§ 3.33 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ [The LORD MERTHYR in the Chair.]
§ Clause 1:
§ London boroughs
§ 1.—(1) There shall be established new administrative areas, to be known as London boroughs, which shall comprise the areas respectively described (by reference to existing administrative areas) in column 2 of Part I of Schedule 1 to this Act; and in this and any other Act—
- (a) any reference to an inner London borough shall be construed as a reference to one of the London boroughs numbered from 1 to 12 in the said Part I;
- (b) any reference to an outer London borough shall be construed as a reference to one of the London boroughs numbered from 13 to 32 in the said Part I.
§ (2) The Minister shall in the case of each London borough by order (hereafter in this Act referred to as an "incorporation order") make provision for the incorporation of the inhabitants of the borough and with respect to the name thereof; and, subject to the provisions of this Act, any such order—
- (a) may make any provision such as may be made by a charter granted under Part VI of the Local Government Act 1933; and
- (b) in the case of an outer London borough, shall make provision for a charter for the borough, which may include with any necessary modifications all or any of the provisions of the charter or any letters patent granted to any existing borough the whole or part of which falls within the London borough's area;
§ (3) Before a London borough's incorporation order is made, the Minister or, as may be appropriate, the Secretary of State shall cause such notices to be given and such, if any, inquiries to be held with respect to the matters to be dealt with by the order as may appear to the Minister or, as the case may be, the Secretary of State to be expedient.863
§ (5) The first election of councillors of each London borough shall be held, under arrangements to be made by its incorporation order, on the day in May 1964 fixed by the Secretary of State as the day of election of borough councillors in England and Wales; and the persons declared to be elected councillors at that election shall come into office on the fourth day after the day of election.
THE JOINT PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY, MINISTRY OF HOUSING AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT (LORD HASTINGS) moved, in subsection (2), to omit all words from the beginning down to "the provisions", and to substitute:
(2) If in the case of any London borough, 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 that borough, Her Majesty may by that charter—
(2A) In the case of any London borough whose inhabitants are not incorporated by such a charter as is referred to in the last foregoing subsection, provision for their incorporation shall be made by the Minister by order (hereafter in this Act referred to as an "incorporation order") which may include any such provision as is mentioned in paragraph (a) or (b) of that subsection.
§ The noble Lord said: During the Committee stage of the Bill in another place, an Amendment on the same lines as Amendment No. 3 now standing in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Silkin, Lord Champion, Lord Lindgren and Lord Kennet, was proposed. My right honourable friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government was pressed very hard on that occasion to amend the provision in subsection (2) which deals with the incorporation of the new London boroughs, and he promised to give the matter further consideration. I am now able to move on the Government's behalf this Amendment, which I am sure will commend itself to your Lordships and to the local authorities concerned.864
§ It provides a way by which all the London boroughs may be incorporated by Royal Charter just as are boroughs in general. The normal procedure laid down in Part VI of the Local Government Act, 1933, requires that an application for a Charter must come from an existing authority, and this application is invariably followed by a public inquiry. This procedure would be inappropriate here, because it presupposes an existing authority which will petition for a Charter, and in the normal course of events the existing state of affairs would continue if a Charter was not granted. But in this instance the Bill is deliberately establishing a pattern of new boroughs within a timetable, and the new councils cannot be elected until after the Charters have laid down the wards and made arrangements for the first elections. Hence the Amendment provides that my right honourable friend may take the initiative by making representations to the Privy Council. On the advice of the Privy Council, Her Majesty may incorporate any London borough by Charter.
§ I know that my right honourable friend expects to make such representations in the case of all the London boroughs. But it would not be proper for us to assume that Royal Charters which are granted under the Prerogative would automatically be given, and hence the Amendment includes a new subsection (2A), which provides for incorporation by Ministerial order as an alternative to a Royal Charter. I beg to move.
Page 2, line 1, leave out from beginning to ("the") in line 15 and insert the said new subsections.—(Lord Hastings.)
§ LORD SILKIN moved, as an Amendment to the Amendment, to leave out subsection (2A). The noble Lord said: I should like to thank the noble Lord for the explanation he has given of this Amendment. As he says, the Government were under very considerable pressure in another place on an Amendment to ensure that the new London boroughs all started off with equal status, with none of them having greater privileges than any other; none of them being regarded as second-class boroughs as against others; none of them having greater prerogatives or priorities. I think it is very important indeed that the 32 boroughs should be 865 on an equal footing right from the beginning. We therefore attach very great importance to this Amendment. I am very glad that the Minister eventually agreed to do what he could to meet the wishes of the Committee—and I think they were the wishes of practically the whole Committee—and I agree that this clause is an attempt to do what is required.
§ I am a little doubtful about the new subsection (2A), because it contemplates the possibility that some of the boroughs will not be receiving a charter as intended. I appreciate that this is a safeguarding provision to safeguard the Royal Prerogative, but I should like to have it quite certain that it is the definite intention of the Minister to take the necessary steps at the earliest possible moment in respect of all the new London boroughs that have not a charter. I should also like to ask him what is to be the position about the new boroughs that are being formed out of existing boroughs, some of which have a charter and some of which have not—for instance, in the case of Woolwich, which is being split up. Woolwich has not a charter, and those to whom it is joined presumably have. There is also the problem of what is to happen when two boroughs which have a charter are amalgamated. Will they need a new charter, or can the two existing charters somehow be combined?
§ I would suggest that we might consider at the same time this Amendment and a number of others on the same point. We can then take the necessary action when the later Amendments are called. It would be convenient if, for instance, we discussed together Amendments Nos. 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 9 and 10, which are all on the same subject. If we have a general discussion on them all, and the noble Lord is able to give completely satisfactory assurances on the points that I have raised, we will, act accordingly. However, I should like the assurances first before we decide upon our course of action.
Amendment to Amendment moved—
Leave out subsection (2A).—(Lord Silkin.)
§ LORD SHEPHERD
May I support my noble friend on this Amendment? I listened very carefully to the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, and I think he has gone some way to meet the wishes of those of us on this side of the House. But the 866 noble Lord will also appreciate that what he says in this House may not always be the way in which the Bill is administered when it becomes an Act. The Act is administered entirely on the words that are in it. I understand that the difficulty put forward by the Minister in the other place was that a charter was granted by Her Majesty when a number of authorities came together and there was a new creation; that Her Majesty could use her prerogative and grant a charter then, but that it has never been the case (in fact, I believe it would be impracticable) for a charter to be given to a body already in existence. Now, as we see it, this would preclude the inner boroughs of London which have been created by Statute from ever receiving a charter, whereas the outer boroughs, being created and coming together under this Bill, would receive a charter.
If one looks at the Government Amendment, it could well be argued that the position has not in any way changed: that subsections (2)(a) and (b) would deal merely with those authorities which are already charter boroughs but which, as my noble friend Lord Silkin drew to our attention, are changing their shape and changing their size. I was looking up in the Library the other day on what basis a charter was delivered. It was delivered by Her Majesty to the burgesses of the area for the area in which they lived. I wonder, like my noble friend Lord Silkin, whether, where two authorities that have been created by charter come together, they would then have a unified charter, or whether they would exist under two charters. In that case, where there are perhaps two or three authorities with two or three charters, do the Government contemplate an approach being made to Her Majesty through the Privy Council for the existing charters to be abolished and a new one created? That, of course, would meet the wishes of those on this side of the House in regard to the outer boroughs.
Undoubtedly, these areas are covered by the first part of the Government's Amendment; but have we really got over the problem of the authorities that are created by Statute? Is it the case, as it was put forward by the Minister in another place, that it is not possible for an authority created by Statute to 867 obtain a charter, or would the passing of this Amendment merely mean that these areas would automatically come within subsection (2A)? We on this side of the House put considerable stress upon the fact that, having created this new area of 8½ million people, we should have a form of equality clearly recognised, not only by the heads of the authorities but also by the inhabitants of the authority; that they all stand on an equal basis and in an equal position as regards precedence on, perhaps, certain Royal occasions. We feel, therefore, that we should insist that we have it in this Bill, if it is at all possible—and I think it is—that all these various authorities which are being newly created shall have the same standing.
I hope that the noble Lord can give us a very clear statement. In fact, I would not speak ill of the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, but I should like to hear it from the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, with all the force in law that he commands. We should like to hear him come and say that the Government Amendment in fact means that any authority newly created by this Bill, if it so wishes, can apply for a Royal Charter—obviously, they have no right to get it automatically, but that they will be in a clear position to apply, through the usual channels—and that their case will be considered and, I hope, accepted. I hope that the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack can help us in this matter.
§ LORD LATHAM
While I associate myself almost completely with what my noble friend Lord Shepherd has said, it is perhaps appropriate to mention that it is not the position that the grant of a charter is made only when districts are being amalgamated. What I am concerned about, however, is how long we are to have two kinds of charter, one a Royal Charter and the other an incorporation charter. How long will the local authorities be required to wait before they can get a Royal Charter, or are they, the incorporated bodies, to be second-class local authorities in comparison with chartered local authorities? Perhaps the Minister would indicate whether an incorporated local authority or borough will be able, as soon as it may please, and subject to its complying with the normal requirements which exist at 868 the present time, to apply for a charter in the same way as an authority can at the present time apply for a charter.
§ LORD HASTINGS
I think I can give all the assurances that have been asked for. My right honourable friend will definitely undertake to apply to the Privy Council, to make representations that all these boroughs shall be on an equal footing and that there shall be no second-class boroughs. They will get new charters, all 32 of them. Provisions in existing charters may be retained but, in general, they will be superseded, although the new charters may in some cases actually be in the same forms as the old ones. There is no question, as the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, said, of the metropolitan boroughs automatically coming under subsection (2A), which was what the noble Lord feared. The purpose is that they should all be dealt with under subsection (2) in the main.
§ LORD LATHAM
It is all very well for the noble Lord to say or imply that there is no distinction, and that all of them will have a Charter. That may be the case ultimately, but it is not the case at the start, because some of them are to be the subject of incorporation orders. There will be a difference. They will be second-class local authorities.
§ LORD HASTINGS
I will just explain that that is only the reserve power. They have all got to be incorporated to come into existence before April of next year, and my right honourable friend will present the case to the Privy Council that they should all be incorporated on the same footing. The reserve power is simply there because, as I know noble Lords opposite realise full well, we cannot presume on Her Majesty's prerogative.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
Can the noble Lord say from experience, not his experience, but previous experience, regarding consideration by the Privy Council, and no doubt by Her Majesty, as to whether a Charter would be given, what is the time for consideration? I was looking at the story of this matter. It seems to me it could be quite a lengthy proceedings. Can the noble Lord say, within the time of the passing of this Bill and the coming into being of these authorities, that the inquiries can be conducted in such a way that the time limit will not 869 be a bar to these authorities receiving a Charter?
§ LORD HASTINGS
Of course, the normal procedure is that there is an inquiry and the burgesses and citizens apply. But that will not be gone through in this case because of the time factor, and my right honourable friend is given the power to apply on their behalf. There will not be a public inquiry.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
It is equally true that the burgesses or electors can in fact object. The noble Lord said that there is not to be an inquiry. I can see that is right; but if one of the boroughs has a reasonable feeling that it would prefer to remain as it was—it may well be—then the electors would have a right at least to approach the Minister to see that their point of view is put.
§ LORD HASTINGS
I think it is unlikely that they would object to having a Charter. They might object and act under another clause of the Bill regarding the boundaries to which no doubt the noble Lord was referring.
§ LORD SILKIN
I think the noble Lord has gone as far as he can to-day.
What I would suggest is that our noble friends allow this Amendment to go through. I would be prepared to withdraw such relevant Amendments as I have down and have another look at it at the next stage of the Bill. It looks all right, but if we have any representations to make on the next stage then we will do so, and possibly move an Amendment. It is a very complicated question and we may need legal advice. Perhaps the noble and learned Lord will be prepared to give us such legal advice. But, subject lo that, I think it might be convenient for the Committee to let this go through. We shall not move our Amendments and reserve our right to come back again at the next stage.
§ Amendment to Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
Page 2, line 17, leave out ("of any such order").—(Lord Hastings.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.870
Page 2, line 18, leave out ("but nothing in any such") and insert ("of any charter or incorporation order under subsection (2) or (2A) of this section; but nothing in any such charter or").—(Lord Hastings.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
LORD SHEPHERD moved, in subsection (2), to leave out "exceed sixty" and insert:
be less than one councillor to each three thousand electors".
§ The noble Lord said: The speed of dealing with the first few Amendments has rather caught my noble friends unawares, because a colleague was to move this Amendment. This is a subject to which I drew the attention of your Lordships' House on Second Reading. The Government in subsection (2) of Clause 1 have laid down an arbitrary figure of the number of councillors for the boroughs. The number was 60. As I drew to the attention of your Lordships' House on that occasion, we were having created a number of boroughs of different sizes and different numbers of electors and population. I also drew the House's attention to the fact that the responsibilities of the new boroughs will be considerably greater. In fact, this is the desire of Her Majesty's Government and I will not speak about this now. But it will be clearly recognised by all that the duties falling upon a council will be very much greater; and in some cases the area over which the councillors have to travel will also provide a formidable obstacle to them in the performance of their duty.
§ Let us take the case of Croydon. Croydon has at present a population of 250,000 with 48 councillors and 16 aldermen. Into that area is going to be brought a further 73,000 people from Purley and Coulsdon. These people are to be represented by 33 councillors. Under the Government proposals, this very much increased number of persons, 320,000, are going to be represented by merely 60 councillors with a number of aldermen. Therefore, I think it would be clear from that particular authority that the electors are going to be represented by a fewer number of councillors. I would say, incidentally, that the councillors to-day provide a very important link in connection with the electors and, I think, even with this House. They are able to deal with the everyday 871 problems that beset a household in many cases: finding a house, perhaps finding employment, finding hospital accommodation, and the like. They provide this very intimate service that we in Westminster, either as Members of the House of Commons or as Members of your Lordships' House, are quite unable to do.
§ I drew the Committee's attention to Croydon only. If we take this Greater London area as a whole, I think I am right in saying that at present, if you average it out, one councillor would represent approximately 2,600-odd electors. In some areas perhaps it could be said there are too many councillors to the electorate; but in others there are not sufficient councillors to cover fully the needs of their particular electorate. But we do have this average figure of one councillor to 2,600-odd electors. Under the Government proposals—and I think the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, will correct me if I am wrong—we shall have the position that, on average, there is one councillor to every 4,000 electors.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
I would hope the noble Lord will make efforts to obtain this figure between now and when we have to make a decision. He has disputed my calculation. The calculation I have given was one provided in the other place during Committee stage. It was not challenged, to the best of my knowledge. Unless the noble Lord can give another figure I would ask the Committee to accept my figure of approximately one councillor to 4,000. This is considerably different from the ratio prevailing today.
Our suggestion is to delete this fixed figure of 60 councillors to a borough, irrespective of its size and the number of electors, and to provide that the number shall be such as the Minister may decide, provided that in no case there shall be less than one councillor for each 3,000 electors. If the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, can produce the figure, it may be that he could accept my Amendment 872 and if it were less than 4,000 I should be happy to see it written into the Bill.
The Government are wrong to stand on this arbitrary figure of 60. We should have some degree of flexibility. We have to take into account the number of electors, the type of the area, the transport, the ease of getting from one side of the area to another. I do not advocate that we should have a number of councillors out of all proportion to the number of electors, but there should be some flexibility, so that the Minister is able to take these things into account. The Bill as it is now limits the Minister and gives him no discretion whatsoever. He can operate only within the figure of 60. While I do not necessarily stand by the figure of 3,000, I think it should be a smaller one to ensure that the present representation should not he greatly lessened. Many of your Lordships have an intimate experience of local government work and know what local councillors can do for people in their areas, but the local councillor cannot provide the same personal service if he has to look after a large number of people over a wide area. We should like to see a greater degree of flexibility in the Bill, so long as the present position is not in any way restricted or curtailed. I beg to move.
Page 2, line 20, leave out from ("to") to end of line 21 and insert ("be less than one councillor to each three thousand electors.").—(Lord Shepherd.)
§ 4.2 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LUCAN
In supporting my noble friend in this Amendment, I should like to say that on the Second Reading of this Bill some of my friends were rather shocked at the tone of the Government speeches. The noble and learned Lord who moved the Second Reading called the Bill a "constructive and progressive measure" and talked about the efficiency he expected from the new organisation. The Government thought that boroughs of this size could be established without endangering the efficient administration of the services. He went on to say [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 248 (No. 71), col. 1138];We must recognise that local government will be healthy and vigorous only if local authorities are given a worthwhile job to do and are entrusted with the fullest responsibility. This means giving as many powers as possible 873 to the boroughs, especially in the personal services which bring the individual most frequently into direct touch with his local authority.A great deal about efficiency and vigorous government, but not a word about the human side of local government; and that, surely, is what local government is about. It is the essence of good local government that the elected councillors shall be in close touch with their electors.
The existing system in the metropolitan boroughs of inner London shows wide variations between the different boroughs, from Wandsworth, where it is about 4,000, down to Holborn, where there are fewer than 1,000 electors per councillor. I was surprised to hear my noble friend say that the average was 2,600. I had worked it out—on the basis of councillors not including aldermen—at about 1,700 electors per councillor. In the built-up areas of London, a councillor can get to know pretty well a ward of from 4,000 to 6,000 even 7,000 electors, and that is what rules in many of the inner London metropolitan boroughs now. If the boroughs are going to be increased in size, roughly tripled, that would mean that around 3,000 electors would be the average over the whole. I think that the Government proposals go much over that. According to my calculations, Nos. 9 and 10 boroughs (Lambeth arid Battersea) would have 4,000 electors per councillor; 8, 7 and I would have over 3,000, and only four boroughs—5, 6, 11 and 12—would appear to be going to have under 3,000.
When we think of the greater responsibilities which the Government are going to put upon the new London boroughs, it seems to us more than ever essential that the number of elected councillors should be adjusted to the number of electors. There are the other factors mentioned by my noble friend—communications, density and so on—which have to be taken into account. This is even more the case with outer London boroughs, because densities are much less than in inner London and they are going to lose a great number of councillors. Many of them, the components of new boroughs, have 70, 80 or 90 councillors at the moment and they are going to be reduced to 60 with the same population. It seems to me the utter negation of good local 874 government that there should be this rigid adherence to the figure of 60. What was the magic about the figure 60 we do not know. A number of metropolitan boroughs have 60 councillors now, and perhaps that fact was in the Minister's mind when he drafted the Bill. We cannot agree that the proposal, as it is, is going to lead to good government. We suggest a number of 3,000, which we think is a reasonable figure, but we do not wish to be absolutely rigid about it. There must be flexibility in order that the number can be adjusted so that we may get the best possible relations between the elected councillors and those wham they represent. Therefore, I support the Amendment.
§ LORD WOLVERTON
I should like to know what the Government think is the right proportion. I cannot speak for London, but I am a councillor of West Suffolk and represent a ward of Newmarket. We have a town of 11,500 people there, and we have five councillors, which works out at about 1 per 2,300. The urban council have 11 or 12, and that comes down to about 1,000. I should have thought that round about 2,500 to 3,000 is the right number. We can manage quite well with the number we have to look after now, but I do not think we should want more than that.
§ LORD LINDGREN
The point raised by my two noble friends and by the noble Lord opposite in regard to the actual relationship of the elected representatives to the electorate is most important, but, if I may, I will leave that, because I think it has been effectively covered by my two noble friends. To me, what is equally important, and perhaps from the administrative point of view even more important, is the fact that these authorities will, to all intents and purposes, be all-purpose authorities. That means that they will have a wide range of committees. There will, to cover the general acceptance of an all-purpose authority, be at least 22 committees. This means that even with 60 councillors there has to be a doubling-up of membership on various committees, which is quite normal in local government work. But on a number of committees there are subcommittees which have to deal with 875 specialised subjects within the range of the committee. This means that you place a tremendous responsibility for attendance at committees on a comparatively few people.
I want to draw the attention of your Lordships to the fact that local government in this country is at the present time—and some people hope it will remain so—and under this Bill for these authorities it will continue to be, a voluntary piece of work, a service on behalf of the community by the individual; and most of this work, because they are an all-purpose authority and because of the size of the authority, will be day-time work. That means to say that the ordinary person, whether he be a manual, clerical, professional or technical worker, must have time off from his job in order to carry out his civic duties within the borough. I can say from personal experience that it is not always easy to get time off from one's employer to undertake local government work. As your Lordships know, I worked for a railway company, and that is not as bad, from this point of view, as working for a normal employer. But, as I had to, very often one has to go up and tell the chief clerk, "Next Tuesday I shall be off in the afternoon; on Wednesday, I shall be off in the morning and on Thursday in the afternoon". He said to me: "You had better leave your photograph here and we shall know what you look like when you come back."
It is not unreasonable for an employer to turn to an employee in that position and say: "Look here; what you do in a civic way is your responsibility, but, after all, I am paying your wages, and even if you lose your wages for the time you are off, I still have to carry on the job; and if I have to carry on the job, I want somebody here to do it. I cannot tell the customer, or somebody who is waiting for something, that one of my fellows is over at a local government committee and they will have to wait until to-morrow for what they want." So the greater degree of time off during normal working hours that an elected councillor has to apply for from his employer militates against the employer's giving a concession for the employee to have time off.
Equally, most of us, if we go to work, do so for the pay packet at the end of 876 the week, and that has a relationship to getting promotion within the general sphere of activity in which we are employed. It is true, also, that the type of individual who has sufficient social conscience to undertake local government work is the type for whom an employer is looking to give added responsibility within his own organisation. It is not uncommon for a fellow of that type to be called in by his employer and to be told: "What you do outside the firm is nothing to do with us, but you are a good type of fellow and here is a charge-hand's or foreman's job"—or if he is a clerical worker, higher grading—"and the job is yours if you are prepared to take it. But if you are going to take on added responsibility and supervision of staff, then you must be here a bit more than you are and give up some of your local government work."
We have to look at the fact that we are working a voluntary system of local government which requires a considerable amount of time to be given to it; and that amount of time means not only attendance at committees. The type of councillor who goes to a committee and opens the agenda at the committee is no use to the local authority. In local government, as in both Houses of Parliament, to make an effective member it is necessary to specialise, and the amount of homework to be done in relation to specialised duties is fairly considerable. So it is not only a question of attending at meetings and travelling to and from meetings, but also a question of the time required to prepare oneself for carrying out the function—unless councillors are to be completely in the hands of the permanent officials of the council.
I suggest to the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, that on the basis of the size of the boroughs he has now, and suggested within the framework of this Bill, not only can they not be really close to the people, because of the wide area they will have to represent, but there will not be sufficient of them to run the committees effectively, unless the individual is going to be completely overloaded. I have been in local government for a long time, and one of the worst features of present-day local government—the noble Lord opposite who preceded me mentioned the 877 Sussex Council, of which he is a member—
§ LORD LINDGREN
Well, Suffolk and Sussex are both lovely counties. But we are dealing with London, which my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth thinks is equally beautiful—though some people may have their doubts about some parts of it. But the tendency in local government at the present time is for the councils to be manned by married women (and I have nothing against married women: some of them may have something against me—one at least) or by people retired from business. It is one thing to be in local government for a period of time and to carry it on. But local government is much more important than having somebody at the age of 66, after retiring at 65, coming on to the county council or the borough council just to keep out of the wife's way on washday. Unless one has some background knowledge of local government, to come in at the age of 65 or 66 (it is true that business experience may be useful), the attention one has to give to detail, keeping abreast with the legislation coming on the Statute Book and with the various local government journals issued from time to time by various associations, is bound to be quite a job. The older one gets, the less inclined one is to carve out a new career. So that type of person means an added member of the council, but not an effective member.
If we are to have a body which is really virile, it must cover the ranges of the community, arid not just the married woman who can get away from home because her children are off hand; not the retired person because he has now given up active business; not the trade union official because the trade union is prepared to give him time off from his trade union, but the ordinary fellow who is working at his job on the shop floor, in the office or as an executive within business, trade, industry and the rest. They are the people who should be coming in and playing an active part in community life within the new local government bodies.
878 We have that situation often in the urban districts, and with the small local authorities, but only because the meetings tend to be in the evenings, or because they are smaller authorities and persons can arrange their lives accordingly. But we are now dealing with bodies that will demand a tremendous amount of time. The vast majority of their meetings will be held during the day time, and therefore it is necessary to have some regard to the ability of the ordinary individual to carry out effectively the duties which he undertakes when he stands for election. He cannot do that on the basis of 60 councillors. So I hope that, from the point of view of the effective manning of the authority, and to give the opportunity to a wider range of people to come within the authority, this number of 60 will not be a rigid number as it seems to be within the Bill at the present time.
§ LORD AUCKLAND
I have some sympathy with this Amendment, because one of the accusations against councillors to-day is that they do not get around sufficiently, and that as a result there is apathy among the electorate. The reason for this, as the noble Lord has just said, is that many councillors are overworked, particularly on matters of town planning, of which there is more and more to-day. Therefore this arbitrary figure needs looking at again. I should like to ask my noble friend how this figure was arrived at—whether the Town Clerks' Association, for example, was questioned on it. We are all hoping to receive from the noble Lord a detailed explanation. If this arbitrary figure is allowed to stand, covering all local authorities concerned in the Bill, I can see that the apathy towards local government will increase rather than decrease.
§ LORD PEDDIE
I think my noble friend Lord Lindgren has drawn attention to probably the most important aspect of this Amendment. The Amendment is logical, and also gives the possibility of greater encouragement to people who wish to take their part in local government. I do not think there is any doubt at all that one of the most important things in the development of local government is to maintain interest and provide greater opportunities for participation. My noble friend Lord Lindgren has given an indication that an arbitrary 879 figure of 60 would impose considerable strain on the maintenance of the necessary committees in any local authority. Therefore, on the grounds of sheer logic, I fail to see how there can be any argument against this Amendment.
§ 4.26 p.m.
§ LORD WALSTON
It seems to me that this is an enormously important Amendment, because it strikes at a basic principle of local government. After all, what is the object of local government? It must be, surely, to enable the inhabitants of this particular area to be represented. Therefore, the number of people who are on the local council must depend upon the number of voters in that local authority's area. If you look at it from what one can almost call an entirely bureaucratic point of view, you look at it the other way. You say: "We do not agree about the electors. We do not mind how many there are. All we are interested in is the actual council itself. Now what is the ideal size of a council?" You then come to the figure—how it comes about I do not know, and I hope the noble Lord will tell us how it was arrived at—of 60. And you then say, "The council will be of a size of 60, or no more, at any rate, regardless of the number of electors." It seems to me that that indicates that this Bill has been framed not from the point of view of the democratic representation of the local electors, but for the administrative convenience of those who have to run the local authority. That surely is an extremely important difference of outlook on the whole system of local government, and I believe that it should be attacked right at the beginning, here and now.
If we continue with this type of attitude we shall deteriorate (and I am afraid that we have been deteriorating over the past few years) into decentralised bureacracy, instead of a democracy. We shall be more on the lines of the prefectorial system which, as your Lordships know, was initiated by Napoleon so that he could go away on his campaigns and ensure that the country would be well run by his officials in his absence, if that is what the Government want to do (not that I am suggesting the Prime Minister wants to go away on any great campaign of victory, even in Europe, having failed 880 to achieve that), if they want an administrative system which will be the efficient servant of Whitehall, carrying out these functions, then by all means let them say so and set up councils of a circumscribed size. Let them say, "We will allow the electors to elect their members, but the prime consideration must be the efficiency of the council." I am sure that they will not say that, and I am also sure that they do not want to do so. I am sure Her Majesty's Government are just as keen on democracy as we are. If that is so, it is absolutely essential that the size of a council depends upon the number of electors.
Our great danger at the present time is professionalism in politics, whether national or local. My noble friend Lord Lindgren has made it clear to your Lordships, if it needed making clear, that the strain on members of local authorities is very great, and increasing the whole time. If you limit their number in the way this clause, as it stands, sets out to do, you can do no more than accentuate and accelerate that present trend towards professionalism, so that local authorities will be composed solely of people who either have already retired or who, for one reason or another, have no fixed job to do, instead of, which surely is the correct concept of democracy, enabling all ranges of society and all walks of life to offer themselves as representatives of the people.
As my noble friend Lord Lindgren said, it is not simply a question of attending council meetings; it is not even a question of studying the agenda or the minutes beforehand or of enabling oneself to know what the true facts are, whether it has to do with the fire service or the roads, or anything else. It is also a question of being available to your constituents, being known to them and by them; and that is not the sort of thing which a working man or woman can do after six o'clock in the evening. He can do it perhaps if his constituents are fairly limited in number, but if they are unlimited, as they will be according to this clause, it is quite impossible for him to do so. So if we really wish, as I am certain we do, to see that our local governments are truly democratic and that the people I who represent the constituents on them 881 come from all walks of life and have the time to do their own jobs and at the same time get round and see their constituents and see the things which are being carried on in their name, I do not think we can do anything other than pass this Amendment which has been moved by my noble friend.
I rise only to say that I understand that this is the London Government Bill and that the Amendment relates to London, but the arguments, nevertheless, have not related only to London; they are arguments that might be applied to the whole of the country. If it should be assumed that this is a principle that ought to be applied to the whole of the country, I very much hope that the associations of local authorities will be consulted before anything further is done, because there are, certainly in rural areas, a number of considerations other than that purely of numbers of electors.
§ 4.33 p.m.
§ LORD HASTINGS
I listened with great care to the words of the noble Lord who moved this Amendment, and I have also followed with close attention all the arguments put forward by noble Lords who supported him. I readily agree that the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, has raised a most difficult subject at the very outset of our proceedings of this Committee, and it is one which confronts, and has confronted, Her Majesty's Government with a difficult and, indeed, delicate problem to resolve. It is a subject which allows for considerable difference of opinion and for perfectly legitimate disagreement. I wish to assure noble Lords opposite that I accept absolutely the sincerity and general concern with which they have put their views. I hope, therefore, that they, in their turn, will accept the sincerity of the opposing views of Her Majesty's Government and will be ready to acknowledge after I sit down the care with which Her Majesty's Government have considered this problem.
There is just one thing I should like to say before proceeding. The noble Earl, Lord Lucan, who took to task my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor for, in his own words, "not saying a word about the human side of London Government" in his opening speech on 882 Second Reading, did, I think, imply that he extended that to the Government spokesmen as a whole during that debate. I must point out that during a very long speech, which I am well aware wearied a number of noble Lords, I went into great detail on the human side, and I do not think I can allow the noble Earl, Lord Lucan, to get away with that remark without some remonstrance from this side.
The noble Lord's Amendment illustrates very well the opposing influences which have to be taken into account when we consider the size of the new borough councils. Her Majesty's Government feel very strongly that we must look at the new councils in their context as part of a completely reorganised system, and that within this context we must aim to strike a balance between two opposing requirements when considering the size of the councils. We should like to see councils which are large enough to give the most favourable ratio of councillors to electors but which, at the same time, will not be so large as to obstruct the efficiency and policy-making ability of the councils as a result of unwieldiness.
First of all, however, I should like to deal with one argument which is often used and has been used again to-day by two noble Lords who spoke, and which at first hearing, I must admit, has considerable effect upon the listeners. It is the argument that when the total of all the members of the new borough council are added together they will be fewer—more than 1,000 fewer, in fact, for Greater London—than the total of all the members of the present authorities. For instance, as a result of amalgamating two or three existing authorities the number of councillors representing a given area may be, and in fact will be, reduced from something over 100 in some cases to a number which will be a maximum of 70, including aldermen; and the noble Lord Lord Shepherd cited a particular case.
It is perfectly true that Her Majesty's Government believe that this has not the relevance to the problem that is claimed for it and that, in any case, it is by no means the whole of the argument. As I said a moment ago, we have to consider a completely reorganised system. Left to themselves there is not any danger that 883 councils will become too small; rather the contrary. It is most unlikely that they would voluntarily propose to reduce their numbers, especially as the total of sitting members is, as I have just admitted, larger than would be allowed under the Bill; and even the noble Lord's Amendment introduces a form of limitation, even though he would claim that it is a more flexible form. As it is, even with this limitation laid down in the Bill, we do not think that councils will vary very much in size according to their population. Indeed, we expect all the councils will be somewhere near the maximum in numbers. This is not only, or even mainly, for the reason I have just given about the extra number of sitting members at present, but because each council will require adequate numbers in order to man the necessary committees, which will after all, be the same in each new borough.
§ LORD HASTINGS
It is true they will have more powers. The noble Lords, Lord Shepherd and Lord Lindgren, in particular enlarged upon, and very rightly so, the responsibilities of the councillors, and certainly nobody would wish to deny the admirable work they do and the importance of contact between the councillors and the electors. On the other hand, although they made out a case that the responsibility to be given to them would be too big for them to handle in relation to the numbers of the councillors, the noble Lord, Lord Peddie, also made the very important point that there must be enough work to maintain the interest of the councillors; and these two requirements, of course, have to be married; and that is what Her Majesty's Government are trying to. For this it is necessary to come to a few comparisons and a few figures and I hope that I shall be able to show to the Committee, and especially the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, that things are not as black as they have been painted.
When we come to consider the number fixed upon by the Government—60 councillors and 10 aldermen—I think it is legitimate to compare this total of 70 members with that pertaining in other big towns. My noble friend Lord Wolverton brought in a matter of figures in respect of the county council and 884 urban district councils of Suffolk, but I would say to him that we must compare like with like.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
Equally, is it not true that we should compare what you propose and what is now in existence in the areas with which you are dealing?
§ LORD HASTINGS
I happen to know that, because I motor through them both quite frequently. I was saying that we should compare like with like, and therefore this cannot be taken as a scheme to be extended indiscriminately throughout the country; of course not. If we take the two largest of the proposed London boroughs—Nos. 9 and 10, part of Wandsworth and Lambeth, on the one hand, and the other part of Wandsworth and Battersea, on the other—we find that they will have populations of about 340,000 and 335,000 respectively. The nearest equivalent outside Greater London would be Nottingham, with 313,000, and Coventry, with 305,000 people. The total membership of the Nottingham council is 68 and that of Coventry is 64, of which the directly elected members number only 51 and 48 respectively.
§ LORD WALSTON
May I interrupt the noble Lord? Without putting him in an awkward position, would he say that Nottingham has been a model of local government in the past few years?
§ LORD HASTINGS
I am not prepared to comment on that and annoy the burgesses of Nottingham for the sake of pleasing the noble Lord opposite.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
May I interrupt the noble Lord? He said that he would compare not only like with like, but what is in existence now. Can he say the number of councillors that the areas he has mentioned have now and what they will have under the Bill?
§ LORD HASTINGS
I am coming to something very like that presently, if the noble Lord will have patience.
Mention has been made of the extra functions and responsibilities of councillors. As county boroughs, Nottingham 885 and Coventry already have wider functions than will belong to the new London boroughs—I hope the noble Lord was listening. I said that as county boroughs, Nottingham and Coventry, whose figures I have just given, have wider functions than will belong to the new London boroughs. I make that point in reply to the noble Lord's comment that the councillors will have added responsibilities in the new London boroughs.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
It does not necessarily mean that we accept what is in existence there as what we should like to see.
§ LORD HASTINGS
I should like to turn for a moment to consideration of the ratio laid down in the noble Lord's Amendment, in order to make a comparison with the position as it will be under the Bill. If we retain the maximum of 60 councillors, a London borough would comply with the noble Lord's criterion, provided that it had not more than 180,000 electors. That is straightforward arithmetic. Thirteen out of the 32 new boroughs proposed have more than this figure. The others have the same or less. The largest number would be in one of the boroughs I have already mentioned, No. 9, which is Lambeth and part of Wandsworth. There they have 231,000 electors and, still retaining the maximum laid down in the Bill of 60 councillors, this would work out at 3,800 electors per councillor. That is the largest ratio in a new London borough, below the 4,000 mentioned by the noble Lord.
§ THE EARL OF LUCAN
Is the noble Lord counting aldermen in with councillors?—because for the purpose of ratio they should not be included, only the elected councillors.
§ LORD HASTINGS
I am not including aldermen; I am referring to councillors. If the noble Lord divides 231,000 by 60, it will work out correctly. Is this really so much more than the noble Lord's figure of 3,000 electors per councillor as to render the job of the councillors and aldermen, who share the work, impossible or very much more difficult? In fact, that ratio of 3,800 electors per councillor tallies very closely with the present ratio existing in Croydon, which is the one county borough the noble Lord himself mentioned. The overall 886 average, in fact, which I have obtained while other noble Lords have been speaking, will work out, if we have the maximum number of councillors in each borough, at one to 2,800; ranging from 3,800 at the top level, which I have just quoted, to one councillor for every 1,900 electors in Kingston. I hope that these figures will allay some of the worries noble Lords have had.
Finally, I would stress that in response to pressure in another place—and I think this is important because it answers several noble Lords' questions—my right honourable friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government has made special inquiries of the local authority associations which represent urban authorities of about the same size as the London boroughs. It will interest your Lordships to know that the Association of Municipal Corporations supported the figures in the Bill without any qualification. The Metropolitan Boroughs Standing Joint Committee, on the other hand, had a reservation that the matter might need to be reviewed in the light of experience; but in the meanwhile they were firm in supporting the figures relating to a maximum number of members of the council inserted in the Bill by Her Majesty's Government. That should answer the question of the noble Lord, Lord Auckland, and other noble Lords who have wondered about this. As I said at the beginning. I feel that it was necessary to set a limitation in the way we have, and after the most careful consideration we believe that we have struck the right balance between efficiency, on the one hand, and representation of the people, on the other. Therefore, I ask your Lordships to reject this Amendment.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
May I ask the noble Lord one question? Does the Bill give power to vary its number of 60 at any time?
§ 4.47 p.m.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
In moving the Second Reading, the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 248 (No. 71) col 1137]:The system we are now seeking to establish will, I trust, serve Londoners for the rest of the century, and it is our responsibility 887 to ensure that in so doing we look to the future and not just to the past.In those circumstances, the answer which the noble Lord, the Parliamentary Secretary has given, replying to the point just raised by my noble friend Lord Shepherd, is surprising. Not only is the Bill, we think, unsatisfactory as it is; but certainly in the light of experience there ought to be power to vary the number of councillors upwards, or indeed downwards, if that should be shown to be requisite. I think that under the London Government Act 1899, it can be done in the case of metropolitan boroughs; variations can be made by the Secretary of State or the Minister—I forget which. I remember that when I first became a member of Hackney Borough Council, as Mayor co-opted from the outside, in truly democratic fashion, it was a council of 70, and there was a Labour majority of two. That was the principal reason I was co-opted from outside: they could not afford to appoint a member of the council; otherwise their majority would have gone. Anyway, it was a very valuable experience for me.
But since that time the number of members of that council has fallen to somewhere between 45 and 50, and in view of the passion in this Bill for ministerial orders, statutory instruments, floating all over the Bill, to which we have drawn attention before, it is amazing that there is no ministerial power to vary the memberships of councils by order if experience shows that to be desirable. The maximum number provided under the Bill is 60 elected councillors, plus 10 aldermen, which makes 70 altogether. I presume that the committees will have power to co-opt, as existing committees of local authorities have—I will repeat that in case the noble Lord did not hear it. I quite appreciate that noble Lords on the other side must talk to each other now and again; and so must we. And you will need to over there very much before we have done with you. I presume that local authorities will have powers to co-opt members to committees to the extent that they can do under exiting local government law. That, of course, is helpful.
There is some argument as to how many electors, an the average, the new councillors will represent in the London 888 borough councils. Some of my noble friends on this side of the House are not disposed to agree, on the face of it, with the figures that the Parliamentary Secretary has given. He, on the other hand, thinks that his figures are right. I submit to him that it would be useful if the Government were to circulate, as a White Paper or otherwise, a return showing the number of electors in each proposed borough, the number of proposed councillors, and the average number of electors represented by each councillor in the borough. We shall then know what we are talking about, and if we are wrong on the figures, then we will think about it again between now and the Report stage.
This is a difficult matter. I agree that you can have a town council that is too big for its job. That is a nuisance because there will be too much talking done. I admit that some local authorities have a passion for appointing committees that are too large for their job. There can be some others who have a passion far appointing committees that are too small in numbers for the job. Somehow, you have to find a happy medium. So if we get the official figures between now and the Report stage we can have a look at it again.
But the thing that worries me about local government, in all political Parties and not merely one, is that it is difficult to keep the quality of councils as high as they ought to be—difficult for everybody. It is not merely a matter of difficulty for the Labour Party. I assure you that there has been a deterioration in the quality of Conservative Parties in quite a number of municipalities, including the London County Council, which of course I know well—that is the only reason I mention it. I think that if you go far enough back it will be found that it was the custom—I do not say it was a good one—of the old aristocracy in provincial England to regard it as necessary, almost automatic, and certainly a desirable form of voluntary public service, to serve on the county council or some other local authority. They gave up a fair amount of time to this work, as they did previously on the bench of quarter sessions and so on.
Now that has largely gone. As a matter of fact many of the aristocracy served a fair amount of time in the House 889 of Commons. They have largely gone. I do not say that it is a bad thing. However, we have still got a few left here to make up for it. But that element has largely gone out from local government. It is partly because the aristocracy now has positively to work for its living a little more than it used to because of financial considerations; partly because they are paying stiffer taxation than they used to pay and they want to conserve their resources, and partly, I am afraid, because of a deterioration in public spirit on the part of the aristocracy.
It was also true that the local well-to-do manufacturer, the local tycoon—I am arguing against myself to some extent here, because I have often urged Labour electors to clear these chaps off the local authority—used to serve in local government. There were also the top men in business. The same thing has happened in the House of Commons. They used to have top men in business there; and there are a few now; but there are more second-tier and third-tier men from business in the other House of Parliament now, and in local government they are hardly there at all. What do they argue? They say that they have not got the time. That is not altogether true. In their case also there has beer a deterioration in public spirit. That is a great pity, because it is a loss to the democratic quality of the nation. They have not got time, they say, or there is too much scrapping going on, which means that they cannot take it. They should scrap back. Some of them do not like that. The consequence is that the quality of local government is falling.
We have now got higher and much better education, but it is not too easy to get people to stand for county councils, or indeed for any other authorities. It is not that we in the Labour Party have not got the quality; we have. So up to a point have the Conservative Party; and so have the Liberal Party, up to a point, though it varies a great deal from one Liberal to another. The quality is there in the Party that I know best-namely, the Labour Party; but, somehow or other, it is a job to get those concerned to stand for local government. It is partly a time factor. Consequently, if there are riot enough councillors plus alderman to do the jab, then the burden on the individual councillor and alderman must be increased.
890 The noble Lord opposite talked of the average number of committees in metropolitan boroughs. That has nothing to do with the case. Under this Bill you are deliberately conferring materially greater powers upon the boroughs. In fact, the Government do not want to give anything to the Greater London Council to do if they can possibly give it to the boroughs. They have gone borough mad. Consequently, the boroughs have many additional functions to discharge. They are on the way to being county boroughs or, as my noble friend Lord Lindgren called them, all-purpose authorities. That being so, they must have a greater number of committees unless the committees are going to be overloaded. I am in favour of rationalising committees and not having too many of them; but there comes a point at which you have to set up other committees because you are putting too much on the existing committees. That has to be considered. There will have to be more committees or there will have to be longer sittings. That is a factor, too. These long sittings make a difference in the people who turn up. There is a tendency here for long sittings, for which the Government seem to have a passion, which we have not—we shall not have long sittings for fun; I would rather go home to my Lancashire wife. But these long sittings in the councils tend to make people leave the council and go off because they think it is too big a strain on them.
Then there is no distinction in the Bill between the inner London boroughs and the outer London boroughs. But there are two distinctions: one, is that in area the outer London boroughs will have, on the average, a rather more sparse population than the inner London boroughs. This can argue two ways—namely, that you have not got the population and therefore you can reduce the number of councillors; but, on the other hand, in so far as the councillors' wards have to cover a bigger area there is a case prima facie for more councillors. The inner London boroughs have a greater and more dense population than the outer London boroughs, but the outer London boroughs are going to be education authorities. The inner London boroughs are not going to be. This is an enormous difference. I think that what is going to happen about education is a mistake, 891 anyway. I think the Ministers concerned with education ought to be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. They will go down in history as not being good friends of education, but rather as Party politicians.
However, the outer London boroughs are going to be education authorities. This is not merely a matter of another committee; it is not only a matter of an education committee—probably also a higher education sub-committee, a secondary education sub-committee, a primary education sub-committee, a special schools sub-committee, a staff committee, and possibly one or two I have forgotten. These sub-committees of the education committee, in our experience on the London County Council, are as important as many other full committees of the Council. This has not been taken into account.
The truth is that the Minister of Housing and Local Government does not understand local government. The only experience he has had was as a member of the Common Council of the City—and that is pantomime local government. That does not give him knowledge of local government, and he is not competent to discharge his duties. His predecessor, Mr. Brooke, did understand local government, but he knew what he was doing—he was gerrymandering. But that is another matter. This Minister just does not understand it. Therefore, you want something elastic in this Bill, with some sort of maximum or minimum figure which the council must represent of the local government electorate.
The Government are so utterly illogical. They argue that the great purpose of this Bill is to bring local government nearer to the individual citizen. What is it doing? It is establishing a vast Greater London authority and vast boroughs which will make the citizen less close to the borough. It is going to give the councillor more electors, which makes him farther away from the people who want to approach him on various things. But when they get to the City of London, this curious survival of the Middle Ages, then they leave the position as it is with one councillor to perhaps one hundred electors or less. The Government do nothing about it because the Minister of Housing and Local Government was 892 a member of the Common Council and his father was Lord Mayor. And the City is Tory. Do not disturb these ancient Tory institutions!
§ LORD HASTINGS
And I cannot allow him to go on in that way without some remonstrance. It is quite untrue.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
Certainly, it is a free country. You are entitled to make some remonstrance; so am I. And I say that the Government are actuated in this whole business by improper motives. But they preserve these curious little tin pot wards of the City—I believe one of the wards is actually outside the City itself, and has no representation at all (I am not sure but I think this is so), but the ones inside have very few electors, and they leave it. Why did the Government not bring this reform into the City? On the figures and on the general principle of this Bill they ought to reduce the number of Common Councillors in the City of London to about three, if they apply the same principle as they do to the new London boroughs.
I do not want to quarrel with the noble Lord—I think he is a very pleasant noble Lord—nor do I want to quarrel with the noble Lord from the Home Office. But it is my business not to remonstrate with them, but to correct them when they are wrong and to show them the error of their ways. I therefore hope that the Government will be good enough to look at this matter again with a real wish to make alterations. If not, we will have to see what we can do about it as the minutes go on.
§ LORD LINDGREN
The noble Lord, Lord Hastings, referred to the Cities of Nottingham and Coventry, both of which are county boroughs, and mentioned their relationship to members 893 and the duties they perform, and said that we should compare like with like. I agree, but one cannot compare anything with London because of the difficulties of London. I know Nottingham and Coventry and the councils of both of them extremely well. The council house in both cities tends to be towards the city centre, and this means that members of the local authorities have reasonable access to the centre, the council house and committees. Transport focuses on the centre.
It is not only a question of attending meetings that really matters; it is the question of the time taken getting to and from meetings which is the added responsibility. Take any of the outer London boroughs which have as many functions as the Cities of Nottingham or Coventry. They are all-purpose authorities. Hardly a person who is a member of the Harrow or Barnet councils, for example, will not be coming into the City of London to their work. There will be problems—apart from the man-led women and the retired people who will be living on the job. What it means in local government is that a man starts off from his home at 8 o'clock in the morning, gets to his office or workshop, and then has to leave at 9 o'clock to get to a committee at 10 o'clock at the town hall, and then he has to return to his work. It is this travelling between the place of work and the home, and then from the place of work to the council meeting, which makes meetings of these sort of the outer London boroughs an added function. Unless local government is going to bring in those people who are actively engaged in trade, industry and commerce, local government is going to suffer. Unless the work can be spread one is not going to get that type of person to come in. They just cannot afford to be off for part of every day in order to attend to local functions.
VISCOUNT ST. DAVIDS
I should like to make a further plea, which always has an effect in your Lordships' House, for the younger man. Time and again in this House we have had speeches from all quarters saying how important it is for the younger man to take part in our debates. Here we are, just like a local authority, completely unpaid. If you look around this Committee now you can see that there is a large proportion of Members with white hair, or, indeed, no hair 894 at all. It would be greatly to the benefit of these local authorities if there could be more young men serving on them. By limiting the number of council members, it means that the young men may well not be able to take the time off to serve, and it is preventing local authorities from enjoying the services of these young men. The young man has only a certain amount of time and a certain amount of energy in the course of the day, and if he has to go to do his job, and go from the scattered places where he works to where all these committees take place, he just cannot do it. There is a limit even on what a young man can do. Let us have this business so arranged that we can get more young men on these councils.
§ 5.9 p.m.
§ LORD HASTINGS
I agree that the problem of getting young men on to councils is a country-wide problem; and it is not only related to London and not solely related to this Amendment. It is a problem which has to be faced.
§ LORD HASTINGS
In reply to the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, who referred to my comparing like with like, we have had consultations not only with the A.M.C. outside London, but with the Standing Joint Committee on Metropolitan Boroughs, who have agreed to these figures but who would like to see the possibility of a review at some stage. That brings me to the first criticism of the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, who thought that in the old Act of 1899 there was provision for variation upwards—an extension of the numbers of councillors. I am informed that that is not so. There is no provision for extension upwards; nor is there in the 1939 Act, or in this Bill.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
I thought there was power to reduce the number of councillors, which in fact has happened in the Metropolitian Borough of Hackney, though I do not think there was any legislation about it. Perhaps the term "upwards" has misled the noble Lord. I do not want to be dogmatic about it, but I thought that was so.
§ LORD HASTINGS
There is power of variation, but not upwards. I daresay that there is downwards. And, of course, 895 there is power in this Bill for variation of wards. If the population changes within a borough, the council itself can apply for variations, and that is dealt with in Schedule 1. There is also the power of co-option to committees in boroughs under the Local Government Act, 1933, and that will not be altered so far as the new London boroughs are concerned. As for circulating a paper showing details of the boroughs and their electorates, the number of councillors, averages and so on, I will refer that matter to my right honourable friend and see whether we can agree to produce something which would be helpful at the Report stage.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
I hope the noble Lord will be good enough to include the City in that return, because it would be interesting.
§ LORD HASTINGS
As I say, I do not know that we shall be able to do it. But I will certainly take up that point. I do not really think, much as we enjoyed the noble Lord's very wide-ranging talk on local government, of which he is an outstanding master, of course, that I need reply to anything he has said on that. I have replied to the particular questions he put, and therefore I would ask your Lordships not to accept this Amendment.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
I just wish to exercise my right of replying to the Minister. First of all, I would say to him that we are grateful for his general approach. It was not exactly constructive, but it was not unconstructive. I think there is a certain agreement between both sides here that we do not wish Ito see enormous local authorities quite out of keeping with the electorate or the size. What we wish to see is that, irrespective of the size and the electorate, the area should be properly represented; and that—forgetting Nottingham, as we are not concerned at the moment with Nottingham; we are concerned with the position now in London—the representation shall not in any way be detrimental.
The noble Lord said that the Government had had consultation with local authority associations; that they had not exactly had hard and fast objections to the figure of 60, but that one of the authorities said that they would like to have a review. I should have thought 896 that that attitude would have been generally accepted throughout the House: that from time to time facts change, positions change, and maybe the duties change. Therefore there should be some degree of flexibility in deciding what is fair and right for a locality, as regards the number who should represent the people within it. In a few years' time you may have to give a new duty to a borough, but if you recognise that there should be some flexibility, that there should be a review, can you have a review? Would there be any purpose in a review? You are fixed to the figure of 60. You cannot alter it, you cannot increase it, as the noble Lord said to the Committee a short while ago. It is no good the noble Lords saying: "Here is a local authority association prepared to accept a figure of 60, but they would like a review." There is no point in having a review unless you can give effect to a review. As I see it, in the Bill that cannot be done. You are tied to this fixed figure of 60. I think that figure should be taken out. I should be quite happy to accept a figure of one councillor for every 3,500, or maybe a figure that the Government would like to give us. But let us at least get rid of this rigidity in the Bill.
May I remind the Committee again of the words of my noble friend when quoting the Lord Chancellor? This is a Bill to deal with local government in London through the century. We still have 40 years to go. Many changes may take place. We may need to alter many things within the boroughs, particularly representation. Let us, at least, be able to do it without having to go through the whole process of bringing forward an Act of Parliament. I feel that I cannot possibly withdraw this Amendment.
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
Before any vote is taken, may I say that I came in rather too late to hear the whole of the speech by the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, but I thought he was speaking to the Committee very fairly. But I want to say a word if I can on behalf of the Liberals. The Liberals do not seem to have had very much argument about this, and they have something very great to defend in this matter. I am bound to say that, having listened to the broadcast this week on behalf of the Liberal Party in relation 897 to the local authority elections. At a North Country studio they called evidence from all over the country as to what the Liberal members of the councils were actually doing for their constituents. Their objective was one of individual service to all the particular constituents whom they represented on the council. Evidence was brought that nobody else did anything for them but the Liberals, and that this was done because they were able to do it. They were able to do it how? Because in many of the places mentioned they probably have nothing like as large a number of constituents to represent as the noble Lord's Government are now going to make necessary by the change.
Perhaps the great thing that has taken place in local government, and maybe it is something which has led to a reduction in the number of people who go to the polls, is the fact that there is a great individual service by councillors to their constituents, and you surely do not want to damp that down. I do not want to see in Parliamentary reform anything which will revert the situation to what it was when I was a lad. Then an M.P. was on a pinnacle on which you could never reach him. He had no organisation for service to his constituents—none at all. Labour introduced, for the first time, regular service by the individual Member in his constituency, regular attendances to give individual consultations which were open to any constituent. That altered the whole basis of public service from elected representatives. There has been the same sort of development in municipal government.
It surely ought not to be the objective of the Government to change the position so severely, as has been pointed out by my noble friend. What is the motive? I still have not heard what is the real motive of the Government in this matter. I take it that, in the alterations between the different sections of the present London County Council, or in some of the districts which are not in that area but which will be under the local government of Greater London, you will find some very peculiar things happening. I daresay that in some places, where you are making changes which you expect are going to help the Conservative candidates, you may be disappointed. On the other hand, there may be very great 898 confidence in the mind of the Government about how some of these manipulations of the number of constituents to a councillor are going to work out in the elections.
We are very suspicious of the whole Bill in its policy of gerrymandering, and we have to see in a clause of this kind exactly what the Government have in mind. What is their real motive in so reducing the number of councillors in relation to the electorates of those places? I can see no real answer yet from the Government. If they would give us an answer which was effective, we might reconsider the position. But at present I am not convinced.
§ LORD DOUGLAS OF BARLOCH
Before we take leave of this discussion, I should like to put a question to the noble Lord. He has said that under the London Government Act, 1899, it is not possible to increase the number of councillors in a metropolitan borough. It is a great many years since I read the Act, but I venture to think that the noble Lord is completely wrong about that. But, in any case, he ought to be familiar with what is contained in the Bill which we are discussing at the present moment, and I want to direct his attention to Part III of Schedule 1. That provides:If at any time the Secretary of Skate is satisfied…whether on representations made to him by the council of the borough or otherwise,that there are grounds for altering the number of the wards, the boundaries of the wards, the numbers of councillors of the borough, the apportionment of councillors or the name of the ward, he can cause an inquiry to be made by a commissioner and can give effect to the report which the commissioner makes. I am absolutely astounded that the noble Lord should tell this Committee that there is no power under this Bill as it is drafted to increase the number of councillors beyond the figure of 60.
§ LORD HASTINGS
The total number in the borough would not be affected by Part III of Schedule 1. I think this is governed by the Local Government Act, 1933. I think that is the right answer.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment shall be agreed to?899
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 27; Not-Contents. 62.
|Alexander of Hillsborough, E.||Latham, L.||St. Davids, V.|
|Amulree, L.||Lindgren, L. [Teller.]||Shepherd, L.|
|Attlee, E.||Lucan, E. [Teller.]||Silkin, L.|
|Champion, L.||Milne, L||Sinha, L.|
|Crook, L.||Milner of Leeds, L.||Strang, L.|
|Douglas of Barloch, L.||Morrison of Lambeth, L.||Walston, L.|
|Faringdon, L.||Peddie, L.||Williams, L.|
|Henderson, L.||Rea, L.||Williams of Barnburgh, L.|
|Kilbracken, L.||Sainsbury, L.||Wise, L.|
|Ailwyn, L.||Elliot of Harwood, B.||Lansdowne, M.|
|Ampthill, L.||Ferrers, E.||Long, V.|
|Atholl, D.||Forster of Harraby, L.||Lothian, M.|
|Auckland, L.||Fortescue, E.||Margesson, V.|
|Balfour of Inchrye, L.||Fraser of Lonsdale, L.||Mersey, V.|
|Barnby, L.||Freyberg, L.||Milverton, L.|
|Bessborough, E.||Gage, V.||Molson, L.|
|Bethell, L.||Goschen, V. [Teller.]||Montgomery of Alamein, V.|
|Blackford, L.||Grenfell, L.||Newton, L.|
|Carrington, L.||Hailsham, V. (L. President.)||Onslow, E.|
|Chelmer, L.||Hamilton of Dalzell, L.||Rockley, L.|
|Cholmondeley, M.||Hanworth, V.||St. Aldwyn, E. [Teller.]|
|Clitheroe, L.||Hastings, L.||St. Oswald, L.|
|Colville of Culross, V.||Hawke, L.||Sandford, L.|
|Colyton, L.||Horsbrugh, B.||Sinclair, L.|
|Conesford, L.||Howard of Glossop, L.||Somers, L.|
|Crathorne, L.||Howe, E.||Swinton, E.|
|Croft, L.||Ilford, L.||Teynham, L.|
|Devonshire, D.||Jellicoe, E.||Twining, L.|
|Dilhorne, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Jessel, L.||Wolverton, L.|
|Eccles, L.||Kilmuir, E.|
§ Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
Page 2, line 22, leave out from ("Before") to end of line and insert ("the Minister makes as respects a London borough either representations under subsection (2) of this section for the grant of a charter or an incorporation order under subsection (2A) thereof").—(Lord Hastings.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ 5.31 p.m.
LORD CHAMPION moved, in subsection (3) to leave out all words after "made" and insert:
a group of one hundred or more persons, local government electors, living in the area of the proposed London Borough shall have the right to make representations to the Secretary of State about the provisions of the incorporation order and the Secretary of State, may cause a local inquiry to be made and such notice be given and if satisfied chart such alteration is desirable may amend the order accordingly.
§ The noble Lord said: The Amendment which we were discussing just now 900 dealt with the relations between the elector and his council. What we are now about to discuss is an Amendment which is concerned with the rights of the ordinary citizen towards the distribution of the wards, the boundaries of the wards, and the matters which will have to be the subject of incorporation under this Bill, and under the Amendments that have been moved this afternoon. Incidentally, I was glad to see that the Amendments that have been moved have not invalidated the Amendment which I now propose to move and which went down on the Order Paper before I saw the Amendment previously moved by the noble Lord, Lord Hastings.
§ As I understand it, when a Local Government Boundary Commission is dealing with boundaries outside London it must first of all serve a public notice of intention to review. Secondly, it must allow a reasonable interval for consultation by the local authority with other local authorities and with other interested bodies—and I would stress particularly, in this connection, "other interested bodies". The Commission, after a 901 suitable interval of time has elapsed to allow these consultations to take place, will prepare draft proposals. These draft proposals are put to the local authority, and again they are made available for public inspection. And at this stage it is still possible for interested bodies to make representations to the Commission. Finally, the Commission must confer with all local authorities and other bodies before the Commission's report is finally submitted to the Minister, for ratification or otherwise.
§ So there are at least these three opportunities for consultation to the local authorities and ordinary citizens through their political Parties, civic associations and all the rest. After all this has been done the Minister examines the report of the Commission. If he alters it then it has to go back to the area concerned, when, once again, all the interested bodies have to be consulted—at least, they have the opportunity to examine the Minister's alterations in relation to the Commission's original boundary proposals and to make representations upon the Minister's proposals.
§ As I understand this Bill, Part III of Schedule 1 gives citizens some rights in Landon; but, we are attempting by this Amendment to emphasise the rights of the citizen and to improve them in the main Part of the Bill. We do not want them to be merely tucked away in the Schedule. But what we are doing, in addition, is, as I see it, seeking to extend the rights of the ordinary citizens, the people who eventually will be affected by the chanter of incorporation and by the boundaries which are set up by that charter of incorporation. The Amendment provides that a body of 100 citizens should have this right of direct representation to the Secretary of State. This, we say, gives people a local status and standing; the ordinary citizen is given an interest in what is going on; and this should stimulate his interest in this great task which now has to be performed of securing charters of incorporation, deciding upon boundaries, and eventually setting up the form of local government for London which clearly the Government seek to produce.
§ We want to ensure that upon such representations as we visualise in our Amendment to the Secretary of State—and of course the Home Office must 902 come into this matter; and there will not be representations, in the case of the Boundary Commission for areas outside London, to the Minister of Local Government et cetera—the Home Office, as the responsible Ministry, will be brought into this matter. It appears to us from the Schedule that the Minister is to have absolute discretion as to the ordering of an inquiry. That is something we should like to see altered. We want to ensure that the Minister will order an inquiry not only upon the representations of local authorities and such bodies as may be concerned, but certainly on the representations of a body of local citizens of the number of 100. We have inserted the figure of 100 as being a sufficient number to ensure that this is not a frivolous representation but one which has some backing within the area concerned.
§ We want to make it quite clear that the ordinary citizen has rights in this matter. We want to bring him into this picture. We want, too, to encourage citizens to show an interest in what is taking place and in those matters which, as I have said before, are bound to affect their lives in the future—because in these local government bodies we have bodies which touch very closely the lives of the people. The Bill, by creating such large units as it does, seems to us on this side of the House to be taking local government farther and farther away from the ordinary citizen. This is a mistake. So that here we do want to encourage the ordinary citizen, first of all, to take an interest in what is taking place in London and then to consider whether the proposed charter of incorporation and boundaries which it will define are those which they would regard as being reasonable in all the circumstances. We do want them to have a right to make such representation as will cause a public inquiry to be held.
§ In my opinion, the practice of holding public inquiries has become a useful part of our democratic system. It enables the ordinary man to secure representation. It ensures that local authoriteis and any bodies who are interested in civic matters shall be able to make representations. I do not regard them as something held merely in order that the discontented or the disgruntled can come along and let off steam, but as a system which enables people to expose administrative decisions which may result in public inconvenience. 903 For all these reasons, I beg to move the Amendment which appears on the Order Paper in the name of my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth.
Page 2, leave out from beginning of line 23 to end of line 27 and insert the said new words.—(Lord Champion.)
§ LORD LINDGREN
In supporting my noble friend in this Amendment, I have to admit that a large section of the electors who will be affected by this Bill could not care less whether they have a mayor or a chairman, whether their locality is called a borough or an urban district. What they are concerned about is having a high standard of social service in the area in which they live and paying as little for it as it is possible to pay. Therefore, it would not be unfair for the noble Lord who is going to reply to say that, because of that, this Amendment is not necessary. But even within London, which is considered to be not quite so parochial as other parts of the country, ther are distinct local loyalties. I can think of Bethnal Green and Southwark, and of parts of Islington and St. Pancras, where a considerable section of residents have associations with their localities which are very dear to them. Under any redistribution which will take place under this Bill, it is inevitable that many of these loyalties are going to be disturbed. And I think it is all to the good that those who have objections should be given an opportunity of voicing them and making representations against what they feel to be an unreasonable allocation to another area.
It may be argued that in relation to the total electorate the figure of 100 is small. Vested interests like political parties and chambers of commerce have wide-ranging activities, in which they can get in touch with people, and because of their standing, they can make representations effectively. There is no danger that they will not be considered. It is the groups of people who are not effectively organised, politically, industrially or commercially, which ought to be given an opportunity of making representation, if they feel strongly enough about it. I think, therefore, that 100 is about right for unorganised people. It is the right size to enable them to get around among those concerned in the locality in order to secure 904 that representation is made. I think that the need to secure the support of 100 people and justify their representations publicly will stop any frivolous groups of people from taking action just for the fun of the thing.
§ LORD AUCKLAND
The motive behind this Amendment is wholly warranted, but I wonder whether the mechanics of it are quite so satisfactory. A public inquiry, particularly on matters of this kind, often takes a long time. In my own locality we have had two or three lately. This seems to be the kind of thing that a local residents' association or ratepayers' associaton or some organised local body should take up, rather than the "100 or more people" mentioned in the Amendment. I wonder whether it would be possible to put in the words "recognised organisation" or something of that kind. I think there is substance in the motive behind the Amendment, but, though I am not a lawyer, it seems to me that there will be difficulties and possibly delays sufficient to make the mechanics of this Amendment somewhat unworkable.
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
I want to support strongly the well-argued speech of my noble friend Lord Champion. He put the real democratic basis of election procedure in this country, in which all the people should have the chance of expressing their views on anything which comes suddenly upon them and on which they have not had a chance of voting. My noble friend Lord Lindgren made a good speech, and although his facts were right I was a little anxious, on this particular Amendment, about the amount of disinterestedness in some municipal areas. On the other hand, take a great and important borough like Croydon, which is to be amalgamated with a considerable and powerful urban district in an oddly shaped contour. The representatives of Croydon are against the Government on this matter. They have a large extension of area and population offered to them, but the borough does not want it. What is happening to the charter so far as the people of Croydon are concerned? They have no chance to pronounce upon it. You force it on them. That is not right. I thoroughly support my noble friend Lord Champion in that.
905 But let us look at the other party concerned in this particular area. I recognise what my noble friend Lord Lindgren said about certain parts of London, and especially many parts towards the centre, which have been well assisted by the general organisation of the London County Council. They also have a great interest in their own locality, for reasons that go back many decades. But take Coulsdon and Purley, that powerful, large and growing urban district which is now to be forced into Croydon. There may be disinterestedness in municipal politics in many places, but here is a case which has been submitted, I expect, to all Members of your Lordships' House, in which in this matter, in support of the strong objection of the elected urban district council, but without any organised petition by the urban district council, 22,000 ratepayers in a total population of 75,000 have petitioned against this being done.
Before their boundaries are changed in this manner, should not the people of that urban district be entitled to call for a public inquiry? They will have no chance at a General Election to express their views on this Bill of the national Government; the Government will be acting without reference to the Electorate. I think my noble friend Lord Champion has made the case 100 per cent. for making provision that there should be a public inquiry before the actual boundaries are juggled about with like this, without any desire on the part of the inhabitants for it to happen. I hope my noble friend's Amendment will be accepted.
§ 5.52 p.m.
I am grateful to the noble Lords who have put down this Amendment. I am grateful for two reasons. In the first place, it gives me a chance of entering the lists in support of this Bill. I realise that our tournament may be a rather lengthy one, and I have no doubt that I, for one, shall have a tumble or two, but I hope, at least, to win this preliminary joust. I hope—and this is the second reason why I am glad to speak in answer to the Amendment—that I shall be able to show your Lordships that this subsection of the clause., as drafted, is perfectly right and proper and democratic, as indeed is the rest of the Bill.
This subsection provides, as your Lordships can see, for my right honourable friends the Home Secretary and the Minister of Housing and Local Government to arrange for notices to be published and for such inquiries to be held as may appear to them to be expedient. Your Lordships will note that the Minister of Housing and Local Government is responsible for some provisions to be included in the instrument of incorporation, and it would, I think, for this reason be wrong to cut that Minister out from this part of the clause, as I think he would be under the noble Lord's Amendment. I say this, as it were, in passing; I am not making a substantive point here.
It is my right honourable friend the Home Secretary who will be responsible for those provisions which are necessary to enable the first elections to the new borough councils to be held. I think it is this aspect of the matter (I may be wrong about this) which mainly concerns noble Lords opposite. If it is matters which fall to the Minister of Housing and Local Government to decide, like the safeguarding of ancient rights, possibly touching on matters which the noble Earl the Leader of the Opposition mentioned, then it would be for the Minister of Housing and Local Government. But he is excluded as a result of the Amendment. Therefore I have taken it that the Amendment bites mainly on the province of my right honourable friend the Home Secretary, and I should like, therefore, in answer, to refer particularly to our plans for the initial division of the areas of the proposed borough groups into wards for the election of borough councils, because it is that which concerns my right honourable friend's sphere here. I should like to stress that. So far as he is concerned, it is a rather limited field with which we are dealing here, and not the wide field to which the noble Lord, Lord Champion, referred, namely, the wide field covered by the Local Government Commission.
907 Noble Lords, speaking in support of the Amendment, have claimed that it will ensure that full regard is had to local views in determining these matters like warding arrangements. Let me say straight away that the Government entirely share their view that ordinary citizens should be given full opportunity to put forward their views in this respect. The procedure which will be followed in this respect will, I think, enable this to happen; and it may be helpful if on this point—because I think there is a bit of misconception about this subsection—I explain what has been done so far, and what will happen when the Bill becomes law.
Some four months ago, in January last, my Department invited the local authorities within each of the 32 proposed borough groups to consult together and submit co-ordinated draft proposals for the division of boroughs into wards and for the number of councillors, and for their apportionment as between wards. Those individual existing authorities who were unable to reach agreement on joint proposals were asked to submit ward proposals for their area based only on the number of councillors agreed with the other authorities in the group. We have so far received proposals covering 26 out of the 32 proposed London boroughs. In the other 6 borough groups local authorities have so far been unable to reach agreement on the number of councillors to be apportioned. They have sought guidance from my right honourable friend the Home Secretary on this point, so that they can work out proposals for their own areas.
The next stop in the procedure will not be taken—and local authorities are about to be informed that this is so—until the Bill becomes law. Arrangements will then be made for the warding proposals to be published in local newspapers. The necessary notices—and this is the point to which I had assumed the Amendment was mainly directed—will go on to invite any person (and I would stress that) to submit representations to the Home Office.
It is "any person". I should like to stress that. I 908 speak subject to correction on this point, but I think I am right in saying that any person will be allowed to make representations.
One can make the representation, but if it is frivolous, then, of course, it will not be entertained. What I should like to stress there is that anyone can make the representations, irrespective of whether it is frivolous or not: not 10, as was proposed in the original Amendment in the other place on this matter, and not 100, as is now proposed in the noble Lord's Amendment. May I say, in passing, that we were twitted on our mystique of 60; I should like to twit back noble Lords opposite on the mystique of the particular figure of 100 as opposed to the earlier figure of 10.
If I may go on with procedure, I hope to be able to convince noble Lords opposite that this is a perfectly straightforward, democratic and normal procedure which is being adopted. After the notices have been posted, a period of at least one month—and we have it in mind to make it rather more, since this may fall in the silly season of August—will be allowed for the submission of representations. The latest date for the submission of representations will be specified in the notices. If representations which show a clear prima facie case for examination are received, the Home Secretary will appoint a Commissioner to hold a local inquiry.
Again, if a Commissioner is appointed, a second notice will be published in the same way as the first. This notice will state the date, the place and the time at which the Commissioner will hold the inquiry; that any person interested can inspect particulars of the proposals at the offices of the existing local authorities, and that any person interested may attend the inquiry. When the inquiry has been held, the Commissioner will draw up a scheme in the light of all the points of view put forward at that inquiry. The Commissioner will submit the scheme to the Home Secretary, who will consider it and decide on the provisions to be included in the instrument of incorporation.
909 I hope that the procedure which I have outlined will remove any doubts in the minds of noble Lords about the opportunities which will be given to ordinary citizens—and this is the point I thought noble Lords opposite were mainly seized on—to state and represent their views on these matters. It is quite true that in our clause the Ministers will not be required to hold an inquiry. But by the same token, I must say that I read the noble Lord's Amendment in the same way, because it says… may cause a local inquiry to be made…and if satisfied that such alteration is desirable may amend the order accordingly.It seems to me that their Amendment is not more and no less permissive than is the original subsection. In any event, I should like again to emphasise that the procedure which we have in mind is similar and parallel to that found in Section 25 of the London Government Act, 1939. That section contains no provision giving a right to any specific number of local government electors to make representations, and still less does it debar fewer than any specified number of electors from doing so. In fact, it is already the practice to take into account all the representations received, and we are not departing one iota from that practice.
Therefore, I should like to say, in conclusion, that I feel I am fully entitled to assure your Lordships that the Government have every intention, both in the initial division and again in the subsequent alteration of wards to London boroughs which is provided in Part III of Schedule 1 to the Bill, of seeking and considering the views of the ordinary citizen. In the Government's view this Amendment is a little off the rails. We feel that it would not help at all in encouraging individuals to make representations. Indeed, I have sought to argue that the reverse would be the effect, and I hope that in the light of the full, perhaps too full, explanation which I have given of this part of the clause, the noble Lord may consider withdrawing his Amendment.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ LORD WILLIAMS OF BARNBURGH
The main point between my noble friend who proposed this Amendment and the noble Earl who has replied is that the Amendment would provide facilities for 910 100 or more—it may be 1,000—persons to secure an inquiry if they deemed it wise to attempt to secure such an inquiry for any complication there may be. The only difference between my noble friend and the noble Earl is that the noble Earl leaves the decision entirely in the hands of the Home Secretary, or the Minister of Housing and Local Government, as to whether or not an inquiry shall take place. It is true, as the noble Earl stated, that the Bill provides for advertisement, allowing representations to be made by individuals, bodies, and all the rest. But in the last analysis it is the Minister who decides whether or not inquiry shall take place. That is, of course, the vital difference between my noble friend and the noble Earl.
I concede at once that there is some element of democracy in allowing representations to be made to the appropriate Minister; but I am not sure that it is the best form of democracy to leave entirely in the hands of the Minister, the absolute decision as whether or not an inquiry shall be held. It could well be that individuals representing themselves, or individuals representing certain bodies—chambers of trade, chambers of commerce and so on—might make representations to the Minister. But the Minister could ignore them all, and there would be no inquiry, no matter how vital the question might be in the eyes of those who made the representations to the Minister. Where fairly large numbers of electors feel that an inquiry ought to take place on some vital issue affecting the changes that are bound to come, and if they feel they have a strong enough case to submit to a Commissioner, then I think it is not unreasonable to ask that they be permitted to have that inquiry. I recognise, with the noble Earl, that to have a whole range of inquiries could become a frustrating influence on the whole thing. It would not be pleasant to feel that large numbers of people were going to seek an inquiry for miserable reasons instead of the substantial reasons which my noble friend had in mind when he proposed this Amendment.
I agree that there is something in the noble Earl's Bill: there is some approach to democracy. But it falls flat, because the final decision is always left with the Minister. I hope that the noble Earl 911 will feel that my noble friend has made out a good case. With all these changes which are bound to take place, here, there and everywhere, it will be far better if in suitable cases public inquiries are held and entangled things are straightened out before the new régime commences to operate. I think it is far better in the initial stages to get the entangled things straightened out, and to start properly. There is always the charge or challenge that representations have been made over a wide area by individuals and bodies which have been turned down by the Ministry so that no inquiry takes place. That is not the sort of atmosphere which one wants to create at the commencement of a new régime of this description. I hope the noble Earl will still feel that if a body of persons sign a petition—it may be 100 or it may be 1,000: it cannot be 61, and therefore the parallel is not a good one—the noble Earl will give a little thought to the possibility of allowing an inquiry as a right, and not merely because the Minister, when he feels like doing so, smiles upon those who make representations. I think the Amendment is a good one and I hope that the noble Earl will give it further thought.
I wonder if I could briefly reply to the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Barnburgh. I am glad that our difference on this part of the Bill at least is narrowed. When I was listening to the noble Earl, the Leader of the Opposition, speaking about this Amendment I thought there was a great gulf fixed even in this subsection between an autocratic and bureaucratic Government and democracy incarnate on the Benches opposite, but I am glad to hear that the division and the gulf is at least narrowed so far as this subsection is concerned.
I think that there is a misunderstanding here and I should like, if I might, just to labour two points. My first is a very simple one, which I tried to put across and I think failed; that is, when I was seeking to argue that this Amendment is, in fact, more limiting in one respect at least than our original proposals because the Amendment means you have to have one hundred good citizens and true to get the machinery operating and the procedure which we are already operating is triggered off by 912 one good citizen and true, or can and will be. That is my first point.
The second (and here I would, address my reply to the remarks, to which I have listened very carefully, from the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Barnburgh) is that I really do feel that no more discretion is entrusted under this subsection of the Bill to the Minister and the Secretary of State than is given in the Amendment proposed. In the last analysis, in both cases the Minister and the Secretary of State have discretion; and I think it is only right that this should be so, in order that frivolous representations can be thrown out and in order that the whole elaborate procedure of inquiry should not be gone into or triggered off by frivolous applications or representations. Both the Amendment and the subsection as it stands as I understand them make it permissive on the Minister or Secretary of State whether or not to cause a local inquiry to be held. Certainly, the Amendment does, and certainly my reading of the Bill as it stands does; and I think that is right. But if it is wrong, then I can only say to the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Barnburgh, that the Amendment is just as wrong as the provision in the Bill. I hope, since I really feel there may be a misunderstanding and misconception, and having listened very carefully to what has been said about this point, that noble Lords opposite will see fit to withdraw this Amendment.
§ LORD CHAMPION
The noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, said that he was delighted to enter the lists this afternoon. All I can say is that I think it is right that he should enter the lists against a "champion". I was not quite pleased, I must say, about his reference to our Amendment being a little off the rails. That hurt, too, because I am a rail-man. However, I have not risen just to make a slight number of debating points, as one could well do. I recognise many of the difficulties about the drafting of our Amendment, to which the noble Earl has drawn attention. I recognise, too, the force of his contention that the Bill does, in fact, meet many of the points which I put and which we had in mind when this Amendment was framed—and the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Barnburgh, has added to the points we made from this side. I must admit that I should 913 like an opportunity to study very carefully what the noble Earl has said to us, and also what the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Barnburgh, has said, and perhaps consider returning to this point in Report stage. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment standing in the name of my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Page 2, line 26, after the first ("the") insert ("charter or").—(Lord Hastings.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
Page 2, line 40, after ("its") insert ("charter or").—(Lord Hastings.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ LORD SHEPHERD moved, in subsection (5), to leave out "1964" and insert "1965". The noble Lord said: On behalf of my noble friends I beg to move Amendment No. 11. I do not think its form of drafting car be criticised in any way. It is very simple. It merely alters the year 1964 to 1965. I would say to the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack that this is not in any way a wrecking Amendment. If it were we could well have put down 2,000 or 3,000 Amendments. But all we have provided for is a postponement for a mere twelve months of the Bill's coming into effect; and, as I hope to show in my speech, we have very good reasons for asking for this delay. Moreover, there is a precedent for it. I notice that the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, is to reply and therefore I will look towards him.
§ I think the Committee will first of all realise that this is a very complex Bill. It is of considerable size, and there is considerable concern not only by Peers on this side of the House. In fact, we have had to place on the Order Paper over 300 Amendments, and it may well be that before the end of this Committee stage it will be in the region of 400. I would not disclose where these Amendments come from, but they are obviously not Party Amendments. We are moving 914 them on behalf of interested authorities; and if the noble Lord thinks they come only from one authority I can tell him that he is quite wrong: to my knowledge, they come from three different authorities. I will submit to the Committee that one of the problems that is in the back of the mind of local authorities is a constructive one; the manlier in which they will be required to perform all the transfers called for in this Bill.
§ I think it is right to say that this is a Bill produced by Her Majesty's Government. It follows the Royal Commission Report. It cannot be said that this has been at any stage an agreed Bill; that local authorities have at any time agreed to its general terms. The Government must recognise that, whatever they may write into this Bill, whether it is effective or not depends on how the local authorities are able to enforce it. I should have thought the Government would well recognise that, if they wished to see the maximum effect on local authority in London, there is a great deal to be said not only for getting the good will and understanding of the local authorities now in existence, and those that will be outside, but will be affected, but for ensuring that we should be able to get further consideration of the general provisions of the Bill.
§ My suggestion to the Committee would be that if this Amendment could be accepted it would be possible for us to proceed with the Bill in your Lordships' House without any Party, bitter feeling whatsoever. We could approach it as a normal piece of legislation and pass it with the knowledge that, in the next twelve months before the Bill came into force and all the actions that consequently flow from it are taken, there could be consultation to see whether the Bill in itself should be amended, outside Party interests, for the good of the 8½ million citizens with whom it is dealing. I am sorry the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, is not at the moment in the Chamber, because he referred to this Bill as a democratic Bill. I suggest that it is far from that.
§ I would first of all draw the Committee's attention to the manner in which Her Majesty's Government are treating the emerging Colonial territories and how they are treating the citizens of London. In recent years Her Majesty's 915 Government have granted independence to many countries, and before deciding what shall be the Parliamentary procedure, what shall be the constitution of a country, there have been very close consultations, not only with the majority Party in the country concerned, but even with the minority interests. There has been an attempt to obtain an agreed basis for legislation. We are in fact at this very moment in Malaysia trying through our own good offices to see that the peoples of Borneo, Singapore, Brunei and Sarawak and Malaya should come together and make the decision. We are not trying to impose government upon them. I do not wish it to be said that this Government are imposing a constitution on the people of London which they do not want, but I would try to show that this is in fact what they are doing. I hope the Government will see that the people of London have the same rights and treatment which they are giving to their Colonial peoples.
§ I would even go further. Last week we had a very interesting debate on transport. There was a good deal of agreement. Perhaps there were divisions on what words meant, whether coordination meant integration. But there was an understanding that we had to use our transport to the maximum advantage, to use each type of transport for its very best use. We had this unity. The Government accepted our Motion. The Government opposite have, however, said that there should be the freedom of choice, that individuals should be free to choose the transport they wish. I would suggest that if the Government fervently believe in that principle they should see that the people of London have the freedom of choice as to the type of local Government under which they live. The Government cannot possibly say that they have given that freedom to the people of London.
§ I will try in the course of my remarks to develop the evidence, which is clearly indicated-by responsible people, that the people of London, their representatives in local authorities, are fundamentally opposed to the principles and purposes of this Bill. Therefore, if the Government really believe in the policy of freedom of choice, freedom of expression, that people should be able to decide, within reason, what they wish, then I 916 would say to the Government, proceed with this Bill but give a period of twelve months so that the views of the people of London can be heard. They will have that opportunity by 1965. The people of London, through the ballot box, will be able to express their views on the Government's proposals. I dare the Government to deny to the people of London the right to that decision. I hope the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, will say tonight one way or the other whether London people should be treated any differently from our Colonial people.
§ May I say this, following a discussion I had outside with one of the Ministers? If there is to be change in London government, and I, for one, believe there needs to be change in it, we should look at it to see whether the changes that are proposed will warrant all the upheaval and the possible weaknesses that can arise. I believe that from the strategic point of view of long-term planning there must be some organisation in London, within the Greater London area, to effect that planning. I would hope that by the amendment of Clauses 10 and 19 we shall be able to achieve that. But we are not considering in this Amendment the long-term planning. We are considering in the main, or entirely, the position of the boroughs, those intimate services that have to be provided to the people of London. The overwhelming evidence that has been provided by speeches and by reports is that the Government's proposals will, in fact, be detrimental to the people of London.
May I read a resolution which was passed by the Middlesex County Council on January 2, 1963? I hope this Committee will not take these people as people opposed to change. These are the elected representatives of one of our biggest, and perhaps one of the best, county councils. This is what they say:
That the Government Bill now before Parliament could result in severe disruption of the services now administered by the County Council, with considerable loss to the people of Middlesex particularly in the vital human services of Education, Children and Welfare. This County Council therefore requests the Government to reconsider its proposals and to amend the Bill so as to provide at least for Education in Middlesex being controlled by a Committee of the Greater London Council.
Here is the Middlesex County Council extremely nervous of the position of
education within its county if absorbed in the Greater London Council and requiring that the Bill be altered. There may be a case for it—there is a case for it. There may be an easy way of finding the tool to see that these fears are overcome. We may need time in which to be able to do it, arid that is another reason why I suggest the provisions of this Bill be put off for a further twelve months.
There is the case of Surrey. It is true this county does not disappear. It loses some of its most valuable area. Therefore, it is interested. These are the views again of dedicated local county councillors, men who have given years of service in the community. This is what they say:
That this Council
(a) reaffirm their view that the main objectives of the Royal Commission on Local Government in Greater London are sound, namely, on the one hand to devise some machinery to deal with the overall planning of Greater London and, on the other, to promote the health of District Council government by concentrating as many Services as possible in the local town hall…
(b) consider that the Government's proposed solutions are unsound…and open to grave objection…
(d) observe that far from producing such advantages the Government's proposal would, in many important respects, provide less effective and convenient local government than exists at present: would result in more rather than less Government intervention in local government: and in the case of Education would be seriously retrograde…
(f) are therefore resolutely opposed to the Government's revolutionary proposals for the reorganisation of Local Government.
One could quote many other local authorities; I have quoted two. The evidence is clearly there.
§ But if there is a mandate, it lies with those who are now opposing this Bill; there is no doubt about it at all. As my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth said, the London County Council election was fought on this particular issue. What was the result? A bigger majority. There was no question of other matters dominating the scene. This was the major point in the election. It has happened also in Surrey, where the Conservative council has been fundamentally opposed to this. This has been the main plank, and they have never hidden it. They, too, had an increased majority.918
§ But on the Surrey County Council, unlike on the London County Council, all the councillors were opposed to these proposals, every one.
§ I appreciate, and I am sure everyone appreciates, that a Government must govern. There are times when it is unpopular. In fact, perhaps the Government's unpopularity to-day is due to the fact that in their early days in office they courted popularity. But if the Government gave this pause they would not be giving it as a sign of weakness, but as a sign of strength. It would indicate perhaps more clearly, at least to the Londoners, that the Government are extremely confident of a return to power, and that they can carry forward this Bill and enforce it. We shall certainly have an Election this year or next. If the Government were to accept our Amendment, obviously this Bill would not come into force until after the General Election. Noble Lords opposite have the opportunity now to indicate their confidence. It would be a sign of strength and not of weakness.
§ Now I wish to say something to noble Lords opposite, because they have to make up their minds just how they themselves stand on this issue. It is no good their laughing off the challenge as to whether the Government have a mandate for this Bill. Clearly, the Government have not got a mandate and, equally clearly, those who are opposed to it can at least speak with the knowledge that their voices are reinforced by those who sit as elected authorities in the local county councils and local boroughs of London. It is we who have the mandate; the Government are without it. Let us get that quite clear. They cannot challenge it.
What is the position of noble Lords opposite? As I said on Second Reading, many noble Lords opposite when we have debated reform have said that one of the great purposes of this House is to see that the Government shall not proceed with legislation which is in any way contentious, where the people of the country have not had an opportunity to express their opinion, to agree and to give the Government a mandate. I do not think there is anybody who will doubt it. But if there is a need for any evidence to support it, perhaps I may read the words of the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury,
in 1952, when leading the Conservative Government. Speaking on the position of the reform of your Lordships' House, he said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 179, col. 552]:
Ultimately, it is far more important than any of these other functions of revising or of discussing great topics, to which reference has been made this afternoon; for it should ensure"—
I would ask noble Lords opposite to listen to this—
not necessarily by an Election, but by declaring their views in no uncertain manner, that the people will finally decide the destiny of their country. Therefore, as I see it, the function of this House is not to controvert, to thwart or to flout the will of the people—certainly not that—nor even to interpret it, but to allow time for the people to form and to express their own view.
§ I am asking noble Lords opposite now to stand up in honour, to say that this House will see that the people of London shall have a right to decide what local constitution they shall live under; that there shall be consultation; that it shall not be imposed upon them. It is a question of honour for noble Lords opposite. They did not take it on Second Reading. I quite see that there is reluctance to go against the Government which they support. They would also be throwing out a Bill that has been passed by another place. We on this side are always careful about our action in this House on Bills that have been passed by another place. It was with a heavy heart, and after great thought, that we opposed the Second Reading in your Lordships' House. We did it only because we were satisfied that the Government had no mandate for this legislation.
§ If the Government had had a mandate, if the Bill had been of importance and urgency, we should not have taken that action. But there is no urgency for this Bill; the Government have no mandate, and therefore we thought it right, not in the interests of Party but in the interests of London, to take the action that we did. But it is open to noble Lords opposite to decide whether they feel they can stand in honour after tonight if they fail to support this Amendment. If they fail to support this Amendment, they will indicate that what they really mean to do is to stand 920 as a bulwark against any Party other than the Conservative Party.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
The noble Lord says "No". Let him prove it to-night. Obviously, there is no mandate for this Bill. The Government have no mandate. Therefore, I would ask the Committee to-night to say that we should have this period of pause which the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, indicated, so that the people of London can say what they wish and what type of government they should have. I beg to move.
Page 2, line 41, leave out ("1964") and insert ("1965").—(Lord Shepherd.)
§ 6.47 p.m.
§ LORD WOLVERTON
The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, said in the course of his speech that he would agree that something had to be done for the reorganisation of London government. I believe that a number of us agree with that view. It became a pressing problem with the great growth of London. What happened? The Government set up a Royal Commission. After a long study of this problem the Royal Commission produced this solution. We are carrying out the main recommendations of the Royal Commission.
I feel that many of the boroughs, especially those in the outer areas, welcome this Bill, because it gives them much more power, especially in the all-important matter of education, which we were discussing on an earlier Amendment. They are going to run their own education department. Education accounts for about 60 per cent. of the total cost of running local government, and I think they will welcome the change here. The new boroughs will be made big enough so that they can run their education service. The centre of London has many more problems, and the metropolitan boroughs are to have a joint committee. I feel that it is unfair of the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, to say that something ought not to be done, because he himself agrees that something ought to be done. A Royal Commission was set up, consisting of members of great competence drawn from all political Parties, and its members 921 were unanimous that this recommendation which we are trying to carry out to-night should be implemented.
§ LORD FRASER OF LONSDALE
I was a member of the London County Council some 40 years ago, and I do not quite like the suggestion that any of us who now desire to see change taking place in this great authority, and the other authorities which are affected, are necessarily men without honour. That was surely the implication of what the noble Lord was suggesting—
§ LORD FRASER OF LONSDALE
—that we must now stand in honour to support him, or, presumably, we shall be dishonourable. I do not think that is quite a fair gambit. The London County Council is a great authority, but it is surely not immutable.
The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, has told us he sees a requirement for some supra-authority to deal with planning, and so on. He does not tell us what it is to be, but presumably it will be much less democratic than that which the Government propose. Is it to be elected by the people or set up mainly by the London County Council, with representation of some of the other authorities on it? Is it to be a kind of small caucus that will plan for the whole of London, or is it to be this much bigger elected body elected by the people? He has not told us. I must say that I prefer that the new authority, with the wider area and wider powers, should be elected by the people, it seems to me that that is the more democratic of the two solutions.
The noble Lord says that the proposals of the Government have no mandate. I have heard this doctrine about the mandate brought forward by Oppositions in both Houses of Parliament for many years—some decades. It is always trotted out when found convenient: "There is no mandate". But the mandate is not an essential part of the British Constitution. The legend that the people govern, or that government can be by the people, is only a legend, going back to the famous saying of an American citizen. But all of us who in either House have had anything to do with government know that the people cannot govern, and that only elected persons can govern on broad general principles.
922 The noble Lord brought into his argument the remarks of the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, about the delaying powers of this House. But there has been tremendous delay here. This reorganisation has been talked about for years, and, as the noble Lord who has just sat down reminded us, it was the subject of an exhaustive inquiry by Royal Commission. One could not have a higher, more impartial, or more able inquiry than that; and these recommendations are broadly in line with the Royal Commission's Report. At any rate the main recommendation was that there should be a wider authority. And that is what the Government are doing. There may be details in which variations have taken place from the Royal Commission's Report, but the main desire of the Royal Commission is being carried out by Her Majesty's Government, and by this Bill. It is not to have some kind of caucus or committee set up to plan London, but rather to have a wider elected authority. That is the main issue.
I am bound to say that the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, made an eloquent and powerful speech, but it was really a Second Reading speech. I cannot remember whether he was not called on or did not rise on that occasion, but he seemed to be going to the root of this matter and saying that this has not been put before the people and that the people have not heard about this. The truth is that 80 per cent. of the people do not know about, or take very much interest in, the matter one way or the other. Those who do have had plenty of time to consider it.
It is then said that the objection is that the Middlesex County Council, the Surrey County Council and other local authorities have passed resolutions saying that they are opposed. Surely that is to be expected. People are always opposed to having something altered in their parish or their county. That does not necessarily mean that the proposals are wrong, or indeed that the proposals will not be acceptable and will not be worked by these county councils and the authorities when the time comes. It seems to me that we are making very heavy weather and having long debates on the Committee stage of the Bill which, as to a very large part, are really addressed 923 to the principle which was agreed in this House on Second Reading. I have no objection if noble Lords opposite, including the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth (who was a colleague of mine forty years ago on the London County Council), speak frequently and at great length; but for the noble Lord to complain that the Government are keeping him out seems to me a little odd. We should get past this question of principle and mandate and get down to the business of the Committee stage.
§ LORD SILKIN
If my noble friend Lord Shepherd made a Second Reading speech—and I am not saying he did not get pretty near to it; but it was a very good speech all the same—the noble Lord who has just spoken has followed him, because not one word he said was addressed to the Amendment. I want to say a word about the Amendment. I do not think I am able to add anything to what my noble friend has said about the mandate. I would correct the noble Lord, Lord Fraser of Lonsdale, in one respect. When we talk of democracy, we mean government with the consent of the people. We do not mean government by elected representatives, except on behalf of the people. And nobody can suggest that this Bill has the consent of the people. The people have had two opportunities of judging for themselves and have rejected this Bill so far as they have been able.
Coming now to the Amendment itself, what we are asking is that the first elections in respect of the London boroughs should take place in 1965 instead of in 1964. I ask the Committee to consider the mechanics of this. This Bill will not come into law until, at the earliest, the end of July. I assume that the Government have sufficient resources to force this Bill through by that time, but quite certainly it will not come into operation before then. Then we have the Summer Recess, and elections for the first London boroughs are under the Bill to take place in May, 1964. In addition to that, there are certain boundaries to be settled and you have got to set up wards; it is open to people to object to the boundaries of wards, and there may be an inquiry. How on earth is it possible for the Government in those 924 circumstances to enable elections to take place by May?
During the Second Reading debate there were certain accusations made that this Bill is a political Bill, that it is designed for political purposes in order to defeat and put an end to the Labour administration of the London County Council. I myself did not make that suggestion at all. I thought that it might conceivably have been in the minds of the Government and they would have been less than human if it were not. Of course it was. But I am not suggesting, and have not suggested, that this was their main purpose or their only purpose in introducing the Bill. But the haste with which this Bill is being implemented—the indecent haste! Because it is really quite impossible so to organise things as to have a proper election by May, 1964, and to carry out all the processes with new organs of government and entirely new boundaries. It is impossible for those who are in charge of the political organisation; it is impossible even to get through the mechanics of the thing in good time. It does make one a little suspicious that this date has been chosen for political reasons.
The noble Lord, Lord Fraser of Lonsdale, is quite right. We have had our Second Reading and as good constitutionalists we must accept that this House and the other place have approved the principle of the Bill, much as we dislike it. But at least the Government ought to do everything they possibly can to remove any suspicion that they are acting in such a way because they want to take advantage of the situation and rush this through. I would have thought that even 1965 would be fairly soon, in view of the need to go through all the stages that are necessary before you can have a fair election with the wards set up, and with the Boyle organisations, which as noble Lords know are political organisations created with people accustomed to working in the wards. I would have thought that even 1965 was a little early, but at least it is better than 1964. I suggest that, if you stick to this date, the whole machinery of election will break down and you will not get a fair election. You will get an unrealistic election in 1964, and as good democrats none of us wishes that. I do hope the Government will give serious consideration to this 925 date, and remove any suspicion there might be that they are deliberately rushing this for their own purpose.
Before the Government reply, may I reply to one point that the noble Lord has just made about the actual mechanics? I think he is making rather heavy weather on that point. I can speak at any rate in respect of my own authority, where of course wards are having to be changed. I can assure the noble Lord that, so far as we and the two other boroughs with which we are going to be joined up are concerned, we are not waiting for the Bill to be implemented by the end of July, which as the noble Lord said is the earliest possible date. We are already making our arrangements, and we have in point of fact in our case pretty well completed the arrangements. It can be done, if you want to.
§ LORD SILKIN
It is for the Minister to create the wards, and the public have the right to object and to have an inquiry. For the life of me, I cannot see how all that can be carried out in good time to enable a fair election to take place.
§ 6.54 p.m.
§ LORD HASTINGS
A number of points have been put forward by the noble Lord who moved the Amendment, and by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, who supported him. I will try to reply to the main objections which have been made in this Committee. I should like also to take this opportunity of explaining to your Lordships the considerations which have particularly weighed with the Government, as this Amendment raises the whole question of the timetable laid down in the Bill. The noble Lord did not say so, but this Amendment goes with Amendment No. 14 which follows, and possibly also with Nos. 16 and 19; and, certainly, so far as No. 14 is concerned, it is impossible to disentangle the two. So with the noble Lord's permission, I should like to include an argument on Amendment No. 14 at the same time.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
I do not wish to be difficult, but these Amendments are being looked after by others of my noble friends. I do not know their wish—they have not as yet spoken—but in regard to the Greater London Council there are one or two specific points to 926 make. I apologise to the Committee if the noble Lord thinks I have made a Second Reading speech. I thought I was really making the case for a postponement, and was saying why noble Lords opposite should agree to a postponement of the Bill. But I should not like the noble Lord to think that my noble friends would automatically wish the noble Lord to reply to the specific points in their Amendments by grouping them with mine.
§ LORD HASTINGS
I will do my best, but it may be that I shall have to include some argument on this other subject and repeat it later on. First of all, I should like to get out of the way the objection which I found to be the least tenable of all; and that is this question of the so-called mandate which the Government are accused of not having from the country as a whole. The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, started off by saying that this was not a wrecking Amendment, and by making an eloquent appeal, if I may say so, for postponing the Bill on the ground that it was not an agreed Bill, and that we should try to get together for a year and work out some agreed reorganisation of London government, even on a non-political basis. If he had not devoted a large part of his speech to this question of a mandate, and finally ended up by making a tremendously effective political speech, I perhaps should have been able to take him at his word. But now that he has brought up this subject of the mandate, I must deal with it.
This Bill should not have come as a surprise either to noble Lords opposite or to the people of London. The preliminary stages leading up to it go back a long way. It is well known that soon after the war the question of local government reorganisation was being thought about, and the Boundary Commission was appointed. That Commission included consideration of all the areas of Greater London outside the actual London County Council area. After the Boundary Commission had dissolved three Bills were brought before Parliament by Ilford and Ealing, claiming county borough status—that was in 1949, 1951 and 1952—and those Bills were turned down on each occasion on the grounds that the changes desired must await a general reform of the 927 Greater London area. As a result of discussions with the local authority associations, the Local Government Act, 1958, was passed, bringing about a comprehensive review of local government areas and also, in many cases, of functions. The review of local government in Greater London itself was begun when the Royal Commission was set up for the purpose in 1957. So nobody can possibly say that this is a new subject—not nearly such a new subject, I would venture to suggest, as the matter of reducing the powers of the House of Lords in, I think, 1949—
§ LORD HASTINGS
I am afraid there are not quite so many white hairs—in the words of the noble Viscount, Lord St. Davids—as the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, appears to think. My noble friend Lord Fraser of Lonsdale referred to this question of the mandate and the use made of this sort of political attack. The Government's intentions have not been hidden from public view at all, and least of all have they been hidden for the sinister motives of political advantage which have been imputed to the Government by noble Lords opposite. I hope we shall not hear any more of this during the Committee stage.
The second point raised somewhat in this connection, too, by the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, was that the citizens of London have not had an adequate chance to object or to make their views known before the implementation of this Bill. He said that therefore the whole Bill was not democratic, it was not based on a democratic system, and he tried to compare the people of London to those of the Colonies. We cannot make such comparisons. It may be that 8½ million people in London exceed the number of people in some of the Colonies. That is quite an easy point to make: but when we are dealing with the Colonies we are talking about the national freedom and liberty of the people and the 928 right to govern themselves in their own country. In London, we are talking about our own people, and we are talking not about national Government but local government. We are not taking local government and local freedom away from them: they have it already. We suggest (and this has been repeated, I think, by the noble Lord, Lord Fraser of Lonsdale) that we are going to give them a more democratic government in the London boroughs than they possess at the moment.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
If the noble Lord is right, why will the Government not let the people of London decide whether they will accept-the Government's proposals in regard to Greater London?
§ LORD HASTINGS
I am coming to that in a moment. The noble Lord gets very impatient. I have to make an argument, and I am unfolding it gradually. The noble Lord, of course, referred to the General Election, and said that this matter ought to be postponed and put to the electors; but as the noble Lords know perfectly well, at a General Election you cannot confine opinions about a Government to one particular subject; and it is not only London which is affected by a General Election; it is the whole country. The noble Lord referred to the results of the 1961 L.C.C. elections, and made a great thing about this: that they had the mandate because they got an increased majority. The noble Lord is no doubt aware of a book published recently by a member of the academic staff of the London School of Economics—that body for which the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, has such great admiration.
§ 7.4 p.m.
§ LORD HASTINGS
It was entitled A Metropolis Votes and was based on a close study of a particular L.C.C. constituency and its behaviour in this election. It came out of that study that it was doubtful whether the Royal Commission Report was regarded as a major issue by the public. In any case, only 40 per cent. of the registered voters voted—and, of course, a great many of them voted for the Conservative Party.
§ LORD HASTINGS
I do not know. I do not think the noble Lord really made a very strong case there. If I may go on—and I am going to answer the noble Lord now, and tell him what he wants to know—the Government set up the Royal Commission precisely because they thought it impossible to deal with such a gigantic reform, covering an area containing over 8 million people, in the same way as when dealing with the reform of a provincial area containing only 100,000, or at most 1½ million people. Nevertheless, there have been opportunities for people to present their views to the Royal Commission, and also, subsequent to its Report, through their local councils. In fact, the many steps gone through in the way of expression of views, consultation, debate and Parliamentary procedure were admirably set out in the speech of my noble friend Lord Windlesham during our Second Reading debate, a speech on which he was complimented by the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren. Noble Lords opposite have been reminded again of these steps by my noble friends Lord Fraser of Lonsdale and Lord Wolverton.
I should now like to turn to what I, and certainly Her Majesty's Government, believe to be the really important matters involved in this Amendment, and I am very grateful indeed that the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, got up and drew attention to them because I think that is what the Committee is concerned with—the possibilities of holding elections when we say they should be held. The noble Lord contends that the first election of councillors for the new London boroughs is to be held much too soon, and that, as a result, the transfer of functions (which is the subject of another Amendment, but which is inextricably linked with this one) cannot be carried out in an orderly and efficient manner. Her Majesty's Government believe that it is in the best interests of everyone that the changes should be brought into effect as soon as possible. They have had very much in mind the remark of the Royal Commission, who said in paragraph 675 of their Report:The first, and perhaps the most outstanding, fact is the bad effect which the long period of uncertainty has had on the morale of local government".I agree with noble Lords that we must make sure that the Bill provides sufficient 930 time for us to arrange elections in the spring of next year. This is a matter which has, in fact, been discussed with the local authority associations in great detail because of the technicalities of defining wards in the new boroughs and making electoral arrangements. It was at the express wish of the local authorities that the date of these elections was advanced. The White Paper, I would remind noble Lords opposite, suggested they would be in the autumn of 1964, but the local authority associations were convinced that it would be possible and advantageous to fix the elections for next spring.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
I imagine it might be the Association of Municipal Corporations, who really are not particularly competent to speak for Greater London. Does he mean the Metropolitan Boroughs Standing Joint Committee were simple enough to advocate this?
§ LORD HASTINGS
As well as the Association of Municipal Corporations. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has already received draft ward proposals covering nearly all the new London boroughs. We must also be sure that enough time is allowed for the preparations needed before the new authorities take over responsibility for the local government services. This preparatory period will not be limited to the overlapping months when the present and the new authorities exist side by side, which is rather less than a year. This I think, is a point which the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, was making, amongst others. It will, of course, run from now until 1965—in other words, some two years—and that is surely a very different proposition. If this period is properly used—and there is no reason to doubt that it will be—we are satisfied it will be sufficient for the preparations that have to be made. My noble friend Lord Mersey has confirmed this.
§ LORD SILKIN
Before the noble Lord departs from the question of wards, has he allowed for the possibility of having to hold a very large number of inquiries into objections? The Bill itself provides for objections to the wards from the 32 local authorities in respect of which wards will have to be settled. There may be some hundreds of wards proposed, and it will be possible to object to their boundaries. The Bill provides that inquiries should be held; and, unless the Minister deliberately refuses to hold proper inquiries in cases where there are genuine arguments, has he really considered the time which will be taken in holding these inquiries and in coming to a decision?
§ LORD HASTINGS
Yes, we do think there is time, and so do the local authorities. The programme is that inquiries into borough ward schemes should be held from September until November, and in 1964 the borough wards will be settled.
§ LORD LINDGREN
I do not want to be obstreperous, but if we are going to have this sort of thing we shall have to be a little more difficult in regard to handling this Bill. In view of what the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, has now said, I will not say it was deliberate but we were misled on a previous Amendment, because the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, said that any elector can object—
§ LORD LINDGREN
Any person; but, I take it, any elector within the area. If it is any person, that makes it worse. If that is so, you just cannot get through the inquiries, if they are going to be inquiries, and not just a façade, on the basis of a couple of months.
§ LORD HASTINGS
We have consulted with the local authority associations on this matter. We are expecting objections in some cases to be lodged and we are allowing for it. If I may go on with what I was saying: my noble friend Lord Mersey has confirmed that it is possible to carry out the transfer of functions in the time given and that his own authorities and those he is constrained to co-operate with in this matter are satisfied on that score. The Bill 932 provides in Clause 83 for joint committees to be set up by the present local authorities to consider the transitional problems. Many of these are already operating and others are on the point of being established. I would suggest that it is not necessary to—and we should not—underestimate the skill and capacity of local authority members and officers to surmount the formidable problems which reorganisation involves. We believe that most of these problems, when tackled dispassionately and with determination, are likely to prove more tractable than some have feared. This belief is being borne out by dealings that the Home Office have already had with local authorities concerning the future allocation of children's homes.
To sum up, the Government are satisfied, after consultations with the associations representing existing authorities, that the timetable in the Bill is both realistic and practicable. We believe it is in the best interests of local government generally, of the employees of local authorities and of the public which they serve, that uncertainty concerning the future of London government should be brought to an end. Therefore, we cannot accept this Amendment.
§ 7.12 p.m.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
I may recall to the Committee that if we take the instance of the Local Government Act, 1929—a great Act of Parliament, for which the late Mr. Neville Chamberlain was responsible; and it was a very good Act—it did not involve the setting-up of new authorities; it involved the death of the Metropolitan Asylums Board and of 25 Metropolitan Boards of Guardians and the transfer of the functions of the Metropolitan Asylums Board and of the Guardians to the L.C.C. with the exception of a certain amount of power which went to the metropolitan boroughs. That was a simple operation as compared with this one, which is to set up 32 new boroughs. There is one place left sacredly alone—the City of London. There is nothing to do there. They can even go on with their democratic annual election, which beats anything in municipal democracy, if and when elections take place. But 32 boroughs have to be created. The Greater London Authority has to be created and elections have to be held.
933 In the case of the Local Government Act of 1929 no elections needed to be held for the purpose, and no new authorities had to be created. It was a relatively simple job—I say "relatively" simple: that is all. That Act was passed in 1929; it did rot come into operation until April, 1931. Yet this one, with 32 new borough authorities and a Greater London Council is timed to start in 1964. That is next year: in fact, it is really less than a year, because one body of elections are to be in April next year. That is about eleven months. As I said earlier this is a "Tory plot". I say this despite my noble friend Lord Silkin, whom I regard very highly. I regard this as a political plot against the Labour majority on the London County Council. I give the Government no credit whatever for good motives. In fact I am in danger any minute of calling them "corrupt"; but I am not sure that that would pass in the other place, and so I will not take liberties with this place. But they are a bad lot and may the Lord forgive them!
But the 1929 Act, as I was saying, did not come into operation until April 1, 1931, as the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, remembers; and it was a relatively simple job. Even then, the Act was not fully functioning for about five years after that. It was a very big task; yet this Government think that they can pass this Bill some time between now and the Summer Recess, or shortly after the Summer Recess, and start the elections in April and May. Everything will be got ready: the wards, all the numerous complicated arguments that political Parties, individuals and independents are going to raise about the division of wards which can be the subject of much jiggery-pokery. Or it may be argued that it should be the subject of jiggery-pokery. But I am not sure.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
All this has to be argued out; people must be heard and objections straightened out; returning officers or registration officers have to lay the thing out for the purposes of administration. You must get people on the register, sort them out in the wards—and all this is to be done by April, 1964.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
Let us be fair! Oh, but my noble friend is right. If this Act is not on the Statute Book till then it is a much more limited period, except in so far as the noble Viscount, Lord Mersey, has got on. But I have forgotten which borough he comes from.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
Ah, Paddington, well! The noble Viscount says that Tory Paddington has it all fixed up already. He may be right. I would not put anything past the Tory borough of Paddington. But this cannot be done properly in the time.
We are told that the local authorities associations are in agreement. I have the noble Lord's assurance, and so I must accept it. If they are, I must say that they are a lot of simple souls. The Association of Municipal Corporations are capable of anything; they have no respect for London whatever. The School of Economics—I would sink them at dawn! They are academic and long-haired. That is why they were given two whole days for examination by the Royal Commission, because they were giving evidence that the Tories wanted. There was a dissentient Labour Party member of the London County Council named, I think, Jenkins, the Assistant Secretary of Equity. He was a Labour member of the L.C.C., and therefore I must give him my respect; but he gave evidence that was different from the line of the Labour Party on the L.C.C. He was not a very important member (he had been on the Council only about two years) but he got lifted into the front rank of the Royal Commission oral evidence. They were not content with merely the written memorandum: they invited this distinguished, learned and expert gentleman to come along and give his evidence orally. This is the Royal Commission which is supposed to be impartial! They did not ask me to give evidence. I do not blame them; and I do not think it would have made any difference if they had asked me. I may inform the Lord Chancellor I merely signed a memorandum from the London Labour Party and that was supposed to be enough. It is curious 935 they did not invite me, because I do know something about London government. Judging by the result, the less I saw of that Royal Commission, the better it was. But I am not grieved.
You are going to have two elections. This is another bright idea—not only two elections in the one year (which we ought to take great pains to avoid in local government) but two elections, one a month after the other. That is going to be troublesome. I do not see how the London Municipal Society is going to conduct itself properly, because it is pretty incompetent anyway. I cannot see it handling two elections one month after the other very well, and it may be that they will spatchcock into the middle of these two series of local government elections a Parliamentary General Election as well. My experience of Parliamentarians is that they have no respect whatever for the convenience of local government elections, and that goes for both Parties to some extent. I should not be surprised if they did not land it. Though I must say that the signs are now, according to what it is said Mr. Macleod has said, that they are going to have it this autumn. I think that is probably right. The longer they put it off, the less manoeuvrability the Prime Minister has got. But we could have a General Election on the merit of these things.
As I said in an earlier stage, the Government are mad. If I had a more extreme word at this point, I would use it, because they must be properly insane; they must have lost all sense of administration and capacity—and democracy as well. So that the purpose of this Amendment, as my noble friend Lord Silkin said, is to enable proper preparations for organised, tidy, upright elections to be held, if they have to be held. There could be another argument—and my noble friend Lord Shepherd made it—that before this operates, there ought to be a Parliamentary Election, so that London in the Parliamentary sense can speak its mind, which it has not been able to do so far. There is a precedent for that, but it is going to be rejected. The Government will not have it. But do they remember the Steel Bill, for which we had a mandate, as we had for the Parliament Bill of 1948? That 936 Bill was partly in preparation for the Steel Bill, when we thought we should have trouble with your Lordships' House. We had mandates for both of them.
What happened? The noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, who was a good and responsible leader of the Opposition in your Lordships' House at that time and did this job with public spirit and very well, said that the Government had not an adequate mandate. He could not say that we had none, because it was in Let Us Face the Future. So they put in a provision that the Iron and Steel Board should not be appointed until a date which had to be after the following General Election, and the Labour Government accepted it—I do not say with enthusiasm; it was a case of force majeure. It was that or lose the Bill, for which we had a mandate. They put it in for the specific purpose, as the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, himself said, with his customary honesty, that the Government had to go to the country and get a second mandate for the Bill. We got the second Mandate. It was not much of a thing—a majority of six—but it was a mandate. We had a majority. There is a precedent, if noble Lords opposite like Tory precedents. But they like them when it suits them and do not like them when it does not.
It is all very well to talk about the Boundary Commission. They had nothing to do with the case. In fact, they were not allowed to touch the County of London. It is all very well to talk about county borough claims. They are not too relevant. The Local Government Act of 1858 had nothing to do with it whatever. And nobody knew what the Royal Commission set up in 1957 was going to recommend. If we had been a bit brighter, we ought to have suspected it from the beginning in view of its composition. We did not. We are simple—simple-minded Socialists—and that is the trouble with us, to some extent.
It is no good saying that these were mandates. When was it that the Government went to the country and told the country before the Election, "We are going to destroy the Socialist London County Council because we do not like it "? Never. When did they say they were going to abolish the metropolitan boroughs? Never. When did they say they were going to reduce the status of the county boroughs of Croydon, East 937 Ham and West Ham? Never. When did they say they were going to cut up into pieces the counties of Surrey, Essex and Kent and abolish the County of Middlesex? They never did it. And I tell the Government now that when the Parliamentary Election comes, they are going to lose some position in Greater London about this Bill, either by abstentions, diminution of workers or even hostile votes. I am sure they will.
My noble friend Lord Shepherd referred to Colonies and the Parliamentary Secretary pulled him up about that. But there is nothing new about this. I have complained for years that London has been treated by the Government and Parliament as if it were a Crown Colony. We have been treated worse from a democratic point of view than any other part of the country. Yes, we had the question of Waterloo Bridge, on which they held us up, but we overcame that, with great support from the people of London. So I think these are irrelevant. So are the opinions of the London School of Economics. They may be well-meaning, but they are long-haired philosophers and not too much worth listening to on this issue. The Government have no mandate for this. We have two mandates against it and two by-elections in two counties against it. The Government ought not to pass it, but if they do, they certainly ought not to go in for this indecent haste by putting the first date of operation in April, 1964, and the second in May, 1964. It is not decent. It is not respectable. It is really a disgraceful act on the part of what used to be known as "the gentlemanly Party".
§ LORD LINDGREN
I want to make only one or two points arising from this debate. I am concerned only with the actual mechanics of putting this into force. Earlier we withdrew an Amendment on an assurance from the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, which we took, on the extent to which local inquiries were going to be held into the redistribution of wards. He told us that there could be an objection by any elector within the ward affected. But we found from the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, supported from his own Back Benches, that the allocation of wards is already going on, and that only two months, September and October, are to be allowed for the arguments likely to arise on the variation of wards 938 within 32 boroughs. What is happening? The whole thing is fixed. Talk about democracy—about local government in which the people have a voice in the type of government they are going to have! But, on the basis of what has been happening, it is obvious that the whole thing is fixed before it starts. What is the good of our going through this Bill and taking assurances from the noble Earl if the whole thing is fixed? If we had only one inquiry in each of the 32 boroughs, it would not be possible to get it through in the two months.
My noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth referred to the 1929 Act, which applied not only to London but to the rest of the country. We had the redistribution of boundaries at the same time in the 1929 Act and we were given two years in which to do that. Again it did not come into effect until the County Council election in May, 1931. If, in fact, the ordinary normal redistribution, the abolition of the Board of Guardians and the setting up of the Public Assistance Committee required two years, and you are going Ito try to do this in two months with the setting up of 32 London boroughs, I say it is just impossible to do it.
We have not been told this yet. When is the register of electors going to be determined? The register of electors is taken on a date in November and it is published in February, and between February and April you are going to have the whole redistribution of ward boundaries. Or is that already arranged behind the scenes, in anticipation of the Act going on the Statute Book: that the registers are already being created for the London boroughs and their elections in 1964? If the Government have already issued instructions for the preparation of the basis of the new boroughs, what is the use of having the facade of local inquiries? I challenge noble Lords now. Is the inference correct that we took from the noble Lord, Lord Jellicoe, that the Government were falling over themselves to give just one individual an opportunity to object; or is it correct, as the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, said, that everything is fixed?
§ LORD LINDGREN
If it is going to happen in two months—and the noble 939 Lord, Lord Hastings, said the period allowed for the inquiries was September and October—
§ LORD LINDGREN
It is going to be pretty rough handling of the people who are going to do the work. The further we go with this the worse seems to be the tangle in which the Government have got themselves. Indecent haste has already been referred to, and it is a programme which cannot be given effect to unless there is dictatorial operation. The programme cannot be given effect to in the spirit of democracy; and the opportunity to object which the noble Earl referred to will not be possible.
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
I was present and spoke on the Amendment No. 8. I listened carefully to the speech of one who is always very reasonable in the House and whom we might almost call now our noble friend for his courtesy and general handling of matters, the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe; and I must say he gave us a most detailed case of what was going to be carried out in order to meet what he claimed were the needs of democracy in these matters. My noble friend Lord Champion and I spoke about two main points: what should be the procedure and the applications or settlements of the charter—whether it should be Royal or by some other process—and what should be the procedure in regard to boundaries. If the real basis was, as I understood the noble Earl's basis to be, the kind of public inquiries that could be arranged and ordered for those two purposes alone, I would say that they would take a very considerable time indeed. I think that was backed up by the facts that I quoted in regard to Coulsdon and Purley and the boundaries on the one hand, and with regard to the charter of the Borough of Croydon which objects, great borough as it is, to being brought into the local government of Greater London scheme.
Now we come on to these vastly important points which have been dealt with by two of our London experts on 940 this Front Bench—and I would challenge anybody on the other side to say that they have more knowledge of the government of London than either my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth or my noble friend Lord Silkin. They know the working of it from almost 34 years of holding office, and they know what the handling of London's problems must mean. Yet to-day you take no notice of them. You have not consulted the electorate and in the last two years there have been two mandates against you from the electors of London who chose to go to the polls. I think that is an extraordinary position to be in. You have had put before you to-night what are the actual processes to be gone through between, not this date to-night, but the final placing of this Bill, when it becomes an Act, on the Statute Book, and next April. It is fundamentally absurd to think that you can put that through without committing grave injury to the electorate.
For the life of me, I cannot understand how Toryism can go on like this and remain in power by all sorts of smokescreens which are brought across the eyes of the electorate. We had it in 1951, when the whole Tory basis of 1919, 1920, 1921 and 1922 which created uncontrollable unemployment was suddenly changed round, because of the great success of the Labour Government, for six years; and then there was an Election cry, "Set the people free". Free from what? Free from the controls, the abolition of which has put up our national Budget, as I said the other night, from £4,200 million to £6,200 million. That is Toryism. People do not really count; you just drive them like herds in front of a smokescreen. Here we have this going on now in the same way with regard to London. I think it is really scandalous and I hope that the Government will yet think again.
There will be two alternative elections, I suppose. We have nothing firm yet about the General Election. What I do know is—where it came from I do not know, but I listened on the wireless the other night, and it was reported by a political correspondent—that Mr. Macleod was now telling his friends that it was likely that they would have to prepare for an Autumn Election. Then there is the possibility of Elections in 941 May, the beginning of June or something of the kind. You are taking a political process in connection with the passing of this Bill which I think will result in something which is absolutely out of this world. It will never properly be done in either respect. This is going to be one more smokescreen before the eyes of the electors, but some of us are determined that we are going to have something to do with blowing away smokescreens this time.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
I believe it was arranged through the usual channels that we should adjourn during pleasure from 7.30. Would the Government accept that Motion?
§ LORD SHEPHERD
No. At least one of my colleagues wishes to speak on this subject, and we should like a reply, even if a brief one, from the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, to the detailed points made by my noble friend Lord Lindgren. May I beg to move that the Committee do now adjourn during pleasure?
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I do not think there is any need for a detailed reply to the speech by the noble Lord,
§ Lord Lindgren. It seemed to me that he was under a misapprehension, adding two to two and making five. My noble friend Lord Jellicoe said that any person could make representations. Those were his exact words. But he did not say, nor did my noble friend Lord Hastings, that any single objection would automatically be followed by an inquiry. There was nothing said of that kind. We have had a long debate upon this matter. We have had from the noble Earl a speech which is obviously preparatory for the next Election. We have had an amusing speech from the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, which reminded us of past history and filled in the gaps of his Second Reading speech. I would suggest that we have debated this proposal for a long time, and that this would be a right and fitting time to reach a decision upon it.
§ Moved, That the Committee do adjourn during pleasure.—(Lord Shepherd.)
§ On Question, Whether the Committee do now adjourn during pleasure?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 17; Not-Contents, 41.941
|Airedale, L.||Latham, L.||Onslow, E.|
|Alexander of Hillsborough, E.||Lindgren, L. [Teller.]||Shepherd, L.|
|Attlee, E.||Longford, E.||Silkin, L.|
|Champion, L.||Lucan, E. [Teller.]||Stonham, L.|
|Crook, L.||Milner of Leeds, L.||Williams of Barnburgh, L.|
|Henderson, L.||Morrison of Lambeth, L.|
|Abergavenny, M.||Ferrers, E.||Margesson, V.|
|Ampthill, L.||Fortescue, E.||Mersey, V.|
|Auckland, L.||Fraser of Lonsdale, L.||Milverton, L.|
|Barnby, L.||Goschen, V. [Teller.]||Montgomery of Alamein, V.|
|Carrington, L||Hastings, L.||Newton, L.|
|Colyton, L.||Hawke, L.||Rockley, L.|
|Conesford, L.||Howard of Glossop, L.||St. Aldwyn, E. [Teller.]|
|Croft, L.||Ilford, L.||St. Oswald, L.|
|De La Warr, E.||Jellicoe, E.||Sandford, L.|
|Devonshire, D.||Jessel, L.||Sandwich, E.|
|Dilhorne, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Kilmuir, E.||Somers, L.|
|Dudley, E.||Lansdowne, M.||Swansea, L.|
|Ellenborough, L.||Long, V.||Wolverton, L.|
|Elliot of Harwood, B.||Lothian, M.|
|Resolved in the negative, and Motion disagreed to accordingly.|
§ 7.58 p.m.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
Before the noble Lord puts the Question, may I thank noble Lords opposite? They have been very patient. I will not try their patience much further, but I should just like to make my final remarks on this Amendment. It was, broadly, a Second Reading speech certainly; it is a Second Reading principle. The principle is still at stake: whether the Government have a mandate; whether a mere delay of one year would give time for the Government to obtain a mandate. I will not deploy that point any further, but it is still there. That is what we shall be voting on in a moment.
One last point to noble Lords opposite. I would say this to the noble Lord, Lord Fraser of Lonsdale. When I spoke of honour, I would not impute any dishonour to a Peer who voted in support
EARL ST. ALDWYN
I think this might be an appropriate moment to adjourn until 9 o'clock. I beg to move.
§ [The Sitting was suspended at eight o'clock and resumed at nine o'clock.]
§ On Question, Whether Clause 1, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
I have been thinking over this matter with my noble friends during the dinner
§ of the Bill merely on the question of support for a reform in London. What I meant—and I do not retract it in the slightest—was that there have been many noble Lords in this House who have said that this House was to stand between the Government and the people when a Government was acting without a mandate, in haste, and where there was a clear appreciation and understanding that the people did not agree with what the Government were doing. That is clear. There is a mandate, and it is on our side. Therefore I ask my noble friends to support me in the Lobby on this Amendment.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 13; Not-Contents, 37.943
|Airedale, L.||Latham, L.||Morrison of Lambeth, L.|
|Alexander of Hillsborough, E.||Lindgren, L. [Teller.]||Shepherd, L.|
|Champion, L.||Lucan, E. [Teller.]||Silkin, L.|
|Crook, L.||Milner of Leeds, L.||Stonham, L.|
|Abinger, L.||Fraser of Lonsdale, L.||Mersey, V.|
|Auckland, L.||Goschen, V. [Teller.]||Milverton, L.|
|Barnby, L.||Hastings, L.||Montgomery of Alamein, V.|
|Carrington, L.||Hawke, L.||Newton, L.|
|Colyton, L.||Howard of Glossop, L.||Onslow, E.|
|Conesford, L.||Jellicoe, E.||Rockley, L.|
|Croft, L.||Jessel, L.||St. Aldwyn, E. [Teller.]|
|De La Warr, E.||Kilmuir, E.||St. Oswald, L.|
|Devonshire, D.||Lansdowne, M.||Sandford, L.|
|Dilhorne, L. (L. Chancellor)||Long, V.||Somers, L.|
|Dudley, E.||Lothian, M.||Swansea, L.|
|Ferrers, E.||Margesson, V.||Wolverton, L.|
Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.
§ adjournment, and we have come to the conclusion that, in the main, we have covered the various points dealt with by Clause 1. There are other things that could have been said and which could take some little time; but we have had a fairly extensive discourse on the various aspects of Clause 1, and therefore we are content that the Question should be now put, that Clause 1 shall stand part of the Bill. We will divide, but we do not propose to have any further debate on that Question.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
May I just say one word to the noble Lord, to thank him for his attitude with regard to this matter? I think in fact 945 that Clause 1 has been fully debated and that there is really nothing that could have been said about Clause 1, that relates to Clause 1, or that is far from related to Clause 1, that has not been said. But I hope that now we shall
§ Resolved Clause 1, in the affirmative, and as amended, agreed to accordingly.
§ Clause 2:
§ Greater London and the Greater London Council
§ 2.—(1) The area comprising the areas of the London boroughs, the City and the Temples shall constitute an administrative area to be known as Greater London.
§ (2) There shall be established for Greater London a council consisting of a chairman, aldermen and councillors which shall be a body corporate under the name of the Greater London Council with perpetual succession and a common seal and shall have all such functions as are vested in that Council by this Act or otherwise.
§ (3) The provisions of Schedule 2 to this Act shall have effect with respect to the constitution and general functions of the Greater London Council; and the first election of councillors of that Council shall be held on 9th April 1964, and the persons declared elected at that election shall come into office on the fourth day after the day of election.
§ VISCOUNT MERSEY moved, in subsection (2), to leave out "aldermen". The noble Viscount said: I put down this Amendment because I think that if the Government can see their way to accept it it will save them and everybody else a great many problems and difficulties in the future. I have long thought that the conception of aldermen in local government is out of date, but I feel that the reply to that will be: "Well, that may946
§ be able to make a little more progress on this massive Bill.
§ On Question, Whether Clause 1, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 30; Not-Contents, 13.945
|Auckland, L.||Goschen, V. [Teller.]||Milverton, L.|
|Barnby, L.||Hastings, L.||Newton, L.|
|Bradford, E.||Hawke, L.||Perth, E.|
|Conesford, L.||Ilford, L.||Polwarth, L.|
|Derwent, L.||Ingleby, V.||Rochdale, V.|
|Devonshire, D.||Jellicoe, E.||Sandford, L.|
|Dilhorne, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Kilmuir, E.||Somers, L.|
|Ferrers, E.||Lansdowne, M.||Swansea, L.|
|Fraser of Lonsdale, L.||Lothian, M. [Teller.]||Waleran, L.|
|Gage, V.||Mersey, V.||Wolverton, L.|
|Alexander of Hillsborough, E||Latham, L.||Morrison of Lambeth, L.|
|Attlee, E.||Lindgren, L. [Teller.]||Shepherd, L.|
|Champion, L.||Lucan, E. [Teller.]||Stonham, L.|
|Crook, L.||Milner of Leeds, L.||Williams of Barnburgh, L.|
§ be the case, but if you are going to do it in one place you have to do it all over the country, and that is too difficult a thing to entertain at this stage." But in this case one is setting up a completely new authority, and I should have thought that there was no possible case for having aldermen on the Greater London Council. Let me say straight away that if you did decide to remove those sixteen aldermen proposed in the Bill, I would of course substitute for them sixteen councillors, because we clearly need the full complement, if they are going to take part in a large number of committees as they are going to be called upon to do.
§ In the Second Reading debate the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, spoke at some length, and I think very much to the point, on the question of pay. I do not know what is proposed by the Government, but it seems to me that it is almost certain that, at any rate committee chairmen, and possibly all members of the Greater London Council, will have to be paid. The present system by which local government members can claim for loss of earnings is not satisfactory. If they are going to be paid—and I do not know whether they are going to be paid or not; but I am sure they will be, at any rate in a matter of a few years—you are immediately going to find yourself in some difficulty, because I take it that there will be a considerable dispute as to whether you will pay 947 aldermen who will not be elected the same as you will pay councillors. I can quote to your Lordships only the fact that Back Benchers in this House do not seem to draw the same remuneration as Back Benchers in another place. It is for reasons of that sort that I think you will be saving yourself trouble in the future if you do not have aldermen at all on this new body.
§ There is another point that I should like to put to your Lordships, and it is this. Ever since the introduction of this Bill the Opposition have made great play with the word "gerrymandering". If there was ever an opportunity for gerrymandering in local government, it is with aldermen. I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, with his great knowledge, will agree with me. I do not wish to detain your Lordships to-night, although I could do so, by quoting cases of things that have happened: where one Party has won the local council but, nevertheless, has not been allowed to control it owing to the use of aldermanic vacancies. I will say straight away that I think that probably both Parties have in their time taken advantage of that; so I do not want to make a political point here. But I cannot see any point in allowing opportunities of this sort to arise in the future. That is all I want to say. I hope that, if the noble Lord who will reply does not feel he can give me a definite assurance this evening, he will undertake to look at this matter again and possibly consider it—because I think it is a good point—when we come to discuss this Bill on the Report stage. I beg to move.
Page 3, line 7, leave out ("aldermen").—(Viscount Mersey.)
§ LORD LINDGREN
Perhaps I ought to declare an interest right at the start. On and off for the last thirty years I have been an alderman of a county authority. I would support this Amendment; but, with the greatest respect, I would suggest that this House is hardly the House to give a lead to another place in regard to it, because if there ever was an undemocratic Assembly it is this. And, of course, the aldermanic bench is undemocratic. But the original intentions of the various Local Government Acts throughout the ages as to the office of an alderman 948 were very good. They enabled a local authority to bring on to that authority persons of knowledge and experience who could handle specialised subjects within the authority without those persons having to go through the hurly-burly of elections. And let us be quite honest: there are a large number of very good people who would be prepared, and who are prepared, to give service but who do not like the rough and tumble of the hustings at elections. They would come in and they would give good service to the local authority but for the elections.
Let me say that I find it strange that we here should be talking about London government when perhaps the authority which has used its aldermanic functions to the greatest effect and according to their real intentions has been the London County Council. Both sides of the council have brought into that body people who would otherwise have been outside the service and whose vast experience would have been lost. This system also gives the opportunity, within an authority where (as is the case in most of these authorities) you have three-yearly elections, for there to be some degree of continuity should there come about a violent change in the composition of the council. That is the function of the aldermanic bench; and were it worked throughout the whole of the local government system in the manner in which it has been worked by the London County Council, then I would think the aldermanic bench performed a function which should be retained.
I agree with the noble Lord who has moved the Amendment that, more often than not, the system has been abused by local authorities. It has become an honour for long service within the authority. Many authorities were not as good as the London County Council, which in fact, when it had persons to make up the number of aldermen, required them to go to election after six years. I know no end of county councils—it is less true among county boroughs, but very often in county boroughs, too—where, in fact, once an alderman always an alderman, and they never go to the electorate for election at all. On many of them, too, because they work on the basis of service, there is not the correct representation on the basis of the political Parties on the council.
949 If I may be entirely parochial, I had a fight for well over thirty years on the Hertfordshire County Council before I, as leader of the Labour group on the Hertfordshire County Council, managed this year to persuade them to accept the principle of proportional representation of aldermen according to the elected representatives. There are a large number of authorities who do not accept that principle, who abuse the office of alderman; and I think that, on the basis of its not having been used correctly by the vast majority of authorities, it is far better that we do not institute it for a newly-created authority such as is to be set up under this Bill. If the Amendment went to a Division, I would support it.
§ 9.19 p.m.
As my noble friend knows, I am afraid I followed your Lordships' Second Reading debate on this Bill from a sick-bed, and I was not, therefore, able to listen to my noble friend's informed intervention on Second Reading; but I read it with great pleasure. In view of this, I hope my noble friend will not feel that I am being churlish if I am not able to respond with total enthusiasm to the Amendment which he has just moved.
There is, of course, a very long history to this matter. I think the argument for and against aldermen has been going on since municipalities were reformed in the early part of the last century. It was quite a hot issue in Peel's time, and there was another Parliamentary struggle about it in 1888. This is a controversy, too, in which London has been involved in one way or another from a very early stage. Some of your Lordships, not all, may be familiar with the written evidence which the City of London placed before the Royal Commission in 1893, which was considering the possible amalgamation of the City and the County of London. I hope that I may just quote the words:From earliest times the government of the City has borne a strong analogy to that of a county or shire. Just as the latter were ruled by Eorldermen or Aldermen, so did the City receive from Alfred the Great an Alderman as its first municipal governor in the person of Ethelred. This was in A.D. 886, and to Alfred may be, not unreasonably, attributed the foundation of the Municipality of London.Perhaps with all this back history it was therefore not surprising that when the 950 L.C.C. was set up there was again a sharp struggle as to whether there should be aldermen on the L.C.C. The compromise which was eventually reached—which is familiar to many Members of your Lordships' House—was to have half the normal proportion; namely, 1 to 6, and this proportion of 1 to 6 has been followed in the Bill both for the Greater London Council and the London boroughs.
So much for Alfred and Ethelred and less remote history. What about the merits and demerits of contemporary aldermen? Your Lordships will have heard the arguments advanced and will doubtless be familiar with the advantages commonly claimed for the aldermanic system. It is claimed that it provides an element of stability and continuity in case of sweeping changes among the directly-elected members; that it permits men and women of experience and wisdom to be made members of the council who might not wish to submit themselves to the hurly-burly and bustle of the hustings, as the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren has mentioned. In practice, as some of us are fully aware, aldermen are sometimes elected as a kind of reward for long service. Your Lordships' House includes many noble Lords who have been, or are, aldermen of counties or county boroughs; and I am perfectly sure that in their case election has been on the grounds of sagacity and wisdom and never merely for long service. I know that this is true in the case of the noble Lord, Lord Faringdon, who is, I think, an alderman across the water; and it must be true in the case of two distinguished ex-aldermen, again from across the water, one of whom is sitting opposite me at this moment.
However, despite all these proofs of aldermanic virtue and wisdom, criticisms are made from time to time of this ancient system. It has proved a hardy institution but, like other hardy institutions—indeed like another institution closer to hand, to which the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, also alluded—some claim that the aldermanic bench is an anachronism. I do not think the view that the system should be abolished is generally supported in local government circles, at least by that progressive body with which the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, was formerly associated—the Association of Municipal 951 Corporations. So much for the general point.
I should like now to turn to the particular points which my noble friend has mentioned. He suggested that although aldermen might be all right for lesser municipalities without London law, we should not impose this venerable system upon this brand-new progressive organisation, the Greater London Council, which we are setting up. I confess that I find it difficult to go along fully with that argument. It is true that, in functions, the Greater London Council will be a very special sort of animal. However, constitutionally, it will be a local authority of the same nature as any other local authority. I feel, therefore, that unless we are to abolish the aldermanic system throughout the local government world we should not strip this new council of its aldermen. As the Royal Commission said, in paragraph 855 of their Report:This…seems to be a matter of national import, and not special to the Review Area.The same thing applies to the question of pay for councillors, which my noble friend also mentioned. It is with these considerations in mind (and I hope your Lordships will not feel that I have dealt with this matter too lightly, because we are, in fact, dealing here with a serious matter) that the Government came to the conclusion that it was right to retain aldermen in the constitution of the Greater London Council. I hope that, despite the two speeches which we have heard, your Lordships in all parts of the House would agree with this point of view. I am not trying to press it too hard, but I am trying to put it seriously to the House, and I hope, in view of this, that I can prevail on my noble friend not to press his Amendment.
§ EARL ATTLEE
Having been an alderman myself about 40 years ago, I take a rather detached view of this subject. The fact is that the general idea of aldermen, giving the possibility of bringing in people of experience, was very good, but it has been abused. It is rather like the university seats in another place, which were used for people who were rejected by public vote. That is an objection which holds to-day against the aldermanic bench, and I am inclined to support the noble Lord opposite.
§ 9.28 p.m.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
This is a matter upon which there appears to be varying opinions in both the great political Parties. The noble Lord opposite, who moved the Amendment, is a Conservative—there is no doubt about that—and I am a Labour man and a Socialist and I take another view. My noble friend Lord Attlee is disposed to support the Amendment, as is my noble friend Lord Lindgren. This is not a matter on which there is any question in the Labour Party of trying to hold a firm Party line, because there are differences of opinion about it; and—though rather by luck than otherwise—I do not think that the Labour Conference nationally has pronounced upon it, though the London Labour Party have and they are on the side of the Commission.
An Amendment was moved in another place to make the membership of the Greater London Council 200 and to abolish the aldermen. That was because they could not very well increase the number by less than twice, otherwise their arithmetic would have gone wrong; and having gone to 200, they did not wish to add the aldermen and make it still bigger. That was not the only reason, but it was a contributory factor to the Amendment.
For myself, I entirely agree with my noble friend Lord Attlee: the institution has been politically, on both sides, badly misused from time to time. It was better practised in the L.C.C. by the Labour Party before I was a member, much less Leader of the Party. When the first Labour Party of substance met at County Hall, about sixteen of them, they looked around their members and asked what they were deficient in. One subject was finance, and they brought in the late Mr. Emil Davies, who knew something about finance. My noble friend Lord Latham was made an alderman for the same reason, because he was understandable about finance. The late Mr. C. J. Mathew, K.C., who was a distinguished lawyer, was brought in because we did not have a legal expert. That is the way aldermen ought to be used. That is what the system is for; but it is not always used that way. But that does not diminish its value, because potentially it can be used in a proper manner in that way.
953 In the Provinces (it is no good my quarrelling with them, and I certainly should not want to they are too powerful) both sides of politics, and I think the Liberals as well, go in for the principle of promoting the senior councillor of the ward to be an alderman. Then they have an election at the subsequent by-election. This makes a complete farce of the aldermanic institution, and it means, in effect, that it is destroyed. And they have destroyed it in the name of democracy; that everybody has to be elected. So, from that point of view, it might as well not exist. And as the tendency is that they stay there for life, the aldermen may survive when the political Party has gone, which is not democratic. But that is not the proper use of it.
I agree with my noble friend Lord Attlee that it ought not to be used primarily for the purpose of making a member of the council of a defeated candidate. On the other hand, many defeated candidates may be people who have been most valuable councillors and whose loss may be a loss not only to the Party, but to the council. Therefore I would not personally bebar the defeated candidates from consideration.
The other matter is the point raised by the noble Viscount who moved the Amendment—namely, the question of gerrymandering. It is true that something of that character has taken place by both Parties. Sometimes one side, when they did not need to, have stolen all the aldermen—I will not say who started it, but I have a shrewd idea—and then, when the other Party had the chance, they got their revenge by doing the same thing and evening things up. Well, I do not like that. I think the right thing is, if you can do it, to share the aldermen between the Parties on the basis of the proportions of elected councillors, and that each Party should choose whom they like in whatever way they like. But there are exceptions.
In 1910, I think it was, the Progressive Liberals and the Conservatives were returned to the London County Council in absolutely equal numbers. The Conservatives offered the Progressives a coalition, and the Progressives, I think quite rightly, declined to form a coalition with the Conservatives. So the Conservatives then said: "We are sorry, but we 954 have to make this organisation work somehow, and we cannot work it if there is to be an absolute equality of members on the council, including the aldermen", which would have been the case. "Therefore", they said, "we must take the aldermen, otherwise the council cannot properly function; and, still more important, its committees cannot function." So they took the aldermen; and in that case I would not say that they were wrong. I think the municipality must function.
We got into a nearly similar situation in about 1949, when an equality of councillors of both sides was returned, and Sir Percy Harris, who was the only survivor of the Liberal Party, was the balancing factor. Fortunately, he voted for a Labour nominee as chairman of the council—that was a bit of luck for us—and that settled it. The Labour people did not take all the aldermen. At the beginning there was an indication that they would but they did not do so. However, they took enough to give them a majority, not only on the Council, but saw to it that they got working majorities on the committees. In the case both of the Conservative seizure of the aldermen in 1910, which I would defend, and of my people taking this majority in which they destroyed the proportional rule in 1949, which I would again defend, it was right, because the municipality must operate. What I do not like is when, out of sheer hatred of the other side, the majority Party seizes all the aldermen, which they do not need to do to make the machine work. That has happened on both sides.
Therefore, I admit that, so far as the Provinces are concerned, they so operated it that they have almost destroyed the utility of the aldermanic institution, whereas I think the aldermanic institution, its proper defence and its proper use, is preferably to take them from outside the council and to find people better than the elected people, or who have more time, or some special knowldege about something or the other. On balance, I would sooner preserve the institution, because in many places it is well and properly used or, alternatively, in the hope that it will be properly used. Therefore, if it comes to a Division—which I hope it will not, because the result will not be a very pleasant sight on either side of the House, in view of the degree 955 of confusion that we are bound to be in—I personally would vote for the preservation of the aldermen. But it may be that the noble Viscount opposite will see his way not to press the Amendment to a Division, which will leave us all with our customary Party solidarity on both sides.
I think we have had a fascinating discussion from an acknowledged expert on how local government works when it comes to vote. May I say how gratified I was to receive support from the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, which was very encouraging to an obscure Back Bencher. I said when I introduced this Amendment that if the Government would see their way to accept it, I thought they would save themselves a great deal of trouble in the future. I still think that is true. We are going to elect a new body, and in spite of the fact that noble Lords opposite are convinced that this is a cheap plot to keep them from governing London, I am by no means convinced that when the election for the Greater London Council takes place it will necessarily show that there is a Conservative majority. There may well not be. In any case, I think it will probably be a close thing.
It is proposed there should be 16 aldermen. Here is an opportunity straight away for some gerrymandering, if one Party or the other has a very narrow majority. How are those aldermen to be elected, and in what proportion? Are we to have cases such as the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, has just told us about? I think the noble Lord gave us the answer, which is that we should put something into the Bill—and it is not too late to do it—by which the number of aldermen are stated to be in proportion (and it will have to be carefully worked out) to the number of councillors. Although that may occasionally work to the advantage of one Party or the other, there can at least be no accusation in the future of gerrymandering. I think this is a valuable suggestion from the other side, and I would ask my noble friend, if he cannot accept the Amendment at this stage, whether he will undertake to look at it again before the Report stage, when we could raise it again if necessary. If he feels he could do that I shall be happy to withdraw the 956 Amendment I have put down this evening.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
In fairness to my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth—and I listened to him very carefully—I did not think he advocated proportional representation for aldermen by law. I think he accepted it as a general principle, but it would be quite wrong to write it into the Bill. Just as in Parliament, the authority has to govern. It may have to, shall we say, rig the position of the aldermen in order to govern and enforce the necessary measures. But I think it is quite wrong of the noble Viscount to suggest—I am sure he did not mean it—that my noble friend suggested that we on this side of the House would support proportional representation.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I have listened with the greatest interest to what my noble friend said on this subject and to the speeches made by the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, and other noble Lords opposite. I do not think my noble friend's suggestion that there should be a proportionate number of aldermen according to the representation of the Parties as a result of the election would meet The particular problem that arose and to which the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, referred, when the result of the election was that there was a tie and unless something was done about the aldermen the local authority could not function. I do not think this is really a complete solution. What I should like to do is to reflect upon what my noble friend has said and the views expressed in this debate. I must say that I cannot see at the moment any solution that could be put down as an Amendment to this Bill which would meet my noble friend's point. One can only hope that this gerrymandering to which he referred will become completely out of date and be regarded by both Parties as something which is really rather disreputable. If that attitude comes about, then a need for a solution of this problem would cease to exist. But I can tell my noble friend that I will certainly give consideration to what he has said, but I should not like him to be under any misapprehension, for I feel very doubtful indeed whether one can find an Amendment which would meet his point of view.
I should like to thank the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor for his reply, which, naturally, I accept. I still feel, as I said originally, that if we had no aldermen we should save ourselves a loft of trouble. Nevertheless, in view of what has been said this evening, I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 9.42 p.m.
§ LORD MORRISON of LAMBETH moved, in subsection (2), to leave out "Greater London Council" and insert "Corporation of Greater London". The noble Lord said: I beg to move this Amendment standing in my name and the names of my noble friends Lord Silkin, Lord Longford and Lord Kennet. The purpose here is to give a more dignified title to the Greater London Council. We are, in this age of utilitarianism, getting rather bad at designations and titles; we are rather dull and monotonous. For example, before the First World War there was not one Minister known as a Minister "of" something. Since the end of the First World War there has never been any new Minister who has not been described as the Minister "of" something except for Ministers of State and even they are Ministers "of". I think that this designation of public authorities or of Ministers is a matter of some importance. It leads to greater imagination in the public mind and greater respect for the authority.
§ With regard to this Greater London authority, I do not think its powers are adequate under the Bill, but it is going to be a great authority covering a very large area, and merely to give it the designation of the "Greater London Council" is not sufficiently colourful and dignified. I have been thinking about what else it could be called. It cannot be called the "Corporation of London" if the City is to survive as it is; because this is the name of the City Corporation. But it could be called the "Corporation of Greater London", which is a much more dignified designation than the "Greater London Council". This is not a matter of party politics; it is a matter of trying to find a suitable name; and if anybody has a better idea, with more colour and dignity about it, I shall be most happy to give it consideration and I hope the Government 958 will, too, in order to find something better than "Greater London Council". I admit it is a little better than the "Metropolitan Board of Works", but it is somewhere in the same category, and, as a matter of fact, its powers are going to be somewhat in the same category.
§ Therefore, let us have a picture of a municipal corporation, which in the Provinces are great things like the Corporations of Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow, Leeds, and so on. I hope that the Government will give their sympathetic consideration, either now or on the Report stage, which might give them a chance to try to think of something else better, though I consider this is a nice designation. So I should like very much the Government and this Committee to agree that, instead of designating this the "Greater London Council", which is rather a poor thing, we call it the "Corporation of Greater London".
§ Another thing I should like would be for the chairman to have a better title than Chairman of the Council; that is a poor title. It is perfectly true the Chairman of the London County Council is "Right Honourable", by the very kindly action of King George VI; but as compared with Lord Mayor, or Mayor, it is a poor affair. We are really getting short of imagination and we ought to think of a better designation. However, I am a little out of order in dealing with that. But I earnestly trust the Government will be sympathetic about the idea of giving this new authority for a very big area and big population, if it comes off, a title rather more dignified and colourful than "Greater London Council", and the best I can think of is "Corporation of Greater London", which I commend to your Lordships' consideration. I beg to move.
Page 3, line 8, leave out ("Greater London Council") and insert the said words.—(Lord Morrison of Lambeth.)
§ LORD SHEPHERD
May I support my noble friend in this matter? Obviously we want to give this new authority the dignity that it deserves, because it will be in itself a very important body. I did go into the Library after dinner to find out what in fact a Corporation meant. The word "corporation" can be used in many ways—a corporation of a physique and a corporation 959 as an American business. But I noticed in the definition of "Corporation" that a corporation could be set up by charter. I wonder whether the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, would forgive me for asking for his attention for one minute, because he has been very helpful in regard to the charters of boroughs. I was saying that a corporation could be created by charter. I have not discussed this with my noble friends; there has not been time. We are creating the boroughs by charter. It has been agreed there should be a like dignity with them all. In the setting up of this Greater London Council I think there is a lot to be said for setting it up with a new name, but under charter. It would then rank in standard of dignity, though perhaps not in age, with the City of London, and also with many other cities in this country that exist because of the charter.
I would not wish to argue the case too fully to-night, but I would ask the noble Earl to consider as favourably as he can that this new body, which is going to represent one of the finest cities in the world—the finest city in the world—should be given this dignity so that it can stand in precedence and rank with the other cities of this country. I think if we could bring it up in its standing and dignity to that of the City of London perhaps some of the controversy and slight jealousies that creep in with Londoners towards the City might disappear. I do not expect the noble Lord to reply this evening on this point, but I hope I shall have the sympathy of the noble Lord and the Committee in this matter. We are settting up this new authority. We have a new opportunity. We have none of the old problems of a body already in existence; we are creating a completely new body. As the Government have found the way that the inner boroughs should be able to rank with outer boroughs, I should have thought they could have found a way for this new Corporation of London to rank as a chartered authority. I hope the Government will look at that matter with sympathy.
§ LORD HASTINGS
I appreciate entirely the motives behind this Amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, wishes to find a more dignified title; and the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, has made an interesting suggestion, 960 to which I cannot reply to-night, as he realises, but we will think about it. Certainly the Government do not have a closed mind on this matter. They are perfectly willing to entertain a more dignified, better title if one can be found. At the moment we think that the "Greater London Council" is the best in the circumstances. Certainly, we must avoid any possibility of confusion—the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, himself at least admitted the possibility that the City of London will continue, and that therefore there might be confusion with the Corporation of the City of London.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
If the noble Lord will forgive me, what I said was that if we call it the "Corporation of London" there could be confusion. I do not think there should be any reasonable confusion if it is called the "Corporation of Greater London".
§ LORD HASTINGS
At the moment we feel that the word "London" would cause confusion. "Corporation of the City" or "Corporation of Greater London", it seems to us, would be a possible matter for confusion. Coming briefly to the question of the word "Corporation" itself, I would say that as noble Lords know well, it is not a term which is used in the everyday names of local authorities, and, whatever its strict legal meaning, it is, in practice, used in the local government world only in connection with boroughs. In municipal boroughs all the inhabitants are incorporated; in other types of local authority, including the metropolitan boroughs, the council is incorporated but the inhabitants are not. It seems to us that it would create some degree of confusion to apply the word "Corporation" to a council such as that of Greater London, when the normal use of the word in local government circles is reserved for the inhabitants of a borough.
But, as I say, if noble Lords opposite can find a better title—possibly one which does not include the word "Corporation"—certainly we should be willing to consider it. At the moment, however, we feel that the suggestion of the noble Lord does not quite meet the case. Therefore I hope he will have better thoughts about this. In the meantime we are willing to consider any representations in this matter.
§ LORD STONHAM
It seems to me that the noble Lord's principal difficulty was not over the word "Corporation" but over the inclusion of the word "London" in the title. I have to declare an interest in this matter, because, for some 30 years or so, I have been a Freeman and a Liveryman of the City of Landon. But I am bound to say that I find the argument put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, quite astonishing. The "Greater London Corporation" makes it quite clear that it is the larger area, and he boggles at the word "Corporation" because so far it has applied only to boroughs—in some cases, quite small areas in the Metropolis; and I cannot help feeling that the main objection is because he feels that the City Corporation has a sort of pre-emptive right to the use of the word "London". It is quite true that many years ago the "square mile", as we call it, was London; but for almost centuries now, so far as the people of this country are concerned, the more important part is the part of London which we are now considering. For that reason the "Greater London Corporation" or the "Corporation of Greater London" would seem to be an apt and proper description of this area.
I should have thought, even assuming—which Heaven and Lord Morrison of Lambeth forbidding—the City of London Corporation should continue, nevertheless the right to the title of "London" included in those words which are in the Amendment must surely apply to the greater area. The noble Lord, Lord Hastings, has suggested that it falls to us to find some word other than "Corporation" to meet this particular point and give a greater dignity and presence to the new authority. I really cannot imagine any greater dignity than included in the title of "the Corporation"—what I should regard, and I hope the noble Lord regards, as still the greatest city in the world. I think he ought to develop his objections a little further and make it quite clear whether they apply to the word "Corporation" as a description, or in fact to the word "London". If to the latter, as I strongly suspect, then, even speaking as a Liveryman and a Member of a Worshipful Company, I would say that, in common justice, there is no pre-emptive right in the square mile, but that the 962 new body the Government wants to form should be called "the Corporation of Greater London".
§ 9.56 p.m.
§ LORD CONESFORD
I find myself in a good deal of sympathy with what the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, has said. I think we all desire that what should be one of the greatest local authorities—some of us think the greatest local authority—in the world should have a worthy title. Nevertheless, in spite of my complete sympathy with his object, I do not think he has quite met the requirement by the words which he has put forward, for the simple reason given by my noble friend, the Minister, in his answer, the danger of confusion. I think that all of us know the possibility of confusion if there are two bodies, one called "the Corporation of London" and the other called "the Corporation of Greater London". There really will be serious dangers of confusion.
I am very glad that further consideration will be given to this matter, and I offer a humble suggestion that we can turn over in our minds in that further consideration. I see the force of the observations of my noble friend Lord Hastings, in possible criticism of the use of the word "Corporation". I see also the danger of confusion if we adopted the title of "Corporation of Greater London". But, of course, the tremendous word that thunders through the ages is "London". What is superfluous in this title is the word "Greater". My suggestion that we might think over is that we should call it "The London Council". The more we drop out adjectives, the mare we make it clear that this is the authority of London, the better. I should have thought that the word which was superfluous was the word "Greater".
§ LORD HASTINGS
We will give this great thought; that is all I can say. I have listened to all that has been said—the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, has really put my points better than I did myself, and we will give the whole matter thought. We wish to find the best title.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
I am much obliged to the noble Lord for undertaking to give it further thought. Of course, you could modify 963 the name of the City Corporation by calling it "the City of London Corporation" which would be true, whereas the "Corporation of London" is simply not true. You cannot very well call the Greater London Council "the Greater London Parliament"—that would cause trouble at Westmister with a vengeance—and I do not suggest it. You could, of course, call it the London County Council and keep the "old firm" going. It could be done, but I must say that "Greater London Council" does not sound good to me.
However, the noble Lord has undertaken to give it further consideration—without, I agree, committing himself or the Government on the matter—and I hope that they will give it earnest consideration. They may think of something more suitable than any of us have thought of in the course of this debate. Therefore, while we must leave ourselves free on Report stage, I hope the Government will come up again with a possibility on that question. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ LORD LINDGREN moved in subsection (3) to leave out "1964" and to insert "1965". The noble Lord said: On Amendment No. 11 we had a very lengthy discussion about the principles which are involved in this Amendment, in so far as the new constituted boroughs are concerned; and, of course, in general terms what applied to that discussion applies also to this to a very large degree. Of course, so far as the Greater London Council is concerned the emphasis is greater, because it is true that in the vast majority of boroughs it is purely a matter of amalgamation and extension of function. The boroughs will be assuming duties of which they have a semblance of experience and knowledge in regard to the administration, but they are going to have considerable difficulties in staffing, and things of that sort, within the period of time.
§ When we come to the Greater London Council, here it will be a new body taking over functions in a very wide area, with a changeover from the old order to the new. From the administrative point of view that is a very difficult job for the persons who are to be elected and who will 964 assume the responsibility. It is equally true that, when it comes to staffing, the change is not going to be easy to arrange; and I should have thought that, if we had doubts about the wisdom of the London boroughs going in on April 1, 1964, equally we ought to have greater doubts about the Greater London Council. In view of all the arguments we had before, the main principles of which apply to this Amendment, I beg to move.
Page 3, line 15, leave out ("1964") and insert ("1965").—(Lord Lindgren.)
§ LORD HASTINGS
I do not think the noble Lord opposite will expect me to say very much about this, as we had a very full argument on the two Amendments, this one and No. 11, which hang together. Of course, the Greater London Council is a new organisation, but before it starts to function it has to be elected, and we have accepted as a result of the rejection of Amendment No. 11 that the new borough councils shall be elected in May, 1964. Obviously, the Greater London Council must come into being and cannot be delayed for a year after the new borough councils are elected. On those grounds, if for no other reasons, I really think I must ask your Lordships to reject this Amendment. I do not think I need say any more on this particular point.
§ LORD LINDGREN
Perhaps I can shorten the discussion by asking this. Why is it necessary that the Greater London Council or the boroughs have to function as from May? You still have in existence both the Middlesex County Council and the London County Council, the functions of which can still be carried on, which would ease the transfer of functions both to the boroughs and to the new Council. It is going to be a period of time with many of these functions, which are now in a state of flux, particularly because of the transfer, which is going to be difficult for administration and new areas to be set up. There is no functional difficulty about the carrying on of the London County Council and the Middlesex County Council. In fact, I think that would facilitate the transfer.
§ LORD HASTINGS
I am afraid that I cannot agree with the noble Lord. There will be new and important functions for the Greater London Council. It needs 965 to set up its staff and make all its preparations in regard to the general strategic planning of transport, and, in particular, I think, so far as the London boroughs are concerned, housing. The whole plan would come unstuck if the noble Lord's Amendment were
§ 10.10 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether Clause 2 shall stand part of the Bill?
§ LORD SHEPHERD
Before the Question is put, I have one question that I should like to put to the Government in regard to this clause. It is a fact that if this Bill does go through the position of Lords Lieutenants of the County of London and the County of Middlesex will disappear. I do not know whether the word "disappear" is quite the right word; but obviously they will have no duties. I wish to know from the Government what their intention is in regard to the Greater London area. It is true that the Explanatory Memorandum to the Bill mentions the possibility of a Bill being produced to make arrangements in regard to judicial matters and Lieutenants, and so on. I wonder whether the noble and learned Lord can tell me what comes within the phrase "et cetera" following the word "Lieutenant". And can we take it that this Bill to be introduced to appoint a Lord Lieutenant for the Greater London area will go through this Parliament before the elections are held? In
§ accepted and the Greater London councillors were elected a year later.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 14; Not-Contents, 39.965
|Airedale, L.||Henderson, L.||Morrison of Lambeth, L.|
|Alexander of Hillsborough, E.||Latham, L.||Onslow, E.|
|Archibald, L.||Lindgren, L. [Teller.]||Shepherd, L.|
|Champion, L.||Longford, E.||Stonham, L.|
|Crook, L.||Lucan, E. [Teller.]|
|Abinger, L.||Fortescue, E.||Long, V.|
|Ampthill, L.||Fraser of Lonsdale, L.||Lothian, M.|
|Auckland, L.||Furness, V.||Margesson, V.|
|Barnby, L.||Gage, V.||Mersey, V.|
|Carrington, L.||Goschen, V. [Teller.]||Milverton, L.|
|Conesford, L.||Hastings, L.||Newton, L.|
|De La Warr, E.||Howard of Glossop, L.||Perth, E.|
|Derwent, L.||Ilford, L.||Rochdale, V.|
|Devonshire, D.||Ingleby, V.||St. Aldwyn, E. [Teller.]|
|Dilhorne, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Jellicoe, E.||St. Oswald, L.|
|Dudley, E.||Jessel, L.||Sandford, L.|
|Ellenborough, L.||Kilmuir, E.||Waleran, L.|
|Ferrers, E.||Lansdowne, M.||Wolverton, L.|
Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ other words, when the elections are held, the body corporate will be set up in full majesty.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I was begining to wonder what the noble Lord was getting at when he asked me whether the Bill would get through before the election was held. I think that he meant elections to the councils constituted by this Bill. I am also a little puzzled to know how the question of Lord Lieutenancies is relevant to the contents of Clause 2, and what we are discussing at the moment is whether Clause 2 should form part of the Bill. At the same time, I would deal with the perfectly relevant inquiry of the noble Lord; whether it is appropriate to this clause or not is another matter.
My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has already announced that there will be a Bill—it is contemplated in the next Session—for providing for the necessary changes in the administration of justice in relation to the Greater London area. In that Bill we shall deal with the position of the Lord Lieutenant of Greater London, for the reason that a great many of the Lord Lieutenant's duties are connected with the administration of justice. He is usually the 967 custos rotulorum and deals with the commissions of peace, and matters of that sort. Therefore, it is right and appropriate that when we rearrange the administration of justice in the Greater London area, we should at the same time deal with the position of the Lord Lieutenant. The noble Lord is quite right in saying that, with the disappearance of the Middlesex County Council, the Lord Lieutenancy of that county will go. I can go only as far as this at the moment. We are contemplating one Lord Lieutenant for the Greater London area, with a number of Deputy Lieutenants to assist him. I think that this is as far as I can go in answer to the noble Lord at the moment, but it is definitely intended to introduce a Bill to deal with that matter in the course of the next Session.
§ 10.18 p.m.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
I am a little confused about this. It was said at some time, either by the Government or by the Royal Commission, that although this Greater London area was to be established, the identity of the counties within that area would be maintained. I am sure that was said by somebody with authority. I am bound to say that I did not realise how it could happen very well, because Surrey is cut in two, so are Kent and Essex. But the counties that remain will be counties, and presumably able to have their own Lords Lieutenants, whereas Greater London will consist of the present County of London, the County of Middlesex and parts of the other counties. If there is to be a Lord Lieutenant of Greater London, then it must become a county in the geographical sense of the term, not only an administrative county. I wonder whether the Chairman of the Greater London Council should not also be the Lord Lieutenant. That would give him a title of dignity. But that is a side issue and not really germane to this.
My noble friend Lord Latham reminds me that that is the case with the Provosts and Lord Provosts in Scotland. But the main point I am on—and I hope that the Lord Chancellor can help us—is that there was some indication that the counties would remain. Possibly they have the Territorial Army in mind. But if there is a Lord Lieutenant for Greater London—and I am not against this: I think there ought to be, as part of the establishment of London—I should have 968 thought I was right that in that case the Greater London area must become a county.
§ 10.21 p.m.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I certainly should not like to answer "off the cuff" at this hour of night the second part of what the noble Lord said. So far as the other counties, parts of which will form part of the Greater London area, are concerned, they will retain their Lords Lieutenants over, it may be, a diminished area. So that the county which will lose its Lord Lieutenancy will be Middlesex. I am glad to know the noble Lord agrees that it is appropriate that there should be one Lord Lieutenant over the Greater London area. There are problems if this Bill passes, as no doubt it will, because it is an improving Bill—problems concerned with the administration of justice which will want careful working out; and they are being worked on now. I do not think it would advance matters if I gave any indication at the present moment of the way our thoughts are proceeding. I take note of what the noble Lord has said about his desire that the Chairman of the Greater London Council should, if possible, have a more imposing title. It is an interesting suggestion, which again one would like to think about. I do not know whether my inventive capacity (I had better not talk about the difference between inference and invention tonight) will enable me to think of such a title.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
The noble and learned Lord mentioned the administration of justice. He might consider whether the Central Criminal Court should not function in the way of Greater London. The Central Criminal Court is now run by the Corporation of the City, but it covers, I think, a radius of 7 miles; and the London County Council contributes seven-tenths of the cost of the Old Bailey without having any control over the Old Bailey at all. The noble and learned Lord might consider extending the area of democracy to letting Greater London take over the Central Criminal Court.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I am not sure whether letting the London County Council or any other local authority have more control over the administration of justice at the Old Bailey would 969 be a good or a bad thing. But so far as the suggestion put forward by the noble Lord is concerned, that the Central Criminal Court should be the Assize Court of Greater London, I can tell him straight away that that is in line with our thoughts upon that problem.
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and Clause 2 agreed to accordingly.
§ 10.30 p.m.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I think it might be a convenient moment for me to move that the House do now resume. In doing so, may I say that I think we have made a fair amount of progress to-day with this Bill, but not so much as might reasonably have been expected; and we really shall have to make more progress the next day we take the Bill. And I can tell your Lordships that we should want—and I do not think it is unreasonable to expect it—to be able to get to the end of Schedule 1 on the next day we take this Bill in Committee. The noble Lord opposite shakes his head, but, of course, one is accustomed to that. But I am merely giving him warning at the present moment that we intend, if need be—although I do not think it would really be necessary, unless speeches are perhaps a little longer than might be—to sit late that evening to get to that position.
§ Moved, That the House do now resume.—(The Lord Chancellor.)970
§ On Question, Whether Clause 2 shall stand part of the Bill?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 43; Not-Contents, 11.969
|Abinger, L.||Ferrers, E.||Lansdowne, M.|
|Ampthill, L.||Fortescue, E.||Long, V.|
|Auckland, L.||Fraser of Lonsdale, L.||Lothian, M.|
|Barnby, L.||Furness, V.||Margesson, V.|
|Bessborough, E.||Gage, V.||Mersey, V.|
|Bossom, L.||Goschen, V. [Teller.]||Newton, L.|
|Carrington, L.||Hastings, L.||Onslow, E.|
|Conesford, L.||Howard of Glossop, L.||Perth, E.|
|De La Warr, E.||Ilford, L.||Rochdale, V.|
|Derwent, L.||Ingleby, V.||St. Aldwyn, E. [Teller.]|
|Devonshire, D.||Jellicoe, E.||St. Oswald, L.|
|Dilhorne, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Jessel, L.||Sandford, L.|
|Dudley, E.||Kilmuir, E.||Waleran, L.|
|Dufferin and Ava, M.||Kinnoull, E.||Wolverton, L.|
|Elliot of Harwood, B.|
|Archibald, L.||Latham, L.||Morrison of Lambeth, L.|
|Champion, L.||Lindgren, L. [Teller.]||Shepherd, L.|
|Crook, L.||Longford, E.||Stonham, L.|
|Henderson, L.||Lucan, E. [Teller.]|
§ way about things to get the Bill through or the good will of the Opposition. He is really talking to us as if he has the right to give orders. He should not do it. He has not been here long and is strange to the place. I have not been here very long either, but it is longer than the noble Lord and I know more about this place than he knows yet. It is no good his standing up and giving us orders, lecturing us and telling us that some progress is not being made.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I was certainly not giving orders and seeking to lecture the noble Lord. That is the last thing I would do, because I know that it would be absolutely pointless. I was merely intimating to him what our hopes and intentions were for the next time the Committee dealt with this Bill.
THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES
In order to regularise the proceedings, I should put the question that the House be now resumed.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
I am much obliged to the noble Lord. The noble and learned Lord has now put himself right. But do not let the Chief Whip join him and make matters worse, 971 because one of the great things about Chief Whips is that they do not quarrel with anybody, and that is why, when other people are not talking to each other, the Whips are able to talk to both sides, so let the Chief Whip learn that. And if he wants to learn a bit more let him consult the noble Viscount, Lord Margesson, who, no doubt will give him suitable advice. It is one thing to ask us and to appeal to us to co-operate, which I think we have done. Two clauses in one day on a Bill is quite considerable. My general Parliamentary experience is that in another place not often do they get Clause 1 in one day; and to get two clauses is better. I understand that somebody suggested we should get through the whole of Part I, which is eight clauses. That is rather foolish and out of proportion. You cannot do it in one day. As I used to say in another place as Leader of the House of Commons. "Let us see how we go". That is all you can do.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to and House resumed accordingly.