [Teller.]||Summerskill, B.|
|Burden, L. [Teller.]||Macpherson of Drumochter, L.||Walston, L.|
|Burton of Coventry, B.||Meston, L.||Williams, L.|
|Champion, L.||Morrison of Lambeth, L.||Williamson, L.|
|Douglas of Barloch, L.||Peddie, L.||Wilmot of Selmeston, L.|
|Greenhill, L.||Rusholme, L.||Wise, L.|
|Ailwyn, L.||Ferrers, E.||Jellicoe, E.|
|Albemarle, E.||Forster of Harraby, L.||Killearn, L.|
|Auckland, L.||Fortescue, E.||Lambert, V.|
|Balfour of Inchrye, L.||Fraser of North Cape, L.||Long, V.|
|Boston, L.||Goschen, V. [Teller.]||Lothian, M.|
|Chesham, L.||Grenfell, L.||Mancroft, L.|
|Clwyd, L.||Hastings, L.||Mansfield, E.|
|Conesford, L.||Hawke, L.||Merrivale, L.|
|Denham, L.||Hereford, V.||Mills, V.|
|Derwent, L.||Horsbrugh, B.||Milverton, L.|
|Devonshire, D.||Howard of Glossop, L.||Molson, L.|
|Dilhorne, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Howe, E.||Monk-Bretton, L.|
|Dundee, E.||Inchyra, L.||Monsell, V.|
|Newton, L.||Saltoun, L.||Stamford, E.|
|St. Aldwyn, E. [Teller.]||Sandwich, E.||Swinton, E.|
|St. Just, L.||Soulbury, V.||Twining, L.|
|Salter, L.||Spens, L.||Westwood, L.|
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 2 [Greater London and the Greater London Council]:
§ 4.19 p.m.
LORD SHEPHERD moved to add to subsection (1):
Provided that if, on representations in that behalf made to the Privy Council by the Minister, Her Majesty by the advice of Her Privy Council thinks fit to grant a charter of incorporation of the inhabitants of the Greater London Area, She may by that charter make further provision with respect to the name of the Greater London Area.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the Amendment standing in the name of my noble friends and myself. I think there will be no political division at all on this. I am sure the House will feel that we should give proper consideration to the incorporation of this new authority, the Greater London Council. It is a new authority which will provide the strategic planning for the development of building, traffic and many other services for 8½ million people. The City of London may claim that it is the centre of commerce for the world, but there are many instances to-day where commerce is leaving the City to go into the West End of London, and also into some of the new office areas around the perimeter of this new authority. Therefore we can say that this new London area ranks in importance with the City in that matter.
§ If possible, we should like to see this new authority set up by Charter. We have it in mind that this authority should rank in much the same way as a city. A city is set up by letters patent, and letters patent are, in fact, a Royal Charter. Therefore, we feel that, if we are to give this new authority its proper position alongside the cities of Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, and Cardiff, the capital of Wales, this treatment should be given.
§ I understand that one of the difficulties for the Government is that if an authority has been set up by Statute it is very difficult for the Monarch to exercise her Prerogative in granting a charter 32 to that authority, unless the authority is changed in some way or another. In the early stages of this Bill in another place, this was given by the Minister as a reason for not giving a charter to the inner boroughs of London. But the Government have conceded the very great case that has been made that these inner boroughs should stand in the same order of precedence as the outer boroughs, and they have overcome the difficulty in this Bill—I think under Clause 1—about the inner boroughs ranking with the outer boroughs for a Charter. I do not know whether the difficulty still exists, and whether this particular clause, Clause 1, was necessary so that Her Majesty might give a charter to the inner boroughs, but if the problem still exists and a charter cannot be given to a body that has been set up by Statute, then unless we have in this Bill a proper provision that the Greater London Authority shall be set up by a charter we shall find that, if the authority make a request to the Privy Council for such an honour, they will not be able to obtain it because of this difficulty.
§ I do not think the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, would in any way disagree with me that we should give this new authority its proper status and importance. I think we can say that the grant of a charter does not in any way increase the power of the authority: its power and duty remain. But we have many important visitors, whom we are very pleased to see in this country and in this city. They are honoured by the City, and are also honoured by the County Council, but the County Council has its own tradition which is disappearing. I think, therefore, that when we are setting up the new authority for this increased area, we should try to give it some special dignity. My noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth will be speaking shortly, and the title of the head of the Authority would naturally arise. I beg the Government to consider this Amendment favourably. It would merely permit a request by the authority, through the Privy Council to Her Majesty, for consideration of a charter. Then, if Her Majesty thought fit, she 33 could give the charter to the Authority. I said earlier that I believe this clause is necessary, because if it is not put in the authority will not be able to obtain a charter. We should bring it into line with the other main cities of this country, unless the Government themselves change the construction of the authority in such a way as to make the present rulings apply. My Lords, I beg to move.
Page 3, line 8, at end insert the said proviso.—(Lord Shepherd.)
§ LORD HASTINGS
My Lords, this is certainly a very difficult subject, and, as noble Lords opposite know, the Government have a lot of sympathy with their argument. We are just as anxious as anybody that the Greater London Council, when set up, should have all the prestige and dignity that it requires, and of which we really feel it is worthy. I think I must just once again briefly run over the difficulties of giving a Charter to the Greater London Council.
Of course, all local authorities are corporations, but there is a fundamental difference between boroughs and other types of authority. In the case of boroughs, of course, all the inhabitants of the area are incorporated, and they are included in the fictitious legal person created by the act of incorporation. The corporation is distinguished from the council. The corporation is the legal person; the borough council is only the executive agent through which the corporation acts. And in the case of boroughs the corporation is created by Royal Charter. In all other cases the council is the corporation. The corporation is thereby created by Statute and not by charter, and embraces the council but not all the inhabitants of the area.
The boroughs, of course, claim a much longer continuous history, than any other of the major authorities of to-day. The right to elect freemen, to use the title of "mayor", and the title "town clerk" for its chief officer—these and the essential creation by Royal Charter are the characteristics of boroughs; and, of course, they are jealously prized by the boroughs, and are not shared by any other type of authority. The Government feel that this distinction between boroughs and other authorities should be respected. It is, of course, an essential part of the Government's proposals for 34 Greater London that here we are dealing with a single built-up area. But it has never been claimed that Greater London should have, or should be given, the same type of government as a borough. A typical borough, after all, has a clearly defined centre which, with the town hall, is the acknowledged hub of the civic, social and commercial activities of the area. Greater London, of course, has so many such centres that we really cannot compare it at all to a borough.
In these circumstances, we feel that it really is undesirable to suggest that all of its inhabitants should be incorporated, just as if it were another borough. I do not think, really, that we need worry greatly that the Greater London Council will lack dignity and honour as the overall strategic authority for the great capital city, and I believe it will attract to itself the prestige which it is expected to have. When we come to the question of comparing it with the cities, as the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, pointed out, the cities are given Royal Charters, but I think I shall not be wrong in saying that the cities have only one council. Greater London is going to be composed of 32 different borough councils, whereas Cardiff, of course, has one. So, when we use the term "city", although London is a great city, we cannot really compare it with other cities in the country from that point of view.
Now when the noble Lord says that a body set up by Statute cannot be granted a charter, that is in fact an exaggeration of the situation. It is not strictly true. I believe that it can be done if that body applies specifically for a charter. I agree that it is not easy, but there is no actual legal bar to its doing so. So I do not think that setting up the Greater London Council by Statute would in fact debar it from getting a charter in due course if it really thought that was necessary, although I cannot say what would happen if such an application were made.
That brings one to other matters closely connected with this problem, and they concern the matter of the Royal Prerogative in respect of giving the Freedom of the City and in respect of the title of the head of the council, which matters we discussed at Committee stage. There, again, I am advised that it would be better that these matters should be dealt with after the setting up of the Greater London Council, and that when 35 the time comes and the Council decides that it wishes to honour citizens and has a clear idea of the sort of honour it would wish to confer upon any person, then it could bring forward private legislation. It could also ask for letters patent, which would enable it to call its Chairman (if that is the title we are going to keep) "right honourable". In respect of the title of the leader of the Council, I think I can tell noble Lords opposite now that we have an Amendment down—it is the next one, No. 3A—which goes a good deal of the way to meet their points in regard to the Council's title and we have in mind possibly to allow the Greater London Council to apply also to change the title of its leader.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
My Lords, I beg the noble Lord's pardon, but he said the "leader" of the Council. I think he means the "Chairman" of the Council.
§ LORD HASTINGS
I am sorry; I am merely using a word. I mean the Chairman. I see the noble Lord's point. We are not wedded definitely to the word "Chairman". I said they can apply for the title of "right honourable", or there might even be the possibility, say—I do not know—of calling him "the Lord Chairman". But these matters, we feel, can be dealt with and are better dealt with after the setting up of the Greater London Council. So, although the Government are not at all unsympathetic in the problems raised by noble Lords, we feel that in fact it is not necessary at the outset to grant a Royal Charter, and that the difficulties of doing so in the present circumstances outweigh any advantage that might be gained by it.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, I will not hide the fact that I am disappointed with the noble Lord's reply, although I am pleased to see that the Minister has some sympathy towards the proposition. The noble Lord did say that I rather (shall I say?) overstated the problem in saying that an authority set up by Statute could not obtain a charter. The noble Lord said that it was difficult, but it could. From my reading of the Committee stage in another place, the position was quite clear. The Minister at that time agreed that the inner boroughs should have a charter, but 36 he could not see his way clear to ensuring that these inner boroughs obtained a charter because of the reasons that I have stated. In order to overcome that difficulty the Minister brought forward these Amendments in this House at the Committee stage. I understand that the wording in Clause 1, subsection (2) has been put in specifically because of the difficulties that I have mentioned.
May I take it from the noble Lord that if, after the Greater London Council have been set up, the Council approach Her Majesty, through the Privy Council, and obviously with the advice of the Minister, there will be no administrative difficulties, no legal tangles, that will exclude the Greater London Council, if they can justify their case, from having their application considered by Her Majesty? Can I really take it that there are no special legal tangles, such as those which I understood existed when I read the Report of the Committee stage in another place, that would prevent this authority from obtaining this special dignity which, in the sphere of local government, is a matter of considerable recognition and pride? That is why I feel so strongly in this matter.
I accept that the Minister has said that no doubt Her Majesty will agree that the chairman of this authority shall be called "right honourable"; but, my Lords, it would be quite wrong that he should be The right honourable the Chairman of the Council for the Administrative Area of Greater London". That is not a title of dignity. If you give the Council a charter, you can make it a corporate body. I think there is a great deal to be said for a corporate body. Unless the people have something to which they can pledge allegiance and loyalty, we shall not get the right service. London is very proud because it has this loyalty; because one can look to London for what it is. But we are now bringing in areas which have never in the past been recognised as London. Therefore, I think we must try to bring in and identify the whole of this built-up area as one body. That will be done more quickly if you can give the whole of the area something to recognise as being a body, a corporation. I think the Government would do a great service 37 to the community of this area if they were to provide this focal point, if they were to give this understanding to this area.
I know that the Minister cannot go very far this afternoon, but I would ask him, between now and the Third Reading, to consider this point again, to see whether there are any difficulties, legal tangles, which might prevent the Greater London Authority, if they so wished, from applying for a charter; and, if such tangles do exist, to come and be honest to the House so that we do not allow things to go forward on the understanding that the Council can have a charter if they wish, only to find, in a year or two's time, that there are so many tangles, so many difficulties, that the Authority are prevented from obtaining the same dignity and status as the other cities. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 4.39 p.m.
LORD HASTINGS moved, after subsection (2) to insert:
(2A) Notwithstanding anything in subsection (1) or (2) of this section, the Greater London Council may with the consent of the Minister change the name of the Council or the name by which the area referred to in the said subsection (1) is to be known or both those names, and any change of name made in pursuance of this subsection shall take effect as from such date as the Minister may by order appoint; and any such order—
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this Amendment would permit the Greater London Council to change its name, or the name of the Greater London area, and it is intended to meet the purpose of the noble Lords' following Amendment, Amendment No. 4. The differences between the two Amendments are as follows. The change we propose may take place at any time, and not only before 38 January 1, 1965, as proposed in the next Amendment. Also there is power to change not only the name of the body but also that of the area. As I said, we will consider adding the power to change the title of the Chairman and we hope to produce an Amendment to that effect on the Third Reading.
§ The Minister's consent is needed; that is in the Government Amendment. It follows the present powers of county councils and borough councils to change their name, with the Minister's consent, under Section 59 of the Local Government Act, 1958. Noble Lords opposite proposed only consultation with the Minister; but on such an important matter as this the same Ministerial control is, we feel, clearly needed as has already been provided by Parliament in connection with the names of boroughs and counties. I hope this Amendment will meet with the commendation of noble Lords opposite as well as with that of noble Lords on this side of the House. I beg to move.
Page 3, line 14, at end insert the said subsection.—(Lord Hastings.)
§ 4.41 p.m.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
My Lords, we are grateful to the noble Lord for having taken a favourable view, in principle of something that was argued and proposed at an earlier stage of the proceedings of the House on this Bill. This Amendment makes it possible for the Greater London Council to submit to the Minister proposed changes in the name of the Council and in the name "Greater London" as the area; and that the Minister may thereupon authorise such change to be made. Our Amendment would have proposed that the Council could do it, in regard to the name, after consultation with the Minister; and we should have preferred it that way, but I must say that it is not unexpected that the Minister should want to retain his power of approval or disapproval; and in all the circumstances I do not think that is unreasonable. Therefore, we are much obliged to the Parliamentary Secretary and his colleagues for having given favourable consideration to the point.
Indeed there are advantages about it in that it will give more time for people to think about alternative names. I suggested "The Corporation of Greater 39 London" because I thought there was some dignity about it; but this adjective "Greater" makes it seem, I admit, rather a clumsy affair. The noble Lord, Lord Conesford, suggested it should be "The London Council". I did not like that very much, because there are so many London councils, religious bodies, technical bodies, employers' organisations and trade union organisations that it does not sound to me very dignified. If we turned it to "The Council of London" it would be more dignified; but I do not think it is really good enough. The other method would be to retain the name "London County Council", which, incidentally, would save a great deal of printing costs for the new body; and there is a lot to be said for that.
§ LORD HASTINGS
My Lords, may I interject? I have received a letter suggesting that we retain the initial letters and call it the London Civic Council.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
Yes, my Lords, I had a letter to that effect also, and the gentleman who wrote it was very ingenious about it; but "civic" in this connotation dos not quite stand up. That was the conclusion that I came to, personally. There is this advantage about this Amendment: now it can be left "up in the air", so to speak, and all sorts of ideas may occur. There might perhaps be correspondence in the columns of The Times about it, which could conceivably be useful. Then the new body could consider it and suggest to the Minister such name or names as may occur to them.
I am also very glad that the Parliamentary Secretary referred to the title of the Chairman. As the House knows, I was a member of the London County Council for a good many years. I must say, having visited various places in cities where people were addressed as "My Lord Mayor" and in the Metropolitan boroughs as "Mr. Mayor" that this "Mr. Chairman" business is a shocking come-down. It is true that George V kindly gave permission for the chairman to be known as "the right honourable"; but you cannot very well get up in Council and say "The right honourable, the Chairman of the London County Council". Inevitably you say "Mr. Chairman". "Right honourable" is worth 40 having, but it is a great job to find a name. Personally, I wanted it to be "Lord Lieutenant", for the time being. That would have been a good name—I hope the Government will still look into it and consider it. Then there is the possibility of "Lord Chairman", which is better than "Mr. Chairman". It is an improvement. There is "Lord Mayor",—and in Scotland, "Provost" and "Lord Provost"—all very good; but we cannot very well import Scottish designations into London. They would not like it and our people would not like it. Let it be thought about.
This could be managed in an Amendment of about three words, whereby the designation of Chairman of the Council could come into this clause in the same way as the matter with which we are dealing now. I hope that will be done. The Parliamentary Secretary has not quite promised to do it; but he nearly has. I hope it will be considered on Third Reading. If so, I can assure him it will go through expeditiously. I support the Amendment which has been brought forward by the Parliamentary Secretary and I thank him and the Minister for having done so; and therefore we shall not move Amendment No. 4.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
I am much obliged to the noble Lord. There is much I would agree with about "Lord President" although I admit that there is the danger of mixing him up with the Lord President of the Court of Session or with Lord Hailsham, which would be very exciting now and again. "Mr. President" is the title of heads of republics. I agree it is dignified, it would be better; it sounds better; but it can be rather confusing. But by all means let us consider the suggestion of the Leader of the Liberal Party and any other ideas that are about.
§ Clause 3 [Local government areas in and around Greater London]:
§ 4.48 p.m.
LORD WILMOT OF SELMESTON moved, after subsection (2), to insert:
(3) Notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in this Act, the Minister may
if he thinks fit, for the purpose of providing for the orderly transfer of functions from the councils of the existing counties of London, Middlesex, Surrey, Kent, Essex and Hertfordshire to the Greater London Council, the London borough councils and the Common Council, by order provide that the councils of the said existing counties as constituted on 31st March 1965—
§ (4) In paragraph (b) of the foregoing subsection 'the prescribed date' means 1st April 1966 or such earlier date as may be specified in relation to any functions in an order made under this section.
§ (5) For the avoidance of doubt it is hereby declared that in pursuance of his powers under section 83 of this Act and under this section the Minister may, in any order made for the purposes of this section, amend this Act by the substitution, either generally or in relation to any purposes or functions specified in the order, for any date specified in this Act of such later date, not being later than twelve months after the first-mentioned date, as he may think fit."
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this Amendment I want to make a special appeal to the Minister to try to find a way of meeting the proposals which are contained herein. There can be no doubt in anybody's mind that the task of implementing the proposals contained in this Bill for the complete reorganisation of the local government services in Greater London present problems of very great complexity. It will be extremely difficult, and may well be quite impossible, to resolve satisfactorily all these problems within the very limited time provided by the Bill. This is not just my own opinion or that of my noble and right honourable friends. The London County Council, who have the bulk of the tasks to be performed, have gone to great trouble to take the opinions of their staff and head of departments. I think it is very important that the opinion of these men should be regarded.
§ May I quote briefly the opinion on this very important matter of the head of departments of the London County Council? He said that many of the departments have had practical experience of the complexity and difficulty to which the Acts of 1930 and 1948—Acts 42 that fell to be carried out in those years—gave rise. They point out that the difficulties under this Bill are much greater, because those cases were just transfers of functions and the proposals in this Bill are much more complex. There is a fragmentation of areas, as well as a partial transfer of functions within entirely new boundaries, all of which gives rise to complexities of a grave kind. I would draw particular attention to the fact that the head of the administration of the L.C.C. wrote that he conceives it his duty to express in strong terms that "if the proposals of the Bill are to be carried out in the way now provided by the Bill, there is a very grave risk of a complete breakdown of the local services in London."
§ He goes on to say that, in his view, this risk can be avoided only by such a diversion of staff to the enormously complicated work, implicit in the Bill, of providing for the functioning of the new authority as to endanger the maintenance of existing services, including in that term the planning and provision of new housing, schools and road improvements. It is impossible to exaggerate the seriousness of that happening. The proposed Amendment is drafted with this possibility in mind. It is designed to give the Minister, if his hopes that reorganisation will take place effectively within the time provided are justified, a discretion, in the light of the circumstances then prevailing, to allow an extended period of up to one year for the transfer of the functions required by the Bill. If everything goes well, the Minister need not use this power, but if the time available proves insufficient, then he can invoke the powers provided by this Amendment and give the authorities up to another year.
§ It is not enough to say that much of the work of the new authorities can be done beforehand, because that assumes that the new elected bodies will behave as rubber stamps and will give approval to actions which they have not fully understood and have not initiated. I do not think that it is at all unlikely that the Minister may find it necessary to have this extension of time. We must bear in mind that the reorganisation proposed by the Bill provides 33 entirely new authorities to be created from the existing authorities in the London area, involving not only 43 amalgamations of authorities, but also the break-up into a different pattern of the distribution of functions between these new authorities. Every new council will have to take over part of the services now administered by the county councils, which are usually organised on a basis which is not related to the boundaries of the new authorities.
§ The Greater London Council will become responsible for services at present administered by a number of county councils, and in some cases only a severed part of the county area will be responsible for the services now provided. Under the Bill as it stands, within twelve months of the creation of these manifold new authorities they must begin to administer the services which at present are administered by a hundred separate authorities. It seems to me very foolish to risk a breakdown in the administration of all this complicated governmental machinery without the Minister having some power to extend the time in case of necessity.
§ That some such difficulties might arise was clearly in the mind of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor who, when introducing the Bill in your Lordships' House, spoke of the "considerable upheaval" which the Bill would cause in the whole of the services of London. I think the Government recognise that there is a danger of the dislocation of these services and they are relying on the skill and ingenuity of the local government staff to get through. But these are the very people, charged with this immense task, who have given the opinion which I have already quoted. Eight and a half million people are dependent upon these services, and to take a risk of a breakdown is to take a risk which should not be taken. I hope that the Minister will accept this Amendment in the spirit in which it is put forward, as a safety measure to ensure some extra time, if it is needed. I beg to move.
Page 4, line 12, at end insert the said subsections.—(Lord Wilmot of Selmeston.)
§ LORD HASTINGS
My Lords, I am not sure whether it is the intention of noble Lords opposite to move Amendment No. 8, which deals specifically with the transfer of functions, out of which this Amendment really arises.
§ LORD HASTINGS
Then perhaps I can develop my general argument on the transfer of functions, which will naturally lead up to the extension of time of transfer which the noble Lord is seeking.
§ LORD WILMOT OF SELMESTON
That would be convenient, and perhaps it might be wise for the noble Lord to include in his reply Nos. 9 and 10, which relate to the same matter.
§ LORD HASTINGS
I shall move No. 9 briefly and No. 10 is not going to be moved. Here we have to consider two dates, and I think that we should be careful not to get them confused. The first is the initiating date for the transfer of functions and the subsequent period during which consequential problems will have to be sorted out. We know that the change will involve a big upheaval. That is inevitable in any major reorganisation. But this will happen whenever the change takes place—in 1965 or 1966; or it could be 1970 or later. There must be this upheaval at the moment of reorganisation, because the people who are now in the local government services in Greater London are the same people who will be running them, by and large, after the date of transfer. A few key officers will be employed by the new authorities before 1965 on a full-time or even on a part-time basis, but the great majority of the local government staff will stay with their present authorities until March 31, 1965, and then they will start with the new ones on the following day.
While some preparations can be made in advance, there are many problems which cannot be tackled and, indeed, will not even arise until the new system actually starts to operate: for example, the assimilation of staff from different councils into a unified hierarchy; the disentangling of records and the final adjustments. These are all the sort of things which will drag on for a long time, in some cases perhaps even years, before they are finally sorted out. So that there can be no question of postponing the changeover with the hope of solving all these problems for initial planning.
But the long time which it will take to clear up these subsequent problems is quite a different thing from the considerations which govern the right moment 45 for the initial transfer of responsibility. When we come to the date of the actual transfer of functions, we have to consider a balance of pros and cons. Will the advantages of postponing the changeover in the hope of being able to make more complete arrangements be outweighed by the disadvantage of prolonging the period of uncertainty? That is actually what it comes down to. We think it would be a mistake to think that local authorities who know they are going out of existence in a matter of months can possibly ignore this fact when making their forward plans. Uncertainty has a special impact on local government staff, and in this it is quite natural that they should be thinking where they will be better off and where they will be secure in their job. Uncertainty would also prejudice the possibility of filling the many existing vacancies which we know exist now in the complements of the present London authorities if they drag on in their uncertain position unnecessarily long. All these uncertainties must inevitably react upon the public for whom the services are provided. These uncertainties can only be removed when the new authorities are established, when they have taken over their responsibilities and can proceed to take final decisions.
It is for this reason that we feel that the balance of advantage, both for the local government officers and for the public, is to get the new system into operation as soon as practicable. Indeed, it seems to the Government that the spring of 1965 is the earliest possible date on which we can do that; but the Opposition believe that it cannot be done by then. This allows eleven months overlap with the new authorities existing side by side with the old ones, but (and I made this point on the Committee stage) nearly two years' preparation if you take into consideration the work of the joint committees which have been and are being set up now. It will undoubtedly mean hard work, but we have no guarantee that any longer delay would improve the preparations for the initial transfer functions, and we can say with certainty that it would prolong the uncertain period before the new system can get going, before firm plans can be made and before staff can settle down into new positions. Therefore we feel that there is no case for delaying the transfer of functions in 46 accordance with Amendments Nos. 5 and 8 for a full year.
That really brings me to the Amendment now moved by the noble Lord, Amendment No. 6, which has, as it appears, an ingenious device for delaying the transfer of some at least of the functions. One main argument that we feel must weigh heavily against taking powers to the Minister to allow six months' or even a year's delay in certain cases is that that alternative date would very likely become the target of people working towards the changeover instead of pressing on to end the uncertainties as soon as possible. If they felt it was possible to delay the transfer in certain matters, then the inclination might be to work towards that later date rather than the earlier one.
But dealing specifically with the suggestion in this Amendment, which, of course, is aimed at the transfer of the services now administered by the county councils, I should like to tell your Lordships that this possibility and several others were actually considered by the Government when the Bill was being drafted. There was also another variation to this—namely, that all county council functions should be handed over initially to the Greater London Council, to be transferred gradually to the boroughs after 1965. The Government came to the conclusion that the problems raised by these suggestions were so great as to make them really quite impracticable.
Now I will attempt to explain to noble Lords why, in the first place, this Amendment must surely mean retaining the county councils in substantial, if not full, operation for up to a year after the boroughs and the Greater London Council have become fully operative authorities—and that would include the Middlesex County Council and the London County Council, which at the date proposed in the Bill are supposed to disappear altogether. The Government propose an overlap between the old and new authorities of eleven months, but our proposal is different in so far as during this overlapping period only a small skeleton staff of key officers, planning for the date when they will take over both the functions and the staff of 47 the present authorities, would be involved. But the noble Lord's Amendment contemplates having the old and the new systems actually operating together. It is difficult to see how this could possibly work.
In the first place, where will the staff come from? Local authorities in London are already short of staff though only one system is operating. If the present county councils and all the new authorities are to be operating side by side, it is not sufficient to say that the staff will go on with the job. In many cases this may be the case, but the county councils and the new authorities will all need the headquarters and common service departments, containing, for instance, architects, engineers, accountants, lawyers and general administrators. Furthermore, it is difficult to see that local government staff will want to stay with the expiring county councils during the final twelve-months period when new posts are being filled in the boroughs and in the Greater London Council. It is asking a lot of them to do that.
Then, if county councils are to be retained in existence (this is only a small point of detail) it will mean, for instance, that Potters Bar and Sunbury and Staines will not be transferred to Hertfordshire and Surrey in 1965. There are all sorts of difficult technical points of that nature. In some boroughs county services would apparently be provided during this interim period by different counties in different areas. For instance, Middlesex and Surrey would both be responsible for parts of Borough No. 24, which of course would itself be fully operative and responsible and wishing to get its full complement of staff. Hertfordshire and Middlesex would share borough No. 30, and Surrey would retain its responsibilities in part only of borough No. 20, but not in the rest. These seem to us problems which it would be virtually impossible to overcome if we were to accept this Amendment.
Finally, what about local Acts? Reorganisation of London government involves looking at about 500 such Acts, as I explained during Committee stage. Will it be necessary to look at these Acts (I think it is going to be done under Clause 84; I cannot remember, offhand, but noble Lords know the clause well 48 enough) twice and amend them first in 1965, and then again in 1966, as a result of accepting this Amendment? It seems to the Government that the administrative complexities of accepting this Amendment would be enormous, and they would be guaranteed to disrupt the services by introducing a period of up to 12 months when there would be a genuine vacuum of authority: a period in which staff would not be able to settle down in their new posts, and in which administration and forward planning would be at a standstill. No method, we agree, is completely free from problems and difficulties, but the important thing is to place both services and staff with the authorities who will be responsible for them in future so as to bring uncertainty to an end and permit firm decisions to be taken. That is why the Government, although they appreciate what noble Lords are aiming at, do not wish to accept this Amendment, and why we wish to stand on the Bill as drafted at the moment. I hope that in the light of my arguments noble Lords may be able to withdraw their Amendment. If not, I must ask the House to support me in resisting it.
§ LORD WILMOT OF SELMESTON
My Lords, before the noble Lord leaves the matter, I wonder whether he would be kind enough to tell us—having declined to give the Minister this elbowroom that he can give to the authorities in the case of need—what he will do if in fact the fears of the chief officers of the London County Council prove to be justified and, to quote their words, "there is the grave risk of the breakdown of the local government services in London if the proposals of the Bill are carried out." This Amendment is only to give the Minister discretionary power. If it is rejected, what will the Minister do?
§ LORD HASTINGS
My Lords, I think that is a perfectly legitimate question, and in fact it is one I put myself. I am informed that the Department and my right honourable friend are quite clear that this can be done. They do not contemplate that it will not be possible or that there will be a breakdown. That really is the answer.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, surely the noble Lord must anticipate—he has been long enough in the world to know—that "The best laid plans of mice and men, …"—I forget the end of it.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
The point is that you can make your plans, and you can assess reasonably that they will go through. But something happens, and then, according to the Minister, chaos may reign because the Minister will not have discretionary power. I should have thought the advantage of this Amendment was that it would provide a safeguard where, over the wide range of transfer of powers, everything moves perfectly satisfactorily except perhaps in one essential service. Take education as an instance. The administration of education plays a very big part. Education is not merely the provision of teachers and of opening the schools in the morning. There is a good deal that goes on behind the scenes; in administration, the provision of books, paper, ink and many other things. If this were to break down, if the local authorities, with the best will in the world, were in difficulty, this Amendment would permit the Minister to delay for a period—it may be only a month, two months or it may be a year. It would give the Minister this degree of flexibility that is in the interests not only of the local authority itself but of the people who will be depending upon the local authority.
I do not know why the Government must be so obstinate in this matter. We are forced to accept this Bill. We are now trying, with no political motive, to see that the transfers take place with the least possible damage to local government. The noble Lord himself has recognised the importance and magnitude of the task. I wonder whether the noble Lord has gone down and spoken to some of the local authority officers—not those high up, like the major or colonel, who say, "Oh yes, we shall be able to deal with it". What really matters is what the sergeant-major thinks.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
Depending upon the general. But in the end it is the sergeant-major, the sergeant and the corporal. If you were to go down to the local government officers who are intimately connected with providing the services to the electors, you would find that they are deeply worried about the ability to transfer in the time in which the Government permit them to do it.
50 If this Amendment were accepted it would not alter the principle of the Bill; it might not even have to be used. If the confidence of the Government and the Ministers is so great, if they believe that all they have said will go through, they will not have any fear in accepting this Amendment. The purpose of this Amendment is to help them if their confidence goes wrong—and, with the best will in the world, all these plans can go wrong. We do not want to see a breakdown of local government—I do not believe there is a noble Lord opposite who wishes to see that. If this Amendment were agreed to, it would be a great safeguard in preventing any major breakdown, because the Minister would have power to hold, but not for an indefinite period. This is not a wrecking Amendment. It would be possible to hold a particular transfer for a month. I would not have thought, that that was unreasonable, but the Government appear to think it is. I hope my noble friend will press this, and I hope that he will have the support from the liberal-minded Members opposite.
§ LORD WALSTON
My Lords, there seems to be an underlying thread through the Government's attitude towards all these Amendments which, in spite of the light words the noble Lord used at the end of his speech, I think is borne out by one phrase he used, referring to this as a curious device.
§ LORD WALSTON
I beg the noble Lord's pardon. That implies that there is nothing particularly ingenious in this as a method of dealing with a straightforward problem. But the fact that he used the words "ingenious device" implies, and the whole of the actions of the Government imply, that they look upon our Amendments put down on this side as a means of undermining the Bill. We have made no secret, as my noble friend Lord Shepherd said, of the fact that we are opposed to the Bill. But we have to accept it. The Government have the force to push it through. That we have to accept. What we are now doing is simply attempting to see that this Bill, which we did not from the beginning like, will work when it becomes an Act. I believe that if the Government accept that, and look on these Amendments in 51 this light, rather than as some ingenious device by which the Bill can be undermined, they would benefit themselves, they would benefit the country, and realise that a good many of these suggestions we are putting forward are not only honest but are extremely competent and sensible.
I do not want to labour the points that my noble friends have made, but we all agree that this is an extremely complicated transaction that has been brought about. Although there are preparatory committees already sitting, we must not lost sight of the fact that we are organising and legislating for a democratic, not a bureaucratic, form of government. So, no matter how many committees may sit now, no final decision can possibly be taken until the democratically elected representatives of the new area have been elected, have sat and selected their sub-committees, and these sub-committees have met. Therefore, although preliminary work will be of value to them, it is entirely wrong and completely antidemocratic to say that much time will be saved or that any decision can be taken until these committees have met.
This is not going to give them eleven months, which is from the date of the actual sitting of the first council, but something more like nine months before these various sub-committees will have started. They will then have a great deal of work to do. I think that it will be little short of a miracle if every one of these complicated functions of the new authority could be settled in a democratic way—assuming that the committees are not going to be a rubber stamp of the bureaucratic committees which are already sitting—or could be settled satisfactorily in the particular period of time which has been laid down in the Bill.
There is also, of course, a further point which I do not think is entirely negligible, which is the purely personal factor of the officers involved in this change-over. Any of your Lordships who have experience of mergers or changes in local government authorities of one kind or another, know perfectly well that for some reason or another, for example, those who are nearing retirement age, there are people who do not want to move out straight away—and there is a difficulty there—and there are those who do not want to take on 52 a new job until perhaps nine or twelve months have elapsed. It may well be that these are people who are suitable for these new appointments, are not available for them within the short period of eleven months but who could easily become available within eighteen months. But those people are going to be pushed out entirely. It is going to make the whole staffing problem very much more difficult—and the noble Lord has already admitted that staffing problems are very difficult—if this rigid figure of eleven months is adhered to.
I believe that if any of us who are interested in the efficient and smooth transition from one form of local government to another look at this objectively, we must agree that it is only right that, while pressing on (as the noble Lord said, and as I agree) as fast as possible with the change-over, there should be scope left to enlarge the time by a maximum of another twelve months. The only argument against that which I can see, as was the case in an earlier Amendment, as I mentioned, is that the present Minister does not trust his successor to make the right decision. If, as my noble friend Lord Shepherd said, there is no need for this to be used, no harm would be done by adopting it because it would simply become a dead letter. If there is a Minister who is trustworthy and reliable, he will undoubtedly refuse all frivolous and unnecessary applications for delay; and I quite accept the fact that there may be such applications, for people do not want to be hurried, and if they are told to do a thing in eleven months, it is rather more comfortable to have fifteen.
It is only a Minister who does not do his job properly and is swayed by invalid arguments who will get into difficulties in this way. Maybe the present Minister does not feel that he will be there and does not trust his successor, if he knows who it is going to be. That is the only reason I can think of. But, surely the ground that you do not believe that the man who is going to come after you and who is going to have to make the decisions is incapable of making them properly is not a very sound reason for refusing a perfectly reasonable and helpful Amendment.
I ask the noble Lord, above all, to clear from his mind this aura of mistrust that he has of everything which comes 53 from this side. We are not here now simply to make things difficult by being ingenious and using this device he has spoken of to undermine this Bill, bad as we think it is. We are here now to make the best of a bad and unnecessary Bill and to hope that some of the Amendments which we put forward will be listened to by the Government, because without them we believe that there
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ LORD HASTINGS
My Lords, this Amendment is consequential on changes made during the Committee stage to what are now Clauses 82, 86 and 88. A series of Amendments was then accepted, the purpose of which was to ensure that Acts applying solely to the present administrative county of London area were adopted or amended by only one procedure, whether they are technically listed as Local Acts or General Acts. The previous Amendments provided that Public Acts extending only to the L.C.C. area should be treated as if they were Local Acts for this purpose, and hence this Amendment provides that such Acts shall not come within the scope of Clause 4, which
§ will be a great deal of hardship, suffering and inefficiency as a result of this Government measure.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the Amendment (No. 3) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 29; Not-Contents, 53.53
|Addison, V.||Greenhill, L.||Shepherd, L.|
|Alexander of Hillsborough, E.||Henderson, L.||Silkin, L.|
|Amwell, L.||Kinnoull, E.||Sinha, L.|
|Archibald, L.||Latham, L.||Stonham, L.|
|Attlee, E.||Lawson, L.||Summerskill, B.|
|Burden, L. [Teller.]||Longford, E.||Walston, L.|
|Champion, L.||Lucan, E. [Teller.]||Williams, L.|
|Crook, L.||Morrison of Lambeth, L.||Wilmot of Selmeston, L.|
|Douglas of Barloch, L.||Peddie, L.||Wootton of Abinger, B.|
|Faringdon, L.||Shackleton, L.|
|Ailwyn, L.||Fortescue, E.||Milverton, L.|
|Albemarle, E.||Fraser of North Cape, L.||Monk Bretton, L.|
|Balfour of Inchrye, L.||Goschen, V. [Teller.]||Monsell, V.|
|Boston, L.||Hastings, L.||Napier and Ettrick, L.|
|Chesham, L.||Hawke, L.||Newton, L.|
|Clwyd L.||Hereford, V.||Rockley, L.|
|Colville of Culross, V.||Horsbrugh, B.||St. Aldwyn, E. [Teller.]|
|Colyton, L.||Howard of Glossop, L.||St. Just, L.|
|Conesford, L.||Howe, E.||Salter, L.|
|De La Warr, E.||Jellicoe, E.||Saltoun, L.|
|Denham, L.||Lambert, V.||Sinclair of Cleeve, L,|
|Derwent, L.||Long, V.||Soulbury, V.|
|Devonshire, D.||Lothian, M.||Spens, L.|
|Dundee, E.||McCorquodale of Newton, L.||Swinton, E.|
|Dundonald, E.||Mansfield, E.||Waleran, L.|
|Falmouth, V.||Margesson, V.||Ward of Witley, V.|
|Ferrers, F.||Massereene and Ferrard, V.||Westwood, L.|
|Forster of Harraby, L.||Merrivale, L.|
Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ deals with the application and interpretation of Public Acts. I beg to move.
§ Amendment moved—
Page 5, line 44, at end insert—
("and this section shall not apply to any enactment contained in an Act extending only to the administrative county of London.")—(Lord Hastings.)
My Lords, I do not pretend that I understand this, even after the very clear explanation of the noble Lord, but I am informed by those who are in a better position to understand this Amendment that it is defective and I believe the Minister has been so informed. I should be grateful, even if the noble Lord requires permission to explain the Amendment further, if he would go into this question. My informants are people who are in a very good 55 position to form an opinion. Unfortunately I cannot explain what the defects are. They have been explained to the Ministry, and I think it would be right that the noble Lord should ex- plain to the House if there are any doubts about this Amendment, and what they are and what is the answer. I can keep discussion going while the noble Lord goes to the Officials Box to find out. I may say that my information comes from the London County Council, and they are usually accurate and well-informed on these matters. If there is any defect in this Amendment it would be just is well that we should have it cleared up. Alternatively, I would ask the noble Lord to keep this matter in mind and have another look at it, and it can always be put down again at a further stage of the Bill. Perhaps that would be the wisest course. I suggest the right thing may well be that the noble Lord should take this Amendment back and put it down again if he is satisfied and can satisfy the House.
§ LORD HASTINGS
My Lords, this matter really arises out of previous Amendments at the Committee stage. I remember explaining then that it was a complicated matter, but there are evidently some Local Acts of a public nature which deal only with the L.C.C. area. Therefore it was considered easier that this matter should be dealt with in a different way from our Public Acts and they should be dealt with in the same way as Private Acts applied by the L.C.C. We thought it was sensible to provide that local provisions confined to Greater London should all be dealt with in the same way, and if this Amendment is defective then the previous one was presumably defective. However, my information is that although some doubts have been expressed by the L.C.C., the Department has been into this matter and is quite satisfied that these Amendments are in order. On that basis I think it would be convenient if we could accept this Amendment, but of course I will make further enquiries. If we happen to be wrong I will move it out again at Third Reading, but I am told we are right.
§ LORD CROOK
My Lords, it may be that that is the only way out. I should have thought from what I have seen of 56 what has been said by the London County Council, the people who have looked at this subject, that there is a complete contradiction between this insertion and the beginning of subsection (4) and subsection (5). The piece that is going in says:… this section shall not apply to any enactment contained in an Act extending only to the administrative county of London.Subsection (4) starts:Any existing enactment to the effect that any provision does not apply or refer, or applies or refers only, to the administrative county of London. …Subsection (5) begins:Where, under any existing enactment which by virtue of subsection (4) of this section applies to Greater London other than the outer London boroughs. …I would have thought there is a contradiction in negatives there. But perhaps the right thing to do is to leave this in the hope that it can be looked at and, if it is as wrong, as I think it is, it can be put right at Third Reading.
§ LORD HASTINGS
I am informed there is no contradiction, and the Amendment refers to whole Acts extending only to London. I will look at it again, but we are quite confident this is right.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 6 [Alteration of boundaries of or within Greater London]:
§ 5.42 p.m.
THE MINISTER OF STATE, HOME OFFICE (EARL JELLICOE) moved, in subsection (2), at the end of paragraph (c) to insert:
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, I think it would be convenient to take this Amendment and Amendment 11A, which is linked with it, together. They are both intended to meet the substance of the Opposition Amendment which stands in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, No. 11. The Government still believe that the grounds on which that Amendment. No. 11, was previously resisted, both here and in another place, are basically sound, that alterations to local Government boundaries can have so many repercussions for the administration of services, for matters affecting employment of staff, over finance, and even for non-administrative matters such 57 as areas of jurisdiction of courts and coroners, that proposals for such alterations should be made only by the local authorities concerned; because we feel that they are in the best position to weigh up all the consequential effects of possible boundary changes. We do not depart from that basic standpoint.
§ Nevertheless, I am moving these Amendments for two reasons, partly as a concession to the views expressed here and in another place—this reasonable Government always listens to a case reasonably put, as noble Lords will know. My second reason for moving these Amendments is that save for two places—Epsom and Ewell and Chigwell—the outer boundary of Greater London has not been the subject of detailed consideration; elsewhere the existing local government boundaries are being adopted in the Bill unchanged. We shall expect that any proposals to amend the outer boundary will in fact come through the local authorities. Nevertheless, these Amendments provide another exceptional way in which the matter may be raised through the initiative of the local electors concerned.
§ I think there are six main effects of these Amendments if they are adopted. The first is that proposals for boundary changes made in this way would be limited to the outer boundary of Greater London. I think that applies to Lord Silkin's Amendment too. The second is that they could not be made before April 1, 1965—that is when the new local authorities come into effective operation—or after April 1, 1970. The Amendments create a special machinery for drawing attention to alleged anomalies in the boundary, but we feel that this special machinery, this sword of Damocles, should not be left hanging over the local authorities concerned indefinitely. I should have thought it right to provide a cut-off date, which is not provided in Lord Silkin's Amendment, and a five year period would seem to be about reasonable.
§ The third effect is that applications must come from electors living in areas which the proposals would transfer. Here, again, there is a difference between these Amendments and Lord Silkin's, in that his would affect anyone in the borough concerned, not merely the part of the borough which might be transferred. The fourth effect is that the proposals would 58 need the support of 300 local government electors or 10 per cent. of the local government electorate of the area concerned, whichever is the larger. It is only 10 per cent. of the part in dispute, likely or not to be transferred. The extra requirement which we have brought in here has been imported in order to make sure that the organisers of any secession movement do not propose a large area than they want to get out just to get up to the 300 mark.
§ The fifth effect is that the Amendment is restricted to take areas out of London. The sixth effect is that no such proposals could be made under this new machinery to transfer any part of Epsom and Ewell or Chigwell, although the rest of this machinery would operate there. That is because the boundaries of these areas, unlike all other boundaries, are provided for in the Bill and these have been gone into very carefully. I hope the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, will accept that these Amendments go at least some way, and I think they go almost the whole way, to meet the point which is covered in his Amendment, and I hope they will prove acceptable to the House. I beg to move.
Page 7, line 18, at end insert ("or (d) under subsection (3A) of this section").—(Earl Jellicoe.)
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, I would agree with the noble Earl that these Amendments go some way towards meeting the Amendment which I moved on the Committee stage, but I would not agree with him they go nearly all the way. For one thing, I am still not clear why these two areas are omitted—that is Chigwell and Epsom and Ewell. Why are they excepted? I understand the reason for most of the six conditions that the noble Earl laid down. What I do not understand is why this should be limited to 1970. Circumstances could arise at any time. The case I made on Committee was that circumstances might arise in the future which would make it desirable in the public interest that there should be changes in the boundaries. And although it is true that these changes can be initiated by the local authorities themselves, by the London boroughs, I sought to show that if you could get a sufficient number of local government electors immediately adjoining the 59 boundary they should have the right themselves to make representations. I agree with the noble Lord that it is right that they should be actually resident in the area, and I agree with him that they should constitute at least 10 per cent. of the total electorate. I think I cannot complain about them. What I am complaining of is, first of all, that certain areas are omitted, and, secondly, that it is restricted to 1970. I think those are the two major points on which we are in disagreement.
On the second point, the noble Earl talked about the sword of Damocles hanging over the head of somebody. I was not sure over whose head it was hanging. But, after all, there is already in the Bill machinery for altering the boundaries, and that is not restricted to 1970. Therefore, from that argument the sword of Damocles is still hanging over somebody's head. It is merely one additional method of altering the boundaries at the request of 300 electors resident in the area, and constituting not less than 10 per cent. of the total electorate. I cannot see that that is different in character from the other methods; and I would hope that, even now, while accepting this, the noble Earl would be prepared to look at the matter again and see whether he can explain why these two areas are omitted and why this has to be restricted to 1970.
My Lords, if I have the permission of the House to speak again, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his muted welcome to these Amendments. I should like to deal briefly—I am sure your Lordships will expect me to be brief—with the two points that he has raised. I thought that I had explained why these two districts had been excluded from the effect of these particular two Amendments. In fact it is because they are the only peripheral districts for which the Bill itself lays down new boundaries; these particular stretches of the outer boundary have thus been settled, unlike the rest, in detail by the Bill, and, indeed, they have been subject, and are still likely to be subject, to considerable discussion at all stages in both Houses. In that respect, they are in an exceptional position so far as the whole peripheral area is concerned.
60 As regards the cut-off date, I have explained why I felt that this was an exceptional procedure, why it seemed reasonable that it should not be left hanging indefinitely over the heads of the local authorities—it was the local authorities over whose heads this sword hung. It is quite true, as the noble Lord has said, that there is other machinery which could be invoked for effecting boundary changes; but in those cases, unlike in this particular one, it would be the local authorities themselves who would be wielding the sword. It was for those reasons that we provided for this cut-off date, which I still think is reasonable. I would suggest to your Lordships that we have gone rather further than the noble Lord allowed for in meeting the wishes and views which have been expressed on this point in both Houses, and I am afraid that I cannot promise to undertake to go any further. I think it would be wrong for me to hold out any hope that I should be able to.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ EARL JELLICOE: My Lords, this Amendment is consequential on Amendment No. 10A. I beg to move.
§ Amendment moved—
Page 7, line 41, at end insert—
("(3A) In the case of a London borough contiguous with a county, at any time after 31st March 1965 and before 1st April 1970 proposals for the transfer from that borough to that county of a part of that borough which is so contiguous, not being a part falling wholly or partly within the existing urban district of Chigwell or the existing borough of Epsom and Ewell, may be made to the Minister by any three hundred or more local government electors residing in that part of the borough and together constituting not less than ten per cent. of the total number of local government electors so residing.")—(Earl Jellicoe.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ LORD HASTINGS
My Lords, the effect of this Amendment is to delete the application of all but Sections 148 and 149 of the 1933 Act relating to supplemental and miscellaneous provisions. The deleted references deal, among other things, with the transfer and compensation of officers, and to this extent the Amendment is consequential upon Amendments that I moved in Committee in your Lordships' House. All such matters come within the terms of what is now Clause 84, like other transfer and 61 compensation arrangements consequent upon the re-organisation of London government. Also deleted are the references to financial adjustments between authorities affected by any order altering boundaries. But this provision is already taken up and applied by Clause 83 of the Bill. I beg to move.
Page 7, line 43, leave out from ("148") to ("to") in line 45 and insert ("and 149 of the said Act of 1933").—(Lord Hastings.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Schedule 1 [The London Boroughs]:
§ LORD SHEPHERD
had given notice of his intention to move to increase from 4 to 8 the initial number of councillors on the Greater London Council from the new London Borough (1). The noble Lord said: My Lords, on behalf of my noble friends I rise to deal with this particular Amendment and the consequential Amendments. We made a good case on Committee for increasing the number of councillors on the Greater London Council. We put down this Amendment because we felt that the Government might respond to the case that was made; but in view of their obstinate and, I am afraid, disastrous attitude on a previous Amendment in which we were asking for some flexibility in regard to the boroughs, it seems to us of little purpose that we should have a sterile debate on this important matter. Therefore, after consultation with my noble friends, it has been decided that we should not move Amendment No. 13.
Perhaps it would be for the convenience of the House—the Opposition always try to help if they can in this respect—if I were to indicate that it is not our intention to move Amendments Nos. 14 to 33. When the noble Lord at present on the Woolsack, Lord Airedale, rises, perhaps he will put them en bloc and we can signify our intention not to move. That might perhaps speed up affairs.
§ LORD AIREDALE: My Lords, Amendment No. 13 is not moved; nor are Amendments Nos. 14 to 33.
§ 5.59 p.m.
§ LORD AUCKLAND moved, in the reference to the new Borough 20, to delete "and the urban district of Coulsdon and Purley". The noble Lord said: My Lords, I rise to move this Amendment 62 which seeks to prevent Purley and Coulsdon from being linked with Croydon under this scheme. An Amendment on these lines was moved on the Committee stage but was rejected by the Government. I now seek to raise this matter again. I feel that I shall not get far, but I think I am at least entitled to put forward some points in favour of our case. As I pointed out on the Committee stage of the Bill, Croydon has a population of some 240,000. Added to this, some 90,000 are going to be concerned from Coulsdon and Purley. So far as I know, there was no local inquiry into this change. Croydon do not desire it; Coulsdon and Purley do not desire it. There will be considerable difficulties in administration, because I am informed that there is no civic centre of sufficient size to house what is necessary under the terms of this change. Civic centres cannot be pushed up overnight.
§ During the Committee stage of this Bill my noble friend Lord Hastings made what I thought was a rather curious statement, when he said that the working population of Coulsdon and Purley mostly travel to London to their place of business. It is quite true that a number do, but it is also the case that a good many people work in Croydon, and many new offices have been set up in that area. I should have thought that it was in the interests of decentralising the population of London for more people from Coulsdon and Purley to work in Croydon. If the sort of argument used by the Minister is to be put forward, one might equally well say that people travel to their work in London from Brighton, from Bishop's Stortford, from Redhill or Eastbourne; yet none of these places is going into the Greater London Authority. Therefore, that argument alone seems to me wildly illogical. Caterham and Watlingham are excluded from the proposals of this plan, but they surely, geographically at least, would form just as much a part of Croydon as would Coulsdon and Purley. We have had few assurances about the Green Belt area. Are the Greater London Authority going to get their hands on the Green Belt? Coulsdon and Purley have a very fine record of local administration, and they are also the second largest authority in Surrey. It is surely contrary to the interests of local government to have this massive authority set up.63
§ I do not propose to delay the House with further arguments, but I should have thought the argument that one should give more incentive to local government would have prevented the Government from introducing this amalgamation which will lead to something like 330,000 people living under this administration. Therefore, I beg the Government at least to think again. I ask my noble friend whether he will consult again with his right honourable friend, bearing in mind the tremendous opposition there is to this plan, both in Croydon and in the two other areas concerned. I beg to move.
Page 107, line 42, leave out from ("Croydon") to the end of line 43.—(Lord Auckland.)
§ LORD CROOK
My Lords, I have great pleasure in supporting my noble friend in his Amendment and in agreeing with all the excellent arguments he has put up. One of the most astonishing of all the astonishing things contained in this Bill was the original idea that all these places that string out into the country should be added on to the already large conglomeration that is Croydon. I entirely agree with the noble Lord when he said that it would be just as reasonable for Warlingham and Cater-ham to be added on to Croydon—indeed it was the original intention that they should be in; but they were then struck out. Now we are left with the Purley area straggling along outside this great new, almost city, as Croydon has become.
Only those of your Lordships who have been to Croydon in the last year or two will understand to what extent this very go-ahead place, with its very large population, has made itself a clearly civic-centred organisation. Those of us who have been down to see Fairfield Hall and all the district surrounding will know that there is something which anyone would be proud to possess as a centre—a proper cultural centre, a local government centre, a centre around which one finds the businesses and other organisations. The noble Lord was more than right when he spoke of the new development of these buildings. The Government's plan has been carried out there, if nowhere else, in trying to get people out. The Royal Automobile Club Touring Department now occupies one whole 64 building in Croydon. I cannot see the sense in adding on this other area. I can perhaps see an argument for saying that as one comes on down the main road from Streatham into Norbury and goes on into Croydon one cannot find a break, and therefore it ought to be part of this new Greater London. But when one goes on from there and tries to tuck in a countrified area I find it impossible to visualise any sense in that at all. I support the noble Lord completely in this matter. I hope that he will take this Amendment to a Division.
§ LORD HASTINGS
My Lords, I do not intend to deploy at the same length the same argument that I used on Committe stage. I would only repeat the essential parts of it. First, the services for which Greater London needs to be treated as a whole are those dealing with the physical environment: planning, traffic main roads, main drainage and certain aspects of housing. These are essentially related to the built-up area, and the main principle upon which the Government have proceeded is that the new system of local government should embrace the whole of what now constitutes the continuous development which is present-day London. It should include all the built-up area within the Green Belt and no less.
The essential question is whether a particular area on the fringe is properly to be regarded as part of the continuous built-up town. Decisions have not always been easy to reach, because around the fringes of Greater London, especially on the southern side, the boundary of the built-up area is not always clear cut. When considering claims from local authorities who urge that their districts should be excluded the Government have done their best to accede to these claims wherever they could; and during earlier stages a number of districts, including Warlingham and Caterham, which have been mentioned, and which the Royal Commission wished to include in Greater London, have now been left out. But we do not feel that it can be said of the developed parts of Coulsdon and Purley that they should not be regarded as part of the continuous town. After all, the development extends in a substantial and unbroken belt southwards from Croydon. I know that there is a lot of Green Belt land in Coulsdon and 65 Purley, but it is all on the outer fringe of the district; the developed area is to the north, and immediately adjacent to other development in London.
I would remind my noble friend Lord Auckland that the Minister has said on more than one occasion that the machinery of Clause 6 will be available for proposing boundary adjustments later, and the Amendment which has just been moved by my noble friend allows 300 electors to make application for what admittedly will be minor adjustments. As regards the developed area, the only break to the north is formed by Croydon Airport, as I pointed out on the last occasion; but most of that airport is now going to be developed and there will not be much of an open space there, which will make the built-up area itself even more unified and solidified than it is at the moment. The Government have never disputed the fact that Croydon does not particularly want to have Coulsdon and Purley joined to it. But, if I may say so, with respect, that is not relevant to the question of whether or not Coulsdon or Purley is part of the continuous built-up area. While we are well aware that local opinion is against us on this point, and although we sympathise as much as we can with that feeling, we feel that we cannot base the reorganisation of local government solely on that one factor.
The noble Lord will remember that during the Committee stage I reminded him of nine factors which have to be considered, and these were: community of interest; development and expected development; economic and industrial characteristics; financial resources measured in relation to needs; physical factors; the size and distribution of the population; the record of administration of the authorities concerned, and the size and shape of the areas of local government. So that, although local opinion is against this amalgamation we could not, as I have said, regard that as a decisive factor. I am afraid I cannot hold out any hope to the noble Lord that we are having second thoughts upon this subject. Therefore, I have no alternative but to ask your Lordships to resist the Amendment.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
My Lords, having thought about this matter, I must say that we have some 66 sympathy with the Amendment which the noble Lord has moved. The area is known to us pretty well; indeed, my noble friend Lord Crook has risen to support the Amendment which the noble Lord has moved. I do not think it is necessary for me to add to the argument. I can only say that I am very glad to be told by my noble friend Lord Crook that the noble Lord has let it be known locally, as was prominently reported in the local Press, that he will go through with the good fight all the way and will press the case. In the circumstances, therefore, if the noble Lord decides to go to a Division I will recommend my noble friends to support him in the Division Lobby. But it is for the noble Lord to decide whether or not he wishes a Division. If he does not, we shall not press it, although we think he is right.
§ LORD AUCKLAND
My Lords, I am bound to say that I am not very impressed with the reply of my noble friend Lord Hastings, although I think he has taken a good deal of trouble over what he has said. I do not propose to press this Amendment at this stage, but I reserve the right to move the Amendment again on Third Reading. Meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ LORD AUCKLAND moved, in the reference to borough 23, to delete the reference to Epsom and Ewell. The noble Lord said: My Lords, on the Committee stage of the Bill this Amendment made history, in that your Lordships were kept sitting until twenty minutes to three in the morning; and if I caused any of your Lordships to suffer from undue lack of sleep on that occasion I apologise. But the hour is nothing like so late now, and I propose to move the same Amendment. I shall doubtless get the same reply from my noble friend, but at least I think it can be said that at the hour of the original moving your Lordships were not perhaps so receptive as at this rather earlier hour. Nevertheless, my Lords, we were defeated by only 17 votes, and in another place the Government secured a majority of only 30 when the Amendment was moved on that occasion.
§ I do not propose to weary your Lordships with a long catalogue of what I 67 said on the Committee stage of this Bill. I would say only that my noble friend Lord McCorquodale of Newton, who has rendered distinguished service during his period as Member of Parliament for Epsom, made what I thought was a cast-iron case for the Amendment when it was moved on the Committee stage. I would say again that, when there was a meeting in March, 1962, at the Epsom Baths Hall, something like 2,000 people attended and the vote against the three Northern wards of Epsom going into London was unanimous. On a poll 95 per cent. of the local people have set themselves against being incorporated. I know that the Government will argue that pressure groups of this kind are not necessarily reasons for altering laws; and that is, in a sense, a fair enough comment. But these proposals are unique, in that one entire authority is having three wards indiscriminately hacked off and put into another authority, which does not want us anyway.
§ The repercussions of the change will be considerable. We shall have a loss of population of some 20,000, and this may well have an adverse effect on the rates. Education is also going to be a problem. Earlier to-day I was talking to a man who has lived in Cuddington for the last twelve years. Two of his children go to schools in the area that will remain in Surrey, and there is great concern as to what will happen to children who will continue going to school in the Surrey area, but who will reside in the Greater London Authority's area. I would ask the noble Lord, even if he cannot tell me the answer to-day, to ascertain what will happen to these children—because there is also the problem of school places. Will priority go to those children who will live in the new Surrey, as against children who may have lived for many years in the area which will be under the Greater London
§ My Lords, there is another point, and that is that the borough of Epsom and Ewell is in the diocese of Guildford, but is this one of them?
§ Council? There are, I know, a number of safeguards in the Bill for many things, Many people living in these three northern wards have contributed to the building of the new Guildford Cathedral. I know this is a hypothetical question, but 68 what will happen so far as the diocese is concerned to these three northern wards? Will they remain in the diocese of Guildford, or will they go into Southwark? I know there is a lot of local feeling on this, because many, as I say, have had connections with this cathedral. This may not be a practical point, but it is certainly a cogent one. Now I myself lived for four years in Stoneleigh, which is one of the wards which is going to be put into London. I mentioned this point on Second Reading, and I say again that the residents' association there, and all the local people there, are opposed to this move. There was no facility given for a local public inquiry into this. I know that the Government will say, "We cannot have local inquiries into every boundary change", and I agree; but this is a unique case. It is not merely an ordinary, small-scale boundary move: it affects a whole borough. It affects all kinds of things: it affects the people's daily lives, and many of the public services.
§ So far as the grouping is concerned, Esher was reprieved, although the argument that this forms one continuous area applies to Esher far more than to Epsom. Esher, I am told, has the same planning authority as Surbiton, the same medical officer of health and all kinds of other services. Epsom has none of these things. It is a very self-contained borough, and many of these services are used by people living well outside the area. As I said on Committee stage, Cuddington, which is one of the areas affected, goes back in history to the twelfth century. I know that these are moral issues rather than practical ones, but we as a Government have always been forerunners of local government. But what is local about this? An area going back 800 years in history is going to be impersonally thrown into another local authority.
§ As I say, so far as the Green Belt is concerned, what is going to happen to the Hogsmill area, where there is this vital line? There are, I think, somewhat nebulous assurances given that the Greater London Authority will bear it in mind that it is Green Belt, but we have already had ominous nibblings into the Green Belt by these authorities. Can the Government give a categorical assurance that this area will be protected?—because it is an issue of tremendous and vital local importance. It seems to 69 me that this proposal is rather like some of the cooks that one knew in the Services, who got hold of a nice, succulent joint of meat and hacked it about indiscriminately—because this is what is happening to Epsom under this proposal.
§ I know that the Royal Commission recommended this and a number of other boundary changes, but there seems to me to be absolutely no need for this move. It has been opposed by all Parties in Epsom, and even at this late hour I would beseech the Government to have second thoughts. I know I am probably battling against a brick wall, but there has been an almost complete absence of inquiry into this issue. The Minister saw a local deputation, but one of the conditions was that he would not discuss severance. That, my Lords, is the whole point of the objection to this move. Severance is what is not wanted. Also, as I have just said, there has been absolutely no facility for a public inquiry.
§ Many of your Lordships serve on local authorities, and I would ask that this matter be judged not on Party lines but entirely on the merits of the case. I repeat that 95 per cent. of the people in Epsom—which is not a Socialist borough; anything but—have declared themselves against this move. If no satisfactory answer is forthcoming from the Government, I shall certainly press it to the Lobby. I beg to move.
Page 108, line 10, column 2, leave out from ("Surbiton") to the end of line 13.—(Lord Auckland.)
§ LORD MCCORQUODALE OF NEWTON
My Lords, I would wish to support this Amendment, and I apologise to your Lordships if I speak rather feelingly and from the heart in this matter, and possibly rather emotionally, because I was privileged to represent Epsom—the finest seat in England, I regarded it, from a political point of view—for a considerable number of years, and I grew to love the place. I grew to realise the civic pride of those who live at Epsom and Ewell, and to see it dismembered in this way fills me with disgust.
On Thursday night last I was going rather late to catch the night sleeping-car train from Glasgow to London, and I was tapped on the shoulder by a man 70 on the station who said, "Excuse me you do not know me, but I live in Epsom. Good luck to you in seeing if you can preserve our borough". That was on Glasgow station, and it struck me very much. This is a plea from the heart to try to save Epsom from being carved up in a quite brutal manner, merely to satisfy some idea of planning, by means of a compass, numbers and population, in a room in Whitehall.
I am one of those who have been brought up to believe—and I think this is so of all noble Lords here—that local government, the mayor, the corporation and civic spirit are all good things. I have been brought up to believe that the touchstone of democracy in our country is really represented in our local government even more than in Parliamentary Government. There is scarcely any one of your Lordships who has ever been to a mayor's banquet or to speak in local elections, or to address primary and secondary schoolboys who has not urged them to take an interest in local government and gather knowledge of local affairs before they go on to wider things. How many times in another place has it not been said, "Why does anybody come to Parliament before serving local government?" which is the best school in which to learn to serve national politics. Yet here we are, quite deliberately smashing local government in a borough contiguous to London, which, as the noble Lord, Lord Auckland, says, goes back in history 700 or 800 years. We are smashing it up quite unnecessarily just to suit the planners.
I have often made speeches of this sort; and I hate the fact that Her Majesty's Government apparently regard such appeals to civic pride and local government, and all the rest, as so much cant and humbug—and I use these words advisedly—because that is what is being done. There is not the slightest necessity for Epsom to be dismembered by the Bill, as it is going forward in its plan for a new London government. Our Amendment does not affect the main principle of the Bill in any degree. I would urge, even at this late stage, that Her Majesty's Government should think again, and think of the people in the Epsom division who have unanimously demanded—and in a way in which I am assured by representatives of that borough is quite unprecedented 71 —that they remain together. I am not this afternoon going to argue the exact delineations. It is enough to say that Mr. Chuter Ede, our most famous Epsom citizen, said of them in another place, "The boundary proposed in the Bill would be a laughing stock so long as it existed." Mr. Ede knows more about Epsom and Ewell than any other man living; he said it would be a laughing stock.
I cannot imagine why this proposal is going forward. I think we proved during the early hours of the morning when this Amendment was moved in the Committee stage—and after 2 o'clock in the morning we naturally did not have a very big House—that the boundary between the three disputed wards and Surbiton, to which they wished to send them, was a boundary marked beyond peradventure. There is the Hogsmill river; there is a large Green Belt, which Her Majesty's Government are pledged to continue; there is the Kingston Bypass, which is a death-trap to anybody trying to cross it. Yet those three wards are to be shoved over this barrier and into Kingston. I am afraid I was rather rude, at 2 o'clock in the morning, and said it was adding insult to injury to send people from Epsom and Ewell into Surbiton and Kingston. I did not mean to say anything rude about Surbiton and Kingston. But Epsom does not want to go there.
To amplify what I am trying to say, I realise that problems of amalgamation, delineations and adjustments of local government boundaries always raise sore points; but there should be some overwhelming reason before areas which have come together are broken up. Local government commission regulations in 1938 set out such important over-riding considerations in alphabetical order in their list; and the first of all was thatCommunity of interest should be assured.There is a definite community of interest grown up between the different wards in Epsom and Ewell and the 71,000 people who live there. Therefore, I say it should be some overwhelming reason before that community of interest is broken up. We are one community in Epsom.
I would say, further, that Epsom is the sonly borough that is being treated in this way in the area around London. 72 There are a lot of boroughs around London; they are all maintaining their own position, none of them is being carved up except Epsom and Ewell—one of the most delightful of them all. As the noble Lord, Lord Auckland, said, the Government have not been consistent in this matter, because they are treating Esher quite differently from Epsom. I do not urge them to cut out Esher as well; that would be the last thing I would urge. But it makes somewhat of a mockery of the excuses put forward for this arrangement. But may I make an appeal—I am afraid it is a late one and it is difficult to put into words—that having got this community, this civic pride—the pride that makes the crowds come out to meet the mayor when he is elected each year, the pride that gives people an interest in local government, and the pride that has decided our town clerk (and, although he is here, I say that he is one of the finest in the country) to elect to stay there for the last fourteen years, when I know he has had splendid opportunities to go elsewhere, but his civic pride in the place is such that he wanted to serve there—we should endeavour to keep it. But it is all to be swept away.
I beg the two Ministers to talk to their right honourable friend and ask him to get way from the harsh, cold-blooded dissection of communities in the precincts of Whitehall by means of compasses and alphabetical orders and numbers, and get down to the heart of the people. Parliament is nothing if it does not represent the people of this country. The people of Epsom unite unanimously in begging Her Majesty's Government to leave them as they are; to allow them to get on and make as good a show as they are making of their own civic pride, their own boroughs, their own wards and own education and all the things that they endeavour to look after. Let them be! Do not smash them! Do not make a humbug of what we mean by pride in civic spirit in this country.
§ LORD CROOK
My Lords, if I may say so, with due respect to everyone else who has spoken in the course of the many days we have debated this Bill, the noble Lord who has just resumed his seat has made one of the best speeches to which I have listened. It was "on the nail" and right to the 73 point. It was full of courage and full of informative knowledge. I have had the pleasure of knowing the noble Lord for many years, during the war when he was connected with the Ministry of Labour, when he was M.P. for the next constituency to me, although he holds views of a different political complexion from any I have had. I always knew him to be a courageous Member of the other place; and now he has shown this in your Lordships' House. I should like to say, on behalf of the more limited number of Socialists in the area who have been working with the members of the Conservative Party in Surrey, how grateful I am to him for the support he has given to the Amendment which the noble Lord, Lord Auckland, has moved.
Of course, this is quite an absurd decision. It was even more absurd when it started—though I am not sure that even that is true. It started as a decision to put the whole of Epsom into the Greater London area. Then somebody reminded the, Leader of the House in another place that that would have moved the Epsom race course and the Derby into London, and he thought better of it and looked at it again. Then they took this illogical decision, completely contrary to any single thought that had ever occurred before. Some of us who lived there before the place had a charter remember that one of the things inherent in the application for a charter was that the two parts had to be joined together to make one borough in order to get the charter at all. And 25 years ago last August, our old friend Mr. Chuter Ede became Mayor of this new borough, which has developed more and more in civic consciousness and enthusiasm, some of which we saw when Her Majesty the Queen opened the new wing of Epsom College.
I do not understand this proposal, but then I do not understand many of the things the Government think they are going to do in this Bill. I do not understand the noble Lord, Lord Auckland. I do not understand why he did not divide on the last occasion. I read in the local paper that when he addressed the local Conservative Party the week before last, he said that he was going to do so. I am sure, after listening to 74 the speech of the noble Lord, Lord McCorquodale of Newton, that we may have that opportunity.
The noble Lord, Lord Auckland, also referred to education. I would recall that on Committee stage we moved a number of Amendments on education, and we are going to move them again. I would draw the noble Lord's attention particularly to Amendment No. 117, to Clause 30, which was moved on the last occasion by my noble friend Lord Longford. On behalf of Surrey, Conservative and Labour alike, I supported the establishment of an East Surrey Education Authority. The noble Lord will have a chance of righting the anomalies he referred to, so far as education is concerned, when we reach Clause 30 and Amendment No. 117. I congratulate both noble Lords who have raised this Amendment and I hope that fellow residents in Surrey will join them in the Division Lobby, if they take it to a Division.
§ 6.43 p.m.
My Lords, like certain other matters which we are discussing on Report stage, this Amendment was discussed at considerable length in another place and also at some length during our Committee stage; but, as my noble friend Lord Auckland has fairly recalled, that was at the witching hour—or twisting hour, if that is the more appropriate phrase—of 2 a.m. For this reason, if for no other, I agree that my noble friends have been fully entitled to revert to the charge, even though they took the matter to a Division last time and failed in that Division.
There is another reason why my noble friends are fully entitled to come back to the Government on this matter. I do not think that anybody who has heard my noble friend Lord McCorquodale of Newton speaking to this Amendment will doubt that there is a strong sense of civic identity and pride in Epsom and Ewell. We recognise it, and the importance of it. I must say that I thought my noble friend went a little far in suggesting that these factors were not appreciated by the Government. Of course they are; and of course we know that these proposals have aroused very strong feeling in the locality. But that said, I have no complaint 75 that my noble friends should seek once again to get our proposals rejected. Perhaps I may add, since I have referred to the strength of local feeling on this matter, that so far as I know my right honourable friend has received no communications either from the Council or from local residents since our Committee stage. Nor have I, though I was answering for the Government; and I well remember the amount of correspondence I received on the question of Ullswater, which also aroused a great deal of public feeling. But I do not wish to rest very heavily on that point.
§ LORD MCCORQUODALE OF NEWTON
My Lords, I do not think that that is quite fair. We could easily have whipped up 10,000 letters between Committee stage and Report stage in your Lordships' House. In actual fact, I wrote to the noble Viscount the Leader of the House, who had made a definite pledge on this subject, which I thought was broken, and I believe that he consulted his right honourable friend, and I got a negative reply. I refer to that by the way, but I do not think it is fair for this matter to go by default because we have not raised a clamour between Committee and Report stage.
My Lords, I have said that I was not resting my case in any way on that, but merely remarking the fact. Now I should like to come to the essential grounds of the Government's case. The essential reason why the three northern wards of Epsom and Ewell should be included in the Greater London area is that the Government have come to the firm conclusion that they must be held to be part of the continuous urban development which constitutes London in 1963. I would ask your Lordships to believe that the Government have come to this conclusion only after the fullest possible consideration and indeed after a great deal of earnest reconsideration.
I should like to go over the history of this matter. I know I may be repeating some of the things I said in Committee, but I do not think I shall be repeating them parrot-wise, because I have reconsidered this matter myself with some care between the Committee and Report stage. Your Lordships may 76 recall that the Royal Commission originally proposed that the whole of the borough should be included in Greater London, and it can be argued that there is a fairly strong case for this. If one takes the London Road, one can drive from the centre of London right to the centre of Epsom and Ewell through unbroken development all the way. I think your Lordships will agree that that is the case.
§ LORD AUCKLAND
My Lords, if that argument is going to be used, one might just as well say that one can drive from London to Brighton and find continuous development all the way. That argument does not hold water.
I am not just talking about ribbon development; and even taking ribbon development, what my noble friend said is not in fact the case. A glance at the figures on pages 345 and 346 of the Royal Commission's Report show how high a proportion of the inhabitants of the borough work in the inner part of Greater London. Again, my noble friend might cite the case of Brighton, but what I am talking about is the proportion, and not the fact that 1 or 10 or 1,000 people in Brighton work in London.
In the event, as my noble friends will know, the proposal to include the whole borough in Greater London was strongly resisted by the Council and local residents. The then Minister—he was my then chief, Dr. Hill—had a great deal of sympathy with the arguments, not least, I suspect, because he had a son at Epsom College. However, after looking at all this carefully, he felt unable to go the whole hog and exclude the borough completely, on the single but vitally important ground that the present local government boundaries between Epsom and Ewell and the districts to the North do not in any sense mark the end of the continuous urban development. He went so far as he felt he possibly could by drawing the boundary line so as to exclude all but four wards. Then later, as the result of renewed representations—because he received two deputations on this matter—he excluded all save three wards. Indeed, on purely physical evidence, one may argue that we have gone further here than perhaps we should.
77 It is now held against us, as a result of this concession, that we have in fact split an existing local authority unit, and that in so doing we have gone back on a pledge which the Leader of another place gave to another place. I must confess that I have not seen the letter which my noble friend Lord McCorquodale of Newton has sent on this point, but he must recognise that what my right honourable friend said in another place was that we did not wish to split existing local authority units unless this was absolutely necessary, or words to that effect. I know I am not paraphrasing it quite correctly, but it was not an absolute pledge. I do not think there has been any breach of a pledge here.
It is also, I think, wrong to argue, as my noble friends have been inclined to argue, that it is only Epsom and Ewell which has been singled out, as it were, for amputation. Apart from Epsom and Ewell, there is another peripheral area, the urban district council of Chigwell, which is also being divided.
§ LORD MCCORQUODALE OF NEWTON
I carefully said "the only borough with a mayor and corporation". The other is not the same at all.
I carefully noted my noble friend's careful words, and I was therefore careful to say "the urban district council of Chigwell".
That said, I turn to some of the objections to our proposals which have been advanced, very persuasively and with complete sincerity, as anyone must know who has listened to the speeches on this Amendment. It has been argued in this case—it was argued, above all, I think, on the Committee stage—that it is absurd to attach these northern wards to the district North of them, since there are physical barriers between these parts of the northern wards and their neighbours. I submit that there is nothing very special about these so-called barriers. They are, in fact, in no wise more substantial than those which exist and run through many London boroughs at the present time. In any event, these three wards are linked to their northern neighbours by at least two roads—namely, the Kingston Road to the North-West and the London Road to the North-East.
And in dealing, not with the Kingston Road, but the Kingston-By-Pass, here, 78 again, I think one can very much exaggerate the importance even of that important road, because that does, so far as I know, already sever one of the constituent parts of the proposed new borough grouping—that is, Malden. Having refreshed my memory by a further look at this area on the spot, I can only repeat that, on the evidence of the physical facts as I have seen them, it is as hard to maintain that these northern wards are physically separated from their northern neighbours as it is to claim that they are not part of the continuously built up area of London.
The second point that my noble friends have made is regarding the Green Belt. In the first place, I would suggest to my noble friend Lord Auckland that the area about which he is talking around Tolworth is not really relevant to this Amendment at all. It is already within the boundaries of Surbiton, and my noble friend is not suggesting, so far as I know, that Surbiton should be excluded from Greater London. Be that as it may, I would merely repeat what my noble friend Lord Hastings and I have said: that there is no reason why the definition of administrative areas (and that is what we are doing here—defining administrative areas) should make any difference to the preservation of the Green Belt or of the open spaces outside or inside Greater London. Whatever decision your Lordships take on this particular Amendment, it is not in itself going to make or mar, or even make an iota of difference to, the future of this very nice stretch of open country around Tolworth.
My noble friends have claimed that justice is not being done to these three northern wards, because they are being dragged into the Greater London net, while Esher has been allowed, in some surreptitious way, to escape from it. On this, I can only repeat what again I said on the Committee stage. The former Minister, Dr. Hill (as he then was), who looked at all this most carefully, as I personally know, came to the conclusion that there is certainly some continuity of development stretching from Surbiton into northern Esher—the Dittons and the Moleseys—but the development is not so substantial or continuous as in the case of these three northern wards of Epsom. On balance—and I agree that this is a question of personal judgment—he was persuaded that there was 79 a sound case for excluding the whole of Esher. There may be a sound case for excluding the southern wards of Epsom and Ewell; and, indeed, we have come to the conclusion that there is. There may be a sound case for excluding part of the four northern wards; and, indeed, we have come to the conclusion that in the case of one there is. But I cannot admit that there is a sound case for excluding the three other northern wards.
I turn now to three further points which have been made in the course of our discussion on this Report stage. I feel that I should touch only lightly on the diocesan matters, important though they are, to which my noble friend Lord Auckland referred. I think it would be wrong to trespass on this ecclesiastical ground, since, as no doubt the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, has noted, the Bishops' Bench is not fully tenanted at this moment. There was then the question of education. I should like to assure my noble friend that there will be no question at all of children being uprooted from their present schools merely because local government areas are being rearranged. Nor do we think so poorly of the authorities in this part of the world—of the Surrey County Council, for example—or indeed of this new borough, as to believe that they cannot reach reasonable arrangements in the future to take children from neighbouring areas, as local education authorities do at the present time all over the country. I believe that my noble friend's fears here are, to say the least, a little exaggerated.
Then there was the question of inquiry, and whether we have given enough chance for the views to be ventilated on this issue. I myself feel that the whole reorganisation of London government is probably too big a thing to be susceptible to the process of public inquiry. If we introduce the principle in one part of this whole process, it is extremely difficult to know where we could possibly draw the line. Be that as it may, I would claim that the procedure adopted in this respect cannot be in any way undemocratic. The Borough of Epsom and Ewell is within the review area. It was therefore entitled to make what representations 80 it wished to the Royal Commission. Apart from that, so far as Epsom is concerned, two deputations on this matter have been received by the former Minister of Housing and Local Government, and one by the present Minister. In addition, as your Lordships know, there has been full discussion of this issue in both Houses of Parliament at both stages, in Committee and on Report, and that seems to me to be both parliamentary and democratic.
Perhaps I might just finish on this aspect, and then I will give way. I should like to add, since I think it is relevant to what I am saying, that in our view the basic issue here is the question of whether these northern wards do or do not form part of the continuous area of urban development of London. That can fairly easily be determined in itself. It is not something where the process of inquiry is needed to determine the issue.
§ LORD MCCORQUODALE OF NEWTON
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Earl for giving way. He challenged me as to whether the process had been democratic. I was not in any way suggesting that there had not been inquiries and that the process of democracy had not been gone through. The whole basis of our democratic idea in this country is the civic centre, the community. This change is smashing up the community and, therefore, in principle is against the democratic idea.
My Lords, I fully understood my noble friend on this matter, and I was certainly not wishing to misinterpret his view, which he put with great sincerity and, if I may say so, very effectively.
Finally, I would say this. I think that my noble friends have rather given the impression that this is a case of Whitehall officialdom or bumbledom, or of Whitehall planners trying to push some formula through just for the fun of it. That may be good debating, but it is not good fact. We have thought very hard indeed about this particular issue. We originally agreed, along with the Royal Commission, that the whole borough of Epsom and Ewell fell within Greater 81 London. But after repeated representations, and a great deal of consideration, we came to the conclusion that it was right to exclude the hard core of Epsom and Ewell. It might then be said, why did we not go the whole way and exclude these northern wards as well. This might have been the easy thing to do. It would certainly have been the popular thing to do, and we have been under great pressure to do precisely that. But the fundamental principle which we have held to determining the area to be excluded from Greater London is whether or not the particular area is or is not co-terminus with what may be called the continuous urban development of London. By that test we were quite satisfied that these northern wards should be included, and I think there is a principle at stake here which we should not abandon at this eleventh hour of our consideration of this Bill.
Having said that I would wish again to claim that we have not been unsympathetic to this intense local feeling and proud local feeling in this borough. My right honourable friends have lent over backwards to meet the views represented to them by both the Council and the residents. They have looked very carefully at the physical evidence on the spot, and in coming to their conclusion they have not—and this is the final point on which I should like again to assure your Lordships—dishonoured any pledge which has been given, either to this House or to another place. For all these reasons, I must ask your Lordships to reject this Amendment which has been so sincerely and persuasively moved by my noble friend.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
My Lords, this discussion is interesting and reveals the kind of heart feelings that are liable to be stirred up by the kind of thing which has been debated. I should like to pay tribute to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord McCorquodale of Newton, which was very sincere. As he said, it was somewhat emotional in character, and I do not criticise him for that because it is very natural when one sees the place one loves being cut about. My heart is entirely with him on that point and, indeed, I had a job not to feel almost as emotional as he did.
Of course, the trouble with a Bill of this nature is that once you start on 82 this line of legislation it leads almost inevitably to this kind of thing, because the Government have gone in for uniformity. They have a rigid mind: it is an unadaptable mind. What is rather sad is that in this case, as in a number of other cases that have arisen in other parts of Greater London, some outside the present county and some inside, the victims in a number of cases, as here, are people who have accepted the general principle of the Bill. That is a pity, because this is a "cut-throat" Bill. They then have reservations about it, or opposition to it, when it applies to their particular part of the territory—and that, of course, I can understand. But it makes one feel sad in view of the way that London is being cut about—deliberately murdered by a Government that does not like London. We feel that it would have been nice if, in objecting to the general nature of the Bill, we could have had the support of these places on the map which themselves are rightly protesting against what is happening to them.
The Minister of State has argued that he must put these three northern wards of Epsom and Ewell into Greater London because they are part of one continuous built-up area. I do not think that that is necessarily a conclusive argument. My wife drives from Eltham to Rochdale in Lancashire from time to time, and she tells me that from Central London to St. Albans is pretty well a continuous built-up area. The Government do not propose to bring St. Albans into the Bill. Why not? If Epsom and Ewell is to be a victim of this continuous built-up area argument, why do the Government leave out St. Albans? I think, therefore, that Epsom and Ewell have a legitimate grievance, and I know how deeply the noble Lord, Lord McCorquodale of Newton, feels about it. I know how deeply my colleague Mr. Chuter Ede feels about it. If ever there is a man who believes in Surrey uber alles and Epsom and Ewell uber alles vis-à-vis Surrey it is he. In fact, he is, in consequence, a little antiLondon—a fault of his which I deeply regret. But London is accustomed to people being anti-London all over the place. But I cannot swallow that argument.
The Minister of State admits that Epsom and Ewell has a first-class public spirit. I have been trying to find out 83 what was the percentage of electors voting in Epsom and Ewell, because we are charged in the County of London that the London County Council is not a very good show because the percentage voting floats between 30 and 40 per cent. I do not know how many Epsom and Ewell had, but I should not be surprised if it were no more than the County of London. I am not blaming Epsom and Ewell—there are a number of people who do not know what to do with their vote, so they do not use it, which on the whole is fortunate. It is like noble Lords who are entitled to come to this place—there are about another 700 of them in addition to those who do come. They do not come here because they do not know what to do when they come. If that is their state of mind they had better stay away. I do not want the backwoodsmen to come here in great floods. The same applies in local government. If people do not want to vote, that is the way they feel about it. I think to compel people to vote when they do not understand it is rather foolish. But it is admitted in this case, which the noble Lord will not admit about the County of London, in which he is wrong, that Epsom and Ewell has a first-class civic spirit. I am prepared to believe that that is probably true and, therefore, the noble Lord is the more sorry about it. It makes the offence all the more severe.
Education has been referred to. I follow the argument as between these two boroughs which will be involved. On the other hand, the Surrey County Council within the Greater London area is being abolished, and they did some good work in higher education. There will be complications in this vicinity and others, too, consequent on the abolition of the very good education work of the Surrey County Council. It is all very well to steamroller these Amendments, but they are based on deep feeling and deep sincerity. I must say that I cannot help feeling sympathy for this Amendment, although it has been moved and supported from the other side of the House as well as by my noble friend Lord Crook.
Last time I intimated to the noble Lord, Lord Auckland—I promoted him by mistake to an Earldom, but he is not bound to accept it—that if he would go 84 to a Division we would support him. I was encouraged to believe that he would, because he was chasing around like a knight, if not a baron, in shining armour in the local newspapers, saying he would fight to the bitter end. Well, he did not challenge a Division, so we did not. But this time there is going to be a Division—in fact, I am quite sure there will be, after the speech of the noble Lord, Lord McCorquodale of Newton. He would not run away. He will go into the Division Lobby. So let us all challenge a Division, and let those noble Lords with a sense of sympathy for this district, which is proud of its civic unity and which is going to be cut about and wounded, go into the Lobby and support the case which has been made by the two noble Lords opposite who have brought forward this Amendment.
§ 7.11 p.m.
§ LORD WALSTON
My Lords, may I just add a few words, as somebody who knows nothing about this area of London and possibly has never been to some of these places. I have listened, as I have to many of these Amendments, with great care, and particularly I listened to the noble Earl to see how his eloquence and brain could overcome the points which were put by other noble Lords. He finished up by saying that the Government had leaned over backwards to meet the criticisms which have been made. I can only assume that the Government are even more stiff-necked than I had imagined, because they have not been able to get very far in their anatomical exercises in this respect.
On the one side, you have the undisputed fact that the population which is to be moved into London does not want to be moved; and I do not think that anybody has controverted that. The people in the area do not want to lose that district; and nobody has controverted that. The people who are to receive them do not want to receive them; and nobody has controverted that. Surely, in the face of those three undisputed facts there must be overwhelmingly strong reasons on the part of the Government to persist in this action. What are the reasons that the noble Earl has given us? He mentioned the physical facts of the case; he mentioned this contiguous built-up area; and he mentioned the fact that there was 85 the Green Belt coming in between. Those, so far as I can make out, were the only arguments he adduced to overcome the strongly expressed feelings of all three groups of people who are interested in this subject.
I accept that it is perfectly legimate and, in fact, the duty for the Government at times to overrule the feelings of local people if it is in the interests of a greater number of people, even if it makes the Government unpopular. But surely it is no evidence that it is essential for the greater good of London to present arguments based solely on bricks and mortar, which is all that the noble Earl has done. He only once mentioned the people living in this area. He said that the fact that they work in the main, if not entirely, in London was sufficient reason for making them part of the Greater London area. But one of the things at which we want to aim in any viable, active and progressive community is that there should be people of all kinds living in it: some who work in London; some who work in the country; some who work in their own actual area; some retired people; in fact, all kinds of people.
So it can be no argument to say that it is logical, because a majority of people work in London, that they must move into the Greater London area. You are unbalancing a well-balanced, important, active and alive number of people, whom Lord McCorquodale of Newton has so well described, and cutting off one very important part in the interests of tidiness and bricks and mortar because—and it all boils down to this—it appears to be more convenient to have the actual houses, roads, sewers, and so on, which are on one side of the Green Belt, brought into the Greater London area. So the Government, in effect, are saying "To hell with the people who live inside those bricks and mortar! All we are interested in"—as the noble Earl himself said—" are the physical facts." I think that this is a most unfortunate example of intransigence on the part of the Government in the face of very strong arguments of tradition, efficiency, and, above all, of people. In the face of the fact that all three groups of these people are so strongly opposed to it, I very much hope that your Lordships will show the Government 86 that they cannot arbitrarily decide this question simply on the grounds of bricks and mortar.
§ LORD AUCKLAND
My Lords, although the time is getting near for our break, perhaps I may be permitted to make one or two points. First, may I say to the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, that, so far as Croydon is concerned, in my speech to the young Conservatives there I did not commit myself. I committed myself for Epsom, because I happen to live in that area: but, so far as Croydon is concerned, I think the Government have a marginally strong case.
My noble friend Lord Jellicoe replied with his customary courtesy and went to some trouble to cover most of the points made, but I think that my noble friend Lord McCorquodale of Newton made a speech which will go down in the annals of Parliament for its sincerity, clarity and conviction, and I am extremely grateful to him, as I know all in Epsom will also be. My noble friend Lord Jellicoe made this rather, again I say, unconvincing point about people who live in the Epsom area and work in London. I travel from Ashtead to London every working day, and any number of people get out at Epsom Station to work locally. Where is the civic sense of it? As Lord McCorquodale of Newton rightly said, Epsom has a civic pride second to none in this country and I fully endorse the tributes which he has paid to the Town Clerk, who has worked tremendously hard on this Bill, to Mr. Chuter Ede, for whom I and all Epsom, irrespective of Party, have a tremendous admiration, and also to the right honourable gentleman who represents Epsom in another place, who has worked very hard to try to prevent this deplorable thing from taking place.
So far as public inquiries are concerned, I said that I quite agreed that a public inquiry is not necessary in every single case; but this is a borough which is being split up, and, surely, even at this stage this point could be reconsidered. I do not want to say more, but I would thank my noble friend Lord McCorquodale of Newton most sincerely, and also my noble friend Lord Jellicoe, who made, with respect, a very poor case, although working hard on it.
§ LORD AUCKLAND
Wait for it. I should like to thank also the noble Lords opposite and, if I may say so, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Crook, who has done a great deal of public service for Surrey. In view of the
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.
§ 7.28 p.m.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
My Lords, in view of that Government defeat, and a fairly decisive one on a very important matter which went to the heart of the Bill, as the Minister of State said, may I ask the Government what their intentions are about the future of this Bill and about their own future? The Minister of State said that he knew that the course they were taking was unpopular, but that is attractive to Her Majesty's Government: they like to be unpopular. They think they are nearer the Kingdom of Heaven when they die if they are unpopular. This is a very serious defeat and I think we have a right to know what the intentions of the Government are about the future of this Bill and about their own future.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (LORD DILHORNE)
My Lords, I can answer that quite simply. The intentions of the
§ answer given, I cannot possibly withdraw this Amendment, and I will therefore press it.
§ 7.20 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 38) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 35; Not-Contents, 30.87
|Airedale, L.||Howard of Glossop, L.||Saltoun, L.|
|Alexander of Hillsborough, E.||Lambert, V.||Shackleton, L.|
|Amulree, L.||Latham, L.||Shepherd, L.|
|Archibald, L.||Lawson, L.||Silkin, L.|
|Atholl, D.||Lucan, E.||Soulbury, V.|
|Auckland, L. [Teller.]||McCorquodale of Newton, L [Teller.]||Stonham, L.|
|Burden, L.||Strang, L.|
|Champion, L.||Morrison of Lambeth, L.||Summerskill, B.|
|Crook, L.||Peddie, L.||Tenby, V.|
|Cullen of Ashbourne, L.||Rea, L.||Terrington, L.|
|Dundonald, E.||Rockley, L.||Walston, L.|
|Hereford, V.||St. Just, L.||Wootton of Abinger, B.|
|Ailwyn, L.||Dilhorne, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Jellicoe, E.|
|Albemarle, E.||Dundee, E.||Lansdowne, M.|
|Balfour of Burleigh, L.||Falmouth, V.||Long, V.|
|Boston, L.||Ferrers, E.||Lothian, M.|
|Bridgeman, V.||Forster of Harraby, L.||Massereene and Ferrard, V.|
|Chesham, L.||Fortescue, E.||Newton, L.|
|Clwyd, L.||Fraser of North Cape, L.||St. Aldwyn. E. [Teller.]|
|Colville of Culross, V.||Goschen, V. [Teller.]||Sinclair of Cleeve, L.|
|Denham, L.||Hastings, L.||Waleran, L.|
|Derwent, L.||Horsbrugh, B.||Westwood, L.|
§ Government are to carry on with this Bill, which is a thoroughly beneficial measure and which we hope in due course will reach the Statute Book.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
My Lords, I had forgotten that the Lord Chancellor was not only on the Woolsack but in charge of the Bill. Could the noble and learned Lord inform us whether the Government will accept the decision of the House?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, would not expect an answer to that question immediately. I should certainly have to consider the position, and no doubt in due course he will learn what the answer is.
§ LORD AUCKLAND: My Lords, this Amendment is consequential on No. 38. I beg to move.
Page 109, line 33, leave out paragraph 7.—(Lord Auckland.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.89
EARL JELLICOE moved to add to Part III:
8. Any expenses incurred by the Secretary of State under this Part of this Schedule in relation to any London borough, excluding (without prejudice to section 87 of this Act) the costs of any local inquiry caused to be held by him, shall, if and to such extent as the Secretary of State so requires, be repaid to him by the council of that borough.
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, I hope I have as much luck with this small Amendment as my noble friend has just had with his. I think this is a relatively simple matter. Clause 87(2) of the Bill, in applying Section 290, subsections (2) to (5), of the Local Government Act, 1933, gives the responsible Government Department discretion whether or not to recover the cost of holding local inquiries from the local authorities or other parties concerned. As regards the alteration of the boundaries of wards of London boroughs, the Bill, as at present drafted, does not provide for other expenses of my right honourable friend, such as the cost of causing notice to be given of proposals for altering wards under paragraph 1 of Part III of Schedule 1 to the Bill, to be met by the local authorities, and those expenses—advertising, for example—can be quite heavy. We think it right that my right honourable friend should have discretion whether or not to require these costs to be met by the local authorities, in the same way as he has discretion whether the cost of the local inquiries themselves should be met by the local authorities. The Amendment would give him that discretion.
§ This seems reasonable since it would normally be the case that proposals for the subsequent alteration of ward boundaries under Part III of Schedule 1 would be put forward by the local authorities themselves. No Amendment is proposed to give discretion to my right honourable friend to require the cost of advertising and other costs for the initial division of a new London borough to be paid by the local authorities. We are not proposing any such Amendment since it is we ourselves who are proposing the alteration of local government boundaries, and I think it would be unreasonable that such expenses should be met by the local authority. I beg to move.
Page 111, line 10, at end insert the said paragraph.—(Earl Jellicoe.)
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
My Lords, as I understand it, the purpose of this Amendment is that in the case of local inquiries as to division of wards and things of that sort the Secretary of State may require that the cost of the inquiry, or to such extent as he decides, is payable by the local authority concerned. I must say I should have thought the whole cost of these inquiries ought to have been met by the Exchequer. That seems to me the equity of the case. But I agree the Amendment does provide that can be so and that the local authority will be charged, or the Greater London Council under this or another Amendment will be charged, only if the Secretary of State requires and, if so, to what extent he requires. I should like to know from the Minister of State whether we are to take it that if the application for the inquiry is bona fide and in all circumstances reasonable, even though in the end the local authority get the worst of it, the Government would then pay the costs of the inquiry. Is not the main purpose of this Amendment that, if inquiries are asked for somewhat irresponsibly or frivolously, the Secretary of State can make the local authority pay the whole or part of the cost? If this is the general purpose, I think it is not unreasonable. I should have thought it ought to be the case that, where things have been demanded that should not reasonably be demanded, they should pay, but otherwise the Treasury should meet the cost.
My Lords, if I could reply again with the permission of the House, I think there is some misunderstanding here, because we have already in Clause 87(2) of the Bill—I do not think it was opposed at the time—by which Section 290, subsections (2) to (5), of the Local Government Act, 1933, is brought into force, already made provision for the Secretary of State to have discretion whether to charge local authorities for the expenses of local inquiries, and that principle has therefore been accepted in the 1933 Act and all we have done is to import it into the Bill. But that is not the question on this Amendment. What is in question is a purely subsidiary one of whether in regard to the other expenses—and the only one we can think of is 91 advertising of the ward proposals—he should have discretion. I think it is quite clear that if a proposal was frivolously made the discretion would be used accordingly. If the proposal comes from the local authority itself the normal thing would be for the local authority to be required to pay; but if the proposal comes from elsewhere I think the Secretary of State might well exercise his discretion not to charge the local authority.
§ LORD LATHAM
My Lords, could the noble Earl say whether a local authority will have any say in the measure of expenses which may be incurred by the Secretary of State which they will have to pay wholly or partly?
My Lords, I think that under neither the corresponding sections of the Local Government Act, 1933, nor here would they have that latitude.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now adjourn during pleasure until twenty minutes to nine.
§ Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.
§ [The sitting was suspended at twenty-three minutes before eight o'clock and resumed at twenty minutes to nine.]
§ Schedule 2 [Constitution and general functions of Greater London Council]:
LORD LATHAM moved, in paragraph 3, to omit all words after "retire together", in sub-paragraph (1) and to substitute:
accordingly each third year after their election.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I rise to move Amendment No. 49. Amendment No. 50 is consequential upon this Amendment, and one's consideration of Amendment No. 49 will comprehend 92 also the consideration of Amendment No. 50. A similar Amendment was moved during the Committee stage by my noble friend Lord Champion, who made, as I thought, an impressive case against having the election for the Greater London Council and the London boroughs in the same year. In point of fact, the elections which follow the initial elections will have the same day as their polling day. There will not be the intervening period of a month, nor will there be any intervening period of a year.
§ My noble friend Lord Champion, supported by other Lords on this side of the Chamber, argued, as I thought convincingly, that it was wrong to have the elections in the same year. As was stated by them, it led to a diminution of local interest in local affairs, in the management of the local authority, the borough; it cast a great burden upon Party organisations and it did not, in point of fact, conduce to an improvement of the appreciation by the citizens of this country of the importance of local government. If that were the case, as I think it was, and is, as regards both elections taking place in the same year, it is much more so in regard to the elections taking place on the same day. This seems to me to be an almost crazy idea—getting back, I think, to the Continental procedure, where one has a list and one votes the list. It is largely dependent upon the fact that in most countries where that procedure is followed there is either proportional representation, which we do not have, or the alternative vote.
§ On this election day each borough will be electing two, three or four members of the Greater London Council, and on the same day they will be electing 60 councillors for the London boroughs. In my submission, a good deal of confusion will arise. An election for 60 councillors for the same constituency, but a constituency which is divided into wards as regards the London boroughs, cannot fail, in my submission, to lead to confusion; and it will cast a heavy burden upon the Party organisations, and upon those who are interested in local government, whether it be the widest sphere of local government comprehended by the Greater London Council or whether it be the narrower, but not less important, activities of the London boroughs. The persons offering themselves for the one 93 post may be entirely different, and indeed unsuitable, for the second post, yet we shall have the two mixed up. And they are not mixed up either in function or in purpose. They are independent local authorities, and yet in the minds of the electorate—who are not perhaps too precisely informed, neither do they too precisely comprehend distinctions of this kind—they may be the same. A policy advocated by those seeking election to the Greater London Council may be entirely at variance with the policy being advocated by the candidates for the London boroughs.
§ This will cast a heavy burden on the returning officer and the arrangements which the Party machine must make if we are to preserve our democratic way in local government. After all, it has been said, with abundant truth, that democracy is government by discussion. I submit that under these proposals the discussion will be confused. So far from giving a direction, this will be the reverse. In those circumstances I beg to move this Amendment.
Page 112, line 6, leave out from ("together") to end of line 16, and insert ("accordingly each third year after their election.")—(Lord Latham.)
§ 8.46 p.m.
§ LORD HASTINGS
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Latham, referred to the Amendment which was moved by his noble friend Lord Champion in Committee. On that occasion the point of the Amendment was to ensure that the Greater London Council and London borough elections would be held in different years. During our discussion it became evident that noble Lords opposite had not appreciated the fact that not only would they be held in the same year, but, after the initial elections in 1964, they would actually be held on the same day.
§ LORD HASTINGS
It was perfectly clean in so far that it was printed in the Bill and was to be found in paragraph 16 of Schedule 3. But I do not entirely blame noble Lords opposite for not having discovered that fact, because these Schedules are rather complicated and the wording is not perhaps in as plain English as noble Lords opposite and myself would write it; but that is the fact. 94 Noble Lords thereupon expressed considerable surprise and a good deal of alarm—although this point had not been taken up at all in the other place, where it was known and appreciated and no complaint had been made. However, as a result of that discussion—and because of the surprise of noble Lords opposite and the case they put up—I gave an undertaking that we would look at this matter again. We have had very lengthy and detailed reconsideration of this matter—
§ LORD HASTINGS
Discussions among ourselves. And, of course, as the noble Lord will realise, more than one Department was affected. I was rather twitted last time on the fact that this, in a way, was mainly a Home Office matter and that I should refer the matter to them, which of course has been done. Now, as a result of these internal discussions, we have gone into the matter very thoroughly, and we still come to the conclusion that it is not only practicable but desirable to hold the two elections together on the same day. The arguments I will adduce in favour of that course show a complete difference of opinion between ourselves and noble Lords opposite—that I am quite ready to admit. But we believe that there is an advantage in holding the elections on the same day for the following reasons.
The first is that it will focus attention on local government and produce a maximum effort to get the electors to the poll. We have often heard that there is too much apathy and lack of interest in local government, and particularly in the elections of local government. Here in London we feel that there would be a real oportunity of concentrating public attention on London government. The second reason is that electors will have to consider both the Greater London Council and the borough councils at the same time, and will have to vote for the candidates who are standing. We believe that this will provide a better chance of understanding the respective functions of the Greater London Council and the borough councils and will not at all lead to confusion, as suggested by the noble Lord. This, in fact, was an argument put forward by the Royal Commission which, so far in this Report stage I have not 95 prayed in aid. Their argument, which was put forward by the Royal Commission in paragraph 856, seems to us to have a good deal of weight behind it.
We have heard that the issues in the two elections will be entirely different, and might even be contradictory. We do not think this is a very strong argument, because genuine local issues—it may be thought unfortunately—hardly figure very much in London elections, and electioneering is more on a national basis. That may be thought a bad thing, and not only by one Party; but I think it is a tendency which has increased rather than otherwise, and the London elections do tend to be fought on a national basis.
§ LORD HASTINGS
But even if this argument is true, it will reinforce the need to hold the elections together, because one cannot see just what issues in respect of the Greater London Council could galvanise the voters into any special action if the elections were held separately. We believe that a greater interest will be focused upon the elections for the Greater London Council, if they are held at the same time as those for the borough councils.
The noble Lord also referred to technical difficulties. The returning officer and his staff, for instance, would have difficulty, he said, in running two elections together. We have realised that there are some difficulties in this connection, but we have consulted on this matter and it appears that the difficulties are certainly not in any way to be considered insuperable. We have also heard that it might be more difficult for the Party machines to organise themselves for two elections at the same time. But we do not appreciate the force of this argument, because when so much of the propaganda and the canvassing, and envelope addressing and expense can be combined, it would seem to us to be a considerable saving in every way of both energy and expense.
Finally, I come back to the fact that this proposal in the Bill caused no complaint in the other place, and we have not felt ourselves under great pressure, 96 except from noble Lords opposite, to alter this arrangement. But, as a result of their complaints, we have been into this matter most thoroughly, as I have said, and I can assure your Lordships that there have been long and detailed discussions. We agree that the matter is evenly balanced, and that there are arguments on the other side; but on the whole we feel that it is quite reasonable and desirable to stick to our guns in this instance. In our view, there is not sufficient reason to alter the proposals in the Bill. I ask noble Lords to accept our good faith in this matter, and the fact that we have not considered this matter at all lightly. We have, in fact, considered it with the greatest possible care, and we feel that, on the whole, this is a good thing. Therefore I would ask noble Lords to support me in resisting this Amendment.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord for his reply this evening, and I fully agree that he has given this matter very considerable attention. We are considering local government for this new area—new in the sense of Greater London, old in the sense of the borough—and I think the House will recognise that if we are to have effective local government it must be something in which the public, the electorate, can participate; and they must have knowledge of the issues that are at stake. I am quite sure that the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, will agree that the issue on which a member is elected to the Greater London Council may well be different from that on which electors choose their representative on their borough council.
My noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth has a considerable experience, not only of Party warfare in Parliament but of Party conflict and Party work outside, and he was telling me the other day (and it struck me very forcibly) that he knew of many, many occasions on which electors of London voted Labour in the elections for the London County Council, yet when it came to a Parliamentary election, voted Conservative.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
No. The noble Lord said earlier on that these issues 97 were chiefly decided by the main political Parties on national affairs. I am not making that case: what I am trying to show to the House is that there are various stages in government—national, county council, urban district and rural, after which you get down to parish—and that many people do not vote for a Party label when it comes to the lower levels of government. In my own particular area there is a wonderful woman who is a Conservative member of my own rural district council, and I know that she obtained a very substantial vote from the working class living on a council estate. She obtained it not because of her Conservative label but because of what she had done for the locality.
My Lords, this is the point—and I believe this, and I do not think there would be any dissent from this in any quarter of this House: that, when you get down to local government, whilst a good percentage of the people may vote specifically because of the label which is behind an individual, there are many who cast their vote for an individual who has given service to the community. As a Party member, I am pleased to see it. I think that, whether you are Conservative or whether you are Labour or Liberal, if you have given sterling service to your community you are entitled to their support.
Now I would come back to this question of the Greater London Council and the borough councils. I think it is quite wrong for the noble Lord to believe that the people of London will vote merely for a Party label: I do not think they will. This is what the noble Lord is asking them to do. What he is really saying is that on a certain day of a particular year the person will go to the polls and will then decide that he will vote Labour or Conservative, irrespective of the individual he is sending to the particular authority. I wish, naturally, that the majority of the electors of London would vote for Labour candidates; but I should not wish the election to be fought purely in the way that they fight elections in the United States, where they press a button, "Democratic" or "Republican", and every individual from top to bottom, on the Party label has the vote given to him. I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, would not wish that to happen in this country. 98 We wish the individual to give his vote carefully and conscientiously; certainly, if he believes strongly in his Party then he will do so.
I am not making out a very farfetched case. I took part recently in a rural district council election and a parish council election, and, in a way not dissimilar to the suggestion that the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, is making, they were both held on the one day. There were nine candidates—three Conservative, three Liberal and three Labour. I listened to the vote as it came out, and all I could imagine was that those who were voting thought that this was a football coupon; there was no question of putting three X's to the Conservatives, three to Labour or three to Liberal. I suggest there was no real understanding about how the votes were put on the merits of the particular candidates. In fact, I strongly believe that those who went to vote with this very large group of nine candidates in the case of the rural district council and, I think, 12 in the case of the parish council had very little idea either of Party allegiance or of the experience of the candidate. They went in and were told by the car-driver who took them to the polls that they were to vote and that these were some of the names. As the noble Lord knows, it will be illegal for the driver of the car taking voters to the polls to say that they should vote for one candidate or another according to the Party allegiance.
If you want to get a real interest and a real decision, then you must have some form of simplicity. You will not obtain this simplicity or this clear-cut decision if you hold the borough and the Greater London Council elections on the same day. The issue will be quite different. Again I come back to what I referred to earlier this afternoon and on Committee: the problem of the minority interest. Where will the minority interests—if they are able to put up a candidate on a borough election—stand when they have to vote or put their name on the card or a series of cards with those for the Greater London Authority—when, of course, they would not be in a position to participate? I do not see how the minority interest will be able to participate in what is a straight Parliamentary scale election.
99 The noble Lord said that he felt that if we had it all on one day every three years this would focus attention. I do not believe that is entirely true. Noble Lords opposite on the Committee stage suggested we should have triennial elections. I think that this is not very good. Local Party politicians get tired of having to fight elections every year. If we fight elections only every three years, then it might be hard to get public interest, but if we have two elections in three years, one for the Greater London Council and another for the boroughs, we shall be able to keep Party machines fit and virile.
I believe that the Government are wrong in their proposal. This is not a Party issue. It is a problem which both political Parties have to face. I do not believe that one Party is going to gain one way or the other if this Amendment is accepted, but I believe that interest in local government elections will be gained. I have given this much thought and sought a lot of advice. I do not believe that the Government proposals are conducive to good election fighting, and fighting is of the essence of politics, and politics play a vital part in local government elections.
My Lords, having listened to the noble Lords, Lord Shepherd and Lord Hastings, I am convinced that the Government are right about this. I do not say that merely because the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, is on the other side of the House. I speak from my own experience. I have fought a great many local elections in London for the borough council and for the L.C.C. For the purpose of this argument, we may assume that the Greater London Council will be the same as the L.C.C. when it comes to electioneering. My agent has always told me that the Parliamentary election and the borough council election can be fought with some chance of getting a turn-out, but the L.C.C. elections are much harder. We talk about apathy in local government. I am convinced that if we want to get local people interested in local government we should do much better to have the elections on the same day. After all, this is not a difference between national elections and local elections. Both the elections proposed are local government elections. 100 Therefore, if we are going to get people interested, this is the opportunity. As the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, said, this is not a matter of Party politics, but of practical politics.
I have also thought about this matter and, in a rather difficult choice, I am convinced, that the Government view is the right one. Do not let us confuse the electors more than we need. In local elections, when there are sometimes more than a dozen names, it is difficult to get them to grasp what is going on. Let us make it easier for them. In this sense we should be wise to have the two elections on the same day, and I speak from some personal knowledge of the point.
§ 9.10 p.m.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
My Lords, there is something in the last point which the noble Viscount made about the large number of names on the ballot paper making it difficult for voters, but this proposal of the Government will accentuate the difficulty by adding the names for the Greater London Council.
My Lords, perhaps I may interrupt the noble Lord to say that there will be two separate papers.
But there is no question of that. The Government will correct me if I am wrong; but surely there could not be only one.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
It does not matter whether there are two papers or one; it means that there is an additional person to vote for—at least one. I had some experience of this in 1912, when I stood for the Vauxhall ward of the Borough of Lambeth. It was the first election I contested, and I was thoroughly convinced that I had won. There were nine members for a ward, three lots of candidates, Conservative, Labour and Liberal—27 candidates, and the poor electorate had to pick out nine. What many people did was to pick the first three and the last three and find three in the middle; and as my name began with "M" I got the worst of it. There was not much difference between the top and the bottom, but I was at the bottom of the poll. That taught me never 101 again to assume that I had won an election before I had.
But the Government really try one's patience about this. As I understand it, the argument of the Minister of State is that these elections are fought on Party lines, and even, to a great extent, on national Party lines. I can only talk about my own case. For a good many years I was secretary to the London Labour Party, and I studiously advised the executive—I fought for it, and on the whole I got my way—that municipal elections should be fought upon municipal issues and not on issues of national politics. The Minister of State, I gather, has been overthrowing this admirable public-spirited advice that I gave to the London Labour Party executive, and which, on the whole, was observed. Who was it who first broke in with national politics in a London County Council election? It was the Conservatives, who put up all over the place the picture of Mr. Baldwin when he was Prime Minister. Later on it was Mr. Neville Chamberlain.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
Yes, and John Simon, too. These national figures were brought in to get the people of London to vote Conservative at a London County Council election: and they knew nothing about the London County Council. It was totally irrelevant, and it was an effort to determine the election on national lines. From the bottom of my heart I fully believe in not bringing national politics into local government elections. Local government elections should be fought on local issues, and not on national policy. Nor have I ever advised a local authority to pass resolutions upon matters essentially political—keep to your own business—and we were rewarded for this restraint.
I remember—I think I have told the House this before—the London County Council election of 1934. My old friend William Barefoot, who was a famous and fine Labour Party agent, was at Woolwich, and talking about the election afterwards, he said: "Herbert, this turnout amazed me. I saw the votes being turned out from the various wards, which I knew inside out, and what amazed me was the preponderance of 102 Labour votes in Tory wards." This was a great triumph for discriminating democracy. True, we got the best of it. But had it been the other way round, I should still say that it was a triumph for discriminatory democracy. I assure your Lordships that it is very true—not in every case, but in a large proportion of cases—that many London Conservatives will vote Labour at a London County Council election, and might even do so at a borough council election, particularly in my own Borough of Woolwich, where I live, but who will steadily vote Conservative at a Parliamentary election. I like it. This is discerning democracy, and I want a discerning democracy. The Minister of State wants a machine democracy, a press-button democracy. I think a lot of the Minister of State, but when he talks this absolute nonsense—
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
The Parliamentary Secretary has also been doing it? Then you both ought to be ashamed of yourselves. If this were the House of Commons, I would move to reduce their salaries to vanishing point. This is a degradation of British public life, and particularly British local civic life. The noble Lord, Lord Bossom, is sitting opposite. He was a member of the London County Council for some years. He will know whether what I am saying is true or not. He shakes his head. I do not say that some of my people did not bring national issues in, but I did not and the London Labour Party Manifesto did not. We kept them separate, and that is right.
I think this is a mad thing. It is said that if you have these elections too often you will bore the electorate. You will not. In the Provinces they have them every year. The Government have been telling us that in the Provincial annual elections—which I do not support—they have a higher percentage voting than in London. It is not wholly true, but it is in a number of cases. Why do not the Government stick to their guns? Is the frequency of elections in the Provinces decreasing the poll, which they say is higher than in London; and do the triennial elections in London decrease 103 the poll, which it ought not to do according to what they now say regarding the concentration of both series of elections on one day—not only in one year—which is madness? It is extremely difficult to maintain patience with the Government or to keep restrained in one's argument when they produce this pantomime sort or argument.
Just as I like the idea that the electors should discriminate between Parliamentary and local government elections, so it would please me if the electorate could, and would, discriminate between one Labour candidate and another and one Conservative candidate and another. Some of these candidates on the same Party ticket are better than others. I wish the electors would discriminate, because it would punish the Party for putting up "dud" candidates.
Now you are going to have an election for the Greater London Council and an election for the London borough on the same day. I want the elector to say to himself, "Does the Greater London Council please me as it is, or do I want to change it? Does the borough please me, or do I want to change it?" In a number of cases he will think the one is all right and the other is not. It is true that by voting on the same day he can make a distinction. But the Minister of State and the Parliamentary Secretary are both trying to make it hard for him to distinguish between the merits of one Party and the other, or one candidate and the other.
This is machine politics gone mad. The Tories, who have been arguing "Why bring politics into local government?" do not mean a word of it. It is the two noble Lords sitting on the Front Bench opposite—the third I leave out, because I do not know anything about him—who are trying to bring national politics into local affairs, and it is shameful. I do not want them in local affairs. I do not want too many national politicians messing about with local affairs, either. They are far better at Parliamentary affairs. I have had experience of both of them. Neville Chamberlain was probably good at both, because he had experience of both. In fact, he may have been better in Birmingham than in Westminster.
104 I beg of the Government not to run away with this silly thing. Whoever invented it? Was it the Conservative Central Office? I cannot imagine the Government interfering with this electoral business. It must be the Tory Central Office, because they think there is a political advantage. The Government ought to think again. I am glad my noble friend Lord Latham has brought this Amendment forward, although, of course, the Government by numbers may whack us this time, which they did not a little while ago. But if noble Lords would vote on the merits of the question, the Government would be taught a lesson. If the Government do carry this, then it is my conviction that the years are not many ahead—if this measure survives—before noble Lords opposite will regret it as an action which was quite wrong and which fastened an excessive consideration on national Party politics. Local bodies ought to be elected or not elected on their own merits.
My Lords, there is one thing which has not been said on this subject but which I think ought to be pointed out to the Government, and I said something about it on Second Reading. It is that very often strong waves of emotion pass over the country, and if all elections are to be held on one day you will be apt to get violent changes in Party. The lower you go in local government, the more important it is to keep in close touch with the people who are being governed. A local authority—for example, a borough council—may undertake a work which they think will be for the good of the public, and while they are doing it the public may take a dislike to it and may not wish for it. If you have annual elections it is perfectly easy for the borough council to see the change of opinion and to take note of it without a violent change. Also when there are these violent changes on councils people without previous experience are elected. One of the great advantages of annual elections to borough councils is that you never get a violent change and never get a council which is completely destitute of experience. I think the Government ought to think of these things, because it affects them a great deal more than it does their opponents.
§ LORD LATHAM
My Lords, it must be conceded that the case put forward by 105 the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, has been completely demolished by the speech of my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth, but one or two points made by the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, were not dealt with by my noble friend and I should like to address a few comments to your Lordships on them.
I was a little surprised to hear the noble Lord rest his case in some respects upon the statement that the Royal Commission had recommended that elections should be all on one day. I should be the last person to denigrate the Royal Commission or their work, however much I might disagree with most of their recommendations. But there is no evidence that the members of the Royal Commission had much experience either of local government or of local government elections; and it is a little difficult to abide by statements of that kind about the Royal Commission when the experience which is possessed by most noble Lords on this side of the Chamber is infinitely greater than any experience which the Commissioners had.
The noble Lord will forgive my saying—but I think it ought to be said—that the noble Lord and the Department which he represents have rather got themselves into the frame of mind that they are omniscient, that they know everything there is to know about local government; and we on this side, who have had years of experience of local
§ government, including local government elections of all kinds and descriptions, are discounted. The noble Lord this evening came forward with a statement that consultations had taken place. He did not indicate with whom the consultations had taken place. Was it with the local authorities' association? With whom was it, and how was the matter approached? I had gathered that the noble Lord was to have consultations with my noble friend Lord Shepherd, but apparently that was not so, and certainly they did not take place.
§ As anyone who has had experience, at all events in the smaller local authorities, will know, the election is fought not upon Party principle or national affairs but usually upon some particular subject, or some particular service, which is either unsatisfactory or which is being extended and is likely to increase the rates. Things of that kind are the dominant issues in the elections for the smaller authorities, such as the London boroughs. I think it is a great pity that this new local government set-up will start off with this deficiency and this defect of having the elections all on one day.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 49) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 15; Not-Contents, 43.105
|Archibald, L.||Henderson, L.||Saltoun, L.|
|Attlee, E.||Latham, L.||Shackleton, L.|
|Burden, L. [Teller.]||Lucan, E. [Teller.]||Shepherd, L.|
|Champion, L.||Morrison of Lambeth, L.||Stonham, L.|
|Crook, L.||Peddie, L.||Summerskill, B.|
|Ailwyn, L.||Dilhorne, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Mabane, L.|
|Albemarle, E.||Dundee, E.||McCorquodale of Newton, L.|
|Balfour of Burleigh, L.||Falmouth, V.||Merrivale, L.|
|Bossom, L.||Ferrers, E.||Mersey, V.|
|Boston, L.||Fortescue, E.||Newton, L.|
|Chesham, L.||Fraser of North Cape, L.||St. Aldwyn, E. [Teller.]|
|Colville of Culross, V.||Goschen, V. [Teller.]||St. Just, L.|
|Conesford, L.||Hastings, L.||Sinclair of Cleeve, L.|
|Craigmyle, L.||Hereford, V.||Soulbury, V.|
|Cullen of Ashbourne, L.||Howard of Glossop, L.||Strathcarron, L.|
|De La Warr, E.||Jellicoe, E.||Swinton, E.|
|Denham, L.||Lambert, V.||Tenby, V.|
|Derwent, L.||Lansdowne, M.||Tweedsmuir, L.|
|Devonshire, D.||Lothian, M.||Waleran, L.|
|Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.|
§ 9.35 p.m.
EARL JELLICOE moved to add to paragraph 8:
(3) Any expenses incurred by the Secretary of State by virtue of paragraphs 5 to 8 of this Schedule, excluding (without prejudice to section 87 of this Act) the costs of any local inquiry caused to be held by him, shall, if and to such extent as the Secretary of State so requires, be repaid to him by the Council.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this Amendment is very similar to No. 48A which your Lordships approved earlier. That dealt with the expenses incurred by my right honourable friend for notices issued in connection with warding proposals. This deals with a similar issue affecting the G.L.C.; namely, the expenses incurred by my right honourable friend in connection with the division of London boroughs into electoral areas for the election of Greater London councillors. As at present drafted, the Bill does not give my right honourable friend discretion on whether or not he should require these costs to be met by the G.L.C. The costs concerned, as in the previous case, would be mainly those of causimg notice to be given by advertisement in the Press of proposals relating to electoral areas for the election of Greater London councillors under paragraphs 5 and 6 of Schedule 2. As in the case of similar costs relating to the alteration of ward boundaries, we feel that my right honourable friend should have discretion, following the precedent of the Local Government Act, 1933, whether or not he should require these costs to be met by the Greater London Council. The Amendment gives my right honourable friend such a discretion. I beg to move.
Page 114, line 18, at end insert the said sub-paragraph.—(Earl Jellicoe.)
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
My Lords, I presume that the arguments of the Government in this case would be similar in principle to their arguments in relation to matters concerning the London boroughs—I understand that that is so. In that case, our arguments also are the same. The noble Earl thought that the spirit in which I made my interpretation was probably about right. I do not want to put it higher than that. Presumably, that is so in this case, in which event we will let it go.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.108
§ 9.37 p.m.
LORD HASTINGS moved to add to paragraph 11:
(3) Without prejudice to their powers by virtue of paragraph 10 of this Schedule under section 85 of the said Act of 1933, the Council may delegate to the Inner London Education Authority, or to any education committee established by that Authority under Part II of Schedule 1 to the Education Act, 1944, any functions which they might delegate under subsection (1) of the said section 85 to a committee appointed by the Council under that subsection.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this Amendment is put in to meet a point raised by the L.C.C., who wish to make sure that the Greater London Council have the power to continue the L.C.C.'s present practice of delegating the management of the Horniman and Geffrye Museums to the Education Committee. The Museums are not actually mentioned by name, but the Amendment gives a general power to the Greater London Council enabling it to delegate to the Inner London Education Authority or to any Education Committee appointed by that authority any matter which could be delegated under Section 85(1) of the Local Government Act, 1933. That section deals with the general power to delegate given to all local authorities, and permits them to delegate all functions except the power to levy a rate, issue a precept or borrow money. I beg to move.
Page 115, line 37, at end insert the said paragraph.—(Lord Hastings.)
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
My Lords, this is a permissive Amendment, which the Greater London Council can adopt or not according to their discretion. Museums may be held to be educational institutions. I think the Amendment is sensible and we are much obliged to the Government for bringing it forward. We agree.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Schedule 3 [Parliamentary and local government elections in and around Greater London]:
My Lords, I think the noble Lord, Lord Auckland, is not here. I beg to move this Amendment on his behalf. It is consequential.
Page 125, line 42, leave out ("of the Borough of Epsom and Ewell").—(Earl Jellicoe.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ LORD AUCKLAND: My Lords, this Amendment is consequential on Amendment No. 38. I beg to move.
Page 125, line 50, leave out ("or of the Borough of Epsom and Ewell").—(Lord Auckland.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ LORD AUCKLAND: My Lords, this Amendment, too, is consequential on Amendment No. 38. I beg to move.
Page 126, line 15, leave out paragraph 12.—(Lord Auckland.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
My Lords this is a drafting Amendment. Paragraph 20(1) of Schedule 3 refers to "expenses properly incurred" by a returning officer at London borough elections, whereas paragraph 20(2), as at present drafted, refers to "expenses incurred" by a returning officer at Greater London Council elections. This Amendment is designed to bring the wording of paragraph 20(2) into line with that of paragraph 20(1). I beg to move.
Page 128, line 30, after ("expenses") insert ("properly").—(Earl Jellicoe.)
§ On Question Amendment agreed to.
§ Schedule 4 [Modifications of Local Government Act 1933]:
§ 9.41 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS moved, in paragraph 27(a), after "every" to insert "inner". The noble Viscount said: My Lords, before I move this Amendment—which I hope, with the permission of your Lordships, I may move with the two Amendments following as being part of the same argument—I think I should be echoing the feelings of your Lordships in saying that I hope the noble Lord, Lord Reith, one of my co-sponsors in this Amendment, will soon be back in this House restored to his normal force and vigour and will have recovered from the operation he had to undergo last night.
§ SEVERAL NOBLE LORDS: Hear, hear.110
VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS
When I withdrew my Amendment on the Committee stage, one of my reasons was that I wanted to study what my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor said in his long and full reply to the case I tried to make. I have done that, and I am glad I did so because it has enabled me to put down a new series of Amendments which I hope will meet all the points my noble and learned friend made in objection to what I had then put before your Lordships.
The first point I should like to accept from his speech is that this Bill is a Bill for Greater London alone, and not for the rest of local government in England and Wales. I also would accept his view, which is also mine, that the discussion about audit does not mean that there are any animadversions on the quality or competence of any of the auditors, either district or professional, engaged on these particular problems. And I am also glad to accept his assurance that the provisions which at present stand in the Bill providing for district audit for all of the boroughs in the Greater London area are not intended as a precedent for a change elsewhere in the country.
Having accepted those three points, I submit my case for your Lordships' consideration. My noble and learned friend pointed out at considerable length the merits of district, as opposed to professional, audit. Your Lordships will remember enough from the last debate about the two respective systems for me not to need to go over them in detail again. The words that fell from my noble and learned friend—as I tried to point out, in perhaps a somewhat intemperate way, for which I apologise to your Lordships—apply to the entire problem of professional as against district audit throughout England and Wales, and not solely to London.
If you are going to change this particular system there is a great deal to be said for dealing with it nationally; for dealing with its merits or defects as they occur over the whole area to which they apply, and not only in one small portion of it. In other words, if my noble and learned friend says that this Bill is for London only and then goes on to describe the merits or defects of a national 111 system, I must return his argument to him that this is not the Bill in which to make such a change. I have therefore sought to get even closer to the status quo (which is the other great catch-phrase of my noble and learned friend) than Her Majesty's Government have done in the Bill as they have drafted it. I have done this, it is true, at the cost of uniformity, but I am glad to be able to say that, because I can see no merit whatever in uniformity for its own sake. If my propositions are the best but, nevertheless, are not uniform, I am very proud that that is the case, and I should not in any circumstances sacrifice a principle which I hold to be a good one merely because it is not uniform. On the other hand, if uniformity is what my noble and learned friend requires, let him deal with it on a nation-wide basis and not for London alone.
The three Amendments I have put down have attempted to keep the position for Greater London as near as possible to what it is now, and has been for some time. I have conceded that the metropolitan boroughs, which have never had anything but district audit, should continue to have this system. On the other hand, so far as the outer boroughs are concerned (and your Lordships will remember that, of the constituent authorities which now exist, but which will make up the new outer London boroughs, seven at present have a system of professional audit, whereas the rest of the boroughs, urban districts and so on, are all under district audit) my Amendment would give the whole lot precisely the same provisions under this Bill as any other new borough coming into existence in the rest of the country would have under the existing law.
It was often said in the Committee stage that I was confusing the fact that there were not going to be the existing authorities in future, when this Bill comes into force, and that therefore there was no question of taking away a choice or giving a choice to some existing authority. Of course that is so. This Bill sets up completely new boroughs. They are inheritors, it is true, of the previous local authorities, but they are in themselves new, in exactly the same way as boroughs are made out of urban districts or other local authority organizations 112 elsewhere in England and Wales. They are made now, they have been made over many years, and it is a perfectly familiar process. Therefore the proposition I have for your Lordships, so far as the outer London boroughs are concerned, is that they should start off in exactly the same way as any other new borough coming into existence under the present law.
Under Section 239 of the Local Government Act, 1933, in the first stage of the coming into existence of a new borough, before it decides about audit at all it has a system which is known as elective audit, which is an old system and I think now, broadly speaking, an obsolete one. It is then given the power to decide whether in future it will have district audit or professional audit. My noble and learned friend says that he and the Ministry of Housing and Local Government say that the choice is then irreparably made, and they cannot change back and forth thereafter. With that view I am not going to quarrel. If my noble and learned friend says that that is what he thinks the law is, I accept it, and I have never attempted to give them any subsequent choice in my Amendment.
But I have given the new outer boroughs the one single choice that it is conceded by everybody a new borough has all over the rest of England and Wales. So I am not saying that a choice is being taken away; I am not saying that anything is being done which is in the least out of the ordinary; but I am saying, and I must admit it, that there are these new authorities and that they should be entitled—and this is the burden of my case—ito exactly the same rights as any other authority. The only difference is that, whereas outside London a new borough coming into existence would have, as I said, during the interim stage, the old system of elective auditors, whereby two or three people are appointed for the time being to look after the accounts of the authority until a new system is chosen, in this case what I have done in these Amendments is to say that, where the constituent authorities forming the new outer borough consist entirely of authorities which now have district audit, that borough shall begin with district audit; but, on the other hand, where any of the constituent authorities which make 113 up the new borough has now the system of professional audit, then, in the first instance, that borough shall start off with professional audit.
I may say that in some cases the constituent authority which has a professional audit is a comparatively small amount of the total of the new borough. Nevertheless, there is good precedent, certainly in the water authority field, to say that, where any of the new constituent authorities forming the new bigger authority has a professional audit, then the whole shall have it, at any rate at the beginning. I have given them these two systems, and that is the reason why, in the Amendments, specific new boroughs are picked out. Those are the ones which contain one authority which has at the present moment professional audit.
But it does not stop there, because, after they have started off with the system which is laid down in the Bill, they may then make their choice. I do not see how Her Majesty's Government can possibly object to this system, because if it be that they consider district audit is so much superior, and if their view is shared by the new, large, outer London borough, then that borough, if it starts off with district audit, will not change; or, alternatively, if it starts off with professional audit, then it is perfectly entitled to change to district audit, and the thing will be decided on the merits. I do not think that there can be anything objectionable in that. It will, however, give to those boroughs which want professional audit the chance to continue with it instead of being dragooned by Her Majesty's Government into having something which they do not want.
Your Lordships may take account of the fact that I know of at any rate the London borough of Harrow which now has district audit and which would like to have the chance of professional audit; and there is also West Ham, which, many years ago, at the end of the last century, by Private Act of Parliament, adopted a system of professional audit, and I am told would not willingly change in any way to-day. Then there is the fact that, of the boroughs and county boroughs in England and Wales which were entitled to this choice—and that was all of them—over 60 per cent. are at this moment using professional audit, including great cities like Liverpool, Manchester and 114 Birmingham, and are finding it eminently satisfactory for their needs. So it is not by any means a system to be sneered at, because it has been chosen and found acceptable by these great and trustworthy authorities.
Therefore, my Lords, what is there in the least objectionable to giving this chance, this choice, to the individual local authorities on the outer fringe of Greater London? If you take it away, is it not an implication that they are unable to choose? They have the choice written into my Amendment. If they do not like the system they start with, they can change it. If they agree with my noble friend that district audit is the better one, then they can adopt it. But why, when we are setting up these great, new, powerful authorities, can we not trust them with the discretion to choose for their own domestic audit the system which they think best? Why must we force upon them a decision made in Whitehall? My Lords, I beg to move.
Page 135, line 4, after ("every") insert ("inner").—(Viscount Colville of Culross.)
§ 9.54 p.m.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I have listened, with interest, to the speech of my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross. He has moved this Amendment with the skill, the advocacy and the eloquence that I, for one, have come to expect from him, but he has to-day put forward quite a different case, on quite different arguments, from that advanced on Committee stage. On Committee stage he was accusing the Government of seeking to change the position in the Greater London area, and he was maintaining that he was fighting to preserve the present position. To-day his argument is not of that kind at all; and I am sorry that, despite the argument he has now advanced, I must advise your Lordships to reject these Amendments. In doing so I gain some comfort from the fact that I can rely, in resisting them, on observations made by the noble Viscount in the course of our debate in the Committee stage.
I do not want to take up your Lordships' time reminding the House in detail of that debate; but your Lordships may remember on that occasion I discussed at some length the details of the system of district audit: the fact that it was 115 public, the fact that there was a power of surcharge and difference in system between that and professional audit. And I hope that I made it clear I was certainly not sneering at the system of professional audit. I certainly did not criticise the individuals concerned on either side, but I maintained that for local authorities district audit has considerable advantages, and I sought to show your Lordships, in the light of past history, that when new authorities have been created district audit has over a long period of years been the system which has been introduced.
In the last debate it was suggested that each of the new boroughs, 32 in all, should have the option of choosing between district audit and professional audit. I pointed out, when I came to reply to that Amendment, that the metropolitan boroughs had always had district audit and had never had an option to choose professional audit. Now it is suggested by my noble friend that the 12 new boroughs which will be the successors of the metropolitan boroughs should have the district audit system and no option to choose the professional audit; but that the remaining 20 outer London boroughs should have the right to change from the system initially allocated to them. Seven of them are to be initially subject to professional audit; although only in 2 out of the 7 will the area and population, I think, be the greater part of the new boroughs. In the other 5 it will not. The remaining 13 are to be initially placed under the district audit system.
In the course of his speech on the Committee stage my noble friend said this [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 249 (No. 84) col. 1324]:You cannot divide"—this is very positively expressed, and he spoke as positively to-night—the new London boroughs into two varieties by the fact that previously they were either metropolitan boroughs or alternatively outside that area, giving the former no choice and giving the latter the choice they have always had or which most of them have always had.My Lords, that is precisely what this Amendment seeks to do, and I pray in aid to-day those words of my noble friend. He was wrong in one particular, and that went to the foundation of his 116 argument. The argument then advanced was that at that time these boroughs had the choice, the right to choose between professional audit or district audit. Your Lordships may remember that I challenged that. I said that in my view of the law it seemed to me that the view of the Ministry was more correct; namely, that under the Statute there had been a choice but that, once that choice has been exercised, the borough had no right from then on to change from professional audit to district audit, or from district audit to professional audit. Once it had made its choice, its power under that particular provision was spent. Since that debate my right honourable friend the Minister of Housing has taken the opinion of the Law Officers in this matter. I have seen their opinion; and they express the view, without the slightest hesitation, that once the choice has been exercised by the boroughs that power is spent. So the whole case presented in our last debate, which was that here were the wicked Government, taking away from all these boroughs, apart from the metropolitan boroughs, the power to choose what system of audit they had, was misfounded.
To-day, however, the argument is not put on that. The argument is that if they are going to be called new boroughs, why not give them the initial choice? The argument that we are seeking to sustain is this. It is true that we are remaking the Greater London area, but we are seeking to preserve, if possible, the system of accountancy that already inures within that area, except in seven of the present boroughs, and of these only two will form a major part of new areas. The noble Viscount rather derides this approach. He calls it "that great catch-phrase". But that is exactly what we are trying to do: to make as little change as possible by the Bill, which is confined to Greater London. What he is proposing now is to give power to make a major change in all boroughs outside the metropolitan area.
When one looks at it from another angle—for instance, that of the 7 boroughs out of the 24 which now have professional audit—we see that the borough in which professional accountants have the largest share is Borough No. 20, which will consist of Croydon with Coulsdon and Purley. But even there the professional audit deals 117 with only 50 per cent. of the total income and expenditure. In the other six groups it deals with a smaller percentage, which ranges down from 34 per cent., in Borough No. 17, to 18 per cent. in Borough No. 19. Taking the financial transactions of the existing borough authorities which make up the seven new boroughs, 67 per cent., two-thirds, of their income and expenditure is subject to district audit and the remaining one-third to professional audit.
That being so, and bearing in mind the position in the rest of London, we maintain that the right thing to do, if we are seeking to preserve the system in force at the present time so far as possible, is to apply the district audit through the whole area. It may be a case which it is not necessary to argue at any length, but the thesis of my right honourable friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government has been throughout to make as little change as possible in the system of accountancy in Greater London and not to issue a challenge to those areas which now employ professional audit by dealing purely with Greater London. For those reasons, I invite your Lordships to reject these Amendments.
§ LORD LATHAM
My Lords, I wish to support the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, and the Amendment which he has moved. I think that I should repeat that I have an interest, in that I am a professional accountant and associated with the organisation which has made these representations. I will again state, as on the occasion of Committee consideration, that the issue here is not the merits of district audit or of professional audit. The issue is whether certain of the boroughs that will come into existence in the place of local authorities within London should have an option to select whether they will have district audit or professional audit. There is no other issue, as, if I may say so with respect, the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack would appear to be making out this evening.
We have modified the proposal which was before your Lordships on the Committee stage in an endeavour to show, as is the case, a willingness to co-operate and be reasonable, and to leave the successors to the metropolitan borough outside the right of option, inasmuch as they have at present no right of option, but 118 are required to have district audit. We have considered carefully, and I hope objectively, the submissions which were put forward by the Lord Chancellor on the Committee stage. He made great play, as I think he has admitted this evening, of the doctrine of the spent option. He has stated, as is no doubt the case, that the Law Officers are of the opinion that, once exercised, the option is spent. That may be the view of the Law Officers. But the Law Officers are not always right, as circumstances recently have indicated. We do not accept that view, and we are supported by the editor of Lumley's Public Health, which is no mean authority in this connection.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I am sure the noble Lord is not suggesting that the Law Officers have ignored the textbook authorities. They have, of course, considered that view in the textbook and, for good reason, have rejected it.
§ LORD LATHAM
I cannot pretend to know what the Law Officers have disregarded or not, or how they arrived at their opinion. I have not even had the opportunity of seeing the case submitted to the Law Officers. That, as anyone knows, is one of the determining factors in the opinion you get: to know exactly the opinion you ask for, and what is the problem. However, that is a matter which is of a general order.
As regards the principle of the option, or the principle of the adoption of district audit, as the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, quite properly said, that is a matter to be dealt with nationally. But it is not the issue in this Amendment, or the one that we are seeking to resolve. If the view is taken that district audit is superior to professional audit, then let the Government come out and introduce a Bill amending the Act of 1933. After all, those responsible for matters of this kind in 1933 took the view that this option was a proper procedure: indeed, most of the great cities of this country—72 out of 83—have exercised the option and have adopted professional audit. That means, inasmuch as the 83 are county boroughs, that most of the big cities of this country have exercised the option and have elected to have professional audit. So 119 far as I know, there have been no serious consequences for the great cities of Liverpool, Manchester or Birmingham. They seem to have got on very well since they have had professional audit, which they have now had for many years. I am certainly surprised and disappointed that in order to meet the points of view which were expressed by the Lord Chancellor and the point of view of Her Majesty's Government, the suggestion in the Amendment that the option should not apply to the twelve boroughs which will succeed the present metropolitan boroughs has been rejected so brusquely.
The proposals are these, and I think it is proper that I should read them in order that your Lordships may know exactly what they are.To meet the criticisms of the Government the Amendments now put forward are of this order. (1) They do not affect the inner London boroughs, who will remain subject to district audit which they have always employed. It would also maintain the status quo of the outer London boroughs by applying professional audit to the seven outer London boroughs wholly or mainly composed of borough councils at present employing that system and by applying district audit to the others. Such application will, however, be subject to the right of choice referred to in the next paragraph.The next paragraph gives the right to choose whichever of the other two systems has not been initially applied, but limited to the outer London boroughs. It will leave unresolved the doubt as to whether further changes in the audit system are permissible.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, the noble Lord is quite clear—at least, I hope I made it clear—that I am not accepting the statement in the least that the seven boroughs with professional audit will in future be wholly or mainly composed of borough councils employing that system.
§ LORD LATHAM
Those are the proposals. I submit that we are doing no more than asking for what is, and should be, preserved: that these new boroughs which are subject to the limitations of the proposals of the Amendment should have the right of option in the same way as the boroughs, the non-county boroughs, of the Provinces who have the right of selection. We are asking for no more than that, and London should be treated 120 on a parity with the Provinces. If, on the other hand, the view is taken (as it seemed to be implied by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack) that professional audit is undesirable, let the matter be dealt with nationally, and let the whole thing be threshed out. But do not apply it piecemeal to the local authorities which will come into existence as a consequence of the operation of this Bill. I sincerely hope that your Lordships will approve the Amendments.
§ LORD MILNE
My Lords, in rising to support this Amendment, I must declare an interest as being a member of one of the associations represented before the Minister. I find myself mystified by the tenacity with which the Government hold to a point which, to other noble Lords who have not followed this debate and these arguments closely, must seem, to say the least, somewhat trivial. For, from the support given to this case in the earlier stages of this Bill, I think it must be obvious that our case is a reasonable one and that it could have been met with a minimum of give and take. There appears to be a legal quandary at first sight, but I think this quandary arises because the Government choose to regard the new boroughs as being successors of their own component parts, arguing that the district audit, whether it was there by Act or by choice, cannot he changed; a view which, as you have heard, is open to some doubt, at any rate so far as option is concerned.
It seems to me that this argument, so ably propounded by the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, that a new borough is an entirely new persona, a new corporate entity, entirely free of taint, disposes of this legal quandary. A new corporation is brought into life. Its powers start again to elect an audit under the 1933 Act. In fact, the Amendment as it stands to-day goes further than it need to, and in this we have met the Government further than we need go. Is it, in so doing, too much to expect that a Government which is pledged to private enterprise should give us the benefit of assistance in this particular case we are putting up?
It has already been said that this is not the place to discuss the relative merits of the two audit systems, since any changes therein would be of national significance. Yet, notwithstanding the assurance in the correspondence which 121 passed between the associations and the Minister, that there was no judgment as between the two systems, the noble and learned Lord, speaking for the Government in the second stage of the Bill, delivered himself of what the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, aptly described as a swingeing attack on the system of professional audit. It seems odd to me that there can be such a complete change of opinion in such a very short time.
Certain other noble Lords experienced in local government commented on district audit largely on the question of surcharge, but to rest the case largely on surcharge is, to my mind, to emphasise an institution which is somewhat undemocratic in operation. It is a facet without which professional auditors have performed their duties in the majority of the boroughs outside London and performed them to complete satisfaction, so far as I know, and one which, if they needed it, which I doubt, could very well have been given during the last thirty years. I warmly support this Amendment.
VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS
My Lords I am very grateful to those of your Lordships who have taken part in this short debate. In reply to my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack, I am bound to say that I am a little surprised that he should upbraid me for having changed the arguments that I put forward and the basis for my Amendment between the Committee stage and this stage of the Bill. I should have thought that he underestimated the convincing nature of the arguments he then put forward, and it seems to me it would be more than inflexible on the part of myself and those who agree with me if we took no account of the good points that he then put forward and did not seek in some way to meet them.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I hope the noble Lord is not misunderstanding me. I made no complaint of his having listened to my speech but I was relying on what he said on that occasion as destructive of his own case now; because what he said was impossible then is the very content of the Amendment he is moving to-day.
VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS
I do not think I said it was impossible, but in any case I should have thought 122 the noble and learned Lord would have been delighted if he had convinced me, and I should not have thought the fact that I have changed my argument and yet put forward what seems to me still a perfectly valid one was any reason why your Lordships should not accept the present argument on the Amendment which is before you. Again, if I may say so with respect, the question of whether or not the Law Officers of the Crown are right about the second choice has nothing to do with this matter, because I expressly said that I accepted my noble and learned friend's interpretation of it. I have not attempted to change the law or to nut in anything that concerns this particular matter. It has nothing to do with it at all.
Then again, my noble and learned friend talked about the fact that even in the new outer boroughs where professional audit might remain there would be a split, two-thirds of the total expenditure of that borough still being audited by district audit as opposed to one-third by professional audit. This is, frankly, a specious argument. It may be perfectly true, but in every borough and every county borough up and down England and Wales where there is professional audit there is a large slab of expenditure which by law has to be dealt with by district audit. This is not a thing which will be peculiar to my outer boroughs. This occurs now in Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham and all the other places where professional audit is in force. Yet my noble and learned friend is not prepared to change these or to criticise them. Why, therefore, does he bring up that same point? The noble Lord said that, instead of preserving the status quo, my Amendments imported a major change. What they do, as my noble friend Lord Milne said, is to start the new borough in exactly the same way as any other new borough. It is not right to say there is any peculiarity because the new boroughs will take over from the old.
Take the case of the creation of any borough from an urban district. Of course there was a local authority before, but the new borough is incorporated with a new charter. It is a new local authority, and it gets a new choice about audit. Why therefore should not these new boroughs on the outer fringe of London 123 do the same thing? Finally, my Lords, why is it that Her Majesty's Government are so determined to force district audit on these boroughs willy-nilly? Why are they so afraid? Surely your Lordships will let those boroughs have a choice.
§ 10.32 p.m.
§ LORD HASTINGS
My Lords, this is a drafting Amendment. As the result of an Amendment I moved during the Committee stage, the words to be left out are no longer necessary. I beg to move.
Page 135, line 25, leave out from beginning to ("instead").—(Lord Hastings.)
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I beg to move that the Report stage be now adjourned.
Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.